Blog

There is no doubt racism is wrong. The question for those of us in the Christian Reformed Church living above the Mason-Dixon line is, how do we face this wrong without keeping records?

August 22, 2017 0 5 comments
Blog

The new-found courage by white-supremacists should force us to re-examine our naive assumptions about racism and how it is countered and contested.

August 16, 2017 0 6 comments
Blog

In the ambiguity of the sin of racism, confession is good. Confession is important. And being willing to learn from the ambiguity helps build bridges that may not have been there before.

August 10, 2017 2 3 comments
Resource, Guide or Toolkit

The CRC Office of Race Relations is now offering discussion guides for small groups on books and films that address the topics of race and faith. First up is Trevor Noah's memoir, Born a Crime

August 10, 2017 2 1 comments
Resource, Bulletin, Insert or Cover

Will your church be celebrating the multicultural church of Christ this All Nations Heritage Sunday? The order deadline for bulletin inserts and covers is July 25. 

July 13, 2017 0 0 comments
Blog

Check out the new Race Relations US-Midwest newsletter, a reflection on soul care from Viviana Cornejo. 

June 30, 2017 2 0 comments
Blog

Check out this selection from Race Relations' US-West newsletter for June, a reflection on Ephesians 2 with suggested questions for discussion. 

June 30, 2017 0 0 comments
Blog

This Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, the Office of Race Relations is highlighting members of these communities who are part of the CRC. First up: Shiao Chong, editor of The Banner!

May 11, 2017 2 0 comments
Resource, Conference or Event

Inspired by the YWCA's national Stand Against Racism campaign, Calvin College and The Office of Race Relations are hosting a worship service on Wednesday, April 19. 

April 4, 2017 0 3 comments
Resource, Conference or Event

This March 25, join the Office of Race Relations and Congregations Organizing for Racial Reconciliation (CORR) for a day of learning with Peter Cha!

March 14, 2017 0 0 comments
Blog

As people who seek to follow Jesus, we cannot ignore the racial realities in our relationships and communities. We want easy answers and quick fixes but that's not how God intends for us to live. 

February 14, 2017 3 15 comments
Resource, Book or Booklet

Looking for a book to study in your small group or book club? Buying books for your church library or for yourself? Check out Waking Up White. It’s readable. It’s challenging. And it's important.

February 9, 2017 2 0 comments
Blog

Martin Luther King, Jr. day is not a “Black” holiday. It is a day to affirm the dignity of all people. It is a day to remember the example of King – a drum major for justice.

January 9, 2017 1 0 comments
Discussion Topic

A couple of weeks ago, leaders of Christian Reformed Church ministries issued a Statement on Racism to all pastors in the denomination. Let's have a conversation about the Statement, and the topic it addresses.

October 3, 2016 2 0 comments
Discussion Topic

With the recent note on race relations put out by CRC Staff we need this article to show up in this section so we can respond or comment. 

September 28, 2016 0 0 comments
Blog

World Communion Sunday is October 2! Attached to this post you'll find prayers, litanies, and much more to use or adapt for your worship setting.

September 25, 2016 0 0 comments
Blog

Every year churches across the CRC celebrate All Nations Heritage Sunday using worship resources from Race Relations. Last year almost 20,000 bulletin inserts and covers were ordered! Join us in the celebration. 

September 19, 2016 0 0 comments
Blog

Racism is not part of God’s grand design. Human beings are the architects of racism. However, through Jesus Christ, God is reconciling us to Himself, and to each other, rebuilding what we destroyed.

August 19, 2016 0 0 comments
Blog

I want us to wrestle with conversations that may be difficult. I want us to enter together into the beautiful mess of reconciliation. I want us to have a candid conversation, as family, about race.

August 5, 2016 1 0 comments
Resource, Article

The same power that rose Jesus from the grave and caused his resurrection is at work in the surrendered hearts of the believers who live for racial healing and justice in our world today. 

February 15, 2016 1 1 comments
Discussion Topic

In his article "Through African Eyes"  http://www.firstthings.com/article/2015/10/through-african-eyes

John Azumah, professor of World Christianity and Islam at Columbia Theological Seminary.relates how North American churches can embody cultural imperialism with a very paternalistic...

December 20, 2015 0 2 comments
Resource, Webinar Recording

In this interactive webinar, four panelists give their Top 5 Lists, from four different perspectives, for becoming more hospitable and loving in a diverse world.

November 5, 2015 1 0 comments
Resource, Bulletin, Insert or Cover

November is Native American Heritage Month. Interested in celebrating it at your church? We've put together free worship materials for you to use!

October 14, 2015 0 0 comments
Blog

In the wake of the Charleston shooting, many parents are wondering, "How can I talk with my kids about this? How much can they handle? How soon?"

June 24, 2015 1 0 comments
Discussion Topic

Lamenting is painful and there's nothing "dignified" or "pretty" about it. The Church needs to face the reality of racism in America and to join others in crying out to our Lord for deliverance.

June 10, 2015 3 3 comments

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No doubt our inclination to "hate our neighbor" can be manifested by our dividing up people by "race," or by other criteria equally meaningless, and then by treating some groups created by that irrational division unjustly, but that is merely one of many ways to "hate our neighbor."  I buy the notion that we all have an inclination to hate others, but I don't buy the notion that all manifest that hatred by dividing according to skin color.  

