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

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Top #BTSF Posts of 2014

As December draws to a close, we reflect on the tumultuous year that was 2014. So much of it was hard, but in the dark of winter, there is yet hope. I continue to be grateful to the #BTSF readers who have sparked brilliant dialogue and joined in tremendous efforts toward racial justice.

Let us push forward in 2015 toward a just and reconciled Kingdom, on earth as it is in heaven.

Check out the top ten #BTSF posts of 2014:

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Friday Fruit (12/26/14)

Photo: @DanielJCamacho
On Fridays, BTSF offers links to other discussions about race & Christianity. It's an opportunity for you to read other perspectives, 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 21, 2014

The 'Exotic' Three Wisemen

Previously on this blog, we’ve discussed the predominance of white Santa and white baby Jesus. But in a white default world, when do characters of color make an appearance in the Christmas story we tell?

On the occasion that nativity scenes do contain some amount of diversity, it is usually in the characters of the three wise men. These kings traveled from a far off land, and it seems are the only ones that have been ‘otherized' enough to be people of color at the foot of the manger. The message here is that they are ‘exotic’—they are not one of us.

So common is this type-casting that children make lasting associations based on Christmas iconography:
“Its Christmas time in Detroit, 1961. I was 3 years old and in the bank line with my Mom. There were 3 black men in front of us in line, talking and laughing amongst themselves. I had never seen, nor let alone been exposed, to people who didn’t look like me. All I had known is what was in picture books at home, and we had pictures of the dark skinned men who visited Jesus in the manger. Being an inquisitive little chatterbox and fairly smart, I asked these 3 fellows if this was who they were… What did I know? My Mom wanted to dive under a desk in embarrassment. Luckily for us, they laughed in what I hope now is amusement at the innocent question of a 3 year old toddler.”

There are some traditional reasons for the magi’s representation. In Europe, the three wise men often represent each of the continents: Africa, Europe, and Asia (being a primitive culture, Europe was unaware of the other four continents during the time of the tradition’s origins). Thus, in paintings and in live nativity scenes, at least one of the Magi is usually black--most often through the use of blackface.

But the biblical account describes the Magi as traveling from the east, not from the continent to the south and west of Bethlehem. And despite repeated requests to stop the use of blackface, the tradition continues. Indeed, in Germany some have observed that “this use of blackface is a missed opportunity to be truly inclusive of Afro-Germans in German-speaking communities and contributes to the equation of 'blackness' with 'foreignness' and 'otherness' in German culture.”

God sent God's Son into the world as poor, brown, member of an oppressed society. This is who we should identify with and celebrate. Rather than perpetuating exclusion and ‘otherization’ in our manger scenes, we could be celebrating the truly inclusive Body of Christ.

Do you have a nativity scene in your home? Who is represented in it? Who is missing? 

Friday, December 19, 2014

Friday Fruit (12/19/14)

On Fridays, BTSF offers links to other discussions about race & Christianity. It's an opportunity for you to read other perspectives, 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 14, 2014

Are You Willing to Die-In?

Die-in at Ohio State University
Photo credit: Allison Wilder
Jesus told his disciples “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit" (John 12:24).

To be followers of Christ, we know we must let go of our own pursuits in this world. We must sacrifice ourselves and give up those things we hold dearest (Luke 14:26-27). Our walk with Christ is a constant process of setting aside our own priorities and committing to the life God would have us lead. We're called to lay down our own lives for the sake of the Kingdom.

After weeks of protests, of news coverage, and of social media campaigns, many white friends have become outraged in our hearts for the injustices we see. You've read countless articles, commented on friends' Facebook posts, maybe even attended a local rally. But now what? What are we willing to do to affect lasting change?

Are you willing to sustain the hard work of overhauling a system? Will you labor to usher fundamental change to a national mindset? Are you willing to die to yourself when you attend your next die-in?
Via Lisa Sharon Harper

For our cries for justice to ring with any truth, white co-laborers must disrupt our own hearts, even as we disrupt the institutional status-quo around us. It's too easy hold up a sign and then go about our normal daily business. It's too easy to point at others as the source of the strife. It's too easy to perpetuate the very thing we protest. We must not lie down only to get up again into our old ways.

