Jennis Brandon-Watson has a short pieceon her experience of whiteness. She is southern-raised, white, (possibly married to a black man?), progeny of a slave owner, schooled in both racialization and Christianity and a member of Theta Nu Xi sorority. She concludes her thoughts with this question,
“Who defines what multiculturalism is? Is it defined according to the dictates of those in power–whites–or is it defined by minorities? These are interesting questions to ponder, but we must reach beyond settling for an answer and we must consider why it is important to answer the question. The answer will determine who we are as a multicultural sorority. I will further direct this examination by posing another question to you, reader. Is multiculturalism the support of our present social arrangement with all of its institutional manifestations by merely declaring peaceful coexistence and railing against the concept of racial categorization, but without engaging in potentially self-sacrificial action? Or…is multiculturalism the act of tackling fundamental issues of justice and perpetuating, in word and deed, the spirit of the Civil Rights era?” (p. 14)
All isms have a dream attached to them. What is the best dream of multiculturalism? (note, not the downside or the unintended consequences, the best dream). Peaceful coexistence? Demurring racial categories (color-blindness)? Mutual submission and/or cross pollination? Justice for all?
My wife is working through her 3rd book on Teddy Roosevelt. This one (Theodore Rex) is about his presidency. Teddy was a many of many firsts. First president on a submarine; first on a airplane. But he was also first to dine with a black man at the White House (there had been plenty of servants in it, but not as invited guests to dinner).
Any guesses on who he had?
Booker T. Washington.
The reaction was pretty horrendous from some sectors in the South. He was called all sorts of names. The papers had headlines such as, “President has darkie to dinner” and much worse. A senator from the good ole state of SC stated that they would have to kill 1,000 Black men in order to put Blacks back in their place (the Black presses had the audacity of seeing this one event as a sign of hope). Another suggested he should invite Booker T’s son for Christmas so he could have him marry his daughter because he so much wanted the races to mingle or mongrelize.
But before we put Teddy on a pedestal. He also believed in the common view of the day that Blacks were behind whites by several hundred thousand years in the evolutionary process. While some like Booker T could ascend, most were only good for service roles. Throughout his presidency, he didn’t change this view. While he did see the need to stop lynching he didn’t think they should vote.
If it helps, he also thought the Irish were also a bit behind in the evolutionary process.
It doesn’t. While we’ve come far from the public and shameless racism and prejudice, we’ve got many miles to traverse in dealing with the subtle and pernicious forms of prejudice still active. I’m sure we’ll continue to see these come to the surface as Obama is the presumed Democratic nominee.
“You just know.” Well, how DO you know? It seems that in the US minorities are well aware of both explicit and implicit or subtle racialization. But on the other side, dominant culture (White) folk are quick to point out that certain comments (“you are so articulate” to a Black man) might not be racist. Stupid but not racist. So, whose being over-sensitive?
The latest American Psychologist (63:4) has comments and author reply to a previous article by Derald Wing Sue et al on the topic of microaggressions(in vol. 62, entitled: Racial microaggressions in everday life: Implications for clinical practice). 3 of the 4 commenters were defensive of Sue’s allegations of these microaggressions. And Sue replied saying that their defensiveness is ample evidence that white people can’t take the reality of racism. They always want to find other reasons for racist activity (i.e., oversensitivity of minorities).
End result? No good dialogue; distance; defensiveness. One guy questions one of Sue’s hypotheses in his article and suggests an alternative (innocently portrayed). Sue replies and says he of course considered (and rejected) that hypothesis and that the guy has a problem because he can’t deal with the reality of racism.
What got the commenters up in arms wasn’t the science in the article but Sue’s personal story of being asked to move to the back of a small prop plane to balance the weight out when 3 late arriving white businessmen were not asked to move. In a personal story, we make ourselves vulnerable to attack because it is our perceptions that we state as reality that tempt others to challenging what we “saw”.
Unfortunately, the inability to talk about microaggressions is based on the problem of defensiveness of both sides and feelings of invalidation when one questions our sense of the world.
