Tag Archives: black

Was the Civil Rights Movement for Me?

I know this sounds like a strange question, but I have to ask because I wasn’t there, I’m not Black, and I don’t know if it applies to me or people like me.

I ask because I’ve heard White people (love y’all, I really do) ask too. And here’s the thing, was the American Revolution for me? Was the Second World War for me? Was the Protestant Reformation for me? I know it sounds funny, because well, first of all, it sounds sooooo egocentric. It’s like asking my parents, so when you two got married, it was for me?

Not really, would be the answer. Right? My parents didn’t get married for me. They might have wanted children in the abstract sense, but I’m sure they got a whole lot more than they bargained for when they got me (and yes, that is dripping with sarcasm (and guilt! – love you, Mom!) Interesting. I’ve never used nested parentheses in any other form of writing. I wonder if I’ll have to like do like weird grammatical tricks for this sentence to make sense, remember FOIL method?)

In any case, if it’s true in the microcosm of my parents, then it must be true that while some of the intention was that I would have a ‘better’ life because of those things that were fought for–those events, wars, and movements were for principles and ideals greater than any one person, including me. But at the same time, there is probably more to the movement than it bargained for. And again, as anecdotal evidence, I would like to offer that at times I feel absent or displaced from the effects of the movement. Who is the “we” in “We shall overcome”? Am I a part of that “we”?

When we talk about the United States of America, is that a “we”? Sometimes I don’t feel like I’m part of that country. I was always reminded growing up that I wasn’t American. When I learn about the Korean War, who am I in that discussion? What shall I say?

I think some of the racial tensions in the country today are around these gaps in “we.” It’s really about “me.” Even if “you” and “me” would be able to relate to one another, I’m not sure how we get to “we” any more.

Korean and African American communities in Dallas, Texas look like they’re on the war path. Some recent headlines: “Black-Korean Tensions Flare in Dallas”; “African Americans in Dallas Target Korean Businesses”;  But here’s an interesting excerpt from this article: “Dallas mayor tries to calm South Dallas dispute between blacks, Korean-Americans”:

Ted Kim, vice president of the Korean Society of Dallas, stressed that Korean-Americans weren’t so unlike African-Americans. “We have a very similar narrative,” he said. Kim told stories of foreigners occupying Korea, taking over its culture and cities, and forcing Koreans to learn another language. Like black slaves in America, Koreans have also seen the worst in humankind, he said. “We don’t know how similar we are,” Kim said. “If we were able to start sharing our stories with one another, we would find there is so much we can build on and find respect.”

In a passionate speech, Muhammad directly addressed the South Dallas incident and said the protests weren’t based on hate. He also spoke about black history and the ongoing struggles in black communities.“As a Korean people, you will never understand what we desire as black people as long as you don’t understand what happened to us,” he said. “We have been systemically destroyed.”

Muhammad criticized the way media stories have portrayed the South Dallas protests. He said people have incorrectly asked why the protesters dislike Asian-American businesses. “The better question is whether the Asian community targeted the black community to exploit it,” he said. “It is clear our community is under siege.”

Muhammad said American history shows that Italians, Indians, Arabs and other ethnicities have moved businesses into black communities to steal opportunities from them.“I believe everyone has benefited to the downfall of black people,” he said. “You are now just the next person in a line of people who have come to the black community and taken advantage of people who have been destroyed in this country.”

Kyrie eleison~ Lord, have mercy. Your cross was for me and for all of us. Make us a “we”.

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#OWS Now in Color!

Occupy Wall Street just got a taste of Colored People Time!

100 days after the movement started, Black churches just announced joining the Occupy Movement, calling it, “Occupy the Dream.” Over “1,000 concerned African American clergy, business owners, entertainers, and professional athletes have signed on to Occupy the Dream, the title of which referring back to MLK’s speech. So, does it take almost 3 months for this to become a priority for Blacks in America? Or do we just like to arrive casually late to the party?

While it’s true that I thought Occupy Wall Street was characterized by a predominantly White crowd, with the lowest poverty rates of any racial demographic, this is a welcome surprise. African American Christians do need to know that economic justice is not a complete justice. You can occupy all you want, but you do have to make sure  not to sell your soul to pay the bills.

So honestly, I’m just a little curious as to why now? Is there are game now? What is the full meaning if OWS begins to have diverse representation in its protesting body? And what does it mean that it’s the black church and not “other” churches? Do you think this will spread?


