Wednesday, May 28, 2008

For Hope

There was something about her that caught my attention.

At first, she posted anonymously at Cecilia's blog. Then she took on the name of "Hope."

She is married, with children. She is deeply closeted, and in love with her best friend. She is an evangelical Christian, who sees no way out of her marriage or the straitjacket of her life.

We are not so different, Hope and I.

Her posts probably resonated so deeply with me because it was not that long ago that I was where she is. I am straight and a very progressive Christian---but I, too, could see no way out of a marriage that was destroying my soul, and death seemed preferable to remaining where I was.

(For the record, evangelicals are not the only ones who take their commitments to both marriage and God seriously...)

I worry about Hope these days. She started a blog, where she began to talk about her attraction to her best friend and her sadness over her life. Despite the moniker she assumed, she felt hopeLESS and trapped--emotions I know far too well.

What worries me is that she deleted her blog. I think I know why. She was getting too much affirmation from people who are NOT closeted--and probably from people like me, who have lost all hope, only to find it in unexpected places.

It can be disconcerting to find people of faith and goodwill telling you that you do not have to be miserable. That being miserable is not necessarily God's will for your life...

I think about the living, breathing Hope a lot. And I worry about her---about her safety, about her happiness, about her dreams.

To find hope---REAL hope---can be the most frightening experience in life. The "small H" hope is a dangerous thing, I think. The flare of hope causes us to catch our breath and ask difficult questions. It causes us to dream dreams and wish for a different future than the one laid out before us by the expectations of others.

Joseph Campbell, the noted mythologist, once said "“If you can see your path laid out in front of you step by step, you know it's not your path."

That is the truth I came to know about my own life...and
I suspect that Hope saw the possibilities of another life and was scared to death by the prospect.

I understand, but I wish it were otherwise.

I doubt Hope reads my blog, but, if she did, these are the things I would tell her...
  • On a lonely road, I heard God say "You do not have to live this life. There are other options." I'm not really very good at listening, as a rule, but I'm glad I did that time...I suspect that God would like to say the same to you.
  • I believe that Jesus meant it when he said "I am come that you might have life, and have it more abundantly."
  • Children adapt---and a healthy and sane mother is a great gift to any child.
It is a difficult thing to be true to yourself--especially for a woman. Most of us have been taught from infancy to give of ourselves until the needs of others are met---and only then to give what remains to our hearts and souls.

Mostly, I've got no issue with that. As a Christian (albeit an imperfect and struggling one), I think we are all called to do this. As I noted in my post below, I think Jesus had a rather feminine way of looking at life---and he barely hesitated to make the ultimate sacrifice for an ungrateful world.

This is exactly what almost any mother would do.

But I also believe that we serve and honor God best when we are true to ourselves. I know that my relationship with God is on a whole different level since I stopped embracing misery as my lot in life. Misery actually became my shield against God. It became my shield against feeling and love. I cannot believe that honored God--the God of love, mercy, and grace--at all.

Hope, if you are out there, please let us know you are still hanging in. Where there is life...there is Hope. You are not alone...and joy can come in the morning.

I am praying for you, my friend.


Doxy's note: It was late when I wrote this post, so that is my only excuse for forgetting to add one of my favorite poems...

Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune--without the words,
And never stops at all,

And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.

I've heard it in the chillest land,
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.

---Emily Dickinson

Word to the Wise...


...if the devil can't get you to sin,
he'll keep you busy.


---Anne Lamott

Or at least make you waste time on the Internets...



Saturday, May 24, 2008

Another Happy Birthday



Jasper the Wonder Dog turned one today. He has had two parties---one with his dog pals at the Dog Park, and another at home with us. The Little Empress insisted that he needed steak for his supper, and so he had it.

He is one happy---and lucky---dog. We are blessed to have him in our lives.

Happy Birthday, not-so-small Black Dog. We love you.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Revelation

Doxy’s Note: Today is my Dear Friend’s birthday. I have given him a new putter that he hopes will improve his already stellar golf game. But I am a wordsmith, and this is the gift of my heart. I post this because I am rarely so happy with something I’ve written as I was with this...and because I feel I owe him a big debt and ought to acknowledge it publicly. You’ll see why if you actually make it all the way to the end of this VERY long entry...