To be followers of Christ, we know we must die-in to ourselves. Jesus tells us “if any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me" (Matthew 16:24).

White folk must die-in to our own perspectives, we must die-in to our self-preservation, we must die-in to our sense of exceptionalism. We must die-in to our desire to be at the center, we must die-in to our need to get ahead. Indeed, we must surrender ourselves to the example of Christ's ultimate die-in on the cross, because we know that "greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends" (John 15:13).

This means a fundamental shift for white folk. It means uprooting who we are and how we live our daily lives. Indeed, we must "count [our]selves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus" (Romans 6:11), repenting of our participation in injust systems and turning to a new way of living that divests ourselves of its benefits. It means chipping away at injustice from all sides, with each moment we are given on this earth.

So yes, we protest, we write letters, we vote, we show up. Then we yield our resources and our own ways of doing things. We invest daily in communities and in individuals, raising up local leaders of color and stepping aside so they can soar. It means giving up your time, giving up your money, giving up your influence, giving up your goals and your plans.

Because this is what it will take.
This is what is necessary to ensure that lasting progress is made.
It takes dying-in to ourselves.

If we sit alone in our consternation, then like the grain of wheat, we languish in our own self-preservation. But if are willing to fall to the ground in solidarity, then together we will bear great fields of life-giving, Kingdom fruit.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Friday Fruit (12/12/14)

On Fridays, BTSF offers links to other discussions about race & Christianity. It's an opportunity for you to read other perspectives, 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 7, 2014

#StayWokeAdvent: The Gift of the Angels

Last Sunday at UM Church for All People, Rev. Karen Cook opened an Advent sermon series on God's gifts. But Micheal Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Davis, John Crawford & others weighed heavily on our minds that morning.

In her sermon, Rev. Cook eloquently brought all of these themes together. She weaves in elements from Micky ScottBey Jones's 'It’s Advent. #StayWoke' and speaks to the power of God's gifts to us in these times:

For Christians, Advent is the season when we’re preoccupied with anticipation.  It’s a time when we celebrate God’s ability to give “beyond all we can ask or imagine.”  In Christ, God gave us the most unexpected gift: Himself.  We can see God, know God, and experience the benefits of God’s presence.  In Christ, God demonstrated His great love for us and brought to earth blessings that even those who have “everything” long for—peace, contentment, grace, forgiveness, hope, purpose and joy!

Advent invites us to stand together as people with our brothers and sisters in Ferguson as we all struggle to and wrestle with the decision to move forward with so many unanswered questions, in Chicago as we weep with decisions made and so many unanswered questions, in Cleveland as we weep with decisions made with so many unanswered questions, as we wait anew for hope:
"Have you ever been stuck in a dark place with only a sliver of light or no light at all? You know those times waiting for news that could bring just as much struggle as it brings resolution? Remember the times of waiting and waiting, not knowing when the answers will come? Times of anticipation, of unknowing, of darkness before more light, are not always joyful, peaceful, or even largely hopeful. These are times of struggle, times of wrestling, doubting, mourning, crying, yearning, times of staying alert to the signs that light may be coming, that things are changing.
This is the time, the time of Advent, to stay alert…to “stay woke”…to your senses, your mind, your body, your feelings, your spirit to where to Spirit is stirring and leaning. Stay woke….to the impact your life has on others…Stay woke…to the injustice that we either contribute to or diminish…Stay woke….to the groanings of the world…Stay woke…to the humble, radical, empire-upsetting ways of Jesus…Stay woke…to the darkness…Stay woke…to the light…and to the sacred and profane in both."
-'It’s Advent. #StayWoke'
We have to stay awake because this message of Advent regardless of what is going on around us is Good News, it is news that is worth waiting for, it is news that is worth sharing. And this same news became gift to the shepherds:

The angels belong to another world, but the shepherds belong to the lowest social class in this world. The angels are bright and glorious with heavenly light, but the shepherds are dirty and carry the stench of sheep. The angels knew what it was like to exist in the presence of God, but the shepherds were excluded from the very temple they provided sheep for sacrifice. The angels explode onto the scene with loud, dynamic shouts of praise and worship, but the poor shepherds are stunned and frightened into silence.

