The trembling of the white establishment

Here’s a line from a song we sang yesterday: “When tyrants tremble sick with fear and hear their death-knell ringing…” 

I think that’s what we’re really seeing in all these cries for secession in the aftermath of the 2012 election. Tyrants trembling, sick, fearful, acutely aware of their own pending (political) demise. Bill O’Reilly put it best: “The white establishment is now the minority.” To them, no longer being able to lord power over everyone else amounts to their own oppression. The fact that the face of power in the US is (still) brown, maybe because, by God, a majority of people WANT it that way, just reinforces that – and is utterly terrifying to them.

Obamacare and raising taxes on the rich ain’t the issue. The real issue is those faint death-knells ringing in the background, growing steadily louder as time marches on, signifying that the myth of white, middle-class normalcy is ending, and America is evolving into something other than a monolithic, assimilationist blob of red, white, and blue ca. 1950. We just may have to find a way to live together across difference, rather than (a) forcing sameness upon all, (b) excommunicating those who don’t agree, or (c) withdrawing, like unpatriotic cowards. 

In my humble opinion. 🙂:)  On a related note, read on for the sermon I preached yesterday…

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Power Over, Power Under

This past week, I’ve spent quite a bit of time reading everything I can  pertaining to the unresolved murder of Trayvon Martin.  I also delivered a sermon for our 10am service about the temptation to dominate. These are very interrelated, I think.

Power Over, Power Under
By the Rev. Thomas M. Ryberg

Text:  Luke 4:1-2, 5-8, 13

Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing at all during those days, and when they were over, he was famished. Then the devil led him up and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And the devil said to him, “To you I will give their glory and all this authority; for it has been given over to me, and I give it to anyone I please. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.’” When the devil had finished every test, he departed from him until an opportune time.

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On hijacking the racial pain of others, or why we white folks need to stop thinking about “race issues” as if they were external from ourselves

Here’s something that just happened on Facebook. One of my friends, a woman of color, shared an article that named 10 Conversations the author wanted to stop having with white people. In response to her post, a white male Facebook friend of hers left a bunch of comments in which he shared personal experiences of having been the target of racial prejudice, and lamented the unfairness of people judging him just because he is white. And from that point, everyone, including myself, thus became engaged in an extended back-and-forth with this guy about his self-proclaimed victimization as a white man. He was able to do something I think happens quite a lot, which is when a person of privilege ‘hijacks’ a discussion which in some way calls out their privilege, changing the focus from the unfairness of the privilege, to soothing the feelings of those who are privileged. Which demonstrates how privilege allows us to escape from the implications on injustice.

Here’s the thing: white people should be processing our pain which stems from racism. We should certainly bring to light our feelings of sadness and discomfort and grief and shame and all else that dwells just under the surface of our white skins, sure as the nose on your face, despite our best efforts at suppressing all that shit. We should be processing these and other issues precisely because they get in the way of our relationships with people whose skin and privilege do not look like ours. We should process these and other issues precisely so that we aren’t inappropriately trying to process them on other people’s turf, or in the midst of other people expressing their pain.

We tend to do stuff like hijacking racial teachable moments because we don’t create these other, more appropriate outlets for this kind of racial processing. That stems from us thinking about race only insofar as it applies to others, but not ourselves.

Talk about it, white people. Don’t just horn in on other people’s discussions about race and racism. Let’s get together – on our own time – and let the whiteness tumble out.

Go Whitehonkies!

As a Chicagoan, I am truly proud of our hockey team, the Blackhawks. They’ve been kicking ass on ice like they were born to do it.

What, me racist?But their name is ridiculously offensive. (I don’t care if we’re all used to it by now. Stereotyping a brutally decimated minority group into a mascot is wrong on so many levels.)

To illustrate the point, I propose the following name change:  the Chicago Whitehonkies!

Sure, it’s more of a slur than “Blackhawks,” but at least white folks are in the majority.  (And seriously – it’s not like we suffered genocide and displacement at the hands of Native Americans.)  I say, we’re better off stereotyping ourselves than those whom we’ve wronged in the past.

In the meantime… GO WHITEHONKIES!!!

Blinded by 'The Blind Side'

Note:  haven’t seen the film.  However, I have been reading lots of different takes on it, particularly in the comments sections.  I feel I have enough of  a grasp of the basic premise to discuss some of the social implications of The Blind Side as they turn up out here in the news sites and blogosphere.

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What does the movie The Blind Side say to different people?

To well-meaning white people, this movie might be an invitation to celebrate a shining example in which white generosity and courage save the day for a poor, black male.  That feels pretty good.  In our yearning for racial equality on our terms, it is tempting to want to celebrate an example of black ghettoization successfully assimilated into white society – if perhaps not in these exact terms.

But who else is this movie speaking to?  Black people?  If so, what is it saying?  Nothing good, from where I sit.

And therein lies the problem.  “Blind Side” is a “for us, by us” movie for white people, designed to make us feel better about ourselves in the context of our racial privilege.  It assuages our racial guilt like a sin offering of snake oil.

But given the reality of ongoing racism, such self-affirmation is ultimately as fake and flimsy as a Hollywood backdrop.  We’ll need to do more than adopt a black child every now and then if we are ever going to build a just and free society.  In the meantime, patting ourselves on the back for (someone else’s) “job well done” may indeed be self-gratifying, but is entirely counterproductive.