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

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Pointing the Blame

Please welcome guest blogger, Brittany L. BrowneA recent graduate of Ohio Dominican University, she is a freelance writer with Columbus Messenger, and a Racial Justice Coordinator with the YWCA Columbus AmeriCorps program. Connect with her via Linkedin or follow her on Twitter @britbrowne.

Just when you thought Sunday was getting better at being more inclusive, it’s still the most segregated hour of the week in America. The claim in Christianity is that all churches seek to be inclusive just as Christ was inclusive. While this sounds uplifting and righteous, the reality is we are not doing a very good job at it, nor are we trying hard enough. Well, because we don’t want to.

“It’s not our responsibility;” these are the ultimate words that speak volumes to the reasoning behind lack of inclusiveness in our churches. To the credit of those churches who are inclusive and who strive to be more inclusive for the sake of the Kingdom of heaven on earth-- kudos!

But, to those who are not as inclusive and would rather make an excuse than an action plan, it is no longer enough as a follower of Jesus Christ to sit in the pulpit on Sunday and exclude yourself from the other Christians in the world who live by the scripture of Ephesians 4:2-5 It is not enough to cry “woe is me” any longer. It is well overdue for a new movement or new excuses at the very least.
The majority of racial issues and lack of inclusiveness as it relates to the church always seem to rely back on the views of one another. We live in such a blame society, where nothing no longer is our own fault. We feel as if we don’t want to be the guilty one.

Yet who is to blame is not the question, or the answer for that matter. We really need to re-evaluate ourselves as Christians, saying that we are open-minded, all-loving etc. Essentially, this will bring us to a foundational state that allows us to be broken in the Holy Spirit. Through this brokenness we can recognize our own shortcomings in seeking first the kingdom of heaven and really being our “brother’s keeper.” 

According to a recent Anniston Star article:

“It’s been 53 years since Martin Luther King Jr. wrote in “Strides Toward Freedom: The Montgomery Story” that the most segregated hour in Christian America is 11 o’clock on Sunday morning, the same hour when so many are standing to sing, ‘In Christ there is no East nor West.’ Equally appalling is the fact that the most segregated school of the week is Sunday school. How often the church has had a high blood count of creeds and anemia of deeds.”

King’s indictment still rings true. According to a recent study conducted at Baylor University, nine out of 10 congregations have a single racial group that accounts for more than 80 percent of their membership.
So, we see it is imperative to not only talk about these things but to place feet on our prayers.

From the African American perspective, I too often hear “We were the ones who have been oppressed for so long; it should be [their] responsibility to approach us for inclusive collaborative efforts.” Counter to this the Caucasian community says, “We’ve tried our best, there is nothing else we can do. [They] are more than welcome to join us.” (Of course, that means under certain circumstances like limited roles in leadership etc.)

One hurtful example of Christianity’s bondage of racism would be the United Methodist denomination. Now, being mindful that I attend a United Methodist congregation, it is certainly different than the average United Methodist Church (UMC). If that is questionable, one is more than welcome to attend this dynamic multi-cultural, multi-economical, multi-class environment on any day—open 24hours for your convenience!

Nevertheless, the African Methodist Episcopal Church rose out of the United Methodist Church due to the encounter of racism over 200+ years ago and they have not till this day been re-united with one another. More history on AME can be found here.

In the book titled, One Body, One Spirit, by George Yancy, he says:

“But, this notion of “colorblindness” discounts the degree of racial alienation we have in our society. We simply can not treat skin color like we treat hair or eye color.”

The reality is that regardless of race, regardless of the oppressor or the oppressed, as believers and specifically followers of Jesus Christ, we need to stop pointing fingers. We have to take off our old self and be created new creatures in Christ. We should also have the heart of new creatures, which in return molds our thinking, and our actions that should follow. The excuses are cumbersome and a false representation of the full life Christ is asking us to lead.

As Don Williams Jr. once said, “On an altar of prejudice we crucify our own, yet the blood of all children is the color of God.”

