White People Should Work Cotton Fields: When An Inside Joke Goes Too Far

So I wake up this morning and the day is going pretty good.  I’m just a little bummed about possibly not being able to play hoops tonight because of a sprained MCL, but besides that things were looking good.  Then I got a text message:

BREAKING NEWS: All white people must report to the cotton fields at 7:00 a.m. to begin orientation. 

Too far?

Seriously?  This one got to me.  No chuckle.  No smile cracked.  It elicited frustration.  Listen, many of the inside jokes about Obama winning were pretty cute (yes, even the one about leaving kool-aid packets near the water cooler at work).  And I do think that many of them were done in good taste.  For some reason, this one got to me.  I have spent the past several months trying to convince others that there are certain areas in this country that are still racially divisive.  I was born and raised in Georgia, so I know all too well about how divisive and sensitive racial issues can become.  I think the final electoral college map represents the residue of racism in our nation.  If we are all honest with ourselves, there are many people who could not bring themselves to vote for Obama because of his race (and vice versa).  On the other hand, there are others who thought Obama was the candidate who addressed issues that resonated with them personally and could have cared less if he was red, yellow, black, or white.

Which brings me back to the aforementioned text message.  Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know it was said in jest and was a joke.  But if the adage that “there is a little truth in every joke” is true, then this really leaves me wondering if this race issue will ever go away.  I came to Fuller Seminary because I desire to be a part of a community that demonstrates its unity through diversity.  I attended two HBCU’s for both my undergraduate and graduate level coursework.  I had an opportunity to attend another (shout out to ITC in Atlanta) for my theological education, but decided against it.  Don’t get me wrong, the education I received at Morehouse College and Howard University was top notch.  And I would do it again in a heartbeat.  I just have a personal conviction of “cultural displacement.”  By that I mean I personally feel that it was my duty as a believer is to displace myself culturally in order to fulfill the call of God on my life.  As a future potential church planter, I desire to have a multicultural ministry that transcends race and gender issues.  Not to get all preachy, but this is exactly what Jesus did according to Philippians 2.  He left a place of familiarity to immerse Himself in another culture.  If God has truly committed to us the “ministry of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:19) why does racism still exist (even in the church)?

I truly hope that the unity spoken of the past two days is a reality.  Although the rhetoric was regarding unity between the parties, it is my hope that this unity also occurs across racial lines.  And I’m not to sure if that can happen if anyone (black or white) feels that the text message above was appropriate.  Maybe no one else was offended, but it certainly struck a personal chord.  For me, it just feeds the fear that race will be an issue for a long time.  Yet, it gives me hope that I am doing the right thing in continuing this journey of displacement in order to reconcile.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Jasmine Beaupre

    I’m sick with this kind of “humor’ against ANY race ! And I hope everybody GROWS UP ! FAST.

  • marsha

    wow…i totally agree with you john. we need to embody the ministry of reconciliation. glad you and i are on that journey together. blessings to you my friend!

  • rowan richards

    I am unfortunately NOT surprised. Though i truly believe this kind of person makes up the minority of the population, they do and will forever exist.

  • rowan richards

    if we think aqbout it, jokes are often made when people feel uncomfortable…there are alot of people who are feeling real uncomfortable with an African American having real authority…we’ll have to be patient with some folks while they catch up to humanity.

  • John Richards

    Marsha, I too am glad we are on this journey together.

  • John Richards

    Amen Jasmine. Thanks for your comment.

  • John Richards

    Thanks Ro. Never thought about the comfort angle.

    Yeah, patience is key. Persistence too. Persistence in letting folks know that “jokes” like this are divisive.

  • Dee Duncan

    Brother John I agree whole heartedly with you that was too far. Unity is at an all time deficit in relationships,in marriages, in families, in the Body of Christ. In order to cast down racism we must choose to unify. Another word for choice is the word WILL , in other words Unity requires an act of my own WILL. choosing to Love our brother/ neighbor more than self is how we can change the culture of the Land. It starts with a choice to laydown ignorance and Will myself with the Help of the Holy Spirt to Love a race that we may or may not understand. We see this in scripture Act 2:1 and 4:32-35 I could ride out on these verses but for the sake of time and topic I want.



  • http://icedcoffees.wordpress.com Joey Novak

    Brother John- the fact that people are even talking about racism as a past issue following the election of Sen. Obama is problematic.

    I can’t tell you how many talk shows I have briefly watched in which the question is posed to a panel of people of color: “Is racism over?”

    I for one agree with you that the unrestrained hostility by representatives of the historically segregated areas of the nation toward Sen. Obama on the basis of his race was shocking.

    We have come so far, but we have far to go.

  • John Richards

    Very true Dee. And you are a living example of what that looks like bro. Thanks man.

  • John Richards

    “We have come so far, but we have far to go.”

    Couldn’t have said it better myself Joey. Always a blessing to hear your thoughts.

  • L.D. Betton

    Are you over reacting? In my opinion, not at all man. I saw some of the same txt msgs that came through the pipeline, but that one right there in addition to a few of the others went too far. People say that they want change but to be honest, I think most people fear change; those who want to stick the “same ole same ole” way of doing things. Having a Black President….a half black one at that….is obviously too much for some to swallow, even in jest. It will just take time for people to realize how foolish they have been to judge people by the color of their skin and not the content of their character (shout out to Rev. MLK..=) But yeah, there’s a little truth in those jokes I would say. Hey, let’s have a Mexican President next….then Asain…next Filipino…..Yes Women….a donkey! Whomever ever GOD wants to be in office…so let it be!

  • KK

    Ignorance is bliss to say the least. But really, I got that text message too and I just shook my head. Take it a step further, as a black woman, I was annoyed to see Al Sharpton and others holding hands and singing We SHall overcome. I thought that perhaps that would have been appropriate if President-elect, Barack Obama conceded the race but he won, so what was that about?

    At any rate, as much as I am pleased at the results of the election and as happy as I am that change is in the making…I am not allowing myself to be too bothered with ignorant statements as I know that the Word of God has to be fulfilled. I am grateful for change and peace, but now, Revalations has to occur right? So why are we suprised at the ignorance of others, especially in this country? Forgive my lack of optimism but I just wasn’t all suprised.

  • Stephanie Clark

    Hey John,

    I got the same email message this morning at work and I guess my colleagues thought this was humorous. For some reason, there seems to be this synical, sarcastic residue of disrespect ad hatred when it comes to President Barack Obama! We must rise to the occassion and live up to the expectation that God has set in place for us as a people …”Overcomers, Conquerors, and Kings and Queens of this World!” This election marked a prophetic point in time and history and holds the very sovereignty of God. How dare any one come against God’s elect. Whether we agree or disagree it is God who places Kings in position and also removes them. I too share your conviction in this continuing nuisance called “racism.” Furthermore, I am totally miffed and more than disappointed at the hidden but now revealed racism in our churches! Never-the-less, it is not I but Christ that lives within me and I like you will continue to be steadfast, unmoveable always abiding in the Lord!!!

    We must pray, fast and continue to lift up the President of the United States of America, Barack Obama … God’s chosen ruler and God’s choice pick and placement for the world!!!

    Selah & Amen,

    Stephanie R. Clark

  • John Richards

    Lem: Shout out to MLK indeed. Well stated comment. I don’t care what color the dude/woman is.

    KK:LOL @ We Shall Overcome. Man, I guess the old guard had to have their moment, but I didn’t quite understand that either.

    Stephanie: Racism is indeed a nuisance and I certainly agree that we need to do everything we can (fast, pray, and lift up our nation) to get us through tough times.