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

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Top #BTSF Posts of 2012

As the year, draws to a close we give thanks for the blessings of 2012.

I am particularly grateful to the #BTSF readers that have made this year such a success.

In 2013, follow more conversations about racial justice and Christianity through email or RSS feed.

Check out the top ten most popular #BTSF posts of 2012:

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Friday Fruit (12/28/12)

On Fridays, BTSF offers links to other discussions about race & Christianity. It's an opportunity for you to read about racial justice & Christianity from other folks, and for me to give props to the shoulders on which I stand...

Weekly Round Up:

These are some of BTSF's links of interest this week. What are yours?

Feel free to contribute your own links in the comments section, or submit items you feel should be included during the week. Self-promotion is encouraged.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

The Christmas Story (#BTSF Style)

On Christmas, we remember the occasion of the birth of Jesus Christ.

We remember Mary, a pregnant teen whose dreams of romance gave way to a shotgun wedding and local gossip.

We remember Joseph, a working-class laborer everyone thought had been duped.

We remember the journey, a forced migration by a ruling class seeking to increase their tax revenue

We remember Bethlehem, and parents making do in a tough situation: motels booked solid, ‘no vacancy’ signs everywhere. But the baby’s coming, and there’s nothing to be done but to pull over at the nearest gas station.

We remember the manger, nothing more than a dog food bowl with old newspaper lining the sides to soften the surface.

We remember the shepherds, migrant field hands on minimum wage and working the night shift, who punched out early to go see a miracle. 

We remember the Magi, the statesmen, ambassadors, and dignitaries who cancelled their meetings to travel and bear witness to the prophecy.

We remember the flight to Egypt, when undocumented emigrants fled the authorities across the border to start a new life together as a family.

We remember their return to Nazareth, the backwoods town where the Child would grow up.  

We remember the Christ, the Savior, who began his life on this earth as an outcast, a worker, an immigrant, a nobody on the side of the road.

Will you welcome Him?

Friday, December 21, 2012

Friday Fruit (12/21/12)

On Fridays, BTSF offers links to other discussions about race & Christianity. It's an opportunity for you to read about racial justice & Christianity from other folks, and for me to give props to the shoulders on which I stand...

Weekly Round Up:

These are some of BTSF's links of interest this week. What are yours?

Feel free to contribute your own links in the comments section, or submit items you feel should be included during the week. Self-promotion is encouraged.

Monday, December 17, 2012

The Pathology of Mass Shooting

My soul is weary with sorrow;
strengthen me according to your word.

When the soul is crushed with the weight of unanswerable questions, how do we begin to bind up our wounds? How many times have we gone through this? How many more can we endure?

We experience such shock each time we hear the news. But at what point do we refuse to dismiss such instances as 'random' and 'unheard of'? When do we as a society begin to take collective responsibly for the lives that have been lost? How many will it take before we examine the 'cultural pathology' of white male mass shooting?

There is a double standard that exists around the explanation of such events. It would not take very many mass shootings in which the perpetrators were Black, Muslim, or Latino before we would hear comments about 'violent cultures' and the 'moral bankruptcy' of an entire group.

Think that race should have nothing to do with it? Maybe not. Yet when the perpetrator isn't white, race is routinely injected into the narrative. And no matter how many white male mass-shooter we've had, we still live in a society that fervently fears Black men.

This is the danger of maintaining cultural white male default. We are blind to the ugly aspects of a culture that is perpetually considered 'normal.' If these shooters were black men, there would be a collective shaking-of-heads at their 'inherit violent nature'. If Latina women were committing mass shootings at a similar rate, the media would certainly be asking what the cause of it might be. But after the Newton shootings, we saw no law enforcement policy changes that will increase the racial profiling of white men.

It is a chilling aspect of white privilege to be able "to kill, maim, commit wanton acts of violence, and to be anti-social (as well as pathological) without having your actions reflect on your own racial group" (Chauncey DeVega). Time and again, the white men who commit these mass shooting are framed as 'lone wolves' and 'outliers,' with little examination or reflection on a broader cultural responsibility.

Abagond also notes the trend:

"When white people do something bad it is due to circumstances, a bad upbringing, a psychological disorder or something. Because, apart from a few bad apples, white people are Basically Good. Everyone knows it. But when black people do something bad it is because they were born that way."

