Tag Archives: talking about racism

Surprise is not a valid response to racism in America

Image result for surpriseRecently, I was talking to a man named Garrett, who I think identifies as a Christian.  He took issue with a recent article published by Relevant magazine that posed the question, “Should Pastors Who Don’t Speak Up About Racism Resign?”  It is an interesting question in light of the recent resignation of Rev. Robert W. Lee IV, a descendant of General Robert E. Lee.  He spoke out against white supremacy at the VMAs and was later forced to resign for his remarks.  The church thought that it brought too much attention to them and it was not well- received.

But, for Garrett, “Racism isn’t a widespread problem in the church or the country.”  For him, the question was totally unnecessary and was part of the problem.  The question was making racism a big deal.  Asking these kinds of questions and talking about it at all was the reason why there was divisiveness in our country.  But, when I shared with him recent incidents of racialized violence, he suggested that these were the only two, namely Charleston and Charlottesville.  And it was a small amount of people; consequently, their hate didn’t amount to much.  The Ku Klux Klan hadn’t been around that long (They organized in 1866.).  When I shared more names and dates, he moved his argument to laws that support race and racialized violence.  When that was addressed, he stopped talking.

Because when we know better, we often don’t want to do better, respond differently or change our perspective.  Because to answer the question would require the acknowledgement of the truths behind it.  And many of us are not ready to do that.  Instead, like Garrett, we question the question though that’s not a legitimate answer either.

And we know the answer.  Garrett, like so many others, doesn’t care and worse still, he doesn’t care to know.  I am sure that he would have produced more questions if allowed.  He would rather debate the question than discuss the answer.  But, if you don’t know the facts about race and racism in this country by now, you don’t want to know.

So, when we are confronted with the reality of racialized violence, don’t feign disbelief.  “How could this happen here?”  Too many people have died because of it.  Gasps are misplaced here.  Instead, the sound more befitting is lament.

For history tells us that this present reality has never been fully addressed.  Hundreds of years later, what is there to be amazed by?  Opening our mouths in shock is easier than parting our lips during conversations on why and how and when this needs to stop.  It is easier to say, “I didn’t know” versus “What can I do?”  It lets us off the hook.

“I had no idea that this was still happening.”  Pretending as if racism in America is new or at some point disappeared only to resurface in this present moment (and no other) is self- serving.  Because witnesses are called to testify.   We would rather be judge and jury.

It is also perhaps evidence of our avoidance.  We don’t want to deal with race and so we attack anyone who would bring it up.  “There is nothing to see here.”  But there is.  What we don’t want to see is ourselves complicit in our silence, implicated because we have heard this story before and we did nothing to stop it.

Sadly, this response is not new and no surprise.

What is the world coming to?

00037508_bDuring this season of Advent, we remember and celebrate the coming of Jesus Christ, of divine feet on earth, of God with us.  Still, I can’t help but wonder what the world is coming to.  The recent death of Laquan McDonald still has my mind reeling.  What is happening to us?

What is happening to my mind when I watch a seventeen year old child shot sixteen times?  Or, how will my eye sight be impacted after watching Eric Garner being choked to death?  And what of the deaths of Tamir Rice or Walter Scott or Samuel Dubose?  What of our humanity has died with them?  Their last breath should not be wasted, held or not used to voice this loss of relationship.

As we reflect on the humble beginnings of Christ and the meager ways he came to us, I challenge us to look at the ways that we have arrived at our present state.  How do we enter the community and the conversations of others and are we humble?  What do we ride in on when we enter a room?  And who surrounds us, who are we looking at when we talk about Jesus?

What the world comes to is based on our willingness to move in ways that encourage authentic and transparent conversations and resultant community.  But, we must come ready to talk without defense or excuse.  No shouting matches or blame- shifting.  Shh.  Remember, the baby is in the manger.  Christ has come and God is with us.

And whatever we do or don’t do, our world will come to God in the end, divine feet on earth, touching all country roads and city streets to include the one that held Laquan McDonald.

