Tag Archives: conversation starters for race

Hello Racism!

Race and its progeny, prejudice, racism and stereotypes, are the elephants on our pew.  It’s a jungle in here on Sunday mornings and more than a tight squeeze as we attempt to lift our hands in worship, to fold our hands in prayer, to grab the hand of our neighbor in fellowship.  Let’s be honest.  They are not visitors but members of the Church in North America.

Disregarding our attempts at colorblindness, we can see that this is not working.  Still, we gave them all the right hand of fellowship the moment we accepted a new creation narrative: “In the beginning, God created white people and then, beige, brown, black, red and yellow people.”  Yes, this is the way that the race story goes and we are its narrators, its co- creators.  Race comes from our mouths.  Race is the covenant that we have made with each other—not God.  It begins, “Only my people are God’s people.”

It is the word we have fashioned with our own tongues and made fact by our decision to treat each other accordingly.  It is the way we choose to perceive people and consequently, certain places in the world.  It is the way that we choose to know each other, its categories help us keep track of where people belong or are expected to be, if only for our self- serving purposes.  And it is antithetical to the gospel of Jesus Christ, in whom we are made one body, one people and one nation.

No race card, no race baiting, race and racism are a part of our personal theology and its practice.  We hear it in our reading of Scripture and its interpretation: “Come now, let us argue it out, says the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as wool” (Isaiah 1.18), in our singing: “Jesus loves the little children/ all the children of the world/ red and yellow, black and white…”  But, this is not how Jesus loves us; this is how we love each other.  Most obvious, the social construct of race informs and influences our fellowship.  Buses and schools, water fountains and restaurants, hospitals and even cemeteries have all been integrated, but, not the church.

Our willingness to see persons created by God as somehow lesser or greater than based on the social coloring of skin is the issue.  Race is the word we made flesh.  White is the color we have deified and those who are identified as such are made socially righteousness.  This is good news in America, which should not be confused with the message of the coming kingdom of God.

Persons labeled socially colored beige, brown, black, red and yellow have no chance of experiencing this kind of salvation; there is no deliverance for them. They are subjected to seemingly endless abuse, aggression and assault.  And no matter how many times it happens, it is their body’s fault.  No body else’s.

We have to take responsibility now.  With countless video recordings of racial profiling, harassment, false arrests and even death, we have to change the story of the Good Samaritan.  True to the parable, this generation assumes that the Church will not get involved.  See no evil.

But, there is much that we can do.  I do not offer three steps to a more inclusive church, seven steps to a multicultural ministry or twelve steps to a race-less church.  The moves are not so easy as they must ensure that we all get there together.  Because we are not as far along in our conversations about the social construct of race as we thought or had hoped to be.  No church is doing it right until the Church rights its wrongs concerning race.

So, let’s start from the beginning.  Rather than race introducing us to ourselves and to each other, we need to learn more about race, where it comes from, what it does and how it predetermines our relationships with others.  Not simply repeating after its prejudices, we must question them.  Rather than continue to pretend that race does not exist or claim that we are all apart of one human race, let us accept that it does exist and that it does not help us.  Then and only then can we deal with the meaning of its reality and its implications in our practice of discipleship.

Because we must also interrogate ourselves, asking, “What would the Lord have us to do about race and racism?  How am I complicit in the compromise of Christian community formation?  What of my sight needs to change for me to see persons across cultures as my brothers and sisters?”  And then listen for a response.

Let us begin.  Say, “Hello Racism.”

 

 

Note: This post was originally commissioned by and featured on the Ethics Daily website on June 5, 2018

Harvard Graduate School of Education teaches us how to talk about ‘race, controversy and trauma’

Image result for shhhh image

“It shouldn’t be special when a church calls out racism and hatred.  It should be the rule, not the exception.”

{Tyler Jones}

“We preach that the root is sin, but it’s too uncomfortable for us to call the sin by its full name: white supremacy.”

{Michael Slater}

Following unflinching and stern words of rebuke against the people of Israel regarding their infidelity, the prophet Jeremiah records the voice of Lord issuing a call to repentance.  But, perhaps, we are not familiar with that part of the passage.  Instead, we skip the pain that “faithless Israel” caused and the process for restoration after repentance.  No, we want to hear the promise” “I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding” (Jeremiah 3.15, NRSV).  Apparently, the leaders that God provides will have similar standards of care, guidance and supervision.

This job description is not produced in a business meeting or in a bubble.  But, there is controversy and conflict swirling around.  And God promises leaders who can handle it, who can love and lead in the midst of it.

I don’t know if you are aware of this but there has been a rise in anti- Semitic, anti- immigrant, anti- ‘other,’ anti- civil language both before his election and since Trump has taken office as the nation’s 45th president.  Several shootings, at least one resulting in murder, after the attacker screamed, “Go back to your country” has been reported.  Srinivas Kuchibhotla, a 32- year old man from India and an engineer was killed while a man who has not been identified but who is an American citizen and a Sikh was shot in Kent, Washington.  Clearly, I am being facetious because there has been no rest for those who are weary from his Twitter tantrums and tirades.  The start of this week has been no different with a criminal investigation of the Trump campaign by the FBI made public after a House Intelligence Committee hearing into Russian interference in the 2016 political election.  And if that were not enough, FBI Director Comey dismissed Trump’s unfounded claim that former President Barack Obama ordered a wiretap of Trump Tower.  So, what shall we say then?

What do we preach about?  What do we talk about in our Sunday School classes, our small group meetings and during our fellowship dinners?  Surely, we cannot gloss over the impact of this administration, its lying, attempted travel bans and the like?  Besides, what would it suggest of our Christian faith and witness if we did?

Surely, we cannot ignore this, thinking that it will simply go away.  Talking to ourselves and reassuring our friends and family members that we are “good people” is pointless.  Our need to reassure ourselves that we are not one of them does not excuse us from the boat that we are all in.  Paul Reams said, “A church that refuses to address injustice has ceased to have moral authority and become an agent of the state.”  Real persons in our communities and in our churches are experiencing trauma.  We need to talk about it because God does not avoid difficult conversations.

For those of us who don’t know where to start or what to say, I think that the Harvard Graduate School of Education provides a path and an example that should be followed.  While theirs is a school setting, these suggestions are just as applicable in sanctuaries.  Here are just a few:

  • Acknowledge traumatic events or circumstances. Bring up news with students the day after it breaks, even if details or consequences are still uncertain.
  • Process and name emotions together. Help students identify their emotions through discussion circles or individual writing prompts. Describe your own emotions, whether they be outrage, fear, numbness, or uncertainty.
  • Ask students what they know and what they need. Some students may have a thorough grasp of what’s going on, but little idea of how it could impact them. Others may feel very affected, but lack a nuanced understanding of the details. Open up the discussion to figure out what students want to know, and let them ask questions.
  • Teach relevant information.  Where possible, integrate current events into lesson plans to explain to students what’s happened. Draw connections among the various forces facing communities of color. If you’re unclear about details, be honest with your students, and work to investigate the details together.
  • Connect students to resources. Show all students, including those who may be affected by new policies or rhetoric, that their school and teachers are there to help. Connect vulnerable students with local lawyers, social workers, and advocates who can provide them with the assistance they need.

 

Click here to discover ways to have difficult conversations during troubling times and for the full article.