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

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

1 comment:

  1. I can certainly see your point and struggle. By becoming more powerful, are you distancing yourself from the struggle? My conclusion: not necessarily. There are a LOT of amazing people in academia who have done some amazing things because of that position of power. I know of a prof who got OU to support the McNair scholars fund to help underprivileged minorities go to grad school with the intent of pursuing a PhD. It was amazing listening to some of the scientific discoveries that came about because of the McNair program and seeing just how little research is done using different anatomies than a WASP male. This is changing, thankfully. I don't know if you've ever seen Good Will Hunting, but your post reminds me of that movie. The main character has the knowledge to do so much, help so much more than he was doing. As do you. By not using that knowledge, would that be any better for God and community? Not everyone has the capacity to study and learn about nanosa and all that. Amazing. So that's my thought. But I do see your point. It's hard.


Creative Commons License
By Their Strange Fruit by Katelin H is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at @BTSFblog