When the shooter is white, we dig into school and psychiatric records in search for explanations as to why someone so 'normal' would do such a thing. The shooter is often perceived as the quite, unremarkable 'boy next door' that no on ever dreamed would suddenly snap.

When violence is perpetrated by a person of color, we are quicker to be satisfied with broad explanations of terrorism, religion, or turf wars. Indeed, "after Maj. Nidal Hasan carried out the Fort Hood shootings, his Muslim faith became all the public needed to know about his motive." The news media routinely "pathologize people of color as naturally criminal and violent." 'Urban' is used as shorthand for immorality.

As sensationalized as inner-city violence is, mass shootings of strangers in public settings like schools and shopping malls are virtually non-existent in urban neighborhoods. And despite gun-blazing stereotypes, the majority of people of color are pro-gun control, in stark contrast to the white voting public.

Finally, the understandable horror that is felt after each mass shooting is in stark contrast to the silence and apathy with regard to the children that are dying on the streets everyday. There are daily cries for change and regulation coming from the mouths of mourning mothers that are never heard. The shock expressed after the events like those in Newton subtly sends the message that “this shouldn't happen here, in our idyllic white suburban community. We're not like those neighborhoods where you expect random violence." These attitudes are reflected in the difference in public attention span depending on the race of the victim, whether it's a shooting at a Sikh temple, or a missing child report.

When white is seen as the default, any deviant behavior can be excused as the exception to the rule. Conversely, when we limit our interactions with those of other races, we are forced to rely on heuristics to generalize about the 'other'. If Adam Lanza were black, it would reaffirm stereotypes of a violent culture. If he were Muslim, the shooting would be a 'clear act of terrorism.' But as a white male, he is characterized as a a disturbed individual, wholly distinct from the race and culture to which he belongs.

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

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Friday Fruit (12/14/12)

On Fridays, BTSF offers links to other discussions about race & Christianity. It's an opportunity for you to read about racial justice & Christianity from other folks, and for me to give props to the shoulders on which I stand...

Weekly Round Up:

These are some of BTSF's links of interest this week. What are yours?

Feel free to contribute your own links in the comments section, or submit items you feel should be included during the week. Self-promotion is encouraged.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

UR Facing Race

A group of students from the University of Richmond, led by Jean-Pierre Laurenceau-Medina were among the attendees of the recent Facing Race conference in Baltimore.

Here are some excerpts of their reflections:

Julie Bravo:
"One of the key concepts of the conference was defining racial justice. Many have thought of racial justice as justification for revenge on the oppressive systems and individuals that have maintained racism. Rinku Sen, our opening speaker, advised that we, “Do not confuse justice for revenge, we must redefine justice to make real change.” If we go about trying to solve the problem with the wrong solution we are not going to get anywhere. It is therefore necessary to clarify what it is we strive for keeping in mind the diversity of our people in order to ensure every one’s individual need is met...
...The solution has been here all along. The bible says, “ante los ojos de Dios no hay uno mejor que otro- there is no superior race, everyone is equal. Love thy neighbor, Jesus teaches us and treat others as you want to be treated. “In the end LOVE is the answer, Love= Liberation”- said one of the speakers at one of the workshops. We must set aside our differences, stop running authenticity checks (trying to prove that one is more American- more human than the other) and learn to love every group as much as we love our own- we need to help each other out."

Khatira Darvesh:
"Walking into the hotel and seeing so many people both young and old, men and women of different races, ethnicities and backgrounds all of a sudden made me very nostalgic for my high school. I went to a very diverse high school so it was not a piece of cake adjusting to life on campus at University of Richmond. But with the help from OMA and my Pre-O friends I found my own space on campus. I got used to the life on campus and forgot about my high school until I was sitting in a huge room with 1600 people who at some point in their lives had to struggle with the same issues that I have, people who would understand why I am attending a conference about fighting racism; because isn’t racism over? Didn’t we win the Civil War? Don’t we have the right to vote? Shouldn’t we stop talking about race now? 
The answer is NO. We might have legal rights but race is still a definite issue even today just by the fact that most people think of race as everything else but white. When we talk about race we never talk about the predominant white race. When we talk about diversity or culture no one talks about it."