(For those of you who are irony-challenged, my broadsides about men are done tongue-in-cheek. Well...sort of. Dear Friend “gets” me, so that’s all right, then.)

Happy Birthday, DB! May this year bring you all of the joy you give to me and to all those who love you.


*************************************

Feminists are often accused of hating men. As a card-carrying feminist, I can tell you—we aren’t fond of “men” as a group, but individual men have their uses, I suppose. It’s nice to have one around when you need something heavy moved, or you need help getting something from that shelf you can’t quite reach.

But, mostly, men just get in the way, create more work, or drain the will to live right out of you. They feign cluelessness when they think it will get them out of doing the laundry or taking care of the baby. They wait and let you make all the plans or make the decision—then quiz you endlessly about why you did it that way instead of reading their minds and doing it the “right” way in the first place. They always want to “fix” things, when you simply want someone to listen. And they tend to see any sign of emotion (other than elation or despair related to the win-loss record of their favorite athletic teams) as either alarming or manipulative.

It’s bad enough in a romantic or family relationship, but in the church, all those faults are magnified by the fact that these men have power over your very soul.

***********************************************

I haven’t had very good luck with the men in my life—and the church has been no exception in that regard. I grew up in a church where women weren’t even allowed to pray in public, much less take on any leadership roles (at least outside of the kids’ Sunday School program or the kitchen).

And somehow, the gravest sins—the ones that got the most attention—were attributed to women. We were the ones who brought sin into the world. We were the temptresses. And we were weak and liable to err without a strong male presence to keep us in line.

I suspect that’s why God always seemed so incredibly threatening to me. He was the Ultimate Male. Controlling. Punitive. Misogynistic.

He frightened me to death.

One had to ask how Jesus—a peace-loving panty-waist if there ever was one—managed to carve a place for himself in Christianity?

I used to wonder if he was a terrible disappointment to his Heavenly Father. Oh sure, he mentioned Hell a time or two—and there was that unfortunate incident with tables and a whip in the Temple. But mostly he talked about love and sacrifice and submission—distinctly feminine values that didn’t mesh too well with a God who had ordered the Israelites to bash infants’ brains out as an act of war.

And Jesus went even further. He threw more than one bone to the women—arguing with them as if they were equals, and telling poor Martha that housework was not the be-all and end-all of existence. He actually admonished her to get out of the kitchen and learn something that would feed her soul, rather than waste her time trying to fill the stomachs of the 12 gadabouts who had followed him there and descended on her house like locusts.

Most of all, he was actually willing to admit he was wrong about something. When he refused to heal the little daughter of a Canaanite woman because she wasn’t a Jew, she called him on his prejudices—and the Son of God himself changed his mind. Because of a woman!

I can almost see the disciples looking at each other and shaking their heads in disgust...

I began to develop a sneaking suspicion that Jesus was gay—which would have explained a lot of the animosity aimed in his direction...

Yet somehow, in fairly short order, the church managed to turn him into Warrior Jesus. He was only allowed to be Gentle Jesus, Meek and Mild at Christmas, when he could be a baby for a few weeks and no one minded too much that he was taking a vacation from separating the sheep from the goats and casting the latter into eternal damnation.

The rest of the time he ended up sitting at the right hand of God—who must have handed Jesus a pile of thunderbolts and warned His troublesome only child to get with the program. I can’t imagine what the consequences for refusal could have been, given that he’d already endured being tortured and nailed to a piece of wood, but he seemed to have decided to make Dad happy and take his place in the Family Business.

Michelangelo captured that Jesus—clearly pumped up on some heavenly steroids—on the wall of the Sistine Chapel.

He frightened me too.

With those images dominating my conception of divinity, it isn’t surprising that, by the time I was in college, I was pretty much done with Jesus, God, and the church.

There was just one problem. They apparently weren’t done with me.

*******************************************

They were sneaky about it too, because they managed to get to me through the back door.

You see, I didn’t know too much about this thing called the Holy Spirit.