See Also:

Monday, August 22, 2011

The Social Gospel Saved my Soul

Man speaking like a dove, but actually with the tongue of a snakeThere seems to be a belief that 'loving thy neighbor' is something to do in the Church's spare time, after it has 'sealed the deal' for the state of the soul in the afterlife.

Personal salvation is central to the Gospel, but it goes hand-in-hand with addressing the brokenness of the world in which we live. The fact that the Church often sidelines issues of justice is at the root of much of the public distrust of Christianity. It's what so often brands us as 'hypocrites.' The world hears us say "who cares what the rest of your life is like...just say you'll join our club!"

Cover of Wakabayashi's book 'Kingdom Come': the Earth inside a walnut shell
In scripture, we constantly see Jesus forming his ministry around the pairing of service and salvation. We follow a Christ that was very concerned with personal salvation, but did not trivialize the suffering he encountered on earth. When addressing the earthly needs of those around us, we demonstrate God's grace in a tangible way (Servant evangelism being largely based on this philosophy).

Perhaps if we took more of a stand for justice, the world would understand that God really does care about His creation, and therefore is invested in individuals, not just a religious institution.

These concepts have been eloquently fleshed out in Allen Mitsuo Wakabayashi's book, 'Kingdom Come.' Wakabayashi describes God's heart for the Kingdom, and the deep need for redemption that includes both personal salvation and a transformed world.

Wakabayashi declares that Evangelism/personal salvation is not at odds with social justice. They go hand in hand! He asks, "how much more effective would our evangelism be if all Christians and churches were characterized by a commitment to dealing with social issues that trouble our world?"

Stone church with sign in front: 'church closed'
He notes that we are constantly battling against a stereotype that Christians are uncaring and uninvolved, but that "the world needs to see that our faith really does make a difference for life, especially as we deal with some of the most vexing social struggles, like race, gender, and class suppression." Wakabayashi mentions several important questions: "If your church were to leave the community you're in, what impact would that have? Would they miss you? Would they weep?"

Specifically about racial justice, Wakabayashi  observes "when it comes to the racial problems in our nation, white evangelicals have tended to deal with the problems by encouraging each other to make friendships across the racial barrier and to treat people kindly. While this is commendable, the same people do little to change the laws and policies that perpetuate so many of the racial problems."

Thick ink: "If you want peace, work for justice. Paul 6"
Christians are a prominent demographic in the political world, but too often we occupy a narrowly defined role in that sphere, focusing only one or two high-profile issues. But we remain largely silent when it comes to "advocat[ing] peace, justice, and compassion." How can this be?? Weep, Church, for we have forgotten our call.

We cannot 'preach Good News to the lost' and then retreat to the safety of the familiar, expecting that our words will be taken with sincerity. In reality, that behavior becomes a barrier to forming the relationships that facilitate a personal relationship with Jesus.

Perhaps, if we were better at loving our neighbor, and fully invested in our neighborhood, people would better understand us as agents of God's Good News. True, we are "not of this world," but God gives us a lot of time here before calling us Home. Surely God intends for us to invest that time in the world that God created.

Consider and comment: 

"When was the last time you heard your pastor encourage you to get involved in the policies of the city in order to effect kingdom change?" 

How do personal salvation and social justice intersect/interact in your life? How can we better integrate them going forward? 

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Affirmative Action (part 4)

In this series (Part 1Part 2Part 3, Part 4), we will examine concept of 'affirmative action'.

(Continued from part 3) ...Let's be clear though, our own economic benefit is not the primary reason to rectify discriminatory hiring practices, it is only a fringe benefit.

The heart of the matter is recognizing that white people have privilege. and with it comes our responsibility to care for others and make sure that we work to right the wrongs that brought us to that place of privilege (you know...'love one another,' 'give the cloak off your back,' 'do justice, and love kindness').

Too many employers stop at the 'cast the net wide' part of creating an open interview process. They figure they will advertise widely and then just choose the best candidate. But this strategy ignores the systematic advantages that white people have to making it through the interview process (or even TO the intereview process).

