Category Archives: Race and Social Privilege

Don’t stop talking about race

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It is easy to reset, to move on to the next outrage, to the next shiny object.  “Ooh.  What’s that?”  We want to be distracted.  We hope that we can forget.

But, we cannot continue to let this be the case.  Race is a problem and it doesn’t just go away.  Instead, it is here to stay, stuck between our teeth, hanging on to our thin skin.  We carry it with us.  A word with sharp edges that we continue to wrap carefully and reuse, race is the weapon and the wound.

Still, we talk about race as if it is all we have, like it is all that we can say about ourselves, as if we are only flesh and blood.  We talk about race as if our lives depend on it, like we cease to exist if we are not socially colored beige, brown, black, red, yellow and white.  And though we cannot see the end of it (that is, post- racial), race is not our beginning. We cannot see past it but there is no future with race.

A socio- political construct, we talked ourselves into this belief in race and we will need to talk ourselves out of it.  You may not know this but we are not alone in this desire.  Recently, a number of books have been published that aim to discuss our relationship with race and empower readers to talk about it.  Please consider adding these to your reading list and your bookshelves:

Robin Diangelo, White Fragility: Why it’s so hard for white people to talk about racism, (Boston, MA: Beacon Press, 2018).

Carolyn B. Helsel, Anxious to talk about it: Helping White Christians Talk Faithfully About Racism, (Saint Louis, MO: Chalice Press, 2017).

Ijeoma Oluo, So you want to talk about race?, (New York, NY: Seal Press, 2018).

Derang Wing Sue, Race Talk and the Conspiracy of Silence: Understanding and Facilitating Difficult Dialogues on Race, (Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2015).

Shelly Tochluk, Witnessing Whiteness: The Need to Talk about Race and How to Do It, (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Education, 2010).

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The Separation of Race and Faith

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The social construct of race and its commandments are often used as supplemental material for the Bible.  Or, we take out the characters of the Bible altogether and insert our culture– but no one else’s.  God’s promises are for us and not them.  God is talking to us and not them.  The social construct of race empowers us to become replacement saviors and we step in as if Christ extended an invitation to us to fill his shoes.  Though often described as “the hands and feet of Christ,” there are no holes in either.

In fact, the social construct of race does not encourage us to open our hands to others but to walk in the opposite direction and self- segregate.  Our “color” made righteous, it is our skin that sets us apart.  The darkness reduced to flesh, we wrestle against flesh and blood (Ephesians 6.12).

For good or for ill, it is our race that gets the credit.  All glory belongs to socially colored beige/ black/ brown/ red/ yellow/ white people.  It is an accepted and understandable heresy.  We excuse this form of idolatry because it is the worship of self.

Race and its progeny do not echo the words of Christ; it does not enable or enhance his ministry.  Race is not a messenger of the gospel; it is good news is for “me and mine.”  Race leaves the world out and makes our culture the world around which everyone else should revolve.  This is why it is important to declare that the gospel of Jesus Christ is race-less.

Race does not work for God but against our humanity.  The social construct of race was and is not a part of the plan of salvation for human beings.  Our “race” does not gain us access to God.  Our righteousness is not in the social coloring of flesh but in the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ on the cross.  Confessing a race says that we belong to a colored people but as Christians, we are the people of God.

So, what will it be?  You and I will need to separate race from our faith.  Made in the image of God, the social construct of race does not supplement our identity.  We cannot be a colored person and a child of God at the same time.  Because it was never about having the right skin but being in right relationship with God.  It was the blood of Christ not the skin of Christ that saved us.

It is our hands that have gotten in the way.  Consequently, our hands will need to do the separating.  Race or our Christian faith?  Choose this day which one you will serve.

 

If we think that God is ‘a white man’

Image result for God is a white man“God is a white man.”  This is not a new declaration but an old reduction made by persons who argue against a belief in the God of Christianity because in the name of this God, persons have stolen, enslaved, sold, raped, murdered, pillaged and annihilated indigenous cultures of the earth.  They surmise, God must be white because they are not being punished but are getting away with it.  It is a judgment against God, now viewed as giving them a pass and their privilege, labeled whiteness.  I suppose that many of us are looking for an Old Testament demonstration of who God is for and who God is against.

But, as Christians, it is not whiteness that saves any of us but the work of Jesus Christ on the cross. Our belief in whiteness suggests that there is within some of us, literally and quite physically on us, the ability to save us. Our faith in the deliverance of whiteness nullifies the salvific work of Jesus Christ on the cross.  It is whiteness– not his blood– that makes the difference.