Indeed, Daryl Davis seemed not to.  When as a child he was pelted with thrown objects marching in a parade and holding an American flag, it never occurred to him that anyone would throw those things at him because he appeared to be of a certain race.  And then Daryl grows up, talks with and befriends (even if he totally disagrees with) KKKers and white separatists, which suggests that Daryl himself does not have the claimed universal "vice" of racism.  And if Daryl is not afflicted with that universal vice, why could others not be also?

Personally, I think "classism" is a far greater problem in today's United States than racism, even if once upon a time it could have been otherwise.

Call "classism" a sin or a vice if you like, acting on that perspective is destructive, sinful, unjust and unloving.  And yet the CRCNA largely ignores it, or perhaps recognizes it but only when and where the victims of classism are particular races, which is itself racism, as Daryl Davis seems to understand.  The book, Hillbilly Elegy, is instructive as to this reality, as is, frankly, the election of Donald Trump.

It was interesting (and spot on I thought) that Daryl Davis saw fear as the underlayment for the KKK and white separatist/sovereignty groups.  I'd add of course our disposition to hate our neighbor, but I think Davis was quite astute in that observation.

I checked out Accidental Courtesy.  

Perhaps what we struggle with here is the difference between sin and vice.  A sin can be forgiven, and the memory of it removed from our consciousness, as either an individual or as a people.  

A vice, however, is not eliminated by forgiveness.  A vice, like lust, anger, pride, or I think, racism, must be eliminated over a long struggle that changes attitudes and feelings, be they individual or corporate.  I don't think our church, or many others, has dealt with this as well as we have with individual acts of sinfulness.

But Jesus famously did, when he commented on the 10 Commandments in the Sermon on the Mount.  There he clearly showed that failing to perform sinful acts is not enough.  It does not address the root attitudes/vices.  Our thoughts, attitudes, feelings, and perspectives need to be converted as well.

So the question is not that of forgiveness only.  Forgiving an act of violence, for instance, leaves the perpetrator and the victim off the hook regarding the underlying anger or resentment that may lie below the act.  I wish we had been more well trained in the conversion of vices into virtues, not just in the forgiveness of particular sins.

And now I have a reading recommendation for any who wish to pursue this.  Miroslav Volf, The End of Memory: Remembering Rightly in a Violent World.

I think that approach, Kent, at least done as it is usually done these days, simply leads to increased racism.  Human history is one big "long story of inequality and dismissiveness," in the US and anywhere else in the world (perhaps even more so in other places in the world).  Someone recently recommended a Netflix documentary to me, Accidental Courtesy, "starring" Daryl Davis, a black American musician who has -- for decades now -- made it his practice to talk with, and befriend even, KKK's and other white supremicists (included or even especially their leaders).  A good watch.

Its funny how we preach forgiveness, over and over and over and over, but then as to some culturally pet wrongs, we make exceptions.  It might feel good, righteous even, but it doesn't make for progress, or even for justice or mercy, but rather the opposite.  Of course that doesn't mean we need to simply tolerate racism and do nothing about it when it occurs, but that is no different than what we should do for any other unjust "inequality."  

Do check out "Accidental Courtesy."

We cannot face racism without "keeping records."  And racism in this country has a long and spotted record.  This is not an individual, isolated event.  It is part of a long story of inequality and dismissiveness in the U.S.  And it has been most obvious in the South.  Saying that we must address an event, rather than its history or causes is like trying to treat an alcoholic by getting him to stop drinking only rum.  No, this is a systemic problem.

Thanks for this insightful post.  :-)

What other discussion guide to you have?  You mentioned film discussion guides.  Do you have any film discussion guides available?

Good thoughts Paul! Much appreciated. I would echo that we are all "born that way" to correctly use the commonly misused phrase. Not merely born, but even conceived in sin as a human being with a fallen, sinful nature. I also whole heartedly agree that the only hope for true change is the gospel. This has been a very present application to our sermon series in Galatians. This past Lord's Day we were on Gal 3:15-29 concerning both the Promise and the Law. The reality is that while the Law does have its purposes (see the Institutes) it can never change the heart! The same would apply to any form of reconciliation. Mandela's work of reconciliation will never become a reality. Peace cannot be accomplished by law nor by any other man-made (centered/initiated) focus, action or emotion. It will never change the heart. Only the gospel of Christ can change our very nature. Our weapon is the gospel! While others want to subdue, silene or defeat their enemies, we long to see our enemies become brothers and sisters. This can never be acheived by any other means. We are all one "in Christ," only.

I will say more. I am planning a video on this. I think it's important. In the mean time Pastor T I think sheds light on what I want to say in this important conversation with Coates. https://youtu.be/Gton4je7T_Y 

Thank you for your comment. I think you are right that there is a lack of lament as there should be. Many white evangelical Christians struggle with what exactly is racism and how to confess it let alone lament it. I myself am still learning.