Many studies show that when resumes are close or identical in their content, black candidates are more likely to loose out on the job.  White folk have the right hair, the right cloths, the right accent. How must it feel to worry whether wearing your hair the way God put in on your head will keep you from getting a job? 

A couple of important points to leave you with. First thing to remember: just because someone is black in a predominantly white work environment does NOT mean that person got the job because of affirmative action. And even if she did, that fact has no bearing on her ability to do the job, or how qualified she is. Affirmative action is there to ensure that the many highly talented minority applicants get seen, heard, and hired, despite the  pressures in society to keep them invisible. It has nothing to do with hiring unqualified workers, so stop letting that little voice convince you of a lie of superiority

Second, it is my opinion that I have benefited for so long from white privilege that I owe it to my workplace my church, my POC sisters and brothers, and myself to make some sacrifices to reverse wrongs done. Giving up some of my privilege is the right thing to do. We have an imperative to fix the wrong that we benefit from, even if we personally didn't cause it to develop. 

If you haven't read in a while, take a look at Acts 6:1-7, with the concept of affirmative action in mind. This is a story about how the church first deals with marginalized members of its community and how it uses affirmative action to remedy the situation. A minority group of Jews (who were Greek), were complaining their widows weren't getting their fair share of the food distributions. And what did the Apostles do about it? They promoted seven (fully qualified: "full of the Spirit and wisdom") Greek leaders to make sure rations were distributed fairly, not only to the Greek widows, but to any marginalized group. The apostles gave their full support to this equal employment opportunity by laying hands on them and blessing them.

Notice that, after it was brought to their attention, the Apostles recognized and acknowledged that an injustice was occurring. They didn't dismiss the complaint, or claim that the Hellenistic Jews were just trying gain an unfair advantage. They didn't blame the victim, or claim it was a "Greek problem" to be solved by the Greek community. They stepped up a fixed the situation. And what happened? "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"

I don't know how to right the centuries of racial wrongs that have compounded themselves. I don't know if the methods discussed here even come close-- at best they are indirect solutions that don't guarantee immediate equality. But it might help, and for now, it is all the law allows. And we've gotta do something.

UPDATE (05/13/11)--Ta-Nehisi Coates articulates some good points in this article Black Privilege for The Atlantic:
There are some legitimate criticisms of Affirmative Action. I think this is one of the dumbest. The underlying premise is that society is generally fair, and no one receives a leg up ever, except black people. Or it assumes that such advantages exist, but negritude, in the nation of white leagues, black codes, and red lines, imparts the sort of boost heretofore unwitnessed. 
But the history of America, itself, is, in no small measure, the history of an Affirmative Action program for white people. Mitt Romney was born in a Detroit neighborhood where the deed read
"Said lots shall not be sold or leased to or occupied by any person or persons other than of the Caucasian race. But this shall not be interpreted to exclude occupancy by persons other than of the Caucasian race when such occupancy is incidental to their employment on the premises." 
In other words, the neighborhood, like virtually every nice neighborhood in Detroit, and many throughout the country, was a giant set-aside for white people who didn't want to compete with blacks. But no one feels that Mitt Romney achievements--or the achievements of white people in general--are tainted by red-lining. No one says, "Would Mitt Romney have succeeded without race preferences?"

...I've talked repeatedly about my concerns with race-based Affirmative Action. But none of those concerns involve ill-gotten goods. Who is the successful human who can claim that they have never, not once, been advantaged by society? And who, with honesty and intelligence, would seriously claim that, among those advantages, black privilege is king?

See Also:
Affirmative Action: Part 1Part 2Part 3, Part 4
Reverse Racism
Academic Admissions

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Affirmative Action (part 3)

In this series (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4), we will examine concept of 'affirmative action'.

...Allow me to describe a situation where the model I describe (Part 2) might be relevant.

Applications for medical school are a tough business. What does it take to get in? It takes top notch grades for sure. Last year's Ohio State class had an undergraduate GPA averaging 3.7. The next biggest thing is the MCAT--OSU's average is a 33. So lets assume anyone with those numbers is fit to be a good doctor. Then what? OSU says you will need clinical and research experience, 'leadership,' 'volunteer service,' and 'extracurricular activities.' What exactly does all that mean? And how much is enough? who knows.

