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We Can’t Just Get Over It

I don’t usually rant, but I just need to say that I get a bit annoyed when some White folks try to tell Black folks how and how not to respond to injustices. Telling folks who are hurting to get over it, put it behind us, move on, you’re overreacting, and let it go are just not acceptable. And yes, I have heard and read all of these statements.

Our anger, our fear and our frustration are not just about Trayvon, it goes so much deeper than that; the extensive history of racism and inequality plays a huge role in provoking the thoughts and feelings that we have; AND an awareness that based on how we have historically seen things play out causes feelings of despair.Our pain is the result of cumulative experiences and a constant lack of resolve and change within society. So, no one can ever tell us how to feel, how to be, and how to respond!

If those who are white are tired of hearing us (and our allies) talk about this, perhaps they should consider that they are not the only ones who are tired – we too are tired – of decade after decade of the same old ill treatment and disproportionate discrimination. If you are weary of us “whining and complaining” or “playing the race card.” keep in mind that we too are weary, weary of racial profiling, weary of constant subtle and not so subtle messages that we are not as good or as valued as our lighter brothers and sisters.

So, when we say this is about race, it is not solely about the Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman case, it is inclusive of a frustration with a judicial system and societal norms of suspicion regarding who and how we are as Black folks. SO YES, it is about race, racism, and we can’t keep ignoring and denying it.

Seeing Red

It’s difficult for me to understand why some believe it is ok to discriminate against an entire groups in society because they don’t like or agree with who they are. The Civil Marriage Equality issue is the place where this thought flows from. Baffling though it is to me that biases would get in the way of a society making space for all of its citizens to be regarded with dignity and respect, I had to also pause and think/consider how my and others silence impacts those who are being treated less than equal.

As a plethora of red images adorned facebook newsfeeds and my profile pic stayed as it was; as I listened to claims of some that we must fight this in the name of “the Bible says…,” my frustration with Proposition 8 contenders increased.

Credits: Human Rights Campaign

Then I moved to a place of wondering if I was courageous enough or vocal enough. This thought extended to a deeper place of wondering how silence “feels” to my LGBT friends and relatives. When they are getting beat up/jumped by Christian folks in the name of “the Bible says,” what goes through their minds as others stand by watching the fight rather than jumping in to protect them and stop the beating? For me, this is not about theological perspectives on homosexuality, this is about basic human dignity and fairness. This is about seeing all persons as valuable and worthy of respect. To be silent about these things is problematic – whether it is this issue or any other societal issue. Sure, a red equality profile pic may seem like a small gesture to some, but what is small to one may very well be big to another.

It can’t be denied – silence and stigma are powerful and at times even lethal. They produce shame and result in more harm than good – oppression in its ugliest form, creating internal turmoil for those who are subjected to it.

Apathy. Neutrality. Slothfulness. Ignorance. All of these are fairly easy approaches to adopt when the pain is not personal – when it’s somebody else’s struggle (side note – I’ve discovered that this is all too true in the area of race/racism and White privilege too – we must not ignore the impact of race even once the issue of marriage equality is settled, I fear that we will). Worrying about who will receive you or reject you based on your decision to be vocal is rather selfish when you really think about it – many LGBT folks go through worrying about the backlash/fall-out of self disclosure all the time, the difference is that it is more personal in that it involves not only being out as an ally, but full disclosure of who they are.

It perplexes me that many who oppose marriage equality do so on the basis of a sin argument – an argument that has proven ineffective at best. It doesn’t appear to even be about God and what pleases or doesn’t please God, the tone I hear from many is that it is about “us” and how repulsed we are by same gender loving relationships. Besides, trying to draw people to Jesus in this way is so futile.

It disturbs me that many who vocalize condemnation are not equally committed to walking with folks on a journey of growth. It is nonsensical that anyone would expect couples who are already married or who have been in committed partnerships for multiple years or have begun the process of gender transformation, to change their gender back to what they were before or abandon their partners [and children if there are any]. For kindness sake, let’s think this through rather than lazily relying on fundamentalist, surface dogma!

Also of concern is when Christians say things to fellow Christians that leave you with the impression that Christianity is a monolith; as though you are somehow not a Christian because you believe something different than what they believe about an issue. It is as if to say “shame on you, all Christians should think like this about that,”  because there is after all though only one perspective/understanding possible. Truthfully I am growing weary of the arguing. Surely we are all sensible enough to know that it is impossible for multifaceted people can arrive at one simplistic response or interpretation of issues and for that matter, scripture/the Bible.

Marriage equality is a social, political and economic issue that we must not ignore or be silent about. And beyond that we must never forget that is is not the only issue of equality that needs to be addressed in society and more specifically by the Human Rights Campaign. It is a big issue, an important issue, and an issue among many other issues.