Yes, we talked about Him some—mostly in the context of reading the Book of Acts and making fun of the Pentecostals who seemed to think that the Holy Ghost (a moniker that had not yet become unfashionable) had decided to hang around with them for a while and give them the ability to speak in gibberish that no one—sometimes not even they—understood.

It was never quite clear to me what the purpose of that particular ability might be—unless the Holy Spirit just had a bully’s sense of humor and enjoyed humiliating people.

Of course, that would have seemed completely in character, given that He was tied up in some weird way with God and Jesus in that strange codependent relationship known as the Holy Trinity. God was mean and Jesus had fallen into line—why would you expect anything different from the other member of the family?

But the truth was that we didn’t think too much about the Holy Spirit—we said we believed in Him, but delving too deeply into the theology of the Spirit was outside the job description for Christians in our pews. The main requirement for that position was to believe what you were told and not ask too many inconvenient theological questions that our poorly educated clergy were unqualified to answer.

Their response to anything they couldn’t explain was to frighten you with dire warnings about doubting the “plain message of Scripture.” If it wasn’t “plain” to you, it meant you were trying to play God by interpreting things to suit yourself, and you might as well start shopping for asbestos underwear.

Fear is an excellent conversation-stopper.

So, by and large, the Holy Spirit wasn’t on my radar screen. And I wouldn’t have recognized it anyway, because I was sure it was a HE, since I’d been told all my life that there were no women in the Godhead—it was strictly an Old Boys’ Club.

And that’s how the Three-in-One got to me. Because She swooped in and called to me. And I answered, because the voice was gentle, loving, and hypnotic—and I wasn’t frightened at all.

***********************************************

I don’t mean to suggest that I made it easy for Her. I didn’t. She had to wait until I was pregnant with my first child—and addled with enough hormones to allow myself to become that cliché of the Baby Boomer going back to religion “for the children”—before She was able to get Her hooks firmly into me and get me back into church.

A very progressive, inclusive, and welcoming church—but church nevertheless.

I would sneak in, sit in the very back row, and wonder how the hell I had been seduced into being there.

And even as I came somewhat sheepishly back into the fold, I drew a line in the sand. NO male ministers. Nonnegotiable. If I couldn’t take communion from a female priest every Sunday, I didn’t want any part of it.

And that’s where She laughed, and started planning my next lesson in faith.

***********************************************

I had checked out the parish online before we moved to the new city. The rector looked good on paper—she was a leading light in the anti-death penalty movement, and the church had a commitment to ministry to the deaf. It looked like a good place for me to be.

But the first Sunday I walked in the place, who should get up to give the sermon but this tall, very attractive...man. Turned out the rector was on a trip to do HIV/AIDS work in Africa for the month, and the new deacon was running the place while she was away.

“Damn!” I thought to myself, “just my luck.”

But the moment he opened his mouth, I was forced to admit—grudgingly—that he was an excellent preacher. And then he talked about how he had been a Southern Baptist minister for 25 years before deciding to swim the Thames and become an Episcopal priest. He wasn’t even ordained yet—three decades of experience in the ministry and he was having to go through the same bureaucratic rigmarole that a wet-behind-the-ears novice had to endure.

I had to admire that. It bespoke a level of humility and commitment I wasn’t used to seeing in a male religious leader. He turned out to be a liberal too. And he quoted Emily Dickinson in his sermons! My interest was piqued, in spite of myself.

And my line in the sand began to erode.

Just when I had gotten used to experiencing the Holy Spirit as female, She decided to incarnate in this man with the piercing grey eyes. I was there the day he was ordained. And I took communion from his hands the first time he ever celebrated the Eucharist.

I was surprised to find that I felt every bit as blessed as I did when I received from a woman. Still got the same shivers down my spine. Still felt moved to tears by the mystery and the grace.

Over the years, he and I became friends. He started to tease me about becoming a priest myself, somehow talked me into teaching several Adult Education classes, and pushed me to consider what my call to serve really was. He was relentless—but in a cheerful way that made me feel valued and supported, rather than bullied.

And while he did all those things, he began to shatter everything I thought I knew about men in the church.