“God is a white man.”  This is also a statement of faith for those who believe that they have a divine right to dominate, oppress and colonize other people, that “the earth is theirs and the fullness thereof” (Psalm 24.1).  It is the belief that socially colored white people were made by God to dehumanize other people.  This is a faith that denies the inherent worth of all human beings and the unconditional love that God has for all people.  And it is about the goodness of people, particularly socially colored white people, not Jesus and the two are not synonymous.

“God is a white man.”  If we think this is true, then we are saying that God is in cahoots with the socially constructed white race, that those who oppress are all- powerful because it is usurped from a divine source.  If we think that God is a white man, then God created some and not all in the Divine image.  The rest of us are rejects, having no place with God or humanity.  It also suggests then that God has a holy ax to grind against “them” and we are being used to cut them off– because they are not the right people because they are not white people.

But, while there is social support for this idea, there is no scriptural support for this confession.  God took on the form of a human being but God is not a human being.  Consequently, when we say that God is a white man, we are in fact interpreting God through the lens of race, making God one of us, writing another salvation narrative: “For God so hated socially colored beige, black, brown, yellow and red people, that God sent socially colored white people into the world.”

That’s not the gospel of Jesus Christ and that’s not the God of the Bible, of history, experience and revelation.  That’s our racialized imaginations running wild.

A 3- Minute Lesson on Race

You’ve got time for this class and it is brought to you by Jenée Desmond Harris.  It is a lesson that must be learned and that bears repeating.  Harris starts from the beginning of race and no, she does not begin in the book of Genesis.  Lie #1 struck down.  Race is not that old.

Race is a lot of things but biological, biblical or original to our being are not to be included.  Still, the misrepresentation of who we are continues and so does the cycle of hatred.  Race wars are plotted against places of worship for African Americans and Jews.  Protests seem unending, CNN describing last year as “a year of outrage.”  The hashtag Black Lives Matter has become a movement.  Right now, the University of Missouri has been added to the list and to the ongoing conversation on race after accusations of racism on campus. Consequently, this class is always in session.

And while it won’t lead to an advanced degree, these truths concerning race as a social construct are certain to advance our understandings of self and our neighbor.  I’ve devoted my life to teaching about race and to the eradication of the racial category for human identity.  Week after week, I look for ways to say this because it is so much easier and less painful to accept this superficial existence.  I want us to go deeper and pray that this video and my words would peel away another layer of race’s deceptions.

Bridges

050304_selmamarch_ss09.grid-8x2Today, persons will remember the historic march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge that occurred fifty years ago on Sunday, March 7, 1965. Already a movie, Selma will be a buzzword and a hash tag.  It will be a trending topic today and perhaps for a couple more after that.

We will wear t- shirts and other memorabilia to capitalize on the event, standing in materialistic support.  We will impress ourselves with catch phrases and slogans that recapture the spirit of the movement.  We will praise the work of history and curse the fate of the next generation’s future less we do something quickly.  We must do it now while we have the momentum and the minds of the people.

Discussion panels will rehash the event and draw comparisons between Selma and Ferguson.  They, along with the viewing audience, will resolve to fight social injustice, to change the laws that oppress us, to change the tenor of the conversation on race.  We will remind ourselves of history’s threat of repetition and vow to do things differently.

Networks will replay the black and white footage in two- hour specials.  Surviving participants will be interviewed.  We will sponsor and attend dinners, give awards and medals and speeches.  President Obama will visit the bridge and make a speech.  Persons will listen and write about it, critique and quote him.

The day will be reenacted and the story redacted as persons put themselves in the shoes of those who were actually there, having still not taken “the inward journey,” to use the words of the mystical preacher Howard Thurman, needed to make the trek. Many people will be talking about that “Bloody Sunday” when Alabama state troopers attacked protesters as they marched peacefully for civil rights.

The bridge will attract a crowd and will receive the red carpet treatment as celebrities will flock to it, wanting to be a part of the celebratory memory, hoping to be upfront and arms locked with those who were there, singing the songs sung, remembering the iconic preacher who paved the way, the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  They will want to be apart of remembering a moment that has already passed.

Which makes me wonder about the present moments that we don’t show up for?  What are the Edmund Pettus bridges of today for which leadership is marked absent?  Where should we be marching and for what causes should our foot prayers be offered?  Or, does time have to tell us that this was the bridge that we should have walked across?

And what of our lives?  What ways are we making for others?  How do our lives move people?  What passage does our life provide to others?  Are we bridges or are we standing in the way?