Educating Monty: (on racism, injustice and white supremecy)

“You have heard it said, ‘Whatever you do unto the least of these,
you do unto me.’
~Jesus

I’m a white guy who has been working through my lack of understanding of systemic racism over the last twenty years or so. While I have engaged and taught on injustice, reconciliation, and all “ism” themes through the years, my depth of understanding was insufficient compared to the realities of life for so many people of color. I have needed to stay engaged by doing the hard work of continual learning. I wrote previously about being complicit, complacent, convicted, and confused in an earlier post. I won’t rehash those thoughts here, what I’d like to do is offer some materials for you to begin doing your hard work of seeing the need for race equity. My journey has lead to repentance, listening, and doing more work. While the list isn’t exhaustive, it is a good starting point.

Glenn Harris, the President of ‘The Center For Social Inclusion’ notes that racism affects us all when he states:

“Racial equity is about applying justice and a little bit of common sense to a system that’s been out of balance.  When a system is out of balance, people of color feel the impacts most acutely, but, to be clear, an imbalanced system makes all of us pay.”

I was one of many in the energy-filled room for an organic neighborhood church conference in Seattle several years ago. One of the speakers was Dr. Christina Cleveland, and she was speaking on her book “Disunity In Christ: Uncovering the Hidden Forces That Keep Us Apart.” Christina was a powerful and compelling speaker. As I began entering into her words, stories, and images, I hadn’t consciously connected how racial reconciliation and church planting might be linked. I left that day with a renewed conviction. I bought her book, and my journey of awakening went to the next, more rooted level. 

Previously, I would have been one of those who said, “I see all colors the same because Jesus has called me to love everyone regardless of skin color.” Or, to put it another way, “I’m color-blind, I treat everyone the same.” While there is some truth to that, the whole “colorblindness” is part of the problem as well. My journey has caused me to see and celebrate skin color because our skin color creates a lived experience and tells the story of generations. 

In actuality, being “colorblind” continues systemic injustice towards people of color. When I acknowledge color, I recognize a real human story, a tangible experience, a reality that our neighbors of diverse ethnicities encounter every day, and their stories are heartbreaking.

But, once you see, you can’t ever unsee.

As I began to grasp the more significant, accurate picture, I knew I had two choices. I could decide to live for justice and inclusion, or I could play it safe and try to keep everyone happy. I chose the former because the truth of the latter will leave us blind and numb to the plight of our brothers and sisters of color, and that is not the Gospel Jesus proclaimed. A Gospel devoid of social justice implications is a truncated Gospel at best, a half-Gospel that continues the generational curse rather than inaugurating generational blessings. I long to be prophetic, not political.

If you are a white person, and especially if you are a white pastor, it is time to do your homework. It’s your responsibility to educate yourself on these issues. Please don’t expect those who have experienced the boot of systemic injustice to try to teach you, that is not their job.

Let me list some things you can do to begin this journey, as well as some great resources to consider. There are many more books than the ones that I have read (I am still in the process), so if you have some that have impacted your life, please post them in the comments.

Things You Can Do:

1. Read books that make you squirm.

2. Watch documentaries and films that make you uncomfortable.

3. Shut down racist tirades by your friends, family & co-workers.

4. Share what you’re learning with the people you know.

5. Listen to the voices of People of Color without diminishing their story.

6. Let the lament of people of color become your lament.

7. Do life with POC, not as projects but as friends.

8. Start a discussion group using any of the resources I will list.

9. Speak out, show up, and say no to the status quo.

10. Never stop learning.

11. Repent and confess the bigotry and racism that you begin to see in your life.

Learning to “see what you don’t see” is an uncomfortable process. You will lose many of the illusions with which you have lived. Your pre-suppositions and pre-understandings will shake to the core. But lean into the disruption anyway, it will benefit us all.

As we begin to see every person as Jesus in disguise, as divine image-bearers, we will fulfill Jesus’ commands of the high ethic of love and Micah’s prophetic vision revealing how God desires we live: 

“He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”

Micah 6:8 (NIV)


Some of the Books, Documentaries & Films I have learned from:

Powerful: Ava DuVernay’s documentary explains the prison industrial complex from the 1800’s to the present.
Classic: To Kill A Mockingbird. Harper Lee’s book turned into an Academy Award winning movie.
Eye-opening: This is Angie Thomas’ 2017 young-adult novel about a young black girl growing up turned into a movie.
Wow: This Netflix series follows five teens from Harlem become trapped in a nightmare when they’re falsely accused of a brutal attack in Central Park. Based on the true story.

Another good Netflix series that follows a group of black students at a predominately white university.
This movie won Best Original Screenplay. I think my jaw hit theground a number of times. This is white-supremecy turned into a horror flick.
The Spike Lee film based on a Biography ofMalcolm X. Covering key events in his life including incarceration, conversion to Islam and starting the Nation of Islam movement.