He prefaced everything he said with “This is what *I* think...” which was always followed by “But what do you think?”

He embraced feminism—he even called me on my frequent use of masculine pronouns for God! The irony of that was not lost on me...

He welcomed all—regardless of race, status, or orientation—in the name of Christ, radiated a passion for God and a joy in his faith that I had never witnessed before, and, miracle of miracles, was able to laugh at himself.

The line got fainter and fainter.

And then, on a Maundy Thursday, he did what no man who was charged with caring for my soul had ever done before—he knelt down in front of me and, with gentle hands, he humbly and tenderly washed my feet. In that moment, I felt the rush of the Holy Spirit flowing through his hands—Her energy, his touch—and I went back to my seat and wept for wonder at it.

He was a revelation, an epiphany, and a blessing all rolled up into one 6 ft. tall package.

The final wave of understanding hit the beach of my resistance—and the line in the sand disappeared completely.

*******************************

So now I write an open letter to my Dear Friend, and make my confession.

I was wrong.

Just as Jesus allowed himself to be jolted out of his prejudices by a person who confounded them, I have had to give up mine because of you. I am grateful that you have schooled me so gently and kindly.

You make me believe that Jesus may not have gone into the thunderbolt business after all. And that maybe God is more interested in creating poetry, music, art, and the stars in the heavens than He is in punishing and destroying the fragile creatures into whom He breathed the breath of life.

******************************************

I hear the Holy Spirit laughing again. It is a joyful laugh—gentle, loving, and hypnotic. She is not finished with me yet—there are lessons to be learned, paths to walk, and a call to live in to. But She has given me a friend—a man—with whom to learn and walk and laugh and love...

And I am not frightened at all.






*******************************

Because both Dear Friend and I are poetry freaks, I feel compelled to offer this wonderful poem to him and to the rest of you. Enjoy!

Revelation Must Be Terrible

Revelation must be
terrible with no time left
to say goodbye.

Imagine the moment
staring at the still waters
with only the brief tremor

of your body to say
you are leaving everything
and everyone you know behind.

Being far from home is hard, but you know,
at least, we are exiled together.
When you open your eyes to the world

you are on your own
for the first time. No one
is even interested in saving you now

and the world steps in
to test the calm fluidity of your body
from moment to moment

as if it believed you could join
its vibrant dance
of fire and calmness and final stillness.

As if you were meant to be exactly
where you are, as if
like the dark branch of a desert river

you could flow on without a speck
of guilt and everything
everywhere would still be just as it should be.

As if your place in the world mattered
and the world could
neither speak nor hear the fullness of

its own bitter and beautiful cry
without the deep well of your body resonating in the echo.

Knowing that it takes only
that one, terrible
word to make the circle complete,

revelation must be terrible
knowing you can
never hide your voice again.

---David Whyte

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Let's Talk About Race... (Part 3)

People don't like to be told they are sinners. And they really don't want to be told they are racists. The only appellation worse than “racist” in America is “pedophile.” Nobody wants to be called one.

Most of us have a lot invested in "niceness." We are disturbed when people tell us that our niceness is a facade for maintaining unfair advantage. It makes us feel anxious and defensive, and the most natural reaction is to deny that we even notice race!

Or, better yet, to start listing our friends of color...

(BTDT, and I'm ashamed to say I have the T-shirt...)

Minorities who point out White privilege are always called "angry" and/or "bitter." (Feminists get the same treatment when they point out male privilege.) On the other hand, Whites who point it out are often accused of wanting to be Black themselves, or of doing so out of "liberal guilt."

(Just in case you wondered, I don’t want to be Black, and I’m not a liberal---in the United States of America, 2008, I’m an all-out radical. Which is rather a pathetic state of affairs...)

Almost always, the “conversation” ends with: "Why don't you just forget the past and move on?!" Which is easy to say when you hold the "keys to the kingdom," in terms of economics and education and good health.

If I have learned only one thing in all my years of studying history and politics and engaging in political activism, it is this...

Niceness is the enemy of fairness.

*********************************

Ultimately, if you are White, the question is not "Are you a racist?" Of course you are! So am I. You cannot have grown up in the majority culture and escape being one.

