My white and privileged racial piety

28 06 2018

Love   I’ve asked the question on two different occasions.  After listening to two different Black sisters speak about the effects of racism and white supremacy upon their lives, I was so incredibly saddened that all I could say was “How do you keep from hating people like me?”

At the time, it was a very sincere question; and in both instances, after asking the question, I went on to say “If I were you, and you were me, I don’t think I’d want anything to do with you.  I’d hate you and would not want to be in the same room with you.”

And yet, at least when it came to these particular women, as well as to countless other people of color who are in my life, this is not their response to ‘America’s original sin.’ Countless friends, neighbors, and colleagues have shown me nothing but kindness, love, and respect, in spite of my Whiteness. Hatred is simply not part of their M.O.

The first time I posed the question, the older woman with whom I was speaking responded by graciously saying “That’s just not the way I want to live my life: hating someone!  I’m a Christian, and Christ teaches me to forgive.”

The second time I asked the question, the woman responded a little more forcefully.  She looked at me, almost with disgust, and said, “Now don’t you think I’ve got far more important things to do with my life than go around hating you?”

I smiled, awkwardly, and then nodded as if to say ‘of course you do.’

I continue to reflect on these experiences, and have only recently begun to realize what was going on when I asked that question.  At first, I think it was a veiled compliment; a way for me to say to these remarkable women, “Wow, you are far bigger than I am, and your capacity for gracious forgiveness is admirable.”

But if that’s what I was really trying to communicate, then why didn’t I just say that?  I didn’t, because I was likely only thinking about how they would perceive my minor act of contrition.  I wanted to appear humble, and remorseful, and contrite; and in some ways I think I was, and am.  But there was much more going on with my question.  And upon reflection, I think I was seeking to put some of my racial piety on display for those present to see.

As I look back on those pivotal moments and conversations, involving an issue that has become extremely important to me, I’m discovering that there was a good bit of white privilege and supremacy in my question.  It was as if I was saying to those two women, “If I were you, I’d hate White people.  If I were you, I wouldn’t respond the way you have chosen to respond, I’d respond with hatred, and anger.  If I were you, I would give control of your emotions, and your response to all that is going on in the world, to me.  If I were you, I’d let ME, dictate what should be in your heart!”

Call it unconscious or implicit bias, but what I think I was really saying, was “let me, the privileged, White guy here, determine how you are going to live your life.  Let me make those decisions for you, for then I can continue to have control over you, and stay in charge, and maintain all the power in this conversation and relationship!”

Lord, forgive me.  Friends, forgive me!

It’s a scary thing — this thing I’ve come to call colorism.  I truly believe that there is only one race — the human race; and I am not going to continue to buy into the faulty language of a false social reality that needs to be changed.  The differences that have shaped so much of our nation’s prejudice is not about race, it is about the mere color of one’s skin.  And it has subtly, and far too often not so subtly, tainted my thoughts and ideas, in ways that I’ve still yet to to discover.

No, I’m not ‘woke’ . . . at least not completely.  But I am rubbing my eyes, and slowly, beginning to focus on what is buried deep in my heart and soul. And in time, I have to believe that love will reign there, and that it will be a love that is willing to reject the harmful privilege that life has been afforded me, simply because of the color of my skin.

Pro-Life Idolatry: Part II

19 06 2018


The silence is deafening!  So much so that this blog should more rightly be titled, “Pro-Life Hypocrisy.”

Last month I described how putting Donald Trump in the White House solely because of his ability to nominate justices to SCOTUS that might vote to overturn “Roe v Wade”, without regard for all of his other deficiencies, amounted to nothing less than idolatry.  This month, as the circus in Washington continues, I am compelled to write about how such idolatry is now morphing into a tragic form of hypocrisy.

Over the past few weeks, along America’s southern border, more than 2300 children have been separated from their families. They came here illegally – or so we’ve been told – from Guatemala, El Salvador, Mexico, and other Central American countries; and their punishment, a deterrent to other would-be immigrants, involves separating parents from their children.

The actions are horrific — nothing less than public sin.  And fortunately, many faith communities have begun to speak out against these actions.  But from America’s Pro-Life community — from those pretending to be advocates for the rights of children — from those claiming to be the moral conscience of America . . . silence!

Could it be that the only life that really matters is life in the womb?  Once a baby is born does a society cease to bear any additional responsibility for that child?  (And to the Protestant Community, this is an especially important question in light of our understanding of the Sacrament of Baptism!)  Or does a community’s concern for the lives of children end if parents break the law?  Are we only interested in caring for the most vulnerable among us if their parents are responsible, law-abiding citizens?

If we were to believe the current Administration’s assessment of the immigration issues facing our nation (which, as is the case with so much of their propaganda, we can’t!) we’d think that all of our immigration woes are the result of Mexicans illegally crossing our border.  We’d believe that once here, these ‘worst of the worst’ do little more than murder old men and rape young girls.  These are the talking points for those leading the take-over of the “Grand Old Party”; but the facts, which appear to offend so many in this Administration, are dramatically different.

Two-thirds of the illegal immigrants in America today are here because their Visas have expired and they have not returned home.  They are called “overstays”, and they didn’t charge fences or illegally cross border patrol lines. They came through airports and train stations, went thru customs, and did what the rest of us do whenever we travel abroad.  Further, the country with the most “overstays” in America today is not Mexico; it is Canada.

So we can debate all of issues surrounding immigration in America today; but the fact remains that families running our borders are not the problem.  And to suggest otherwise is not just inaccurate, but a blatant lie!

But here’s the real point.  Even if illegals crossing the boarder from Mexico is the greatest immigration struggle of our nation, is using children as pawns really the best way to address this problem?  Is taking children from their parents really the best ‘deterrent’ we have?

What is wrong with us?  What has happened to this nation?  Republicans and Democrats are BOTH failing us; so it’s time for we in the Church to stand up and be heard.  This is simply unacceptable!  And it must be stopped . . . by calling Congress . . . by speaking up and challenging those around us who think otherwise . . . and by voting in November.

It’s time for us people of all faiths to come together . . . including those Christian Evangelicals who are part of the pro-life movement in this country.  If you really care about children; and if you really value ALL life; then you must speak up.  Your silence on this matter is deafening.  All of us must hear the call of God to move beyond the agenda of the political party with which we affiliate, and return to the agenda of Jesus: caring for the least among us, and teaching the children among us the way of kindness, compassion, and love.