Against Bigotry

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.

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Christian Scholars’ Conference 2014, Part III

This post was written by professor Jeff Baker of Pepperdine University. I was honored to have been asked by Baker to join this fantastic panel. You can also see this post and other writings by Baker at his blog.

Last week at the Christian Scholars Conference at Lipscomb University, I helped convene a multidisciplinary, intersectional panel on allies, those in positions of relative privilege who seek to act in solidarity with people who do not share it. In almost all of my native contexts, I enjoy the privileges of being a white, straight, Christian, cisgendered man, yet I hope to be a good ally and collaborator with others in the interest of justice. My friends on the panel taught us much on the role and calling of alliance with people on the margins of our institutions.

The panelists, Dr. Jeanine Thweatt-Bates, Julie Mavity Maddalena, Edward Carson and Scott Lybrand, are respectively and intersectionally, white, black, straight, gay, men and women, across a spectrum of faith and post-faith, speaking from diverse backgrounds of affluence, poverty, education and vocation. They spoke from various, ambivalent points of privilege and marginalization. This is some of the wisdom they shared for people who would be allies in solidarity with people without power or voices in our communities.

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Listen: The first and essential rule for allies is to listen to those with whom they would have solidarity. Listen for stories. Listen for insight. Listen for wisdom. Listen for agency. Do not reinterpret. Listen and attend to one’s own internal reactions. If a friend on the margins speaks and provokes an emotional reaction within the ally, the ally ought to reflect on the dynamics that triggered the response and question it.

Amplify: Do not speak on behalf of a marginalized voice but use powerful platforms to amplify her voice. Allies should use the platforms and means at their disposal to amplify the voices of those on the margins, with their own identity and agency, sharing the stages and podiums we enjoy with those who do not have access to them.

Move out of the center: Effective allies will not presume to be the heroic protagonist in the neighbor’s narrative. The ally should not be on a rescue mission but should strive to pull alongside the friend on the margins, to empower and support, to amplify, but not to eclipse. No one wants to be another’s project.

Disagree without condemnation: Build together a context where disagreement does not mean condemnation. Rather, disagreement ought to lead to acknowledgement for more and better communication and understanding. The people “on the margins” are not monolithic or univocal, but as humans will disagree, struggle and advance conflicting points of view in their agency.

Hear stories: The effective ally will hear stories with an intentional discipline to understand context and with an understanding that one person’s story never is representative of an entire community. Individuals matter. Let people tell their own stories, and do not interpret someone’s story for them. Listen for criticism of oppressive dynamics, but also listen to perceive resilience, beauty, faithfulness, dignity and forgiveness.

Educate yourself: “It is not the queer person’s job to educate the privileged ally.” Friends may seek insight and understanding from friends, but to insist that a person on the margins be the source of knowledge for an ally makes the person on the margin an object yet again. The person on the margins is not obligated to educate the ally on oppression, although the ally ought to learn from the neighbor on the margins.

Understand the effects of oppression: Oppression causes harm. Often the criticism leveled at those on the margins by those in privilege is the result of the oppression, not of the identity of the person on the margins. “Gayness is not harmful. The institutional oppression of gay people is harmful.” The Invisible Man is not weaker, less able, less smart, less worthy, but being made invisible generates harmful and persistent, traumatic effects on spirit, mind and body. Always ask whom we may be harming by doing what we do.

Don’t interrupt: Listen and hear without preparing a response, a defense, an interpretation. Be willing to give up the initiative and direction of a conversation.

Recognize default categories of normalcy: Recognize that inherited notions of normalcy create privileges for those in the default categories, forcing the exceptions to the margins. Normalcy receives implicit preference and favor. Honor the exceptional who lie outside the default categories of normalcy but counter their exclusion by inviting them into the privileged and preferred spaces of our conversations and collaborations.