Paul

I am not sure where you land with this line of reasoning.  What will you do with do not lie, steal, commit adultery.  Should the church be silent on these sins as well.  Please say more

Joshua

Thank you, I agree that the sin can be ambagious.  I especially wonder about racial reconciliation, who reconciles with  who.   Being that we are a confessional community, might integrating remorse and lament over the historic racialization of people be helpful in making us more welcoming to people who have not felt welcome in our midst.

I very much agree that we indeed learn racism and that it is lamentably often intentionally taught and modeled. It is important to address it at that level. 

My main pushback on the quote is that it isn't merely taught. I believe it is developmentally ingrained in us even before birth by the mere fact of human formation. In other words via our confessions we are sinful from birth. Even in utero we are a petri dish for sin. It is also as many note spiritually created by the demonic. If this is the case then education, or activism, or anti-racism programs themselves will never be sufficient to banish it from each of our hearts. We are natural born racists. This points to a deeper redemption necessary for the anticipated purity of our communal presence before the throne. 

You're correct that we must all begin with ourselves.  But we must also lead others, both in the church and in society.  I'm very glad many find Obama's tweet helpful, and to be much more than just "nice sentiment." The original quote from Nelson Mandela was based on the harsh reality that many learn from a young age (sadly, often from parents and perhaps also their church contexts) to hate people of other races rather than to love them. Obama is pointing to Mandela's very hard work of forgiveness and reconciliation, personally and nationally. 

As a follow up, I wanted to point out that this post was written before the horrific events in Charlottesville, VA that happened on the weekend of August 12.

Well said Paul!  Well said.

Wow!  I have to admit I'm surprised that Calvin would have that particular problem.

Doug, that's a great question. The answer is yes. To bring the sin of racism before the Lord is a wonderful opportunity to lament, repent, pray, and work towards becoming more aware of its effects on all people. Again, thanks for the question.

Is racism a big enough a problem at Calvin College that there needs to be an annual chapel dedicated to the problem?  Is it the student body?  faculty? administration? constituency?

I was deeply challenged by the book Waking Up White. There are so many things you don't know that you don't know. I appreciate the spirit of vulnerability that it took to share this post and I hope to follow in your lead. Thank you for sharing the specific practice ideas!

And blessings to you as well Shannon. I have no doubt as to the orientation of your heart, even where we might disagree.  To me, that tension is in a way an essential characteristic of the church.  I'm glad we are both in CRC.

And if ever you want that public, "honest conversation about racism," you know where to find me. :-)

Thanks for your response, Doug. It is good to read some of your story. While we draw different conclusions, like you, I also read Hillbilly Elegy, and I really appreciated Vance's perspective. I think we both seek to give God all the glory in what we do and say. Blessings on you as you seek to do that, Brother.

When I first read this article, I immediately ordered Debby Irving's book (Waking Up White).  It arrived two days ago and I'm about half way through it.  It is illuminating in a way, but perhaps in a way different than one might first think.

So far, there is next to nothing that Irving "uncovers" as to the real history in the US that I haven't already long known to be the real history.  Apparently, she was sheltered from the truth (she says so) and I was not.

What struck me about Irving's story is how incredibly different her life was from mine.  Her father was a Boston investment lawyer whose law school education had been paid by the GI Bill.  Her family had a really, really nice house, multiple cars and televisions, an abundance of material things generally, a summer vacation place in Maine, and more.  Her family is what I would call old New England upper, or at least middle-upper class.  She went to college of course, and, like Shannon, her bill for that was paid for, although by family, not by the GI Bill.  Indeed, to say that Irving's family "drank downstream" from government and non-government laws and policies is quite true.

But I, started contrast here's my life (I'm white too), which is representative of the lives in the NW Iowa community I grew up in. Irving was born in 1960, BTW.  I was born in 1954.

My family's first house, that I remember reasonably well, had no indoor toilet.  It was two rooms, a small move-on house plunked on the yard of my grandparents' farm.  It didn't even have real running water for that matter.  Cold water could be hand pumped from a cistern, but to get it hot, my mom had to put in on the stove.  

Our next house was one one that was torn down after we moved off.  About the same as the first house, although at least there was regular running water.  The third house was the "mansion" (as a six year old of my experience would see it).  No, still no indoor toilet (who cared) but it was roomy (in my eyes at least) and on a farm where a creek (even if muddy) ran through the pasture, a quarter mile from the house.  We could fish for bullheads in the muddy water.  This was indeed heaven.

Ok, there were negative aspects to the house.  A full one third was not habitable (even the walls were fallen in).  There was no heat upstairs, which is not a small discomfort for kids who slept upstairs during NW Iowa winters on 20 below nights.  Mom put "flannels" on the beds in place of sheets, and we learned to start the night in a tight ball, speeding out very gradually, and to share body heat.

We didn't actually get to fish much, but sometime.  From age 6 onward, I probably worked 40 or more hours a week, but only during the school year.  In the summer, we worked much more.  Don't misunderstand, I didn't resent the work.  It was just "life."  And the dividends that part of life would eventually pay were great.

