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

Friday, March 30, 2012

Friday Fruit (03/30/12)

Rekia Boyd (c. 1989-2012)
On Fridays, BTSF posts links to some of the week's happenings.
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:
  • Rekia Boyd: Abagond reviews some of the most recent racialized killings

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. 

See Also:
With Morbid Silence: Christian Denial in an Age of Disparity

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Health Care Reform

Regardless of the current debates over health care laws, local medical communities could use significant self-examination about taking measured, practical steps to be more accessible to our under-privileged neighbors. Instead, poverty is often held at arm's length with little acknowledgement of our own role in perpetuating the barriers to health care.

In your own life, when is the last time you went to the doctor? Or what about the dentist? Did you procrastinate scheduling the appointment? Did you look forward to it, or were you apprehensive? How long did you wait once you got there? Were you feel ignored by the receptionist? Did you feel intimidated by the doctor?

Did you feel awkward or embarrassed while you were examined? Did you understand what the doctor said to you? Did you remember to take the meds you were prescribed? Or might you have missed one or two doses? Did you know how much 5 milliliters of syrup was? Did you remember to make the follow up appointment?

These are some of the challenges that I face with any doctor's appointment I make, regardless of my income level. So now let's remember that I rarely, if ever, have to worry about:
  • Taking time off work to get to a doctor's office hours, without getting fired or sacrificing precious income needed to survive
  • Finding and paying for childcare while at the appointment
  • Finding transportation to the doctor's office (if you're lucky there is public transport, but often that isn't not a viable option)
  • Paying for parking (our med center has little to no free parking) 
  • Spending time away from work to simply sit in a waiting room
  • Avoiding dirty looks from the receptionist and other patients because of the way I am dressed
  • Paying for the doctor's visit (you may or may not get health benefits from your job, be able to afford the monthly cost, or even afford the copay)
  • Finding transportation back home (because the person that brought you isn't necessarily available to wait around and bring you back)
  • Finding time/childcare to go to the pharmacy and wait for the prescription to be filled
  • Finding transportation to the pharmacy
  • Paying for medication (again, often without the benefit of insurance)
  • Finding transportation home
  • Reading and understanding the medical instructions 
  • Worrying about how to go through the whole ordeal again for the follow up appointment

Anyone can find themselves in a situation of poverty at a moment's notice: a death of a bread winner, loss of a job, an injury that prevents work, identity theft. Some of us have the privilege of a financially secure family to fall back on (even at the cost of some shame and embarrassment). But if not, you may find yourself the victim of a pervasive form of discrimination that assumes that if you are poor, you must be lazystupid, an addict, or in some other way wholly deserving of your lot.

God is consistent throughout the bible in His heart for the poor. From the slaves of Egypt, the nomads in the desert, Joseph the dreamerDavid the shepherd, and continuing with Jesus's priorities while on earth. Look at how Jesus spent his time with the poor and the rich. Which group did he chastise with stern warnings? With which group did Jesus eat with, socialize with, count as His friends? How does His model match the relationships you value in your life?

Further, it is important to remember that the privileged have the most to gain from a relationship with the poor. This is not a charitable endeavour, but one that is fundamental for own souls. We need to understand what it is to depend on God rather than money, to enjoy every day as it comes, and not to be preoccupied with the rat race that is 'planning for the future,' to gain pleasure from relationships rather than from stuff, to respect natural resources rather than domineering over them, to trust in the daily manna rather than storing up treasures. These are skills that I do not posses in any meaningful way.  Do you? In a world where some churches have million dollar mortgages, we have a lot to learn.

Monday, March 26, 2012

With Morbid Silence: Christian Denial in an Age of Disparity

Please welcome guess author, Erin Echols. Erin is an Atlanta native and graduate student in Sociology with special interest in racial inequality and online religious communities (see her website). Her post first appeared on Red Letter Christians.

Whether it is in our passionate recitation from the one line of the one Martin Luther King speech we’ve actually read or the long clap that followed our now President’s suggestion that “There’s not a black America and a white America and Latino America and Asian America; there’s the United States of America,” there is something about us that seems to cling to notions of colorblind equality. We assert our equality even in the face of the latest social science research, which suggests our social situations are currently anything but equal in everything from income and wealth to health and infant mortality rates.

Research has quantified this love by finding that white, evangelical, Christians, are some of the best at denying the existence of racial inequality and some of most likely to attribute any recognized inequality to lack of motivation on the part of minorities.