Raul Luna:
"There was also a film series in which different documentaries were being shown throughout both days of the conference, and as a film studies major I decided to check them out. The first documentary I saw was Harvest of Empire which investigates American involvement in Latin American countries throughout the past century and how those involvements have led to massive amounts of immigrants coming here from those countries. Both my parents are immigrants from Latin America, and this film really helped me understand why they among millions of other people decided to leave their countries to find a better life here."

Kim Laney:
"At the Facing Race conference, I attended sessions that focused more on the intersections of race with other competing identities. I went to a session that discussed the dual burden of the LGBTQ identity, which is not something that I can personally relate to. However, it was amazing to hear their experiences with their dual identities. The person who I found to be most interesting was a half-Chinese, half- white panelist who identified as transgender. I thought it was so brave of them to come out to their Chinese side of the family, who ended up being less than accepting. If I identified as LGBTQ, I highly doubt that I would ever come out to the Asian side of the family, so I thought it was wonderful that they found the strength to do so. Though the outcome wasn’t the best, it means a lot to me that they had this courage, and still had a strong support system of loving friends. I also met a Filipino man who identified as gay, and we discussed the difficulties of living up to the standards of many Asian families as an LGBTQ person. He directed me to the “BasicRights” Youtube channel, which interviewed families of many different ethnic backgrounds. I watched all of them, and was especially pleased by the inclusion of the Native American families. It’s with the simple resources and connections I ended up gaining that I am so thankful for these conferences!"

Loubna El Bar:
"‘Facing Race’ made me realize that racial injustice hasn’t been eliminated....The terms ‘diversity’ and ‘equity’ were clearly defined in the first breakout session that I attended: Changing the Conversation on Race. Milly Hawk Daniel from PolicyLink said that there is a difference between the two, one that has kept the minorities and supports of racial justice back for years. Diversity he says, “is getting the people in the room, while equity is what people are doing once they’re in the room”. In essence, gathering a group of minorities and whites together is not enough; that is only the beginning. One needs to take the extra step, make a difference, and be a part of the betterment of society."

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Paradox of Modern Racism

Ask just about anyone: "Are you racist?
The answer will be no.
No one judges others based on skin color. No one sees other peoples race. Everyone is colorblind.

Most people believe that they harbor no prejudice. White folks in particular are apt to assert that there is no advantage to their skin color--that if everyone works hard, and is kind to one another, we will 'all get along' and be prosperous.

So then why do we experience so much racial tension in our world? Why are interactions between races still awkward? Why are political options still often split along racial lines? Why are conversations about race so difficult?

Maybe it's because some people insist on continuing to make a big deal out of nothing. Or they want to dwell on the past. Maybe they're playing a card to gain advantage. Or maybe there is something else going on.

We often function with a 'racism without racists' mentality. Our modern racial paradox is that our society is filled with profound differences based on race, yet few claim to even see race at all.

This is a dangerous form of racism. Because we refuse to acknowledge its existence, we are helpless to combat it. Racism is allowed to run rampant because we deny the reality of its strength.  It's a clever tactic: "the greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he doesn't exist" (Charles Baudelaire). And so, we live in sin, blind to our need for redemption.

Despite our denial , our society is a racialized one. People of color have higher unemployment rates, which disproportionately worsens during economic decline. Workers of color are paid less for the same job, and have poorer access to higher-paying occupations. There are consistent differences across almost all measures, including poverty rates, healthcare, education, and housing.

If we live in a 'post-racial' society, then why does such tremendous disparity exist?

Ironically, the folks that claim to be 'colorblind' are often the same ones that cite 'cultural pathology' to explain the above racial differences:
  • "Some people just don't want to work very hard"
  • "They don't take personal responsibility"
  • "They just don't value family enough"
  • "They are destroying themselves with violence"
  • "Well, it's the drugs, you know"
  • "They don't know how to manage money responsibly"

These 'negative generalizations based on race' sure sound like racism to me. But people making such statements will categorically deny their prejudice. But they are the same ones that wear Dr. King's words about 'the content of our character' like a badge of honor. They 'don't see race.'

