Category Archives: Race

Barriers to race and gender reconciliation

From our faculty retreat, I was left thinking about some of our own barriers to reconciliation. Here is a few that I was thinking about:

1. Limited perseverance. I think we have a sense that it shouldn’t be so hard to do. We see the length of the journey and find ourselves giving up.

2. Me centered living. We shouldn’t have to work so hard because of other people’s sins against others in the past. People should honor my good intentions and when they are suspicious, I feel wronged.

3. Stories. I believe that stories are what we commonly use to keep people in boxes. Tell an anecdote about a person of particular hue and it becomes true of all. We know that isn’t true, but we do it just the same.

4. Individual rights. I have the right to be given all my rights. I shouldn’t have to give mine up so that you can have yours. Not fair! I deserve to be treated well.

I’m sure there are better ways to categorize these barriers but these are how I thought about them. The solution to all of these means that I see myself as in Christ and not protector of myself.

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Subtle Racism: How do you know it’s happening?

“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.

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Filed under Black and White, Psychology, Race, Racial Reconciliation

Race matters: Obama’s speech in Philadephia

MSNBC provides this transcript of Obama’s speech today. As you likely know he is under fire for comments his pastor, Jeremiah Wright, made in sermons over the years. This speech is quite masterful as it rejects Wright’s characterizations but recognizes the reality that is behind his angry judgments about American politics, racism, injustice, and place in the world. He shows the parallel with white anger for being held accountable for the sins of our early fathers. In both cases, impolite speech is understandable but not helpful. He says,

Just as black anger often proved counterproductive, so have these white resentments distracted attention from the real culprits of the middle class squeeze

What should we do? He tells us to take responsibility for our lives, reject victim mentalities, insisting on justice for all, acknowledging the legacy of discrimination, rejecting cynicism, working together as opposed to for our own good alone. 

He’s right.  When we see hyperbole, we must acknowledge the truth at the center. Fact: we have been arrogant snobs in dealings with other countries. It shouldn’t surprise us that if we kick the dog, the dog bites back. Fact: The country wants equality as long as it doesn’t cost anything. We keep complaining, but until we all agree that my neighbor’s struggle is my own, we won’t see much change. 

He’s wrong.  Trying harder and being truthful about racial reconciliation progress is good, but it is not enough. Without the work of the Holy Spirit, the breaking of our pride, the demand that our individual identities take precedence over that of God’s humble servants, we’re not likely to make much more progress. Legislation helps curb our sin, but it does not stop the seed of racialization. Only the Cross does that. Isaiah’s prophecy is that God is going to discipline his people so that cannot put their trust in man–whether he is bad (e.g., Ahaz) or good (Hezekiah). He lays us bare then He brings us into Zion so that we know that it is His power and holiness that makes us his people.

One final note from his speech. See how he explains why he doesn’t reject a friend who has said stupid things. In my mind this is how we ought to talk about each other instead of throwing them under the bus in order to get what we want:

I can no more disown him than I can disown the black community. I can no more disown him than I can my white grandmother – a woman who helped raise me, a woman who sacrificed again and again for me, a woman who loves me as much as she loves anything in this world, but a woman who once confessed her fear of black men who passed by her on the street, and who on more than one occasion has uttered racial or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe.


Filed under anger, church and culture, Civil Rights, Cultural Anthropology, Great Quotes, news, News and politics, Race, Racial Reconciliation

The danger of apologizing too soon

Can an apology come too soon? I was listening to an NPR show discussing a national apology for slavery in the US (and reparations). One guest on the show stated that if a government or organization apologizes before there is adequate dialogue about the real effects of that entity’s misdeeds (i.e., support of slavery), it kills further dialogue.

Really? Why is it that if we apologize for hurting someone that we think the conversation is over?

Point of fact: true apologies invite further discussion, including exploration of the effects of the “crime.” When discussion ends because of an apology, we discover that the apology was really cover for, “Will you let me out of jail for what I did to you? Will you forget my bad behavior?”

