Professor lectures on taking a Christian approach to interracial communication

Van Nguyen

George Yancey, a sociology professor at the University of North Texas, held a lecture Monday on what Christianity can teach about increasing interracial communication on racism.

The event was sponsored by the Austin Institute for the Study of Family and Culture, whose mission statement is to create a more informed public through social science research.  

Yancey teaches a course on race and religion at UNT. During the lecture, he focused on the ways different races can talk to each other about racism and how taking a Christian approach promotes a healthy conversation.

According to Yancey, the Black Lives Matter and All Lives Matter movements are not promoting a healthy conversation on racism.

“There seems like there’s nowhere to go but keep fighting,” Yancey said.

He said he has talked to people from both movements and believes they will only do what they believe is right and not take into consideration the other side.

Yancey isn’t a theologian but said he believes taking a Christian approach toward talking about racism is a step in the right direction.

He said Christianity teaches people how sin permeates the core of our life and this provides different groups reasons not to trust each other.

Yancey introduced the mutual obligation approach to solve the problem of interracial communication on racism. This approach has everyone recognize people’s sinful natures and in realizing this, people have the obligation to work toward a healthy dialogue. He said people need to recognize the cultural or racial differences at play and work toward a solution that can be accepted by all.

“We can have this fight from now to who knows, but maybe if we find a solution where you meet some of our needs and we meet some of your needs we can have a solution that’s sustainable,” Yancey said.

Active listening is another strategy Yancey presented, which involves listening to opposite perspectives. He said you don’t have to agree with other people’s perspectives but listening to them will help move the conversation forward.

Stephen Sternberg, a staff member at the Faculty Ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ, agrees with Yancey’s position on talking to others with different perspectives.

“I’ve never experienced institutional racism,” Sternberg said. “Part of the reason I came is to learn another person’s perspective from a different context in which I didn’t grow up.”

Yulanda McCarty-Harris, director of Equity and Compliance at the Office of Inclusion and Equity, which promotes diversity on campus, said if she were to incorporate some of these strategies at the University, it would be to get a more diverse faculty applicant pool.

“So many times when you have a conflict with someone you’re not really listening to what they’re saying, you’re waiting until they finish so you can present your perspective on the issue,” McCarty-Harris said. “A lot of the time what happens when I’ve talked with faculty, they’ll just say we just want to hire the best person, we don’t want to think about race, we don’t want to think about gender. The question is what does best mean? If they disagree with me when I’m in there discussing about that I could use this approach.”

One audience member brought up the issue of alienating those that did not practice Christianity. Yancey said you don’t have to be Christian to practice this approach on dealing with racism.