It’s Not about the Flag

It seems that we whites constantly corral racism into pockets of problems so as to avoid the fundamental issue of its pervasiveness in our society.  If we can blame the hate groups, the confederate flags at state capitols, the few racists who publicly use the N-word or tell racist jokes, then we can escape having to confront the whole scope of it in ourselves and our whole social structure.  We have been deflecting responsibility by blaming others since the garden of Eden.  And at least Christians should feel enough shame to abandon this false narrative.

Here is a great interview you should read, which says in part:

“The Klan didn’t come up with mass incarceration and police violence. People who were acculturated into seeing black and brown people differently are the people who created that problem.  I think we kind of let too many people off the hook by demonizing the minority who most unashamedly expressed these [racist] thoughts. While they are absolutely a particular threat, the bigger challenge is getting the rest of us to own up to this. And yes, I do think that we have tried to avoid accountability….

Everybody has learned to mimic the behaviors of people who are not racially discriminatory. They don’t say certain things, they don’t tell certain jokes in front of other people, they use modern terms — African American — to describe people who are black, they try to adopt the habits and customs of the non-discriminatory in society. But in fact, we haven’t actually done the hard work of genuinely becoming non-discriminatory, which is why these police officers and these judges and these prosecutors and the political leaders from the last five decades don’t feel like they have to apologize for acting in a racially biased manner. Yes, I think we are all accountable for it, black and white.”


Religious Liberty for Only Christians?

“So just imagine this happens to you, at your church. You arrive for the Sunday morning service and you’re greeted by 250 or so protesters. They’re shouting and angry and they carry guns — lots and lots of guns.

And just so there’s no mistaking the focus of their aggressive threats and anger, most of them are wearing T-shirts that say things like “F–k Christianity.”*

What do you do? Cancel church? Call the police? Run and hide? Arm your congregation for self-defense?

Well, if you’re Usama Shami, you invite them inside to join you in prayer.

For Shami, president of a mosque in Arizona, the above scenario wasn’t hypothetical. This is something that really happened to him and to his Phoenix congregation last Friday night.”

The rest of the article is here and it’s a good short read

Standing Up for Good Cops Requires Calling Out Bad Cops

From the very conservative National Review comes an article challenging conservatives on their view of police malfeasance.  Here is the money quote, but the whole article is worth reading
“It seems to me that a kind of team-sport mentality has prevailed. Conservatives do not like sweeping denunciations of the entire criminal justice system as racist, and they especially do not like violent protests, looting, and attacks on policemen — all very rightly. But from there, too many conservatives have come to see any criticism of police conduct, or any allegation of racism, as if it were a play by the opposing team. They duly boo. Instead, they should reflect that all that is correct in their defense of the police is compromised by the extension of that defense to anything unworthy of it.”  –Jason Lee Steorts

Intentional Diversity as Spiritual Discipline

A great story and reflection from my second cousin David Priest:

Another reason why everyone needs diversity: this weekend I was in Chicago, and on my way back down, I stopped at a gas station. It was at an oasis outside the city, and it was well-lit, although it was around midnight. A man approached me as I was pumping gas, but stopped about 20 ft away, and called out, “I don’t mean to be stepping to you. I’m a black man, and I don’t want to scare you. My coolant tube got disconnected, and my car overheated. I’m coming home from work, but I don’t have enough money for coolant. I’ve been stuck here for two hours.” I took twenty bucks out of the atm, but he wouldn’t take it till I went to look at his car. “People have been looking at me like I’m an alien all night,” he said. “I’m not a crack head or anything. I already have almost enough for the coolant. I just need a couple dollars.” Before he took the money he showed me the tube and the empty coolant tank, and turned on his car so I could smell the engine.

About two months ago, the same thing happened to me. My coolant hose disconnected and I was stranded for hours on the side of the highway with my brother. Neither of us had to flag down help, because we had AAA, but I certainly wouldn’t have had the money for coolant. Had I flagged someone over, though, I never would’ve hesitated to approach them. I never would’ve felt the need to validate my story to someone who already offered me money. I don’t think shame would’ve been such a large part of the dynamic.

The problems of that interaction come, in part, from insulation. Racial insulation makes us see a black man at night as symbolic of violence or our own fear. Economic insulation makes us see a poor man as symbolic of laziness or crime. We fail to see people as people when our only interaction with race is conceptual and our only interaction with poverty is abstract. Ditto sexuality, gender, and religious and political groups.

My first thought is that our institutions need to foster diverse environments, but more fundamentally, each of us needs to foster diversity in our lives. This doesn’t happen by filling quotas in our lives (eg “I need 2 more friends who I perceive as ‘other'”). I won’t presume to know how it happens, but I know it can start by refusing to insulate ourselves from the diversity that presents itself in daily life. For those at IWU, venture off campus sometime. It’s worth it.

Southern Rebellion

A very thought-provoking article about the continuing North/Side divide in the U.S. on the sesquicentennial anniversary of the end of the civil war:

“Twice now — at gunpoint in the 1860s, by force of law a century later — the rest of the country has imposed change on the South, made it do what it did not want to do, i.e., extend basic human rights to those it had systematically brutalized and oppressed.