The angel of the Lord stood before the outcasts of society.  And gave this amazing gift to these shepherds, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people…

...Today a Savior has been born to you.”

Beloved, the shepherds needed this gift, but we need this gift too, just to deal with the anxieties of life.

Let me ask you, are you worried? Are you anxious? It seems that our lives are so hectic, especially this time of year, and there are so many different worries bearing down on us from every angle. All these worries can weigh us down and depress us.

But it’s not just the worries of life that can get us down, it’s also the realities of life. Realities which are painful vivid reminders that we live in a fallen world. There are many in our community who are alone, there many in our community who are grieving, there are many in our community who are looking for safe affordable housing, there are many in our community who struggle daily with additions.

The world can be such a depressing place and that‘s from just this season alone. But the gift of the angel said, “I bring you good news of great joy for all people; to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior.” Into this dark depressing world was born He who is the light of the world. What good news! What great joy!

Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!

It is a threefold message wrapped up in one gift:

First, "Glory to God in the highest heaven"
God had kept His promise to destroy the works of the enemy through the person and work of Jesus Christ. I love the scripture in Psalm 24:8 it sounds like a battle cry:
"Who is the King of glory? The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle" 
This is the God whom the angels glorified: God who won the victory for us over the powers of darkness through the incarnation of the Lord Jesus Christ. That is the first great gift of the angels.

"And On Earth, Peace"
We must understand the nature of this peace. This is not a peace treaty between nations that will soon be broken. This is not the empty peace that men seek in false religions, or in material possessions, or in worldly philosophies, or in psychology, or in many other things of this earth.

Jesus said in John 14:27, "My peace I give unto you; not as the world gives do I give to you.  Beloved, This is a peace that comes by way of the Holy Spirit who has been sent by the Father and the Son into the heart of every everyone of us. That’s the second great gift of the angels

"Among those whom he favors!"
Those who are favored of God know that God is with them.  They have His ear as they walk through dark valleys and they know that their struggle to remain true to God will not go unrewarded.  God’s favor can be felt in the spirit. When we have the favor of the Lord, we rest in quiet confidence that we are forgiven and that God is not finished with us yet.

Romans 5:1 tells us that "therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God."

And so, not only during this season of Advent but on every day of our life on earth, we can share the angels gift of joy with everyone we encounter: "Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people; to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the messiah the Lord"

This gift should be able to get you through what every you are going through
This gift should help you kick whatever habit is holding you back
This gift can hold you in the midnight hour,
This gift can dry your weeping eyes
This gift…

Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!

"Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy, to God our Savior, Who alone is wise, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and forever. Amen." (Jude 1:24-25)

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Friday Fruit (12/5/14)

Hands Up Walk Out Die-In at the DOJ
Photo by Elvert Barnes
On Fridays, BTSF offers links to other discussions about race & Christianity. It's an opportunity for you to read other perspectives, 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 1, 2014

#StayWokeAdvent: Waiting for Justice

"Come, Lord Jesus. Come." 

It is the cry of our hearts when we have no other answers. When the darkness seems too deep, the winter seems too long. When the world is silent, and the night is lonely.

Where is the victorious King that we have been promised? Where is our God's mighty reign?  We cry out to God in our pain and our brokenness.
And in reply, we are told to wait.

To wait? How can this be? Is this not the constant platitude of the self-righteous? Of the scholars of the Law who tell us to let the process to run its course, to wait for the system to do its work? Dr. King replied to such as these "for years now I have heard the word 'Wait!' It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This 'Wait' has almost always meant 'Never.'"

But we do not serve a God of the 'never.' And even as our hearts break, our God of the 'not yet' hears our cries: “Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage.” We hear the promise that "those who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not be faint."

