Tag Archives: cross- cultural relationships

Beyond Stereotypes

label-319x400There is more to be seen of you and me than what has been thought visible and thereby obvious.  There is more to who we are.  In fact, we are quite literally scratching and picking on the surface of our humanity when we only look at the social coloring of skin.  We can’t move past race because we can’t see beyond popular, passed down and thereby treasured stereotypes.  Yes, if the truth be told, we have favorites.  But, I sense that there will be no oversharing there.

What is a stereotype?  It is “a widely held but fixed and oversimplified image or idea of a particular type of person or thing.”  It is comparable to having tunnel vision.  Only in this case, the only thing you can see is how persons and cultural groups have been historically viewed.  If persons have only been seen as expendable, ignorant, hateful, criminal, an economic threat or cheap labor. And if this is how we introduce and interact with each other, then there will be no relational change.  That is, until we choose to see them differently, to decline the recommendations of race and the references of stereotypes.

However, this can only happen when we choose to see ourselves from a different angle.  This will require that we not only change positions or shoes in order to walk in someone else’s but that we discard the roles of oppressor and oppressed.  The racial relationship is the most oppressive of them all.  There is no broadening of view or perspective without these changes within us.  We cannot see beyond stereotypes if we continue to gloss over our own.

Talking Race and Relationships: Deepening the Conversation

race080818_5_560“Hi.  I’m white.  You’re black.  Let’s be friends.”  This kind of introduction is too simple and superficial.  It’s also not realistic.

Relationships that begin or are connected to one’s racial identity will ultimately lack true feeling and are not rooted in reality but stuck in social temperatures that could go up or down, depending on the news cycle and the political season.  Getting to know someone on the basis of the social coloring of skin begins the relationship in stereotypes and low expectations, in fear, bias and inauthenticity.  (Note: We do not enter into relationships, establish friendships in order to appear “progressive” or to meet some type of social quota.)

race080818_4_560Race also rules the relationship and becomes a kind of third wheel, apart of all meetings.  We either talk about it all the time, whether through passive- aggressive comedy or debate or awkwardly avoid any mention of it.  It is a lingering threat that reminds us that we are never safe, that there is always the possibility for our relationship to be ruined by it.  And this must be said.

Deepening our conversations will require us disclosing our fears about race.  This is not to be confused with our feelings about each other.  As people are not races but human beings.

We must get it out.  Talk it out, these things that race has done to us.  We must attach feeling words to our experience of race: “Race makes me feel…

Secondly, we must give up control of how the conversation will go.  We must see each other not only as equals but as persons in the same position: friends.  We will need to rid ourselves of the roles of master and slave, dominant and subservient, oppressor and oppressed.

How do we do this?  We will our selves to.  We make ourselves do it.  It’s not easy and that’s why we must.  Because this work is not easy.  There are no easy ways in or out of the racialized life.  There are no shortcuts to reconciliation, no city dumping ground for its baggage.

This loss of control extends to the opportunities, options and outcomes of the conversation.  We don’t possess each other and we don’t own the conversation.  So, we might not get the first word or the final say.  And it may not go our way.

Acceptance is a really deep part of this dialogue and much of it will be about accepting what we have said and what those words have empowered us, for good or for ill, to do to ourselves and others.  Our relationships will change once we decide to challenge our relationship with race.  When we move beyond the superficiality of skin, then we will be able to relate to each other as kin.

I challenge you to go deeper.

Burning Churches Again

635713006015361010-fireThis morning, I learned of a seventh African American- led church set ablaze.  The cause for the burning of Mount Zion AME church in Greeleyville, South Carolina is still under investigation.  But, before the smoke signal of this latest burning reached the news, six others in Florida, Tennessee, North and South Carolina were struck with matches.  Three of them have been attributed to arson though it is still unknown as to whether the motive was racial hatred or in response to the recent murder of nine members of Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina by self- professed white supremacist Dylann Roof.

Needless to say, there are many who are disgusted, outraged and shocked by this new but old and familiar story of the destruction of sacred spaces where African Americans gather to worship.  And this is not the first time that it has happened to one of the churches.  Mount Zion AME Church was burned down by the Ku Klux Klan twenty years ago.  Added to continued cases of police brutality involving African Americans, the fight over the Confederate flag and the recent comments of presidential candidate Donald Trump who spoke derogatorily about persons of Hispanic descent, it is clear that we are not as progressive as we might hope and that we cannot even begin the work of reconciliation.

There is much work to be done not just in courts but in our communities, not just in churches but in our conversations.  We need to talk to persons of other cultures to establish genuine relationships and friendships.  Don’t count them; just create them. There is not a quota.  According to a Stanford study, “making friends across racial lines lowers prejudice.”

We also must challenge would- be friends of cross- cultural relationships to speak up and speak out when persons make racist comments or comparisons, remarks or jokes.  And we need not make excuses for those who make their prejudices and stereotypes known.  We cannot give them an easy way out but must hold people accountable for their false conclusions and judgments of others.

African American- led churches are burning again and again and again.  We are repeating the sins of our fathers and mothers.  Lord, forgive us.  God, help us.  Amen.

Resources

Jim Campbell, “America’s Long History of Black Churches Burning”

Emma Green, “Black Churches are Burning Again in America”

Ron Hall, Denver Moore, Same Kind of Different as Me

Sarah Kaplan and Justin Wm. Moyer, “Why racists target black churches”

Same Kind of different as me