(Here's where some of you will jump in and start talking about Black racism. Different kettle of fish, since they are not in a position to impose their prejudices on you in any systemic way. Basically all they can do is say "I hate White people!" And honestly...who could blame them?)

The question is "What are you going to do about it?"

**************************

From our earliest days on this earth, we have been surrounded and nurtured by imperfect human beings, who seem to have some deep need to define themselves as superior to others. If this were not so, there would be no history of pogroms, war, and genocide. (Incidentally, there would be no advertising industry either...).

But we also seem to have a deep need to put the responsibility for racism anywhere but on ourselves or on the structure of our society. Again, Grace made a comment that I've heard a thousand times:
I don't think any of us can be held responsible for something that happened decades ago, and that we weren't involved in at all, for heaven's sake.
She's right on one score---none of us can be blamed for the social structure we inherited. But the data are conclusive---we are not talking about "something that happened decades ago." We are talking about what is happening right now, and we ARE responsible for that.

De jure racism is technically no longer allowable, but de facto racism is alive and well and living in your/my head, your/my house, and your/my community.

If we can't admit that, we simply can't move ahead.

In that sense, racism is like alcoholism. You can't begin to get better until you admit there is a problem.

***********************

I need to note at this point that, for me, this is a spiritual issue. I am not here to discuss racism from a sociological point of view (though I've tried to offer data to prove that racism is alive and well in our nation) or a political one.

I'm here to talk about what God asks of us in this world---and I find that most of the Christians I know are suspiciously deaf when it comes to a couple of subjects (i.e., race and money).

I think it's way past time for Christians to lower our "defense shields" and talk openly and honestly about what it means to be White and Black (and Hispanic, Native American, and Asian/Pacific Islander) in America--and to talk honestly about the way that our faith both impedes our progress toward a just society and supports our efforts to achieve it.

Because I believe our faith demands that we look at ourselves as clearly and honestly as possible---and that part of our job is to usher in the Kingdom of God in the here and now.

We cannot usher in that Kingdom if we refuse to listen to hard truths.

Doxy's Note: Next week, I'll talk about Jesus and race. In the meantime, I've got two special things to post this week. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Coming Soon to a Blog Near You...

I'm not avoiding the rest of the race stuff. It's worse than that.

I'm switching computers.

Please pray for me...

(I'll be back as soon as I can!)

Thursday, May 08, 2008

And Now for Something Completely Different...

I need a brief interlude from thinking about race...

My Dear Friend is in Philadelphia this week. He is doing important work for God, and I am thrilled that he has that opportunity. It is a mark of the respect with which he is viewed by those outside the church that he has been invited to participate in this, and a wonderful opportunity to make a positive difference in the world.

But I miss him terribly. A few of you know our story---and maybe I'll post the whole thing one day. But for now, it continues to stun me how much I want to be with him. I had given up on the idea of true love---and now I am drowning in it.

Fans of MadPriest will know that, recently, he solicited his readers' favorite love songs. I know that he's never going to post the one I sent him---it's country and sappy, and I knew when I sent it that it wouldn't meet his exacting musical standards. But it is the story of my life these days...so to my Dear Friend, I offer this:



(This song has the added advantage of having been co-written by Marcus Hummon, who is married to the Episcopal chaplain at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN--my grad school alma mater.)

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Let's Talk About Race...(Part 2)

No one wants to admit that they notice race in this country.

America is home to a nation full of White people who insist that they are "color-blind." We love to pretend that we've opened the doors of economic and social success to all comers---as long as they speak "proper English," dress the way we think they should, and are properly grateful for being allowed to enter, of course.

No one wants to admit to being either poor or rich in this country, either.

America is also the home of the vast "middle class." When Americans are asked to define their social class, most of them choose "middle class," including over a third of those whose annual income tops $150K.

We define ourselves as "middle class" when we aren't because we like to think that we're just "regular folks"--not wealthy people who perpetuate our economic advantages at the expense of others.

We paper over issues of class and race because we have an almost unshakable belief in America as a meritocracy, where all those who are willing to work hard can succeed.

