The rantings of Garner Ted Armstrong on the American Negro. Those of his generation surely had another view that reaches back to a time within the deep South.
Someone once asked if the WCG mindset had racial bias towards people descending from races other than those in what were considered to be the twelve tribes of Israel. Some answer that more than race, members of the Worldwide Church of God were segregated largely by status indicators such as social standing (class) and income.
But was your racial heritage an issue? To answer that question you would have to go back to articles written before it became politically incorrect to speak your true heart on such matters. The public rhetoric changed in keeping with the times, but the early members of the organization were profoundly influenced by earlier teachings. I can still remember the minister in our local church area refusing to perform a wedding for an interracial couple in the mid 80’s. Later the church took a stance that interracial marriages were “allowed.” But, I must ask, does “allowing” someone to make a decision for themselves that was already their God-given prerogative to make prove that prejudice is a thing of the past? Or do we still have a way to go to before we achieve a Godly outlook on these matters quite sensitive to some? We permitted so much dominion from the church in so many areas of our lives that it still just staggers me. But then, who wanted to go to the Lake of Fire?
The Bible states; “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6 Words written early in the history of the Worlwide Church of God was the spiritual food that nourished children who later became leaders of the various churches of God today. Therefore, what was written “back then” becomes very relevant today. Is it fair to assume that a public statement made by an organization is their official position until a retraction, or an apology is issued? Or would they prefer to say, “That is in the past. Let’s move on.” Well, many would like to know specifically what they published they now consider to be untrue, and what they consider to still be true. The Bible says, “In the multitude of words there wanteth not sin: but he that refraineth his lips is wise.” (Proverbs 10:19) The WCG published many, many words. So many words, in fact, that it is just amazing! The individual writer AND the organization being written for should be willing to be held accountable for the words that they demanded millions upon millions of dollars from their sincere readers to publish! Truth, as they proclaimed repeatedly claimed only they had, does stand the test of time. What did they publish that they are still willing to stand behind and defend, and what specific statements are they willing to apologize for?
What was the church’s early position on blacks in the United States? Was there bias? Judge for yourself. One particularly interesting article was written by Garner Ted Armstrong and published in the Plain Truth, August 1967 issue entitled, “Race Riots – Here’s the Real Cause!” More than half the article has been quoted with little comment so the words published by the WCG can speak for themselves.
In explaining the cause of race riots, Garner Ted Armstrong explains:
“You need to understand one basic truth! And the truth is: regardless of race or color, the broad majority of “riots” you have been witnessing and reading of are pure vandalism, on a massive scale!
They are outbursts of lawlessness – anarchical defiance of all codes of human decency – by ignorant, militant, deceived, hate-filled Negroes who have been fed a diet of venom against whites for so long it comes almost as “second nature” to erupt into brutal, bestial, blind, unreasoning violence!
The Traditional, False Causes
After each conflagration, wearied officials talk of “ghettos,” and “poverty-stricken” areas. Millions have assumed the concoction of poverty, “ghettos,” and “long hot summers” are the perfect formula for riot.
Millions of American immigrants of other races: Jews, Czechs, Poles, Ukranians, Germans, Italians, Norwegians and Swedes; Japanese, Chinese and Mexican Americans have all lived in “ghettos,” oftentimes for generations, before they finally became absorbed into the nation as a whole.
But those early ghettos, and the present ones were not producing riots.
Another fanciful notion has been that riots occur where no civil, state, or federal programs exist to clear up some of the problems of poor housing, joblessness, lack of educational opportunity and the like.
…There is no basis in fact for anyone to cling to the false notion that living in poverty grants one the freedom to riot! Leaders of government, and leaders of the civil rights movement, however, have made statements which have been directly interpreted to such fashion.
As one official said, in viewing a slum area, “If I had to live under conditions like that, I’d riot too!”
But poor living conditions do not cause riots.
They can stimulate a fierce determination to better those conditions. They can give rise, as they have in the hundreds of ghettos of the other races mentioned, to a concerted effort to clean up the ghetto, to become educated, and to live a decent, law abiding, moral and respectable life!