Summer is officially over with yesterday’s faculty meeting. Monday is the start of the the new semester. Starting mid September, look for my multi-post reviews of Leslie Vernick’s freshly minted, The Emotionally Destructive Relationship: Seeing It, Stopping It, Surviving It (Harvest House) and Mark McMinn’s Integrative Psychotherapy: Towards a Comprehensive Christian Approach.
But right now, thanks to Ed Gilbreath’s Blues blog (see blogroll), I’m half-way through Juan Williams’ Enough: The Phony Leaders, Dead-End Movements, and Culture of Failure That Are Undermining Black America–and What We Can Do About It (2006, Three Rivers Press). With a title like that you know it has to be a rant. But boy does he take contemporary leaders (e.g., Sharpton and Jackson), rappers, and some city politicians to the woodshed. He minces no words when he chastizes those talking about reparations or excusing corruption (pay to play) in politics or the church. And he backs up his criticisms with facts. Apparently this book was born out of his exasparation over the way the content of Bill Cosby’s scathing criticisms (in 2004) of black culture and victimhood were ignored by black leadership. His point seems to be to call black folk to stop playing the victim/racism card and start acknowledging and fixing internal problems such as violence against women, single parenting, disdain for education and learning the language. If you have read John McWhorter, you will see similar themes in this book.
So, how should white folk read this book? Try to avoid, “its about time someone put Dyson or Sharpton or Jackson in his place” or “Finally, someone is bringing up the 3rd rail in black politics–the racism card.” Why? Because it is like the observers of a fight where a bully has repeatedly beaten up a little kid saying, “Oh, stop you whining and crying. The bully’s gone. Get over it already.” No, we should still continue to evaluate how we folk benefit from generations of opportunity and seek to serve any “least of these” we come across. Let’s not throw stones but clean our own houses first.
I confess that I’m not much a fan for poetry. I didn’t get much exposure to it despite my love for reading. I guess I liked stories that were fleshed out much more. However, this week, I read this beauty of Langston Hughes to my children. I share it here with apologies to the person who holds the copyright.
The Negro Mother
Children, I come back today
To tell you a story of the long dark way
That I had to climb, that I had to know
In order that the race might live and grow.
Look at my face–dark as the night–
Yet shining like the sun with love’s true light.
I am the child they stole from the sand
Three hundred years ago in Africa’s land.
I am the dark girl who crossed the wide sea
Carrying in my body the seed of the free.
I am the woman who worked in the field
Bringing the cotton and the corn to yield.
I am the one who labored as a slave,
Beaten and mistreated for the work that I gave–
Children sold away from me, husband sold, too.
No safety, no love, no respect was I due.
Three hundred years in the deepest South:
But God put a song and a prayer in my mouth.
God put a dream like steel in my soul.
Now, through my children, I’m reaching the goal.
Now, through my children, young and free,
I realize the blessings denied to me.
I couldn’t read then. I couldn’t write.
I had nothing, back there in the night.
Sometimes, the valley was filled with tears,
But I kept trudging on through the lonely years.
Sometimes, the road was hot with sun,
But I had to keep on till my work was done:
I had to keep on! No stopping for me–
I was the seed of the coming Free.
I nourished the dream that nothing could smother
Deep in my breast–the Negro mother.
I had only hope then, but now through you,
Dark ones of today, my dreams must come true:
All you dark children in the world out there,
Remember my sweat, my pain, my despair.
Remember my years, heavy with sorrow–
And make of those years a torch for tomorrow.
Make of my past a road to the light
Out of the darkness, the ignorance, the night.
Lift high my banner out of the dust.
Stand like free men supporting my trust.
Believe in the right, let none push you back.
Remember the whip and the slaver’s track.
Remember how the strong in struggle and strife
Still bar you the way, and deny you life–
But march ever forward breaking down bars.
Look ever upward at the sun and the stars.
Oh, my dark children, may my dreams and my prayers
Impel you forever up the great stairs–
For I will be with you till no white brother
Dares keep down the children of the Negro Mother.
