Southern Baptist Seminary Apologizes for Racially Insensitive Photo of Professors Dressed Up as Gangster Rappers


The Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth apologized this week after a photo showing white faculty posing as rappers sparked backlash on social media.

Five seminary professors, including the dean of the School of Preaching, put on bandannas, hoodies and gold chains and used their hands to flash signs for the camera. One held what appeared to be a handgun close to his chest. Written above them graffiti-style are the words “Notorious S.O.P” — a reference to the seminary’s School of Preaching and to the iconic black rapper Notorious B.I.G.

The professors meant to tease a departing Native American colleague who likes to rap as part of his preaching, according to a statement from the seminary.

But the joke fell flat on Twitter, where the professors shared the photo in posts that have since been deleted. People called the image tone-deaf, offensive and racist.

A writer for Faithfully Magazine  captured the tweets before they were deleted and reported on them Tuesday.

At first, School of Preaching dean David Allen and professor Barry McCarty tweeted that the photo was for Vern Charette, a professor who raps and was leaving for a job elsewhere.

Charette appears in a YouTube video dedicating his rhymes to “all my pimps, players, thugs and hustlers, all my boys that are in lockdown.”

“I want you know there is an answer,” he sing-talks. “His name is Jesus Christ. And that’s why I’m here tonight.”

The explanation did little to pacify critics, and Allen sent out another tweet.

“I apologize for a recent image I posted which was offensive,” he wrote. “Context is immaterial.”

McCarty acknowledged on Twitter that he had deleted the photo and said, “Dr. Allen speaks for all of us.”

Paige Patterson, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, also apologized for the photo in a lengthy statement posted to the seminary website. He doesn’t appear in the image.

“The president encourages our people to laugh at each other rather than to risk taking ourselves too seriously,” he wrote. “But, as all members of the preaching faculty have acknowledged, this was a mistake, and one for which we deeply apologize. Sometimes, Anglo Americans do not recognize the degree that racism has crept into our lives.”

The Rev. Byron J. Day, a pastor in Maryland who is president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s National African American Fellowship, said the image is offensive because it plays into the stereotype of blacks as gangsters. Still, he said he was satisfied with the seminary president’s apology.

“I believe there was no intent by this faculty to be racist, just bad judgment,” Day said.

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SOURCE: Dallas News
Julieta Chiquillo, The Dallas Morning News

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