Confession, Repentance, and Commitment to End Racism Sunday

Today was “Confession, Repentance, and Commitment to End Racism Sunday” in the Episcopal Church. It brought the typical reactions online. For example, one person posted,

Are Episcopalians racist enough they require a letter to be read to them to not be racist? I find this strange.

Yet I think this reflects part of the problem. We don’t use racial epithets or display symbols of racism. We all go to church. We confess that we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We get forgiven and that’s good enough, right?

Maybe some of us even admit having privileges as white people that people of color do not have. We acknowledge that. It is good enough, right?

We nod appreciatively as a letter from the Bishop is read about racism, and we say a special little prayer during the service, and it’s all better, right?

Maybe we’re even church leaders and we are going to attend a training about racism, and we’ll go, reluctantly, because we feel like we’ve already dealt with our own racism. We’ll go without too much grumbling. That’s good enough, right?

I don’t think so. I think God is calling us to much, much more. Our parish is going to have conversations after church for a couple of Sundays starting at the end of the month. I’m not sure what the goals will be, what the format will be, or what the outcome will be, but I am praying for this. It is really important.

I’ve spent a bit of time working on racial health disparities. Did you know that as of 2012, the most recent data I could find, the infant mortality rate for black infants in Connecticut is nearly twice that of white infants in Connecticut? In Hartford County, it is almost 2 and a half times, and this is after significant progress in recent years. I mention infant mortality, because it is something that many of us understand how horrible it is. There are plenty more examples.

Why is this? Perhaps some of this is because of racism. Not the racial epithet shouting confederate flag waving racism, but a subtler racism that is built into our system, that we participate in, perhaps unknowingly.

What do you see when a young black man runs across the street in front of you? A thug who’ll probably end up in jail? Another potential headline of a black man killed by police? A future President or future Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church? If we are honest with ourselves, it isn’t always pretty.

A longtime friend of mine wrote a blog post about this the other day, Enforcing the Pattern. What do you see?

Then, think about this in terms of what it must be like to be seen this way, all the time. Here, I think about the blog post I shared yesterday. “Picture yourself as a stereotypical male” explores how people do on tests as a result of their self-perceptions. How does our view of the young black man crossing the road change the community and culture we are part of? What happens when we see ourselves and those around us, like the young black man crossing the road, as beloved of God?

We’ve got a lot of work to do, or at least I know I do.

“This is going to be a legendary year.”

The Roanoke Times, in there article, Our view: Sweet Briar does what it wasn't supposed to do; it reopens quotes a banner welcoming students back to Sweet Briar College saying, “This is going to be a legendary year.” They note that in other years, this would seem just sloganeering, but this year at Sweet Briar is going to be legendary. It already is legendary.

For those who missed my previous blog posts about Sweet Briar, this was the women’s college in Virginia whose board of directors voted to close the school last spring. It was cited as another casualty of changes in higher education, where liberal arts, and women’s colleges just aren’t valued as much anymore. Yet not everyone shares the same view about the value of women’s colleges and liberal arts education and a group of alumna and other concerned people gather, and fought successfully to keep it up.

Yes, this is going to be a legendary year for everyone at Sweet Briar. It is the spirit and attitude that we should be encouraging students with. It makes me think of how leaders in Hartford welcomed students to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. School

The group — Hartford businessmen, lawyers, community organizers, city politicians, artists, neighborhood dignitaries, a police officer in uniform — erupted in cheers and whoops for Jamar, giving the boy high-fives and handshakes as if he were LeBron James being introduced at Game 7 of the NBA Finals.

I hope it will be a legendary year for those students in Hartford as well.

All of this provides a stunning contrast to how freshman women were welcomed at Old Dominion University in Virginia, 200 miles east of Sweet Briar. The Sigma Nu fraternity there made national news, when their activities were suspended after putting up banners saying “Rowdy and Fun, Hope Your Baby Girl is Ready for a Good Time.”

In all the discussions about charter schools, high stake testing, and so many other educational issues today, we tend to overlook the educational culture and climate. Sweet Briar College in Virginia and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. School in Hartford get it right.

“This is going to be a legendary year.”

More Random Wanderings

The other day, I stumbled across a blog post by Jeffrey Keefer, Why I am no longer a Critical Theorist. Now, I only have passing knowledge of critical theory or actor-network theory, which he goes on to talk about, so my reactions may make a lot of sense.

