Category Archives: Media

What are We Really Fighting For?

In the popular hype of MMA fighting, crowds cheering and roaring over the cage fights in an octagon echo the days of the gladiatorial fights in the sand arenas.  The craze of seeing two people battle it out has not waned over the centuries.  What are the combatants fighting for?  Beyond the brutality and violence, what is the ultimate triumph the fighters are aiming for?  The trophy?  The money?  Fame?  Personal accomplishment?  I think what men fight for in the octagon is a metaphor of what we fight for in society.  Why we fight says a lot about who we are.  What do we fight for?

One of the films I enjoyed most last year was “Warrior,” a film that didn’t get a whole lot of attention but had a deep, moving story with incredible acting.  It depicts a crucial dynamic of relationships in our society that stems from the condition of our souls.  Why do we fight?  If we can uncover the answer to this question, it illuminates much of why relationships are the way they are and what our souls are really searching for.  I think the film illustrated the important factor that what people are fighting for is not always apparent.  Sometimes the fighters don’t even realize what they’re really fighting for.  But they fight.  And we fight.

Here comes the slight bit of spoiler, just to warn you in case you want to stop reading here.  The story showed that what we are often fighting for is forgiveness.  In all our hard bouts with people, self and society, forgiveness is the unseen prize that we’re trying to get to and often times don’t realize that is what we’re actually fighting for.  In the surprising and revealing twist of the film, we find that the end of the fight is about achieving reconciliation that can only come by forgiveness and letting go of the anger.  But forgiveness rarely ever comes easy for anyone.  And that’s why we have to fight to forgive.  The deeper the hurt and anger, the tougher the fight.  The external fights we face in life represents the internal fights in our souls.  We’re fighting to be free from our anger, hate and grudges.  We’re fighting our way to forgiveness that manifests in reconciliation.  The true and genuine Warrior then is the one who gets to a place where he or she no longer needs to keep fighting.  When forgiveness is achieved, the fight is done.  The Warrior has won.

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Looking In On Post-Blackness

Alvin reviewed Toure’s work on Post-Blackness recently. In short, the defining of Black America is no longer bound by traditional Black institutions and voices, the notion of FUBU is now expansive beyond a clothing line – meaning that Black identity is now in the rarified air of being malleable, ambiguous, and now free from the trappings of groupthink.

While I think that might spell some concern for Black churches, it’s probably a good thing as let’s be honest, White churches have been feeling some pressure recently as well — whether that be to be more diverse or more missional, sooner or later, Black churches are going to ask themselves interesting questions about what it means to worship as a church even as the emerging Post-Black generation begins to find they are somewhere between Black and White churches. Hopefully, we’ll get there.

As usual, the gap between here and there is first occupied by those individuals who can point out the absurdity of a static identity. By absurdity, I don’t mean hilarity, but the awkwardness and the lack of self-reflection in the process.

This next YouTube video is from The Oreo Experience where she answers the question, “Why I don’t date Black guys.” The video has garnered almost 300,000 views and over 7,000 comments. As a self-described “total whitey in a black chick’s body” Oreo Experience is a caricature that is more common than ever. The Asian equivalent is a Twinkie. I don’t know what the Latino analog would be. And I know that sometimes the identity is reciprocated from White people, because the endearing terms, “White Chocolate” and “Egg” exist as well. But these terms used to have an edge to them. Now, they’re mostly thought of as sweet, minus the egg.But what do you think? Post-blackness?

And this one is just as interesting, The Mis-Adventures of Awkward Black Girl [explicit language] by Issa Rae, a YouTube show that is really unique in its portrayal of well, the awkwardness. And that’s the opposite of being Black and proud, right? Or at least that broadens our palette that you could be Black and anything. Here’s a short peek:


On Probation

If you haven’t heard Lowe’s along with some others has decided to remove its sponsorship of TLC’s All American Muslim. One of their justifications is they felt by sponsoring a program showing the daily lives of Muslims in Cosby Show mode was too controversial.  Huh?

To arrive at such a conclusion one has to of course have already formed an opinion about what being a Muslim is.  If showing them being smart and rather pedestrian is “controversial,” I hate to think what the decision makers at Lowe’s starting point of viewing them are to begin with.

Apparently the group spearheading the efforts to get companies to pull out is the Florida Family Association.  They have been a one man band in sounding the alarm about the show.  Essentially their position is a good American Muslim is an oxymoron.

