One of the consequences of America's racial history is a tendency, for some, to read racism into all sorts of disparities that may be simply circumstantial. For example, maybe the reason organization "X" has no black or Latino senior staff is because the organization truly cannot find qualified minorities for certain positions. Is it at least possible? However, it would be dishonest not to acknowledge that in a world of sin some organizations continue to racially discriminate against certain people groups in hiring and promotions even when it's not in their economic or social interest to do so. Some organizations would rather discriminate than hire the best talent. In a free market, however, racial-discriminating organizations suffer the consequences of competing in a world that rewards the colorblindness of good performance.
To clarify my thesis, let's conjecture about what it takes for a conservative evangelical college to hire a black theologian to teach biblical theology. Let's say this college serves a very conservative set of churches in the German Reformed tradition primarily in the Midwest, and in 2010 the school still has no black faculty. If we think clearly about what this college must do to hire a black theologian we would be far less willing to assume that the reason the school has no black professors is because of "racism":
- Blacks are only 13 percent of the U.S. population.
- Less than 20 percent of blacks graduate from college in America (compared to about 25 percent for all Americans). Even less than that go on to graduate school.
- Blacks account for only 0.9 percent of all degrees awarded in theological studies. The percentage of blacks earning a Ph.D. in theology is so statistically insignificant that I couldn't even find the data.
- The college requires all faculty members to sign a statement of faith and be a member of that college's denomination.
- Less than 1 percent of the denomination's churches are in or near black communities and, of those churches, hardly any men go on to study at the seminary.
Any college with these types of constraints will have a real problem finding blacks (and whites for that matter) for teaching positions in theology. Given this reality one should not be surprised by a lack of black faculty. Among the small number of blacks graduating with a Ph.D. in theology, the school must find one from its own tradition who is actually qualified, and willing, to teach at that particular school. To assume that "there must be someone out there who's black and qualified" reveals a thought process void of knowledge and reason. It is hardly possible for a school from a constrained theological tradition that primarily serves churches traditionally in white communities to have a sizable applicant pool to choose the best person for the position who also happens to be black.
Nothing is more irritating than a Christian school to be charged with "racism" because the school does not have any black or Latino faculty. Those accusing have no knowledge of the actual applicant pool available to make such a non-factual claim. Moreover, many fail to realize that blacks with a Ph.D. in theology have real options and may not want to teach at a particular school available to them. The bottom line is this: If the race conspirators want to see more minorities teaching theology at predominantly white institutions they should be a part of the solution by encouraging minorities to pursue a Ph.D. instead assuming that the only contribution blacks and Latinos can make in evangelicalism is in "urban ministry."