*Photo Credits: Human Rights Campaign

Race is not an issue beca…

Race is not an issue because I talk about it. I talk about it because race is an issue. If we stopped discussing it, it wouldn’t disappear. – Toure

It’s Not About the Hoodies!

Photo Credit - Flickr_bMethe

My first post on this topic was filled with so much pain and emotion that my thoughts were incohesive, and I believe that is ok. Though my heart is still broken, hopefully this one will be clearer.

This past Sunday many churches and groups across the nation held what they referred to as “Hoodie Sunday.” Individuals stood in solidarity with Trayvon Martin’s family through this action. I commend churches and others for supporting the family in such record numbers and celebrate it as a great thing. But if we stop at making it about hoodies and skittles we fail!

It’s trendy to get in on this by wearing a hoodie, and make claims to care (and perhaps all involved actually do); but what will we do after this “big” case? People of color are being profiled, targeted, discriminated against and even slaughtered every day. These are individuals who will never make front page of a paper, be a blog post, cnn video or protest rally. And the silence prior to Trayvon has been somewhat deafening. And yet, rather than be too cynical I consider that maybe this situation is what we need to put a little fire under us and move us to a place of saying enough is enough. Let’s hope so. Here are some observations to consider that flow from the current situation at hand.

Unanswered Questions
There are questions in this tragedy that remain unanswered. Did Trayvon confront Zimmerman (the 911 tapes indicate that Zimmerman followed Martin)? Did Zimmerman feel threatened by Martin? Why did Zimmerman deem it necessary to shoot and even more importantly, why did he deem it necessary to shoot to kill? Why have the Sanford police department delayed arrest for a month? There is much that we don’t know….
What we do know is that Trayvon Martin is dead and his family and loved ones are experiencing intense grief. We also  know that death did not have to be outcome. We know that George Zimmerman is eleven years older than Martin was and weighed approximately 100 pounds more, and pursued Martin when instructed not to. The 17 year olds death was  unnecessary and avoidable – still it happened.
We know that the Sanford police department made certain that Martin’s system was checked for drugs and alcohol (even though he was the one dead), and failed to do the same with Zimmerman. Seems absurd to me!
Systemic Racism
As an African American woman I am intimately acquainted with racism. It is not an individual challenge, it is systemic. There are structures and power dynamics that work against people of color (not solely African American) in this nation called the US. And the truth is that systemic racism is more difficult to eliminate. People do not give up power easily. For those who make people of color feel as though we are somehow imagining that racism still exists, the disproportionate prison rates, reactions from dominant cultural groups when race is mentioned, and even educational institutions provide ample evidence that we are not naive and overreacting. It matters not whether individually we are the ones who put the structures in place, what matters is that we take responsibility for eradication of systems and structure that are oppressive to people groups.
Cultural Callousness
I hate that Trayvon Martin, an innocent teen is dead! And I wonder if perhaps this is one of the incidents that can be used to move society from a place of apathy and cultural callousness to a place of cultural sensitivity. Trayvon is not the first African American teen to be the recipient of violence. This type of thing happens all the time and we fail to care deeply enough to act and say enough is enough or even more importantly to engage in preventative measures. It’s time to change!
Societal Biases
It matters not how spiritual or not spiritual one is, all cultural groups have their biases, preferences and affinities. This is normal, natural. The trouble arises when we move beyond biases to a place of disregard and disdain for those who differ from us. Biases are not license for hatred, discrimination and violence. I do not often take things personal, however in the middle of the Trayvon case and all of the emotional pain it causes, I read an article and tweet reactions to the popular Hunger Games and admittedly it sent me over the edge. The overt racist comments by not just one, but many nearly took me by surprise. Perhaps this is because most racist individuals I have encountered are not as blatant.
I then read of another hate crime towards an Iraqi woman and became even more baffled by the audaciousness of any cultural or racial group to see themselves as somehow greater than another. We’re better than this aren’t we? In the depths of my being I believe that EVERY individuals is precious and valuable because of our Creator!
Additionally, there are those who minimize the realities of racism and biases as though we are somehow imagining these things. To deny a person their right to their stories is to insult their equality as unique creations of God. To deny a person’s story is to see them as liars, disrespect them, invalidate their experiences and further exasperate the issues of inequality.We must deny no one the right to have a story!
So, like I said, it’s really not just about hoodies, it goes much deeper than that. And the question remains, what are WE going to do about it from this day forward?  ” Now we must go from wearing hoodies to transforming the hood as we fight for justice! – Dr. Frederick D. Haynes, III

Who Cares?

