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

Tuesday, May 31, 2011


You can now follow BTSF on Twitter: @StrngeFruit.

If you are new to the site, also find the new tabs across the top. Check out 'Start Here' to read some foundational posts that lay the groundwork for Christianity's role in Racial Reconciliation.

See Also:
Start Here
Topical Index

Monday, May 30, 2011

White Victims of Racism

Apparently, white people suffer more racism than black folks--or at least that's how they perceive things today. A study this week from Harvard and Tufts Universities found that "decreases in perceived bias against Blacks over the past six decades are associated with increases in perceived bias against Whites [and]... view anti-White bias as a bigger societal problem than anti-Black bias."

Perhaps some of my readers feel the same way: that we've had enough of PC talk, affirmative action, and people playing the victim. A lot of white folk feel that, by now, prejudice against people of color is over, so any more talk about it will just stir up trouble and discontent. Not to mention it would be giving black folks an extra leg up--that head start that will give them all the good jobs, leaving the rest of us to wonder what happened to our comfortable middle-class lives.

And if our society had truly reached an equilibrium, then further action and argument would truly be unwarranted. But the assumption that >500 years of bigotry and discrimination have been reversed in the last 40 years is simply false. Not nearly as much progress has been made as most white people think. A lot of  lip  service has been paid, without the necessary action behind it.

Sure there has been lots of improvement since 1961, I don't deny that. But plenty of privilege remains in being white in this country. About 95% of our CEOs and more than 85% of elected office positions are held by white people (no black folk in the Senate right now at all). These are the people of power in our country and it should come as no surprise that they are looking out for their own interests--the political bickering and economic meltdowns give us clear evidence of that. So why would we think that these folks would go out of their way to make sure the playing field is even for people of color?

And so it remains uneven.
Pay remains uneven, health care remains uneven, job promotions remain uneven, housing conditions remain uneven  schools remain uneven.

So the steps we take to correct these imbalances does not put white folks at a disadvantage, it simply decreases the the unfair advantages that we have accumulated over the years. And yeah, it sucks if you know longer have a jet pack fueling your progress, but we are still light-years ahead.

It doesn't necessarily have to be a zero-sum game (more on that below), but the analogy is often framed such that if we are indeed running a race, POCs have been running for the first several centuries with their shoe laces tied together. Bearing in mind who tied them that way to begin with, what makes us think that the past couple of decades is enough time to rectify such disparity? How frustrating to run with all your might, only to have the the other team taunt you, wondering why you can't keep up??

No one is asking white folks to start running in bare feet. But perhaps we owe it to our sisters and brothers to help bring them back to up to the staring line.

And who really wants to win by cheating  anyway? I think real sting is in finding out that your success is not solely due to your own prowess, but that a lot of it came from the unfair advantages you had along the way. We are prideful, and want to believe that we makers of our fortune. And it is frustrating (and probably scary) to loose those advantages to which we have grown accustomed. But don't we know that nothing that we have on this earth is our own? That we are owed nothing in this world? That every breath is thanks to God's grace? And are we more deserving of the abundant life than anyone else?

When we frame the issue as 'us vs them,' we reveal a lack of faith in our Provider. Will not our shepherd supply our needs? Would not the God of Justice, care for those that work towards equality on earth? Or do we believe in our own power to succeed beyond what He is capable of doing?

Recall the story of the early church, where the Greek widows (read: marginalized minority) were not being treated fairly. They weren't getting their fair share of the food (remember that they were to hold all things in common) and so the disciples raised up leaders from the minority community to be in charge of food distribution for ALL groups, with Jews submitting to Greek leadership for the greater good of everyone involved.

And what happened? If it were 'zero-sum,' we would assume that because more food now had to go to the Greeks, the Jews would end up hungry. But we serve a savior that fed 5,000 people from a few bread sticks and a couple of trout! Read what the bible says happens after the Greek leaders were appointed: "So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith."

Surely then, if we too step out in faith to fight injustice, not only will there be enough to go around, but the witness that we will bare will further the God's Kingdom as people finally see a picture of what God's love is about.

Allow me to conclude with the acknowledgement that white folks are indeed victims of racism. You are a victim of racism if you put God's power for reconciliation in a human-sized box. You are a victim of racism if you remain blind to the struggles of your sisters and brothers in Christ. You are a victim of racism because of the delay in medical and technological advances that results from impeded access to higher ed and employment.  You are a victim of racism if you miss out on experiences, art, music, and worship because 'it's not your style.'

