Category Archives: Racial Reconciliation

Kids and political ads


Here in PA we’ve been under a barrage of political ads for some time now. The kids hear or see them quite regularly. When my now 10 year old was 4, he wanted to know why a certain candidate was so angry. He was seeing ads by the candidate’s opponent with less than flattering photos. He proclaimed that he would vote for the one candidate because he smiled more than another.

I suspect we adults choose using similar decision-making skills. Voting may be less intellectual than we would like to admit.

Now we come down to the wire and here are snippets of conversations with my kids

8 year old: Dad, who are you going to vote for? I hope it is Obama?
Me: Why?
8 year old: Well, he’s black.
Me: Why do you want a black president?
8 year old: White people are always being president and leaders and its about time a black person gets to be president.
Me: Yeah, I agree with you, its about time.
8 year old: Why do they have to be so mean to each other?

Conversation with my 10 year old this am:

Me: So, who would you like to vote for
10 year old: Obama
Me: Why?
10 year old: [after saying I don’t know]. I guess because he seems to have more ideas.
Me: Does his being black have anything to do with it?
10 year old: Yeah, about 50% of my reason.

FYI, my kids are black. It is clear that without any real influence one way or the other by their parents, they both really identify with Obama based on color. And I’m pretty sure that my youngest will be very crushed if Obama isn’t elected. He takes these things very personally when things don’t go the way he hopes.

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Filed under cultural apologetics, News and politics, parenting, Race, Racial Reconciliation

Defining Multiculturalism


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? Oris 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?

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Filed under Black and White, Christianity, Identity, Race, Racial Reconciliation

Movie suggestion: The Color of Freedom


Last night my wife and I watched “The Color of Freedom” (2007 movie starring Dennis Haysbert of 24). This is a movie about the true story of the relationship between a white South African guard and Nelson Mandela during 20 of his 31 years of imprisonment. The guard, James Gregory, is chosen to be around Mandela because he learned the tribal language (that Mandela speaks) as a boy playing with black children. The movie is definitely a must watch. Some of the accents are hard to understand at first and it is rated R for curse words but still a must watch in my book. The movie is based on the guard’s memoirs entitled, “Goodbye Bafana.”

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Filed under Race, Racial Reconciliation

Race and Culture in America at the turn of the Century


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. 

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Filed under Black and White, Civil Rights, News and politics, Race, Racial Reconciliation

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.

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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.

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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

Langston Hughes’ “Negro Mother”


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:
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). 

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Filed under Black and White, Black History, Civil Rights, Racial Reconciliation