Over the past decade, America has seen racial divisions rise. While the blame can be laid at the feet of many people, I would rather try and refocus on our common purpose of racial equality. There is no easy answer. There is no one solution.Archibald H. Grimke in his 1891 biography on the radical abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison gives me hope that we are not so far gone that we cannot recapture the vision for radical equality in Jesus Christ.

Garrison’s Abolitionism was of the most radical character. It went the whole length of the humanity of the colored race, and all that that implied. They were, the meanest members, whether bond or free, his brothers and his sisters. From the first he regarded them as bone of his bone and blood of his blood, as children with him of a common father. Poor and enslaved and despised to be sure, wronged by all men, and contemned by all men, but for that very reason they were deserving of his most devoted love and labor. He never looked down upon them as wanting in any essential respect the manhood which was his. They were men and as such entitled to immediate emancipation. They were besides entitled to equality of civil and political rights in the republic, entitled to equality and fraternity in the church, equality and fraternity at the North, equality and fraternity always and everywhere. This is what he preached, this is what he practiced. In not a single particular was he ever found separating himself from his brother in black, saying to him “thus far but no farther.” He never drew the line in public or private between him and the people whose cause was his cause — not even socially. He went into their homes and was in all things one with them. He forgot that he was white, forgot that they were black, forgot the pride of race, forgot the stigma of race too in the tie of human kinship which bound him to them. If he had what they did not possess, the rights of a man, the civil and political position of a man in the State, the equality of a brother in the church, it could not make him feel better than they, it filled him instead with a righteous sense of wrong, a passionate sympathy, a supreme desire and determination to make his own rights the measure of theirs.

“I lose sight of your present situation,” he said in his address before Free People of Color, “and look at it only in futurity. I imagine myself surrounded by educated men of color, the Websters, and Clays, and Hamiltons, and Dwights, and Edwardses of the day. I listen to their voice as judges and representatives, and rulers of the people — the whole people.” This glowing vision was not the handiwork of a rhetorician writing with an eye to its effect upon his hearers. The ardent hope of the reformer was rather the father of the golden dream.

Archibald H. Grimke, William Lloyd Garrison the Abolitionist (Medford, MA: Perseus Digital Library, n.d.), 157–158.

Dr. J.R. Miller is a Professor of Applied Theology and Leadership & Dean of Online Learning at Southern California Seminary. Outside work, he is a church planter. Dr. Miller has a diverse educational background and authored multiple books on church history, biblical theology, and Leadership. Joe and his wife Suzanne enjoy the sun and surf with their 3 sons in San Diego, CA.

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