For our waiting is not one of earthly aspiration. We do not wait for laws or officials to fulfill that which they should never have promised.  We do not wait for systems to be dismantlement and rebuilt as slightly different versions of themselves.  We do not wait for more idle talk and wringing of hands.
We do not wait for empty solutions like these.

We wait on the Lord.

And ours is not a passive, feeble waiting. One that lies listless and anemic in the face of present trials. Ours is the alert anticipation of a poised runner at the starting line. Ours is the energy of a coiled spring, bent but not broken, strengthened by the tension, and prepared to be released in the moment of God's anointing.

We are ready. Christ is coming.

We wait with a hunger that compels us to live out our hope for justice in this world, and brings us strength even as we stumble. Like the shepherds, we stay awake to what God is doing, ready to act upon the proclamation of Good News. Like the Magi, we leave our comfort and familiarity, giving of our resources in response to scripture's promise.

God commands: "prepare your minds for action; discipline yourselves; set all your hope on the grace that Jesus Christ will bring you when he is revealed." We are to live "lives of holiness and Godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God." We do the work here, knowing that we participate in the ultimate fulfillment of God's justice in the New Kingdom. We do the work now, assured that the justice we begin today will one day be completed.

In this time, "we neither ignore the brokenness in us and around us, nor do we ignore the transformative power of Christ." We hold to the promises of God with all of the preparedness and expectation of a Church that truly believes in His coming.


During Advent, we remember an exiled Israel, longing for restoration. An Israel that for centuries waited, hoped, and prayed knowing that the same God that delivered them from Egypt would bring forth a Messiah for their ultimate Salvation. Today, Advent calls us to remember that first coming of the Christ, even as we anticipate the His second. So too, in our work today is grounded in our history, our pain, our journey even as we labor with longing toward our future.

The sober purples and blues remind us of our yearning, our need to repent, We lament a world without resolution. We hope, yes, but we also look deep into our broken reality and long for the way our souls sense it should be, hope it can be, know it will be.

The waiting in this way is uncomfortable. It’s messy. We long to rush to resolution. We feel the need to rationalize our pain, our confusion. We are lost, and so we cling to any direction we can find. We simplify and we minimize. We reduce the complexities of a fallen world into catch phrases and 'teachable moments.'

But even as we anticipate Christ's coming, we know that God is already here, whispering to us in this Advent season: "Fear not, for I am with you, do not be afraid, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand."

"I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience."
-Romans 8:18-25

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

No Indictment For Darren Wilson in Ferguson

Kyrie Eleison. Christe Eleison. Kyrie Eleison.

We who believe in Freedom cannot rest. 

Articles and resources will be gathered
in the comments section below.

Feel free to add your own. 

Peace, peace!’ they say,
when there is no peace.”-Jeremiah 6:14

Sunday, November 23, 2014

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

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Friday Fruit (11/21/14)

Gino Santa Maria/
On Fridays, BTSF offers links to other discussions about race & Christianity. It's an opportunity
for you to read other perspectives, 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, November 17, 2014

Facing Race 2014

Facing Race is a biennial gathering of racial justice activists, practitioners, and scholars. Hosted by Race Forward, in partnership with the Kirwan Institute, Facing Race offers education, resources,and fellowship for those seeking to bring about racial equity in their world. Here, I summarize some take-aways, but am happy to discuss any aspects in more detail in the comments section.

I find Facing Race to be both rejuvenating and activating. It offers an all-too-rare environment in which institutionalized racism is the start of conversation, rather than the end. Bringing together co-laborers from many facets of justice work helps reveal new growth edges and best-practices to spur the work ahead.

No organization or event is above critique, but I appreciate Race Forward's intentionality in planing and executing their conference. They value intersectionality, weaving together the many aspects of identity and culture that impact our lives. For example, they offer lists of wage-responsible restaurant choices, gender neutral restrooms, sliding-scale registration (though I did hear some observations ableism at the conference). Overall, the message is that you don't have to choose which aspect of your identity you will prioritize during your time at the conference.