No other part of the country has ever experienced that, has ever seen itself so harshly chastised by the rest.

Both times, the act was moral and necessary. But who can deny, or be surprised, that in forcing the South to do the right thing, the rest of the country fostered an abiding resentment, an enduring “apartness,” made the South a region defined by resistance.”

Read the full article here

A Black Middle-class Mother in a White World

I’ve lived nearly my entire life as the lone black girl amongst my friends…. I am most at home in a middle class neighborhood. I am a Black woman who sometimes goes days at a time without interacting with another Black person in real life (not counting social media).


As a mother, we constantly discern the safety of environments, people, and activities of our children… If the guy coming to fix our AC has a rebel flag on his truck, is it “heritage or hate”? And if it’s heritage, what does that mean to him? Will the swim coach have a problem with the Black mom and White dad? Will there be whispers? Will today be the day they are called a slur for the first time? Or be told they can’t have so-and-so for a boyfriend or girlfriend because of skin color? Have I given them the tools they need to navigate successfully as a person of color in a world where that deducts a point or two in many situations? For my bi-racial blonde haired, blue eyed, light-skinned daughter, there remains the constant fear that I will not be recognized as her mother.

It’s well-worth reading the whole personal account here

Pretending Slavery Is Someone Else’s Problem

Most do not know how deeply I suffer over our country’s racial disparities, inequalities often supported by those from my own Christian heritage.  This article about a privately established slavery memorial was emotionally understated, but often had me close to tears.  It may not touch you in the same way, but I offer it here with a brief excerpt:

“A nation builds museums to understand its own history and to have its history understood by others, to create a common space and language to address collectively what is too difficult to process individually. Forty-eight years after World War II, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum opened in Washington. A museum dedicated to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks opened its doors in Lower Manhattan less than 13 years after they occurred. One hundred and fifty years after the end of the Civil War, however, no federally funded museum dedicated to slavery exists, no monument honoring America’s slaves.”

We have a memorial for Holocaust victims from another country, just not the holocaust of our own people, a discrepancy pointed out by Eric Foner, Columbia University historian and author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning, Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery: “If the Germans built a museum dedicated to American slavery before one about their own Holocaust, you’d think they were trying to hide something. As Americans, we haven’t yet figured out how to come to terms with slavery. To some, it’s ancient history. To others, it’s history that isn’t quite history.”

The full article is here

Forget Saving the World

She is dying of cancer.  I don’t know her, but I just read her blog post, saw her young face in a photo and her grade-school children in another.  When I say she is dying, I mean they have abandoned all efforts to save her and have placed her in hospice care.  The end is near.  And it changes all the dimensions of life.  Her story broke through the spell I was under.

It seemed to me the whole world was headed for disaster, everyone hellbent on driving our ship onto the rocks, and I wanted to make a difference… save the Titanic.  Except I’m not the pilot… or the navigator… or even a crew member. I am a tiny actor on the world stage.  Nothing I say or do is going to change our direction, but while I am in a frenzy or a funk to save the ship, which I cannot do, I lose sight of the one thing I can do–faithfully love those around me through the hurricane that certainly lies ahead (because there is always a storm on the horizon).  I can hold the hand of someone who is dying of cancer, and I can do that regardless of where the ship is headed.

I am a fixer by nature and I live in a nation of fixers, and we all tend to work ourselves into a tizzy trying to convince others that their viewpoint, beliefs, and actions are wrong and their political, theological, and social commitments pernicious.  We are sure they are going to ruin us all, or at least themselves, with their craziness.  They’re going to tip the boat over unless we stop them.  It helps me to remember that the boat has been tossing around in terrible crosswinds for millenia and is still afloat. The words of Jesus which are a great burden to some are a great relief to me: “In this world you will have tribulation.”  It’s a promise: we cannot escape the turmoil and catastrophe this planet is constantly wreaking on its inhabitants.  No combination of care and wisdom and determination is going to keep our ship out of trouble, so I can just let that fixation go.  Instead I can pay attention to those around me with small, daily deeds of love.

I don’t mean to suggest that I should not be sad, even distraught, over the tragedies I see assailing us from all sides, but there is a mysterious and powerful peace that comes when I stop trying to control the world around me.  That is not where our safety lies.  We can cure many cancers, but we all still die.  Glory and peace come not from finding remedies for all our ills, security for all our dangers, resolutions for all our conflicts, but from finding comfort in the loving God who promises to carry us through and in those who walk with us compassionately, knowingly, trustingly.

Using Racism to Get Ahead

Our lack of concern as a church for racism in our midst is deeply troubling to me.  We should be in the forefront of identifying it, confessing it, and censoring it in those who wish to speak on our platforms (figurative or literal).  The article to which I link is written by an Indian (i.e. South Asian) regarding Indian racism in America and brings some important insights in the context of critiquing the some-time hero of the religious right, Dinesh D’Souza.

“If blacks are near the bottom of the perceived racial hierarchy across North America, some enterprising immigrants find it useful to step on blacks as a way of climbing higher.”  The link is below.