This Is Today’s Test

I really hate that we’re even having this conversation because it’s so damn stupid, but no one is disrespecting the flag. That’s just a bald faced lie. Kneeling is not a gesture of disrespect. It’s a prayerful, reverent position. If Kapernick had said he was kneeling as an act of patriotic fervor, no one except the Jehovah’s witnesses and the Mennonites would have objected. But he’s kneeling to protest a pattern of violence by the state against citizens, particularly black citizens.

Let’s drill down to brass tacks about this issue. A 12 year old child named Tamir Rice was deliberately shot on sight, without warning, while playing in a park by the police. And nothing happened. His mom got some money because that’s all anyone cares to give her. The local cops ridicule her, sometimes openly. They knowingly lied about her son and what happened. They did not provide immediate first aid for Tamir’s wounds. They made his sister watch her 12 year brother dying on the ground while locked in the back of a squad car, after a full grown man tackled her to stop her from reaching him. They didn’t even follow their own rules. The local DA was forced by protests to convene a grand jury which he threw so flagrantly and deliberately that details of the proceedings were leaked to the public – something which simply does not happen with grand juries. Grand juries do not leak. From front to back, this case is as egregiously unjust and cruel as it is possible to be.

And, by all appearances, a lot of Americans are cool with that. They’ll repeat easily disproven lies smearing a 12 year old child before dealing with the obvious problem Kapernick and other athletes are protesting. To them, the most important thing is that we all agree that there is most certainly not a problem and further, that we are not allowed to talk openly about the problem outside of a few well-worn bromides that have always sufficed before. Unfortunately, there are people with really loud voices and a lot of power who fall into the category of people who just don’t give a shit about a 12 year old kid in a supposed “ghetto” that they won’t even drive through but know everything about. Where a 12 year old child was playing when he was shot by the police, no wilding gang members being available to do the job, apparently. The people who think like this are assholes. These are the people who need to be identified and kept away from positions of power and influence. Because they are literally sociopaths who are a danger to the rest of us.

So here’s what’s happening right now; as I warned y’all a couple of years back we’re going to be having a little test. And apparently God put Kapernick in charge of administering this part of it. The particular question we need to answer for this part of the test is simple:

What is more important to you: living in a country where it’s unthinkable for a 12 year old kid to be shot by a police officer while playing at the park or following protocol for interacting with national symbols?

That’s all you have to answer: which one matters more? A human being or the flag? Justice or a song? Will you kneel for justice and real human lives or will you refuse to on account of mere symbols? That’s the choice you get to make. It’s an easy enough question to answer. Which is more important – humans or symbols and protocols. Sociopaths will make one choice. Decent human beings will make another. So make your choice. What matters more to you? At the end of the day, what sort of person do you turn out to be? Choose. Let us all know. We’re watching.

Advertisements

The Fragility of Our Dominant Culture

True story: someone I’m connected with on facebook just posted an article claiming that “radical leftists” were guilty of shutting down discourse by insisting on trigger warnings, safe spaces and calling out micro-aggressions. I responded that this was bullshit. None of those things actually shut down discourse. People disagreed. I stood my ground. So the person who claimed that “radical leftists” were shutting down discourse decided that the conversation was too heated and deleted it. I believe that the word for this is irony.

15135763_10208953533409178_5817473775491816140_nOne of the things which has become abundantly clear is that there are a lot of people on the right, but also among neo-liberals who are engaging in heavy duty projection. They are the ones who can’t handle vigorous discourse and shut down at criticism or pushback, so they accuse others of doing so, for example. I mean, you will never find a bigger whiny special snowflake than someone who complains about political correctness. All you have to do is say the word “racism”  or call out intolerance and they melt down, claiming that you’ve make discussions impossible. Meanwhile, let a black person be told that they are pulling the race card or want to be given something for nothing and that same person will expect them to remain calm and composed.

What’s really happening here is that people who have previously been marginalized and whose concerns were ignored are gaining a voice. And it’s an uncomfortable, unfamiliar, challenging voice for those who are ensconced in the majority culture to hear. The impulse is to get them to shut up. To mock and marginalize their attempts to be heard and exert some influence on public discourse in ways that address their own needs. I’m sure that many of the people doing this have no idea that they are actually the ones who are trying to shut down public discourse because they’ve never considered that public discourse which includes and is mindful of everyone will look and sound different than public discourse they are used to.

