January 21, 2008

Racism

Ethics Daily has two good pieces today on racism and the continuing struggle to remove it from our society. Miguel De La Torre has a great column entitled "Help Wanted: Black Friend." He mentions comedian Stephen Colbert's joke about needing a new black friend, which is the launching point for the column about trying to ignore deeper problems. He concluded:
I went on to say that it was difficult for me to pray while sitting next to the banker who will charge me an extra point of interest because my last name ends in a vowel. It's hard to shout praises to the Lord while being stared at by the police officer who gave me a ticket for driving while under the influence of being Hispanic. It's challenging to proclaim the mercies of my God knowing that sitting across the aisle is a parishioner who refuses to show mercy toward the undocumented.

Maybe the Sunday morning worship hour must continue to remain the most segregated hour of the week. Attempting to diversify white churches will be a waste of time unless white churches first deal with the social structures of racism and ethnic discrimination that is prevalent outside the church's walls. We will not be able to worship together until white churches begin to actively bring about a distribution of power within society that can dismantle white supremacy. Until that happens, maybe the best that can be done is to advertise for a "black friend."
And in an article, Robert Parham of the Baptist Center for Ethics offered a similar argument in response to racist marches today in Jena, Louisiana. He argued:
Racism remains a deep flaw in the American character. ... Groups such as the Nationalist Movement are raw reminders of racial extremism, but less overt expressions and covert forms of racism are just as morally wrong and they worm their ways into almost every facet of our social life.

The rate of incarceration of African-American males, payday lending, predatory bankers with sub-prime mortgages, anti-public school ideologies, anti-immigration rhetoric and anti-taxation attitudes often have the seed of racism in them. ... Yet too many of us deceive ourselves about our own racism when we see the obvious racism of the Nationalist Movement.
These are good reminders for us to seriously consider the implications of our words and deeds to make sure we have not kept the residue of our society's sad racist past. Hopefully, on a day like today we are all open to a time of self-reflection on such issues.

7 comments:

  1. Opposition to high taxes is racist? Hoo boy. When you can't out-argue 'em, jus' demonize 'em. But that's Parham's way, isn't it?

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  2. Jeremy3:22 PM

    Parham didn't say opposition to high taxes was racist. He listed things that he believes can "OFTEN HAVE THE SEED" of racism. This may not be true of you, but it is true for some people.

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  3. Chuck9:17 PM

    Anti-immigration? Or is Parham referring to, and demonizing, anti-illegal immigration.

    And, yes, Ben, that way too often is Parham's way.

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  4. Chuck9:25 PM

    Brian,

    This is the second time I recall that you've referenced an angry, senseless piece by De La Torre.

    To hear Miguel, all whith bankers, police officers, and parishioners who attend church are greedy, dishonest, merciless, racist bigots.

    I'm sure it is difficult for him to pray--because he has something against all his white Christian brothers and sisters.

    Miguel, for God's sake, shut up.

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  5. Thanks for the comments!

    Ben: I do not think he is arguing that all tax debates are that way, but there have been some tax debates where this would be the case.

    Jeremy: Well said.

    Chuck (1st time): Some--not all of the critics of illegal immigration take that position because of racist beliefs. And, yes, some are actually against all immigration.

    Chuck: (2nd time): This piece is angry but I would not call it senseless. I cannot completely understand his perspective because as a white man I have not experienced what he has. I would say, however, that you seem to be exaggerating his argument when you claim he is against all white Christians. Also, racism does sadly still exist in churches and so I do not think his piece can be simply dismissed.

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  6. Chuck9:12 AM

    Brian,

    (1st comment response):

    "Critics of illegal immigration" really sounds oxymoron-like, doesn't it? If something's illegal, then the moral stance is to be critical of it, not supportive of it. Who do you know in a church who's critical of illegal immigration because of racist views, not because of its illegality?

    (2nd comment response):

    I don't think I'm exaggerating De La Torre's argument at all. He categorically said the comments to a group of 30 white pastors! Not one or two, but a wide representation. Further, nothing these white servants of God said would have moved the hardened Miguel--not matter how inspired the plans. He says it was "after an hour of listening to strategies that I knew would never work" that he delivered his indicting-and-judging-all-in-one rant.

    To repeat such vermin several years later--after plenty of time to see its lousiness--in an article is indeed senseless.

    I can hardly believe you, Brian, an expert in pointing out that a word spoken means something, would reference this as a "great column."

    I agree the article shouldn't be dismissed--indeed it should be considered in dismissing Miguel De La Torre as a positive contributor to any credible publication.

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  7. Chuck: Thanks for your comment. Your first point offers a good clarification. Many--if not most--people on this issue take the position because it is illegal. However, some have shown in their rhetoric that there is also some racism as they are against all types of immigration. I am not saying that everyone is racist but that a few are.

    On your second point, I still think you read too much into his piece but I understand and appreciate your complaint. The piece is probably too harsh. Having not experienced what he has I do not know that I would react with any more grace if I were in his situation. What I think is important about this piece is that sometimes we need to be aggressively challenged and even made uncomfortable so that we can be forced to carefully consider issues we may otherwise take for granted. I am not advocating his positions, but rather that we be challenged by them to carefully examine ourselves.

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