Does Race Still Matter Pt 2: Playing the blame game

Posted: November 2, 2011 in Uncategorized

This post is dedicated to Katelin and Kristos. You can check out Katelin at By Their Strange Fruit and you can check out Kristos at Words Cover Me

My son has a book of Berenstein Bear’s stories and the last story in the book is really insightful. It’s called the blame game. Basically the two bears are always blaming each other for what happened and never fixing the problem at hand. Broken vase. Blame game. Broken window. Blame game. Are we doing the same thing when it comes to the issue of race?

There a few things that I want to say about this:

It is true that pointing out the problem only makes things worse. To continue to harp on the same issue without offering a solution can make be exasperating. This has been the case when it comes to race relations in the United States. It seems that around every corner there is a racist. A racist comment or remark. A racist TV show. A racist employer. Race is everywhere and at the same time many have become desensitized to the issue of race.

It is also true that talking can be a prelude to action or a postponement of action. Much of what is offered as a solution is usually talk. It is the case of having a meeting about the meeting that we are going to have about the meeting 🙂 This was the case even on a presidential level with the infamous Beer Gate incident with Henry Louis Gates and the Boston police officer. I think this is helpful but is actually a symptom of a larger problem: racial issues are not just about individual attitudes and actions. Racism was a building block in the culture and institutions of America for hundreds of years and therefore it cannot just be solved by individuals getting together talking. So talking about race is not helpful when it comes to completely eradicating racism because 1) It can be a postponement of action and 2) It can be myopic and narrow by focusing on individual attitudes and actions.

While I do think pointing out the problem is helpful to a certain extent I believe that at this stage in the game (post MLK jr., Civil Rights legislation, Affirmative Action) the legacy of racism and slavery in this country (the actual problem) needs more solutions than whistleblowers. I’m taking my cue from the  Berenstein bears and have resolved to not play the blame game.

So in this post I am going to throw some things out on the table as possible solutions:

1. Relationships formed on the micro and macro level. There are plenty of relationships between individual African Americans and Caucasian Americans although these need to be beefed up as well (just because you know the person’s name does not mean that they are your friend 🙂 There also needs to be two way relationships between African American institutions and European American institutions especially in the area of private institutions such as the church. To address issues of race while we live, work, play, and worship in individual silos is counter productive and breeds suspicion and resentment.

2. Resources and knowledge shared across cultural and socio economic barriers on the micro and macro level. Individuals, schools, churches, businesses etc. One of the biggest things that I have noticed after being a part of a multiethnic church was how much I was not exposed to certain things just because I was black. My family was not economically disadvantaged. My parents were not drug addicts or criminals. I just did not have exposure to different ways of doing things in the area of finance, food, education, vocation etc. because of my ethnicity. At the same time it is a two way street. I also believe many in my congregation were not exposed to certain things because of their ethnicity. I believe a true solution to racism is contributing value from both sides of the color lines.

3. An accurate history of racism for the common person. After studying racism and hearing certain comments made about the history of racism in this country and the current state of race relations I truly believe that the average person  does not have a 1) clear idea of what has been done to African Americans in this country 2) that Martin Luther King Jr. only scratched the surface 3) After King’s death there were alot of setbacks that have led to the issues we face today. I also believe people do not know how much 1) Our country’s economy was based not just on slave labor but on the justification of slavery 2) the extent to which that situation has not changed

If someone could come up with a video or a book  not more than 150 pages long that could really paint the picture for the common person and offer resources then we could go a long way in educating people about racism.

So those are my solutions (I am actually working on the third one). In the next post I will pinpoint the problem. What do you think? Do you have any solutions you want to add?

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Comments
  1. Matthew Bivens says:

    I just want to thank you for referencing beer gate!

    At the same time I would like to share something from my studies in writing for game design because I believe it may contribute to the third solution offered. Here a quote from an article on game design, “needs to be equal parts teaching tool, reference work, and muse. Someone is going to sit down and read that book to learn how to play.”

    You mentioned the Berenstein Bear’s and not playing the blame game, I would like to know how to play after racism.

    You could find the whole article “Getting the Most Out of the Rules” here:
    http://www.wizards.com/dnd/Article.aspx?x=dnd/4ll/20111101

  2. Katelin says:

    Glad to have you back on the scene!
    This is great post that gets some really essential components.
    I’ll definitely talk it up in this Friday’s BTSF Round Up.

    And thanks for the dedication!

  3. I would tend to agree that basically it’s relational, on personal and larger social scales. To me, there’s also the ‘communitas’ element that comes from shared experiences of pursuing the same things together…in scripture this is known as koinonia (shared experience/fellowship).

    This sort odf thing always makes me think of Desmond Tutu and the Truth and Reconciliation tribunals in South Africa: Forgiveness is promised for those who will come and face the ugly truth together…

    good stuff my friend!

    • mayotron says:

      Yes communitas! I believe those type of experiences pursuing the same thing need to be intensified and squeezed into a specific space of time and we can see an even greater impact. I experienced this on my first international mission trip. We had koreans, African Americans, European Americans, a Filipina, and a Mexican all living and doing ministry together. What a blessing!

  4. kebbiel says:

    I could not agree more. Coming from the diverse landscape of LA to the midwest has been trying sometimes. What we find is that oftentimes in the church a diverse community gets unfortunately equated with simply having individuals from different ethnic groups. However, there are no real efforts made to really build relationships beyond racial lines. Oftentimes, those from different racial and ethnic backgrounds realize this over time and typically do not stick around, which is unfortunate because this could enrich our lives and our church as well. Building relationships is important and I think that is the key to reaching people. Everyone wants to be known and share their life. I have learned so many insightful things from my husband simply because of his different life experiences. It is through this relationship that I have realized sometimes how faulty my assumptions are of others and where I learn to negotiate these differences in the context of Christ-centered relationship. But sometimes bringing people together from different backgrounds is like bringing individuals who speak different languages, sometimes a “new language” needs to be formed and negotiated between the 2 individuals. I think people need to see this as valuable and be willing to face a little resistance and change. –Debbie

    • mayotron says:

      Debbie,

      Good thoughts. These are some of the things that I am working on with my thesis. I definitely think that people need to see this as valuable which is something I want to focus on in the future. To make people see it as valuable and help them work through the resistance and change 🙂

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