The other dynamic which I think we’re seeing is that as those who have previously been marginalized push back against things which are hurtful and harmful to them, it exposes the fact that the dominant culture has been callous, cruel and completely unfair to many people. No one wants to think of themselves as callous, cruel and unfair, of course. But instead of recognizing that they haven’t done the work required to ensure that they aren’t actually callous, cruel and unfair, a lot of people just retreat into denial and scapegoating. They blame the person who brings their inadequacies to light for making them feel bad and become hostile towards them.

The discussion surrounding things like trigger warnings, political correctness, safe spaces, microaggressions and the like is extremely frustrating. People who oppose and complain about these things consistently show by their own words that they lack any actual understanding of the subject of their ire. But the good thing is that people who have been marginalized, far from being fragile children and special snowflakes are quite accustomed to dealing with and persevering through hostility and opposition. Once the dominant culture figures out that they are capable of doing likewise and actually engage with the issue like grown-ups, reality will win.

Wait – I thought Racial Discrimination Was Illegal. Silly Me

Very early in his career, my (African American) husband was on a temp-to-hire job doing complex data analysis – something he excels at. He had a 60 day review which was outstanding and his boss commented on how quickly he was performing as well or better than long time employees in the same position. Typically the 90 day trail period they put new employees through was just to evaluate if they had the capability of learning how to do the work.

A few days later, someone left an extraordinarily racist cartoon of a “ghetto fish” on my husband’s chair at work before he arrived in the morning. While he was looking at it in shock, one of the other employees walked by, glanced at the paper and said, “that’s pretty funny” (as if he had already seen the cartoon). Then waked off.

My husband didn’t think it was funny at all and went to his boss to show him the cartoon and explain what had happened. The boss wasn’t alarmed in the least but just snorted and told him to ignore it. That evening, my husband got a call from the employment agency telling him that the company he was doing the temp-to-hire with didn’t need him anymore. That was all he was told – “they’ve decided that they don’t need you to return.”

At my insistence, he contacted an employment lawyer to discuss the situation. He spoke to two different people who explained that filing a discrimination complaint is a long, drawn-out process involving a review by the EEOC which must be performed before any lawsuit can be filed to attempt to address the wrong done. The lawyer for the person who claims to have been wronged typically works for little to no money upfront, so they aren’t particularly motivated to pursue individual cases with little hope of a large pay-out. They will take those small cases, but typically the company uses their lawyers to draw the cases out to the point that they simply aren’t worth it and the lawyer forces a settlement that leaves everyone no better off than where they started. Further, they explained, once it is known that you have filed an EEOC complaint or are involved in a lawsuit, it is almost impossible to get hired in the same field. (Lawsuits are public record and if the EEOC decides to take action on a case directly, they make a press release.) They recommended that my husband only file a complaint if he was already planning or prepared to change his line of work entirely or get training to do so.

After that, my husband only ever complained to management about racism in the workplace once. That was also early in his career when he was hired to be a manager of a small office and his employees left racist graffiti on his car and refused to attend his meetings. He was told to ignore it and give people time. Otherwise he just found ways to work around the racism he encountered. And years later, when he was in a position to hire someone, he was told that he couldn’t hire his chosen candidate because it was known that she had won a discrimination lawsuit against a former employer which allegedly made her a high risk hire. Confirming what those employment lawyers had told him. Imagine that – you get treated like shit, stand up for your rights and then become unemployable in some employer’s eyes.

So, that’s the state of our workplace anti-discrimination laws in this country. In case you were wondering why things aren’t better. (Don’t worry – there’s lots more where this story came from.)

Want To Hear About the Time I Was on Moody Radio?

I was once offered a job simply on the basis of how I said my name. People sometimes stop me and ask if I sing. I had a teacher who let me into class without a late slip if I would say my name for the class. Such is the great power of my voice. Which I, of course, think is weird. If my voice is so great, shouldn’t I have more money than I do? It just seems like the two should go hand in hand or something. Ah well.

Anywho, as I may have mentioned already, I was a guest, along with a dude named Thi’sl and a dude named Joshua, on the Moody Radio call-in show Up 4 Debate over the weekend discussing the church and it’s handling of racial issues. And I’ve had several people ask for the link to listen to it online. So here it is. Right here. This is the link. Click it. 

Obviously the issue of race and the church is a huge one and we just barely scratched the surface on the show. Hopefully I will get a chance to write some more thoughts on race and the church in the next week or so. If my brain will cooperate. 

In the meantime, go listen to the dulcet sounds of my amazing voice. I don’t recall saying anything incoherent or ridiculous, but I’m too chicken to listen myself and find out. And I think I’m OK with that!

