Friday, June 12, 2020


The first memorial service honoring George Floyd was held June 4, 2020 at North Central University (NCU), A Pentecostal Christian university in Minneapolis, Minnesota (StarTribune). Mr. Floyd was brutally murdered May 25, 2020 when a police officer knelt on his neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds until he died.

 Ten years ago, Dr. Renea Brathwaite, a recent Dean for Professional Studies at NCU, was a PhD candidate. He wrote an essay about racial reconciliation from “An Afro-Pentecostal Perspective.”
 I reread his essay and find it more current than ever.

 In the essay, Brathwaite tells the story of the interracial revival in the early years of American Pentecostalism—notably the Azusa Street Revival in Los Angeles. Early on, there was excitement over the crossing of the “color line.” Unfortunately, in the spirit of the times, Blacks and Whites went their separate ways and established congregations and eventually denominations or fellowships along racial lines.

 As he concludes his essay, his comments strike at the heart of the current racist divide in US society.

Racial interaction is not racial reconciliation. It can be a distraction and is an insultingly poor substitute that only makes the real task harder. More explicitly stated, staging racially-mixed events without the deep work of forgiveness and reconciliation is a superficial masquerade that simultaneously a) allows the real wounds of disharmony and prejudice to putrefy and b) tranquilizes those involved. Resultantly, unwary participants in this charade think that the “race problem” (What race problem?!) has been resolved, when in reality it has only been submerged and transformed into something even more insidious and all the more difficult to eradicate. No longer is it on the surface where it can be named, confronted, and exorcised; it is now the subliminal (and even institutionalized) fabric from which human relationships are sown. (pp. 83-84)

See Dr. Brathwaite's analysis in Chapter 4 

In the context of the 2020 protests--both violent and nonviolent--it is clear that intergroup relationships are in serious need of repair. Racial and ethnic prejudices are common to human beings as is ingroup favoritism or privilege.

Brathwaite rightly claims "Racial interaction is not racial reconciliation." This  "racial interaction" was the false promise of desegregation. It was right to desegregate the schools and society. In favorable settings, mixed race or ethnic interactions help reduce prejudice as posited by contact theory; however, when there is a history of injury--including murder--perpetrated by one group on another, interaction is not enough--it can indeed by an insult.

Group leaders must lead the way to admission of wrongdoing, offering sincere apologies, seeking and granting forgiveness, and initiating steps designed to build trust--that key component of effective reconciliation.

Because prejudice is a part of the human condition, groups will find ways to discriminate against other groups thus societal leaders will always need to work at identifying and addressing prejudices, negative stereotypes, and ingroup favoritism.

In the US, ingroup favoritism (aka White Privilege) continues to be evident in political, economic, and criminal justice systems. In segregated religious organizations (schools, nonprofits), ingroup favoritism persists as well. I cannot speak about other nations, but the protests around the world in 2020 suggest other societies face similar intergroup struggles.


Brathwaite, R. (2010). The Azusa Street revival and racial reconciliation: An Afro-Pentecostal perspective. In M. Mittelstadt & G. W. Sutton (eds). Forgiveness, reconciliation, and restoration: Multidisciplinary studies from a Pentecostal perspective. (pp 65-87). Eugene, OR: Pickwick Publications.

Multidimensional Prejudice

Psychology of Prejudice and Discrimination


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