There are about a million med school applicants with high high GPAs and MCAT scores. So in what activities could an applicant participate to make her application more attractive? Debate team? Orchestra? Baseball? What about becoming a member of Diversity Roundtable, or the Multicultural Student Union. Attend a diversity retreat. Go to events where you are in the racial minority. These options promote the development of any number of important skills for med school: well-roundedness (so you don't go crazy in your first year),  cross-cultural understanding (vital for any doctor who wants to see patients outside her immediate family), relating to different perspectives (collaboration is the new hot trend in the research community), empathy, patience (hello bedside manner!).

Maybe a candidate has a 3.7 GPA AND was a member of the biology honors society, phi beta kappa, and graduated magma cum laude.  But so what? We already said a 3.7 makes you a good doctor, so stick to that qualification, and accept a student who brings other qualifications in addition. My point is, we have determined when a student is academically smart enough to become a doctor, lets makes another priority be that she is socially and culturally smart enough to be a good doctor. If this were more a part of our rubric, I actually think a lot fewer white people would qualify. 

Employers and churches need to understand the benefits that diversity minded hiring can bring. In addition to accessing the skills mentioned above (which any white person may avail herself of), proactively increasing the racial and ethnic diversity in the workplace leads to entrepreneurial success and is the savvy thing to do. People that grow up in a similar way will think a similar way, will tackle problems in similar ways.

If I want advancements in my company's or my church's goals, I need to bring people together that are entirely different from one another, that they might stretch each other and bring new perspectives. We have no idea what innovations we are missing by limiting ourselves to work with those like us. We are loosing vast amounts of brain resources by not actively rectifying and widening the narrow pool we currently think in.

I cringe to think of how long ago we might have had the cure to cancer if we were taking advantage the all brilliant minds that, though historic discrimination, had to struggle through school while they worked part-time to help support their family (it is easy to get into college when you don't have to worry about the next utility bill). Or what about the inventor of an eco-friendly biofuel that couldn't get a job interview because she has a funny name? Or the broker of peace in the Middle East that got teased so much in high school that he didn't have the confidence to apply for college. It happens. And we are screwing ourselves over because of it.

Let's be clear though, our own evangelical and economic benefit is not the primary reason to rectify discriminatory hiring practices, it is only a fringe benefit.  The heart of the matter is...Continued in part 4...

See Also:
Affirmative Action: Part 1Part 2Part 3, Part 4
Reverse Racism 
Academic Admissions

Friday, August 19, 2011

Affirmative Action (part 2)

In this series (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4), we will examine concept of 'affirmative action'.

(continued from Part 1)...Two wrongs, don't make a right, so let me try to explain why I don't think affirmative action is a wrong.

Those that don't like affirmative action generally feel that through these policies their whiteness becomes a disadvantage. In fact, the white privilege that we carry around every day acts to bolster us so much that our whiteness can never truly be a disadvantage--affirmative action just makes it so we aren't so way out ahead (see post on so-called 'White victims of racism').

Forty-years of "advantage" cannot begin to reverse the 500 year head-start white people had, or erase the economic and psychological mars that oppression has left on over 40% of this country. There are still severe inequalities that prevent otherwise-qualified people from coming to the interview table fully equipped. We have a responsibility to rectify the discrimination in the classroomworkplace and in interviewing, as well as the historical head start white folks have had. 

One problem affirmative action faces is that it gets confused with quotas. Filling quotas and affirmative action are two different things, so lets not confuse them. In my view, quotas are used to fulfill a requirement and then say "there. we're done. we can stop now. we have our token minorities." It is a system totally unrelated to merit or qualifications, which is why a lot of white people freak out about it. These practices are no longer allowed.