Wow is all I have to say to that.   Not really sure who made them the American police.  However I can’t say that I’m surprised.  Immigrants have often operated under the cloud of probationary citizenship.   Different racial groups are “in” and “out” based on public mood.

After 9-11 one of my friends from India said her world changed overnight. She has stopped wearing clothing from her homeland in public spaces because of the insults she receives, and people look at her much differently now than when she first immigrated into this country in the 1980s.

She told me one story of how her husband was pumping gas at a local gas station and a guy yelled at him to “go back home.”  He said he was headed home, that’s why he was getting gas.  The yeller mumbled something and drove off.  Her husband wasn’t even aware that he was being racially harassed and being told to leave the country until it was pointed out to him by his wife!

Regardless of ethnic background or religious belief, we as Christians have an obligation to not make people probationary based on public sentiment.   We should follow the example of Paul in Acts 17:16-34.   He kept at the forefront the importance of being able to dialogue with all segments of society.

We must realize as Christians we must display attitudes that allow us to reach a wide spectrum of people.  No one is ever probationary.  I encourage you to watch the show, as it might give you some insight into the Muslim mindset.  You never know when the Spirit might call on you to witness to one.


Addressing A Global Problem – At Home


Don’t Forget to Represent!

CCDA 2011 Indianapolis was off the chain!

I’ve only been to three of these national conferences, but this one was the most enjoyable by far. Richard Twiss and Arthur Brooks were a couple of my favorite plenary speakers (you should definitely check them out!). Both of them literally had the entire audience of 3,000 breathless at some points in their talks. The focus of the conference was education, but because all the various aspects of society – family, economics, politics, church, and law – all play into the success of education, it didn’t feel myopic at all. What impressed me most however was the strong showing of women in CCD ministries. In comparison with other evangelical conferences that seek to build the body, CCDA is leagues ahead in attendance of women and minorities. It was absolutely refreshing to see that mix.

I was in particular awe of Arloa Sutter, whom I finally had the chance to meet and have lunch with; Jenny Yang, advocate at World Relief; and Dave Buehring, as my personal time with them was both refreshing and inspiring.

Also, I enjoyed a lunch with some fellow Asian Americans who were attending the CCDA conference, and though I love all my Asian brothers and sisters, I have to say I observed something unusual about the Asian Americans there. That is Latinos tended to represent Latino communities and African Americans generally represent African American needs; White folks tended to serve as bridge builders from White communities; but Asians…Asians tended to work in non-Asian environments. I thought it was a fascinating anecdote that many of us simply couldn’t connect Christian Community Development work with our own ethnic communities. What does that say about us? What does that say about our communities?

Just a question. But just wanted to ask what it means to represent ourselves.

I supposed I asked the question last year at CCDA, but I guess it struck me afresh this year.

Take a listen if you like and let me know what you think. Peace.


NWordhead

This morning I watched the morning talking heads analyze and debate The Washington Post’s Stephanie McCrummen report Sunday that Rick Perry brought friends and supporters to a West Texas hunting camp his family leased that was called “Niggerhead.”   I’m not interested in the political ramifications as that should be obvious.  What I was observing was how people were making meaning of the situation from a racial perspective.

There were those who said that it obviously meant that Perry was racist.  Of course the Perry camp said they rectified the situation in an expedient manner, offering up Perry’s record on race to dispel the developing “Perry is a racist” narrative.  Others gave the “those were just the times” narrative and place the whole incident in the accident bin of history, not reflective of the present.   One racial incident with many perspectives.

This and other types of similar situations offer us great insight into how race operates in the post-civil rights era.  Dialogue around such incidents illuminate how in this era discussion concerning race and racism center around what is going on in people’s hearts, not necessarily the incident itself.   In the post-civil rights era racial motivations are murky, sending people on an expedition to find the hidden racial meaning of commonplace incidents.

It is a significant paradigm shift to comprehend.  For instance in my dad’s era if a black man was lynched for whistling at a white woman the focus was on the injustice of the action itself and there was nothing murky about the racial intentions.   In today’s world most of the time the incident itself is sort of a bystander to the broader debate.   Consider some relatively recent incidents (Prof. Henry Gates/Cambridge Police, Don Imus/Rutgers Women’s team, etc.).  To some these are serious transgressions.  To others they are trivial.  The only people who would have such a debate over a lynching would be maybe Neo-Nazi’s.