But they are also the ones that are quick to point out 'reverse racism.' Alan Noble asserts that "the 'post-racial' myth sees any acknowledgement of difference as hypocrisy, despite the reality of difference" and thus we become selectively colorblind. We tend to only see race as a factor when we feel we are on the loosing side

Rather than denying the reality of racial disparity, if we would turn and face our brokenness, we might begin to take positives steps for change. Only by acknowledging where we are, can we gain direction for where we want to go. 

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Friday Fruit (12/7/12)

On Fridays, BTSF offers links to other discussions about race & Christianity. It's an opportunity for you to read about racial justice & Christianity from other folks, and for me to give props to the shoulders on which I stand...

Weekly Round Up:

These are some of BTSF's links of interest this week. What are yours?

Feel free to contribute your own links in the comments section, or submit items you feel should be included during the week. Self-promotion is encouraged.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Christian Rhetoric in Understanding Racism

Christianity is filled helpful ways of understanding racism. The way  Christians view the world helps us understand our individual roles within a larger system of racial injustice.  Yet the Gospel is terribly underutilized as a framework for racial justice and reconciliation.

We have heard people claim "I'm not a sinner, I'm basically a good person!" There is a similar phrase: "I'm not a racist, I'm colorblind!" But we know that everyone has fallen short. There is none among us that hasn't defied God's intentions for us at some point in our lives. Likewise, there is none among us that hasn't judged our neighbor (even to the point of contempt)  for the clothes they wear, the car drive, or the music to which they listen.

For those in positions of privilege, it goes one step further because we benefit from an institutionalized system of racism. We get hired easier, make more money for the same work, have better health care, and live in better security than economically-matched sisters and brothers of color. We benefit from corporate sins, transgressions that we perpetuate as a group. We didn't ask for this, but here we are. The best we can do is to help undo the mechanisms that got us here.

We continue deal with the consequences of Adam and Eve's mistakes, thousands of year after the fact. So as Christians, we should understand why today we still bear the consequences of slavery, Jim Crow, and segregation  These transgressions are MUCH more recent!

When God's people built themselves a golden calf, the next generation bore the consequences as well. Surely the younger group said among themselves "it's not our fault that our parents were so sinful. We know better now." And yet, they continued to wander the desert.

There may have even been those present at the time if the transgression that disagreed with what was happening, but sinned passively by remaining silent. Surely, we do the same today.

It's terribly difficult to break out of generational sin (pair Genesis 12:10-20 with Genesis 26:6-11) because of the cultural habits and norms that are passed down from parent to child. Scripture says that God "punishes the children and their children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation” (Exodus 34:7) and that "our fathers have sinned...and we have borne their iniquities" (Lamentations 5:7).  The consequences of continued disparity are accumulated and passed down to the next generation. We maintain the brokenness, both by leaving our own privileges unchallenged, as well as by remaining complacent in the prejudices of others.

The Good News is that, as Christians, we know not to despair! We understand that Christ came to redeem a broken world in a way that we could never fully do for ourselves. The cross represents the singular moment of perfect reconciliation and perfect justice on earth. 

We understand that justice, through the death of Christ, was an essential component in God's plan for reconciliation. We cannot have reconciliation without justice. It must also be so when we seek restored relationships on earth. We must work to rectify racial injustice if we hope to reach reconciliation. 

Because Christ died to restore a broken world, we have hope that all will one day be made right. So we do not despair in the meantime. We are not paralyzed by the magnitude of our own brokenness,though divide can seem too great. Instead, we rejoice in the opportunity to be co-laborers in Christ's work on earth. We do not continue in racial sin, but turn from our ways, having now received God's gift. We trust that God is bigger that our brokenness and can use us for His good purpose.

In addition, Christians have a framework for working out reconciliation with each other on individual and systemic levels. We understand the importance of speaking the truth in love, and holding each other accountable to God's will. We know we are to confess our sins and seek forgiveness. In turn, we are to offer each other grace and healing, abiding with one another in the face of division. This is how the body of Christ is to deal with one another in the face of racial brokenness. 

We understand that we live in a broken world. We observe pain and inequality. We see that the world is not as God intended it to be. We know that some aspects of that condition will not be changed until Jesus comes again. But we also know that we each perpetuate our broken state through our individual sin, both active and passive.

