I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality.... I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.
~Martin Luther King, Jr.

Thursday, December 4, 2014


It's been a very long time... I don't really consider myself a writer, but sometimes there's just no better way to process. Sometimes it's just too much to keep inside. And that's a good thing. It's not healthy to keep it inside. And it's usually easier to figure out my scrambled thoughts through writing and rearranging than talking. So here goes...

Today I read this by Eugene Peterson, “Pain isn’t the worst thing. Being hated isn’t the worst thing. Being separated from the one you love isn’t the worst thing. Death isn't the worst thing. The worst thing is failing to deal with reality and becoming disconnected from what is actual. The worst thing is trivializing the honorable, desecrating the sacred. What I do with my grief affects the way you handle your grief; together we form a community that deals with death and other loss in the context of God’s sovereignty, which is expressed finally in resurrection…We don’t become mature human beings by getting lucky or cleverly circumventing loss, and certainly not by avoidance and distraction. Learn to lament.”

Our culture has a tendency to want to avoid dealing with things like pain loss and grief. We go to funerals and now we celebrate the deceased’s life as opposed to mourning the loss of their life. We “comfort” those who can’t conceive with cliches about God’s timing and facts on adoptions or treatments. Black boys and men are getting killed at an overwhelming rate and so many of us continue walking through our daily routines with perhaps a head shake or a “what is going on with the world”, but without taking the time to mourn the loss of so much potential. Not just the potential of these individual lives, created in the image of God, but the potential for our nation to heal and be reconciled, one to another, dwelling together in unity. Perhaps we’re still dealing with this issue because as a nation, as a church we’ve never taken the time to mourn the loss of the african american (and native american) lives and freedom that were taken unfairly and too soon. We do ourselves no justice by avoiding, sweeping under the rug, and the “let’s just forget and move on” mentality. If the way I deal with my grief as a white person affects the way you deal with your grief, then what I do and say and how I act in regards to news about these lives and verdicts is extremely important. 

 We need to learn to lament. Not forget. Not keep calm and carry on. Not riot. But lament. Cry. Mourn with those who mourn. Because his death affects your life, even if you can’t see how. I’m so thankful for a church who is willing to walk into the pain of it’s people. For brothers and sisters who are willing to share their pain and stories and sisters and brothers who are willing to hear and wrestle with the pain of others. We need so much more of this. In formal and informal settings, in the church and outside of it, at work and over coffee. 

While I’m sure the news is a hot mess right now of who’s right and who’s wrong and who deserved what (I don’t actually watch the news), can we all just agree that despite whatever justice or injustice has been done, the loss of life, the segregation of our country, the inequalities that still exist are worthy of grieving.  Let’s not become disconnected from the pain, but push into it. Let's not ignore the difficult, but embrace it. To my white brothers and sisters, I beg of you, be willing to interact with the pain, the anger, the grief. We’ve got to listen. No facts, no cliches, just shared grieving. To my brothers and sisters of color, I beg of you, continue to share your pain. I can only imagine how hard it is when you feel like your deepest emotions and fears are being written off as unjustified or over-reactive. But please don't give up on us. 

God calls us to lament, he calls us to reconcile, and he calls us to unity. We can’t have one without the others. 

Friday, July 22, 2011

Role Models

Today a friend posted on Facebook that he has completed his PhD in Biology at IU!  Pretty cool, right?  Honestly, I can't imagine going back to school to attempt a PhD.  But that being said, there are a lot of other people who can and do and love it.  So it's exciting that my friend pushed through long hours of labs and paper writing and attained his goal, but it's not particularly news worthy.

Or is it?  What he also posted that I failed to mention above is, "In the 100+ year history of Indiana University-Bloomington there have been approximately 10 PhD awarded to African Americans in Biology."  And he is one of them. 

So many thoughts and emotions ran through my head as I read that... "10, is that all?!"  "Pff, that's not surprising.  Look at the world we live in."  "Wow, this guy's a role model for black youth."

That last one, that's what got me.  I was actually thinking about writing that on his wall and then I started thinking...  A role model?  Because he got a PhD?  I mean, people with PhDs are great, but have I ever thought this about any other friend with a PhD?  Is it because he's BLACK and has a PhD?  Is it wrong to think this? 

I don't know.  But it does put a lot of pressure on black men who are successful.

I don't know if you've heard of white privilege, but this is a prime example.  My friend (let's call him) JD, whom we call the rocket scientist, has a PhD in physics (or something sciencey like that).  But I'm pretty sure when he finished his degree he didn't have people coming up to him and saying, "Now you be careful what you do and say.  You're a role model now for all these kids looking up to you!"  At least I never thought that.  But that thought did come to mind with my friend (let's call him) AL.  So where's the "white privilege"?  JD doesn't have to worry about people putting that kind of pressure on him.  In fact, he may not even be aware that some people with the same level of education, but a different skin tone face that kind of pressure.  JD has the privilege of being free and oblivious.  But AL doesn't.  Most likely, wherever he goes in life he'll probably hear things like, "We need more black men like you in our community!" and "Thank goodness these kids have someone like you to look up to!".  And while both those statements are quite possibly true, it sure puts a lot of pressure on a guy.  A pressure most of us have the privilege of not bearing. 

My hope is that AL, who is a fabulous role model for so many reasons other than his degree, will see this unrequested title more as a privilege and honor, and less as a burden.  Congrats again, AL!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Affirmative Action

Two words a lot of people don't like to talk about.  Have you ever been in one of those conversations where a bunch of (white) people are standing around and for whatever reason "affirmative action" comes up and inevitably someone claims that it's akin to reverse racism- all these rules in place that keep deserving white people from getting what they deserve.  Now grant you, there may be some truth in that statement.  There are deserving white people who do not get jobs/university slots/etc because a percentage of the eligible slots must go to people of color.  The debate I suppose comes from the question of whether or not that's fair.