The Spike Lee film that shows escalating tensions that ends with civil unrest. Patterns we are still seeing today when our focus is on the destruction of property over the loss of human life. The film ends with contrasting quotes on the use of violence as self-defense vs. the use of non-violence with Malcom [X] and Martin [Luther King, Jr.]
This is Ava DuVernay’s historical drama about the 1965 Selma to Montgomery Marches, starring David Oyelowo as Martin Luther King, Jr.

USA Today noted that: “There’s a moment in the film when one of the racist Southerners slaps him and he quickly slaps him back. I call it the ‘slap heard ’round the world,’ ” Boyd says. “So instead of standing there, taking the slap and turning the other cheek, he fights back.
“That scene is really satisfying because it ties to the politics of the late ’60s after the assassination of Martin Luther King – a lot of people are no longer willing to be so peaceful.”

TIME’s critic Stephanie Zacharek wrote that “Peck’s aim seems to be to reintroduce Baldwin and his way of thinking to the world. Not that Baldwin is forgotten, but sometimes we need a bold red arrow to help us redirect our thinking, especially in a media world as cluttered and noisy as ours.”
imdb notes: “The extraordinary tale of Harriet Tubman‘s escape from slavery and transformation into one of America’s greatest heroes, whose courage, ingenuity, and tenacity freed hundreds of slaves and changed the course of history.”

These titles are an excellent starting point. I would appreciate hearing what resources have helped you grow in your understanding. Please leave your suggestions in the comments below.

I’ll leave you with a quote from Archbishop Desmond Tutu:

“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.”

When One Hurts…We All Hurt…#Charleston

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I have just woke up after returning from a trip traversing Uganda. While there, I caught a breaking news report concerning the shootings at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston South Carolina. It was a depressing and disturbing feeling watching the news report about more Black Americans being shot in the U.S.

My heart broke. “This is too much.”

As an obvious white American in a room of Ugandans, I thought,  “I wonder if he is a racist too?”

As of this moment I have not had to endure all the spin from the Left and the Right as you have. I have not had to wade through the polarizing news reports. It has been apparent that racism and a hatred of black people was the root of the problem.

I have prayed; repented for our nation; confessed my own “isms.” I have struggled with the moral temperature of our nation; I have tried to enter the pain of my African-American brothers and sisters in Christ in a very insufficient way as I will never fully understand the pain they experience.

As a follower of Jesus, I am spiritually and soul-ularly connected to every other follower of Jesus regardless of race, gender, color of skin, ideology, social status etc.

As a follower of Jesus, I am called to stand in the gap for my brothers and sisters who are hurting, suffering, and have lost their voice.

As a follower of Jesus, I -do- feel the pain and enter into the journey of suffering with those who suffer.

Paul the Apostle said is this way:

“If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.” 1 Corinthians 12:26

So I weep those who weep…I grieve with those who grieve…I cry with those who cry.

But, as a follower of Christ I also denounce the violence in our country that continues to be directed towards the Black community. I am amazed that we are actually arguing  whether or not the Confederate flag (a symbol of racism) should be allowed to fly. I wonder (not really) if Germany would argue similarly about reviving the Nazi Swastika; I’m sure (or I would hope) it would be rejected out of hand.

Until we recognize and deal with our national racism the violence will continue.

The lives represented by the list of victims matters:

Rev. Daniel Simmons Sr., 74
Rev. Clementa Pinckney, 41
Rev. Sharonda Singleton, 45
Rev. DePayne Doctor, 49
Sharonda Singleton, 45
Myra Thompson, 59
Tywanza Sanders, 26
Ethel Lance, 70
Cynthia Hurd, 54
Susie Jackson, 87 

The problem with lists and statistics is that they don’t cry. Each name represents a significant larger story. Each person matters. Each life was intended by God.

If you are a white Christian in the U.S you need to begin reading the stories and articles that are pouring out from the black community. Enter into their pain and feel their faith. It is no longer sufficient to say, “Well I didn’t cause this.” or “Things are way better than they used to be.” or “It’s not my problem.”

While this generation may not have caused the problem, we have inherited it and are called to do something about any and all injustice that we encounter.

While things are better than they once were, there are still miles to go until we reach true equality.

And this is all our problem…

It is time to get off the bench and into the game.

It is time to stand up against any and all forms of violence.

It is time to stand in solidarity with the Black community.

It is time to put people first above ideologies.

Choosing to disengage from the reality of violence in our midst is to join the side of the violence…no one is neutral when it comes to events that affect our nation.

Charleston, my heart and prayers are with you. May the grace and peace of God saturate you hearts and community.