Photo: twentyonehundred productions 
In this context, it is no surprise that many of us hide behind verses like “there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free” as justification for not talking about race and the still existing division in our country. (It is, however, more curious how we use this verse and this logic to deny the use of racial categories, but fail to carry that logic through to the other words in Paul’s verse that there is “neither male nor female” – with few of us ever suggesting we rid the world of gender classification.)

But who can blame us when we have been taught the Civil Rights movement as if a bunch of brown and black folks descended on the capital, marched on a few streets and suddenly the once racially divided world was healed forevermore?

More than 50 years since the Civil Rights movement first began, many of us fail to recognize that the average net worth (assets minus debts) of white Americans ($113,000) is 20 times the average net worth of blacks (about $5,600) and 18 times the average net worth of Hispanics ($6,325).

Somehow we missed the lessons about what contributed to these disparities. We fail to acknowledge that the FHA gave home loans to whites only for the first 30 years of its existence, thereby helping to create the white middle class today. We missed the lesson about the government selling 270 million acres of land for next to nothing to whites-only under the Homestead Act and how 40 million of us whites are descendants of those who acquired the land. Some of us are still living on that land, many of us are inheriting the inter-generational advantages of it.

We missed the lessons about how, even as my own mother was being born, people of color were being denied access to equal education and were barred from university education altogether. And we have particularly missed the reality that, though those inequalities may have pre-existed us and may not be our personal fault, they have left many of us with an overwhelming advantage.

People like me have been given extra points on college applications for being “legacy students” – an impossible classification for most students of color whose parents could not have attended college in most of the generations that preceded me [See post: Academic Admissions]. Whites like me have benefited from the inter-generational accumulation of wealth that is largely impossible for people of color whose ancestors were denied adequate wages, education and jobs. Many of us have also benefited from living in counties and towns with higher property taxes, better schools, less pollution, more hospitals and a police force who rarely profiles people of our complexion (even though, when stopped, we are more likely to have drugs on us than a person of color).
But we are often afraid to admit these and the other thousands of small but cumulative advantages we have received. Instead, some of us deride the “extra advantages” given to students of color “on the basis of race” all the while misunderstanding the reality of the statistics on affirmative action and while personally profiting from the whites-only policies of the past.

But even the uncomfortable feeling of admitting our advantage in the social system we inherited is not enough. It denies the reality that a 2004 study found that when applicants applied to the same job with identical credentials, applicants with the white sounding names received 50% more callbacks than applicants with 'black sounding names.' Stopping merely at recognizing our inherited advantage denies the reality that the people in the most impoverished African American neighborhoods have to travel longer distances to reach the nearest supermarket than people in the most impoverished white neighborhoods – thereby limiting their access to nutritious foods like fresh fruits and vegetables. 

It denies the reality that many of the worst environmental hazards are located in impoverished black and brown neighborhoods – resulting in higher rates of illnesses like asthma and lead poisoning among African American children. And it ignores the fact that college educated black mothers have higher rates of infant mortality for their children than do white mothers who dropped out of high school. Even when black women have received consistent prenatal care, they still have infant mortality rates almost double white mothers who received absolutely no prenatal care. 

These studies, and similar studies on the effects of discrimination on other health outcomes like heart disease, have consistently controlled for other factors such an urbanicity and family history and have concluded over and over again that weathering (continued exposure to instances of racism or discrimination over time) is a threat to the health of black and brown bodies.

Failing to recognize these inequalities and discuss them openly, denies the reality that this discrimination is literally killing us. It denies the pervasiveness of institutional racism and the continuation of discrimination. It accepts the advantages given to us as whites with a morbid silence that stands with the status quo and a system of oppression that, as Christians, we have a responsibility to stand against. It is a responsibility we have, not because we are all personally responsible for the creation of that system, but because Christ has called us to work toward redemptive justice in a world that is far too often opposed to it.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Friday Fruit (03/23/12)

On Fridays, BTSF posts links to some of the week's happenings.

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. 

See Also:
Bias Matters: Trayvon Martin 
Troy Davis: Georgia's Strange Fruit
Incarceration: the New Jim Crow 

Monday, March 19, 2012

Incarceration: The New Jim Crow

In her book, 'The New Jim Crow,' Michelle Alexander argues that "by targeting black men through the War on Drugs and decimating communities of color, the US criminal justice system functions as a contemporary system of racial control...even as it formally adheres to the principle of colorblindness."

