“Concerted Effort By All Churches”

When it comes to racism in America, and specifically acts of violence against black Christians and black churches, the past is not even the past—it is a very present danger. While academics might argue about the death of the black church, racists know the history of the black church in America is a threat to white supremacy.

The current efforts to take down the Confederate flag across America, battle police violence, and improve black lives are also under attack. clergy and their church communities are spearheading much of this work.

The practicalities of protecting black houses of worship, however, are very much of this world. Many may not remember that during the years of 1995-1998, 670 churches burned, according to the Community Relations Service, and in 1996, the Church Arson Prevention Act was signed by then-President Clinton.

In light of the shooting at Emanuel AME and the church burnings, the White House, FEMA and Homeland Security recently held a conference call to help clergy members protect their churches and acquaint them with various governmental resources that churches can use to be “at the ready” in case of active shooter attacks, acts of arson, and other types of events that pose threats to buildings of worship.

While this is important, it focuses on prevention—not cure or eradication of racism or religion-based hate crimes.

These actions are a start, but they do not get to the root causes of racism and violence against black churches. Good white supremacists—some of them confessional Christians—fail to understand that the racial history of America has them captive. Some may have even come to their racist beliefs through biblical interpretations of the supposed inferiority of people of African descent.

What needs to happen is a concerted effort by all churches, black and white alike, to confront the issue of racism in America with fervor.

Read the full piece by Dr. Butler at RD here.

“Uncomplicated Conditioning and Deep-Down Knowing”

Perhaps I am a cynic, but my uncomplicated conditioning and my deep-down knowing about the ubiquity of racism remind me that the invisibility of a symbol is not the same as the absence of racist hate.  I have had numerous interactions with white folk in nice suits, who would turn their nose up at a “redneck” racist, who share the same views but don’t literally wear it like an ornament around their neck.  It’s 2015, it is not okay to wear your racism on your sleeve (or your t-shirt), but that doesn’t mean it is not still carried around.  And that is what worries me.  Deep-seated, hidden, structural, institutionalized racism is just as (if not more) dangerous as out in the open racism because we don’t always recognize it or see it coming.

…In a moment when some faith seems to dictate that some black folk need to forgive (and forget) while some white folk stubbornly hold on to a flag and revisionist version of history that condones their racism and insistence for white supremacy, we have a lot more to worry about than whether or not the rebel flag will live on.  What we know for sure is that nine churchgoers who went to study the bible last week won’t.

Racial oppression doesn’t occur in a vacuum so it cannot be neatly or conveniently taken down (or away) without the residue, implications, consequences and permanent scars of its existence, and neither can the confederate flag.

Go read the rest here.

Thank you, my sister, scholar, teacher, proclaimer of truth, Dr. Robin Boylorn.

The Sheltering Canopy

I’ve thought a lot about the tragic deaths of my friends, spiritual relatives, and faith heroes who were killed last Wednesday, and though I’ve written a liturgy, waded through psalm 77, and listened to the cries of our local church in worship this previous Sunday; though I’ve read carefully through the powerful reminders friends have written to keep me on a sane path; though I’ve taken comfort in the words of trusted brother who told me the best thing he could the day after that soul-bruising scene and the arms of many others since that night; I still can’t write.

I still can’t quite put feelings to words. My own words. So these days, I’m trying my best to pray. And I’m soliciting the prayers of better people when I cannot. As it is, prayer has gotten harder over the last few years, something my spiritual director has not tired of inhearing me rehearse. She keeps telling me to name the grace I need as best I can, to celebrate the moments when prayer comes easier, to try to accept that darkness is as much as part of the contemplative life as light. She’s praying me through too.

In many ways, these words and phrases and gestures are entirely prayer and of a particular nature, an intercessory nature: prayers on my behalf which keep me positioned in Divine sight, even when I cannot glimpse in that direction myself.

This prayer was the end of Rabbi David Wolkenfeld’s sermon last week. He discussed sanctity and holiness, drawing upon two primary views within Jewish thought, essentially whether God’s people are already holy–holiness as an adjective describing God’s people–or whether God’s people are becoming holy–holiness as an aspiration for God’s own.

His sermon was encouraging and thought provoking to read on a few levels, and I’m grateful for my colleague, Rabbi Paul Saiger, who sent it to me. You can access the full message here.

God full of mercy, grant rest under the sheltering canopy of your Presence to the souls of the nine martyred men and women who were murdered this week in Charleston as they engaged in the study of scripture and in prayer and sought knowledge of You. May they bask in your Presence and study wisdom and insights of your Torah in the beit midrash shel ma’aleh – the heavenly academy. Bind up the nation’s wounds and grant us the ability to experience a true Sabbath of Peace. Amen.

 

 

“…manipulate what race is…”

I want to thank Dr. Robin Henderson-Espinoza for suggesting this on Facebook, and it sums up a lot of good thought on a small but oddly popular story these days when the main kernel of the story, told from a different (i.e., black) perspective, would, sadly and truthfully, hardly be noticed.

I cannot hide my skin or make myself invisible when I am protesting police terror or creating theater art for other Black women with skin like mine. I cannot manipulate what race is for my own pleasure. Ms. Dolezal is a white woman, who made choices, who used and is still using every bit of her white privilege to maintain the power and elite status she has accrued from her deception. This use of white privilege in her case is no different from transracial adoptive parents who adopt bi-racial children because they want these children to identify with the “white side” of themselves. These parents completely ignore that how they want race to function is not actually how race operates out in the world. They are completely assured of their own power to bend and change race and meanings of race at their own white whim. This manipulation is what Ms. Dolezal has done. This manipulation of race is no different from what white supremacists did in the early days of our country, moving the lines of race back and forth when it pleased them, using the language of the law, even at the cost of Black, Brown, Asian and Native lives.

I want to be clear that this is complicated.

Read this post in full here at Lost Daughters.

“A Deeply Awkward Position” & Reading

The arts, entertainment, and books desks at every major publication and outlet are flooded with them, and an entire ecosystem of critics, producers, and editors is involved in compiling and signing off on these lists. Narrow reading is a less passive activity than some will claim.

As a writer and critic, I am not just bored with this conversation. I am sick of it. I have written these sentences before. I will write them again. Discussing diversity in publishing is the worst kind of Groundhog Day. What’s more, these lists put writers and readers of color in a deeply awkward position. We don’t want to take anything away from the writers who have been included on the list.

…The problem is and has always been the exclusion of writers of color and other marginalized writers who have to push aside their own work and fight for inclusion, over and over and over again.

Please read the full article here.

And make your own summer reading lists to look the beautiful, colorful world that the world is.

Train Ride

 All things come to an end;

small calves in Arkansas,

the bend of the muddy river.

Do all things come to an end?

No, they go on forever.

They go on forever, the swamp,

the vine-choked cypress, the oaks

rattling last year’s leaves,

the thump of the rails, the kite,

the still white stilted heron.

All things come to an end.

The red clay bank, the spread hawk,

the bodies riding this train,

the stalled truck, pale sunlight, the talk;

the talk goes on forever,

the wide dry field of geese,

a man stopped near his porch

to watch. Release, release;

between cold death and a fever,

send what you will, I will listen.

All things come to an end.

No, they go on forever.

Grant me the patience to notice grace in every ending and may strength be there too. Amen.