When I was 12, we moved a true mansion on to the farm and tore down the prior one.  This house was apparently insulated (old mansion was not) and warm air actually came through the vents upstairs on winter nights.  Wow!  A new stage of heaven

Work was still a lot, but again who cared.  It wasn't any different for anyone else on my school bus route.  Indeed, lots of the boys got on the bus with some manure on their pants.  You get up at 5.30 in the morning to milk cows (who produce a lot of sloshing manure), and then just before the bus comes, you run out of the barn, gobble down some eggs and pancakes and hop on the bus.  No time to change clothes.  Besides, who cared.  One less thing to do in life, which was busy enough.

Well, I did start caring once I got to high school.  Thankfully, the same mansion that had heat upstairs had a shower in the basement (not enclosed but fine).  On some mornings, I was able to shower (quickly!) and now I always changed clothes before school.  But work was certainly no less.  I couldn't play HS basketball because practice was during milking time and I and my brother were the only milkers.  Basketball was for the "town kids" -- sorry.  But I did play baseball and summer fast pitch softball, all of which was scheduled with milking (and other chores) schedules in mind.  As far as I was concern, life was really great (well, minus some other aspects of it).

So I went to college, Dordt actually, but not in anyway like Irving went to college, or even the author of this article.  No one in my family had gone to college.  They were all farmers.  No one had benefited from the GI Bill.  My grandparents on both sides had immigrated from Holland, and neither of my parents had gotten any wealth from theirs.  Nor did I from mine.  College, if I wanted to do that rather foreign thing, was mine to figure out and do (in every sense of that word).  My first year, I paid tuition, room and board by milking cows for a near-by large dairy.  Started 2.00 pm on Friday. Got up 2.30 AM Saturday morning, the repeat for Saturday afternoon, Sunday morning, and Sunday afternoon.  By the time that long weekend was over, I had nearly 40 hours put in.  At $1.50 an hour, that was a ton of money (I thought).  During Christmas break I could and did put in 80 - 90 hour weeks, still at $1.50/hour, none at overtime rate -- ag work was exempted from those rules).   It paid what I needed paid. But I hated it, passionately.  It messed with my days and nights, badly.

One early college summer, I worked night shift at a Campbell Soup plant, cleaning up the facility after the day shifts killed chickens and turkeys, cooked them, deboned them, and diced the meat.  Hated that too, but irrelevant -- again, it paid the bills.

My last 2 plus a bit years of college, I ran my own insurance office.  Got licensed and sold life, disability and health insurance.  Boy, that was a learning curve, but no, there was no $ or even other support from family.  What I did or didn't do was mine to figure out and do.

Then to law school, in Oregon.  Fortunately, the federal government had not yet so badly driven up college and graduate school prices by injecting massive funding into higher education (by providing large grants and loans), so the price of law school, even a well known private one, was within reach.  My wife's teaching job paid $9000 a year, tuition was $3000, and we were really good at skimping on expenses.  Plus, during my first year, I worked side jobs for area farmers, and then starting my second year, I clerked 40+ hours a week.  Poor pay but a lot of experience.  Sure, busy, but life was still good, better than it ever had been I thought.

After law school, I hung out my shingle, practiced with a small group of attorneys.  We weren't a firm but we shared expenses.  A good model, looking back.  I made $5000 my first year.  No, not disappointing.  I was ecstatic it was a positive number and not negative.  A solo practice of law was a small business start up after all.  Most of those failed and I didn't -- yet at least.  Besides, my wife still was a teacher and we could live on her modest salary, even if very modestly.  And that was fine.  Life was still very good.

That startup year was about 37 years ago.  I'm still practicing law, in my solo practice with a small group (members having changed over the years; remember, business startups fail a lot).  In the course of those 37 years, I have represented clients of all characteristics, whether by color, gender, orientation, religion, culture, political persuasion, for other background/status.  Frankly, life is still pretty good, my wife has been teaching again (after years off because we raised four children).  And I've had opportunity to help people and good causes that might not otherwise have gotten help.

So Irving says I'm "white," and thereby I am "privileged."  She and this article would suggest that my race (which at the same time is said to not be real as an actual concept, except by perception) has created advantage for me that has given me a good life, at the expense of others (non-whites) and so I should feel guilty, regard myself as indebted, recognize I have unfairly "drunk downstream" from the unfair advantages of my white parents, but that I'm just "not seeing it" --because I am "white" of course.

For all those who read, or might read, Irving's book, should would also read JD Vance's book, Hillbilly Elegy,  a book that, since I read it, has become a bit known, perhaps because of the election of Donald Trump.

Early Dutch Reformed generations in NW Iowa were not the "white people" Irving broadbrushes.  Early on in her book, anticipating the objections, she argues that even though some readers might think that the injustices she is about to reveal stem from class, they really do stem from color.  JD Vance's book demonstrates that class disadvantage is color blind.  His Appalachian heritage resulted in a very white multigenerational mass that has become known as "white trash," or more recently, part of the "basket of deplorables."  While American culture of late says we should sympathize with the part of the poverty class that is not-white, we are allowed to, and should, regard the white poverty class as pathetic, as deserving of our scorn and disparagement, as hicks, as trailer trash, as white trash, as redncks, and as "deplorables."