In the same way, we live in condition of racism. A long history has bred division and disparity, and on some level we recognize that we will never attain true unity on earth. But we also know that each time we choose our own comfort over embracing the full body of Christ, we contribute to its division. Instead, we have the choice to work for the redemption of God's people and journey toward the reconciliation that God desires.

These are truths of the Gospel. The rhetoric with which we convey its message is uniquely suited to deal with racial injustice. The world needs to see the model of Christian reconciliation lived out in our individual lives and in our churches. When we fail to work toward restoration, it cheapens the power of the Cross. But when we live by this example, it is a witness to God's glory. 

Friday, November 30, 2012

Friday Fruit (11/30/12)

On Fridays, BTSF offers links to other discussions about race & Christianity. It's an opportunity for you to read about racial justice & Christianity from other folks, and for me to give props to the shoulders on which I stand...

Weekly Round Up:

These are some of BTSF's links of interest this week. What are yours?

Feel free to contribute your own links in the comments section, or submit items you feel should be included during the week. Self-promotion is encouraged. 

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Adoption: Divinely Inspired and Culturally Informed

To wrap up November, which is in National Adoption Month, we revisit Sherie Mungo's compelling testimony, exploring her experiences with adoption. This is the second of a two-part series (originally published 11/27/11).

In my previous post, I ended with the question of whether or not my parents' response to my first racist experience would have been different had they not been Black. Let me first respond to this by saying that I think that all adoption is a labor of love and has the ability to transcend race. Hence, I believe that anyone who finds a place in their hearts to love and cherish abandoned children as their own is fulfilling Jesus’s foremost command to “love your neighbor as your self.” In this context, it doesn’t matter whether the kid you adopt is white, black, pink or silver; what matters is that you show them Christ’s love.

However, adoption does not occur in a cultural vacuum, and adoptive parents cannot always protect their children from the sins of society, such as racism. No matter how much my parents loved me, they couldn’t stop the cruel name calling at the park, or the painful isolation from social events because I was the only “Black kid.” These harsh realizations left my parents feeling angry and helpless, as they would any parent.

Adoptive parents must also realize that despite their Christian intentions, they have internalized worldly biases themselves. While these biases may be unconscious, unawareness doesn’t make their manifestation any less hurtful; in fact, ignorance may make it worse. Yes, even my Black parents exhibited certain aspects of intra-racism that were influenced by their own experiences in the world. They could not escape society’s subliminal messages about race.

If my Black parents were not immune to racial deception that is in the world, I think that we must question how resistant White parents of Black (or any minority) children are to the same temptation. As previous authors have argued on this blog, White parents may succumb to the falsely complacent belief that race doesn’t matter. 

I believe they are partly correct in this argument; race shouldn’t matter. But it does. It matters within the recesses of your own heart, and it matters in society. For example, if your Black child tells you he or she is being excluded from social events, your response will illustrate what you internally believe about race, and how you perceive its manifestation in the external world. White parents must be made fully aware of both these reactions before they can hope to raise a well-rounded minority child. As in my situation, the way that parents react to racist situations will influence how a child will view race for the rest of their lives.

White reactions to minority difficulties is not the only aspect of race and adoption I wish to speak on. As stated in my first post, there was another event that made me ponder race and adoption. I was giving my adoption testimony to a White friend when she asked me “So, are your parents black?” “Of course they are! What else would they be?” was my indignant reply. Her sheepish response has stuck with me since: “Well, you know, a lot of Black kids are adopted by White parents.” 

As I pondered her statement, I begin to think about what this means for minority adoption. Do White people adopt more than minorities? This is a complex question that requires a complex answer. I think we must first understand that the answer is located in cultural norms and values. Minorities (please know that I speak from a Black point of view) tend to do familial and communal adoptions. In other words, they take in children from their own families and communities. This may not be “official” adoption, but the function is often the same.

Yet White parents get magnified as the givers of grace to minority children because of the societal emphasis on a formal procedure. I think it’s safe to say that this preference is rooted in notions of White patriarchy and superiority. To combat this, we need to legitimize these variant forms of adoption.