In his post, he writes:

However, people are so complicated and networks create, hold together, and modify with forces beyond just the human actors (cf. actor-network theory) that is it difficult to speak for the whole as if there is a unified whole.

My mind wanders to a couple different thoughts here. On the one hand, I think about the transcendent, the mystical, that which passes human understanding. How, if at all, does this fit into of critical theory or actor-network theory?

My thoughts also go to my interest in the relationship between group relations, group analytics, and artificial neural networks. The network is more than just the nodes. The group has reactions above and beyond must the members of the group.

Jeffrey starts off referencing Maha Bali’s blog post, Embracing Paradox: Both/And Mentality and Postmodernism. At the top of the blog post, she suggest a three minute reading time. Then, she links to “Matt Croslin’s blogpost on metamodernism and heutagogy”. My thoughts wander off to metamodernism and how it relates to modernism and postmodernism, another area, I could spend a lot of time exploring.

Oops. My three minutes is up, and I haven’t even gotten to her link to “Martin Weller’s post on the role personality plays in MOOCs” or Lee Skallerup Bessette post about “social media activity as service”.

So, I back my way out and am back with Jeffrey as he references Lyotard. It seems like just digging through all that underlies these few blog posts could give me plenty to study for a long time.

Meanwhile, the link to my previous blog post in Facebook group brought a lot of comments. Some of it was around the conflict of colleges and universities as degree granting organizations and learning institutions. That is an old discussion that I find tedious. However, I did get the discussion back on track about the subject matter, which I’m still not sure how best to describe. Currently, I saying something like Metamodernism and Sacred Aesthetics. One link that looked promising was The Modern and the Postmodern (Part 1) and Part 2. Part 2 is the part that sounds most interesting to me, but I might do both of them.

Others suggested, “Douglas Crimp at University of Rochester and Yvonne Rainer at UC Irvine” and “Athabasca University in the MAIS program Master of Arts integrated studies and see what they say. See if you can talk to Wendell Kisner”

So, there are plenty of things to explore, on top of the poems to read, plays to see, folk music to listen to, and my greater spiritual quest.

Buen Camino.

#rhizo15 – Request for Help

This year, I participated in #rhizo15, a cMOOC. I also participated in a couple MOOCs on Poetry and a conference on Poetry in Church. So, I have a question, particularly for my #rhizo15 friends, because I suspect they are the most likely to come up with a suggestion.

I am looking for a graduate degree program for someone who never finished their undergraduate degree that combines all of the above. Something like:

A Modern/Postmodern/metamodern/structuralist/poststructuralist (metastructuralist?) program bringing in ideas from Deleuze, Guattari, Lacan, Foucault, Derrida, Barthes, etc., focusing on poetry, theology, and mysticism. From Roland Barthes to Karl Barth.

A Connectivist Master’s of Poststructural Sacred Fine Arts?

Any thoughts, ideas, recommendations?

#Rhizo15 Theological #WhiteCurriculum

Over the past few months, there have been a few things that have captured a large amount of my attention, the #Rhizo15 cMOOC, the Love Bade Me Welcome poetry workshop at Yale Institute of Sacred Music, and the discussions about race, from Rachel Dolezal to the shooting in Charleston.

How do these fit together? I’m not sure, but perhaps the wanderings of my mind can help bring a little focus. I started off this evening, looking at online theological education online. One of my first stops was The Top 20 Online Theology Master’s Degree Programs. There is a lot more out there than I thought there was. So, I started looking for theological MOOCs, but I didn’t find so much there. The little bit that I did find was more on the level of Introduction to the New Testament. From there, I started looking for philosophy MOOCs and other esoteric MOOCs. Anyone up for a Lacan MOOC?

This led me back to the #RHIZO15 group. Even though the MOOC is officially over, the community lives on and recently, one of the posts was to a Google Doc, Charleston Syllabus (by and for Philosophers). It looks like some interesting material. One link was to Why is my curriculum white? In this video there was lots of talk about colonialism and empire.

This reminded me of a book someone had mentioned on Facebook, In the Shadow of Empire: Reclaiming the Bible as a History of Faithful Resistance

It brought me full circle me thoughts about theological education. To what extent is theology education today white? Or, if not white, Laodicean?

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