The Department of Sociology at Baylor University stands in solidarity with Black Lives Matter and all calls for racial justice and equity. We share in the sentiments expressed by President Livingstone, the Board of Regents the Department of History, the Department of Psychology & Neuroscience, the Journalism, Public Relations and New Media Department, and the Baylor Interdisciplinary Core.
As a Christian institution with roots in the Baptist faith, Baylor calls on its students, faculty, and staff to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with God for the sake of all people who are created in the divine image (Micah 6:8; Genesis 1:27; Revelation 7:9). Baylor plays an important role as an institutional presence and influence in Waco and higher education, particularly Christian higher education. In our department we fulfill this call by sharpening student minds and raising their awareness of the world around them with the hope that they will become critically engaged. We, along with others in the Baylor community, hope to stir student’s moral consciences and bring them to social action.
We invite students, faculty, and administrators to use the sociological imagination, a concept developed by social theorist and Waco native C. Wright Mills, when discussing and pondering the current racial unrest in the United States. Our home, Waco, reflects the scars of the infamous lynching of Jesse Washington in its persistent racial, ethnic, and class inequality. It is one of the poorest cities in the United States, but this poverty is not equally shared despite our Christian obligation to bear one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2). This disparity is supported by legal, civic, religious, and private institutions controlled almost entirely by Whites despite Waco’s racial and ethnic diversity. It is an outcome of what Baylor alumnus and sociologist Dr. Joe Feagin describes as a White Racial Frame, a worldview that prizes traits associated with Whiteness while denigrating those associated with people of color. White racial terrorism must be identified and rooted out, and we must also fight against institutional racism, laws and policies that on their surface seem colorblind but which disproportionately harm people of color. This fight against racialized violence directed at Black people and other people of color is at the heart of the Black Lives Matter movement.
We hope that Black Lives Matter’s call for social justice will quicken the minds and hearts of Americans, especially those White Christian Americans whose inaction makes them complicit in the racial and ethnic inequalities of the 20th century. Baptist minister Martin Luther King Jr. described such “moderates” thusly:
I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Council-er or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: 'I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action’; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.' Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.
Many White Christians encouraged and participated in the now-chilling scenes of law enforcement violence captured during the Civil Rights marches and in the terrorism enacted toward Black Christian men and women and their congregations. Such acts continue to this day, and we hope that today’s White Christians will choose a different, more active path than their forebears.
Baylor University, as a leading Christian university seeking R1 status, likewise needs to examine its own complicity in racial and ethnic inequality. We are heartened by the historic excavation taking place at this university but we implore that such symbolic efforts be joined by funding and resourcing for the Equity Office, increased minority representation in upper administrative and faculty positions, and an expansion of the few courses on diversity awareness. We cannot expect our students to become worldwide leaders and servants who do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with God if we as an institution do not exemplify that behavior in pursuit of a more racially just and equitable future.
Faculty and Graduate Students of Sociology at Baylor University