Enough Bigotry to Go Around?

Hey y’all! I just finished my fancy pants appearance on Moody Radio’s Up For Debate. (That I told you about yesterday which you would know if you had been paying attention. See the things you miss when you’re not paying attention?) Anyways, I will get the link to the show up just as soon as it’s available.

Almost immediately after the show was done, I got a comment from a listener which addresses a concern I really would have liked to address on the show, but obviously, we could only scratch the surface in an hour. I think it’s an important point, so I thought I would share the comment and my response with y’all. So pay attention! 😉

Dear Rebecca:

On the Moody Radio show discussion about Ferguson you mentioned how you had prejudices and biases of which you weren’t aware simply from growing up.  I agree whole-heartedly.  What you didn’t mention is that the same is true for the black community, the hispanic community, the Middle Eastern community and the Asian community.  We all have biases that we are taught as children.  I’m a law enforcement officer in Orlando, FL.  I have worked in the schools for more than 15 years. I encounter black kids and their families that have an automatic distrust and bias against me, simply because I’m white and a cop.  This is a bias the children are taught.  I also work in the parks of a private community which owns the parks.  Part of my duties are ensuring that those who are using this private park are residents or guests of residents.  My concern isn’t race, religion, or anything but whether the person is allowed in the private park.  In 18 years, I can only recall one instance when a white or hispanic person challenged me for doing my job.  On the other hand, I have had a 1/2 dozen black people insist or imply that I was checking them simply because they were black.  By the way, all but one of these folks were NOT residents and did not belong.  This is a racially and culturally diverse community and I have great relationships with young people and adults of all races.  Please acknowledge the biases taught to the children by both races.  Thanks and God bless.

-E

E, Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I would just challenge you to consider that because of the way race works in this country, that the sort of defiance, hostility and distrust which you encountered among African Americans has its roots in legitimate problems which we as Americans have never dealt with, much less solved. As a white person, my prejudices were shaped almost entirely by the media, my community and the rare encounters I had with African Americans who were serving me in stores and restaurants. An the other hand, my husband has a lived experience of regularly being mistreated, of being belittled, of being threatened, of being afraid which occurred at the hands of white people. His discomfort with and distrust of white people is fundamentally different from my own prejudices. While I might wish an African American person would process and deal with his experiences differently, I had no right to tell him or her that s/he doesn’t have a right to be uncomfortable and distrustful after all that s/he has experienced and continues to experience. Of course, my husband’s a mature, educated, spiritual man, so he isn’t going to start resisting authority, being rude or hostile simply on the basis of race. But it’s easy to see how someone in a less comfortable, less experienced position would walk around with a negative attitude towards authority (which has always been the tool by which abusive, oppressive laws and customs are imposed on African Americans, btw).
It’s interesting that you bring up working as a guard at a private park. When my husband was 8 his mother moved them from Texas to the Robert Taylor Homes in Chicago. As they were moving in, my husband noticed that the only playground was a set of swings on a blacktop surface. He asked his mom, “why did someone put those swings on the blacktop? Someone will get hurt if they fall off.” He says his mother bent down and spoke into his face, “honey, there’s something you need to understand right now. Nobody cares what happens to you here. If you fall of those swings and get hurt, nobody’s going to care. We might not even be able to get an ambulance to come and help you. You have to take care of yourself here because nobody else is going to make sure that you and your brothers and sisters are safe.” It was 1978 and she spoke the truth. Now, imagine living in a neighborhood where the playground is unkempt and potentially dangerous. And right near-by is a nice, safe, well equipped park. But you can’t go there. Because it’s not for you. It’s for the people who paid for it. It doesn’t matter that you and your family can’t dream of affording to live in such a place. Nobody cares about you and your problems. Put yourself in that situation and the hostility makes a bit more sense.
Thanks again for your comment!
Blessings,
Rebecca

Bring the Smelling Salts and Set Your Alarm Clocks!

So there’s this lovely woman named Judy who produces the radio show Up For Debate with Julie Roys on Moody Radio. And I think she might be slightly incompetent. I mean, I’m no expert in these things and I certainly can’t predict the future, but it seems likely that come Monday morning she’s going to be having a serious conversation with someone higher up about whether she has the judgment required to perform her duties. Why do I say this, you ask? Because the poor dear went and asked yours truly to be part of an hour long discussion on the church, race and Ferguson. And I, having a big mouth, lots of opinions and no qualms about taking advantage of dear Judy’s foolishness, said yes.

