The ‘R’ word…

I’ve spent a lot of time reading about the topic of racism since the latest barrage of protests regarding the death of George Floyd. My biggest take away is that I use words I don’t really know what they mean! It’s a VERY complicated subject and we have a tendency to want to fix it on Twitter in 120 characters or less which only serves to piss someone off!

If you think you disagree with these books or my decision to read them, or this is just too many words for you, then please by all means don’t throw the baby out with the bath water … skip down to … My Journey Thus Far.

What I gleaned from Woke Church by Eric Mason:

I love that he laments. There is truly much to lament in our society today, for sure!

I’ve learned that we can do better than thinking that we live in a post-racist society taunting that I don’t have a problem, I’m colorblind! Mr. Mason presents eight problems with “color-blindness”

  1. It denies God’s promise to Abraham that “in you all the nations shall be blessed.” (Galatians 3:8 NKJV)
  2. It denies the Father’s promise to the Son that “I will make you a light for the nations” (Isaiah 49:6)
  3. It denies the Spirit’s promise to us that all peoples will praise God. (see Psalm 67:5)
  4. It denies Christ’s great commission to disciple the nations.
  5. It denies the Spirit’s work to prepare us for a multiethnic table. (Acts 10)
  6. It denies one of the main tenets of the Apostles’ Creed, “the holy catholic Church.” Catholicity means the opposite of colorblindness–celebrating the inclusion of all ethnicites.
  7. It denies Christ’s power to heal racial divisions, disparities and injustices by ignoring their ongoing impact
  8. And it undermines unity in the church by refusing to acknowledge ethnic differences and significant problems.

I was also convicted by Lament #7: That the Church Didn’t Create and Lead the Black Lives Matter Movement. (Mason pg 107)

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.

Attributed to Edmund Burke

Now in 2020 we’re all upset that this is an organization that is violent and corrupt and it’s anti-christian to use the hashtag. But what do you expect? One of Russell’s favorite sayings was “Nature abhors a vacuum.” Which is a smart people, sciency way of saying, if you don’t step up someone else will! And this is certainly true of the Black Lives Matter movement. Too many good men sat quietly saying, “Yes you do matter” then promptly went about their own lives!

I’m frustrated that Christians have been so critical of this book because Eric Mason boldly proclaims – more than once that Jesus is the answer. His own definition is, “Being woke is to be aware. Being woke is to acknowledge the truth. Being woke is to be accountable. Being woke is to be active.” (Mason pg 32) I want to be aware, acknowledge the truth, be accountable and active! He’s right – the church should already be woke!

You have to be intrinsically changed by God in order for justice to be done. …But at the end of the day legislation doesn’t change hearts…only the gospel does.

Mason Pg 50-51

My take from White Fragility Why It’s so Hard for White People to Talk About Racism by: Robin Diangelo:

I was hooked in the introduction with the Beyonce Knowles quote:

“It’s been said that racism is so American that when we protest racism, some assume we’re protesting America.”

Beyonce Knowles, quote in White Fragility page xi

I’m three pages in, just in the foreword and already convicted that I’ve only been looking at one side of the story. I never stopped to listen to or think about Colin Kaepernick’s point of view when he knelt during the National anthem. I jumped on the “I stand for the flag and kneel at the cross” bandwagon. I honestly thought “those people need to find a better way to address what they perceive as a problem”. I have great respect for those who serve in the military, law enforcement, really anyone whose life work is for the benefit of mankind. I have been unwilling to talk about racism because I bought into the post-racist ideal that we just need to stop talking about it. I have bowed my head, closed my eyes and in the name of God, left no room for any other point of view.

Diangelo’s chapter on the good/bad binary really spoke to me about how we justify racism by screaming that I’m not racist, because I’m not a bad person. If I say or do something racist it doesn’t really count because I’m not a bad person. Two qoutes from this chapter really struck a nerve with me:

While making racism bad seems like a positive change, we have to look at how this functions in practice. Within this paradigm, to suggest that I am racist is to deliver a deep moral blow, I must defend my character, and that is where all my energy will go–to deflecting the charge, rather than reflecting on my behavior.

Diangelo, pg 72

If, as a white person, I conceptualize racism as a binary and I place myself on the “not racist” side, what further action is required of me? No action is required, because I am not racist. Therefore, racism is not by problem; it doesn’t concern me and there is nothing further I need to do. This worldview guarantees that I will not build my skills in thinking critically about racism or use my position to challenge racial inequality.

Diangelo, pg 73

This point was huge for me. I could totally relate to this binary. I have said and heard racist comments deduced and written off because the person isn’t a bad person, you don’t know their heart. News flash: Generations of good people have been raised in a racist structure. My parents weren’t bad people, they just taught me what they had been taught and honestly anyone else raised in America. I was not raised to hate, but their was no denying that being white is better. It’s not about good people or bad people–it’s about doing better and to do better you have to see there is room for improvement!

Diangleo also addresses the issue of color blindness stating that, “color blindness may have started out as a well-intentioned strategy for interrupting racism, in practice it has served to deny the reality of racism and thus hold it in place.” (Diangelo pg 42) This brings to my mind the comment Stephen King made regarding the lack of diversity in the 2019 Academy Awards, where he said, “I would never considered diversity in matters of art. Only quality.” (https://www.theguardian.com/books/2020/jan/14/stephen-king-oscars-diversity-criticism) A comment I fully agreed with until I considered the fact that he also never realized that the pieces of work he was considering did not include any diversity. His color blindness did not allow him to see that the Academy had failed to give films by directors and screenwriters that were not white male a chance to even be considered. He had the opinion, “I’m not racist, so racism must not exist.” Diangelo concludes that to be color blind is to deny diversity.