Alexander follows in the footsteps of Angela Davis and others that have decried the targeting of people of color (particularly black and Latino men, but also women) in the criminal justice system. Alexandra argues that just as Jim Crow took the place of slavery, the War on Drugs has filled in for a dissolved Jim Crow.

Though black folk represent only 13% of drug users (paralleling national racial demographics), they account for 35% of drug arrests, 55% of convictions, and 74% of those sent to prison on drug possession charges. Indeed, even though 72% of drug users are white, black men are 13 times more likely to be sent to prison for a drug offence than white men.

As for women, despite similar levels of drug use, black mothers are 10 times more likely to be reported to a child welfare agency for prenatal drug use than white women. Finally, white youth are significantly more likely to engage in illegal drug activity than black youth and have about three times the number of drug-related visits to the emergency room as their African American counterparts, but are far less likely to spend significant jail time as a consequence.

Thus, while our state and local governments continue to face massive threats of bankruptcy, we bloat our jails with more of our citizens than any other county per capita, in a manor that disproportionately targets people of color (see also: disproportionate criminal execution of POCs). The consequences are profound, and are strikingly similar to Jim Crow-era civil rights infringements.

As a result of a racialized criminal justice system, black folk are disproportionately stripped of their right to vote, denied participation on juries, and discriminated against for employment and housing. Those most in need of assistance are denied public housing, food stamps, access to education, and any number of other resources for restorative support. With no job, no house, no food, and no allies is it any wonder that there is a 70% recidivism rate? Every year, our legal system robs millions of the achievements made by the heroes of the Civil Rights movement.

Alexander cites some particularly troubling observations:
  • More African Americans are under correctional control today (prison, jail, probation, or parole) than were enslaved in 1850.
  • More African American men are disenfranchised today than in 1869, the year before the Fifteenth Amendment was ratified.
  • Due in large part to the mass imprisonment of black fathers, a black child born today is less likely to be raised by both parents than a black child born during slavery. 
Thus, we continue our nation's tradition of institutionally-sanctioned, and racially-selective denial of civil rights.

In a recent TED Talk, Bryan Stevenson observed that if Germany were to have a system that disproportionately imprisoned and executed its Jewish citizens, the world would be up in arms! Yet, we seem unconcerned with the USA's policies, even knowing its brutal history of enslaving and persecuting black folk.

No, she's not actually colorblind.
And yes, she's white.
In the words of H.R. Haldeman, President Richard Nixon’s Chief of Staff: “the whole problem is really the blacks. The key is to devise a system that recognizes this while not appearing to.”  Meanwhile, funding to law enforcement agencies continues to be allocated based on quantity, not quality, of arrests, allowing high-level drug conspiracy rings to thrive, while continuing to round up people of color en masse for relatively minor, non-violent drug offenses. In 2005, four out of five drug arrests were for possession, only one out of five for sales. Most people in state prison have no history of violence or even of significant selling activity.

These sorts of policies have consequences for how we in a racialized society perceive each other and ourselves. Many of the images and stereotypes held about violent and criminal people of color were created and/or perpetuated by the War on Drugs.

So how do we as Christians respond? In the bible, imprisonment was considered more a means of oppression than of justice, and we are told to “remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them" (Hebrews 13:3). We are also reminded that "the Lord hears the needy and does not despise his own people who are prisoners” (Psalm 69:33).

Isaiah 61:1 says "the Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, Because the Lord has anointed Me to preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives, And the opening of the prison to those who are bound." Do we take that scripture seriously?

Finally, note what the Psalms say: “How long will you judge unjustly and show partiality to the wicked? Give justice to the weak and the fatherless" (Psalms 82:2-3).

Find a Kairos Prison Ministry in your area, and begin to minister to the folks living the consequences of our War on Drugs. Sit at their feet and learn what it means to "Let the groans of the prisoners come before you" (Psalm 79:11). 

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Friday Fruit (03/16/12)

On Fridays, BTSF posts links to some of the week's happenings.

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. 

See Also:
Bias Matters: Trayvon Martin 

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Kiss me! I’m an Immigrant

Please welcome back Rev. Marty Troyer, pastor of Houston Mennonite Church: The Church of the Sermon on the Mount, on whose site the original version this post was published. In honor of St. Patrick's Day, he takes us through some reflections on how 'minority status' has changed over the past 200 years in the United States:

We’ve come a long way, haven’t we?