So, if you’d like to hear me engage in my usual tomfoolery (hopefully without the typos, grammar glitches and random gibberish that I like to sprinkle in my writing), tune in. It’s on Moody Radio from 8-9 am, central time, tomorrow morning. Program info and station information can be found here. And if you really love me, call in and gush about how amazing I am and how every good Christian should listen to everything I say. Depending on how it goes, I might need the help!

In all seriousness, say a prayer for me. Continue reading

I See Rich People. They Talk to Me. . .

The mouse on my computer broke. So now I’m back to writing on my kindle. Which is a marvelous bit of technology, but it has all sorts of quirks which can easily double the time it takes for me to do a post. And the spacebar for the keyboard is gimpy. But since I don’t even have money to replace the mouse, I’ll just have to limp along the best I can.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately that when I finally break free of all these obstacles, I’ll astound everyone. It’s like I’ve been trying to play the game wearing weights. If I could just get free and have a fully functioning computer, a good internet connection and a few hours a day without children, well, you just won’t believe what I can do.

As I was contemplating the rather unpleasant task of writing on my kindle (something I did exclusively for at least six months), it occurred to me that this is why we hear so much more from rich people than anyone else. If you’re rich, you can grab a few hours which you would otherwise have spent playing Sugar Crush and write something thoughtful on your nice computer without any real delays or impediments. Or maybe you’re more of a take my Macbook to Starbucks to write sort of writer.

But when you’re not rich, you have to type out the word six because the six key doesn’t work any more. And putting in a hyperlink requires the sort of planning skills normally reserved for major military operations. It’s like driving one of those cars that you have to roll down the window to open the door. Everything’s just much more work when you don’t have access to resources.

And having crappy, unreliable technology is a first world problem. Imagine what it took for those women in Nigeria to get the world’s attention when their girls were taken! It’s really no mystery as to why people who are powerful and influential are usually white American men. It’s not that every white American man has resources. It’s just that nearly everyone who has resources is a white American man. Having resources removes so many obstacles that what is impossible for other people is possible for them. And that is a big part of our problem.

Having resources doesn’t necessarily make the path to sucess a clear and easy one. You still have to work harder and be smarter and overcome more than everyone else in order to acheive great things. I mean, Paris Hilton’s family says she works very hard and I believe them. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if she puts in sixty hour work weeks. The thing is that my husband has put in sixty hour work weeks pretty routinely for nearly 20 years. And we can’t even afford to buy a mouse.

(The first person to ask why I don’t get a job wins the chance to find me a job with hours that work for our family, arrange the care of our kids by someone who is able to provide high caliber, on demand tutoring, counseling, and training in the ways of the world customized to each child’s needs, obtain transportation, clothing, housekeeping, cooking and taxi services to make that all happen. Good luck. Let me know when you get that all worked out.)

Aside from being bullshit, the connection between who has the existing resources and who gets seen and heard and rewarded is more sinister than we realize. You know the proverbial “they” we always hear about? The ones who tell us what other people think of us and what’s normal and what’s a problem and what’s expected of us and what failure looks like? Sometimes people will joke and say, “who is this ‘they’ you keep talking about?” Well, the answer to that is simple. Continue reading

Christians and Interracial Marriage

Guys, what is this world coming to? Aljezeera America recently used the parable of the talents to explain current events. Christianity Today, the flagship publication of conservative, Evangelical Christianity, is promoting interracial marriage. And discussing racism. And even relying on the voice of a black women to explain the theology of the whole thing. The world’s going all off kilter here. 

I know the rest of the world (and many of us) find it ridiculous that the church still struggles with these things. But we are a people whose founder said he’d go back for the one sheep dumb enough to get left behind. So perhaps it’s part of being church in the world to be a sanctuary for those who just can’t keep up with the pace of change in the world. That doesn’t mean they need to become the sanctuary’s leaders and spokespeople, of course. It’s still a work in progress.

But look at this fruit. Doesn’t it make your heart sing?

God abhors racism. Miriam’s skin was turned “leprous, like snow.” Her punishment was directly related to her sinful prejudice against the dark skin of the Cushite people. I did a quick search to examine the effects of leprosy. (Not recommended.) Her punishment would change the way peopleviewed her. It would not affect the way they thought of her per se, but the way they looked at her. As Miriam once looked at the Cushite woman with distain, she would now know exactly what that was like.

What Miriam forgot, and what so many others still forget, is that all people are made in the image of God, we are all from the same Adam, and now we are all redeemed equally through Christ. Interracial marriage isn’t merely acceptable; it reflects the beauty and glory of the gospel.