Dr. Bernice Johnson Reagon
As evidenced by their Keynote Address featuring  Dr. Bernice Johnson Reagon, Toshi Reagon, and Tashawn Reagon (three generations of activists), Facing Race also emphasized inter-generational alliance. I enjoyed the plenary on youth-led racial justice, but would have liked to have heard from more youth activists from Ferguson or Beavercreek, for example.

After a hard summer, Rinku Sen's reminders of the many good things that Race Forward and others have accomplished was helpful. She reminded us about the progress against Stop-and-Frisk in New York, and the success in getting AP to 'drop the I-word.' She affirmed to her audience the belief that talking about race is what helps eliminate it, not keeping it silent and ignoring the problem. Namely, we must face it.

I attended several Research and Policy breakout sessions, particularly with regard to education and housing. For me, a pressing question is whether the massive inertia of gentrification can be combated, even when a neighborhood sees it coming many years in advance. How do we transform communities into opportunity-rich neighborhoods, while making sure that everyone that wants to stay can stay?

Jason Reece of the Kirwan Institute spoke about the importance of community land trusts and affordable senior housing, reminding us as well that one's zip code is more predictive of health outcomes than is one's DNA. He also emphasized the importance of the upcoming disparate-impact case before the US Supreme Court, noting that when it comes to equitable housing we have a long legacy of skillfully obscuring intent.

With regard to education, Sharon Davies, also of Kirwan, asserts that “a lot of learning comes from students with different backgrounds sitting in the classroom together" and that "we must acknowledge race as an important value in the composition of incoming classes.” Similarly,Marc Nivet of the Association of American Medical Colleges observed how universities' obsession with ranking combines with racial disparities in standardize testing to create a no-win scenario for students of color. He insists that "excellent institutions aren't those that admit already-great students [by inequitable standards]; it’s the ones that transform students into greatness."
Melinda Weekes-Laidlow

I was also re-convicted at this conference of the power of storytelling as a central tool for racial justice. There were several workshops along these lines, but Melinda Weekes-Laidlow and Yavilah McCoy's session on faith and racial justice reminded me again of the importance of sharing our narratives as means of building multi-faith coalitions.

Nevertheless, I left the conference wondering what the role of Christianity is and should be in these contexts. There were certainly many people of faith present of all races (including several representatives from UMC's GCORR). Indeed, non-white-Christian people of faith were great assets, with Muslim activists and black Christians both playing prominent roles in workshops and plenaries.  But I couldn't help but muse over the disconnect in the white Church (especially, but not limited to, the Evangelical white church) and how uneasy many white Christians would have been at this conference. The discomfort is important. Would that the white Church be more willing to experience it.

In my observation, churches do not avail themselves of the rich resources of the secular justice world nearly enough. And perhaps vice versa. There is a skepticism that impedes the cross-pollination of wisdom unless the people, organizations, and ideas pass a set of unwritten standards for being 'appropriate'. I wonder how many of the brilliant plenary speakers and workshop leaders would even be welcome within church walls.

The impending irrelevance that churches so fear becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy as the world observes the hearts and actions of God's people. Rather than leading the way for justice and reconciliation, the white Church plays an ongoing charade of catch up. Religious motivations have been the cause of so much hurt and prejudice that there is much distrust to overcome if we are to participate in any meaningful change. Nevertheless, I continue to firmly believe in the tremendous potential of the body of Christ to usher in a new era of justice for the sake of the Gospel.

Check out the @BTSFblog Storify for more reflections and commentary from others:

Friday, November 14, 2014

Friday Fruit (11/14/14)

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

Weekly Round Up:

Also: Follow updates from #FacingRace14!
-Live stream of Plenaries
              -Conference Hashtag and Handle

-@BTSFblog Livetweet

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 9, 2014

Veterans Day

Oscar P. Austin
In honoring Veterans Day this year, let us remember the full array of veterans that have served. We declare 'support our troops!' but that means we must support our young, our poor, our people of color-- the populations that are fighting our wars. Too often, we cheer our troops while maintaining the systems of injustice that oppress the soldiers fighting on our behalf.