You may be a victim of racism, but you don't have to be. You are not powerless. The empowerment of people of color is not at white folks' expense, but for our benefit. Let us run together the race towards God's Kingdom on earth.

See Also:
Basically Good
Race Matters
Reverse Racism
Affirmative Action

Monday, May 23, 2011

Kanazawa's Ugly Lies about Beauty

This week, shameless slander was published in the name of science. It's not the first time someone has tried to make claims that their racial biases are founded in scientific data, but Kanazawa's claims that somehow black women are inherently less beautiful is preposterous.

Let us first take a moment to appreciate how cruel and insensitive his thesis is. Dang. Simply disgusting. How must if feel to read a headline declaring that you are inherently uglier than most women in the country? And one what grounds? How does one define attractiveness? By matching the latest fashion magazine covers (see image right)?  Based on whose opinion? The "average american" (read: white folks) taking a poorly-worded survey?

Scientists often declare themselves to be objective and unbiased, a false claim that is incredibly dangerous. Scientists are subject to the same prejudices, personal ambition, and fallibility that everyone else is. Here, Kanazawa, simply removes the curtain and allows those biases take center stage.

Kanazawa makes no mention of the obvious social constructs that affect how we perceive beauty in this country. Zero acknowledgement of the ads, the tv shows, the movies that constantly glorify the white aesthetic. Not a word about the objectification and marginalization that black women have historically faced. We all struggle with body-image issues, but imagine trying to maintain your self esteem while living in a world that actively under-appreciates and diminishes your beauty and self-worth. A world full of double-standards that makes a habit of publishing junk like this. So yes, it merits some anger.

Kanazawa does his best to make it look like he is legit. He includes graphs and figures, with nice tight error Mikhail Lyubansky's rebuttal on the same Pscyhology Today website for some examination of the facts. Also check out Racialicious's guide to debunking scientific racism.
Google Search: Beauty
barrs. He begins with a breif description of methods that might sound well structured to the general public. But it is all little more than statsitical hand waving in a non-peer reviewed pop blog. Take a look at

The sad thing is, we can discredit his science and his methods, but the statements that have been made are still being propagated. Popular media has run the story, and even if they add qualifications and refutations, the underlying distilled headline still sticks with the public. The repeated effects of studies like this are what fuel the flames of modern racism.
Fashion magazine covers

Many other blogs have discussed and analyzed the Kanazawa issue (see links above). But, here, us reflect on what our responsiblty is, as Christians, in this moment. As Christians, we are presented with opportunity to embrace one another in Christs love, and then stand united again injustice for the sake of truth. What role do we, should we, can we play when issues like these come up?

First of all, speak up. Let us use our influence and numbers to insist that this sort of defamation is not ok and we will not stand by as our sisters are attacked. Be mindful of what it would feel like to have such a study published about you, and do not diminish what you sisters may be feeling. Second, let us be ever supportive and encouraging of one another. Remind each other of our beauty, strength and intelligence; that we are all beloved and highly favored.

"I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well."
-Psalm 139:14

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Malcolm X

Today is the anniversary of Malcolm X's birth; he would have been 86 years old. He deserves his own full Sunday post, which I promise will happen. But, for now, read some of his words, taken from his famous speech 'The Ballot or the Bullet,' which are still so poinient today, particularly in light of the 'birthers' demands for President Obama's birth certificate:
"Being born here in America doesn't make you an American. Why, if birth made you American, you wouldn't need any legislation, you wouldn't need any amendments to the Constitution, you wouldn't be faced with civil-rights filibustering in Washington, D.C., right now." 
"I'm not an American. I'm one of the 22 million Black people who are the victims of Americanism. One of the 22 million Black people who are the victims of democracy."

Read the full speech, delivered at Cory Methodist Church in Cleveland, Ohio on April 3, 1964.

See Also:
Birthers, Trump, Obama, and Racism
White History Month 
Letter from Birmingham Jail
Marcus Garvey

Monday, May 16, 2011

Abortion and Condemnation

Welcome! Follow more conversations about racial justice and Christianity through email or RSS feed.

The Christian response to abortion: clear cut? Probably, not as a much as you might think.

