Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category


Is it time for a Euro-American Engagement Office?

November 30, 2013

The “African American Engagement Office” officially opens next week as an outreach initiative by the Michigan Republican Party. Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky) will take leadership of the Detroit office to “target minority voters.” Presumably, this will help Republicans understand how “those people” think, thus guiding them to understand why they should support the Republican party.

This makes me realize how valuable opening a Euro-American Engagement Office would be to understand how white people think. For example, how is it that Rand Paul, a Euro-American, thinks he can be an outspoken critic of the Civil Rights Act, criticize government requirements for businesses to serve minorities and still lead an effort to sway minority voters to vote his party?

Or how does one explain how Rand Paul describes freedom?:

“The hard part of believing in freedom,” he has argued, is that it requires believing companies should be free to discriminate on the basis of race, religion, or sexual orientation — even though he personally opposes such discrimination.

Wow! We white people; we are so puzzling. We say one thing and do another. What is wrong with us?  Perhaps the Euro-American Engagement Office can find out.

Following the lead of the Republicans who have opened the office in Detroit, which is nearly 83% African American, I suggest The Euro-American office be opened in one of the five whitest cities in the United States: Pittsburg, Cincinnati, Providence, Minneapolis or Portland.  While I am sure that there are some Euro-Americans that would insist a Euro-American should lead this effort, others are not really sure they are capable and so a search could be launched for a leader who is a person of color.

A Euro-American Engagement Office; think about it.


“Race Neutral” is Fiction

November 17, 2013


“Race neutral” is fiction at its worst.

There is no race-neutral situation in this country. Race is a part of every encounter when racial differences exist. It may not always be the main part, a bad part, or the determining part, but it is always there. People of color know this; white people generally do not.

White law professor Ron Bretz, a professor at Cooley Law School and former criminal-defense attorney, was asked for his opinion about the recent Michigan porch shooting. Nineteen-year-old Renisha Marie McBride, a black woman, died on November 2nd when a suburban Detroit white homeowner, Theodore Wafer, shot her in the face as she stood on his porch just before dawn. The homeowner was charged with 2nd degree murder last Friday.

Bretz said both sides would be wise to keep to a “race-neutral” strategy

“Don’t go there. Keep it on the facts.  Who wants to bring race into it? Everybody else. … The defense doesn’t want that. And the prosecution doesn’t want to bring it in. I don’t think they need to.”

Bretz doesn’t see that “keeping to the facts” means we acknowledge that racial difference existed in that encounter. Refusing to acknowledge that race was one part of the whole story can skew the search for truth.  If the five white women on the Zimmerman jury had talked about race, justice might have prevailed for Trayvon Martin.

It is true that deciding to charge someone with a crime is based on the facts of law; not facts of race.  It is also true that our unwillingness to name and talk about race has led to charges not being filed when they should have been and verdicts being unjust.

In my experience, nobody runs faster from a discussion on race than white people. We are scared of it, don’t know how to do it, and are deeply hoping that our colorblind ideology – “I don’t see color when I look at people” – will somehow turn out to be true.

It is way past time to do away with that fiction.


White people using the race card

October 27, 2013

You keep using that word - Princess Bride

Years of socialization on the power and privilege of the individual (in my white circles) makes it so easy to take affront when I perceive something bad happens to me that is good for others whose skin color is different than mine. I can creatively craft a story that blames it on racism.

As white man Jamie Utt writes about  people who say: That’s Racist Against White People:

These are White folks who are claiming that the Obamacare tax on tanning beds is “racist” against White people. These are White folks who are claiming that affirmative action is racist against them. These are the White folks who honestly believe they suffer more racism than people of Color.

He goes on to say: “Too often, when people are talking about racism or sexism or heterosexism or any other form of oppression, they’re simply referring to when a person was made to feel bad for or about their identity. There is absolutely no acknowledgement of wider systems of oppression and power.”

One of the most important concepts for us all to learn is that the “isms” are not about individual behaviors (although those acts of bias and bigotry absolutely matter).  It is the institutional and organizational power under-girded by such beliefs that sustains oppression. That’s the card we need to always hold up.


If the hundreds of rioters had been primarily black males

October 20, 2013

If the hundreds of rioters had been primarily black males, would your reaction have been the same?  That’s a question I asked myself as I read more about how hundreds of mostly white men rioted in Bellingham Saturday, October 12th – just north of Western Washington University.

Glass bottles, dishes, cinder blocks, lawn chairs and cans were thrown at officers, police cruisers, a city bus and other rioters, Bellingham Police Lt. Mike Johnston said.

Several officers received minor injuries from broken glass, according to a police press release.

Several vehicles were taken out of service with several thousand dollars in damage, according to a news release. A city bus and private property were also damaged by the thrown objects.

It was the rowdiest crowd that Bellingham Police Sgt. Mike Scanlon said he had seen in his more than 20 years in law enforcement.

Officers in an armored vehicle and riot gear used pepper balls, smoke and “flash-bang” devices to disperse the crowd of 300 to 400 that refused to leave the intersection, Johnston said.

I know the frame I’ve been socialized to use for this: “Boys will be boys”  “College students do stupid things.”  I also know the frame I’ve been socialized to use if this had been a group of black males: “Hoodlums” “Drug Dealers” “Fear.”

Every moment of every day, I need to “check my frame” to honestly examine where the judgments I’m making have taken root in my life.  I’m responsible for uprooting the evil of racism.


Unwavering commitment to justice

July 19, 2013


Unwavering commitment. Nelson Mandela. Wavering justice. Trayvon Martin.

