Wednesday, August 15, 2012

you be racist, foo!

I just read a really good guest post about racial reconciliation by Grace Biskie on Rachel Held Evan's blog, and I thought I'd tease you with a bit of it so you'll go read the rest. It certainly poked me right between my racist little eyes:

"But this is who I am: I am racially, culturally, spiritually, physically, ethnically black AND white. As an American Christian trying to live in the tension, I am as screwed as it gets. If there was a club for confused mixed kids, I’d be captain, head of the Department for the Racially Insane. For shits and giggles, God brought me a white husband. I'm a biracial woman who identifies as African-American. I grew up in Detroit, among urban, working-class blacks while my white mother sent me to a suburban, lily white, private Christian school and a large, white Baptist Church who denied me baptism in 1987 for being "half-black." Later that year, they passed a vote in which blacks were allowed baptism and therefore membership. The pastor who vehemently fought for me and other blacks to become members was maligned by his elder board and fired. Later, he committed suicide.  

For all these reasons and more, I have been unable to disengage with the issues that plague black and white Christians in our country.* I've tried to disengage. Lord knows I've wanted to disengage. But I simply can't untangle myself from the racist web into which I was spun.. And it's for these same reasons I feel terribly sad when I watch whites disengage.

To not know African-American history is to disengage.

To attend a large white church and never ask how the church got there or why it's staying that way is to disengage.

To never admit, let alone assess, your power and privilege as a white American is to disengage.

To not seek to understand why blacks were (and are) so angry about cases like Trayvon Martin's is disengage.

To decide to live in a mostly white community with no thought as to why it feels safer or mandatory for your family is to disengage.

To not read widely about racial and ethnic issues in our country is to disengage.

To allow yourself to be in places where everyone looks like you 90% of the time is to disengage.

To raise your kids to be color blind is to disengage.

I don't toss that list out lightly. Nor do I present it with judgment or condemnation. I am not looking to set you on a point-of-no-return guilt trip. None of that from me. Please consider this an invitation for you to love me, your neighbor. To disengage is to fail to love."

3 comments:

  1. She sounds racist to me. To disengage and look past her background and accept her as a fellow human is to love.

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  2. Meh. I don't entirely buy it, because I don't think disengagement is particularly possible, and because having only experienced prejudice ONCE where I really noticed it (being a white male has its perks, they say), I don't feel I have a right to tell the oppressed that they shouldn't be vocal and angry about race issues.

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  3. I know you're right. It's easy to talk when you are white and you don't have it thrown in your face. But being that focused on racial issues seems to me a self fulfilling misery, and way too much work. I mean as a black person she has to find a way to peace somehow. As a guy who is completely disabled, I can tell you there is prejudice out there, there's people who think you're retarded because you're in a wheelchair, people stare at you, people look away on purpose, BUT you have to let it go and not let it ruin your life, I mean being angry and bitter about what you cannot change will devour you from the inside.

    I deal with prejudice all the time, and I can tell you that if you're a nice person and an interesting person and a person who doesn't take everything personally and isn't on a crusade, people start to see who you are and accept you, and next thing you know these people who you have won over with a positive attitude, these people are now your advocates and they are challenging prejudice for you, because they personally know the stereotypes are bullshit. Positivity is just as infectious as negativity. It sounds naive, but it works.

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