BTSF in chronological order (most recent articles appear first):

Friday, December 31, 2010

Church for All People

Some folks come to the UM Church for All People (C4AP) because they don't feel welcome at any other church (travesty!).
Some come out of desire to serve under-privileged communities in need.

I come for more selfish reasons.
I come to C4AP because of a conviction that isolating ourselves among believers of similar backgrounds only deprives our own souls of God's majesty. Rich diverse community is how we will know who God is. I have not come to serve the poor. I have come to sit at the feet of those that can show me the face of Christ.
In that regard, I am really spoiled at C4AP.

On Sunday mornings, I have the privilege of worshiping with a beautiful body of believers at C4AP. Together, we worship with the very poor, the very rich, the young, the old, the gay, the straight, many races, many nationalities, many backgrounds. Isolation within our own groups is not what God would have for us. Instead, the early church gives us a model for worshiping together as the diverse body of Christ, and I am convinced that in doing so, we draw nearer to Him. The Triune God is our model: diverse, but unified as One.

What message does it send the world when we will not unite together to worship our Jesus? What does it mean when someone is more welcome on a street corner than they are in a church pew? What does it say about Christ if drug lords are more inviting and less discriminating in their outreach than our pastors? As Christians, we should be on the forefront of inclusively, not limping along in the rear.

We come to Jesus to find comfort, but no one said church would be comfortable. It can be hard to share a meal with the sick, or have an eye-to-eye conversation with the those struggling to get by. But as with so much of Christ's call for our lives, it is worth it! This is not a charitable endeavour, but one that is fundamental for own souls.

You may serve food at a soup kitchen, but have you eaten at the table as well? You may pray for the poor, but do you ask for their prayers as well? Unless we have an attitude of equal partnership and fellowship, we cheapen and divide the body of Christ. Conversely, when we partner with each other in our daily lives, we offer a witness to the world of God's life-altering grace and love.

I have found that C4AP really is a church for ALL people. They accept me at face value, with my odd music styles, with my awkwardness, my privileged background. It reminds me of Cincinnati Vineyard's "Come as you are and you'll be loved," with an added "and God's not finished with you yet." They don't just accept me, they embrace me, they affirm me, and then they challenge me to be better and hold me accountable. This is the kind of deep community that Jesus is talking about. This is how the world will come to know who He is.

It may be that I could do better work serving God at a more homogeneous church, spreading the word or racial justice and helping to cultivate multicultural community there. But for now, I will relish in the luxury of the koinonia that C4AP provides, and try learn as much as I can from my sisters and brothers there. The Church for All People is my home, and I am so grateful for its generosity with me.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Face lift!

I have updated some previous posts, adding pictures, bolding keywords, and directing you to related posts of mine. I think it adds a lot--especially on Katelin in China. I think the added examples there are helpful.

I am also looking to change the overall look of the blog--color scheme ect. I just have no idea what combinations look good together. Open to suggestions from anyone who has some better sense of it.


See Also:

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Colbert Report

Just saw this clip from the Colbert Report. I was impressed with what he had to say and it matched many of my thoughts:
Jesus Is a Liberal Democrat

See Also:

Wednesday, December 15, 2010


I realize I am probably not the first person to make this observation, but it occurs to me that in the United States we have four most prominent holidays:

One for eating (Nov. 25ish)
One for stuff (Dec. 25th)
One for drinking (Dec. 31)
One for explosives (July 4)

Arguably, the next most significant holiday is for sex (Feb. 14)

So here we have a (admittedly reductionist) distillation of what American culture celebrates! ;-)

Sunday, December 12, 2010


Is TSA too invasive?

I think it's funny that for the most part it is the same people that were crying out for tighter homeland security for the past ten years that are now complaining about these new regulations.
Make up your minds already!

You know what I think the difference is? I think it's about who is on the receiving end of the screening. Make sure that those Muslims and A-rabs get the pat down, but don't touch my personal privacy and freedoms! Catch all of those Ne'er Do Wells on the streets, but leave my kids alone.  

Here is a like-minded article:
Civil Liberties: Now With More Privileged People | California NOW
"It is no accident that women have been complaining about being pulled out of line because of their big breasts, having their bodies commented on by TSA officials, and getting inappropriate touching when selected for pat-downs for years now, but just this week it went viral. It is no accident that transgender people have been violated by searches for years, but just this week it went viral. It is no accident that CAIR identified Islamic head scarves (hijab) as an automatic trigger for extra screenings in January, but just this week it went viral. What was different?Suddenly an able-bodied cis-gendered white man is the one who was complaining."

And another:

So whether you think TSA has gone too far, or you think we are still letting terrorists on plans willy-nilly, know what your privileges are....and remember to wear loose shoes when you fly.

See Also:
Troy Davis: Georgia's 'Strange Fruit'
What is a post-9/11 American?
Grateful for God's Protective Favor but...

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Bush, and being called a 'Racist'

Bush has said that the worst moment of his presidency was being called a racist by Kanye West. But he is crying white woman's tears (more on that herehere, here, and here). And I'm not too sympathetic.

It seems that the worst thing you can call a white person is 'racist.' A common scene at 'diversity workshops': a white person gets corrected in her prejudices and then SHE'S the one in tears and being comforted.

