Whatever we could say about the abhorrent treatment of African-Americans in the history of this country would be an understatement. Words fail to describe the stripping away of dignity, the lynchings, and the apartheid that has taken place. The violence perpetrated against the black race naturally provoked violent responses against whites. It's as if a war was going on which James Cone, in his book Black Theology & Black Power predicted would lead to actual civil war unless things changed.
Cone noted the affinity of Jesus with the oppressed and marginalized. Jesus preached good news to the poor and the disenfranchised. He did not come merely to free souls, but also to free bodies. Kingdom work is equated to working toward a just society. As God was with Israel during the Exodus, he is with the African-Americans in their oppression.
Cone indicted both black and white churches for having failed to take up the mantle of black power. Both had neglected civil rights. The white churches were (and many still are) largely racist which is a flat denial of Christ. Many whites who spoke the rhetoric of civil rights were unwilling to put their heads on the block for their black brothers. Many black churches, in Cone's view, had compromised the fight for justice by caving in to white paternalism in hopes of preserving their institutionalized congregations.
Cone offers a fascinating historical survey of the black church before and after the Civil War. He confirms my long-held opinion that even this North and South struggle wasn't fought for the good of black people, but solely for the preservation of the Union which Lincoln all but said outright in his famous response to Horace Greeley.
Cone's book reinforces the fact that it has been a long road toward equality in this nation and after all these years there is still farther to go. My opinion is that a good aproach to healing among the races is to get to know one another. We should take deliberate steps in the promotion of racial and cultural diversity, not isolating ourselves from those who are different. Nothing breaks down stereotypes like relationships.