At a point in his book, Vance describes how he was explaining to someone not from his culture what his culture, and his early life was like.  And then at a point in that conversation, he remarks, it dawned on him that his description matched that of how someone else might have described inner big city black ghettos.  Some song really, just a different verse.

This is the core of my disagreement with recent CRCNA memes that proclaim "we are all racist" (if we are white) and "we all have drunk downstream, and so have unjustly benefited" from a "systemic injustice" rooted in "white privilege."  

The problem with the meme is that it just isn't true.  Well OK, it may be true for some (like Irving), but it is not true for so many others (like JD Vance's community, nor the communities I have lived in -- nor me and so many I grew up with).

So what, some may say?  So what if Irving's (and the repeated denominational meme) is not true, or not so true?  So a lot, would be my answer.  To the extent any person or cultural group does well, they will do so because they, and each of them, accept the fact that their own decisions, in the points in time right in front of them, will be the dominant factors as to the outcome of their lives (and I'm not talking about financial outcomes, or even mostly about financial outcomes).  Incessant and often factually inaccurate ranting about how the privilege of "whites" are the cause for the lesser wellbeing "non-whites" won't help "non-whites" but hurt them, because they will learn from the repeated message that they themselves were not and are not in charge of their lives and still cannot be.

Thank God (I mean this literally) no one told me I was from a disadvantaged class, that this lady named Irving from Boston and others like her had innumerable advantages over me, and because of that "systemic injustices," I was doomed, unless of course I could find some outside hero, someone who had power I did not and could not have because of my "systemic disadvantage."  Thank God no one told me that.  I might have listened and believed.

So may be Irving should feel "white guilt" because her life "drank downstream" from "white ptivilege."  And who knows, the same may be the case for many CRCers, maybe especially in certain geographical areas of the country.  But even if true to that extent, it is still a broad brush caricature, and one that, I would submit, does far more harm than good.

Thanks, Alison. I will fix that!

Thanks for this.  Just want to let you know your citation links to a Newsweek article, not Time Magazine. 

Shannon.  OK.  I wasn't so "interested in learning," except that any exchange can result in learning, as I was interested in having a meaningful conversation.  And I'm not arguing the same points that you have responded to, only reiterating when you decline to respond to mine.

This theme of "we are all racists, individually and collectively," seems to be a popular meme these days in the denominational apparatus.  There is a recent Banner article on "white guilt," plus a Banner editorial on the same subject, and now your article here on the Network.

I've always thought the Network was intended to be a place for conversations among CRC members, even those who hadn't personally met.  I've also often heard the message that "we aren't willing to have an honest conversation about race."  Given all of that, I thought this would be a good time and place to have such a conversation, publicly (as your article is public), and that the conversation could be beneficial to the body (those that read Network articles and posts at least).

In terms of free time, I have a pretty full-time day job, practicing law, and doing quite a bit beyond that (right now, building an addition onto a rental I own, getting a bathroom fixed in another rental, working with a surveyor and the county to get a lot line adjustment on property needed to do the addition, taking care of a neighborhood park, and more).  I say this to indicate I see this conversation as needed, not something I engage in because I need to pass the time.  To be more blunt, you may be mistaken when you suggest you work a lot as a pastor, that I don't in my job, and so I have time to do this while you don't.  I'm making the time because I believe this is important.  Apparently, you don't think so and that is of course your prerogative.

Hi, Doug.

It sounds like no matter what I say, you will continue to argue the same points. I do not have the same amount of free time that you do to have conversations online. If you are genuinely interested in learning, I suggest that you read a book or have conversations with people that you are in relationship with in your community. As a pastor, I have found online comment sections to be an unhelpful place for such conversations between people who don't know each other. 

Shannon: You point to a CNN article that suggests there is a statistical preference in the population for lighter skin pigmentation.  While that article may be informative in some respects, it only purports to address a broad statistical reality, not a person-by-person, or individual, reality.  One of the critical questions in our conversation  is: "are we all, each of us, racist?"  You seem to me to say "yes" to that question, while I would answer "no.  Your link to the CNN articles addresses a broad statistical question but not the question I'm asking about here.

To recall, I asked, "What do you make of my and my young friend's contrary sense of physical attractiveness?  Might that be evidence that we are not racist?"

What is your answer to these two questions?  If your answer is, "I suspect if you talk with lots of white women you would hear similar things, but that is unrelated to racism," as you say in your most recent response post, I'm not understanding your answer.  You cite your childhood perception that people with light hair and blue eyes are more attractive as not only "related to racism" but as affirmative evidence of your individual racism.  So I've presented two white people (me and my 20-ish female friend at the coffee shop) who both perceive that those with darker skin and brown eyes (me as to the eyes at least) are more attractive, all other things being equal.  If your childhood perception was "related to racism" and evidence of it, then our perception must be related in some way as well, not?

While I thank you for the reference to books on racism (and I saw that 2010 Anderson Cooper/CNN segment back when it first came out), I don't perceive myself lacking information about racism, nor lacking in time thinking about racism.  I may have more experience with the the questions than you might think, but I may have formulated different conclusions than you have.  Indeed, it seems clear to me that I have, which is why I'm wanting to have a conversation about it.

Hi, again.