Every year on March 17th, St. Patrick’s Day parades all across the country kick-off revelry surrounding all things Irish. The day began as a religious holiday for Christians to celebrate the life of one of our saints, Patrick. But now everyone’s going green: leprechauns, pinching, luck, Guinness, kissing, wearing green. But it certainly hasn’t always been this way.

In the 1800’s Irish immigrants weren’t celebrated, though their hard working hands did the manual labor “we” were unwilling to do. Rather, they were derided, threatened, opposed and run out of town in every state in the union. Unwelcome in America because of their religion, non-whiteness (yes, the racial category of “white” was much narrower at the time) and slowness in assimilation (the previously mentioned St. Patrick’s Day celebrations empowered Irish immigrants to survive in a hostile culture), the Irish were the target of a nativist, xenophobic movement known as the Know Nothings, or, ironically “The Native American Party.”

Perhaps we haven’t come so far after all. Arizona’s SB 1070 (and copycat laws in other states) has been made into law. Congress is has had hearings on terrorism by American Muslims thanks to Peter King from New York. The message is clear: you are unwelcome in America because of your religion and slowness to assimilate. They follow Prime Ministers Angela Merkel of Germany and David Cameron of the UK, who said in recent years that the multicultural experiment has utterly failed. This anti-immigrant fervor advocates for a “melting pot” approach where racial/ethnic/religious minorities must assimilate into the dominate culture mythically referred to as “we.” But who is this “we” anyway? And why are “we” so sure “they” aren’t part of “us”? And since when does Representative King get to decide who “we” are?

The 'Know Nothing' party’s
nativist “ideal
Jesus ran into this same exclusivist attitude many times. In fact, Luke says his first public sermon nearly got him killed just for mentioning God’s acceptance of the “outsider.” The “they” in Jesus culture, more than anyone, were an ethnic-religious minority group known as the Samaritans. And when Jesus was once asked who our neighbors are that we’re supposed to love, he answered with a story. The story unmasks two insiders who have no regard for human suffering or rights even for another insider; but it highlights an outsider Samaritan who embodies what it means to be a good neighbor. Where once animosity and hatred separated the “we” from the “they,” the essence of Jesus’ mission and ours is to break barriers and form friendships.

The Bible we Christians read is clear on this point, we are to love the stranger among us because we were once strangers. And who among us, except of course the true Native Americans, wasn’t once a stranger in this new world?

So I’ve got a couple invitations for you this week. Let’s see St. Patrick’s Day as a reminder of our collective ability to turn from exclusion to embrace. Let’s celebrate that the “they” who were once “they” are now part of our “we.” And this week, I invite you to tune out the anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant, anti-neighbor rhetoric and listen instead to a familiar voice of reconciliation and welcome: Saint Patrick’s.

When he was fourteen, Patrick was victim of the unthinkable tragedy of being kidnapped from his home and stolen away to Ireland. He later escaped his captors and returned home. Within several years he responded to Christ’s call on his life and returned to Ireland not to seek revenge but for reconciliation with his captors. He lived the rest of his days sharing Christ’s love for all people in Ireland.
To all the Christian readers in this amazing country of beautiful multicultural diversity: “Go and do likewise.” Perhaps our political leaders don’t believe in diversity of cultures, but our God does. Wouldn’t it be great if we Christians were known not for our exclusivity, but for our ability to “love the stranger as you love yourself”?

To all my Muslim and Latino/a (and Irish!) readers I say welcome home! This land is your land, this land is my land. Forgive us for our sins, we don’t know what we’re doing. I so deeply regret that you have been shaken by being “vilified, questioned and even legislated against” by people who claim to worship the prince of peace. But stay strong in your faith, and together we’ll get it right. This Christian pastor is glad you’re here.

Note: I’m actually not Irish, I’m Swiss/German through and through. As a Mennonite with Germanic roots, this story could just as easily be told through the lens of our own stories of immigration.

See also:
Immigration: Stranger in a strange land

Free-trial loans on Kiva!

Followers of BTSF can get a free Kiva trial!

Here's a review BTSF did on Kiva founder, Jessica Jackley's talk on TED.

In brief, 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:

Monday, March 12, 2012

Bias Matters: Trayvon Martin

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

Trayvon Martin
Bias matters. It has real consequences that can mean the difference between life and death.