Thousands of American families managed, somehow, to pursue such goals – in the ghetto. Thousands still do.
But the public notion that poverty and hot summers create riot is pure fancy – warped reasoning – and not fact!”
What Garner Ted failed to mention here, is that the notorious practice of “redlining” were not outlawed by equal housing laws until two years earlier in 1965. Two years was hardly enough time for legal challenges to find their way into the court system. Redlining was notoriously practiced by banks and other lending institutions to map cities and towns using red marking pens to outline specific streets and whole neighborhoods. This resulted in refusing financial assistance in the form of loans to anyone who listed those redlined addresses anywhere in the loan application. Capital for business startups, expansion, home improvement or purchase, or education was simply unavailable if you lived in those redlined areas. Add to this, the difficulty of finding affordable housing that a landlord would be willing to rent to you that were not in these redlined areas, and you have created a perfectly hopeless situation for the vast majority living in the slum. To compare the American Black to other races that WOULD be chosen as renters in the marginally better neighborhoods, that would then lead them on to a better life with access to borrowed capital is simply unfair. It was the banking system, with access to borrowed capital that made the middle class of this country possible. Without borrowed money for housing and business startups, the average white man would never, I mean never, have risen above subsistence. This was unavailable to the average black until after the American civil rights movement forced lawmakers to rethink our laws and provide real protection from this form of abuse.
And of all the races that Garner Ted listed please find another that was brought to this country against their will, legally imprisoned when guilty of no crime, sold like cattle, subjected to forced labor (slavery), routinely raped, beaten, mutilated, starved, and then told, “that was in the past. Let’s move on.” Show me another group, who when first immigrating to this great country, their average life expectancy was EIGHTEEN YEARS!
Garner Ted continues:
“It is becoming increasingly evident to poverty officials that you can take the people out of the slums with money – but you can’t take the slums out of the people! You can change their immediate environment – but unless a corresponding change is somehow wrought in their heart; unless orderliness replaces slovenliness, and unless garbage is placed in the cans instead of the hallways, and unless lawns are carefully groomed instead of neglected, and unless property is cared for instead of ruined – then all the poverty programs on earth will not remove the ugly blemish of crime, hatred, laziness and indifference that is such a growing hallmark of our times.
Does this mean all Negro people? Of course not – just entirely too many! Can you, whether colored or white; whether Mexican American or Pole; whether German or Japanese, read this article without passion? Can you put down prejudice in your own heart, and receive this article as it is written – with the very love of Jesus Christ, and the pity and sadness he feels over such deplorable tragedies?
Can you look, logically, unemotionally, and objectively, at the true fact – and see the real causes? If you are one who is mature enough to look at the truth – regardless as to race, then read on!
…Washington, D. C., has a population of sixty-three percent Negro. But ninety-two percent of the crime is Negro. In other words – the crime rate in the Negro community is totally disproportionate to the population – and huge beside the white community. Is this prejudicial? No – just plain, cold, serious fact!
…To blame all such lack of education on discrimination is a simple untruth. To deny there has been discrimination would be an equal untruth. But many causal factors apply. Lack of desire for education, and an underlying apathy are equal factors with lack of opportunity. And it is also a fact that many Negro schools and integrated schools in the South provide superior educational opportunities to northern, big city schools.
…The ghetto is not the problem, it’s the effect. Poverty is not the problem, it’s the effect. When will we learn this?
Anatomy of a Riot
Did you ever wonder how a riot starts?
It’s very simple.
Take several hundred or thousands of individuals like the Negro interviewed [for the sake of length interview was not included] above. Most of them don’t know their parents. If they had a family, there was constant bickering, fighting and quarrelling at home.
Most of these individuals were school “dropouts.” They have little education and no skills. They’re a socially, mentally inferior lot. The world a few blocks from their ghetto might as well be a foreign country. If they must venture into it for a time, they rush to get back to the safety of “their block.”
They have no jobs; no responsibilities; no place to play; no hobbies; no interests – simply, nothing to do!
These same misfits hang around drugstores, soda fountains, bars and on the street corners. They want something exciting to do. Being the hate-filled and covetous human beings that they are, they want to destroy and get.