It hurts to get called out, especially if it not done in a loving way. But throwing a fit because your feelings are hurt only serves to derail the conversation from the larger issues at hand. Even if you were falsely accused or you were misinterpreted, are you really trying to pit this moment of discomfort against centuries of on ongoing oppression?

We need to have grace for each other in conversations about race: both for those that make ignorant statements, and for those that react with passionate anger to those statements. Is Bush a racist? Absolutely. So am I (see post: Defining Racism). Racism is like any sin: recognizing that we are broken is the first step to fixing it.

Denial isn't going to get us anywhere. We are all prejudiced and all white folks receive benefits from the color of their skin. Many other factors of privilege may intermingle and confuse the issue, but the truth remains that racial prejudice is a prevalent and persistent beast in each one of us as members of racial majority.

Does Bush 'not care about black people'? I don't know his heart. But I do know that our black brothers and sisters go through a lot of struggles that white folks as a whole don't care about, or don't even pause to consider. We go about our lives benefiting from institutionalize racial privileged, not even realizing we have them, let alone actively working against them. I think it is probably fair to assume that Bush is like most white people. So yes, he and we are racist.

Rather than getting all in a huff about being called a name that probably does apply, it would have been nice if Bush had addressed the issue head on. He could have said "Yes, and I am sorry. I don't know if I would have acted differently if the hurricane had struck Boston, but I know I am a product of a culture that makes value judgments based on color and that I am susceptible to those biases. I am working to correct that in myself and I am sorry for the pain that I cause in the meantime." But it takes guts to say something like that, even if you aren't in the national spotlight.

To some extent, white offense stems from a barrier that we put up between ourselves and those "real racists" (see Basically Good).  As in: "we aren't burning crosses, so we must be alright. And don't you dare lump me in with those folks." Unfortunately, this characterization means that modern racism is alive and well and is allowed to run rampant.

It alive in the movie industry, and in the television shows. It is in our advertising and our marketing strategies. It is in out hiring policies and our admissions requirements. It is in our housing guidelines and our public policies.

And it is in the Presidents that get offended.

See Also:
Basically Good
Reverse Discrimination
Abagond on Post-Jim Crow Racism and Jim Crow Racism
Abagond on White Womens' Tears
Abagond on the Five Walls of Racism

Monday, November 15, 2010

Repost from LIE

We have had conversations with several of the readers here about the definition of racism and how white folk percieve this concept. This post recently appeared on the blog Love Isn't Enough and I thought it had some good characterizations:


Recently, writer Ta-Nehisi Coates asked the readers of his blog what it means “among white people” to be a racist. He clarifies:
 I don’t mean under the sanction of black people. I mean in places where there are no black people. It almost feels like, among whites, to be accused of being a racist is a class slur. Like racist is short for “inbred uncultured hick.” It’s fascinating. 
Coates’ readers responded, and the conversation was both thoughtful and thought-provoking. I’d like to draw attention to a few comments, which I thought were right on the money.
Comment 1:
It’s funny. This paranoia about “seeming” and being acknowledged as a good person was present even when slavery/racism were legally institutionalized. Slaveowners, businesspeople, all of them recognized the same thing we’re still astounded by, that they were privileged and empowered, and they tried to do “generous” things that would make them feel better. I’m paraphrasing Anthony Keyes a historian here, but the nature of their largesse was such that the institution would never have to change.
The upshot of all this anxiety is still in the end to not alter the locus of power and privilege. Not getting past this guilt, laying the charge on future generations to grow up in a world without guilt, is just one more step inserted in the process to slow down the present journey of getting somewhere useful. It’s keeping the dialogue on glass, on sensitivities.
 Comment 2:
My current theory is that we have the pictures and videos of the white hatred during the civil rights struggles, including against school children. We say to ourselves that is what racism looks like, and I would never do that so therefore I’m not a racist. I don’t think you’ll find any white persons (very few, anyway) who would defend those contorted angry white faces, but I think we are ready to pat ourselves on the back for not being like that. We let a black driver pull out in front of us and say to ourselves, “I’m not a racist. No sir, not me.” We nod at a mixed race couple at a restaurant and say to ourselves, “My grandfather would have punched that black so-and-so in the nose, but not me. See how civilized I am.” We have a black family living in our suburban neighborhood and congratulate ourselves that it doesn’t even bother us. To my chagrin, I find myself making the same arguments, and then I realize what I’m doing and I’m ashamed.
We have defined racism down to the most virulent level and everything else is OK, proof that we’re not racists. This is probably similar to what the owners of those contorted angry faces were thinking in the fifties, “I think slavery is bad, so therefore I can’t be a racist.”
Comment 3:
Of all people, I think Jane Smiley actually nailed this in her now famous essay where she blasts Mark Twain and “Huck Finn,” arguing that we should be reading “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” in schools instead. Smiley said, and I’m paraphrasing here, that the problem with white people was that they tended to believe that racism was a feeling, or an emotion, rather than a deep institutional reality that existed outside of one person’s capacity for rationalization–that way, the white person could always simply gauge their own feelings at the moment and determine they weren’t racist: “Gee, I don’t hate black people, so of course I’m not racist.”
Comment 4:
To be considered a racist, as a white person, is one of several things:
a) You are saying or do something that, on the face of it is racist. And yet you don’t feel like you hate them black people. So you can’t be racist. ‘Cause racism is hate, and you don’t feel hate.
b) You are a bad person, and “racist” is a convenient word to throw at you. There is no defense, and trying to defend yourself simply makes you look worse and worse.
c) You are completely blind to the idea that other people who don’t look like you might actually have their own, valid viewpoints and values; said people do not need your approval for them to go on living and being satisfied with their lives. You think, however, that if you feel a warm sense of approval you are being non-racist.
d) You think that the people who don’t look like you would be normal if they would just think like you do and do things like you do; however, you will never really accept them because they are not white – they will simply still be second-class, but they will be an acceptable second class.
e) You realize that to be safe and to fit in, you have led an unexamined life where casual racism is disguised as discernment and value-judging. The idea that you might really be racist is deeply unpleasant to you, because you know racism is wrong. And yet, you realize that you are deeply unhappy with the way things are, so you decide to risk everything and think, “Maybe I am racist. Just a bit. Where it’s not so bad.”
f) You are a racist, and realize it, and you are saddened and ashamed and yet you realize that the first step to stepping out of racism is to realize how thoroughly tainted you are with it.
Readers, what do you think? What rings true, or doesn’t, about these comments? How would you answer Coates’ question?


