Race and Racial Issues Feed

24th & Glory

24th & Glory: The Intersection of Civil Rights and Omaha's Greatest Generation of Athletes24th & Glory: The Intersection of Civil Rights and Omaha's Greatest Generation of Athletes by Dirk Chatelain
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A engaging, moving read. The story of significant American social movements told through the lens of one neighborhood in a Midwestern city and the prominent characters who lived there. A essential read for Omahans that will be enjoyed by many others.

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What's going on with the Right?

An excellent, and I think helpful, column in the Atlantic by Conor Friedersdorf on what's going on with the Right.  Even deeper than the racism currently being exhibited is a psychological temperament that seeks order and fears difference and change.  He criticizes the Left for how they respond to the Right and provides insights on the best way to build coalitions to advance the nation.


The Origin of Others

The Origin of OthersThe Origin of Others by Toni Morrison
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Good, the week after her death, to read Morrison's words speaking to the crisis of our times. My favorite part was this on the stranger:

"Why should we want to know a stranger when it is easier to estrange another? Why should we want to close the distance when we can close the gate? . . .

"It took some time for me to understand my unreasonable claims on that fisherwoman. To understand that I was longing for and missing some aspect of myself, and that there are no strangers. There are only versions of ourselves, many of which we have not embraced, most of which we wish to protect ourselves from. For the stranger is not foreign, she is random; not alien but remembered; and it is the randomness of the encounter with our already known--although unacknowledged--selves that summons a ripple of alarm. That makes us reject the figure and the emotions its provokes--especially when these emotions are profound. It is also what makes us want to own, govern, and administrate the Other. To romance her, if we can, back into our own mirrors. In either instance (of alarm or false reverence), we deny her personhood, the specific inviduality we insist upon for ourselves."

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Jesus and the Disinherited

Jesus and the DisinheritedJesus and the Disinherited by Howard Thurman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was one of those books I knew I needed to get around to at some point, but I'm now upset that I didn't read it twenty years ago. I feel let down; that no one explained to me that this was one of the essential books. And not just essential theologically. Essential for anyone to read.

Essential for its sophisticated understanding of how marginalized people respond to their situations. Essential for the way it clearly influenced King and others. Essential for helping to understand America.

There are so many other books I've read which are clearly derivative of this one. I had been missing the essential, core text.

But no more. Now it will become an essential part of my personal canon, to be used often.

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Sisters in the Wilderness

Sisters in the Wilderness: The challenge of Womanist God-TalkSisters in the Wilderness: The challenge of Womanist God-Talk by Delores S. Williams
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I finally read this classic theological text after years of reading other books that discussed it (there are still many classic theology books I haven't read, as I spent graduate school reading the philosophical canon).

I was interested in the places where she argues for something (such as her criticisms of traditional atonement theory) that have since become standard. In this way you see the influence of her work on the wider discipline.

I'm drawn to the concluding remarks on the survival strategies of black women: an art of cunning, an art of encounter, an art of care, and an art of connecting. I would like further constructive theology on these, which I think would be helpful for pastoral care and preaching. A key point is that simply enduring is itself "an act of defiance, a revolutionary act."

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Tears We Cannot Stop

Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon to White AmericaTears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon to White America by Michael Eric Dyson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

More hopeful than Ta-Nahesi Coates. But I was left wondering if the only people who will read this book are those already mostly sympathetic to it? The people that need to read it are probably less likely to actually read it.

The best chapter is the one on police violence.

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Pastoral Prayer upon the death of James Cone

This morning's pastoral prayer at First Central Congregational UCC of Omaha:

Yesterday our brother James Cone died. Cone was one of the greatest American theologians. He was born and raised in Arkansas during segregation, and became the founder of Black Liberation Theology, a longtime professor at Union Theological Seminary, and an ordained minister in the African Methodist Episcopal Church.

Cone formulated a theology of liberation from within the context of the Black experience of oppression, interpreting the central kernel of the Gospels as Jesus' identification with the poor and oppressed, and the resurrection as the ultimate act of liberation. He has deeply influenced my theology.