Don’t confuse the ought with the is: To say that one does not see gender, race, etc., to claim to be “colorblind,” does not reflect reality. To ignore difference, even with a good will, impliedly adopts the dominant as normal and imposes the default categories. To ignore difference, even with a good will, denies the gifts of difference and exception, and ignores the beauty and wisdom of variety and experience.

Recognize movements already in action: When entering a cause as an ally, avoid the impulse to initiate something new from scratch on behalf of those with whom we would be in solidarity. Rather, with a posture of humility and caution, recognize movements already in action. Do not assume that the movement needs an ally but lend aid, power, voice and capacity as the movement invites and welcomes the ally’s effort.

Take a risk: An ally might better be called an accomplice. Acting in solidarity as an ally accomplice may require skin in the game, risks to the ally’s self. It is all too easy to claim to be an ally when it is convenient, then to retire to a place of comfortable safety when the ally needs a respite. The oppressed don’t get vacations from oppression, so the ally must prepare to sweat and bleed with the friend on the margins.

Practice epistemic humility: Be comfortable with ambiguity, fluidity and constructive conflict. Certainty, clarity and clean resolutions are not realistic in a truly plural, multivocal world. Admit and accept that we do not know and cannot know everything about the others’ world and experience.

Be helpful: Guilt, paralysis and shame are not helpful. Likewise, the posture of a savior bent on rescue is not helpful. As Aboriginal Elder Lilla Watson said, “If you’ve come here to help me, you’re wasting your time. But if you’ve come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.”

Be angry: Question institutions without ceasing if everyone in the room looks like everyone else in the room. Be angry that people are on the margins at all. Be angry for the poverty of spirit imposed on the privileged and the marginalized by exclusion. Do not make people invisible, and do not abide their invisibility. Do not judge the excluded by the standards of the included. Always question and challenge the exclusion of anyone. If you would walk into a room and ask, “Why doesn’t anyone here look like me?” then be prepared to ask, “Why does everyone in this room look like me?”

Panel Chair

So, I have organized a panel for a conference at Lipscomb University in Nashville this June. I am generating a theme around the “voiceless Minority” in faith-based schools. Such groups might be blacks, women, pacifist, gay/ lesbians, etc. I am hoping to generate a conversation centered around a set of researched-based papers on this theme for the meeting. The focus, in many ways, is to educated and create a discussion among our colleagues on the significance of reconciliation. I have commitments from three people…. I will chair the panel and deliver a paper with two of the other panelists. The fourth member will read our papers in advance as he will moderate the conversation. I am fortunate to be joined with such gifted folks. I will introduce them later in another post.

Black Women are “Less” Attractive? by New England Private School Teacher

The post below was written by a friend and a colleague of mine who teaches at a New England independent day school; she is very active in matters regarding the faculty, gender, and race. And, being a female faculty member of color, offers an important point of view below; her post in many ways relates to my current project regarding the vanishing identity of people of color in independent schools. This is a great post to share with many of you who follow my academic interests.

An article in the magazine claimed that it’s a scientific fact that Black women are less beautiful than women of other races. Its author, Satoshi Kanazawa, is notorious for hiding behind pseudoscience to promote discredited racist and sexist ideas. In giving these ideas a platform, PT’s editors dehumanized Black women and girls everywhere. After widespread public outcry, they removed the article from their website. But that alone won’t erase the damage they’ve done by validating these discredited ideas — the editors need to apologize, explain how this happened, and let us know that it won’t happen again. Please join me and my friends at ColorOfChange.org in demanding they do so immediately: http://act.colorofchange.org/sign/psychtoday?referring_akid=1987.1172257.Zepmlc&source=taf

Kanazawa’s article is flawed from top to bottom. Using a flawed dataset from an unrelated study of teenagers, he draws the obviously false conclusion that Black women are “objectively” less attractive than women from other racial groups. Kanazawa has a long history of hiding behind pseudo-science to express racist and sexist views. He once wrote an article asking “Are All Women Essentially Prostitutes?” and another suggesting that the US should have dropped nuclear bombs across the entire Middle East after 9/11 because it would have wiped out Muslim terrorists.