Affirmative action, on the other hand, when done well, is goal driven. That means the numbers can be exceeded and the policy acts to aid the company's success as well as that of the employees'. Remember that "seeking the empowerment of people of color is not the same as disenfranchising white people." The idea of proactive hiring is that you decide what qualifications one needs to be successful in the job, including a diverse background with an understanding of multiculturalism, and then you stick to those qualifications. You cast your net wide, advertising the position in Black Enterprise, or whatever applies to your field and you remember that bringing diversity into the workplace is one of the job qualifications during the interview process. Keep in mind, there are many white people that fulfill this requirement and everyone has had the opportunity to gain a background in cultural diversity, but more people of color may have taken advantage of those opportunities (often can hardly help but to!)  and so may be more likely to fit the job description.

Allow me to describe a situation where this model might be relevant... Continued in Part 3....

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Affirmative Action (Part 1)

In this series (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4), we will examine concept of 'affirmative action'.

In discussions about "reverse discrimination" the conversation often quickly slides to the subject of affirmative action. Again, I defer to Dr. Tatum whose devotes an entire chapter to the subject, subtitled "I'm in favor of affirmative action except when it comes to my jobs." She notes that many white people wonder "Will I get the job I want or will it go to some 'minority'?" The implication being that the minority that got the job is inherently less qualified and only got it based on color.

Obama eloquently acknowledged fears of white people in his A More Perfect Union speech (oh man, what a speech!):
"Most working- and middle-class white Americans don't feel that they have been particularly privileged by their race. Their experience is the immigrant experience — as far as they're concerned, no one handed them anything. They built it from scratch...And in an era of stagnant wages and global competition, opportunity comes to be seen as a zero sum game, in which your dreams come at my expense. So when they are told to bus their children to a school across town; when they hear an African-American is getting an advantage in landing a good job or a spot in a good college because of an injustice that they themselves never committed; when they're told that their fears about crime in  urban neighborhoods are somehow prejudiced, resentment builds over time..."

I get the fear. Without a doubt, particularly in this economy, it is scary to think that one might lose a job opportunity because of skin color. First, let me point out that this is the fear that black people have had to deal with ever since they were allowed to work for pay in this country. Not saying that it is right--just saying 'welcome to the club'.

Two wrongs, don't make a right, so let me try to explain why I don't think affirmative action is a wrong...Continue to 'Part Two'...

See Also:
Affirmative Action: Part 1Part 2Part 3, Part 4
Reverse Discrimination
Academic Admissions
Dr. Tatum: What is Racism?
News for the Golden Child

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Marcus Garvey

Today is Marcus Garvey’s birthday!

His leadership in laying foundations for pan-African philosophy helped to empower the African Diaspora and provided inspiration for Black Nationalism, the Nation of Islam, the Rastafari movement, and others. 

Garvey founded the Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League (UNIA-ACL), whose red, black, and green flag now serves as the Pan-African/Black Liberation flag.  Garvey also founded the Black Star Line to facilitate the return of the Diaspora back to Africa. It is from this legacy that Ghana derives the star on its flag (and subsequently the name of its football team).

Find a complete list of speeches and poems by Marcus Garvey, and celebrate his birthday today by reading this timely speech he gave after the July 2, 1917 East St. Louis Riots.

"Millions of our people in slavery gave their lives that America might live," he said. "From the labors of these people the country grew in power, until her wealth today is computed above that of any two nations. With all the service that the Negro gave he is still a despised creature in the eyes of white people, for if he were not to them despised, the whites of this country would never allow such outrages as the East St. Louis massacre. ...This is a massacre that will go down in history as one of the bloodiest outrages against mankind for which any class of people could be held guilty."

See Also:
White History Month 
Malcolm X
Appropriation vs Appreciation

Monday, August 15, 2011

"Basically good" and "I'm not a racist, but..."

No one wants to see the sin in themselves. We don't like to look at our brokenness square in the face. We tend to give ourselves the benefit of the doubt because we know our own struggles.

