I spoke to a crowed at the end of our protest march in front of the Boston State House. I am feeling a desire by many to bring true change. But that will not be easy. This march/protest was aimed against policies on deportations and refugees and Muslims.
I am with Jackie here, she is my friend; I am her friend. She is my ally and I am her ally. We stand with others as friends. Let me be clear here: I love people. And because I love working-class people, I have decided I can no longer be a friend with those who support the legislation of hate. What does this mean? I will not travel with you nor visit your home. If you are against LGBTQ folks, female rights, undocumented friends, black, brown, and others, and if you support hate and American exceptionalism, I am not your friend and you are not my friend. This is not just a virtual notion; it is true for me day-to-day. If you believe you are “just” due to your faith — we are not friends. To be my friend means you are my ally, and thus are seeking to evolve by walking with me to denounce bigotry. I will work with you on the job. I am working class and have to pay the bills. I have no interest in your religion or church if your members are not allies. I will be nice and say hello – Mom and Dad raised me well. I will work beside you at work — but just know I cannot be your friend; if you are not my ally, we are not friends. If you are arguing about my realities and the realities of my friends and allies – we cannot be friends. We cannot break bread in my home or have a glass of wine.
I just got back from the People of Color Conference — and it was a needed gathering for me in the city of Atlanta. Being around like-minded folks (LGBTQ, black and brown and white allies) fills my soul as I navigate my days in a world operated by those who knowingly and unknowingly empower white supremacy. Packnett was the real deal. She spoke about independent schools who ignore matters of race, sexuality, and gender, thus are complicit in graduating white supremacist. And, allow a hostile campus environment. Have you looked at the demographic make up of your faculty? Are you supporting people of color? The folks I talk to say no. But we do look good on brochures. It is easy for straight white men to hire and support straight white men. There is no threat to their hegemony.
I also found time to join colleagues I do not see that often.
We were headed to the Civil and Human Rights Museum in Atlanta. I will write more on this later.
People of color, be they African American, Native American, Asian, Middle Eastern or whatever ethnic group, have spent years discovering their roots, developing a keen pride in their heritage, and accepting who they are. So don’t expect the current crop of prospective faculty to fit into your conservative profile. Many of them will not, and, frankly, I don’t think they should even try! Is that shocking? Is that unacceptable to you and your clientele? Then, perhaps, diversity is really not for you. If a turban or a dashiki pants suit offends, then so will diversity! Diversity by definition implies that the status quo will be upset.
The book Colors of Excellence is the leading authority on this topic. I have read it a number times. It is one that is always discussed at the annual People of Color Conference held by the National Association of Independent Schools. Moreover, it serves as a great comfort to many teachers of color with its countless anecdotes from other faculty members of color regarding their own experiences in independent schools. Regardless of what some might say, only those of a particular minority group can fully understand the social construction in existence that might or might not promote a level of comfort. I am looking forward to working with other teachers of color and addressing the continual challenges of diversity in the 21st century.
As we know, there are schools that say they value diversity — and there are schools that do. All too often many practice in talk but fail to act.
I have been asked via a number of emails what can I do as a white person? My advice is to engage in different communities. Most of the white people I know do not have much interaction with others outside the workspace. White people have privileges due to being white. If you teach at an independent school, college, university, or in a profession dominated by whites from top to bottom — your chances are few, thus you will have to try harder. It is cool to invite folks to your white church — but how about attending a black church. Better yet — invite them into your home. Have you done that? Make your home their home. Breaking bread in your home says a great deal. Often, black people struggle to afford college, have a job that does not allow them to pay their bills on time, and thus have to work a second job. We carry a historical past that plagues us in ways not so pronounced to white people. If you want to be a true ally, you must surround yourself with black people. And, you must understand our narratives. Do not tell us we are wrong. Do not tell us we misunderstood a situation. Just listen to us and support us.