Through the gospel, we are reconciled first to God, then to one another. We are made brothers and sisters in Christ. We are counted as righteous. The gospel breaks the barriers that once divided us.

You can read the whole post by Trillia Newbell here. Her book Union can be purchased here.

For the last several decades we’ve heard that we ought to accept interracial relationships for two reasons. One is that we can’t tell other people what to do or who to love. The other is that all races are equal. And those are fine things. Except “everyone should be able to do what they want to do” is something a 7 year old would say. And equal does not mean the same. We still have to figure out how to deal with those differences.

On the other hand, Newbell’s vision of interracial marriage is built around reconciliation and our true identity. She challenges us to see interracial marriage not only as an acceptable thing, but a good thing. A reflection of God’s Kingdom, in fact.

Perhaps this is why research has found that among people who attend highly segregated churches (read: among people who attend church), those who report praying and reading their bible frequently are more likely to date outside their race. Wouldn’t it be funny if being in an interracial relationship started being on of those easily recognized markers for being Christian? I mean, we can be induced to wear cheesy and often offensive T-shirts as a way to show what super, duper, committed Christians we are. Picking a dating/marriage partner from another race in order to look like a good Christian could become a thing in our hypercompetitive church culture.

Of course, wearing a t-shirt doesn’t grow or change you. Interracial marriage most certainly will. So maybe we should start spreading the word that interracial marriage is a thing that super committed Christians do. It’s got to be a better plan/witness than a “God’s Gym” t-shirt!

Stuff I Appreciate About Black Folks

Hey – want to watch me stick a fork in an electric outlet? ‘Cuz that’s pretty much the same thing as being a white person who talks about black folks, right? Or at least some would have you think so. But I’m going to do it, because African Americans are forever getting dumped on in our society and are rarely called out for all the things that are great about them.

Now, before I get started, allow me to provide proper cover for myself. For those not in the know, I’m married to a black man. I have 5 mixed race kids and two African American stepsons. So if nothing else, my “I have black friends” creds are actually solid. (I’ve written more about my experience with race here and you can learn more about my $.99 ebook on race in American here.) Of course, there is as much variety among black folks as among any other group of people. I’ve known sweet, shy, reserved black women and loud, sassy, confrontational black women. Macho black men and nerdy black men. And the things I’m going to list here aren’t universal. There are always people who go against the grain. But as a general rule, these are things which I have observed to be common among black folk I have known that are not nearly as prevalent among the white folks I have known.

Of course, every positive trait has a dark side when pushed to far. My goal isn’t to idealize African Americans, but like I said, we continually dump on black folks and discuss problems in the black community. For this post, I’m just focusing on things which I personally appreciate about black folks I have known. So having properly covered my ass, here goes:

1. They respond to your problems with grace and understanding.

Probably because black folks have had to deal with so many really serious, awful problems for so long, they aren’t particularly phased by your problems. Usually they’ve heard or seen it all before – and worse. And if your life is going to hell because you did something wrong, well, the black folks I’ve known probably disapprove of your dumb choices as much as anyone else. But they also know that you’re the one who is going to have to live with the consequences of your dumb choices, so there’s really no point in piling on. Better to help you move forward than waste time berating you much less exacerbate the problem by turning you out. In my experience, if your life goes all to shit, you’re much better off going to your black friends or a black church for support than to your average middle class white person or church. Continue reading

What a white girl knows about race

Maybe they were right!

I am the whitest of the white girls.  I just am.  I’m cool with that.  One of my black girlfriends told me that when she had moved to the Chicago area back in the 80′s my hometown was one of two places she was told by her mother to avoid ever being in.  Before going to high school, the only african american I had ever spoken to was working at a store.  But, one of the first people I met at the Catholic high school I attended was Elaine, an African American from Joliet, a small industrial city about 30 minutes from my home.  We were both in the honors program, so we had most of our classes together and we hit it off.  We shared a wicked sense of humor and spent inordinate amounts of class time writing long notes whose main purpose was to get the other person to laugh out loud while reading it.  I can’t believe we never got caught! 

We never really talked about it, but there were differences.  We were BBFs (Best Buddies Forever), not BFFs.  Mostly she ate lunch with the other black kids and it never occurred to me that she would do otherwise.  It’s got to be hard spending all day surrounded by people who can’t really “get” you and may not even like you no matter how good or nice or cool or talented you are.  I’d want a break too. 

Looking back, I realize that I was white-girl clueless in a way that a less tolerant and kind person might have been unwilling to deal with.  Continue reading