Posts Tagged ‘race’

This post is dedicated to two Steves: Steven Hamilton and Steve Schenk. You can check out Steven Hamilton on his blog Verve and Verse writing about theology, church, and his future plans to start a faith community in Pittsburgh and you can check out Steve Schenk writing on his blog Damascus 9 about his adventures as a church pastor in Buffalo here.

In recent years I have become aware of the issue of race more so as the pastor of a multiethnic church and through my studies at Fuller and this has caused me to explore not only the social issue of race but where I stand in regards to race and ethnicity. It has caused me to ask serious and honest questions about what I believe in regards to God’s perspective and viewpoint on race, culture, and ethnicity. Questions like

“Should there be a multiethnic church this side of heaven and is this a mandate for every church?”

“As an African American who has been robbed of culture should I place myself in a congregation where my culture is not dominant or at least valued?”

“Is there a place for a Christian black nationalist/separatist or is this going against God’s purpose for his church?”

“How can I be true to my culture and ethnicity while at the same time being a blessing to the different people around me?”

Many of these questions have been answered and many of them have not. The one thing that has emerged is that I do not want to be boxed in by race. Race is a social construct created to justify oppression. By being categorized in this way and operating within that construct I only give power to false notions of who I am as a person. To put it simply:  I am more than my skin color and physical features and these do not determine who I am. I am a human being who is capable of doing and achieving many things and experiencing the range and variety of human emotions and feelings.

With that being said.

Here is my MANIFESTO OF A RACE TRANSCENDING PROPHET

I refuse to be boxed in. categorized. labeled. Stuck in what others have thought of me and planned for me. I refuse to be prejudged and placed in a fabricated construction of someone else’s reality. I am more than my skin color. nose size. hair texture. I am more than my history and my background. I am that but so much more. I refuse to be barred from anything life has to offer. I refuse to be excluded from all of the experience of humanity. I refuse to let my identity be dictated by others who do not know me. I refuse to grab at the small amount of options that society has opened for me.

Instead I choose to be different. unique. African. American. Loving myself. Loving my culture. I choose to be someone who lives and loves the thought that black is beautiful. I choose to contribute and give these gifts to the rest of the world. I choose to have an identity that embraces these things and goes beyond them. I choose to love others who are different. unique. European. Korean. Mexican. Chinese. Argentinian. Human. These are my people. They are me. For we are all human. I choose to speak life giving and affirming words that transcend language. transcend accents. transcend culture. transcend hatred. I choose to follow in the tradition of Martin and Malcolm. Mother Teresa and Cesar Chaves. Jesus and Buddha. I choose to speak the truth that transcends race. I choose to a be race transcending prophet.

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The other day a friend asked me whether I thought that
issues of race and ethnicity need to be addressed in the church. I firmly answered yes. This is a legacy that is hard to see due to our own interests and
desires. To those who are affected the most by the issue of race it is very plain that race is still an issue. Some may think that since Obama’s election as President of the Unites States that we live in a post racial society but judging from recent headlines I seriously doubt that we are post racial. In fact, we are anything but post racial. This can be clearly seen in comments on Youtube that involve race. While our public face on race is very politically correct the internet gives us the ability to remain anonymous. This anonymity gives people the freedom to speak what is really on their minds and spit venom on the web that is aggressive, demeaning, and degrading. The issue of race during the 2008 campaign and after Obama was elected has been in the forefront of American public life.

From the whole incident with the Bostonpolice and Henry Louis Gates which resulted in the infamous Beer Gate To the shocking police brutality inflicted on Jordan Miles
of Pittsburgh.We have seen many incidents that show that race is still an issue in this country.

Just to show the pervasiveness of race as an issue in this country here are a few other news stories from this year which reveal the past is not far behind us.

Santa Monica student bullied with noose and chain Santa Monica Noose incident

Virginia Teacher holds mock slave auction where white children buy and sell black and mixed race children Virginia Teacher holds mock slave auction

Big controversy over the ESPN magazine article What if Michael Vick were white?

These are incidents that show me that race is still an issue in America. Why? Because contrary to what the Christian right will tell you America wasnot only built on “Christian” values but also on the concept of the supremacy of one race over another. This is the legacy of white supremacy and we cannot just shrug it aside. It is built into our culture and  our public institutions. It seeps into our private life and relational interactions. As much as the civil rights movement made tremendous strides there is an ominous racial legacy that guides and influences the media, policymakers, and whole communities. It is a racial legacy that even affects the victims of racism as they themselves become oppressors of each other and of others who are not in power. This can clearly be seen in the recent Katt Williams Anti-Mexican Rant. I believe the legacy of racism can force one black man to insult and demean another brown man not just because he is a messed up individual (which may be the case) but also because race and ethnicity has been set up to divide people in this country and is connected to socioeconomic and class/power issues.

So is racism still an issue? Does race still matter? I say yes. But not in the same way as it did in the sixties. I believe the civil rights movement of the sixties addressed many legal and political barriers that were set up by racism but there are still socioeconomic and cultural barriers that need to be addressed. And this issue will only get deeper as the Katt Williams episode shows us that the legacy of racism has not only set up a black/white divide but also division among various ethnic groups as they compete for and pursue human flourishing in a democracy.

What are your thoughts?