Various friends have been sharing the link to the article, Black America should stop forgiving white racists, with its tag line, “Quick absolution does not lead to justice.”
Since I’m not black, I haven’t felt it was my place to comment on this, until I saw a friend share the link yesterday after President Obama’s Eulogy of the Rev. Pinkney, the same Eulogy where President Obama sings Amazing Grace to the chagrin of his detractors.
After watching parts of the Eulogy, especially where President Obama spoke about the forgiveness shown in Charleston, I added this comment to one of those posts:
Perhaps it comes from my white privilege, but I'd like to believe it comes from my deep abiding belief in God, that I have a very different view of forgiveness. The author writes,
"Yet, the almost reflexive demand of forgiveness, especially for those dealing with death by racism, is about protecting whiteness, and America as a whole. This is yet another burden for black America."
I do not believe this. I doesn't seem like President Obama believed this in his eulogy for Rev. Pinkney. For me, and I believe for many of my devout Christian black brothers and sisters, forgiveness is one of the most powerful tools, not of protecting whiteness, but of challenging it.
If the viral videos of Charleston after the murders had been of rioting instead of family members offering forgiveness, I don't believe we would have seen outcomes we have.
So, to the viral video of forgiveness, watch President Obama speak about this forgiveness:
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?
As I, a bedraggled looking old white man
ran my errands
in a predominantly black part of town.
I saw two people,
an older black man in a nice suit
and a plainly dressed black woman
standing next to
the tract rack that read
“What the Bible Really Says”.
I thought of my friend,
a black minister
putting on her shirt and collar,
the belt of truth
and the breastplate of righteousness
and pausing to think
of the martyrs
past and present.
“What the Bible Really Says”
I thought about how God loves me
more than I can understand
How God loves this couple
more than I can understand.
I thought of the commandment
Love your neighbor as yourself,
no matter what their skin color
no matter how different they are from you.
So I looked around
to make sure there wasn’t a pickup truck
with a Confederate flag
and I walked over to them,
shook their hands,
thanked them for bearing witness,
and told them what they already knew.
God loves them, loves all of us,
more than we can understand.
It is late in the evening, and I am bone tired. This has been my third evening out late. Last night, while I was at Church for prayer and a vestry meeting, nine of my brothers and sisters were killed in a church in South Carolina. When I learned about the shooting, I wept and prayed.
It was a busy day for me at work today, as the health center I worked at held its tenth annual Weitzman Symposium. During brief breaks, I found moments to glance and the news and offer up more prayers.
In the evening, I went to the commencement of the 2015 class of Health Leadership Fellows from the CT Health Foundation. This is a program aimed at address racial and ethnic health disparities. Some of my closest friends from the fellowship were not there and I wondered if they were at prayer vigils.
Now, I’m finally home, and trying to wrap my head around what has happened. I read stories about people trying to avoid talking about racism in the shooting by a white supremacist of nine brothers and sisters at a church. They prefer to call it an attack on Christianity. They are half right. The White Supremacist movement is an attack on Christianity.
I’ve been struck by the reactions to Rachel Dolezal I’m coming across online. Just a few of them include things like
I think she is a narcissistic asshole.
She is a liar, a fraud.
She is raising important issues about the definition of race.
She is racing important issues about identity
She is the result of a messed up childhood.
I remember years ago when I worked for a large international bank. I hired a management consultant to help navigate the tricky waters. In one meeting, she suggested being aware of how people react to you, is, at least in part, a result of who they are, instead of who I am.
“Imagine yourself surrounded by a big silver ball”, she suggested. “What is coming at you is often a reflection of the others. Just let it reflect back.”
So, I thought about Rachel Dolezal. Is she a giant Rorschach test? Are the people calling her a “narcissistic asshole” really making a comment about themselves? What about those calling her a liar or fraud?
To me, I like exploring issues around identity or the definition of race and I see that aspect of her. I don’t tend to think of my childhood as being as messed up as it seems hers was, but I ran into my share of dysfunction during my childhood.
As I try to make sense of all of this, let me offer this poem:
“You’re not really black.
Your biological father was white.
You haven’t suffered like black people have.”
She put down her copy
of the National Committee of Negro Churchmen’s
“Black Power Statement”
“My Father is Black”, she replied
“His Son suffered more than any of us can imagine
so that we could be brothers and sisters.”