Category Archives: Race Training

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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After Charlottesville: Doing our hate homework

Image result for unite the right rally in charlottesville va with tiki torches

God is love and we, as Christians, are known by it (First John 4.16).  It is God’s character and our expected response for we speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4.15).  It is the principle identifier, proof that we are not only in a relationship with but related to God—not abilities, culture, education, gifts, social status or wealth.  It is not proven by church attendance or even committee participation.  Because the Christian life is more than showing up and doing.  Our Christian faith is about being—being and behaving as the body of Christ.

The apostle Paul reminds us that none of these external markers matter anyway.  Often used at weddings and referred to as the love chapter, First Corinthians 13, along with Psalm 23, are the most recognizable, often quoted but poorly practiced truths of Scripture.  There are portions that read like the job description of love but how many of us apply it to our lives when it matters and is needed most?  And John is crystal clear that this is not an easy kind of love.  He writes, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love. … Those who say, ‘I love God,’ and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen.  The commandment we have from him is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also” (First John 4.18, 20-21, NRSV).

It is against God’s law to hate.  You shall have no other gods.  You shall not steal.  You shall kill.  You shall not hate.

John says this is not about warm and fuzzy feelings.  This is not a matter of sharing a smile but in the suffering of our siblings.  He writes, “Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action” (First John 3.18, NRSV).  Because it is not enough to say that we are Christians, to suggest that our identity speaks for itself and requires no action.  God forbid.

What purpose does the Church’s mouth serve if it does not speak to injustice?  And if the Church cannot say, “God is love” when hatred is expressed in Charlottesville, Virginia or closer to home, then what are we talking about?  Because hatred is not foreign, a product shipped in or smuggled across borders.  Hatred is personal, local and homegrown.  And the Church has often made is sacred.  The Church in North America has hated “in Jesus’ name.”

I find that it is easier to talk about the God of love but what are we to say about the people who hate and closer still, the people we hate?  The Unite the Right rally that happened in Charlottesville, Virginia should remind the Church that we have work to do.  Anxiety, discomfort and ignorance are not valid excuses to not attend to the matter.  We cannot stay in the nurse’s office because this wound will not heal without us.

But, before we attempt to teach others, we have our own homework to do.  Let the words of Howard Thurman serve as the introduction to this course.  He writes in Jesus and the Disinherited:

Christianity has been almost sentimental in its effort to deal with hatred in human life.  It has sought to get rid of hatreds by preachments, by moralizing, by platitudinous judgments.  It has hesitated to analyze the basis of hatred and to evaluate it in terms of its possible significance in the lives of the people possessed by it.  The reluctance to examine hatred has taken on the character of a superstition.  It is a subject that is taboo unless there is some extraordinary social crisis—such as war—involving the mobilization of all the national resources of the common life to meet it.  There is a conspiracy of silence about hatred, its function and meaning.”

Howard Thurman penned these truths in 1976.  Clearly, we have a lot of homework to do.

James Baldwin on “America’s ‘race problem'”

Today is the birthday of writer, activist and artist, James Baldwin.  Today, I salute his courageous questioning of the social construct of race, the distance between race and human identity.  Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the words and witness of Mr. James Baldwin.

 

The Race Pass: A Compromised Faith


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yesterday, I introduced the concept of the race pass and through social media continued to unpack the idea.  I often pray for divine insight into the social construct of race with the hope of further revealing its weaknesses and prayerfully, loosening its grip on our faith.  I think this idea of an excused absence from our convictions in order to profess our prejudices is a way to do that.  So, my aim is to unpack the ways in which the race pass works.

Unlike the hall, bathroom, nurse and office passes we received in school and from our teachers, this permission is given to us by our parents and peers.  As adults, we write these passes for our selves.  Every time that we make an excuse for a racialized belief or behavior that contradicts our confession of faith in Jesus Christ, we have given ourselves a race pass.  It is permission to put our faith down in order to practice our racial prejudices.

A few practical examples of how this happens or what this looks like are best offered in questions for your consideration and reflection.

How do we proclaim “salvation to all” while believing that our ‘race’ is God’s choice?

How do we believe in an all- powerful God while claiming our human supremacy, making exceptions to God’s rule?

How do we behave unmercifully to persons who look and live differently than we do while believing in a merciful God?

How do we hate our neighbor and love ourselves?

How do we harbor unforgiveness, resentment and bitterness while claiming God as our refuge?

How do we deny and delay the calling to the ministry of reconciliation?

How do we benefits from the privileges of race while knowing they come at the expense of oppressing other people?

How do we explain, justify and make room for historical disinterest, anger and resentment?

How do we repeat after Jesus and see in stereotypes?

How do we follow Jesus and historical prejudices?

Why do we think that our hatreds our justified– even as we profess our belief in the God of love, compassion and justice?

The answer: the race pass.

We cannot believe in the social construct of race, hold its prejudices and stereotypes and profess faith in Jesus Christ, holding his hand and our cross.  We cannot keep the race pass and carry the cross of Christ too.  We have to put one down.

 

 

We Saw Each Other

imagesLast week, we moved into a new apartment.  It is open concept with nice upgrades but the heat of August and the energy drain of moving could have taken away the shine of the new appliances.  In hindsight, perhaps, it was heat exhaustion.  I probably should have drank more water and rested a bit.  But, I digress.

As is our custom, we hired a couple of day laborers and asked them what their wage was.  It was fare so we drove to the old place.  I mostly pointed at big furniture pieces and they picked up, having moved all of boxes the day and night before with friends.  It seems it takes a village to move too.

Everything went according to plan and to my A- type schedule until I gave them water and then I asked their names.  One of the guys offered both: “Philippe and Pedro.”  Despite my weariness, I understood immediately that he was communicating the stereotype and the assumption.  I raised my eyebrow and we shared a smile.

I asked him again, “What is your name?” and they introduced themselves as Omar and Juan.  They both had families and lived in the neighborhood.  The conversation had been superficial before now but a second glance allowed us to see each other not as day laborers and mover but as Juan, Omar, Starlette and John.  To God be the glory!