This poem first printed in 1931. This edition published in Dark Symphony: Negro Literature in America. Edited by J.A. Emanuel & T.L. Gross (Free Press, 1968).
In last night’s Ethics/Cross Cultural Counseling class we had a phone interview with Edward Gilbreath, author of Reconciliation Blues. I heartily recommend his book. See my side bar for a link to his blog. Here’s a couple of my personal take-aways: Continue reading
The ongoing saga of Imus’ comments about the Rutgers women’s basketball team brings this difference to the surface again. Is there a difference between someone who says something racializing (and negative) and someone who says the same thing but would be identified as racist? The book, Divided by Faith addresses this if memory serves. What do you think? Is there a difference? Does it matter?
My thoughts: Continue reading
How important is your ethnic heritage to you? What if you knew nothing of your family tree? Would it matter to you? What if all you knew is that your ancestors were slaves? Would you ever wonder what life might have been like if slavery hadn’t happened? The power of heritage and knowing something about it is pretty important to a lot of people. It gives them a sense of identity. Case in point is when an adult learns for the first time that they were adopted and the parents they thought were biological were only adoptive. It causes significant confusion and disorientation for most.
But this morning I was listening this to Henry Louis Gates, Jr. on Tom Joyner’s morning show (yes, I listen to at times to TJMS, Imus, NPR, and sports-talk (when I want to hear the NY world go nuts over the Red Sox). That probably says a little too much about me…). He was talking about another episode of taking celebrity African Americans to learn what their genealogy and DNA tell them about their heritage. With certain tests, they can fairly accurately tell what percent white, Asian, African, and Native American blood a person has as well as what region of Africa they came from.
Anyway, Gates quoted some interesting statistics: Continue reading
I’ve posted here a couple of times on the necessity of racial reconciliation. One of the most biblical arguments I’ve heard is by Rev. Brenda Salter McNeil. You can read a summary I made of her John 4 sermon here or go to her website and watch a clip of the DVD. However, Ed Gilbreath has taken her question, “Why is it nice to have racial diversity in the church?” and posted on his blog. I encourage you to check it out, especially the comments to his post. That is where several people make an attempt to answer the question as to why it is so important to have racial diversity in the church.
My short answer? Because I do not possess the fullness of the Gospel message in my own reading of Scripture and how it addresses life. When I am in racially diverse communities (and that means not just in the congregants but in the leadership, music, focus, etc.) then I am able to see just how rich the story of reconciliation, redemption, glory-weights, grace, and the Gospel are in the life of God’s people. Things I didn’t see are clearer; questions I never asked are present. And I am more amazed at the power and genius of our Creator.
Here’s a fact I found on www.blackamericaweb.com. We’ve come a long way in the last 41 years. And yet not nearly far enough. Why do I say not far enough? Notice the overreaching of Tucker Carlsonto try to disparage Obama’s church connection. He attacks Obama’s church for its racially exclusive theology (which is clear they do not espouse). The problem here is that a black church can’t talk about black pride but Carlson doesn’t own that white churches have been racially exclusive (not in their words per say but in their power structures) since forever.
In 1964, Sammy Younge, a Tuskegee Institute student, helped form the Tuskegee Institute Advancement League and participated in boycotts and campaigns to integrate local restaurants and public pools. In the summer of 1965, Younge was among the group of students who were beaten while trying to attend a white church in town.
In 1966, at the local service station, Younge was killed by the white attendant. The murder touched off immediate demonstrations, including rallies, protests, and riots amongst the students at Tuskegee and people in the community.
The man who shot Younge was found innocent by an all white jury. He claimed he shot him in self-defense after an argument over the restroom. The threat of further violence finally forced Tuskegee’s Black leaders to act. They won a city ordinance banning discrimination in hotels and restaurants.
In the fall of 1966, they elected Lucius Amerson the first Black sheriff in the South since Reconstruction, despite the lack of support from Tuskegee Black leaders who felt a Black sheriff could not be elected.