Racial This, Ethnic That…

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.

Racial This, Ethnic That…

US Christians Demand Religious Freedom…

for everyone!

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?

US Christians Demand Religious Freedom…

You don’t know… You CAN’T know…

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.

And vice-versa.

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.

 

You don’t know… You CAN’T know…

Actual or Percieved Boundaries?

I work in Euless, Texas.  I live nearby; my mailing address says I live in Hurst, but my house is actually within the city limits of Fort Worth.

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?

 

Actual or Percieved Boundaries?

Finding Identity-Thinking Ethnically

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.

Finding Identity-Thinking Ethnically

We’re all Users

I’m reading Bill Cosby and Alvin Poussaint’s Come on People: on the path from Victims to VictorsComeOnPeople_HQ. On p. 32 they write:

One way slaves survived such brutal conditions was to turn the Christianity they had learned into a liberation theology.  The stories of the Hebrew slaves became their own. Even as slave owners used the Bible to justify slavery, black people used the Bible as God intended-to give people hope for a time when there would be true justice. (emphasis added)

I love this! (Except for the part that the term liberation theology immediately turned some of you off because you pigeon-hole such labels)

What slaves did with Christianity, in turning it into liberation theology begs the question of what kind of label ought we put on to kind of theology that justified slavery?

Cosby and Poussaint correctly identify that slaves and slave owners used the Bible to support their own vision of the future, and of the way life ought to be.  Don’t we all do this?

I’m a user.  I read the Bible regularly. I preach from the Bible.  I gain much of my understanding of life, of the world, of humanity, of the future, from the Bible. I also read it and understand it differently now than I did when I was a teen, and also differently than when I was only 30.  At all these ages, I used the Bible.

Slave owners used the Bible to enslave people. For at least a century after slavery was abolished, some continued to use the Bible to subjugate people. (Cosby and Poussaint point out wisely that science has been used too).

Slaves, I think, had a better claim to using the scriptures than did slave owners.  They had the stronger claim to scripture the same way Moses, not Pharoah, had the message of God.

If you ever catch yourself thinking or accusing someone else of using the Bible to support their cause, consider how you might be doing the same.

It seems to me that whenever the Bible is used in the direction of giving “people hope for a time when there would be true justice” is a great way to use the Bible.

We’re all Users

Racist? You tell me.

The person sharing a devotional was telling a story about a person whose presence had scared him.  Included in the description was that the “man was big and black.”

Since the audience for this devotional was 98% anglo, identifying the man as black had the intended effect.  I paid attention through the rest of the story for any other reason for the man’s race to have been mentioned.There was none

I think the next time I hear something like that, I’m going to interrupt and ask why race would be mentioned.

To us white folk, this may not seem like much, but it’s got to stop.

Racist? You tell me.