On February 26, 2012, Trayvon Martin was shot and killed outside his father's house in a Florida gated community. He was just a teenager, returning home from buying candy. But the neighborhood watchman considered him 'suspicious,' and shot the unarmed boy. The gunman confessed. There are witnesses. No arrests have been made. 

George Zimmerman
The shooter, George Zimmerman, claims self defense. But the fact that he pursued Martin in a car (after the police told him to back off) and fired on an unarmed minor, makes his claim dubious. Police video (released over a month after the event) shows Zimmerman with no major injuries. So why has no progress been made on this case? Shouldn't the self-defence claim at least be vetted in court?

The police involved in Martin's case have made a judgement about the character of the killer, and they feel Zimmerman's not worth pursuing (despite a previous arrest for police battery). Consistently, cases are more likely to go unsolved when they involve black victims. It's a neglect of duty that fails to bring justice for Martin's murder, in way that is less likely for white victims.

Listen to the chilling 911 call that Zimmerman makes just before murdering Martin. Some choice moments: "This guy looks like he's up to no good, or he's on drugs or something...These ***holes always get away." To Zimmerman, Martin 'looked suspicious,' and how he looked got him killed. 

If Martin were white would he even be dead at all? Probably not. Everyday people of color across the country are disproportionately suspected of crime based on their race and police bias has lead to fatalities on numerous occasions.  

Shoot, or don't shoot?
In addition, experience tells us, that had the races been reversed, Martin would almost certainly be in jail for the rest of his life. Almost 50% of prisoners serving life sentences, and 38% of all prisoners, are black (iconograph). These numbers reflect neither total US population demographics (less than 13% black), nor the demographics of actual crime being committed (eg. marijuana convictions). 

What was going through Zimmerman's mind as he followed his 'suspect' from the safety of a car? We'll never know for sure, but it's certain that he was exposed to the racial smog that we all encounter on a daily basis: he saw the over-representation of criminalized black folk on TV shows, he heard the racialized fear mongering in the news media, he lived in a culture with a long history of demonizing black men. 

Years later, this murder still matters
In that split second decision, Zimmerman believed that an unarmed black boy was more dangerous than an armed man inside a vehicle. It turns out, most people would make the same choice. Try this 'Shoot/Don't Shoot' simulation for yourself (see post: I Am George Zimmerman).

If you were to ask Zimmerman, I'm sure he'd tell you he's not racist; he's 'colorblind.' He may have biases, but he's 'basically a good person', and never means to be prejudiced (same for the police officers covering the case). That's what matters, right? But this situation is a clear demonstration that often 'intent' really doesn't matter. Martin is dead. And Zimmerman's intentions just don't seem that relevant

But apparently, the media doesn't think any of it's relevant at all! News outlets have been reticent to cover the story and weeks have gone by without any major publicity. Why? For the same reason that missing children of color garner so much less media attention than kidnapped white children (See post: Missing Children).  Some stories are simply more important to them than others

We are all breathing in a racial smog. Though we may not end up killing anyone, these subtle biases affect our daily decisions and behavior. What are you doing to combat yours? 

Had you heard about Martin's story? How do you think the incident would have been handled in your neighborhood? Want to take action? Here are three ways you can.

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

Friday, March 9, 2012

Friday Fruit (03/09/12)

Van T. Barfoot (Choctaw), the most highly-decorated
 U.S. veteran, passed away this week
On Fridays, BTSF posts links to some of the week's happenings.

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. 

See Also:
They Will Know We Are Christians
BTSF Blogging Advice
Commenting Guidelines

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

BTSF Blogging Advice

In addition to the commenting and submission guidelines available in the above tabs, let's pause from our normal routine to offer a bit of advice about blogging itself. Readers have sometimes asked for tips/advice on writing and gaining traffic, so included below are some basic habits followed at By their strange Fruit (BTSF).  If you are feeling ambitious, there are more in-depth/time-intensive tweaks that can be made, but these things are a great place to start. Take it or leave it.

Tips are presented the following categories:
Post Formatting
Site Design

What practices have you found helpful in your own blogging? Any suggestions for BTSF?

