Racism, the university, and the “progressive” city.

Sis Robinson, Associate Professor at UW-Madison’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication, has written an essay about her research on five “hyper-liberal” cities: Madison, Evanston, IL, Cambridge, Chapel Hill, and Ann Arbor. Her conclusions:

My research shows that one reason is white people’s separation from the lives of people of color.  White professionals in these cities can go entire days without seeing any black or brown people. As a result, they don’t see or hear overt racism in their own daily lives, and it becomes easy to believe that it isn’t actually happening anywhere.

Also, many of us white, liberal-minded people consider ourselves “post-racial,” and accept no responsibility for racism in our community.  We understand racial disparity as a systemic issue, but feel powerless to do anything about it.

Indeed, we have also staked our identities on the belief that we live in communities that are open and fair to all. The idea that we need to change the very systems we have been invested in nurturing threatens our very sense of self.

I look forward to reading her book: Networked Voices: Race, Journalism, and Progressive Voices.

How #Ferguson changed me

Jamelle Bouie has a piece on Slate in which he reflects on the year since Michael Brown’s death and how it has changed America.

As I read it, I began thinking about how I had been changed by Ferguson. I think it was this photo (shot by Whitney Curtis of the New York Times) that did it:

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That photo captures a key dynamic in contemporary America: a militarized police force that apparently regards African-Americans as the enemy to be subjugated by means of any force necessary. It’s a photo of White Supremacy and racism exposed for what it is. It’s a photo of our America, an image I can’t get out of my mind because it reveals all of our hypocrisy as well as the evil at the heart of American culture and history.

I went back through my blog to look at how I’ve addressed racism over the years. It’s quite telling. Before the release of the Race to Equity report that detailed the horrific racial disparities in Madison and Dane County, there’s a smattering of references to racism on my blog. Since Ferguson, it’s probably the dominant topic. I’ve preached about it, written about, participated in demonstrations. I’ve read more about racism in the last year than I had in the decades since taking a course on African-American history in college. Racism and America’s culture of violence will be a major focus of our programming at Grace in the coming year.

Boo goes through the litany of deaths and protests and at the end of his recitation, he points out how politicians, mainstream media, and corporations have been forced to address issues of racism. At the end of it all, he writes:

If Ferguson was an earthquake—a tectonic shift in our arguments over race and racism—then a year later, we’re not just feeling the aftershocks. We’re preparing for the next blow.

Bouie did not mention how Ferguson and #BlackLivesMatter have changed American Christianity and I’m looking forward to reading similar retrospectives from theologians and religious commentators.

 

 

Who has reached for the hem of our garments and we didn’t notice? A Sermon for Proper 8, Year B

By now, all of you have at least heard about President Obama’s eulogy for Rev. Clementa Pinckney on Friday. If you’ve not taken the time to read or listen to it, I urge you to do so. It’s a powerful reflection from the first African-American president of the US on racism, American history. It’s also a powerful theological reflection on the nature of grace.

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Has the backlash begun? Is there a connection between the flag and recent church burnings?

The speed with which Southern political and economic elites have rushed to abandon the confederate flying on or near public buildings has shocked many of us who are familiar with the ways those same elites have pandered to white fear and racism over the decades. As welcome as the removal of the flag is, it is only another step on the long road to rooting out racism throughout the US. And I think that one reason it is so popular right now is that it’s a way for Northerners to once again feel their smug superiority over the South.  I’m only somewhat surprised that legislatures and city councils in northern states haven’t passed resolutions demanding its removal in the South.

At the same time, we can expect a powerful backlash, and not just from the conservative media machine (although with today’s ruling on the ACA, their attention and outrage may change its focus). But that’s not where the real backlash is taking place. I suspect that in diners, bars, and on talk radio throughout rural America, white Americans are voicing their anger and outrage as confederate flags come down. No doubt, some of that outrage will be acted out.

Is it just coincidence that a church fire in Charlotte, NC this week was labeled arson, and that a church fire in Macon, GA is suspected arson, all other causes having been ruled out?