In his masterwork, God of the Oppressed, he wrote, "Jesus Christ is not a proposition, not a theological concept which exists merely in our heads. He is an event of liberation, a happening in the lives of oppressed people struggling for political freedom." That understanding helped to empower my own work on equal rights for LGBT people.

And in his late great book The Cross and the Lynching Tree, which our Theology Brunch discussed in March, he wrote,

The cross has been transformed into a harmless, non-offensive ornament that Christians wear around their necks. Rather than reminding us of the "cost of discipleship," it has become a form of "cheap grace," an easy way to salvation that doesn't force us to confront the power of Christ's message and mission. Until we can see the cross and the lynching tree together, until we can identify Christ with the "recrucified" black body hanging from a lynching tree, there can be no genuine understanding of Christian identity in America, and no deliverance from the brutal legacy of slavery and white supremacy.

And his work convicts me of my sin, opening new paths for redemption and reconciliation.

Let us begin our time of pastoral prayer with a moment of silent reflection.

Silence

Gracious God. Thank you for sending us James Cone to be our teacher.

He taught us who Jesus was and is.

He taught us what the cross means. And the resurrection means.

He taught us how to be saved and liberated.

And how worship can empower us for the struggle of life.

He taught us who you are, God. That you are the God of the oppressed.

Without his teaching we might still be mired in misunderstanding and sin because of our racism and sexism and homophobia.

We might still be worshipping an idol.

As he is welcomed into your peace,

May his spirit ever live,

In power and glory.

And now we pray, as Jesus has taught us,

Our Father who art in Heaven,
hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come,

Thy will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,

and forgive us our debts
as we forgive our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom and the power

and the glory, forever. Amen.


Philosophical reflection on Whiteness

An interview with philosopher George Yancy about white American refusal to face racism and white privilege.

An excerpt:

When you talk about “whiteness” in the letter and book, what do you mean?

Whiteness is a structural, ideological, embodied, epistemological and phenomenological mode of being – and it is predicated upon its distance from and negation of blackness. This is what so many white people forget or refuse to see: their being racialized as white and socially and psychologically marked as privileged has problematic implications for my being black.

Whiteness is what I call the “transcendental norm”, which means that whiteness goes unmarked. As unmarked, white people are able to live their identities as unraced, as simply human, as persons. And this obfuscates the ways in which their lives depend upon various affordances that black people and people of color don’t possess.

White racism is thus a continuum, one that includes the KKK, the loving white Christian and the antiracist white. Even good, moral white people, those who have black friends, friends of color, married to people of color, fight for racial justice and so on, don’t escape white racist injustice against black people and people of color; they all continue to be implicated within structures of white privilege and to embody, whether they realize it or not, society’s racist sensibilities. White people possess white privilege or white immunity from racial disease. And because of this, others of us, black people and people of color, reap the social, political and existential pains of that racialized social skin.


Pitts on What Killed King

A strong column by Leonard Pitts on what killed Dr. King and how his legacy has been diluted.  An excerpt:

From the moment King was felled, 50 years ago this week, the “what” of his murder was clear as mountaintop air.

Fear purchased the gun.

Delusion loaded it.

Ignorance adjusted the sight.

Intolerance pulled the trigger.

Fifty years ago, those forces killed the man. They have sought ever since to kill the memory.

 

 


The Cooking Gene

The Cooking Gene: A Journey Through African American Culinary History in the Old SouthThe Cooking Gene: A Journey Through African American Culinary History in the Old South by Michael W. Twitty
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When I read/heard about this book last autumn, I recommended it to our church book club. They adopted it for our March gathering, so last weekend while traveling I read it.

I really liked the book in that I learned a lot from it, even feeling better informed about food I grew up on. For instance, learning that the annual New Year's tradition of eating black-eyed peas goes back to the Yoruba people. Now in future years I will know that I'm participating in an ancient African tradition that has long been a part of my white Oklahoma background.

The book has also inspired me to write a blog series on food and to be more intentional in the kitchen and at the table with our son to discuss food traditions and culture.

What I didn't like about the book was its odd and at times rambling and repetitive structure. I felt it could have used some further editing.

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