My plans aren’t your plans,
nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord.
Just as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways,
and my plans than your plans. (CEB)
On this day, April 28, in 1992, the Bloods and the Crips, rival gangs in Los Angeles, declared a truce.
This was the day before the riots started in response to the not guilty verdict in the trial of police accused of beating Rodney King.
This is not written about what is happening now in Baltimore, or these days around the country. This post is not about police violence or the violence in communities that leads to police violence.
This post is about peace. Or at least truce. The Bloods and the Crips can lay down their arms, their hatred, their distrust, their contradictory narratives of who is a fault or who is right and who is wrong.
They could stop fighting each other. They could, and did, stop killing each other.
It makes me wonder. Ooh, it makes me wonder.
Can Tea Partiers and Progressives stop fighting each other?
Can Republicans and Democrats stop fighting each other?
Can Sunni and Shia stop fighting each other?
Can evangelical Christians and progressive Christians stop fighting each other?
Can opposing factions in The United Methodist Church stop fighting each other?
Let’s see if we can learn this simple lesson from history: that on April 28, 1992, the Bloods and the Crips stopped fighting.
The first step is admitting you have a problem. Or, in this case, the first step is admitting you have an identity.
A racial identity.
An ethnic identity.
Once more I received notice from something/somewhere United Methodist offering “racial/ethnic scholarship”
Does this mean that anyone who has a racial or ethnic identification, but only those who have such identification can apply?
Of course not! It clearly means that emphasis is being made to attract and include people of racial and ethnic minority groups to participate.
Am I opposed to that? As Pete the Cat would say, “Oh, heavens no!”
Rather, I think that recognizing the condition of racial ethnic minorities as such is not enough.
I think that we ought all recognize our own racial and ethnic identities.
Using “racial/ethnic” as shorthand for “racial/ethnic minorities” maintains the fiction that some of us have no identity except as individuals. It’s just all those other people – the hyphenateds – who have some specific identity.
That some people have an identity as individuals and others don’t is fiction.
All of us have a story. More importantly, every one of us has a story and is part of a larger story.
If or when some of us pretend we all have the same story we deny the reality of another person’s story.
If or when some of us pretend that we have no story at all, that we are each just absolute individuals in the moment, we deny social reality and the fact that we live in time.
There is no subset of humanity that can be defined as “racial/ethnic.” We all are.
And I am quite confident we will be better off once we admit it.
I have long said that Christian are at our best when we are advocating for the rights, liberties, fair treatment of others. I suppose I am willing to allege that this is true for everyone, not only for Christians. But I especially want Christians to own it.
I think it represents Jesus far better than getting all whiney about our own rights, liberties, or fair treatment.
To be fair, people can advocate for their own rights, etc., without being whiney. This is just my opinion: but US Christians seem to go whiney awfully quickly if we feel our rights, etc. threatened.
Just look at all the fuss we’ve been making over the persecution of Christians around the world lately. I believe we would make a better case AGAINST persecution of Christians and FOR following Jesus if we opposed all religious persecution.
Speaking of which, I don’t know if you noticed, but a case of religious freedom was argued before the US Supreme Court yesterday. Samantha Elauf was 17 when she applied to work at an Abercrombie and Fitch store. She was rated as a very good candidate. Her rating dropped when management found out she wore a hajib – a traditional headcovering worn by some Muslims. This dropped her rating enough that she wasn’t hired.
I don’t know how the case will come out. The report I heard indicated that most of the Justices, in oral arguments, sounded like they leaned in her favor.
I have heard Christians lament about not being allowed to wear cross necklaces to work; shouldn’t we be just as concerned for the religious liberty of others?
Bill Cosby, in the interest of helping men understand the agony of giving birth, likened it to “taking your lower lip, and pulling it up over your head.” I’m not sure how close a match that would be, but I know it is closer than this:
Rachel was in the hospital the day after giving birth to our son Liam. I had gone down to the first floor for something and got onto the elevator to return to the Labor and Delivery section. I rode with a man and a woman, who I quickly identified as a father and grandmother of a newborn.
The man mentioned that his back was hurting. He had not slept well on the pseudo-bed the hospital provided for partners of those giving birth. Then he said this, “my back hurts so much I know how my wife must feel.” (I AM NOT MAKING THIS UP)
No, sir, you don’t. You can’t
My own wife had, the day before, gone through a rather brief labor. She delivered Liam without any pain medication, in less than 3 hours. I think I would rather pull my lower lip over my head.
His wife, he explained, had endured 36 hours of labor and then had a C-section. I don’t care what kind of mattress he slept or tossed-and-turned on; it didn’t match what the mother of his child had just done.
I know we are wired to make comparisons. Sometimes, when motivated by empathy and compassion, such comparisons may be helpful.
I don’t think this man’s was.
There are things men don’t know, and can’t know, about being a woman – including giving birth. Even if you (or a comedian) offers us an analogy, we will not and cannot really grasp it.
There are also things women don’t know, and can’t know, about being a man.
Categories are now flooding my mind of all the possibilities of limits on comparison here. We are all humans, but not a single one of us is *just* a human. Every one of us is identified in multiple other ways, too, that limit the ability of some to really grasp everything about us.
However many hyphens this adds to your self-description, I believe it is incredibly helpful for us to humbly acknowledge not only what we *all* have in common, but how very much we don’t.
In the four months since we moved, we have found that none of the boundaries between these three cities makes much difference day-to-day. There are different taxing entities, different access to services (usually based on the taxing entity). There are taxing entities (Tarrant County, Tarrant County College system, etc.) that include each of these. So far has I have noticed, and I have even asked a variety of people, there is no noticeable preferential treatment or discrimination based on where one lives.
On the other hand, not far to my east is Irving. I don’t know all that much about Irving, but I have found that the Irving version of some stores or services is closer to where I work than the next closest store or service of the same kind to my west.
Irving, though, is across the county line and on the other side of the DFW airport and highway 360.
Something about the way the DFW metroplex has developed, I have noticed that this perceived boundary between the Dallas side and the Fort Worth side is really quite real.
I am trying to figure this out. At the same time, I realize that I live within other boundaries that are more based on perception than reality. Architectural style, age of neighborhood, proximity to a WalMart (among others) that some might perceive as establishing boundaries.
Are you aware of the boundaries within which you tend to live? Which of them are actual, which are perceived?
I have trouble dealing with ethnicity. It isn’t that I have trouble dealing with people who have an ethnicity. No, my problem, like that of very many of us, is that Anglo-Americans have generally grown up without any ethnicity. In fact, I would argue that the American Myth is that the only identity or ethnicity one needs is whatever one freely chooses as an American.
StanleyHauerwas , theologian at Duke and one of my favorite Southwestern University alumni has said and written famously that “the project of modernity was to produce people who believe they should have no story except the story they choose when they have no story.”
This is us, Anglo-America!
While this might be all right with you, I can’t take it anymore. It is belittling, probably condescending of us to consider that everyone else has some ethnicity, some story, heritage, tradition of which they are naturally a part and with which they identify. This is belittling and likely condescending because we have to put ourselves someplace outside of tradition, lineage and story to make such judgments, and we cannot do so; it is impossible.
As several people have pointed out, in support of Hauerwas’s definition of modernity above, to explain why one needs no story but the story one chooses, one has to tell a story.
Every one of us has a story, much of which we did not and can not choose. All of us have traditions, lineages, etc., that have played significant roles, whether active or passive, for good or bad, in developing our identities.
No one has any more ethnicity than anyone else. Some are just able to admit it.