The framework of the broader debate centers around the question “does the incident at hand reveal racial authenticity within a person’s heart?”  That is what the talking heads were debating, not the incident itself.  Nobody disputes that it took place or that it was wrong.   I welcome these moments because in my opinion it furthers the conversation about race in America today.


On Troy Davis

Sitting here watching CNN report on the anguish of Troy Davis.   I had not really payed attention to this case until tonight.  Doing some internet research quite honestly I have no idea as to whether the man is guilty or not.  I’m not a lawyer either but  it seems to me common sense dictates that if 7 of the 9 witnesses recant their testimony there should be a stay of execution.  What flashed in my mind was a story that I read many years ago in the book A Theology as Big as the City by Ray Bakke:

A Clergy colleague of mine spent a day in Chicago’s housing court watching as the judge threw out case after case of renters in slum buildings.  He always sided with the slumlords, those absentee real estate speculators, against the poor people.  Finally my friend could stand it no longer.  He spoke up:  “Your honor, if it pleases the court, may I ask, Where is the justice in this court?  I’ve been here all day long and I’ve seen no justice whatsoever.”  The judge quickly replied “Reverend this is no court of justice.  This is a court of law.  If you want justice change the law!”

This is yet another reminder that we do not have courts of justice in America but courts of law.  I can’t help but feel that the law has failed in this case.  With all the doubt surrounding this at the very least the Governor could have given Davis clemency, stopping the execution but keeping him in jail for life.  That may not have been just either but it would have at least kept a man who may have been innocent alive.


Help Me

I know I’m late to the party, but here are my thoughts on The Help.   For full disclosure you should know that typically movies like this make my skin crawl.  Hollywood has a tired formula of creating movies in which poor, pitiful black folk are “rescued” by good meaning white folk (Blind Side, Radio).  Drives me nuts!  One of the things I loved about Remember the Titans is for once they put the main black character in a position of authority and courageous leadership.

Anyways my wife and daughter both loved the book so their word is good enough for me.   I did see a lot of the tired Hollywood formula, however I did like the display of one authentic truth:  The most effective way to cross racial barriers is life experience.   When people take the time to truly get to know one another as humans it has a powerful effect.   However the other thing that drives me nuts is evangelicals then take this truth and set up an either/or proposition when it comes to race and faith.

Besides viewing race through an idealistic lens they also have tendency to immediately bring it down to the level of individualism, inadvertently giving a pass on societal sins.   The pattern goes something like this:  we can overcome the intentional, debilitating  societal affects of racialization by merely being good buddies or acquaintances.  You can find exhibit A in this blogpost.   In it Natasha Robinson says “The new movie demonstrates that racial reconciliation happens not primarily through speeches and diversity training but through everyday friendships.”

Sistah I hear ya and I am sure you mean well, but no need to set up either or scenarios concerning reconciliation in my opinion.  How about friendships and speeches and diversity trainings, along with other things that actively interrupt racism on both the individual and the institutional level?   After all wasn’t the entire background of The Help about how these women were trapped by their race and gender because of racialization?  That is the context of how the friendships develop.

I am sure they appreciated having some white friends, but the thing that moved them closer to having some options in life besides just being the help was what came out of the friendships, which was Skeeter writing the book and telling their story as an attempt to interrupt the stifling institutional racism of Mississippi.   More Christians need to follow this example, as you’re not truly my friend if you don’t do something to help improve the quality of my life.


Is Obama’s Leadership Black Enough?

In case you missed the intellectual throw down between Al Sharpton and Dr. Cornel West check it out.  The battle ground was MSNBC and it was over a topic often discussed in “brothaman” circles (like barbershops) all over the nation.   The issue?  Frustration over whether Obama is representin’ enough.   The first black president is supposed to give us communal props, right?  Or is this too much of a load to put on him?

West thinks Obama is not doing enough to take care of his core constituency.   Blacks overwhelmingly supported his presidency (and will continue to do so) so show more love.  But West and Tavis Smiley have been haters almost since day one of the Obama presidency.

It is interesting that Obama has played the role of King Maker with Al Sharpton.  He has shown Sharpton’s National Action Network much more love.  My take is Obama politically can’t be seen as “too black” so he can’t (at least in public perception) embrace all the influential leaders of the black community.  However he must embrace a few to maintain street cred, and make no mistake about it – embracing Sharpton is politically risky.

BTW although it may look like it there is no animosity between these two as they have been friends for years.  Sometimes that’s just the way we get down.


Do Not Forsake This Land

A video entitled “The light of the world”