Racism is still with us; it just has a different look

The city of Sanford, Fla. had already contributed a paragraph to the narrative of race relations in America decades before Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman were born. Jackie Robinson, in the midst of his long and difficult path to breaking baseball’s color barrier, was booted from the ballpark in Sanford for the offense of being a black man in a white stadium. As a local historian puts it:

“While playing in Sanford, Florida, Robinson singled, stole second base, then scored a hit run only to find the Sheriff waiting on him in the dugout with handcuffs. He was removed from the game.”


Jackie Robinson (LOOK Magazine)

67 years later, Sanford is a much different place. Formerly a steamboat port dependent on the citrus trade, it is now a cosmopolitan bedroom community for Orlando, which sits 20 miles to the south. Sanford is not quite the Southern hamlet it once was, as U.S. 17/92 now bypasses the quaint downtown area to get tourists to the Central Florida Zoo and Botanical Gardens or to the southern terminus of Amtrak’s Auto Train. Interstate 4 carries thousands of daily commuters within a half-mile of the Twin Lakes gated community where the Martin shooting took place.

I do not know whether or not George Zimmerman suspected, accosted and shot Trayvon Martin because he was black. The words that pundits have spoken, written and yelled before, during and after the trial have been based on speculation. Zimmerman himself is the only one alive who really knows what happened. Those who were convinced of his guilt before the trial are angry that he was acquitted. Those who were convinced of his innocence before the trial feel vindicated.

Regardless of Zimmerman’s guilt or innocence, the trial has exposed what blacks in America have known all this time: racism is alive and well in this country. We cannot dance around the issue any more.

Americans make the mistake of identifying racism as a personality trait, creating an imaginary dichotomy between those who are “racist” and those who are “not racist.” Being called a racist angers people because they take it mean that they are being lumped together with Nazis, Klan members and other undesirables. However, identifying racism as a trait not only creates labels (which is kind of how we got to racism in the first place), but it also misses the point. Missing from the racism debate is the very Christian notion that it is not “racists” who are bad, but racist thoughts and actions.

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Blessed are the apologeticists; the Kingdom of Catholic Media belongs to them (The Badattitudes)

This post is the first in a series I’m calling The Badattitudes, which are Beatitudes that did not make the cut at the Sermon on the Mount, but are followed as though they were.

I know what you’re thinking. “Apologeticists” is not a real word; I meant to say “apologists,” right? Just bear with me.

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When does the bad outweigh the good? (Gettin’ Giglio with it)

“It matters very little to me what you, or any man, thinks of me – I don’t even value my opinion of myself. For I might be quite ignorant of any fault in myself – but that doesn’t justify me before God. My only true judge is the Lord.

The moral of this is that we should make no hasty or premature judgments. When the Lord comes he will bring into the light of the day all that at present is hidden from darkness, and he will expose the secret motives of men’s hearts. Then shall God himself give each man his share of praise.” – First Corinth 4:3-5 (J.B. Phillips)

Many of the culture war salvos of the past week have been launched in response to evangelical pastor Louie Giglio’s withdrawal from president Barack Obama’s inauguration. Giglio, who heads Passion City Church in Atlanta, stepped down after liberal activist website Think Progress posted a link to a mid-1990s sermon with some less-than-flattering statements about homosexuality.

Did this have to happen? Was this a case of the president appointing a bigot or censorship of conscience?

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Reflections from CTA Conference 2008

NextGen Leadership Team

NextGen Leadership Team

It was a busy, festive weekend of catching up with old friends (and meeting some new ones) this past weekend in Milwaukee.  I am pretty indebted to the NextGen Leadership Team for providing a spark to my faith throughout the year, especially our outgoing members (Shane, Emma and Dawn).  I would highly encourage any of you who are interested in being a part of this creative, committed team to consider nominating yourself (or a friend).  You can get nomination forms by emailing Nicole.

I personally had a good time doing a presentation with a new buddy, Matt Bigelow (I had never met Matt until we began presenting on Saturday).  We were talking about how to use web technology in order to better reach people.  The workshops were well received, probably about 40-50 people in attendance at each session.  There was a lot of interest because of Barack Obama’s recent election to the White House – and his use of technology to get there.  As Matt pointed out, Obama was named Advertising Age’s marketer of the year.  The audience was great because of being patient – many in our audience use technology like it’s second nature, and others needed help in defining key terms.  The two best pieces of feedback that I got were that it was nice to see young people doing a presentation at the conference that was catered to an audience of any age.  It was also nice to hear that this blog has helped to create new leadership positions for editors, writers, and commentators.  Honestly, the real reason I wanted to do the workshop was to promote this blog, and we did see an abnormally high readership for a weekend this past weekend.

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Book Review: “Dreams from My Father” by Barack Obama

One of the best things about finishing grad school is getting to catch up on books that I’ve wanted to read for 3 years!  I just finished Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance by Barack Obama.

It’s refreshing to read his words from before he received national fame.  The book outlines his childhood, from being born in Hawaii, to his 3 years in Indonesia when his mom remarried, to high school years in Hawaii, and then his attempts to make it in NYC before going to Chicago to become a community organizer on the South Side, primarily with residents in a public housing complex.

The book has raw honesty, from various lifestyle choices that he made along the way, mistakes and victories in his personal and professional life, and the beginnings of consciousness of having dark skin in America and Chicago.  The story concludes with meeting relatives for the first time in his father’s homeland of Kenya, where more puzzle pieces in his life seem to contradict rather than fit together – perhaps a prelude to how it is to live and relate to all the diverse needs in the United States.
Perhaps one of the most illuminating parts of the book are Obama’s firsthand accounts of the first time he heard of and then met Rev. Jeremiah Wright, the retired pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago.  Of course, Rev. Wright now has the claim to fame of causing so much political unrest for Obama with his controversial statements.  However, from the outset in conversations between the two, Wright made it clear to Obama that the congregation was not just about him as the pastor.  It was about facilitating leadership among the congregation’s members, with all the various opinions and interests that make up such a large congregation.

I figure it’s great to read the firsthand words and accounts from anyone who is running in this election.  His first book, written just out of law school, is a bit long-winded but it’s great to learn how one presidential candidate came of age and formed his consciousness.