Consider what Spencer Perkins says in his co-authored book More Than Equals:
"Because blacks have not been able to distinguish between white Christians and white non-Christians when it comes to racial issues and separation, major issues like abortion, which should be cut and dried for us, become confused"

At the surface, it may be a fairly straight forward issue: if God forms us while we are still in the womb, He clearly cares about the unborn child as a fully spiritual and physical entity. There are plenty of verses that address His concerns on the matter. Clearly, it is not a trifling issue and, on its own, killing an unborn child is not what God would have for us. But when is it ever 'on its own'?

The life of a fetus is intimately associated with that of the mother carrying it. If it is true that life is sacred, then surely we also hold sacred the life of the mother? It is how we, as Christians, treat this mother that I want to address here.

Demonetization and Difficult Choices
The decision to terminate a pregnancy is heart-wrenching and highly personal. Too often, as Christians, we presume we need to educate a mother about the levity of her choice, as though her own pain and guilt were not enough. The emotional and psychological venom that we spew at women that even consider abortion is crushing, and not at all following the model that Christ sets forth.

The tendency for Christians to demonize women for the tough choices they have to make is unholy and hypocritical. Take for example the recent rash of racially-targeted billboards that made appearances around the country (shown throughout this post). Rather than offering compassion for mothers placed in difficult situations, these billboards take aim at a vulnerable demographic to further 'otherize,' isolate, and condemn. In addition portraying the reductionist view that a woman is merely a womb (unemotional, unaffected, and unintelligent), these ads ignore the tremendous social and economic factors at play in decisions about abortion.

Undeniably, the rates of abortion are higher among low-income mothers. Does this trend result from some morbid psychological dysfunction of the lower class that causes impoverished mothers to act against thousands of years of maternal instinct? Certainly not!

Instead, in the face of an unintended pregnancy, an underprivileged woman must make tough choices: should she decrease the meals for her two-year-old to help feed a new born? Should she skip the heating bill in favor of any sort of needed prenatal care? Should she risk being fired from the job that pays the rent?

How heart-breaking to ponder the mother who feels she must abort a baby she wants and loves, but whom she cannot afford to keep. How callus of us, as of society, to demand she take the baby to term, yet provide her no access to affordable health care, wretched housing conditions, a failing educational system, and a broken foster care system that would make any mother despair of her "choices" (I have previously touched on some of the barriers facing the poor).

If you force a woman to carry the child to term, will you also be there to support the child once it is born? Will you take responsibility for making sure it is well nourished, that is has access a doctor and medication when it gets the chicken pox, that it may attend a safe and productive educational environment? Or will you force the issue of this child's sanctity, only to abandon it once it reaches this side of the cervix?

To show contempt for one of these mothers is to punish her for the greater societal shortcomings for which we are all responsible. We speak in terms of 'pro-life' and 'pro-choice,' but we know the world is more complicated than that. By claiming a 'pro-life' stance, we semantically condemn thousands of struggling women as being 'pro-death.' Have we no compassion?

Along these lines, hear what Lise Wade at Sociological Images has to say:
Many women have abortions because they cannot afford to raise a(nother) child. They would bring the fetus to term if only they weren’t all-but-crushed under the burdens of under-served neighborhoods, shitty public education, a dearth of jobs that pay a living wage, a criminal justice system that strips inner cities of husbands and fathers, a lack of health care, and stingy, penalizing, and humiliating social services (when they can get them). So telling black women that they are bad; telling them that they are killing their race alongside their babies, is twisting a knife that already penetrates deep in the black community... 
...And no they cannot “wait until they’re in a better place financially” or “not have sex until they can afford to raise a child” because many, many women will never be in such a place in their entire lives. And they can’t just “practice responsible contraception” because half of all pregnancies are unintended, at least a third among even the most well-educated and resource-rich women. So pregnancies will and do happen, even to people who don’t want or can’t have a child. 
If pro-life groups want to stop abortion, they need to stop accusing black women of moral bankruptcy and start putting those billboards up across from the Capital Building. What black women need isn’t an ethics lesson, they need resources. They need those very same people who tsk tsk them to stand up for them, to fight for a living wage, investments in their schools and communities, protection instead of criminalization, more available and better subsidized child care, and guaranteed parental leave benefits for all...If black women had those things, then they might feel like that had a choice to keep their baby, just as they have a choice to abort their fetus. It’s not the parents who fail to care-about-the-children in America, it’s a government and it’s citizens that allow 1 in 5 to languish in poverty.

