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

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Halloween Costumes

'Tis the season for a reminder...

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 people of color, 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.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Creation Myths: Christopher Columbus

What we now accept as the true history of the United States in reality is comprised of decades of creation myths. After the American revolution, having separated ourselves from the rich history of Europe (and having sneered at this continent's indigenous histories to the point of annihilation), the newly formed United States found itself without a heritage with which to construct its new civilization. We were left without a history, without heroes or cultural icons. And the void needed to be filled.

As a result, we now have a cultural reliance on several sacred stories of our foundation. We revere the country's holy texts, and ritualistically repeat the essential creeds to our children. The stories of Jamestown, the pilgrims, and Plymouth Rock can be piously recalled. Yet none of the modern tales match the actual reality of our past. James Baldwin notes, "what passes for identity in America is a series of myths about one’s heroic ancestors."

And we have made heroes out of our cruelest ancestors, not the least of which was Christopher Columbus. After first encountering the Arawaks, Columbus realized "with 50 men we could subjugate them all and make them do whatever we want." Thus was born America's true founding legacy.

To take advantage of Columbus's 'discovery', Spain declared that "with the help of God, we shall powerfully enter into your country, and shall make war against you in all ways and manners that we can, and shall subject you to the yoke and obedience of the Church and of their highnesses; we shall take you, and your wives, and your children, and shall make slaves of them, and as such shall sell and dispose of them as their highnesses may command; and we shall take away your goods, and shall do you all the mischief and damage that we can, as to vassals who do not obey, and refuse to receive their lord, and resist and contradict him; and we protest that the deaths and losses which shall accrue from this are your fault, and not that of their highnesses, or ours, nor of these cavaliers who come with us."

The crimes that followed Columbus's landing set the stage for centuries abuse and atrocity, the legacy of which continues today. Much of these works were carried out in the name of Christ. Consider that the first English ship to carry enslaved West Africans to the New World was named JesusFor hundreds of people this was the first encounter with God's Son, He that had come to 'set the captives free,'

Many of us already know that the stories we heard in grade school are myths. But white America perpetuates and clings to them anyway. Why? Perhaps we are too afraid to look straight into the face of our generational sin. White Americans continue to benefit from our ancestors' actions, and it's time we owned up to the implications.

That Columbus is lauded as a hero is shameful and embarrassing. We need to rethink what stories we tell. Begin by watching this video, and consider who and what we celebrate on Columbus Day:

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Friday Fruit (10/06/17)

Black girl in black dress and sweater with gold necklace in front of teal background with light grey text and insigniaOn 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 many voices leading the way...

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 2, 2017

Appropriation of Protest

Image result for kaepernick vs trumpI first wrote about 'Taking a Knee' a year ago. That's when Colin Kaepernick began his now famous National anthem protest. He started it to challenge police brutality and racism. Not to make a point about free speech. Not in defiance of Trump.

Now, scores of players, as well as coaches and owners, are taking symbolic postures during the anthem. They're upset that Trump tweeted. They want to express their free speech. They're showing their solidarity. But Kaepernick is still out of a job.

Athletes of color have a long history of political expression, and an equally long history of receiving criticism for it. We want them to entertain us, to serve us, not to challenges us or make us even slightly uncomfortable with the system that put them there.

Abagond observes, "that making it about respect for the flag, or even free speech, draws attention away from what taking the knee is all about: protesting racial inequality and, in particular, police brutality."

Image result for jenner pepsi
And it's not the first time Black expression in the face of oppression has been co-opted by a white narrative. This is the legacy of Black blues, hip hop, fashion, and many other means of voice that were birthed out of a desire to call attention to the lived realities of life as a Black person in the United States.

There is a constant drive in white dominate culture to appropriate, and thus to tame, the expressions of oppressed groups. Indeed, the work of combating injustice itself functions this way. As months protects unfolded after the killings of Michael Brown, there were ongoing calls to “wait for the facts” from many moderate white progressives. Protesters were criticized and marches were deemed a waste of time.

These days, the controversial and “militant” phrase ‘Black Lives Matter’ is worn as a badge of honor by progressive social justice warriors that want to show they are truly ‘woke.’ Marches take place every week across the country for one cause or another. And now anyone that wants to feel like they're taking a stand...can 'take a knee.'

Image result for ironic protestToo often, people of color take the risk first, finding a new and powerful way to make their voices heard. Too often, white folks respond first with anger and skepticism, followed by dismissal, and ultimately finished by co-opting to the point of ineffectiveness or distraction.

It's not necessarily bad that more people have become aware, or have been willing to join a cause. But what if we didn't wait so long to stand up against injustice? What if, in particular, the Church were at the forefront of movements for justice, instead of limping along in the rear? What if we stood for the causes we were asked to stand for...rather than just appropriating the methods to our own ends?
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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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