It’s said that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. travelled with a copy of Howard Thurman’s seminal book, Jesus and the Disinherited. True or not, “considering the generations-long relationships between the King and Thurman families, Martin likely had the message of these pages etched on his heart,” writes Vincent Harding in the book’s forward.
I’ve been marinating on this book since November’s book club, and keep coming back to its central question, a haunting one which hides itself in the book’s title.
I’ll get to that question in a minute.
Continue reading “The Disinherited”
“The white man’s god is just like the white man. He thinks he is the only god, just like the white man thinks he is the only man.” –Ma Aku, from Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
Homegoing’s beautiful journey widens the canvas of history and offers me another chance to consider a world that I am not the center of. Yaa Gyasi’s novel connects generational stories from the heart of West Africa to America and back — with a long view of history. I loved reading it, and was affected by it in ways that are worth reflecting on: taking a wider view of history allows us to decenter ourselves.
Continue reading “Homegoing: Out of the Center”
[based on research by Southern Poverty Law Center]
This was originally published a few years ago but recent events – repeated events – are causing me to dig in again, and I know many of you are too. When I take the short-view of Race in America – this week, this year, this decade – I respond with words like, “Shocked”, “Surprised”, and “Where did this come from?”. With those responses, I no longer need to tell you my skin is white. You already know.
Because none of this is a surprise to People of Color, as I’m hearing time and again. My surprise doesn’t mean it wasn’t happening, it means I wasn’t listening. The re-post below (with some editing) written after a 2017 Unite the Right rally at a confederate memorial in Charlottesville, shows but a few more strands that look different when seen as part of the whole. At least, I went into it thinking it was only a few strands… Continue reading “Whose Heritage?”
“The objective reality is that virtually no one who is white understands the challenge of being black in America.”
These past two weeks. Have left me with a dry mouth, unable to form words. I wanted to be able to say more but the letters on the screen all blurred together.
The death of George Floyd was but one in a long line of wake-up calls about racial disparity, but it’s a loud one.
But this dares me to have hope: that we might all agree there is a problem. And when we do, our call is to stay focused on addressing this problem amidst all the distracting reactions and counter-reactions.
“How did I miss this?”
To move forward, though, we must Continue reading “A Dry Mouth”
Pause to think for a moment: you’re boarding a public bus to head downtown for some errands, maybe to the department store before a Saturday lunch at a barstool diner. In front of you, an older gentlemen steps onto the bus, pays, and turns walks past the only empty seat in the front, all the way to the back where he will stand for the ride, because where he sits depends not on his age or order of boarding, but on the color of his skin. You follow him onto the bus and then, because your skin is white, rest yourself in that front seat.
White people in the front, Black people in the back.
And when you get off that bus, heading toward Woolworths, you stop for a drink at a water fountain. There’s a water fountain clearly designated for you, which you enjoy before a quick stop at the “Whites only” bathroom.
All of this happens out in the open, right there in the 1950s, in front of God and everybody. Continue reading “Tied into a Single Garment of Destiny with MLK”
Your deconstruction is not just for you. — Jeff Chu
The Evolving Faith conference just ended: it’s the first trip in a long time where I don’t want to go back home. Autumn in Denver was sunny and crisp, sure, but the geographical magic was in the soul. Continue reading “Your Deconstruction is not just for you”
“When we rode home together that afternoon, side by side in the backseat of his mother’s blue sedan, I was silent and so was he, pretending nothing had happened between us that day. But inside of me, something still and deep, something precious, had broken.”
Within the first chapter of Nicole Chung’s book, All You Can Ever Know, she’s heard her first racist slur. A schoolmate pulls “his eyes into slits”, sing-song chanting at her before they hop in the carpool together, like nothing happened. It’s only the 2nd grade, but the parents who adopted her at birth had insisted on being colorblind, which means this is her first introduction to race.
It’s taken me months to figure out why this book was so impacting — why I carried her story around in my heart as one of my own. Its influence on me didn’t entirely make sense, aside from the writer’s axiom that the more specific and personal the work, the more universal it is. But there is something more here, something I may not entirely want to talk about. Continue reading “All You Can Ever Know”