  1. Katelin wrote:
    comment 2 is very well stated and I think quite true. It is this perseption that contributes to the difficulties of educating white folks about racism and the privileges they receive. In my experience it is essential to break down the perception that racism is limited to extreamists and is rather a condition common to all white folks as benafactors of institutionalized systems of racial preference. Sometimes McIntosh’s Invisible Knapsack is a staring place to open eyes from an accessible source and I like Dr. Tatum’s writtings on these matters as well. Practical, concrete everyday examples of privilege are helpful in demonstrating the widespread nature of racism and moving beyond the narrowly defined characacterisation of ‘cross-burning rasist’ that cause white folk to baulk at that classification. Identifying and recognizing one’s self as racist is an essential first step in white folks’ racial understanding.
  2. E wrote:
    I think those comments are spot on, especially #4. There is definitely a white blindness to the subtle forms of racism, and in the case of two people I know, confusion as to racism vs. prejudice. As in, racism is the extreme behavior seen in the Civil Rights era & prejudice is when you don’t associate with POC personally but you have no problems associating with them professionally – you have African-American work friends, but not personal friends. You wouldn’t do anything to actively discriminate against them (racism, by my coworker’s definition) but they have a different culture & you’re not interested in developing friendships with them (”just a little prejudice” – again her definition).
    And I would add that in my state, the word “racism” instantly brings to mind Caucasian vs. African-American. Racism against Latinos is creeping into that mental image, but American Indians and other POC? Doesn’t even register.
  3. E wrote:
    In other words, my coworker’s feeling was that being “a little prejudiced” toward people unlike you was natural and, while I got her to admit it was something to be embarrassed about, she still said it wasn’t “racism.”
  4. MM wrote:
    I just love comment #3 – the J. Smiley representation is the classic comment I encouter working for racial justice at the HS where I teach.

    See Also:
    Bush and Hurt Feelings
    And Then I Realized I was White
    Reverse Discrimination 

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Grateful for God's protective favor, but...

...not for the officer's

Last night, I totaled my car in a highway accident. Walked away. Praise God.

The guy that cut me off didn’t stop driving and so was not on the scene when the police came. All the cop saw was my car crashed at night against the cement guard for no obvious reason.

The policeman didn’t give me a ticket, didn’t ask for my license, didn’t ask for insurance or registration,  didn’t even ask my name or how it happened. He just made sure I was alright, called me a tow truck, and waited with me until it came.

For all the officer knew, I could have stolen that car, or I could have been high and lost control on the road, or I could have been driving without a license at all. Or I could have been an illegal immigrant.

But he didn’t think I was 'that kind of person'
and so he didn't question me at all.

This is white privilege.

See Also:
Arizona's Ban on 'Ethnic Studies'
What is a post-9/11 American?

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Ballet Requiem!!: a review

BalletMet's production of 'Requiem!!' opened this weekend and  I have several thoughts on the matter:

Loved the concept! Adding movement to Mozart's final death mass is a delightful idea.

But the show lost immediate cool points when the lights dimmed and the (wrong) opening bars were pumped in over a PA system. I know it expensive to hire live musicians (though choir would have been basically free), but what a terribly missed opportunity for innovative collaboration. The recording was a Süssmayr edition of the score and I have some guesses as to who the performers were (if anyone knows for a fact let me know)-- Loved LOVED the soprano. Definitely disagreed with the alto. Basses always make me happy. I don't remember the tenor (a point in itself).

I am sure one of the reasons for opting  for a recording was because of the odd choice in program order, which I found terribly disorienting. Teil 1 and 3 were palindromic, beginning with the end of the Sequentia and working to the Introitus and then back again. Teil 2 consisted of the Offertorium, the Sanctus, and the Agnus Dei. As far as I can remember the Communo was left out.