In Ferguson, Baltimore, and L.A., riots occurred after a cop killed a black man. Folks are quick to tell me it is not about race. Yes it is about race. I think about my white boss (es) everyday; I think about my white colleagues as white everyday. Why? [Because they remind me that I am black] Are you doing that? White people with guilt say they do not see color. If you believe in God, please know he/she sees color; if you believe in God, you know she/he sought the beauty of diversity, though white people created race as a construct for systematic and categorical purposes. In each of the aforementioned communities (Ferguson, Baltimore, LA), segregation and black inequality played a major role. We are not an equal society. Years of Jim Crow cannot vanish because King gave a speech. White people hold power. For example: the white upper-class part of North Baton Rouge tried to succeed from the poorer black community of South Baton Rouge just two years ago. They viewed the black community as dangerous and having an economic impact on their way of life. Instead of reaching out with the power white people have — they sought to separate. Do your kids travel to the other part of town to play? Do you make it an effort to find ways to have your kids interact with blacks, Hispanics, Muslims, Jews, etc.? Are you will to break bread with folks in the hood? So, if you want to know what you can do, my advice is to do what you are not doing. Telling me you do not see race is your first mistake. That is just your privilege talking. Do something.
Harvard President Drew Faust unveils a portrait of The Reverend Peter J. Gomes, Plummer Professor of Christian Morals and Pusey Minister in The Memorial Church, 1974 – 2011. The portrait hangs in the Faculty Room of University Hall. The Honorable Deval Patrick and The Reverend Dr. Wendel “Tad” Meyer make remarks. Deval Patrick (from left), Drew Faust, Michael Smith, Tad Meyer, and artist Yuqi Wang unveil the painting. Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard Staff Photographer
Being in New England, I am connected to some of the most prominent schools in the nation. As I visit peer schools — I often look at the pictures on their walls as I tour different campuses. I also notice the pictures hanging on the walls here at Brooks. Yes — most are white men. I get lucky at times and find a female. That makes me happy. But never a person of color. Recently the late great Peter Gomes’s picture was displayed in Harvard’s faculty room. What does it say to the world when there are no images of people that are not white hanging from walls? What about the fact that places have not figured out how to make people of color feel welcomed? We are not aliens. New England prep schools and Harvard will argue and make excuses. Most places will. But the truth is in the numbers. Are we not part of the club? Prep schools are easy places to feel displaced. Independent schools are this way in general. And the conservative schools will make you feel like an outsider if you are not of the population norm. Harvard has made that all too clear by just now hanging a picture of a person of color. I love the late Peter Gomes. Good for Harvard. Boy it took you long enough. What does your campus look like? Why? Why are there no people of color? Why do they leave? Do you care to know.
I met with the chaplain at MIT today, who is also a brother within the Church of Christ. We had coffee and spoke for a bit in his office. He invited Janette and I to attend Brookline Church of Christ with his family come Easter Sunday, which we will do. We spoke about my academic work and teaching, as well as his work. Family. Discomforts of New England culture and his sense that I might feel isolated in this world — when many here are not like me. And I agree with his assessment. The books he gave me as I left his office captured me. I have been reading since. I have come to a number of conclusions about the Church of Christ as a faith-based community.
1) Too many folks worship the Bible and not God. That is clear in how many but not all engage in community work. Many within the “denomination” have turned Alexander Campbell and his influence into a Lutheran like messiah. Many do not realize that they are operating under Campbell’s scientific interpretation of the New Testament — not the actual New Testament. Campbell said it and folks have followed it as gospel. Hence – it was part of the historical race issues of past in the CoC.
2) Church of Christ schools and institutions cannot continue to exist the way they do. With an emerging demographic of LGBTQ folks and millennial allies for social justice, the traditional school might look a certain way for a bit longer — but the makeup and operation of students will be different. Yes — your next roommate at Harding might and will probably be a devout Christ loving gay Christian.
3) As a now outsider to the Church of Christ world, I must use my love for others and leadership to help the establishment see its many weaknesses. This I am willing to do; it might require a compromise on my part, but I am sure I can to some extent.
4) I must help such institutions change through my scholarship. In many cases, joining other scholars with more knowledge as we write and publish in a fashion that will be readable to a mass audience.
Today I received the February 2016 issue of “Perspectives on History” published by the American Historical Association. I found the cover to be fascinating. It is titled “Looking Like a Historian.” Imagine if our campuses and departments could look like this.