Sunday blogging against racism–wrestling with the Haiti question.

Like the rest of you, my heart has been heavy in the past few days with the news of the disaster in Haiti. The immediate gut reaction of most has been, “We just have to help them”. And yes, we do . . . but I have not been able to shake a vague sense that there is something that “we” (particularly the United States) have been doing that left Haiti so vulnerable to such a disaster.

I already knew some of the history of how Haiti came to be. I also knew that the country has struggled mightily ever since. And while my local “Christian” radio station opined that the  DR has prospered where Haiti has failed because the former is a “Christian” country, I was more inclined to believe that the difference in skin color had much to do with it. I also couldn’t shake a nagging sense that there has been a “get back in your place, boy!” kind of attitude on the part of the white, Western world towards a black people that would dare assert that justice and freedom ought to be their birthright.

So I had to do some reading . . . and I found this article.

The part that took my breath away was this paragraph:

Haiti’s vulnerability to natural disasters, its food shortages, poverty, deforestation and lack of infrastructure, are not accidental. To say that it is the poorest nation in the Western hemisphere is to miss the point; Haiti was made poor–by France, the United States, Great Britain, other Western powers and by the IMF and the World Bank.

I want to read more . . . I want to educate myself further. Yes, please give to relief efforts, choosing wisely as you do . . . but stop and ask yourself just how we got here . . . not the earthquake itself (which was NOT God’s judgment on anyone!), but the tenuous infrastructure of a nation ill-equipped to face such a disaster.

We cry at pictures now . . . we whip out our cell phones and send ten dollars their way . . . but are we looking at ourselves? At our nation, and its role in paralyzing Haiti up until this point?

Not easy questions . . . but I will continue to wrestle with them, and I hope you will join me.

Sunday blogging against racism–yeah, what he said.

one of these days, I’ll get back to having my own thoughts on these issues . . .

Seriously, though . . . I haven’t seen Avatar, though I’ve heard much about it. I did see The Blind Side, and went into it quite reluctantly, knowing that I wouldn’t be able to turn off my “anti-racism radar”. I was actually pleasantly surprised by a few things:

1) The mom took him shopping in HIS neighborhood for clothes. a) she wasn’t all, “EEK!!! THE INNER CITY!!!” b) even though his fashion style didn’t match the “norm” at their school (which crazily reminded me of NorthPointe), she let him be who he was in that sense.

(in contrast, when 20/20 covered the story, they included a story about a young man who “could be the next Michael Oher“. I about punched a hole through my tv screen when they said that this kid moved in with a white family because “they couldn’t bring him home to his neighborhood after football practice”. If you can’t go where he lives, then you have no business being in his life!)

2) There was definitely evidence in the movie (and this was confirmed in a 20/20 interview with the parents) that Michael Oher gave them as much as, or more than, they gave him. Although I wished that the 20/20 episode would have delved deeper into that*, and into the whole issue of the white folks being the “saviors” (another friend of mine pointed out that none of the black people in the film were shown in a positive light), I was glad to see at least that much acknowledged.

*they had the black journalist interviewing the family, but there didn’t seem a willingness to really go deeper into these issues. It was kind of, “don’t you think people will say, ‘why are you rescuing the black kid?’ and the mom saying, “It’s about love” and that was it. Okay, that might be a paraphrase.

but ANYWAY . . . Soong Chan Rah has expressed this much more eloquently than I have, so check out his thoughts on the two films.

Sunday blogging against racism: the cost of doing the right thing.

So I was only peripherally aware of this situation until I saw the “resolution” and decided to read more. Let’s see if I can briefly (me?!) summarize the situation . . .

A Christian publisher, Zondervan, apparently released a men’s book recently that had some pretty overt and stereotypical Asian content. Apparently the title of the book played off of this cluster of stereotypes, and to add insult to injury, the marketing campaign went even further.