Our perception of our own racial prejudice is a perfect example. We fail to fully understand or accept our own privilege and prejudices. It is the "basically good" syndrome. As in, "I've never stolen or murdered, so I'm not a real sinner...I'm basically a good person." Likewise, white folk are quick to point out that they are 'colorblind,' feeling that since they never use racial slurs, or committed hate crimes, that they are doing pretty well (See post: I am George Zimmerman).

If we were in the business of ranking sins, this system might work out for folks, but we know that "there is no one righteous, not even one." In the same way that any sin is a constant threat to our souls, so too must we constantly battle the privileges and systemic advantages we receive based on race.

White folk will say anything to make sure they are not labeled 'racist.' Yet, the phrase "I'm not racist, but..." is inevitably followed by hurtful and ignorant words. Perhaps folks think that simply stating their lack of prejudice somehow makes it so.

But it's simply not the case. There is far too much racial smog breathed everyday for any of us to be free from prejudice.

Moreover, racism is not just about our prejudices or how we actively treat one another. It is about who holds the power in an institutionalized system that rewards some skin colors over others (see post: Dr. Tatum's Definition of Racism). Just as we live in a condition of sin, we live in a condition of racism.

It's not that one commits individual acts of hatred, but rather we understand that white folk benefit from an accumulation of advantages that over the past 400 years have given some a major leg up and has kept others pushed down. And it continues to compound itself today. White folk still get hired easier, make more money, have better access to health care, have better homes to live in, passing these benefits on to the next generation.

And so what is our response? Do we give up, resigned to the pain of a broken world? Of course not! We continue to work out our salvation, easing the burdens of the marginalized, and becoming the hands and feet of Jesus to the world.

Take a moment to examine the how systems of racial advantage affect many aspects of life. Which ones can you personally take steps to combat today?

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Welcome New Followers!

A quick welcome and 'thank you' to the new followers at BTSF! Glad your here!

Follow more conversations about racial justice and Christianity through email or RSS feed.
You can also follow along on twitter: @strngefruit

At BTSF, our mission is to facilitate justice and understanding across racial divides by offering essays, resources, and forums for discussion, in a manner that is accessible and respectful to all involved. In particular, we strive to be an open space for white folk (and others traditionally in roles of privilege) to ask tough questions, learn our racial history, gain an understanding of systematic injustice, and to become empowered agents for change, both within ourselves and for our communities.

By approaching racial justice and reconciliation from a Christ-minded perspective, we access the relational model that Jesus sets forth, and gain an understanding of the greater impact for the Kingdom that is at stake. We recognize that racial brokenness hinders our witness to the world, and is counter to God's will for His people. Therefore, we hope in God's promises for a redeemed and reconciled world and are grateful for the opportunity to play a role in their fruition.

We recommend starting with the following posts that lay the spiritual and sociological groundwork for the rest of the blogPlease feel free to comment. Conversation is the foundation of greater understanding.

Foundational Principles:
Why Racial Reconciliation in Christ is Important
The Biblical Premise for Diversity in the Church
Dr. Beverly Tatum: What is Racism?

Posts of Significance:
Katelin in China
White Savior Complex
White History Month
Health Care Access
Abortion and Condemnation

Monday, August 8, 2011

White Savior Complex

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

The 'white savior complex' is a perception that white folk have that they are the benevolent benefactors of helpless 'others.'

Jesus ain't white, and I'm no savior
From Europeans' earliest interactions with any other continent, there was a paternalistic drive to modernize and 'Christianize' the 'savages.' This attitude pervaded imperialism throughout Africa and Asia, and certainly innervated interactions with Native Americans, ushering the perception of the 'noble savages' who is ever grateful for white aid.  So many USA wars have been started through an exaggerated sense of our own importance, and a low estimation of sovereign countries' ability to sort out their governance. 

Today, we continue to bear the consequences of this patronizing legacy. Throughout our popular culture we experience the narrative of a white hero character, breaking from her/his own people to become a 'true friend' of the marginalized. We have an abundant supply of these white-guilt-catharsis movies and books (Check out this montage that drives the point home). Examples include 'The Help' (see my review, here), 'Avatar', 'Dances with Wolves', 'Last Samuri', 'Blood Diamond,' Blind Side. In concept, these movies could have really good messages to them, but if you look closer, they are all telling the same basic white-savior-of-the-savage story: a white male leading character "manages to get himself accepted into a closed society of people of color and eventually becomes its most awesome member" (and usually gets some pretty good exoticized sex for his trouble too). 