I hate to put it this bluntly, but "meritocracy" is as "real" as Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy. Those who start out with advantages (e.g., stable family, safe living environment, sufficient income, health care, good schools) enjoyed predominantly by White, middle/upper-middle class Americans continue to build on those advantages for the rest of their lives. Individual efforts and choices will certainly play a role---but, let's face it...the deck is stacked from the beginning.

If you are White and middle/upper-middle class, you and I were BORN on third base. Let's not be disingenuous and convince ourselves that we hit a triple...

**********************************************

Folks in academia talk a lot about "White privilege." It basically means that the social structure rewards White people, and enables them to live in a world where their race is not an impediment to anything.

(If you really want to understand something about "White privilege," read this article by Peggy McIntosh---if you dare. It's 20 years old and, sadly, her list of privileges that attach to Whiteness are as applicable today as they were when the article was first published.)

For example, if you are White, you probably went to good schools that had plenty of experienced teachers, sufficient supplies, extracurricular activities, etc. You have probably never had any trouble getting credit. You have probably had good health care from the day you were born. If you are out of your 20s, you very likely own your own home.

If you are African American (or Hispanic), none of these things is a given. The gaps in income, home ownership, and educational achievement persist, and---in some cases---are widening.

Them what has, gets, people. To deny that is to be willfully ignorant. And White people has.

**************************************

There are well-to-do African Americans, of course. Getting ahead is not impossible---just less likely and far more difficult.

And there is a price to pay for doing so. You will always be held up as an example of the possibility of success---White people who don't want to change the system will point to you when they want to deny that racism keeps anyone from succeeding. You will be the only data point some people choose to accept.

Meanwhile, infant mortality rates for African American infants are 3.5 times higher than for Whites. One third of African American children live in poverty (compared to 10% of White children), and high-achieving African American students are losing ground in the educational race. If you are Black, on average, you will die 5 years earlier than a White person.

Those statistics are not from decades ago. They are the latest numbers the United States government and reputable research organizations have to offer.

From birth to death, being Black is a disadvantage.

So remind me again how race is no longer a factor in this country? And remind me again why the Reverend Jeremiah Wright--a Christian within the long and honorable prophetic tradition--has no business being angry?

***********************************

You see, I view the thorny, contentious issue of race through the lens of faith. And my faith tradition reminds me that God, in both the Word made Flesh and in scripture, has shown a decided preference for the poor and racially downtrodden (think both Jews and Samaritans)---as well as a decided intolerance for those who store up grain in their barns while others go hungry.

God also seems to have a preference for people who lay it on the line--who speak the truth, despite the costs to themselves. Isaiah---who, according to tradition, was put inside a hollow log by the evil king, Manasseh, and sawed in half in retaliation for his preaching. Jeremiah---who, legend has it, was stoned to death by his fellow Jews in Egypt for calling them on their sins. Paul--who is alleged to have been beheaded in Rome for preaching the Gospel.

Jesus himself said some pretty harsh things during his time on Earth. Calling people "vipers" and "whited sepulchers" (an interesting turn on the question of color BTW!) is not "nice." I love to focus on the compassionate Jesus as much as the next person---but you've got to admit that Jesus shook people up by his strong rhetoric. In fact, it got him killed.

I think strong rhetoric around race is way overdue---and I think the Church should be screaming from the roof tops about 400+ years of systemic discrimination against people of color in America. We should all be angry about the fact that the Church has, time and again, been an apologist for racism and a refuge for people who refuse to admit their complicity in a system that limits opportunities based purely on skin color.

According to Louie Crew, noted civil rights leader Aaron Henry was once asked whether the church had been a light during the struggle for justice. `The church a light?' he said...`Yeah, a tail light.'

When it comes to race, we Christians have a lot to answer for. We have been the tail light, rather than a light to the nations.

Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, misere nobis.

***************************************

As I read your comments, this series is morphing. It may end up being shorter than 5 (or longer!), so I'm going to take the numbers off the posts. We'll just chat until we don't have anything more to say...