I am at a loss to determine the artistic motivation behind this choice, beyond simply a desire to break audience expectation of the Mass and to lengthen performance--both of which were thoroughly accomplished. But it left one with a a lack of line both harmonically and thematically, yielding a Judus-like death scene in the middle of the Kyrie, of all things. I rarely could find any connection between the liturgy we were hearing and the dance we were seeing. So then why bother with this piece? There are plenty of pieces about death out there, without the need to exploit the fame of Shaffer's Amadeus! The performance is loosely biographical of Mozart, which is perhaps apt to his death-bed composition. But I find him hardly a motivating subject under the weight of the liturgical symbolism.  And indeed Death was the stronger character throughout the performance.

The set was well crafted with exists and stairs that only a select few characters had the power to navigate. Above it all, the thrown of God looked down in observation and/or judgement. Fun touch.

I am not in a position to comment about the dance. As a lay person, I was impressed, but not enthralled. Fair enough. The same can be said for Strauss! The artists were well disciplined and conditioned (as Adrienne Benz displayed for us on the program cover--my, what strong calves you have!) and executed a clean show.  Swinging ropes allowed for a promising prop, but were not maximally utilized. But then again, these are dancers, not aerialists.

One final critique that is not limited to BalletMet, but that is the reason for the review's inclusion in this particular blog.  Of the large (50+) cast, there was only one person of color, as far as I could tell (from my, admittedly nose-bleed seats).  But my frustration is not only with the ballet companies, but with the audiences members that tolerate it/don't even notice.  Upon mentioning my observation of the cast demographics, I was asked why it bothered me at all. I wish I were quicker on my toes with live rebuttal. Why does it bother me!?!  Let me count the ways.

It bothers me that people put so much faith in meritocracy. We falsely assume that the process is fair and unbiased--that if someone is successful, it is clearly of their own doing. No doubt each dancer on that stage is extremely talented and works incredibly hard everyday. But chances are good, they also had some help along the way. They had parents that could afford to send them to dance classes, and to transport them to and from rehearsals. They could devote time to practice because someone else was worrying about the rent. They had the funds or the credit score to go to college. They had the security of knowing that if they flat on their faces, they have a support system to fall back on. A support system that has been cultivated over decades of advantage to accumulate the security needed to pursue big dreams of stardom.

Do all white folk have these supports and resources ? no. Do a lot more of them have privilege that come with institutionalized systems of bias? Absolutely.

A second response I received that night was a long the lines of  "When it comes to auditions and one person is just better than another, there is isn't anything wrong with that."

Again, this statement assumes a fair and equal process, something that people of color have yet to enjoy as a daily reality. Once you make the sacrifices to get to the audition, you hope that no prejudices await you from the director's chair. So much of casting is about "look" and "fit." And what does that mean? who knows? It depends on the director, who is a product of a racialized society.  If something just isn't quite right with a dancer, could it be that he doesn't fit in your box of who a dancer can be? If two dancers give good auditions, which one gets the benefit of the doubt, the nod that says, 'I know your performances will ultimately be better'? Then, if you make the part, but your fellow cast members and directors are skeptical that you fit the mold, do you have the strength to give it your all and prove them wrong everyday? Or wouldn't it be easier to accept the fact that you are out of you element and hit the snooze button instead of getting up for that 5 AM work out? In the cut throat audition world, every advantage counts. And membership in the racial majority is one heck of an advantage.

I don't claim to know much about ballet culture, but I imagine it is much like the rest of the world, including that of the opera stage. An excerpt from previously published work:

"Bass-baritone Simon Estes recalls his White-American agent recently warning him bluntly of what he as a singer has already experienced: “if two people go into an audition, if one is of color and the other is not….if their talents are the same, they will take the White artist. If the Black artist is a little bit better, they will take the White artist. If the Black artist is much, much better, they will take the Black artist, but then they will pay him less.”* Of course, there is little proof that such discrimination happens, which can be extremely frustrating. Few declaim outright that this is what they are doing, and maybe it is not readily apparent to the casting directors themselves. However, it is a very real experience to hundreds of singers of color—an experience for which I have no personal basis of denial."

What else readers? I know I am forgetting some points here.

The situation is this, seeing such a disproportionately represented cast bothered me because it is a sign that BalletMet, like so many other organizations across the country is not doing its part to work against the inertia of racism that slows us all down. And audiences are not demanding that it happen either. I believe it is incumbent upon the benefactors of racial advantage to use some of that privilege to undo these wrongs.  Yes that means sacrifices, and yes it means stepping aside so someone else can have "our spot." A spot that never would have been ours to begin with, but for the forced sacrifices of others.

All this to say, I did enjoy myself (seriously) and you should and support live arts!

ps. After the show we went out for drinks. Sam Cooke was playing in the background....heh.

*Rosalyn M. Story et al., Aida's Brothers & Sisters (West Long Branch, N.J.: PARS Media; Kultur distributor, 2000).

See Also:
Reverse Decriminalization
Affirmative Action
News for the Golden Child

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


These city maps use census data to visually depict our racial isolation. Red dot is 'White', Blue is 'Black', Green is 'Asian', Orange is 'Hispanic', Gray is 'Other', and each dot represents 25 people.