A Racialized Debate
Many of the recent billboard ads were specifically placed in, and targeted to, the black community. Adding abortion to the growing list of racialized social ills is not only false (there is no single racial demographic that leads abortion rates), but perpetuates the hyper-polarized, 'us vs. them' notions of the white-savior mentality. The self-righteous nature of these white-funded, racially targeted ads are exploitative and holier-than-thou, again showing little regard for the social context to which we have all contributed. By shaming black mothers and ignoring the the disparity to which we would subject their children, we perpetuate centuries of institutionalized bigotry, particularly in relation to our history of reductionist attitudes toward black women.
Pander and exploit, much??

Furthermore, the Christian community must understand the dangers in which we place women (and men) when we insist that sex-education and condom-usage are abominations. Do not praise the Hispanic community, for example, for a conservative catholic stance against contraception, but then be surprised when women cry out for the right to have a say in what inevitably comes next.

It's Never 'Black and White' 
We, as Christians, should also examine the shame that we heap on a woman even when she does choose to keep her baby.  Who among us would be comfortable church-shopping as an unwed pregnant mother? Would the church you currently attend truly be a welcoming environment? Or would there be stares and snickers? Yet we expect women to brave our derision to in order to circumvent our damnation. 

The rates of unintended pregnancies themselves vary with economic status, and are often a function of health care access, education access, family stability. Rather than blaming the victim and sanctimoniously deriding 'irresponsible and naive women,' perhaps we should work as partners to improve the circumstances under which these pregnancies occur. Even in the best of situations, we know every contraceptive has a known 'failure rate'--surely, then, we know it isn't the woman that has failed. Let us stop treating her that way. 

Created in response the billboards shown above
We can all recognize that there are different ideas about what constitutes life. Among our Christian sisters and bothers, there are those among us that believe even abstinence is sinful and a denial of God's will for procreation.  Likewise, there are those that consider condoms sinful, and others only the use of a hormonal pill, and still other will allow very early abortions. Indeed, many Christian groups make concession for full-term abortions performed when the mother's life is threatened. So where is the line? How can we as a religion claim to know where life begins? The answers is, of course, we can't. We may choose to play it safe and busily over-populate the world, or we may show some mercy  and understanding for those that believe that a growth of cells the size of a small tumor is still more a part of a woman's body than any independent being.

So knowing how difficult it can be for our sisters, let us have some grace. Let us not be nominal in our support, while still sending a message of shame, humiliation and vast separation from the Lord. Instead, let us lavish love and resources on those that must live with difficult choices and the daily consequences of a broken world. 

So, am I pro-life? Yes.
Am I pro-choice? Also, yes.
More often than not, they are one and the same.

Follow more conversations about racial justice and Christianity through email or RSS feed.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Andrew Walls: Ephesians Moment

Chris Rice's blog, Reconcilers recently highlighted the following work by Andrew Walls. It examines the book of Ephesians as a compelling argument for the importance of diversity in the church, way beyond forced integration for PC's sake.

It takes a little time to get to the aspects of diversity, but is rewarding once he ties it all together. His emphasis on interpersonal interaction (ie joint fellowship, sharing meals) is so key. As I have written before, ‘Hit and run’ diversity encounters just don’t cut it–not even close.

The image of the body of the church (Eph. 1:19-23) is often used in the context of church diversity, but Walls does a particually solid job of emphasising our culture-specific perspectives on God as necessary to our complete understanding of the Father, and our requiring one another in this way for the sake of our salvation.

So check it out:

Minor point:
The one moment that sat werid with me was “poor peoples, with few gifts to bring except the gospel itself.” I get what he is trying emphasize–that money often gets in the way of the gospel and that, without clutter of privledge, the poor are at an advantage when it comes to understanding and conveying passion for the gospel.

But it felt a bit like he was back handely suggesting that, in general, the poor have nothing to offer. I honestly don’t think this is what he is trying to say. It was just an awkward phrasing that could perpetuate the misconception that when we hang out with folk with fewer dollar in their pocket, WE are the benevolant benifactors rather than mutual edifiers. Maybe I am overacting, though, as it is something about which I knowI am hypersensitive.