Thanks,
Doxy

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Let's Talk About Race...(Part 1)

Y'all can either thank or blame Grace for about half of my blog entries. She and I were discussing the whole Jeremiah Wright flap at Shuck and Jive the other day, and I started typing and couldn't stop.

One thing I have learned---when I start writing novels in the comment section of other people's blogs, it's time to move it back over here, so...here we are. I'm sure that the good Reverend Shuck will be relieved that I showed some self-restraint in his comment box... ;-)

**********************************

Race is a tough thing to talk or write about. People are rarely honest about the issue, in my experience. The issue of race cuts to the heart of everything we believe about ourselves as individuals and about this nation as the pinnacle of human governance.

Talking about race forces us to recognize things we don't really want to know. Most of us don't want to admit that the very structure of our society condemns whole groups of people to begin, live, and end their lives in a subordinate position. Or that some of us benefit disproportionately from that social structure, whether we want to or not.

The toughest issue of all is our unwillingness to admit that we WANT to continue to reap those unfair benefits...certainly more than we want to level the playing field. We dress our desire to succeed at the expense of others in language about hard work and ambition, and we lie to ourselves about our own merits--because to do otherwise would require us to give up things we want for ourselves and our children.

In the end, we choose our own success and desires over what is right or fair. It has ever been thus, but to people who call themselves Christians, I believe it is one of the most glaring and reprehensible of sins.

The issue of race reveals in us the worst of human selfishness and a deeply rooted unwillingness to be honest with either ourselves or others. That, I believe, is why we don't like to talk about it.

But never let it be said that Doxy shies away from controversy! Let's put on the asbestos underwear and get started...

****************************************************

I started this post in reaction to some things that Grace was posting in the thread referenced above. I don't quote her to pick on her specifically. Her opinions on this issue are quite common among middle-class Whites:

As far as I know, I've never discriminated, or held someone down in my life based on race.

I think the power of pervasive discrimination in our country has been broken. I think it's more the exception for folks to be denied an education, or viable employment based in race.
From my perspective as a trained social scientist and historian, there are so many problems to these statements that I barely even know where to start.

First, it really doesn't matter if you, as an individual, have ever discriminated. Our entire social structure has been built on discrimination of one sort or another. The economy runs on the unpaid or underpaid work of minorities and women.

(Imagine how things would be different, for example, if women were paid for their labor in the home and with children! A subject for another post...)

If you are White, you are, quite simply, the beneficiary of 400 years of slavery and discrimination. Whether you've ever had a prejudicial thought in your life, you reap the benefits of the color of your skin. All you have to do is breathe.

How do I know this? Because I can look at the data that shows things from the other end of the spectrum.

Every single indicator I know of shows African Americans in a less favorable position than Whites.

Every. Single. One.
  • Infant mortality
  • Education
  • Income
  • Home Ownership
  • Health
You name it, and African Americans do worse. (I'd give you cites for all of these, but it's taken me too damned long just to write this post as it is. If you want the data, Google is your friend. I do suggest you check out the Pew Foundation's report on social and demographic trends.)

You could argue that these statistics are based on class, rather than race. But given that African Americans have remained in the lower socioeconomic strata because of persistent discrimination in education, housing, etc.--discrimination enforced for a long time by the laws of our own government---I contend that the onus is on you to prove that race is not a factor.

If fact, I will go even further and ask: How can you (collective "you") possibly believe that racism is not a major cause of those disparities?

Or will you come out and admit that you believe Black people are stupid and lazy and choose to be poorer, less educated, and sicker?

Because you've really only got two options there---African Americans face an uphill battle in life because of discrimination or they are inherently inferior to Whites. Logic (and the data) demands that you choose one.

(To be continued....)
**********************************

I will be posting this reflection in sections, because it grew so large that I knew no one would read it in one sitting! I'll probably post a new section every other day or so, in order to give time for comments.

Because I've been around the Web a time or two, I know what kind of comments a post like this is likely to draw. Therefore, I'm putting all comments on moderation for a while. Civil disagreements are great, and I encourage them---but as Father Jake says, this blog is the equivalent of my living room. If you say something here that would cause me to show you the door in my home, you can expect that I will delete your comments---so save us both the trouble. Thanks, Doxy.