How Close Is The Past? And What is the Speed From Slave to Free?

As mentioned in a previous post, I’m reading some stuff on Emotionally Health Spirituality that interestingly enough talks about our past as a very present influence on the way we behave and interact in the now. At one point, Scazzero says  a Biblical viewpoint on the notion of family includes three generations, which would mean, a ready understanding of the word “family” would date back to the “mid-1800’s”! It talks about generational curses, addictions, patterns of behavior, etc. And this is great stuff for us to be unpacking for our emotional health and diagnosing why we have a “gut-level” un-examined way of pathological behavior and attitudes in our current relationships. Part of emotionally healthy spirituality is to recognize these patterns of behavior and  unravel some of these knots so that the gospel can fully take root in us. Whereas some couples have been “following Christ” for decades superficially submit their lives to the propositions of salvation and transformation, they don’t do the work of becoming emotionally healthy –that is to live a fully examined life before Christ and thus, do not allow the Spirit to do the deep work of transforming them. Scazzero is quick to say  emotional health and contemplative living are key to the revolutionary faith that Jesus promises.

Agree? Disagree?

If you agree, let’s push this one step further. I’m also reading this book called “Black and Free” by Tom Skinner, and here’s something  I want to juxtapose to the Emotionally Healthy stuff I just referred to above. If you disagree, they don’t necessarily connect, but if you do agree with the above, then this is perhaps helpful in unpacking the lack of health in the larger African American community. Just an insight, not the full solution.

Beginning with chapter 2, entitled “Why Do They Fight?” I’m going to take a few excerpts from Skinner and bring us back to the question, what does emotional healthy stuff have to do with reconciliation? Or as I’ve put in the post title, how close if the past? and what is the speed from slave to free?

What leads to gang warfare? What makes people in Harlem, Watts, the south side of Chicago, the east side of Detroit, the south side of Philadelphia, or the Hill district of Pittsburgh get involved in this kind of thing?  And in particular, people across the world are asking, ‘Why do black people riot?’…And to understand better the frustration and bitterness that fosters gang wars and riots, we have to look beyond the slums themselves. In fact, we need to go back some three hundred years — to when the first slaves were brought to the United States. They were imported from Africa via the West Indies….

Those who did survive were sold on the auction block. The plantation owners and farmers bought black people as easily and disinterestedly as they would buy a draft horse or a milk cow. To the planter, a black person was just another animal to be used on his farm or plantation. They were bred at the whims of their master. Whenever their master felt there was a need for additional slaves, he merely selected a healthy male and healthy female and he head them cohabit until a child was conceived…On and on went the pattern, so that within ten years a slave male could have sired more than hundred sons and daughters, but never really have the privilege of fathering any of them…There was no family life; there was no culture, no discipline set up as far a as home was concerned during all the there hundred years that black people were enslaved in North America….

After the Civil War, President Lincoln issued the famous Emancipation Proclamation, and the slaves were set free. After three hundred years of captivity, the black man was suddenly a free individual. He was told, “Now that you have your freedom, now that you have been emancipated, you must assume responsibility as a human being. You must now become a responsible citizen.”

They turned to this man who was bred like cattle, who perhaps did not even know his children, and asked him to raise his family! Three hundred years separated the black man from life in a family culture. he had never been show or taught what it was to have family responsibility, to be the head of his own home.

Overnight, the black man was told now that he was a free man he must live according to the culture he served and by their standards. Suddenly, he was taught that he must live with one wife and raise and teach his children.

Children who never knew what it was to have a father were suddenly told they must honor, obey and respect their parents.

Skinner goes on to unpack the difficulty of emancipation not in a vacuum, but in the real pressures of the South and as the Black community began to spread out across the country, but just within the context of reading Scazerro and Skinner back to back, I was struck by some of the ramifications this would have on the African American community. When I speak to my more privileged friends, one of the things they are quick to point to is the continuing struggle of the family unit in African American communities to build a healthier system; they cite the high rate of incarceration, and even when not in prison, I have heard more than once that Black men are the weak link in the chain. But when put up against the backdrop of emotional health (which Scazzero would be quick to point out, even our churches don’t give much vocabulary or awareness to), the struggles to be a man who knows how to father and how to be a husband would be extraordinarily daunting. To be emancipated without a narrative of healthy would still be setting one up for failure, no? Or is the past simply the past?