So why does Psychology Today continue to give him a platform? Black women must constantly face both subtle and explicit messages that they are valued less than women of other races — messages that are especially damaging to Black girls. Now they’ve served as launching point for yet another attack, this time in the name of science. To undo the damage it’s done, Psychology Today needs to explicitly reject Kanazawa’s ideas. Please join me and my friends at ColorOfChange.org in demanding that their editors apologize, explain how this article was published in the first place, and tell us what they’ll do to ensure that this won’t happen again in the future. It takes just a moment: http://act.colorofchange.org/sign/psychtoday?referring_akid=1987.1172257.Zepmlc&source=taf

Thanks.

Additional resources:

1. http://creativeseven.files.wordpress.com/2011/05/satoshi-kanazawa-article.pdf

2. http://jezebel.com/5786394/the-illustrious-career-of-a-crap-psychologist

3. http://colorlines.com/archives/2011/05/satoshi_kanazawa_is_a_scientific.html

4. http://www.racialicious.com/2011/05/17/how-to-debunk-pseudo-science-articles-about-race-in-five-easy-steps/

Gender

Outside my campus door, I have on display the above quote noting the meaning of feminism, as it reads: “Feminism is the radical notion that women are people.” The term feminism in and of itself can be somewhat of a contentious term and ideology. Often times, individuals equate it to radicalism…which it can be, as can terms such as nationalism be used in a dangerous fashion to denote the concept of jingoism. But with feminism, its danger is found in its threat towards traditional institutions. Feminism challenges the basic construct of hegemony in that many institutions are and have been controlled by men. However, women via equal educational and political opportunities have torn down many of the walls constructed by the notion of male hegemony — at least in the western world. This is not the case in other parts of the world in which various religious faiths have been used to justify male supremacy.

I have always been taught that the great thing about liberalism is this: it believes it is wrong to reject individuals access to institutions that will inherently work against their natural rights; some might see proposition 8 this way; it might be the right of all individuals to universal health care; or, the right to an education regardless of socioeconomic status; how about the rights of women to afford child care? Feminism as ideology represents most of the women in my life; I like to think about the laborious hours my mother put herself through just to guarantee that my brother and I had the basics to cope with the challenges of day-to-day living. Furthermore, her plight is one of historical proportions in that she is not only a woman facing the challenges of male hegemony, but a black female from a lower socioeconomic base living in the deep South. She lived in Alabama during the 1960s… Not that all things have changed much since then. Thus, elements such as class, gender, race, and power have a very different meaning to her than say — me. Though my race brings about a particular challenge to other types of dominant institutions in society, my gender offers far more doors. This is an unfortunate reality that many of us are unwilling to discuss; it is simple to talk of progressive women as being feminazis or aggressive animals. But, the day-to-day challenges of women are far too extensive for men, including myself, to comprehend; I teach about feminism in my courses, but I cannot wholly understand its meaning. In Gloria Steinem’s If Men Could menstruate, she offers a unique analogy into the world of women. She ridicules sexism and the silly assumptions men make about the plight of women.

Above: I believe all true students of history and culture should read Simone de Beavoir’s The Second Sex, as noted by the quote on my door.

According to Rosemary Radford Ruether’s Sexism and God-Talk: Toward a Feminist Theology,

…traditional Christian theology shapes Christ as the model for a redeemed humanity…one that we have lost through sin and recover through redemption. But Christ as symbol is problematic for feminist theology. The Christological symbols have been used to enforce male dominance, and even if we go back behind masculinist Christology to the praxis of the historical Jesus of the synoptic Gospels, it is questionable whether there is a single model of redeemed humanity fully revealed in the past.