Photo from chron.com

Two words have been on my mind for the last couple of weeks – “Trayvon Martin.” I have turned the revealed details over in my head and heart and respond with an appropriate feeling of anger at the apparent injustice of it all. I did not know Trayvon and I do not know his family, causing some to ask why I care. The only response I can muster up to such wondering is “why don’t YOU care?”

I have deeply spiritual and human reasons for caring. My heart aches as I wonder what it might have been like for Trayvon to journey from the store to his dad’s home only to have the entirety of his being filled with fear as he peered down the barrel of George Zimmeran’s gun, never anticipating that his trip to the store might be the last trip, the last pack of Skittles, the last bottle of iced tea.

In the Martin, Zimmerman case, it is difficult for me to believe that the “Stand your ground law” in Florida is designed for people like Zimmerman – based on the 911 calls, Zimmeran was following Martin even though instructed not to do so. Zimmerman is about 100lbs heavier than Martin was. Zimmerman was armed and Martin was not. The mere reality that Zimmerman followed this teen because, according to his perceptions, he looked suspicious is cause for the law being in place for people like Martin – who really seems to be the one whose life was in danger and threatened? And even if Zimmerman was in danger (which I doubt), did he need to shoot to kill?

Assumptions regarding racial motivation on the part of Zimmerman (whether false or true) serve as a reminder of the yet existent pain of racial inequality in the US. Being Black in America still means encountering individuals who will view your very existence as a threat and see your skin pigmentation and way of being as “suspicious.” In many cases “looking suspicious” only means I look different than you, have different mannerisms, hair texture, and wardrobe.

Social stereotypes still exist – can’t even where your hooded sweatshirt when it’s raining, especially if you are an African American male. And rather than focus on the injustices surrounding Trayvon and other “Trayvons” of society, we still have individuals like popular TV personality Geraldo Rivera spouting nonsense that suggests that Trayvon’s death was as much his own fault because he was wearing a hoodie. But as Eugene Cho says

Hoodies don’t kill just as short skirts don’t rape. Focus on the injustice and not the wardrobe.

The stark reality is that even without the hoodie, Trayvon still lived in his brown skin.

I love my lighter brothers and sisters – sincerely, but the subtle hints that we are overreacting and simply reading into things when we insist that racism and racial profiling are the real experiences of the African American race is an insult that only causes the societal realities to continue. We are not yet a post-racial society as some would suggest, therefore more work is yet to be done.

Dr. Martin Luther King’s quest for “Strength to Love” reminds me to continue to love others even through the experience of anger and outrage – and this love is to be for all.


The question in all of this is will we care enough to be disturbed to the point where inaction is nearly impossible?

The Diversity Delusion

The topic of diversity is one that many find intriguing, others are passionate about it, and still others are apathetic regarding the subject of diversity. Certainly the topic of diversity holds a variety of meanings for different people, but since the setting I am most familiar with are church or religious environments, I approach the topic with that as a backdrop.

I have discovered that to say that you as an organization or a church are “diverse” or “multicultural,” along with other descriptive terms is on some level trendy and it can even draw individuals to a place or group. However I find that with many Christian groups, whether it be churches, universities or otherwise, it can end up being only that which is on paper or on a computer screen. Some even go as far as to display photo stock pics of diverse groups of people as though it were a reflection of the realities of their group.This is not limited to groups/organizations – every group is made up of “individuals.” The actions of individuals also have bearing on what takes place in the area of diversity. I find that we all at some point can suffer from a disease I call the “Diversity Delusion.” Here are some of the symptoms:

1. All of your friends (whether real or via social media) “look” just like you. The only people you have deep conversations with or friendships with are of the same race, class, etc that you are

2. Failing to notice dominance of one cultural group or be aware of who is culturally missing and never wondering why.

3. The books on your shelf are all written by authors of one dominant group or cultural perspective.

4. With the exception of maybe one or two or less, the people you listen to and learn from are all people of your specific race, culture, social and economic status.

5. Because you are familiar with certain cultural stereotypes, you assume that you know a particular culture.

6. You precede your references to people of a culture different from yours by adding a race description – “African American man,” “Asian woman,” instead of simply saying a woman or man.

Awareness of the symptoms can be remedied by choosing different actions from this day forward. During my attendance at an event titled “Experimenting with Diversity:Using the College as a Laboratory by Marvin Worthy, he mentioned that “Not everything you face will be changed, but nothing will ever change unless you face it.” I don’t believe that lack of opportunity to embrace diversity and learn not only about, but from others is the problem. I believe that the problem is that we fail to extend ourselves beyond what makes us comfortable…