This book reflects so many things that I have lived. Chapter 11, White Women’s Tears really made me stop and think about how I could be a influencer for change, it’s easy to cry, I can do that during a sappy commercial — but am I really willing to stand up and say enough is enough, to be better, to do better, to demand better.

Take-away from How to be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi:

We don’t understand the words we are using as weapons! This biggest thing Kendi did for me in this book was define terms. Again, I was hooked on this book in the introduction when he states, “Racist is not … a pejorative. It is not the worst word in the English language; it is not the equivalent of a slur. It is descriptive, and the only way to undo racism is to consistently identify and describe it–and then dismantle it. The attempt to turn this usefully descriptive term into an almost unusable slur is, of course, designed to do the opposite: to freeze us into inaction.” (Kendi pg 9) Critics of the book say that being ‘not racist’ is enough, I don’t have to be anti-racist. I contend that instead of standing up against racist behavior, policies and even education we’re too often burying our head in the sand with the belief that I am not impacted by racism, therefore it does not exist and we need to quit talking about it so it can go away.

We have got to quit arguing over the words.

We have to quit minimizing peoples experiences.

IF ANYONE is still impacted by racism today we must face it. And there is plenty of evidence that there are many anyones! I will even go as far as to say if you don’t know anyone impacted by racism, then you’re living in such a privileged bubble that even people you know cannot share there fears, pains and trials. Zig Ziglar once said that the appearance of impropriety is impropriety, although I can’t find that quote on the web, he used that as a mantra to never be seen alone with a woman who was not his wife. We need to say the same thing about racism today – the perception of racism is racism therefore I can scream I am not racist all day long, but if I support a system that is perceived as racist — I must act. You can’t add a ‘but’ and make it okay.

I learned that colorblindness, white privilege, critical race theory … are sociological constructs that examine how we view our world. They are not a threat, an accusation nor judgement, they are social concepts that just are. You can use any word as a weapon.

We cannot deny that

Black people comprise 13 percent of the U.S. population. And yet, in 2015, Black bodies accounted for at least 26 percent of those killed by police, declining slightly to 24 percent in 2016, 22 percent in 2017, and 21 percent in 2018, according to The Washington Post. Unarmed Black bodies–which apparently look armed to fearful officers–are about twice as likely to be killed as unarmed White bodies.

Kendi pg 73

Wasn’t Jesus all about the least of these? the underdog? I think Kendi wrote this book for people just like me. People who want to be part of the solution, not part of the problem. To get people to stand up and take a side. I could quote for days from this book – just read it!!!

My journey thus far:

I have been so enlightened by reading the perspectives of these authors who see the world differently than how I was raised both familially and culturally. I also want to add that while I read these books I continued to study, read and meditate in and on the Bible. These books strengthened my faith and resolve to life my life to be more Christ-like. Still, I am so disappointed by the Christian community that has spent more time arguing over semantics than being compassionate, understanding and willing to see another’s point of view. I am so discouraged by looking at Facebook posts that are steeped with self-righteousness, piety and condemnation. I am heartbroken that the biggest obstacle to Christ can be those of us who claim, so boldly, to be his followers. I have to ask myself:

Do others know what I am for? Or do they only know what I am against and how I fall on the political spectrum?

I have to ask myself EVERYDAY, will others see Christ in me. Some days, sadly, the answer is no. My love language is sarcasm. My quick wit and sharp tongue often leave me with regret and a path of unintentional hurt. I do love Jesus, but I cuss a little, okay sometimes a lot. My children say I have no filter. I have absolutely no right to condemn another BUT if good white people continue to do nothing , to see nothing, all our critics are right! I encourage you to READ, to LEARN, to LISTEN to be more concerned about having relationships than being right, because it is only through relationship that we can share our point of view and impact another’s perspective. I will never lead someone to the gospel that I don’t first value, respect and listen to because I’ll never have a chance to be heard.

I have a son in law enforcement, he’s always wanted to be in law enforcement. I can not be anti-law enforcement nor minimize what they face each day, but I can’t deny this is an issue that we can’t bury our heads in the sand about. I recently spoke to Bishop McBride who talked about what it is like to be a black man pulled over by a police officer. Most of what he told me I was aware of, but what shocked me was the comment he made: “…and it doesn’t matter what color the officer is.” The most dangerous thing an officer does is a traffic stop, I am just as big a threat to an officer as the next guy statistically but yet we’re treated differently because of race. That my friend is systemic racism. In Temple Texas. Today. It’s not an individual issue its deep in the fabric of who we are and it won’t improve if denied.

These pictures represent to me how we have whitewashed our history. Why are we not as comfortable with black Jesus and black Santa as we are the white ones? Photo credit: Jesus: The Last Supper by Sarah Jenkins, Original painting inside the permanent collection of the Virginia Museum of Fine Art, Richmond, VA. Santa photos stolen from Hayti Heritage Center, St. Joseph’s Historic Foundation and Raising Race Conscious Children.

I loved the series “A Handmaid’s Tale” because it is a wonderful examination of how wrong right can go. The creators of the society were great fundamental Christians who wanted to create a Utopian society based on good — but fundamentally it was so wrong. Any of us given free rein would do the same! It’s human nature and it’s ugly and we need a Savior!

I am a product of white privilege, segregation, prejudice and racism. I can not deny that, I don’t have to apologize for it, but I do have a responsibility to continue to learn, to grow and to do better.

I am a work in progress. I want to do better!

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but

to do justice,

and to love kindness,

and to walk humbly with your God?

Micah 6:8 ESV

I just noticed that verse ends with a question mark, it demands a response!!