The division is clear: don't cross that line. Because prejudice is inherited, and when you live in isolation, there's no reason to think your parents got it wrong. Because after all of the protests, the violence, and the busing, the map still looks the same. And who cares if it's equal as long as we're separate...

Pictures paint the islands of blue or orange in the center of the cities, surrounded by a sea of suburban red. Because just one street over is the wrong side of town. And they are in that school district, and we don't know them, and they don't think like we do, and they just don't belong with us. And that's how it is.

And if you live on the "blue" side of Parson Ave., the city doesn't care if your streets aren't plowed, or if the empty houses are crumbling, or if you fall neck-deep in a pothole. But they'll care darn fast if some blue kid gets too 'rowdy' and doesn't 'respect the law.'

Because if you're separate, you're divided. And you swear you love your neighbor, but you don't even share the same neighborhood. So you've got no clue how to share each others' burdens.  And nothing's gonna change unless you live together, grow together, more than just drive the highways together--try crying together.

Your isolation perpetuates your ignorance--and your isolation is easy to see.

UPDATE: Some initial statistics have been released from the 2010 census

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Freedom Writers

One of the wonderful things about college, is staying up late having deep conversations with friends over munchies and crafts. I remember one night with some friends in a UR dorm room complaining about how exhausted I was applying for graduate school, taking the GREs, traveling for interviews. I was tired, but I was also proud. I liked the path I was on. But someone asked me "so why do you do it? How will it help you to serve God better? What is so important about GREs and grad school?  Will you make a difference there?" She went on to Teach For America where she is making a difference.

I tell myself that I am not going to grad school just to hide away in my ivory tower. In my mind, I go so that I can speak change from a position of power to the heart of the institution. So that the privileged majority can hear how much their status is destroying themselves--and even if it didn't affect them, why they should care about it anyway.  That there need to be more people like Dr. Mayes, Dr. Hughes, and Dr. Longobardi  in academia. I tell myself that if they hear it from one of their own, maybe they will stop and listen a little more carefully. It's not right, but its true.

But is it still just an excuse? How do I justify the time I spend? Why should volunteering a couple of times a week be enough, when I can have any food I want at the grocery store? If I count the minutes as I converse with someone coming into the church off the streets, how can I complain about the time I spend counting the minutes in a classroom? How can I grumble about the neighborhood noise, when I sleep safe and sound the every night? How dare I have pride of my elevated position when it has come through selfishness? But Ah! I will be a different kind of privileged person. I will know my privilege and feel guilt for it! See how much better I am!?

And so I will give a little more money, a little more time, but then what? The poorest Americans are still better of than half the rest of the world. So I then I quit school, sell my stuff, move to a country that you (I) can't locate on the map. All the while remaining the naive white girl who has very little comprehension of what the real struggle is about.

But how do I justify leading a life that is anything other than that of Reverend Toyohiko Kagawa and other Heroes for Christ. Where does it end? When is enough? It isn't. That is the condition we live in. I am blessed with the life abundant and do not begrudge God's generosity--a grace that by definition I cannot pay back. But is that an excuse for not trying?

And I recall the similar struggles I had it prioritizing my time in Richmond. Volunteer with CHAT in the inner city, or work to bring transformation to the homogeneity on campus? I stayed on campus. I remember that that my calling for so long has been in educating white people about their privilege in order to halt further destruction, not necessarily in working for  the reversal the damage that is already there. We need it on both sides for the cycle to end. But there is always more I could do.

And what if I am misguided in my vision? I believe fervently that if Christ were here today He would be living and worshiping in the inner-city community, but will I still do it when I get a pay raise, or a child?  What if I want to stay, but my husband doesn't? Where is the balance between this deep social conviction and my commitment to unity and loyalty in marriage, or to better schools for my child someday? If God meets my family in the quiet reverent place, but I force us to attend a rambunctious inner-city church, am I encouraging open-mindedness, or denying that quiet communion with God? If I assuage my guilt while my loved one's soul starves, who am I serving? Not him, and probably not Christ either. But how do I justify attending a church that thinks they are good Samaritans just because a some subcommittee or a youth group volunteers at a soup kitchen once a month?

Pausing. Remembering to love. All God's children. Even the privileged ones. Forgive me for my sins of pride and self-righteousness.

The point is this:
I get pretty excited about neurons and nanodrops, but not nearly as excited as when I explain institutionalized racism to someone and they understand their privilege for the first time. This is what I was made to do. So why aren't I doing it? I guess I like my privilege.

A friend and classmate of mine says she thinks about joining Teach for America instead of pushing forward with all of the hoops and minutia of grad school.  If she does, she might be smarter than of all of us that stay behind.

See Also:
Why I Love the Church for All People
The Premise
Why It Is Important

Monday, August 23, 2010


So, while stopping for lunch during a bike ride with my mom (40 miles, thank you very much!), I went into the restroom and there were posters advertising a free lunch day for fire/police/EMT first responders. And my initial thought was "Why would they put these up in the women's restroom?"