As for myself, I believe that yes, it is fair because there are so many factors at play beyond just the color of skin.  But despite the fact that my personal and political ideologies tell me that this is the case, I still find myself with contradictory thoughts.  About a month ago, I'm sitting on my back porch looking at my then 7 month old son and dreaming about his future when I think to myself, "Poor kid.  He's gonna such a hard time in life being a white male."

Now, if you know me, you may have read that previous sentence imagining a sarcastic intonation in my voice, thinking that you're laughing with me at the absurdity of the statement.  But I kid you not, for a brief moment I was dead serious.  And then I thought, "What am I thinking?!"  As I mentally slapped myself back to reality, I reminded myself that my son, solely because of his whiteness and male gender, will have so many intrinsic opportunities.  People will assume that he's capable of leadership, that he'll be good at math and science (and therefore given opportunities to exceed at these), that he'll not only go to college, but to a good one.  I reminded myself that my son will not be watched suspiciously while he walks through a store, that women will not hold their purses closer when he approaches, that teachers will not assume that he comes from a troubled or broken home and treat him differently.  He'll never fit a racial profile and be pulled over because of the color of his skin, he'll never have to live with the painful memories of racial slurs and side ways glances.  Most likely he will not have to go to a substandard school and receive a substandard education, he will mostly likely never face gangs or violence (I am by no means saying that all people of color do).  And people will never question his ability or intelligence because of his gender, he'll most likely never deal with sexual harassment or fear sexual assault.  In fact there are so many things that he will be completely oblivious to because of his gender and ethnicity, that he might just think that life is unfair when someone of color or a different gender gets chosen over him.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

God, Heaven, and Racism

Which one of these is not like the other...?

I've often been perplexed and frustrated by racial divisions in the Church.  I mean if God's people can't get along, where's the hope for the rest of the world?!  And I know many people in many churches who would swear up and down that they're not racist.  And that their church is open to anyone of any background or color.  That perhaps the church is segregated because it's a cultural thing or a comfort thing, not a racist thing.  But perhaps just being open and not racist isn't enough.  What if lack of unity in the Church and in our churches is preventing unity in our neighborhoods, cities, and nations?

This question also begs the question(s), is unity something we let happen or that we have to actively pursue?  How do we do that?  What does that look like in our lives and churches?  Does this require a proactive response from Me???  To these questions, I don't necessarily have an answer.  But I've seen and been a part of some great churches doing great things to knock down these racial divides.  In these churches I've had a little taste of Heaven on Earth and it's ... I can't even think of a word to accurately describe how great it is. 

So what stirred all these thoughts... I just came across a great article that ask, "How Long Will Sunday Stay Segregated?"
You'll have to flip through the digital magazine to get to the article (on page 41), but it's worth it.  The author talks about this topic much more eloquently than I. 

As always, please feel free to leave me some feedback... your own thoughts, experiences, and wisdom are greatly desired!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

A Little History...

I think the only way to talk about racism without sounding like you’re attacking anyone is to address one’s own racist thoughts. Because we have them. Because I have them. If you asked my friends, both of color and white, they would most likely tell you that I’m not racist. Except for my friend Jacky. She would probably tell you that I’m a “recovering racist”; someone who’s aware of her own racist tendencies and thoughts and is actively working to address and alter them. And I’m inclined to agree with her.

Grad school was the first time I really addressed my own racist inclinations. It was in a multicultural class that I can’t really tell you much about today. I don’t remember the question the professor asked us and I don’t remember what we were reading, and I think the conversation may have followed a documentary called The Color of Fear. But I do remember the conversation was life changing. My cohort of fellow social work students sat in a giant circle in the classroom all looking at each other and discussing (I guess) our experiences with racism. When it was my turn to talk, I shared this story…

“I was working at starbucks last night, the closing shift. It was getting late and we were starting to clean up. I was behind the register when the bell signaling that someone was coming through the door rang. I looked up and it was a black man in a sweatshirt with the hood pulled up and gloves on. And my initial thought was, “I don’t know what to do if he pulls a gun”. He walked to the counter as I slightly panicked and tried to not look like I was slightly panicking, as my mind raced through what I was supposed to do if we got robbed and wondering why no one had ever talked to us about what to do if we got robbed. And then he got to the counter and ordered a frappaccino. And paid for it. And I felt relief and then shame.”

Why was my initial thought when this man walked through the door that I was going to get robbed? I started crying as I shared the story with my classmates. I could have argued with myself that it was not the color of his skin, but the way he was dressed. But when I asked myself if a young white man in a hoodie walked into my starbucks late at night would I have come to the same conclusion? The answer was a resounding, “No”. I admitted to myself and to my classmates that as much as I didn’t want these thoughts, I a Master of Social Work candidate, who hates racism and loves social justice, was still fighting racist thoughts.

Which brings me back to today. 4-5 years later, I still find myself with these ridiculous racist thoughts popping up in my head. So many people think we live in a post-racist world. That racism doesn’t affect individual’s futures and opportunities or the way we interact with each other. But I think if we’re honest with ourselves, we’ll discover like I did, that at best we’re recovering racists. Which I think is a good place to start. Like any good 12 step program, admitting your problem is the first step.

Why write about such a taboo topic?!

In grad school, I had a sort of awakening to racism in society and racism within myself. I know, I know. What racism?? Today?! Nooo... I feel like as a scoiety we don't want to talk about racism, no one wants to be called racist, and most of all we certainly don't want to admit to being racist. But I hate racism. And the only way I can think of to even attempt to end it, is to confront it. Head on. So here we go...