Friday, October 15, 2010

Not racist...

We had a great evening opening to the conference reflecting the 10 year anniversary of Michael Emerson and Christian Smith's Divided by Faith: Evangelical Religion and the Problem of Race in America.

There are any number of great insights in this discussion.  For example, most of us who are "white" do not realize how much more complicated things are for "others."  We walk into stores.  We go up to bank tellers.  We rent cars.  No problem.  "Others" face questions, suspicious looks, watchful eyes.  It's not that we ask for these privileges.  Indeed, we don't even realize we are privileged.  This is a great thing to be aware of.

Language of "Repent of the sin of racism" or "Acknowledge that the structure of things is sinful" has a tendency to alienate.  While no doubt there is plenty of latent racism and injustice in the systems of things, a much more helpful approach is simply for "whites" of middle and upper class to acknowledge the privileges they have and that "others" face challenges we do not.  Then we can begin to talk about changing the way things are as a society rather than focusing on myself as an individual. 

It is simply unacceptable from a Christian standpoint for "whites" to earn on average 20 times what African-Americans do (it has progressively become worse over the last 30 years).  Don't try to explain it away... "It's because..."  Whatever you might think the cause is, it is an unacceptable situation and all Christians should want to see it changed.  We can agree to work toward solutions.

A great insight is to realize that the category of "white" isn't even real.  It is real because of social construction but has no intrinsic reality.  "White" is simply not "other."  So when the Irish first came here, they weren't white, but now they are.  Where do whites come from?  Are they English?  French? Scandinavian? Spanish?  Did we all come from the country Whitey? You might have noticed that Hispanic was not considered a distinct race on the most recent census but a subcategory of Caucasian.  Race is ultimately a matter of social construction. 

The current hives many are feeling over illegal Mexican immigrants is really an old worn out page from American history whenever there is an influx of "others," and those all bent out of shape over it don't know their history.  Historically they will end up looking just as foolish as those who got all bent out of shape over those drunken Irish Catholics or those stupid Polacks or those Chinsey slant eyed Chinese or Indian givers.  Better hide your wallet.  Here comes a Jew.  And so the masses continue to be tossed around by forces of which they are not aware.

The question of multiracial churches arose.  The intentional integration of our churches is one step Christians can take to try to overcome the inherent inequalities of American society.  Not easy, not comfortable, but a move in the kingdom direction.  As long as we live in different neighborhoods, as long as we worship in separate churches, as long as we do not interact with each other--whatever disperate groups we might have in mind--then the structure of society will have a tendency to perpetuate islands of miscommunication and inadvertant inequities.  Obviously this goes both ways, since it is more comfortable for everyone--white and black--to stay with "our own kind."  But it is only if we see and hear each other that we can really see things from each other's perspective.

Desegregation was clearly painful.  But who would deny that Birmingham today is a far more Christian city than it was sixty years ago?  And how much of the current rhetoric over "strict constructionism" of the Constitution is residual resentment of being forced to integrate, of being forced to give women equal opportunity in the work place?  Isn't that where those feelings toward Supreme Court justices really started?  I personally wouldn't want to be on that side of history.


Angie Van De Merwe said...

I cannot believe that you would agree with our borders being "open" ones...this is NOT what you are saying, is it?

We must remember that the recent murder of the husband and the head that was sent to the police, was not "in jest". This is real crime by real criminals, in the real world and must not be allowed to infilterate our society. And it doesn't make any difference whether they are black, white, purple or pink!

Ken Schenck said...

Not open ones, welcoming ones. The vast and overwhelming majority of illegals in America don't behead skiers. There is middle ground to be had.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Our nation is humane, but that does not justify what is done in the name of race, religion, or sex.
You certainly don't agree with revisionist history, do you?

Isn't race the 'card" that is used to affirm multiculturalism? Then, lets deny the Holocost actually happened! And what about Pearl Harbor, was that really the Japanese that bombed us?

Race is also used to justify economic justice, so where do you get your stats?

Angie Van De Merwe said...

We have many friends form Europe that have come here and had a change of opinion about America. It is because of the European mind-set...They always seem to be delightfully surprised at how friendly Americans are...

Angie Van De Merwe said...

I don't believe in amnesty for illegals. How about giving them a period of time to leave without convicting them? That is humane, as well as not compromising where other immigrants have had to go through the proper channels to become a citizen.

I recognize that most will never have the opportunity to be an American. But, is this justification to dissolve our nation's ability to survive?

And isn't the reason most come here is because of the opportunities, while the intelligensia want to sell us on the concept of "Empire" and Imperialsim...It seems incongruent to reality to suggest that our nation is disrespected in this way when there are so many that would die (and literally) to have a chance to be here.