See Also:
Still Ignorant
And Then I Realized I was White

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Representatives of Christ

In response to the last post about some of the Church's PR problems Melissa made some important comments that are deserving their own post/thread:
"Here's the question that's been on my mind a lot...with the predominantly negative and oppressive influence Christianity has on so many groups, is it morally right to continue to associate with such a group? If you say yes, do you think that by associating with a mainstream group practicing such horrible things as what is mentioned about makes you more susceptible to practicing those things in turn? Can one stand for greater values like liberty and justice for the oppressed and still be connected to Christian religion with all its history and negative influence on culture? being a part of this religion, how do you keep apart from the ones who might be negatively influencing the culture? For that matter, how do you deal with the possibility that at times you yourself as a Christian are doing more harm than good? By you, that is the implied you all."

My thoughts (share yours below!):
All too common sentiment
I hear more and more people identify themselves as "followers of Christ" rather than as "Christians," and I can understand why. The church is really broken. But I do think it is important to stick with the church and try to work on it from within. To the outside world, "Christians" will always represent Christ, whether they do a good job of it or not. If all of the sane people leave the church, I fear the pain that it causes will only increase.

Christ called us to be one with each other and to gather together into a body of believers. He saw the brokenness of organized religion is His day, and definitely was critical of it, but also did not come to abolish the institution. He called for change, while functioning within the established fellowship of Judaism. I think this is a model for us to follow. Even the most misguided of Christians are our siblings in Christ. I think as best as one can, one should stick with the offending organization. "Be the change you want to see…" and all that.

Same goes for individual churches that are broken. It is so easy to get disgruntled with a pastor, or to feel uncomfortable with a certain worship style, or have a grudge against certain members of the church . But I believe Christ calls us to unity beyond our differences. But it’s not easy. In fact, it can be extremely painful and there are sometimes points where it is better to go separate ways (Paul had moments like this), but it must come only after much deliberation and with an understanding of the witness of disunity it gives to the world. After all, if we cannot love each other, how can people trust us to love them?

The church is a family. And like any family we have our crazy uncles, selfish sisters, racist grandparents, and misbehaving children. We don't have to condone any of that and in fact should speak out against it. But we are still family. It can be dangerous, though, as Melissa implies. It is easy to take on others' habits. But that happens with anyone with whom we choose to hang out, not just our siblings in Christ, so we might as well be work for the betterment of the family at the same time.

We remember as well that as individuals we are sinful, and so often make poor ambassadors for Christ. Paul beats himself up for that all time. "We fall down, but we get up. For a saint is just a sinner who fell down, and got back up,” by God’s grace. And by His grace He continues to let us help as He goes about his work. Like a loving parent letting His little child help with the dishes. He knows that a few of them might get broken, and they won’t be cleansed of all of the grime, and it will take twice as long, but He allows us to be in partnership with Him. We have to have faith that ultimately He is in control through our shortcomings.

Can I stay with an organization that has such a negative history? Absolutely. To do otherwise would be to turn my back on a Church that my God adores deeply. Just as neither Allah nor Muslims around the world are in the slightest way represented by the extremists of 9/11, neither is Christ (nor am I) represented by ‘condemnation Christianity’. Of course we have to understand and account for the fact that when extreme people claim to be working for the team as we do, it makes our job much more difficult. We must be patient with people whose opinions of us are shaped by the negative examples they see, just as we would when working against any negative stereotype .

Christians have caused a lot of pain in the world, but they have also done a tremendous amount of good. Christ designed a network of believer to support each other as we work to bring a bit of His kingdom here on earth. We are broken because we are of this world, but His initial Commission is still at the core of who we are as a body and through tat we can do great things in his name. UMCOR is a great example of that, I think. And there are thousands of other positive examples for Christ both today and in history. Off the top of my head, author and philosopher, Chris Sunami, writes a great book, Hero for Christ, that sites many other examples. Perhaps some other posters can share some favorite testimony of their own?

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Stuff Church People Do

Macon Dee runs/ran a blog called 'stuff white people do' that explores racism and is a place for white people to go to educate themselves. His bio says "I'm a white guy, trying to find out what that means. Especially the 'white' part." He has had a lot of good stuff up with some excellent guest writers as well. He has recently gone on hiatus for a time, and I posted a comment with the address of this blog as a option for people while he is away. The comment was rejected on the following grounds:

"your blog isn't explicitly anti-racist, and I have no interest in helping to promote Christianity"

His blog, his call. Fair enough. But the decision is worth examining. Although, I am not exactly sure what it means to be anti-racist, I certainly hope this blog is full-heartedly anti-racism. That aside, it is his second comment that is the most important.

More often then not, the church is seen as a roadblock to justice and freedom. For thousands, it is a source of brokenness and rejection, and forcing the needy to seek their fellowship and comfort with secular groups. Many white people come to racial awareness in settings far outside the church. To them, the church  is the epitome of institutionalized close-mindedness, and so they fight religion right along with fighting injustice. And by-in-large we have earned that reputation with a history of indifference and downright propagation of racial injustice. It hurts to receive comments like Macom's, but what hurts more is that I have no response for it. Shame on us church. We have screwed up. Let us be all the more diligent as we move forward in the hope of earning back a little bit of the trust we have squandered.

For some convicting research studies and statistics try Divided by Faith.