In reading this work for a seminar course I took in graduate school, I understood this point to say that Jesus had both masculine and feminine characteristics, but it has been man who took only the masculine to define the culture of humanity. Though the characteristics of Jesus as it relates to masculinity and femininity is another blog post, one cannot argue that Christians are asked to respect both gender traits defined by the basic notion of the rib of Adam; it is at this point that male hegemony tends to set a course of new rules. Hence, women are to be the care takers of masculinity. They are to cook, clean, please, and behave in a fashionable effort deemed okay by men. I find myself combating this thought among some of the young male students I teach; if their mother is a homemaker and their father treats her as second class…I have found that young men in my courses behave this way. Male students treat my female colleagues differently than they do male teachers; I suspect this is true in other arenas too. The challenge of course is deconstructing this attitude by reminding students that feminism is a Christian virtue; Christ shared both gender characteristics. This is not a bad thing; if teaching male students to be Christ like is the value of teaching at a Christian institution, it is important that Christian educators model this in how they approach the topic of gender history. I am not innocent of what I am writing; it was my mother that asked me to rethink the rap music I used to listen to. Like much of the popular culture music today, it is demeaning to females.

“Nappy Headed Mo” Part II

Mauricia Grant, a NASCAR employee believes she is the victim of both sexism and racism. I have no doubt this type of behavior exist in many work places. I am sad to hear this because NASCAR has worked very hard to change its image from a sport of pot belly red necks in the deep south, to one that welcomes and embraces people of color; I am not sure NASCAR is at fault, or if this is the action of a team.

The 32-year-old Grant, who is black, worked as a technical inspector responsible for certifying cars in NASCAR’s second-tier Nationwide Series from January 2005 until her termination. In the lawsuit, she alleged she was referred to as “Nappy Headed Mo” and “Queen Sheba” by co-workers, was often told she worked on “colored people time” and was frightened by one official who routinely made references to the Ku Klux Klan.

Grant also stated that:

• Grant was forced to work outside more often than the white male officials because her supervisors believed she couldn’t sunburn because she was black.

• While riding in the backseat of her car pool at Talladega Superspeedway, co-workers told her to duck as they passed race fans. “I don’t want to start a riot when these fans see a black woman in my car,” she claims one official said.

• When packing up a dark garage at Texas Motor Speedway an official told Grant: “Keep smiling and pop your eyes out ’cause we can’t see you.”

• When she ignored advances from co-workers, Grant was accused of being gay. She also claimed co-workers questioned the sexual orientation of two other female officials.

I can tell a number of stories in which a white person assumed they were being funny by making such comments but were not. I think it is important to joke about race and the stupidity of racism; however,it is also important to know if such comments hurt other people

Also see “Nappy Headed Ho” part I

Sexism by Jaylon Williams

Jaylon has been commenting on this blog now for almost a year; he is a regular that offers some thoughtful suggestions to various blog posts. I love it when people decided to e-mail me great stuff to publish — this one came out of the blue. Jaylon’s piece discusses the fact that women simply make less than their male counter part. It might have something to do with the number of women electing to stay at home after giving birth. Seeing how complex today’s economy is, I am still amazed that women can do this. Because I come from a family with very little economic earning power, both of my parents had to work all types of shifts just to make ends meet. My biggest fear is that many of the young ladies I teach will go off to college in hopes of getting an MRS. degree. Ladies, keep fighting.~EC~

 

 

 

Yesterday, the Chronicle of Higher Education highlighted a report by the American Association of University Women Educational Foundation. The report indicated that, on average, women earn lower salaries than men immediately after graduation and thereafter. This gap in salaries existed even though women’s college GPAs were on average higher than those of men. The report’s findings were true for women, even when they made the same occupational choices as men. The Chronicle detailed the following from the report:

“One year after graduation, women earn 80 percent of what their male counterparts earn, the report says. Ten years after graduation, the disparity is even greater, with women earning 69 percent of what men earn. But women are also more likely than men to complete some form of graduate education within the first 10 years out of college.

The research also shows that women who attended highly selective colleges earn less than men from either highly or moderately selective colleges, and about the same as men from minimally selective colleges.”