People are different. They differ in age, race, religion, social class, ethnicity, economic status and countless other characteristics. Moreover, they inevitably compare themselves to the others and make judgments. Given the inherent insecurity of human nature shaped by centuries of the struggle for survival, many of the judgments made are defensive. “Is that person (group, nation) stronger than (wiser than, ahead of) me and my identity group?” “Does he threaten me for food resources, a job, a better position, control of the community?” When a society or the world is stable and we feel secure, those differences are acceptable. When things turn insecure for whatever reason, the differences can become intolerable. As an individual there will be people whom you do not choose to tolerate. Personally, I do not tolerate murderers, pedophiles, traitors, etc. all understandably intolerable by current social standards. For religious and political differences I may disagree with others strongly and yet respect them as humans. But when I irrationally and emotionally find myself attacking the personhood of another because of some personal characteristic difference, then I have slipped into intolerance. Turning that attitude into a hostile action is an injustice.
In society we will always have groups that sense those differences and can for whatever reason—economic or political –seek to advance its position ahead of the other group, advocating actively for their stance and against the other. Within the limits of normal political give-and-take this is understandable and acceptable. When it turns violent or repressive, this becomes unjust. In most societies there are majorities and minorities(Sunni and Shiite, Catholic and Protestant, Black and White, Hausa and Ebo, etc.). The temptation in most cases—especially in times of unrest and instability –is for the ones in power to penalize the minority by limiting their power and position through the government authority(Sadam Hussein’s repression of Shiites in Iraq, Muslim enslaving of Christians in the Sudan, etc.). When the differences are based on race, it’s called “racism.” If it deals with foreign-born immigrants versus natives, that referred to as “Xenophobia”(fear of foreigners) or “nativism”(preference for the native-born). Those who hate Jews are referred to as “Anti-Semitic.”
Chattel slavery in the past few centuries was an extreme case of this as the warring tribes in West Africa sold their conquered neighbors to the Dutch and British in search of slave labor for the American colonies. After the Emancipation and Reconstruction of the United States, legal segregation would be used to preserve the White Superiority. What the local laws did not accomplish, vigilant groups would by terrorizing the minority into accepting their inferior status. A similar practice of apartheid would separate the races in South Africa. Even the U. S, Supreme Court accepted the practice in 1890 of “Separate but Equal,” but the equality in legal standing was less than that in education, employment, etc. Ironically, it was always the lower element of the majority—a.k.a. the White trash(economically threatened by aspiring African-Americans) –who most forcefully fought to keep segregation. But in the Cold War years with the memories of Nazi anti-Semitism and African decolonization in our minds the practice of segregation seemed out-of-place in a Christian nation. Fortunately, the Black protest came from a non-violent clergy who persistently insisted on their place at the table. Along with national leaders like Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy and Johnson, backed by a Republican Congress, the legal restrictions were struck down as the SCOTUS applied the desegregation to schools, restaurants, corporations, etc. More recently, affirmative action programs and minority preferences have attempted to correct long-standing discriminations. Now Blacks are recognized as leaders in Business, Government, Sports and Entertainment and not recognized as fundamentally different in the classroom or workplace. But now even with a Black President and Attorney General, there are some who would observe that race relations are worse than ever.
In case you have not noticed, the emphasis in recent decades of teaching American history is to focus on the place of minorities(Women, Indians, Blacks, immigrants) in our past with an intent to eliminate intolerance. “Political correctness” has even led us to punish what might be “hate speech” and to deal out stiffer penalties for what might be “hate crimes.” Unfortunately, the enforcement of this in the media and in the work place has led to a wide variety of injustices without due process. Conservatives are shouted down at campus appearances and commencements because their views are “not P.C.” A Christian organization that declined to hire a homosexual recently lost its non-profit status with the I.R.S. Can we being going too far when a University Chancellor, University President and a Head Coach all lose their jobs and careers because a seventh-year student thought he heard some one driving by to use the N—word and decided to go on a hunger strike for a campus safe from offensive words? This week a group of Black pastors led by Bishop W. C. Jackson, Sr. (Stand America.us) claimed that those pushing “Black Lives Matter” and similar protest groups are actually disturbing race relations for their own separate political agenda. These pastors felt race-baiters were attempting to exploit situations like Ferguson and Baltimore for their own notoriety and political influence. It is interesting to note that the South Carolina church that was tragically attacked by a lone gunman sent the Rev. Al Sharpton back to New York on the next plane so that they could tend to forgiveness and community healing.