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Posts Tagged ‘racism’

Crisis Culture

In our crisis-based nation (we seem to have almost no culture except for the culture of crisis… which, by the way, I assume is the unavoidable consequence of the culture of media that we developed in the last few decades. To paraphrase Frank Peretti , “TV does not reflect the culture nor affect the culture; TV is the culture.”)

Crises allow attention-seeking people to find that attention without earning it. I think this is a major cause of this cultural shift.   My generation, Gen X, was the first generation of Americans to not be drafted into combat and I think combat is probably a consistently trustworthy way to weed out attention-seeking people with a poor sense of identity outside of their role within the current crisis.

These people find purpose in creating problems for other people in their sphere of influence and are in a constant search to prop up their flagging identity by linking their identity to a cause that is in the attention of the public. They experience a sense of fear or even panic as the crisis begins to fade as its few hours or days begin to run short – and the next new end-of-the-world crisis begins to take over.

Add to that the fact that some of these cultural crises have created their own cottage industries and you can see how certain ones keep coming back. Racism is one of these. The entire world as well as the US has a long history of racist thought. Any concept of racial superiority is, and always has been, one of the stupidest thoughts humans have come up with. More has been accomplished in the modern western world to engage with and minimize racist thought than probably ever before in history and anywhere in the world… but it is still one of the culture of crisis’ favorites.

Again, there is still endemic racist thought.  It seems to be a universal experience for my African American friends.  It has to end.  It makes absolutely no sense that any black man would be treated any differently than a white man for no other reason than the color of his skin.  Absurd.

I am always impressed at my own inability to see from the perspective of people different from me – from other cultures, backgrounds, sex, ethnicity, etc. The more that is different about them from me, the less intuitive it is to me to see their way of thinking.

But I don’t think these crisis culture people are motivate by racism positively or negatively. I think they are motivated by likes, thumbs up emojis, clicks, and public attention.

It is the quantity of response they crave, not the quality.

Not everyone is like this who is involved, of course.  But some are, and I hate the thought of being lumped in with them hurts me.

In fact, this seems like a good time to communicate my assumption that I am off base in my understanding in some of this stuff.  I am sure that I have committed some of the same internally scripted thinking that is so tough for almost any of us to completely see.  There is nothing in this article intended to offend people who are sincerely struggling with this, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t!  If I did, I apologize.

Anyway, the attention seekers, and crisis culture addicts?   I see them as more innocent than another group – the baiters.

Hate –  baiting, of which race-baiting is an example, is a deeply evil motivation, and I think there are many in the US who are involved in it.  I want to take just a second to call them out.  I don’t care which side of these issues you are on.  If you are continuing to support and empower the role of racism in our culture, you are a race-baiter. The white supremacists and supremacists of any race are the easily (deservedly) seen to be culpable in this, but in my soul, I fear that much of it is motivated by some people who don’t hate nor really care… but just seek position, power, or election through race baiting. I hope I am wrong, but I think I am not on this one.

Followers of Christ must be different on this.  We are the peacemakers!

I also think I have an answer to the question of “how far do we take this?”  I think the line can be “honor” versus “remember”.

I know I mentioned this already, but I think we need to determine who it is appropriate to honor in our culture and why (big enough step, I know), but at least there are some we are likely to be able to agree on one way or another.  Those on the list who are on the “we know we desire to honor” list, we name things after them, etc.  Those on the “we know we don’t want to ask people to honor” we change the names or move the monuments into museums, where they can be remembered.

Now, who decides how to enforce this?  I think it has to be local governments – the more local the better, but I still think it is a fair way to come at the issue.

All this being said, all of the articles on The Theology of Race (**** link to follow) and this series of articles is really written to my Christian brothers and sisters.  I think the ethics of Christ give us some great guidelines for how to handle crises like this.  Let us not seek after our on interested above others.

May I beg all of us, especially proclaimed Christ followers, as we seek to

  1. humble ourselves,

2. grow up to learning to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4),

3. to live at peace with everyone (to the degree it is up to us),

4. to think about right things, and to

5. consider others more significant than ourselves,

6. to recognize that we are broken too, and we must consider our own motives. If we find ourselves craving those clicks, maybe we need to make no provision for the flesh which yearns for the comfort of such counterfeits of true value and identity, and wait before we respond, so that,“If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all… Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” The Apostle Paul, Romans 12:18 & 21

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… (read part 1 if you haven’t yet) And, in the continued research, I discovered that there are dozens of various statues and monuments to the man, especially in South Carolina. Schools, streets, and a city are named for him. Because of his military prowess, a ship was named after him in WWII.

I want to give an insider explanation about one aspect of this argument – Civil War Monuments are not there to celebrate American History. They are there to celebrate Confederate History and Confederate leaders – notice that there are very few Confederate leader monuments north of the Mason-Dixon line.

At this point, I am still not offering my opinion as to the rightness or wrongness of these existing, but I wanted to clarify that the argument that this is about “American” history is not necessarily true.

The Civil War was certainly part of our history, but these monuments are there to celebrate the Confederacy and her leadership, not the US and hers – and typically in competition with the other.

