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

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. 
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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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