The 'white savior complex' is particularly strong when it comes to white aid in Africa (see this tongue-in-cheek video on common pitfalls of media portrayal). Often church missions have a concept of the 'poor starving children of Africa' and very little understanding of the self-empowerment and independence that can thrive in our absence. 

Obviously, these awkward interactions often take place within our own country. Church youth groups and mission teams will spend a week of their summer to help communities in need, getting hands-on exposure to 'how the other half lives.' They build the walls of a Habitat house, or serve in a soup kitchen, and walk away having never had a real conversation, yet feeling satisfied that they have fulfilled their quota and that their guilt may be satiated. But it chafes those who feel like their circumstances are being used to gain points in a 'good works' system. 

Unfortunately, the 'white savior complex' also creeps up in the many intentionally multicultural, reconciliation-based churches that have predominantly high SES, white leadership. Often, there are two co-leaders, one white and one black, but then the second tier leaders are still mostly white and middle class, with little other ethnicity representation beyond basic tokenism. Often, we like the idea of leading a multicultural community, but aren't willing to submit ourselves to leaders of color. 

The 'white savior complex' is basically based in pride. It reveals an attitude of superiority and paternalism, when in fact we never have anything to offer but what the Lord gives us first. It also betrays our lack of trust in God, and those around us, to do as good a job as we think we do on our own.

Rather than perpetuate the myth that white folk are somehow the world's saving grace, we need to empower others to take the lead. It takes intentionality and careful attention to provide support while stepping aside in leadership. It can be tempting to get caught up in a sense of urgency than makes it seem like things will fall apart without us, but have faith that God will raise up strong leaders of color that have many powerful gifts for the community. 

I recognize that I am have been critical in this post and I know that people often serve with the best of intentions. It is important to continue to do good work for others, and everyone is called to give of themselves to help those in need. But know there is a difference between acting out of duty, and participating in a fellowship of mutual servitude that benefits everyone in a way that builds respect and understanding. Remember that if you are not willing to be served, you probably have no business serving. 

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


Tuesday, August 2, 2011

James Baldwin

Happy birthday today to James Baldwin!

Baldwin was a prolific writer and political activist fighting against both racial and LGBT inequalities (way before the later started gaining major press). His novels explore intricacies of identity and the pressures of societal construct. He also wrote many plays, short stories, and essays that are well worth exploring. Also, check out his "Open Letter to My Sister, Angela Y. Davis."

Finally, as quoted in "James Baldwin Back Home" by Robert Coles (NYT, July 1977):

"It's no credit to this enormously rich country that there are more oppressive, less decent governments elsewhere. We claim superiority of our institutions. We ought to live up to our own standards, not use misery elsewhere as an endless source of self-gratification and justification. Of course, people tell me all the time in the West that they are trying, they are trying hard. Some have tears in their eyes and let me know how awful they feel about the way our poor live, our blacks, or those in dozens of other countries. People can cry much easier than they can change, a rule of psychology people like me picked up as kids on the street."

See Also:
Bush and Hurt Feelings
White History Month

Monday, August 1, 2011

Free-trial loans on Kiva!

Followers of BTSF will recall a recent review of Kiva founder, Jessica Jackley's talk on TED.

Kiva helps facilitate small loans to empower folks in need (that you can select) that are trying to run their own businesses to improve their lives. I like it because I can recycle the same money: one $25 gift can be used over and over again for different people as it gets repaid (so what was $25, has the actual effect of hundreds)! Then if you are ever tired of it, you can withdraw the money again and you have made a huge impact on people's lives at zero cost to you!

A lot of times it is hard to put the money up to start such things, but amazingly Kiva is giving out free $25 trials, just to check it out. This is HUGE!

I encourage you to investigate!

See also:
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