Sunday, July 26, 2015

The fear of the "R" word

What am I talking about?  Having a brother with a developmental disability, I am very aware that the "R-word" has been used in campaigns against the use of the word retard when using it in any context outside of fire safety.  I am in total support of that campaign.  This post, however, is not about that "R-word".  This post is about racism.

Racism. The sin that's so unforgivable that people don't even want to admit it exists, let alone even acknowledge they have racist attitudes.  I see this in the students I teach as well as in White church contexts.

Some recent examples:

  • Immediately following the church shooting at Emmanuel A.M.E., I heard in two different church contexts about the horrible act of hatred that happened in South Carolina, with no mention of race or racism as being a factor.  Regarding the predominantly Black churches that were burned following this incident, prayers were lifted but race not mentioned.  Note to any Christians reading: If we don't pray against racism, no progress against racism will be made. It is a spiritual issue and pretending that it is no longer a problem is furthering the problem.  
    • Another note, I was saddened to think that the only reason we were praying about this incident is because it happened in a church.  I wonder if the same attention would have been given in churches if the shooting had occurred in a community center.  The cynic in me says no given the overwhelming silence I've heard in the midst of racial tensions that have been continually occurring in our nation.
  • Moving outside of the church context, in the same aftermath, a move to remove the Confederate flag from the SC statehouse began.  I asked my students about their thoughts on the issue, I continually heard about how the flag meant heritage to some but offended or caused pain to others. Racism was never mentioned.  Even if you don't personally believe the flag is a racist symbol, surely you must realize that to some it is.  No, no one believes the Confederate flag is racist; it's just offensive.
Why are people afraid of the word racism?  I will now make a generalization as I rephrase my question.  Why are so many White people afraid of the word racism?  From my short lifetime, I've noticed most people don't like to be called racist or admit to harboring racist attitudes.  To that, I quote the play Avenue Q, "Everyone's a little bit racist, sometimes."  This is true of people of all races (or as my father-in-law refers to them: tribes...there may be more on this later)  But, if we don't admit to that fact, racism will continue to thrive, specifically in the church.  Confess your sins to one another and pray for each other and you will be healed" (paraphrase of James 5:16).  One thing I have observed that is specific to White people (not all, but many) is they deny that racism is a prevalent part of our society. It exists, and it is not just relegated to a few isolated and ignorant people (such as members of the KKK).  It is woven into the very fabric of society, and denying its existence is not helping.

To answer the question posed earlier: what's with the White denial.  I've come up with two theories.  You can ask for citations and proof to support this and to answer you, I will point you to the title of this blog.  IMO, the first reason for why there seems to be a fear of the word racism is because to use it admits that it exists.  If we're looking at racism from a societal oppression standpoint (rather than an interpersonal exchange) you realize that society is not bent against White people.  It's bent against everyone else.  I will state this more clearly: White people ARE NOT oppressed in America because of their race.  People of color ARE oppressed in America because of their race.  That being said, if a White person admits that racism of this sort exists, even if they themselves are not the oppressor, they realize they are benefiting in some way because of how society is set up.  This goes against everything they have been taught about America being a virtuous nation with equal opportunity for all.  They then have to admit that the American dream should more accurately be called the American myth and that meritocracy is a lie. They may also have to come to the realization that this great nation isn't so great and that America has been in a state of denial since it's beginning (after all, the man who wrote in the declaration of independence that all men were created equal and endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, held slaves). (Reason 1.5- most people are ignorant of the history of domestic minorities and history plays a powerful role in the present)

Reason number 2: A lot of White people don't listen.  If I tell you as an African American my perspective on an event and how racism is involved, don't discount it. Don't tell me it wasn't your intent to hurt me if I'm hurt.  If I jokingly punch you in the arm and you tell me it hurts, I'm not going to say "I was just joking" and punch you again.  Listen and try to see things from a perspective other than your own.

This post was longer than I meant it to be, but not long enough to split into two. Sorry.    

Where have I been?

An brief update of where I've been since I last posted:

  • I graduated with my Bachelor's degree
  • Got a Master's in Animal Sciences
    • During that time I started teaching a diversity and social justice course
    • Decided I liked teaching
  • Currently doing a PhD in Curriculum Studies with a focus on Multicultural Education
A little more on how I got to here:

  • Attended an XA SALT conference and my conference track was focused on Diversity: A gospel perspective (
    • More from her here:
  • Felt like God was calling me to do something about church segregation
    • I plan to focus my research on desegregating churches
Just a bit of context for some of things on my blog to make sense:

  • I grew up in a predominantly Black church but I now currently attend a predominantly White one.
  • I am an African American female if you couldn't tell from my picture. This is the perspective from which I am writing.
  • I really love Jesus
  • I really hate politics. 
  • But a lot of what I will write about has to do with the previous two.
  • Because I hate politics, and Jesus is the only hope we have, I do not align myself with a political party
  • As I wrote in the description (but I think it's worth repeating here) if you consider yourself a liberal or a conservative, you'll probably be offended by some of my posts, but I hope you will think outside of your perspective and think about mine.