See Also:
Representatives of Christ
Why I love the Church for All People
Colbert Report
Small Things Done with Great Love

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Color of Freedom

Another quick movie review:
Color of Freedom is about the apartheid in South Africa. It follows a white prison warden and his family as they struggle as to overcome their prejudices to ultimately reach a new enlightenment and save the day.

Oh yeah and Nelson Mandela is in it too.

Typical, huh?

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Black Hawk Down

Though Black Hawk Down was released in 2001, I am only just now getting around to watching it for the first time. What an ugly movie. Columbus has a high Somali population and apparently they aren't entirely welcome here. I wondered where the nasty stereotypes were coming from. I don't wonder anymore. As popular as this movie was, I am sure it contributed.

For a small taste of some of the issues on cinematic portrayal of the "other," check out the trailer for the movie. Note how "exotic" music and dark color is used to signify the "other" aka the 'enemy' aka crowds of angry/poor black people (notice how the music changes when the American soldiers appear). The whole movie is a mess of poor judgment ranging from the subtle to the blatant.

Maybe this leads into a post soon about how the media treats Africa...or maybe I will just direct you here for starters. I am going to bed.

See Also:
Color of Freedom
Freedom Writers
Ballet Requiem

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Katelin in China

Imagine, if you will, you are an exchange student living in China for a semester. You are attending classes there and you are one of ten white kids enrolled in the school. You walk through the hall. Look at the all people around you. What do you see? What do you feel? Maybe a couple of kids stare at you. Maybe a lot of kids stare at you? Maybe they avert their gazes and don’t make eye contact. Do you feel like initiating a conversation with them?

You are new to the school, so you get lost and are late to your first class. The professor rolls his eyes when he sees you appear and a student in the back makes a comment about Yankees not being able to tell time.

The class period is spent talking about Chinese musical technique and how superior it is to that of Western countries. You remind yourself of all the superb musicians you know back home, but feel a little less confident in your own abilities. One kids piped up "yeah...I mean, if Americans were such good musicians, there would be more of them in the music honors classes here!"

Every head in the room turns to you. They want to know what you will say, how you will react, if you will lash out in anger or get on a soap box. The teacher asks you “what do you Americans think about these issues?” Like you can speak for the whole country.

You want to reminded them that there are only ten American kids in the whole school, that six of them ARE in the honors classes. But the discussion moves on before you can fully articulate your arguments.  Do you feel like raising your hand to answer any more of the teachers questions? Do you feel you will have the motivation and confidence to do well on the upcoming exam? Do you feel it will be graded fairly?

Saved by the bell, you find your way to the cafeteria. There, across the room you see two kids sitting a table wearing jeans and t-shirts. The one in the Reds baseball cap is speaking English in stead of Chinese. You feel some relief at seeing them. You sit with them for lunch that day, and the day after that too. You are there in your island of safety in a sea of potential hostility.

After school you go home and plop on the couch to relax in front of the TV. You turn to a sit com. It shows a happy Chinese family and their daily life as normal Chinese citizens. They have this goofy American cowboy neighbor that is always good for a laugh.  During the commercial break, there is an ad for a new toy showing happy Chinese parents and their happy Chinese son.

Next, an add for shampoo “to bring out your deep black natural color and emphasize straight beautiful hair.” Your hair is blonde and curly. The next commercial finally has white people in it. They are advertising good old American pie, but the actors on the screen are dressed in overalls and say things like “aint that there a mighty fine piece o’ pie.” Who actually talks like that?

You turn off the TV and take a walk outside. Not too far down the road, a complete stranger stops you. “Your nose is humongous!” what? She pauses, and tries again in a way that you might understand better:
"aint that there a mighty fine schnoz." She wants to touch it. She gets offended when you don’t want her to: “I was just appreciating your heritage.” And even though you think the lady might have meant it as a complement you can’t help wishing you could hide behind a scarf. 

Now imagine you're not in China. Imagine you are in your own country, where you were born and raised. That country has a history of institutionalizing racism, and you get the short end of it. This isn't vacation, this is home. This is everyday.

This post isn't trying to rag on China, in fact most of my time there was wonderful and I was welcomed and treated well. But those moments when you are reminded of how different others think you are can become exhausting. All the rules seem tailored for someone else and you feel out of place.

I have never had to know what it is like on a daily basis to live in a system of discrimination. A short trip isn't that big of a deal when you know you can retreat back to your comfy white American middle class home at the end.

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Wednesday, June 30, 2010


I just had the sushi lunch that my husband made for me...and ate it next to a Japanese postdoc in our lab, who ate a Wendy's hamburger. Switcheroo! すりかえ!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Yep...Still ignorant

Nothing like a good humbling moment to educate one's self!
So let’s do a quick self-check since I've been away a while.....Yep...I'm still ignorant!

The issue at hand, as it so often is, is about hair. Me? I love to see a black woman with just the same kind of beautiful natural hair that the Father gave her. But it is totally not my call to make. You wear it how you like it and more power to you.

So, a woman that I work with came in after the weekend with a gorgeous new hair style. You know that it took some time and money and it was really well done. But I know better than to make an ignorant comment about a black woman's hair. Problem is, I still don't know which comments are the ignorant ones. Why? Duh...I'm ignorant! I share my experience here so that we can all get educated together.