I suspect if you talk with lots of white women you would hear similar things, but that is unrelated to racism. The phenomena that my example was pointing to is widely documented. Here is one article about it: http://www.cnn.com/2010/US/05/13/doll.study/

I have been reading, thinking and writing about these issues for a long time, so yes, I am certain it is racism. There are some books that you could read to learn more, like Disunity in Christ by Christena Cleveland or Roadmap to Reconciliation by Brenda Salter McNeil.

Shannon.  Thanks for the response.  Who knows, maybe you are racist. :-)  But let's take the examples one at a time and explore them.

First, your childhood impression of what made for pretty.  I was at coffee this morning and talked to the 20-ish young woman that usually serves me.  She is white, a Christian, working while going to school, not Dutch, not CRC.  We discussed my question to her: "are you racist?"  Setting aside for a moment her general response, we also discussed perceptions of physical attractiveness, using your example as a springboard.  With a bit of a laugh she said she generally considered darker skin people to be more attractive than lighter skinned people, all other things being equal.

I didn't tell her this but understood, because, frankly, I perceive (as pretty) likewise.  I also prefer darker hair to blonde hair, and brown eyes to blue.  And I really think freckles are unattractive (sorry to any offended by that).  My friend's explanation for her darker skinned preference was "I just do, just like my favorite color is red."  My favorite color is blue, not red like my friend's, although I think small cars are best looking in red.

So here's the question.  Are you sure your sense, when a child, that lighter skin is prettier is evidence of racism?  And then this question.  What do you make of my and my young friend's contrary sense of physical attractiveness?  Might that be evidence that we are not racist?

I'm not intending to ignore your other 3 points, and will respond in other posts.  But I want to stop here in this post so we can have a more focused conversation.

Hi, Doug.

Racism is made manifest in four ways--two on the individual level and two on the systemic level. On the individual level, there is internalized racism, which are prejudicial beliefs about oneself or others. Internalized racism is often expressed as interpersonal racism, when a person leverages their power, covertly or overtly, knowingly or unknowingly, in relationship with others because of perceived race. On the systemic level, there is institutional racism, which are policies and practices within an institution that discriminate with racialized outcomes. More broadly, there is structural racism that plays out across society, via institutions, resulting in racial disparities.

Here are some examples:

When I was a little girl, I believed that girls with blonde hair, blue, eyes, and white skin were prettier than girls with dark skin, dark hair, and dark eyes. That was internalized racism.

When I was introduced to someone recently, who was black, I started asking her questions about her family. Not long into the conversation I realized that I had offended her somehow. In looking back on the conversation later I realized that the questions that I had asked her were revealing my assumption that she had her children out of wedlock and that they may have had multiple fathers. That microagression on my part was interpersonal racism.

When I was on a hiring team a number of years ago, I felt pretty strongly that we needed to hire someone who understood the culture where I worked, which was mostly white people. As we looked at and discussed applications, the need to "fit in" the culture was the forefront of my mind. When we had narrowed down who to interview, I realized that all of the candidates that we selected were white graduates of the local Christian college with last names from the same ethnic background. I had perceived "in group" status as a qualifier for the position. That was institutional racism.

When my grandfather returned from serving with the US Army overseas, he was offered the GI Bill and used it to purchase a home for his family. His wealth accumulated over the years, so that when my father, an immigrant, married my mother and started his own business, he was able to receive a loan from my grandfather, which banks would not give him, to get started. My father accumulated wealth through his successful business, and was able to pay for my undergraduate degree so that I could graduate without any loans. That accumulated wealth was contributed to by a program that my grandfather (being white) was able to leverage and that black veterans, because of their race, could not. That was structural racism. 

This is why I consider myself racist. It was something I was both born into and something I practice. While I have control over my intent, my intent and the impact of my behaviors do not necessarily correlate. One person I heard put it this way: racism isn't the shark in the water, but is the water we swim in. It's pervasive.  

I quite agree Shannon that race is biologically not real.  I've thought that all my adult life, if not a bit longer.   But unlike you, I don't think I'm racist.  Never have been and am not now.  No, no, no, that doesn't mean I don't consider myself quite sinful, inclined to hate God and my neighbor as you say, but I'm also not a terrorist, a mysogenist, a burglar, a robber, a drug dealer, or a number of other words, all of which denote rather specific ways of acting out one's sinful state.  I have plenty ways I act out my sinful state but acting as a racist or terrorist or drug dealer are not among them.

My question to you is, why do you think you are -- call yourself -- a rscist?  I'm not trying to be personal (maybe that is in fact a specific way your fallen nature expresses itself?), but I gather from your article that perhaps you call yourself a racist merely because you are half white (as you say), or merely because you were raised in a culture you apparently equate with white, as you say (I have a bit of a hard time understanding that), or merely because in our society at large you conclude, again as you say, that whites, statistically speaking,  have some kind of power advantage over non-whites.  But none of these latter "reasons" are cause for you to be designated a racist, nor is your inherent sinful nature.

Unless, of course, the meaning of the word itself, "racism," is changed.  But that would be cheating, I submit, in a dictionary definition-strategy kind of way.  