I do want to close by saying that Black children would greatly benefit from formalized adoption by Black parents. Giving a Black child not only your cultural perspective but official name and place in society is priceless. While there is nothing wrong with taking in kids unofficially, there is something special about officially adopting a child; I should know.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Adoption: Human and Divine

To wrap up November, which is in National Adoption Month, we revisit Sherie Mungo's compelling testimony, a two-part series exploring her experiences with adoption (originally published 11/11/11). 

When speaking to the Ephesian church about the blessings of being redeemed, Paul wrote that God the father “predestined us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will.” I think that this verse paints a powerful image for the body of Christ: God plans to adopt us back from the grip of the Kingdom of darkness because it gives Him good pleasure.

I feel doubly blessed by this favor since I have been adopted by both humans and the Divine. While I do not presume to say that these two are one and the same, I do think human adoption serves as a powerful metaphor for what God does for His children.

I experienced just how powerful adoption is on November 1st, 1990, when my parents Stephanie and Derek Mungo graciously took me in as their own child. I was three years old, a product of biological parents addicted to crack cocaine with criminal records. My age alone could have been a deterrent for my parents, but coupled with my lingering issues from being a crack baby made me a walking adoption nightmare. They were told that I would need to have special education services and that physical activities would always be a problem for me. 

Despite these inhibiting factors, my parents had an unfaltering faith that I was their child, and even more importantly I was God’s child. This faith gave them the courage to defy the words of man spoken over my life and provide me with hope for my future. Needless to say, twenty two years later I am a graduate level student who has enjoyed a good amount of physical activity (maybe not lately, but I digress). The point is, my parents’ faith helped me to transcend the negative circumstances that I was born into.

So, how does my story speak to race in addition to adoption? When I first started thinking about posting, I struggled to make this connection. I mean, I am a Black woman who was adopted by Black parents; what’s so special about that? Then I remembered two events in my life: 1) my first experience with racism and 2) being asked whether or not my parents were Black.

I do not plan to go into the racist event in detail. Suffice it to say that it was a painful coming of age experience that many POC’s have to go through. I do however want to focus on my parents’ apt reaction to my pain and confusion. As they had experienced similar injustices, my Black parents understood my feelings exactly. They knew the hurt and bitterness that could result from that moment you realize your skin color is cause for mistreatment. My parents responded to my angst with a balance of incisive Black consciousness and Christian grace.

They explained that while racism would unfortunately be an external part of my life, I shouldn’t let that color my view of self worth and value. They also explained while I shouldn’t go looking for racism, I needed to be prepared for its manifestations. Perhaps more importantly, bitterness and non forgiveness were strongly discouraged by my parents. Despite the injustice of prejudice, I had to forgive the perpetrator for their sin of racism just as Christ had forgiven me.

Would my parents have been able to handle this situation with such adroitness if they were not Black? 
In my next post, I’ll explore this question into greater depth.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Friday Fruit: Facing Race Edition! (11/23/12)

Oh...just me hanging with
W. Kamau Bell, Franchesca Ramsey,
and Jay Smooth
Last week, leaders in racial justice from around the country gathered together at the Applied Research Center's Facing Race. It was an amazing time of fellowship and shared mission.

To give you a glimpse into the awesomeness, check out Rinku Sen's powerful opening speech, and then peruse a summary of the weekend's insights via storify. Finally, check out these stories from Andrea Plaid at Racialicious: No Justice, No PeasEnergy Democracy For All; and Junot Diaz Press Conference.

What were your favorite moments at Facing Race? Share below!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Creation Myths: Thanksgiving

There are two sides to history, and it is the winning side whose story is remembered. Such is the case with Thanksgiving.

The Black Commentator suggests that "the Thanksgiving story is an absolution of the Pilgrims, whose brutal quest for absolute power in the New World is made to seem both religiously motivated and eminently human. Most importantly, the Pilgrims are depicted as victims – of harsh weather and their own naïve yet wholesome visions of a new beginning."

There is much debate regarding the very first Thanksgiving. Indeed, there were many ‘days of thanksgiving’ proclaimed after settlers first landed, or survived harsh winters, or experienced plentiful harvests. The earliest Thanksgiving was not celebrated by British immigrants, but rather by Spanish conqueror Pedro Menéndez de Avilé, in Saint Augustine, Florida on September 8, 1565.