So anyway, I didn't want to make a big deal about the new hair. Told her I liked her hair on Monday, but that  was all. Tuesday, just making conversation I asked her if it was a weave or if it was all her. OOPS!

"Dang! I’ve got to educate every white girl I come across about talking about hair! Just say 'you look beautiful' and leave it at that.” She went on to explain how I really don't need to know whether it is a weave or not. Just let her be her beautiful self and don’t mess.

Amen! It was a quick interaction, but I am so blessed and lucky that she had the calm, the patience, and the presence of mind that addressed the ouch. It would have been so much easier to get mad and walk away.

I observed in myself how quickly I can get prideful, how I can think I know what I am talking about…how I can get too comfortable with race and somehow think I am entitled to something. And then God puts you right back at square one, feeling dazed and confused...and defensive! If there is one thing I want white people to get from today's entry, it is to check yourself if you start to feel defensive in a conversation about race. My first reaction was to defend myself, to say I was just trying to compliment her, that I didn't mean anything by it. Oh no! That stuff is always beside the point in that moment. Better to respectfully listen and be grateful that she is willing to explain it to you (and be double grateful if she is willing to do it in a calm, patient way, instead of speaking from the true frustration she probably feels inside). Chances are she knows waaay more about situation that you think you do. It is
totally inappropriate to
 act like the victim… like somehow I am offended or the one that was hurt in the situation.

My second reaction? Even when I knew better than to defend myself in that moment, when the event was over, my impulse was to go tell my POC friends what happened so that they could somehow bestow their absolution on behalf of their race and reassure me that I am 'a good white person.' Wrong again! Truth is, I am privileged, I have prejudices that I haven't uncovered/worked out yet, and I am much more often than not in the wrong when it comes to race. Get over it! POC don't want to hear about how you were treated unfairly or were 'wrongly discriminated against' and they certainly don't want to have to console your bruised ego, when you were probably acting stupidly anyway. Remember...take a deep breath, take the lesson as it was given, humble yourself, and don't go running to your blog to share your own holier-than-thou-hyper-racially-educated-white-person perspective.......oh crap......


White people are ignorant until proven educated. Although it is a shame to have to see things like that, and it might
seem unfair, it most often proves to be the accurate description of reality. So don't blame POC for guarding themselves or being defensive. We earned it. As for today, she doesn't know me and I had done nothing to earn her trust or the benefit of doubt in this situation. On the contrary, I am in a position of privilege, clearly befitting from that privilege and then presumed to start a conversation about a topic that I know to be highly charged! Not the smartest of moves on my part. In hindsight, it t should have been obvious that I was going to get called out. But like I said...ignorant.

All this being said, I still might have missed the mark on what today's lesson was all about. I am a little less ignorant than I was this morning, but I've got a long way to go. Eternal gratitude to God and to the dear friends who keep guiding me along the way to enlightenment. One of the main tutors responsible for my education is traveling abroad at the moment. She is doing great things right always. Be safe. I love you.

ps. One other good thing that came of today's event was that it offered an opportunity to bring up race relations with another colleague of mine, a white girl that observed the entire interaction. White people need to talk about race more, but we don't get many opportunities to do so. It just is never brought up--neither positively nor negativity--the ultimate silenced taboo. Like race doesn't even exist. It can be hard to break that silence, so I was glad to have the opening.

pps. I shouldn't have to say this, but unfortunately I think I actually do need to: don't touch a black woman's hair. Why would you think that it is ok? Don't touch my hair either! Unless we're tight...really tight. It's just weird otherwise.

See Also:
Hair (just a little)
Bush and Hurt Feelings
And Then I Realized I was White

Sunday, May 16, 2010

First sunburn of the season

The sunburn must be the good Lord's way of forcefully reminding privileged white people that race still matters in this day and age.

*winces as she rubs on the aloe*

But remember beautiful POCs, you can still get skin cancer, so protect yourselves too!

See Also:
Hair (just a little)
Katelin in China

Friday, May 14, 2010

Hair (just a little)

So I got my hair cut this week. First time since getting married almost a year ago...ooops. I don't like getting my hair cut. Takes too much time and too much money. But not nearly as much time or money as it would take if I were black.

I'm not going to go very deep into the hair thing at them moment. Just enough to mention a few things.

I got my hair cut by students at a cosmetology school because it was near my work and it was cheep. The hairdressers are all supervised and studying to get their licensor. It turns out, to be certified, they only need to know how to do white people's hair. If you want to learn things like braids and locks and certain kinds of extensions, you have to pay the money to go to an entirely different school and take a supplemental exam AFTER you have taken the first one. The initial class will teach you to do perms (relaxers), but that is about it. So basically they can take care of black people's hair...only if the customer will deny how nature made her. Makes you wonder if these students realize basic things like wet hair isn't always longer than dry hair (which is how most white hair is). You might want to remind your hairdresser next time you go for a shampoo and cut!

Thanks to Maxine for much of the background info (like the link).

by the way...all the practice manikins at the school were white.

See Also:
Yep...I'm Still Ignorant
Katelin in China
First Sunburn of the Season
I've got Style
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By Their Strange Fruit by Katelin H is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
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