These, many if not mostly illegitimate children, have stolen cars, fought with teachers, vandalized property since they were twelve! They’ve committed fornication; girls may be pregnant at fifteen.
There they are, groups of them, ages fifteen to twenty-five, on the street corner. It’s a hot, sultry late afternoon. One of them drawls out, “Tonight’s the night, baby.” The other answers, “Yeah, were going to get some scratch.”
They hang around a corner shop. It’s getting dark now. The shopkeeper gets nervous. He calls the police. A crowd gathers. The squad car pulls up, radios in for more help in case of trouble.
The police yell to the crowd, “Disperse, Go Home!”
The crowd doesn’t disperse. They curse the police. Someone throws a bottle at them. The police rush to get the individual. The crowd attacks the police.
Perhaps the police shoots someone to escape being killed. Or else, the police flee the scene until help comes.
Meanwhile, the shopkeeper is beaten and his store is robbed. Some of the rioters set it afire in retaliation. Suddenly, others see an opportunity to replace the television set that’s getting old since they got it in a riot two years ago.
Another store is smashed and burned. Perhaps a liquor store goes next – and then a gun shop! This spreads from block to block. Perhaps Communist agitators are near enough to exploit the situation. They send in agents to fan the fire.
Suddenly, a full scale war is in action.
Is poverty the cause of the racial hatreds seething in men’s hearts today? Or is racial hatred oftentimes the cause of poverty?
Is lack of education the cause of racial bias and hate? Or is racial bias and hate often the cause of lack of education?
Is joblessness the cause of race riots? Or are race riots the cause of joblessness in many cases? (…Negroes were employed in many [burnt out businesses] of them, or served by them).
Garner Ted then cites statistics of broken homes, unwed mothers, etc…then continues;
…But nowhere in all the world is that breakdown of ;the family and the home any more rampant or shocking than among the Negro community in the United States!
Negroes are finding that equal opportunity, equal privilege, equality before the law is not the panacea to cure all the ills of the Negro community.
The Economic “Gap
The hard facts of the U.S. Labor Department survey proved that, as a group, in terms of ability to compete with white laborers, Negroes are generally not equal to most groups with which they find themselves competing.
Individually, many a Negro American can reach an absolute pinnacle of achievement. But collectively, talking of the entire Negro population as a whole, Negroes are among the weakest ethnic, religious, and economic groups.
Don’t allow racial prejudice to make you deny these facts! Face them – because they’re true!
What most people do not realize is that the conditions among the general Negro population of the United States has been growing much worse, of late, not better!
In terms of dollars of income, standards of living, and the years of education received, the gap between the Negro and nearly every other group in modern American society is growing wider every year? And every one of these problems is a matter of FREE CHOICE.
Of course, there are obstacles. Of course there are racial prejudices and biases!
It is difficult for Negroes to become employed in many places.
But it is not IMPOSSIBLE!”
Hmmm…difficult, but not impossible. Like, say, Ambassador College? But then Garner Ted concludes;
“Only when each individual Negro family begins to live according to God’s laws – learning what it is that binds marriages together, learning the proper methods of child rearing, developing a sense of real honesty and decency, and calling out to God for the trust and courage it takes in the face of all obstacles, will real progress be made in this or any other country toward solving what is growing into more and more of an insoluble problem.”
So, what do you think? Was there any discernable bias? The quotations above came from the “Plain Truth” with a circulation of approximately one million when this went to print. Since that time the civil rights movement has been responsible for forcing lawmakers in America to make serious changes in law that have paved the way for blacks to enter politics, law, business, teaching, science, not to mention entertainment and sports. Before protective laws were enacted, Blacks certainly had free choice, but precious little given to chose from. One could realistically wonder if these changes would have occurred without the violence of the riots frightening lawmakers into action! After all, how is it that America became a free nation – was it not rebellion that brought us the freedom that we consider to be the model of the world? Do the English consider the “Boston Tea Party” anything more than a riot, and destroying their tea anything more than vandalism? Think about it.
Was the WCG really proclaiming truth that would set the Black community free in a genuine spirit of gentle love, or simply perpetuating a bias that would further wound those already battered?