These were people who declared themselves independent from their federal government and tried to establish what they thought was a more perfect union that the Union at that time. They fought for State’s Rights; sadly, the main State’s Right they were fighting to defend was racial slavery – The “right” (shudder to use that word here) to own another human being as property. How could any reasoning human being have ever thought that was ok? I don’t know…

Side note – I do think that the nearest equivalent we have today is abortion. For mostly financial reasons, we determine that one human being is not worthy to have life, liberty, etc. It is an industry built around something morally wicked that we are not willing to expel because of what it would cost us individually and culturally…

But most cultures in history have thought slavery (and killing children) was acceptable at some point. We aren’t talking about the most common biblical kind of slavery – what we would call indentured servitude – largely the choice of the servant.

This is what is known as Southern Antebellum (meaning “before the war”) Slavery, and it was almost exclusively racial.   The culture of the South before the Civil War was almost entirely dependent on slavery.

Wade Hampton, for example, found that it was nearly impossible to turn a profit on his farms without free labor.

For those who do not know first hand, “Southern,” is a thing, and it’s not all or even primarily about racism.  “Southern” exists independent of racism.

Southern heritage is a real thing… and, like every other aspect of history, not an all good nor all bad thing. There is Southern cuisine, southern style, and southern art. There are certainly Southern courtesies and ethics. As an insider, I will tell you that the role of racism in “southern” anything has lost a lot of ground in the last few generations (and I assume consistently since the evil of Antebellum Racial Slavery was ended).

Even in the deep South, in a white-only situation, I rarely hear any kind of racially offensive humor or openly racist remarks… and I would admit it if the opposite were true – because it was when I was younger.

As a teenager, racially charged jokes were still common when there were only white kids around. Few of those kids probably had any serious racist sentiment in their hearts, but they thought they could get a laugh with a joke about a different race. However, even that has become very rare. I honestly cannot remember the last time I heard someone tell such a joke or use a slang term for any other race than Caucasians, not counting media.

How awful, ironic and hypocritical that Southern Hospitality is a thing. It really still is.  Driving across the country, I can begin to feel the sense of being welcomed and wanted – and engaged with by everyone from the gas station attendant to anyone you ask for help… I love that aspect of the South.  I think hospitality is a pure gold and is a beautiful thing!

But, what if my African American friends don’t experience that?  That is a hateful tragedy.  I am realizing now that some aspects of Southern Hospitality haven’t been for everyone.  I hate that.

Do you feel unwanted and unwelcome?  I pray that is by a tiny minority of people – I would pray that anyone of any race or color attending my church would experience extreme levels of hospitality.

The highest level of injustice would be that I experience that Southern hospitality every bit as much from black people as white people!

I know there are plenty of people who have every reason to expect a sense of hatred and dismissal when they engage with white people, though.  I have some friends good enough to tell me about their experiences with openly, unashamed racist people.  Apparently essentially every African American has experiences of this kind. It so infuriates me that it helps me understand the levels of anger felt by those who experience it… God knows racists of this breed are real and truly intentional racist behavior is a reality still… but I have never it seen as an adult in front of me.

I have never heard anyone brag about committing such an act.   But they certainly happen. They should never happen. That level of hatred and dismissal of another human is un-defendable.

What I do still hear regularly is “unintentional” racism. Things are said or done that reveal an ethno-centric tendency. It is HARD for us to see outside of our own instinctive ways of understanding things. (People ask all kinds of ridiculous questions about our adopted children – they don’t intend to be offensive , and they may even intend to be encouraging or seeking understanding).

Example – a common response I am hearing from those around me about re-naming our local “Robert E Lee” High School is “It doesn’t matter to me what we call it – it just isn’t a big deal…”

Notice that the person is making the effort to be conciliatory, but are still ethno-centric.  Their attitude may seem right and might be at the personal level, but sounds like it implies that the issue can be ignored or dismissed as “not a big deal.”

Perhaps to them, at the personal level, it isn’t a big deal, but it may be a very big deal to someone whose history doesn’t include a “grand Civil War General”, but a slave of that General.

They may not be at all dismissing the argument, but if an issue is a big deal to you, then it can easily feel dismissive.  See how that is unintentional ethno-centism?

I hope everyone can be patient and graceful with “well-meaning” human frailties in which even when the spirit is willing, the habit, ignorance, blindness, flesh is weak.

So, with all of that in mind… we are to the actual topic, I think.

Do we rename our schools? Do we take down the monuments?  Change the name of streets?

I think there was a day in which that answer was “no”. We were a literate enough and complicated enough culture to have the conversation in a healthy way and less likely to unnecessarily offend.

We (I admit that I am not sure who “we” is in this sentence. It seems that writings from the past and debates, like the debates about the Declaring of Independence or even slavery, indicate that people used to be able to have deep, complex, respectful conversations and even disagreements about things. But, were those all educated, well-off white people I am referring to? Did things like slavery give them the hours to do that instead of work? Even this is complex) could talk about the way people are complex. This isn’t new. One of the things I love about the Bible, for example, is that almost anyone who gets any press at all has at least a part of their lives revealed as dark, sinful, and reprehensible!

Abraham’s family all had a serious issue with dishonesty. They had a nasty tendency to lie their way out of problems, or at least to attempt to do so.

Many of the patriarchs were idol worshipers for at least some part of their lives; they could be unreasonable, easily misdirected and worse!

Of course, famously, King David managed to break pretty much all of the Ten Commandments in just a few months.

In the New Testament, the disciples were clueless at the best of times and deniers at the worst.

It is part of how we can know these were real people who behaved like real people and whose lives were complex – like real people.

People are complex? Read more (**** link to come)

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