I understand the inclination, in a good Calvinist kind of way, to be up front about our sinfulness, but I think it does no good, and does do harm, when we so expand the definitional meaning of a word until it covers anything and everything (like the word "Smurf" in that cartoon with the little blue people).

Now I do believe racism exists and that some people are in fact racist, just as terrorism/terrorists exist or murderous assassination/murderous assassins exists, but it wouldn't do good to call everyone a terrorist or an assassin either.  If we call everyone all these specific "ways of sinning," the meaning of the words are lost and we no longer distinguish between sinfulness generally, and specific ways we might, or might not, act out our sinfulness.  And that is not helpful either -- at all.  Among others things calling everything and everyone "smurf," or "racist," results in losing the idea of the specific thing, as well as the ability to deal with it (how would you deal with the problem of "smurfyness" after all, because you don't know what the problem actually is).

I hear often that "we aren't willing to have honest conversations about race and racism."  It would seem that you are.  I am too.  Let's have a conversation. :-)

Are you saying that race is biological, and a curse from God? Race is a social construct, not a biological reality. And diversity is most certainly not a curse. Have your read Genesis 11? There is nothing about ethnic or racial differences in that text.

Even "birds of a feather flock together." Isn't that how God made us? Far as I know, there was only one race and one common language until God invented these problems for us during the "Tower Incident."

Yes the theological thoughts of former Missional African churches need to be listened to, heard, recognized as we wrestle with our own responses to North American Openness Movements.

 

Thank you for this thoughtful guide.

The questions asked are our challenge to think first about what we are actually doing.

First steps are often the most difficult. Once first steps are made we can learn to walk with Christ together.

As Christians we have more in common than we have differences.

i'm reminded of the song "Walk With Me Lord, Walk with ME."

Thanks John for your article (or articles) in which you are critical of our American culture and the way it seems that many American churches (including Reformed and Presbyterian) are following such culture.  Could it be that our culture is perhaps more on track than the church on many issues, and therefore the church ends up following culture?  If I remember correctly it was the southern USA (the Bible belt) that advocated for slavery and the liberal north that fought against it.  It was also Christians who were in the forefront of opposing mixed racial marriages.  It was also Christians (the church) who opposed women leadership, whether in the church, family, or society. And on these issues, as well as others (such as creation vss. evolution), the church gave (or gives) Scriptural support for such positions.   I think society, although listening to the church for some time, has lost all confidence in the church to give moral or meaningful direction.  Eventually the church (and the CRCNA) will probably follow culture (and rightfully so) on the issue of homosexuality.

Thanks for the feed back Bill. I guess what I mean by being proud of being white is that I'm proud of my heritage and who God has made me to be. As in I'm not ashamed of it as some people are. Yes we are different but we are on equal level with respect and the value of our lives. You know what I mean by that so don't over think it. In laymen terms we all put our pants on one leg at a time. 

Why are people "proud" over things which they had no control? 

In God's eyes we are all sinners.

Statistically, we are not all "equal" If we were, no one would bother to collect statistics.

I have never felt guilty about acts of other people unless I actively contributed to the action. 

Prejudice is acting in ignorance but discrimination is action base upon statistical or other evidence. For example, Consumer Reports tells us that some refrigerators are "better than" other refrigerators. Beagles are equal to French poodles?" What might that mean?" is not "race" just another way of writing "sub-species?"

I thought the idea was to not treat people differently because of race.  That means you don't treat someone better or worse, just the same as everyone else.  No special privileges.  I think having different races is a good thing.  Be proud of your heritage!  But love and respect everyone because in God's eyes we are all equal.  I am white and I am proud to be white but I also know that I am not better than anyone else because I am white.  It's pretty simple.  To reconcile we will have to let the past go and learn from it as we move forward.  No one today has own slaves and no one today has been a slave.  So why do I have to feel guilt for something someone in the past did to someone else in the past.  I understand that people still suffer prejudice but I don't think in this day and time that there is systemic prejudice or racism.  People have to stop embracing and perpetuating a victim mentality.

I appreciate you bringing this issue of racial bias to the forefront.  The mainstream media did not treat this the same as they would have if the roles were reversed.  Everyone is afraid to call it racism when black people do things to white people as if it's not possible for someone who is not white to be racist.  For us to work through real issues and resolve them properly we have to look at it honestly even when it's uncomfortable and goes against the social justice narrative that all minorities and mainly black communities are victims.  Don't let people shut down good honest discussion.

If ever the CRC needed to be thinking carefully and penitently about race relations, it's now.  The anger is growing in our society and our neighbors need to hear from God's people who have been given the ministry of reconciliation.   Our very diversity in the kinds of diversity we experience may get in our way by blurring issues.  The raging anger and the tearing pain of our cities demands the power of the cross to address it.  May God equip our leaders to be insightful, courageous, persistent, and gracious in leading us to address the violence on the road to Jericho.  Al and Denise, thanks for your voices.  Don't stop. 

Thanks Al. It's my intent to read the litany again and pray about its use. I appreciate your observation about the focus on self rather than others.

Denise and others -- what I appreciate about this post is that it helps us to lament our own racialized behavior, rather than the all too simple act of lamenting the sins of others in a very different context.