If you 'support our troops,' it means you keep their streets at home just as safe as they have kept the streets abroad. It means you give them access to the homes and jobs that they have kept secure. It means you provide the healthcare that keeps their families healthy. It means if they are legal to fight, they are legal to attend school, and that you admit them into your colleges.

Take some time to read the stories of the many who have served at great cost. Remember those who have sacrificed in the face of danger, at home and abroad.

Charles George
Remember Hazel Ying Lee (李月英), who gave her life flying planes for the U.S. Army. Remember Oscar P. Austin who died rescuing a fallen comrade during the Vietnam War. Remember Eva Romero Jacques and Carmen Contreras-Bozak who were pioneers in their service to the military. Remember U.S. Senator Daniel Inouye (井上 建), who received the Medal of Honor after helping rescue 230 soldiers during WWII. Remember Charles George who threw himself on a grenade in the Korean War to save his companions.

Remember Franco Arcebal who fights for recognition and compensations for thousands of Filipino American troops who were falsely promised military benefits. Remember the Nisei veterans of WWII who "who rose above prejudice and distrust to serve their country with unsurpassed honor and bravery." Remember Pedro Cano who fought for citizenship for years after he fought on the front lines. Remember Van T. Barfoot who fought for his rights, no matter where he was stationed.

Remember the 54th of Massachusetts Infantry, the Tuskegee Airmen, the Choctaw (WWI) and Navajo (WWII) Code Talkers, Crispus Attucksthe 442nd Infantry Regiment. Remember our troops today that come home from war to face discrimination and disparity.

"Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes."
(Ephesians 6:11)

Who would you like to remind us to honor this year? 
Leave your tribute in the comments section below.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Friday Fruit (11/07/14)

Via Peter Chin and CT
On Fridays, BTSF offers links to other discussions about race & Christianity. It's an opportunity for you to read other perspectives, 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, November 3, 2014

Logical Fallacies: Black-on-Black Crime

Here, we launch an ongoing series in which we will periodically explore the logical fallacies commonly used in conversations about race. These posts will give basic counterarguments and point to articles and resources in which the topics are debunked a greater length (so do be sure to check out the links below).

We begin with the cry against ‘black-on-black crime’ that is commonly raised in the face of protests against interracial violence. This argument is built upon the ugly stereotype of black pathological violence, and perpetuates the ongoing criminalization of black citizens. It propagates stop and frisk policiesschool to prison pipelinemass incarceration, and the knee jerk reactions of officers and vigilantes to shoot first and cry self-defense later.

The perception of rampant black violence has very real consequences, but it is poorly founded on reality. There is a pervasive fear of gun violence at the hands of young black men, even though only 4% have ever even held a gun. Indeed, only ~1% of Black people in the United State commit any violent crime in a given year.  But the statistics are rarely stated this way. Thus, as Natalie Hopkinson at The Root notes, "the term 'black-on-black violence' is a slander against the majority of law-abiding black Americans, rich and poor, who get painted by this broad and crude brush."

Meantime, the rarely-bemoaned white-on-white crime pandemic is just as prevalent as black-on-black crime, if not more so. Eighty-six percent of homicides against white people are committed by other white people. Edward Wyckoff Williams notes that “as the largest racial group, whites commit the majority of crimes in America. In particular, whites are responsible for the vast majority of violent crimes.” When whiteness is treated as the default culture, white-on-white crime is not seen as a cultural symptom, but rather deemed to be ‘normal,' understandable, or rational crime (see also: Identity in a White-Default World).

The reality is that most crime is perpetrated within race. We live in largely segregated environments, and so just as with most activities we participate in, crime occurs in a segregated fashion. Jamelle Bouie writes that it's a matter of 'opportunism and proximity': “if African-Americans are more likely to be robbed, or injured, or killed by other African-Americans, it’s because they tend to live in the same neighborhoods as each other.” Nevertheless, homicides of black victims by black perpetrators have decreased by 67% in 20 years, a much faster decline than white-on-white homicide.