Over the subsequent century, many other Thanksgivings took place as new invaders and immigrants arrived. One of which, one was held under truly despicable auspices. Thousands of Indians had been killed or sold into slavery during the Pequot War (which began after the British-led nighttime massacre of  Mystic village). Heartened by their 'victory' and the death of thousands of men, women, and children, Connecticut Puritans declared October 12, 1637 a holy day of thanksgiving.

William Bradford, the governor of the Plymouth Colony gave the following account:
“Those that scraped the fire were slaine with the sword; some hewed to peeces, others rune throw with their rapiers, so as they were quickly dispatchte, and very few escapted...It was a fearful sight to see them thus frying in the fyer, and the streams of blood quenching the same, and horrible was the stincke and sente there of... [The pilgrims] gave the prayers thereof to God, who had wrought so wonderfully for them, thus to inclose their enemise in their hands, and give them so speedy a victory over so proud and insulting an enimie.”
The TRUE origin
 of Thanksgiving
The most famous Thanksgiving meal was indeed held by British immigrants in partnership with (and thanks to charity from) members of the Wampanoag Nation in 1621. However, that alliance was only forged subsequent to the enslavement and mass death of the Patuxet Indians, an occurrence which necessitated more acquiescent relationships with the British immigrants in the region thereafter.

However, it was over 150 years later that the familiar story of the 1621 Mayflower Thanksgiving was actually established, in large part due to Sarah Josepha Hale (1788-1879). Her enchantment with the Pilgrim narrative compelled her to campaign aggressively for the adoption of the national holiday. Her bucolic editorials and petitions shaped the modern conception of Thanksgiving, which became a national holiday in 1863.

This year on Thanksgiving, take time to learn the stories that aren't being told in school. Become familiar with the National Day of Mourning and the Indigenous Peoples Alcatraz Sunrise Gathering, which commemorate the true history of Thanksgiving and honor the many voices that have been silenced.

Wamsutta (Frank B.) James
Read the suppressed speech of Wamsutta (Frank B.) James, which was supposed to be delivered in Plymouth in 1970 as part of a celebration of the Pilgrim landing. The event's public relations personnel edited his speech because they didn't approve of the history he told in it, but Wamsutta refused to deliver the revised version. Read the words he would have said that day.

The fact that such a sordid history is associated with the day we set aside to ‘thank God’ for his providence should give us pause. In reality, the United States celebrates Thanksgiving because the majority of its population benefits from the fruits of genocide and slavery. Let us indeed set aside time to count our blessings, but let us also be honest with ourselves about the legacy from which those blessings are derived.

See Also: Adam Ericksen's great article discussing similar issues on Sojourners

Friday, November 16, 2012

Friday Fruit (11/16/12)

On Fridays, BTSF offers links to other discussions about race & Christianity. It's an opportunity for you to read about racial justice & Christianity from other folks, and for me to give props to the shoulders on which I stand...

Weekly Round Up:

These are some of BTSF's links of interest this week. What are yours?

Feel free to contribute your own links in the comments section, or submit items you feel should be included during the week. Self-promotion is encouraged. 

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Tuskegee Airmen

In honor of Veteran's Day we're revisiting this post that originally aired on 01/24/12:

Retired Tuskegee Airmen: Ivan Ware,
J. Byron Morris and William E. Broadwater
Formally known as the 332nd Fighter Group of the U.S. Army Air Corps, the Tuskegee Airmen were the first black military pilots and flight crews. While still subject to Jim Crow both in the USA and abroad, our soldiers defended the United States against Nazi Germany in World War II.

Their record was superb. With nearly 1000 fliers trained since their formation in 1941, they damaged or destroyed over 400 enemy aircraft and flew 1,578 missions. Four-hundred and fifty pilots served overseas, with ~150 receiving Distinguished Flying Crosses, and 66 killed in action.