See Also:
Submissions Guidelines
Commenting Guidelines
About Us

  • Content! Content! Content! 
    • New and loyal readers come from solid content. Nothing substitutes.
    • Consistently posting at a regular time or day helps builds expectation from readers and keeps you in a disciplined routine.
  • Don’t assume your audience knows jargon terms or relevant context. 
    • BTSF has both secular social justice readers, as well as Christian new-to-social-justice readers. 
  • The average time readers stay on a post is 90 seconds and 500 words. 
    • Try to keep posts as close to 500 words as possible, recognizing that anything beyond this limit has a significantly smaller chance of being read. 
    • If you can say 'initially' instead of 'from the start,' do it!
    • The nuanced topics covered on BTSF often require that post must be stretched to 700 words, but anything approaching 1000 words is best broken into a series of articles. 
    • The longer the post, the stronger the content must be to justify it
  • Use short paragraphs (~3 sentences) and short sentences. 
    • If a sentence has more than two clauses, break it apart.
  • Avoid starting posts with an 'I' statement or personal story. 
    • Though they may be good additions later in the post, readers will tune out if used as openers.
  • State your main point right up front, and then expound on it. 
    • Don't hold it back or build up to it. 
    • Readers typically decide to stay or go within the first two sentences of an article. 
  • Include a question, or an invitation to comment, at the end of your post.
    • A thought-provoking question will engage readers in your content, and increase dialogue in the comments section.
  • Do not overly repeat your points--it actually dilutes a message. 
    • If you feel you aren't getting your meaning across, recombine and reduce (rather reiterating and rephrasing). 
    • A common habit is conjoining similar words that don't add much addition meaning
      •  "I was enthusiastic and excited"

Back to Top

Post Formatting
  • Link to relevant background info, resources, and citations often and early
  • 'F pattern' for reading content
    • However, make sure they are always to worth-while content, and not just fluff.
    • Including links helps to provided background for new readers that haven't been reading all along.
    • Links are also valuable in increasing Google search hits (they ranks high in Google's algorithm for 'relevance') 
    • Link both within your site and externally
      • BTSF includes a 'see also' section at the bottom of each articles/posts, to direct readers to other areas of the site. 
      • This practice avoids good posts going 'dead' as they get buried on the homepage history. 
  • Keywords should be mentioned in the first paragraph and in bold. 
    • This is one way Google determines whether the post matches any give search term. 
    • Bolding key phrases also helps those scanning the page to stay engaged.
      • Some readers find this practice annoying, but I've found the benefits out weight the costs
  • Keywords should also be in the title (which should have an < h2 > html format).
    • Keywords in titles count way more than cleverness for courting traffic via search hits. 
  • Pictures help a lot in keeping readers to the end. But be careful to avoid clutter or extended page length.  
    • Avoid hokey or 'stock' images.
  • Along those lines, keep the 'F' pattern in mind when shaping a page.
    • I strategically place pictures and important text to draw the eye to continue reading.

Site Design
  • It's nice to have a distinct landing page that clearly explains what your site is about. 
    • This is the page to which your main URL links, and may be separate from the 'home page' that shows new posts.
    • You may even design several landing pages for folks specifically linking from twitter, facebook etc. 
  • Keep you homepage/landing page clean and free of clutter. 
    • A visitor's eyes should be able to come to rest on the two most important items within seconds.
    • A visitors focus will direct their clicks. Users that feel overwhelmed will just leave. 
  • When someone hits your site, no matter what sub-page they land on, they should be able to quickly determine what you are about.
    • Show your site to people totally unfamiliar with it, give them 60 seconds to explore, and then have them tell you what their take away message is. This exercises can be really insightful.
  • Registering your site with Google Analytics is a helpful way to track which are your effective traffic sources/key words. 
    • I like to keep 1/3 of traffic from search engines, 1/3 from social media, and 1/3 from direct links, with an nice balance between new and returning visitors.
    • Google Analytics will also reports the location of viewers, how long they stayed on a page, where they linked from to get there etc.
    • Don't get bogged down in the numbers
      • Like church attendance, it's a measure of successful practices, not the goal itself. 
    • For what it's worth, Google, Blogger, and stats have never matched each other (though they trend in similar patters). I figure actual viewership is some average between them.
    • Monetizing based on hit counts and ad revenues is an options, but know that you have little control over who advertises and how it will reflect on your content
      • BTSF stays ad-free so as not to add distraction or bias to the messages being conveyed