Many of those friends from Europe have even thought of moving here. ( I guess they thing our healthcare was better. But, now, they won't have to move, as we will have the same as they do. This is just...boil it down to the lowest common denominator. And let the elites run the money bags.)

Angie Van De Merwe said...

The recent decision by the courts that Arizona couldn't uphold its standards for thier own state's borders, because foreign government (Mexico), is allowed to "veto" their right??? That is not just our physical borders, but also our ideological borders, as to law.

Ken Schenck said...

Some Japanese bombed us, but not the ones we then imprisoned during the war.

Borders have to be maintained. Normal passage into the country has to be reinforced. But isn't it the American spirit to welcome as many as can to come? In short, there may be negative consequences to giving a path to citizenship to good people here illegally. I'm not sure what the right equation is. But I consider it most American in spirit (and Christian for that matter) at least to wish that a path to citizenship were the best option... and maybe it is!

::athada:: said...

Random facts stuck in my mind, triggered by your post:

"Median net worth of white American woman aged 36 to 49: $42,600
Median net worth of a nonwhite American woman that age: $5" (

For a long time, I've been meaning to watch CNN's "Black in America" series. Here's a 5-min NPR look at just a bit of it, "CNN Explores Faith and Debt in Black Community"

I heard that the CNN series observed that "being black" as a part of one's job application is equivalent to having a felony on a white man's resume. I know this issue is close to home to the multiracial Marion community. All my prayers for CWC and Marion churches. There are still decades of work to be done.

Thanks for bringing these things to the light, looking them over with a careful eye, and exposing our reality.

JohnM said...

CNN eh? Well. If it was on TV it must be true. Of course there are "decades of work to be done", too many people have a vested intrest in the "work" for the "need" to ever go away.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

It is often said that the Democrats (or liberals) love to keep the poor, poor, as then, they can have their "ready-made" political 'issue".

I heard that the billions that were meant to go to the Haitians, never made it there. This all too often happens.

::athada:: said...

We know that women still earn less than men doing the exact same work. We do not need CNN to tell us this. Sexism and racism exist. Why should this be surprising? We do not need to be afraid of learning about reality. It is what it is - no need to be afraid of a liberal plot to rule the world. (Likewise, I would say, with issues of science - and this issue is probably a statistical-social observation that falls within the realm of science).

The work-yet-to-be-done I am speaking about is racial reconciliation, in Marion specifically. It is not in any way the role of any government, but the role of the Church. I would thank God if it *only* took a few decades. Anyone who lives there (and is not content to simply commute around the center city) is aware of this.

::athada:: said...

I would also point out that the black leader interviewed in the NPR piece argues (controversially) that financial indebtedness and prosperity gospel preaching are more detrimental to the black community than racism. I mentioned only because some might be shocked that NPR would air something that in tune with Dave Ramsey...

Likewise, I think most church leaders would agree that the era of massive political involvement to end systemic racism (God Bless the MLKing) is over, and a new era of personal and more intimate racial reconciliation is at hand (or is waiting). As violent as the first times were, the second phase can only be solved at the heart level, and I estimate that it will be an equally difficult struggle. Those that do not think so, I humbly suggest, have not scratched the surface. Either that, or Marion is exceptional.

JohnM said...

That women earn less than men for doing the "exact" same work is canard. And sexism wasn't the topic.

There are still decades of work to be done is cliche - but thanks for the clarification on what you mean. It's not necessarily what other people mean when they make the claim for their own purposes.

The claim that "being black" as a part of one's job application is equivalent to having a felony on a white man's resume" implies the systemic racism. Realize that not everyone got the end-of-era-new-era memo, and there's no want of church leaders who refuse to read it.

::athada:: said...

By systemic I meant Jim Crow - racism written into official law. The fact that many people judge others (positively or negatively) on the basis of race is obvious, I think. I know just a few folks that truly don't - they are the exception that proves the rule. Whether we call this systemic or something else I don't much mind.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

It really doesn't matter what system one adheres to; systems thinking is just a form of "group think". And those that wield political power use this "group think" to get those not too critical/skeptical "on board" for (as JohnM says) "their own purposes".

As to heart issues, this is the point. Don't Americans hold to the value of individual rights, in regards to "personal life"? Whenever one assumes the position of "god-likeness" in determining a particular person, or group, place "in the world" or a focused driven goal, then we have a form of "totltaliraian rule".

Character and the issues that involve "the heart" have to do faith, which cannot be definitive in our Protestant nation. As to civility and society's value, civics should be taught in our schools, and familie's should value our liberty as a nation.