See Also: 

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Christian remake of Rebecca Black’s “Friday”

The Chicago area Community Christian Church, recently released this video parodying Rebecca Black’s “Friday.” Awkward on so many levels: megachurch madness, weird/culty christian-ness, and certainly racially out of line. Socialogical images discussed the post and there were some interesting comments worth reading.

Here is the video:

See Also:
Small Things Done with Great Love
Racial Inclusivity and Campus Ministry

Monday, May 2, 2011

On the death of Osama Bin Laden

‎"I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked." (Ezek 33:11)

"Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and let not your heart be glad when he stumbles, lest the LORD see it and be displeased, and turn away his anger from him." - Prov 24:17-18

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Birthers, Trump, Obama, and Racism

This week, the President of the United States was compelled to show proof of his citizenship to this country. He characterizes the ordeal as a bunch of "silliness," but in reality, it's an extremely serious matter. For those that wonder what the big deal is ("why not just show the document and be done with it?"), and for those that feel that Trump can just be dismissed as a raving loony, let me break it down for you.

We have been hearing false claims about Obama's nationality for a long time now. It was one of those campaign smears that should have just faded away after the election was over. Yet the issue has stuck, and it's worth examining why that might be.

In the United States, we have a history of denying citizenship, and indeed humanity to people of color. Today, there persists a vicious attitude of 'otherization' against anyone without white skin. It is the reason why 'Asian' kids, whose families have lived in the USA for generations, are still asked where they are from, and why if you happen to wear a Pagri you are more likely to be frisked at the airport, even if you show a US passport.

Societies wishing to marginalize its unwanted members have imposed strict documentation policies to aid in their discrimination. Both in the United States, and abroad, the bark of 'show me your papers' embodies supremacist arrogance. Currently, in Arizona and Georgia, we are watching as racism and xenophobia manifest themselves in modern identification law.

And this week, though he has reached the highest office in the nation, the President also had to 'show his papers.' And this week wasn't the first time Obama had to make such concessions. He published his common birth certificate (good enough for a driver's licence and passport), he had affidavits signed, he had doctors make statements. But the skepticism persisted.

Though he is supposedly 'the most powerful man on earth,' he cannot escape the humiliation that comes with being dark skinned in this country. And that hurts. It is painful to know that supposedly 'after how far we have come' our President is still having to appease, and cater to the whims of, taunting white folks.  It should grieve us to see how far this has gone.

Think it isn't about race? It might be a different situation if every president submitted his long form certificate on Inauguration Day, or if the nationality of the white candidates wasn't taken for granted. But if the President (or voter, or driver, or airline passenger, or coworker) is white and speaks with the proper accent, it doesn't even occur to us to ask about where she or he was born.

The other birth certificate

Take John McCain for example: of the two presidential candidates in 2008, it was John McCain that wasn't born in the USA!! McCain was born in Panama, yet few voters knew this fact, let alone question his eligability for the presidency. The few times is was actually brought up, it was acknowledged and dropped without much fan-fair.

Yet here we are, three years into Obama's term and he still must endure the humiliation of proving his status as second-class citizen. Because 'those people simply just aren't "one of us."' Once again, the colored boy is forced jump through hoops to obtain what is rightfully his, just because an over-privileged white guy demands it be so.

Many of us didn't want him to show the certificate, because he shouldn't have to. And it makes us mad that bigotry would force the President's hand, rather than allow him to rise above and receive the same respect that most white school children enjoy every day.

Which reminds me of another thing: what exactly was Trump implying by questioning Obama's enrollment in Harvard and Columbia? Trump insinuates that that surely Obama couldn't have gotten there out of his own abilities--not someone like that. Rather than acknowledge the extant prejudices that meant Obama needed to be more qualified than the average applicant, Trump suggests that Obama met with his success through some sort of racial hand out (by now you know my thoughts on these kind of affirmative-action critiques). Every POC kid in my privileged-soaked alma mater has to face such suspicions and allegations on a constant basis, and then deal with the alienation and personal insecurities that follow. The President of the United States is apparently no exception. John McCain, mean time, graduated 894th in his college class of 899.

Good thing now that we have a black president that proves that we ended racism once and for all...

I'll share with you this video, in which baratunde expresses a lot of shared sentiments. It starts a little slow, but stick with it to the end.  As with a lot of things I repost here, those that don't need to see it, probably already have, and those that should, haven't. So check it out:

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

Outside links:
Birthers are Racist
Two News Stories
Donald Trump's Rants
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