 

 

NEXT

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Here we are again…

Another inciting incident.
Opinions flow like a river at flood stage.

“You don’t know the facts?” “You missed the point” “You’re ignorant”

As our nation labors under the weight of serious systemic issues  we choose to herald our cyber-bullhorns, which are more about shouting than listening and resolving.

Broad-brushed soundbites of polarized rhetoric.

And then…

NEXT

We saunter off to the next thing showing that we really don’t care at a deep level about the current thing, it’s just the popular outrage. Sure, it seems important enough to flame and shout out loudly what we think (as if we have perfect-objective reality firmly in our grasp), but not important enough to get off the couch and actually DO Something…DO justice.

It amazes me that so many of us think a perfectly worded tweet is the final word on an incident that results in lost lives, lost income, lost values and even lost humanity.

“Surely my Facebook rebuttal is enough to end generations of racism”

“Surely my #hashtag is enough to end corporate greed”

“Surely my instagram picture will be enough to prove a 911 conspiracy”

and then…NEXT…

Have we become the NEXT generation? Have we become a NEXT culture?

In other words, is our current outrage more about entertainment and consumerism than it is about the actual tragedy or incident?

I think they way we respond and then quickly disengage moving onto the NEXT thing reveals an apathy and a narcissism that perpetuates systemic issues.

We live at the surface, and the problems we face are much deeper than the “facts.” And I know someone will more than likely cry out against that last statement.

Courts have to deal with facts, we as a society must deal with truths that lead to justice acknowledging the facts.

Today, consider how fast you move onto the NEXT thing.

Today consider how fast you move on from the LAST thing.

Today consider whether or not an incident will incite you to use your bullhorn only, or actually get off the couch and enter into the pain and brokeness as a healer and helper.

A closing thought to ponder from Martin Luther King Jr.:

“The Negro’s great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizens Councilor or the Ku Klux Klanner but the white moderate who is more devoted to order than to justice.”

In light of the current #ferguson battlefield, consider the deeper conversation that is needed before you go NEXT.

 

 

Waking Up

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“These things will destroy the human race: politics without principle, progress without compassion, wealth without work, learning without silence, religion without fearlessness, and worship without awareness.” ~ Anthony de Mello

I wonder if we are waking up.

I wonder if we will finally look beyond our biases.

I wonder if we will grow beyond cycloptic vision.

Donald Sterling made the news this week for the uncloaking of his racism. Writers, talk show hosts and Facebook news feeds began circulating opinions. I heard, read and saw many of them. I heard concepts such as: freedom of speech is being attacked; the free market system would do its job punishing him; He deserved his fines and repurcussions from the NBA; this is a Nazi which hunt…

However, even though I heard much of the expected polarized rhetoric, I also heard an increasing number of voices looking at a larger picture.

Sterling’s actions have a context, as do all actions.

His past racist brushes seem to be even worse than his present, in fact he was fined 3 million dollars over discriminatory practices.

Some voices are calling out our culture on her sound-bite-issue-of-the-nano-second outrage. This makes me wonder if we are waking up.

Generally, people get outraged and fired-up when the media presents the inciting incident…but then, as quickly as fireworks launch, they are forgotten and the masses have jumped to the next thing. But today, there were voices challenging our right to get angry because of our inconsistencies.

“Why are you mad today, when this person has a track record that is even worse?” Some asked perplexed.

“Where was the outrage then?”  Words that unmask our inconsistencies.

When more and more voices put a mirror before us which reveals how inconsistent we are on most issues, I have hope that we are waking up.

Kareem Abdul Jabar spoke a revelatory word in response to the Sterling news:

“So, if we’re all going to be outraged,” the former NBA star wrapped up, “let’s be outraged that we weren’t more outraged when his racism was first evident. Let’s be outraged that private conversations between people in an intimate relationship are recorded and publicly played. Let’s be outraged that whoever did the betraying will probably get a book deal, a sitcom, trade recipes with Hoda and Kathie Lee, and soon appear on ‘Celebrity Apprentice’ and ‘Dancing with the Stars.’”(1)

I think he just exposed our pop culture world.

When we award people for their lack of moral integrity by giving them book deals and TV shows it becomes apparent that in our morality the emperor is wearing no clothes.

Get angry about racism…it’s wrong.

Get angry about injustice…it’s wrong.

Get angry about the erosion of privacy rights…it’s wrong.

I’ll know that we are waking up when we get angry and speak out that something is wrong when we first encounter it, not just when our preferred tribe decides it’s wrong. I’ll also know we are waking up when we apply our outrage in a consistent manner and are willing to point the finger at ourselves for selective voicings.

Are we waking up? I hope so, the world needs resurrection.

 __________________________

(1) http://toprightnews.com/?p=2777