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. 
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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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