Hope to read the book soon.  We have been missionaries in Honduras, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Mexico, and the USA.  These cultures are all quite different.  A church meeting is a cultural gathering.  We need to learn how better to live together in our congregations and neighborhoods.  We presently help minister in a Pentecostal congregation that meets in an RCA church building, two doors from where my wife grew up.  Wayne DeYoung

A very interesting discussion. As we continue to use language of inclusion and reconciliation, too often that discourse revolves around people of color NOT having resources, knowledge or means to witness the Gospel globally. The 'root' of race-differences is NOT necessarily economic. Rather the secular conversations about 'reconciliation' get tangled in our Christian language use and unfortunately quoting of Scripture is used to argue for or against 'in-Christ' brother and sisterhood. Our imperative should be to LIVE the Gospel at all times and in all we seek to witness for the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

There are a couple of thoughts I have after reading your post and the original that you referenced.

First, I don't agree with equating nonwhites with underprivileged. So that leaves us with two questions to answer as to why more ethnic minorities are not engaging with the denomination. #1, in our multiethnic congregations, is everyone given equal opportunity to join the short term missions teams? I would argue that yes, they are, because most of the churches I work with do fundraising as a congregation to support whoever wants to go, as long as they work on the fundraising too (make the pies, wash the cars, work at the dinners, etc.) #2, in our ethnic churches, are they uninterested in missions or just uninterested in going through our denomination? Is money really a factor? I tend to think not, because I have seen some incredible donations come through our ethnic churches after a disaster. So what is the real reason?

Setting aside the STM issue, let's talk about funding missions. This is actually something that affected World Renew's decision to move towards a country support approach rather than a missionary-centered approach. Many of our overseas staff are not from North America, or if they are, are not Christian Reformed. So they don't have their own church, Grandma and Grandpa's church, and their aunt and uncle's churches to get support. Nor do they have the social connections mentioned in the article you referenced. Yet, their stories are just as powerful, if not more so. One of our staff actually had someone come up to her after church and say, "this is the first time in my life I have heard an African woman talk about Africa." Of course, as the article mentioned, it is this pooling of resources that is possible in nonprofit organizations and denominations, not so much parachurch organizations. I suspect, though, that if the parachurch organizations were able to shift their fundraising strategies they could have a similar approach. 

Shannon,

I think that short-term mission (STM) that are planned and executed by the church should be seen as a "personal development" opportunity that is provided to people. If so, we could maybe should have a church/denominational fund that are used to fund ALL short-term mission trips and ALL people would have to apply to receive the funding (think of it as a leadership development program or what have you). This is what you're getting at with the "savings group" idea I believe. But the reason I think everyone should apply for the same pool of money, rather than having some people be able to "buy" their way in, is that it creates a leveled entry platform for STMs and does not place an unfair burden on the ecnomoically disadvantages to have to fill out the "scholarship form." Now given the segregated nature of our churches, I think the question of who decides which people get to go should be a second important consideration, but that can be step #2. 

All this to say I think that the model of being able to buy your way into STMs is going to perpetuate a lack of representation for ethnic minorities. We need to come up with a redistribution model that people can buy into. 

Kyle 

 

 

Thanks for the link.  It is encouraging that requests for the leaders to speak out against this type of crime have indeed been heeded:

"On Saturday morning, the National Action Network’s Rev. Al Sharpton addressed the issue of this so called  ‘knockout game’ head on. In an address aired live on WLIB radio and streamed over the internet, the Reverend denounced ‘knockout’ as disturbing and despicable.

He said, “This type of behavior is deplorable and must be condemned by all of us.” The Reverend went on to say, “If someone talked about knocking out blacks, we would not be silent, if it is bigotry, violence or assault, we must denounce it.”

The Reverend called upon the black church, black newspapers and publications, community oriented radio broadcasts to start a campaign against ‘knockout.’  Sharpton is the host of “Politics Nation” on MSNBC. In a plea to black families he said, “Parents need to talk to their kids.”

Knowing the power of peer support and celebrity influence, Sharpton called upon the entertainment community to get involved by denouncing this behavior."

People shouldn't be afraid to walk about in their neighbourhoods.  Even in broad daylight people have been assaulted. 

Regarding parents talking to their children, the problem is that many are being brought up by unmarried mothers.  Especially boys need a father to teach them how to be a man, instead of a bully.

I believe the question as formulated is highly provocative, insensitive, and (IMHO) inappropriate for just about any discussion forum. . . . especially one focussed specifically on racial reconciliation and anti-racism.  I hope--perhaps somewhat naively--that all who post questions or comments would give careful consideration and use the acronym "THiNK" before posting anything. Ask yourself, is it

1.) True

2.) Helpful 

3.) Necessary 

4.) Kind

Grace & Peace,

Jack

P.S. the grio just posted what I think is a more balanced report about the hysteria over the alleged incidents of "knockout" that have occurred.  You can read it by clcking on this link

I guess that's what it might take to stop this so-called 'game', if enough victims fight/shoot back.  Typically bullies are cowards only picking on those they believe can't fight back.  Apart from conceal carry I doubt very much that someone obviously 'packing heat' as they say, would be picked on.

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