Tag: racism

We can’t go back to where we came from

I don’t say much about the current US president’s wild tweets, but I think it’s important to stand against racism, whether or not he thinks he’s racist. This president is from a much more recent immigrant family than many of us. (And there are some Hispanic Texans’s families, for example, who have been in this continent much longer than my Revolutionary War-fighting family members.)

Maybe we should all go back to where we came from. But there’s a problem; I can’t go back to England, Scotland, Ireland, Scandinavia, and other places. And this is very common of Americans; we are a mixture of peoples, and this mixing has broken down walls of prejudice and enmity.

If we could all go back to where we came from I suspect the Native Americans would be more than happy to do without us. But even that gets tricky since they may have migrated centuries ago when there was a land bridge to Asia.

Let’s face it; there is no going “back,” and we shouldn’t want to. The US is an amazing nation. Part of our exceptionalism is that we have been built on principles of freedom and personal responsibility. European descendants like me are no more American than African, Hispanic, Asian, and Native peoples who have taken up the mantle of American citizenship as spelled out in the Constitution.

Stop wishing for something that never was and start working to build something that expresses love and appreciation for all people through this crazy, messy process called democracy.

Education is about raising awareness

I’m reading a fascinating book — Educated: A Memoir, by Tara Westover. She just used a word that unpacks the meaning of education — awareness. Education makes us aware of things we did not know before.
“I had started on a path of awareness,” she writes. And this new awareness caused her to “perceive something elemental about my brother, my father, myself.”
Her brother had been calling her the N- word, even though she was white. Previously she had not been fully aware of the truth about slavery and discrimination, but college had begun opening her eyes.
“I had discerned the ways in which we had been sculpted by a tradition given to us by others, a tradition of which we were either willfully or accidentally ignorant.”
Note “ignorant,” not unintelligent. Her family had remained unknowing of certain true things.
“I had begun to understand that we had lent our voices to a discourse whose sole purpose was to dehumanize and brutalize others–because nurturing that discourse was easier, because retaining power always feels like the way forward.” (p.180)
This is why education is so important; it makes us aware of things we do not know. And our ignorance is affecting how we live our lives. Education gets us out of our prejudices, whether they be racial or whatever.

Keller: Getting past the Tower of Babel

Jacoby Nielsen's depiction of the Tower of Babel at http://jacobyn.blogspot.com/2009/11/tower-of-babel.html

Where does racism come from? Timothy Keller, in his book Generous Justice, says the beginning is chronicled in Genesis 11.

The story of the Tower of Babel “tells us that the people of earth were marked with pride and a lust for power,” so God “confused their speech.” They then could no longer “understand each other or work together and as a result they scattered into different nations.”

This perspective bothered me a bit when I first read it. It seemed to imply that God is to blame for racism, though that obviously was not Keller’s intent. The author, in fact, points back before God’s action.

Here would be the simplified flow of the logic: Pride and lust for power, then God’s response, then lack of understanding and ability to work together, then scattering. So, racism is not God’s fault; it’s the fault of pride and lust for power. Keller doesn’t go into that stream of logic, but it’s implied and I needed to follow the path more clearly.

Keller’s summary point is that “human pride and lust for power leads to racial and national division, strife, and hatred.” (p.121)

So what difference does grace make with regard to racism? And I love the following part of Keller’s point:

“According to 1 Peter 2:9, Christians are a ‘new ethnic.’ … In Christ our racial and cultural identities, while not insignificant, are no longer primary to our self-understanding.” (p.122)

It seems to me we have two realities related to race in our churches. There is the old stench of racism that looks down upon those who are different, and then there is the ethno-centric mindset that refuses to embrace a Christ identity that is greater and more important than any ethnic bloodline. It is much more important that I see myself as Christian than as Anglo, though I still know the latter is true. Christ would have me transcend my Anglo heritage and attach to His.

May we all really come together in Christ and not allow what differentiates us to separate us. May we no longer babel, but speak the one cultural language of Christ.

(This is my sixth post on Keller’s book. I offer these posts in hopes to whet your appetite and to encourage you to read the entire book.)