In a week of deeply disturbing news, it is good to remember what Mandela has taught us about sustaining the work of justice, in spite of the difficulty, the pain, the despondency that can arise. If, as news reports indicate, his health has rebounded, it is yet another reminder that even as a light for justice seems about to be extinguished, it can catch hold of the fire again and continue to show us a way.

Today the Department of Justice placed a hold on the Trayvon Martin evidence as part of its open investigation to decide whether criminal civil rights charges should be filed by federal prosecutors. May there be an unwavering commitment to see justice done.


If I’d been on the Zimmerman jury

July 16, 2013


If I’d been on the Zimmerman jury . . .

I hope I would have realized that my years of being female have predisposed me to be nice and get along and that I would remember how that behavior can be dangerous to justice.

l hope I would have realized that years of cultural and institutional messages have deeply ingrained in me the message that black males, particularly young black males, are to be feared and that males who look more like me are to be trusted and assumed to have good judgment.

I hope I would have remembered that cultural norms privilege what certain groups of people have decided is the best way to do things. Usually, it is the group of people who by their power dominate society; people who look like me.

My white skin matters.  The whiteness of five of the women on the jury mattered. The gender of the jury makeup mattered. Oppression thrives when such truths are silenced.

 If I’d been on the Zimmerman jury, I would have insisted we talk about how oppression has made all of us, Zimmerman included, less fully human and that is why another young black man is dead.


Stepping on the path of nonconformity

January 21, 2013

MLK noncomformistsIMG_2373

Her name is Everly Grace and she came into this world on December 1st; a water dragon baby like her grandmother.  Fire and water.  I hope she becomes a nonconformist.  As a white baby, she already has a privilege-lined path to walk upon. It’s so easy to lull oneself to sleep on such a path.  I know. I have done it. And while I have slept, others have lived tortured lives of oppression.

So, as my sleeping granddaughter lays in my arms, I whisper “challenge the status quo”  “speak out against injustice”  ” change the system” and “be a radical prophet for love”

Yet, my words are not enough. I must show her by my actions that I refuse to conform to a path that privileges some at the expense of others.

I listen to the whispers of those who have gone before me and seek courage to step again and again on the path of nonconformity.


A pregnant pause; breathe, risk, go forth

May 20, 2012

My blog has been resting as I’ve been metaphorically pregnant in my soul.

The force of emergence is growing stronger, requiring deep breathing and trust in the process.

In three weeks, I will be traveling to Colombia for a 5-week Spanish language and cultural immersion courtesy of a Jesuit university partnership. Three weeks ago, I first heard of this possibility.  South America and me.  It wasn’t on the ultrasound picture.

The day before I leave for Colombia is a special day – my 60th birthday. There. I said it out loud.  In the face of cultural ageism that would have me think life is ending.  Yet, here I am pregnant with new beginnings.

Nine months ago the labor began in earnest. I was unexpectedly tapped to teach a social justice course for university graduate students – with less than 2 weeks notice and while working full-time at my “day job.”  Although I’ve facilitated learning experiences in a variety of settings; the college classroom was a new venue and I was anxious and thrilled.

Breathe, risk, go forth. It was an amazing and exhausting experience – similar to my memories of being a new parent. Taking advice, trusting the process, trusting myself. I’m teaching again this quarter and the labor is speeding up.

I’m reconsidering ministry in a different form. My aging parents may move in with us. My son and his wife will be giving birth to our first grandchild in December.

Meister Eckhart tells us, “From all eternity God lies on a maternity bed giving birth.  The essence of God is birthing.”

I am taking a pregnant pause from my blog. I will be back, perhaps greeting you in Spanish. I will be a different person; the birth more fully realized.

In the meantime, I hope you are experiencing a pregnancy, readying you for some new birth in your life.

Breathe, risk, go forth.


Anger and Joy

February 4, 2012

Anger and joy can co-exist; these are times that cry out for both. Not for superficial expressions, but deep down gut-wrenching anger that causes change and energetic heart-opening joy that sustains it.

I sometimes worry I will get caught in one to the exclusion of the other. What I want is an ongoing dance where the total engagement of one can leads to a full-fledged experience of the other. When I feel a total sense of the freeing nature of joy, I am more able to be in touch with my angst and anger about the fact that such experiences for others are often limited by the brunt of oppression in their lives.  When I let the full expression of anger burn in my heart, I am compelled to act to make a difference and joy comes from that connection to the greater humanity to which I am inextricably linked.

Anger and joy can provide a synergy that creates unexpected opportunities for birthing a new way of being, seeing, and acting.

I have begun a new daily practice of asking myself, “Where is my anger today? Where is my joy?”  To fully engage in activist work, I need both.


Kentucky church bans interracial couples

December 7, 2011

As we approach 2012, the  resistance to paradigm shifts continues to gasp for last breaths in shocking ways. A Kentucky church, to promote ‘greater unity’ recently passed a resolution banning interracial couples from being members and participating in parts of worship: Interracial Couple Banned From Kentucky Church.  “Greater unity” appears to be code for “let’s just have white people here.”

The outcry against this action has led the church to reconsider their decision and overturn the ban. Unfortunately, it appears that serious soul searching and recognition of deep seated bigotry was not part of the process. The pastor declared the ban to be null and void because the bylaws can’t run contrary to local, state, or national laws that would judge this as discriminatory.  Church in Kentucky Overturns Ban After Outcry

Apparently, the legal issue has forced the hand of this church rather than giving priority to a moral imperative for justice and equity.  Have these people read their Bible lately?