In addition:
Captain Fred Hutchins

  • 3 Distinguished Unit Citations:
    • 99th Pursuit Squadron: for the capture of Pantelleria, Italy
    • 99th Fighter Squadron: for successful air strikes against Monte Cassino, Italy
    • 332d Fighter Group: for the longest bomber escort mission of WWII
  • At least 1 Silver Star
  • 14 Bronze Stars
  • 744 Air Medals
  • 8 Purple Hearts
  • 950 railcars, trucks and other vehicles were destroyed
  • 1 destroyer sunk

If you don't know the story of these airmen, take some time to familiarize yourself with their history through original videos and personal narratives. Read about the racism they faced beforeduring, and after their service in WWII.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Friday Fruit (11/09/12)

On Fridays, BTSF offers links to other discussions about race & Christianity. It's an opportunity for you to read about racial justice & Christianity from other folks, and for me to give props to the shoulders on which I stand...

Weekly Round Up:

These are some of BTSF's links of interest this week. What are yours?

Feel free to contribute your own links in the comments section, or submit items you feel should be included during the week. Self-promotion is encouraged. 

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Am I Appreciating or Appropriating? (Part 2)

Here is part 2 from Ms. Maxine (@SideHustleStory) on the difference between 'appreciation' and 'appropriation':

The fact that minority cultures in the U.S. are much more harmed by these stereotypes is just one of many reasons to remember the next step... 

3. Check your privilege
If you’re white in western culture and borrowing from another culture for your art/life/whatever, know that you are doing it from a position of privilege that colors how you see the other culture and how your use of that culture is perceived.

Your privilege will make your work more likely to be recognized and promoted. This partly why when a white person appropriates from a non-majority* culture, the result is more hurtful and harmful than when someone of any race appropriates from Celtic or Italian culture, for example.

Sometimes, checking your privilege means that you might have to change how you plan to use the culture you’re lifting from to make it more accurate to that culture. In fact, working with or including people from that culture in your depiction may be the only way to borrow from that culture without taking advantage of it.

Let’s say you’re a painter who wants to borrow from a Filipino creation myth in creating one of your works. You research the story and take care to accurately represent the themes of the myth. However, in your painting, you depict the figures as white, not Filipino, even while citing the source of the story that inspired the painting.

Even while providing credit and researching into the myth, depicting the people as white erases the Filipinos from their own culture’s story. Using Filipinos as the models for the painting would have been a way to give homage to the culture being borrowed, instead of staying in the privilege of using the models you may be used to seeing.

Revisiting one example from last week, the popularity of the post about wearing a veil was another example of how minority voices are silenced and those of the majority are elevated. Many veiled Muslim women have written about their experiences and yet not received nearly the same amount of exposure as the non-muslim woman who did so . Also, the idea that wearing a veil for a few hours is the same as a lifetime as living as veiled Muslim woman is an offensive oversimplification.

Similarly, the woman who chose to wear a fro for fun/profit wrote about her adventures in complete ignorance of the problems women who choose to wear their natural hair face. She was able to present her experiences as representative of living with an afro, despite being able to take it off at the end of the day. Thus, this is also an offensive example of appropriation, and has the added bonus of perpetuating negative stereotypes.

Another part of checking your privilege is realizing that if you’re in the majority culture, you have the ability to lift the enjoyable parts of various cultures without experiencing the negative parts of actually being a part of that culture. When it comes to art, acknowledge that your privilege may allow your work to be recognized more than others, and your “borrowing” of others’ culture is taking advantage of this situation.

Having a position of privilege means that sometimes there is no right way to appropriate an element of someone else’s culture. If your form of appreciating another culture only serves to hurt the creators of that culture, are you actually doing any good? Instead of appreciating, you may end up offending those around you and further alienating yourself from the cause of racial reconciliation.

It’s not as simple as saying “you’re white, all other cultures are off limits,” nor can we say “the whole world is available for your use and exploitation”. When fabric we think of as “African” actually has a mixed West African, European and Indonesian history, it’s clear that navigating issues of cultural appropriation is beyond Race Relations 101. It’s important, especially as an artist, musician or leader, to strive to be considerate, fair, and receptive to feedback in our efforts to appreciate other cultures through our creative efforts.

If we’re not willing to avoid wearing a fashion accessory or reconsider our art in order to help foster racial reconciliation, why should we be trusted to fight racism and prejudice in other, more difficult ways? 

* Non-majority in the U.S. and other western countries
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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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