A handful of Asian-American bloggers challenged both Zondervan and the book’s authors about the hurtful nature of these stereotypes. The part that really caught my attention was when Zondervan CHOSE TO DO THE RIGHT THING–they acknowledged that they had been wrong, and pulled the books. ALL of the books. (doing the right thing is usually not cheap, either.)

I read the blog entry of one of the people originally involved in the conversation about this, and found this blogger to be gracious, kind, and extremely generous to the authors. He had actually already reached out to one of the authors, and was hoping he would be able to meet the other one. Having come into this debate very late in the game, my sense was that this man was a complete gentleman and extremely gracious despite the pain that this incident had caused him.

I was almost in tears for Zondervan’s act of bravery, blown away by the fact that they had admitted their sin and had enough courage to remedy the situation. It was one of those moments where I felt a glimmer of hope for the future of the church, when for a brief moment, I wasn’t quite as weary on this journey as I so often am.

And then I started reading the comments on this gentleman’s blog . . . and as I did, that hope I had felt began to fade.

White (I’m assuming) Christians, oblivious to their white privilege and to the offense that had been caused in this situation, were spewing accusations TOWARDS THIS BLOGGER and towards the other Asian-Americans involved in this conversation. I usually don’t read more than a handful of comments, but I think I read almost 2/3 of them this time.

The accusations were ugly. Not only had these meddling Asians caused Zondervan to cowtow to the secular god of political correctness, they had also surely cost the salvation of millions of (purportedly white) men whose lives had been changed by this ministry. (Because Jesus is incapable of changing men’s lives without the help of one particular book/website?)

Oh, and also–the Asians made the Body of Christ look bad because they had dragged this all out in the public square, where millions of non-Christian Facebookers and Tweeters would see how horribly divided the Christians were.

(might the non-Christian world not instead be amazed by the testimony of humility and grace displayed in the resolution of this situation? And at any rate, I don’t think we have the option anymore in the 21st century to NOT be in the public square when it comes to social media. and one more thing–it’s my understanding that a bunch of people were Tweeting about what a stupid decision Zondervan had made . . . is THAT glorifying God?!)

I was flabbergasted by this backlash, until I remembered that the thing that keeps racism going is its invisibility. I was watching the wages of white privilege unfold right before my eyes. We white folks don’t get it–and we don’t NEED to get it. We are not “the other”, and that “other” makes an extremely convenient target when we don’t want to look at ourselves.

I know that I have a problem following up when it comes to this type of thing, but I really want to write to Zondervan and tell them how thrilled I am that they chose to do what was right, even at such a great cost (and I am speaking of more than the financial cost).

The reaction to this is proof positive that we have so far to go in fighting this disease of racism . . . and though I rejoice in small victories, I am still sometimes so overwhelmed by the seemingly never-ending road that we still have to travel.

My prayer is that more and more people and organizations will have the courage to do what Zondervan did–to admit to their blindness to the racism that wounds our brothers and sisters in Christ, and to take steps towards seeing, even when that seeing is painful.

Sunday blogging against racism . . . yeah, I’m gonna go there.

(and yeah, I know that I fell off the face of the earth. trying to get back into gear at last.)

I was begged to NOT blog about Michael Jackson’s death . . . so I’ll keep this short.

First, a disclaimer: I have barely watched any of the TV coverage about this. I think I saw about twenty minutes of news people talking stupidly about whether his daughter should have been “allowed” to speak at his memorial service. And with that, I’d had about enough.

But I will say that I think that his death, and everything surrounding it, is a different experience for black folks than it is for white folks. And I also think that most white folks would tell me that I’m crazy for making such an assertion. After all, black celebrities are, and always have been, ours to appropriate the culture of as we have seen fit.

But yeah. Michael Jackson’s life and death tell us something about whiteness and blackness in this color, even beyond the late-night talk show one-liners. I am not sure I can articulate it as completely as I would like, though, so I will leave it at that.