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  • Once a post goes live, distribute the link in multiple venues:  TwitterRSS feedemail subscription, Facebook, StumbleUpon, Gchat, Google+, Facebook. 
    • These are the ones that have been most effective for BTSF so far. I haven't had much success with blog carnivals, digg, etc.
  • Much new readership comes from staying active in other blogospheres, gaining referrals, contacts, and link backs. 
    • o Commenting on other blogs is a good way to connect with other ideas
      • HOWEVER:  Don't do it unless you have something intelligent and relevant to say!
        • Readers easily see through even subtle blog pushing. 
  • The above point is DOUBLY true for Twitter. As cynical as I was, BTSF has gotten tons of new traffic from it (thanks guys!). 
    • It is easy to find the narrow niches you may be targeting and then to follow up with that group. 
    • Also, new collaborators/resources have come through twitter, letting me know who else is out there with similar missions, what works for them, and helping connect me to their new ideas.
    • Someday, I'll do a separate post on effective tweeting...
  • In emails or promotional material, I like to use to direct to specific posts.
    • Obviously, this is imperative for twitter in reducing the character count, but it also streamlines emails to keep people reading.
    • Best of all, each individualized link comes with stats, so one can tell which items are popular, and which promotion forums are most effective.
      • I can create a two links for one post, send one out via email and one via twitter. Then, actively notice which one brings in more viewers.
      • Similarly, I can give a specific person a unique link ( and be able to tell whether she actually clicked it or not, or if she forwards it to others.
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WHEW! That's a lot. Take it or leave it. Hopefully it's helpful.

See Also:
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About Us

Monday, March 5, 2012

They Will Know We Are Christians

Too often, communities of color find it difficult to differentiate between white Christians and white non-Christians when it comes to issues of racial justice. In his co-authored book More Than Equals, Spencer Perkins observes that:
Book cover: More Than Equals. Picture of authors Spencer Perkins and Chris RiceWhite Christians’ decisions to choose the comfort of their own race over the Christian ideals of brotherhood and oneness that our gospel so boldly preaches have undoubtedly weakened their witness to the African-American community.

His convicting statement reflects the reality that, in racialized debate, people of color feel they cannot count on their white Christian sisters and brothers to have their back.

Too often in moments of racial controversy, the white Christian response to those hurt by such events has been either muted, late, or nonexistent, leaving the marginalized to wonder if our sermons about unity and diversity were just for show. True, some folks may take a stand, but often they act (and are perceived) as individuals, rather than as representatives of Christ and his Church. As a body of believers, we distance ourselves from controversy, and we fail to manifest Christ’s love in solidarity. At our worst, white Christians add to the voices second-guessing the cries of racism.

Tshirt: "They will know we are Christians by our t-shirts"
Yet we know from scripture that we are to “learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression,” and “to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke” (Isaiah 1:1758:6). If we are to be the Body of Christ, we have to understand that the reconciliation for which our souls long cannot come without the justice that our racial brokenness requires.

After all, isn’t that the miracle of Christ? That “we have now been justified by his blood” (Romans 5:9), as a gift from God “who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:18). In his death and resurrection, Jesus accomplished both perfect reconciliation and perfect justice, both of which are necessary for the redemption of a broken world.

So too must we achieve reconciliation through acknowledging racial injustice, followed by action against it. This means going beyond proclamations of unity and community, and gaining a willingness to bear with each other’s burdens.

"They will know we are Christians by our doctrine [crossed out], by our love.White Christians can start by educating ourselves about the issues important to our sisters and brothers of color. Listen. Don’t argue, don’t try to refute. Begin to un-train the years of learned biases. Grow churches that are places of sanctuary, where all can be confident that their voices will be heard and their concerns will not be dismissed.

Once we commit to educating ourselves and bearing with each other, we then must become active agents of change in our communities. We become the first to speak up against injustice and ignorance. We initiate partnerships, and support the efforts of racial reconciliation initiatives already in place. We show up, we participate, and we make our voices heard.

Book cover of Kingdom ComeAnd then we will be different. Then we will bear witness to the power of Christ for justice and reconciliation in today’s world.

In his book Kingdom Come, Allen Wakabayashi asserts, “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.”

As we go through our daily lives, are we living the witness of Christ when it comes to racial justice and reconciliation?

Do we bear the same fruit as the rest of the world or are we different?

Do they know we are Christians?

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Friday Fruit (03/02/12)

On Fridays, BTSF posts links to some of the week's happenings.

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. 

See Also:
Saying 'Yes' to God from the Margins
Noting Those in Attendance
White History Month
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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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