Say Something New

case-for-talking-raceThe news reporting is the same.  Same angles, views and I suspect that is the same pencil used to sketch and draw the same conclusions.  The words used to describe race relations remains unchanged: allies and hate mongers, race cards and race baiting, tolerance, forgiveness and reconciliation.  We reach conclusions that are the same as before.  And no matter what is said or how often we say it, we agree that we need to talk about race.

But, we do talk about race and we do hear more about prejudice and racism.  Now apart of the twenty- four hour news cycle, unsolicited and unfiltered YouTube commentary, hash tags and trending topics, there are many conversations being had.  Consequently, the news about (suspected) race- related incidents is spreading and spreading quickly.

Because there is a smart phone in the room, persons may not tell racist jokes– even when behind closed doors.  Dashboard cameras and private citizens videotaping police interactions also limit what is hidden behind the badge.  We are seeing more of the personal, social and systemic works of race.  Yet, we are not able to talk ourselves of it.  Why is this?

I think that I have an idea.  Now, this is just a theory.  I don’t wear a lab coat and I have no experiments or lab rats, dead or alive, to support my findings.  But, I believe we have created a prejudice about conversations about race and that once we hear the word race, we already hear what we have come to expect or experience.

What do we do about it?  Stop making assumptions as to how the conversation will go.  We cannot begin a conversations with conclusions as to how this is going to end.

Instead, start from beginning.  Begin with introductions not assumptions.  Learn their name and their story.  Race is not personal and will not tell you about them.

We must also be aware of the prejudices that we bring to conversations about race.  We must ask ourselves if we want to have a friendship or a fight.  Be sure that the other person agrees to this end before you engage them.

Question yourself and your intentions.  Have you worked through your issues with race in order to be ready for a cross- cultural conversation and relationship?  Do you want a conversation or a verbal wrestling match?  Do you want this interaction to win- lose or win- win?  What is your goal, your aim for talking about race?

And begin to listen and hear what is being said in order to say something new.  Conversations about race are defensive in nature.  Removing the assumptions will allow us to lower our guard and allow a new perspective to enter.  We not only need to stop and listen but we need to slow down and think.

Think our responses through and let them be for this moment and in this instance.  We cannot tackle and should not take on hundred of years of history and millions of hurts in one sitting.  Instead, let’s do something new.  Let’s take it one day at time and one person at a time.

 

Healing Our Relationships From Race

maxresdefaultRace hurts.  Believing that I or you are a problem causes pain because people love people.  This perspective suggests that the world is not perfect because of my presence or yours.  And we spend much of our time together or apart talking about ways to rid ourselves of “you people.”

But, what if race is the problem?  What if race is the one that is causing pain?  Damaging our relationships?  Once we locate the wound, will we have the courage to apply the pressure of love, to say what must be said in order for healing to occur?

If so, then here are just a few pointers as you prepare to talk about race in your relationships.

1.  Don’t react.  It is understood that there is pain.  Try to remain calm.  Instead, relate.  We must seek not to prove the other person wrong but to understand why we continue to wrong each other.  The goal is not to discuss the wound but to ensure that it is not repeated.

2.  Lean in.  Sit down with the sole purpose of listening intently.  We need to know what happened in order to prevent the injury from happening again and to know what to do if it does.  We have to have a plan in place with clear guidelines and support.

3.  Maintain eye contact.  Don’t look away or at the floor.  Don’t shake your head when the other person is talking, disapproving or disagreeing before hearing the person’s perspective fully.   In order to clean it thoroughly and close it completely, we must get a good look at it.

4.  Touch it.  Talk about it without the hindrance of history.  It does not matter what has been said.  What is most important is what we are saying and doing about race right now.

Race is a wound that has been open for hundreds of years.  It has been infected time and time again.  How much will we have to lose before we heal ourselves of it for good?

 

We need to talk about racism

At a Tedx in Johannesburg, Gillian Schutte says that we need to talk about racism and she begins with her son.  A powerful testimony and witness of confronting and challenging the construct of whiteness, the indoctrination of race and the development of empathy, I very much appreciate her work and would talk to her about race any day.