Franchesca Ramsey also notes in her excellent Decoded video that questioning why we worry about police shootings of Black people when there is  'black-on-black crime' is like saying we shouldn't grieve ISIS's killing of Americans since Americans also kill other Americans.

Plus, civilians killing other civilians, while terrible, isn't the same as professionally-trained, government employees killing our citizens. It is good and right that officers receive better bias training and be held to higher standards than ordinary citizens are.

via @sandravanopstal
Be skeptical whenever the 'black-on-black crime' argument is raised. It is most often used as a derailment, rather than out of any sincere concern for the black community. Questioning why "no one ever talks about [insert issue here]", is usually simply an indicator of the speaker's own limited exposure to a diverse array of voices. By "no one's talking about it" they actually mean "none of the people I pay attention to and hang out with ever mention it."

Bringing up violence against black people only as a debate tactic is shallow and insincere. There are many who care deeply about violence in black communities and who consistently and passionately speak out against it,  not just when convenient as a counterpoint to victims' cries of racism (as though we can't care about both!). Jamelle Bouie again states “no one has said that crime between African Americans isn’t a problem. The point is that blackness has nothing to do with it. “Black-on-black crime” is a frame that presupposes black criminality—that there’s something inherent to blackness which makes intra-group crime more prevalent and more deadly.”

More details from Colorlines
In Romans, Paul admonishes us to "watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles...By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people." and as we go about our daily lives, we must be wary of how this false argument is perpetuated. Colorlines recently shared a Media Matters report that "found black suspects in crime stories far outweigh their actual representation in arrests—which is saying something, since we also know arrests themselves are racially skewed. In local news-land, 80% of suspects in New York-area thefts are black, Media Matters found. In real life, blacks represent 55% of NYPD’s arrests for theft. For assaults, TV-land sees 72% of suspects as black. Real life: 49%."

The bible also tells us "the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear." This warning against false spiritual teaching is also just as important in guarding against logical fallacies perpetuated for the sake of fear-mongering and political gain. 

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Friday Fruit (10/31/14)

Photo: Julianne Hing/Colorlines
On Fridays, BTSF offers links to other discussions about race & Christianity. It's an opportunity for you to read other perspectives, 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, October 27, 2014

Halloween Costumes

There are plenty of articles about racially inappropriate costumes, yet every year folks perpetuate appropriationcaricature, and humiliation as Halloween sport. It is annual affliction, so I guess it's worth making the point yet again...

Using a culture, race, or ethnicity as a costume is not appropriate. Ever.

On Halloween, we get the opportunity to disguise ourselves as something 'other,'something different from normal, something bizarre. That people of color might be one of these costume options is tragic and offensive.

As Lisa Wade notes, Halloween outfits basically come in three flavors: scary, funny, or fantasy. Real cultures shouldn't fit into any of these categories. By using people's identities as costumes, we imply that they are 'not one of us,' or not even  fully human, belonging instead to the realm of ghouls and goblins.

In the U.S., we spend the entire year marginalizing POCs, maintaining low visibility on TV, in movies, and in the media, but then suddenly become hyper-interested in 'appreciating culture' for one offensive night (as though dressing as a Hollywood version of what you think a culture is has anything to do with appreciating it).

When we claim that it's all 'good harmless fun,' we reveal our privilege never to have to face the consequences of such stereotypes in our own lives. We reveal the power we hold to dictate who defines 'harmless' and 'fun.' We reveal how loudly our own voices are heard, even as we silence others. We reveal our capacity to imagine fantasy worlds for real cultures, while ignoring the historical baggage that makes us feel uncomfortable.

 Students Teaching About Racism in Society (STARS) at Ohio University began a poster campaign to educate folks about the hurtful nature of racist costumes with the slogan "we're a culture, not a costume." All of the costumes they depict are real, and are perennially reprised. They get big props for concisely and clearly communicating what many of us have been frustrated with for years.

So, before dressing up this year, refer to Austin C. Brown’s guide to finding culture-appropriate costumes. And if you are looking for some clever alternatives, check out Take Back Halloween, and try some new themes this year.
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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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