True apologies are not formed as questions or requests–either explicitly or implicitly. It is offerings of forgiveness that end or at least change discussion regarding criminal activity. When we demand instant forgiveness or apology acceptance we inappropriately tie apologies with conversation endings.

Do you agree with this next statement? The truly repentant do not mind apologizing as many times as necessary nor engaging in conversation about the effects of their misdeeds.

In relationship to slavery, the matter is complicated in that the conversation is happening between those who either indirectly benefit or suffer from slavery. Because of our overemphasis on individualism, we often fail to acknowledge corporate sins and that some of us benefit from those corporate sins. Read Ezra and Nehemiah and you see a different picture. A people repenting for sins done by the previous generation. Now there’s a novel idea.


Filed under conflicts, Cultural Anthropology, Doctrine/Theology, Forgiveness, News and politics, Race, Racial Reconciliation, Repentance

Taking stock on Dr. King’s birthday

Today marks what would have been Dr. King’s 79th birthday. It is always good to see what has changed for the better and where growth is still needed in race relations. Senator Obama’s legitimate chance to become our next president speaks volumes as well as his ability to move beyond tired arguments (despite the efforts of some in the media to keep the focus on his race).

One stat, though, should give us pause. How many African American senators have we had in our country’s history?

2  in the 19th century. From Mississippi. Before the set back from reconstruction policies
3 in the 20th century. One from Mass (in the 60s), Mosely-Braun in the late 90s (Illinois) and Obama now (also Illinois). Cong. Harold Ford made a bid to represent Tennessee in the Senate but was turned back. So were two others (Mass and Maryland).  

Think about this. Only one from key abolitionist, Eastern Seaboard states. So much for pushing for equal representation. 

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Filed under Black History, News and politics, Race, Racial Reconciliation

Last Hurrah for summer reading: Juan Williams’ “Enough”

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.

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Filed under Black and White, book reviews, Race, Racial Reconciliation

Does Christ trump culture?

How can the answer to this question be anything but yes? Of course being united to Christ should trump everything else about us. In Christ there is no Jew nor Greek, male nor female. In Christ our differences are (should be) smaller than our unity in the Body.

But there is something very wrong with my initial question. Continue reading

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Filed under church and culture, Cultural Anthropology, Doctrine/Theology, Race

Who do you represent? Race, identity, and the cost of being a minority

Has anyone ever asked you to speak for a whole people group? If you represent a racial or cultural minority, you have undoubtedly been asked to explain, defend–even apologize for–your group’s ideas, thoughts, beliefs, practices. I suspect most Christians have had that experience some time in their life. Some well-known Christian blows up his life and you are asked to explain how someone could get up on Sunday and say Christian words but in private be having an affair. You are asked to explain why, “you evangelicals talk about grace but hate homosexuals” or something similar.

So how do you feel when you have to speak for a whole people group? Continue reading

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Filed under church and culture, Cognitive biases, Cultural Anthropology, Identity, Race

Racism vs. Offensiveness vs. Sin: Take your pick

Let me commend to you a post and numerous comments about racism on Scot McKnight’s blog:  The dialogue there centers on the issue of stereotypes, racism, and using another’s characteristics for humor. One interesting point of dialogue caught my eye: Could using another’s ethnic identity be offensive without being racist?

If being an offense is a sin (and I would argue that it is–the Gospel is an offense to many be we should never be), then what impetus would we have to argue that something is sin but not racist. Seems the only reason to argue for one is that we see offensiveness as bad but not nearly as bad as racism. That is like being called a pedophile. Does our interest in defending against the claim of racism evidence a level of defensiveness (and therefore blindness) to the realities that racism is nothing more than systematic offensiveness–using another’s characteristics to put and keep them in a subservient position?


Filed under Cultural Anthropology, Race, sin

Racial vs. racist: Is there a difference? Does it matter?

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


Filed under Black and White, Race