You know I’m Not Racist, but…

A number of people I know (and love), as well as several folks who have commented either on my blog or my Facebook page, have recently said something to the effect of “You know I’m not racist, but…”

Let’s stop right there and think about this.

On the positive side, yes: I am certain all of these people view themselves as not racist, and try hard to not act toward people of color (or think of them) in ways that are racist or uncaring. This is a good thing. (And frankly, if they did otherwise, we wouldn’t be friends! ) But, as with all things, how we define our terms really matters. And so, are we all using the word “Racist” in the same way?

The answer is “No, we’re not.”

Now I could give you a long dissertation as to why I myself am not racist. I certainly have many reasons to consider myself better informed and sensitive to this issue than many of not most of those who share my skin color are.

Unfortunately, the reverse is true: all those years of experience and introspection have taught me that I truly am racist – and here’s why…

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A Perspective on #DefundThePolice

Years ago, as a naive but well meaning 30-something, I was walking and talking with a Black woman in her neighborhood, one of the poorest in Tidewater Virginia.  When she mentioned some recent problems with crime in the area, I asked why she didn’t call the police.  She snorted and said, “They are not our friends” and then went on to explain why.  

Her words shocked me, but I also learned something: not all Police see themselves as public servants. Some see themselves as an occupying force: “Us vs. Them.”  And, just like in any war zone, that breeds fear and hate.  Occupiers are not granted trust or respect.

With my eyes opened to this reality, it is distressing – and angering – to see just how prevalent this is in communities all over the country.  I am not at all surprised to see this anger boiling over now, it’s been a long time coming.

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I Slept Well Last Night: Reflections on My White Privilege

I slept well last night after having a peaceful, productive, day:

  • I puttered about in my vegetable and flower gardens.
  • I recorded a sermon for this coming Sunday’s Pentecost service, and conferred with our Church’s Senior Minister on some aspects of the process.
  • I did some research into what needs to be done for our church to re-open, and when that should happen.
  • I visited with my Mother, who lives nearby.
  • I went grocery shopping (a little frustrated because I can’t find my favorite Organic Fair Trade Instant Coffee anywhere).
  • Paid some bills.
  • I took delivery on a new lawn mower (to replace an ancient one that recently died).
  • I played with my son.
  • I made plans with my wife for tasks that need to be done in the next few days.
  • I did a fair amount of Facebooking.
  • And, at the end of the day, I spent some time watching Marvel’s “Doctor Strange” on streaming video.

In other words, I did nothing really unusual – at least not unusual for me in this time of the COVID-19 Shutdown.

Life continues – albeit at a slightly slower pace.

But consider the way the days and nights have gone recently for many of my friends, particularly Ministers, who are both Male and Black…

Continue reading “I Slept Well Last Night: Reflections on My White Privilege”

Re-Opening the Economy: Loving Thy Neighbor

If the government dictates that we must close down the economy, then it is incumbent upon that same government to ensure that the people – ALL the people – can survive that shutdown, and have a reasonable hope of returning to fruitful and stable lives afterwards.

When I hear and read of these protests to end the COVID-19 Lockdown and re-open the Economy, what I mostly hear is fear: particularly the (well-founded) fear of losing one’s home and livelihood in the current economic shutdown.

I hear a desperate cry to return things back to the way they were, even though that is not possible. I hear the fear of people who do not have the resources they need to survive this plague for an indefinite period of time. I hear the fear of people who are grasping for hope. These protestors are yelling for “Freedom.” To me, it is clear what they mean is “Freedom From Fear”. But, they can only imagine that Freedom on their own terms: not within the context of being a member-of, and dependent upon, the society around them. They believe that Freedom from responsibility to their neighbor is the only way to survive.

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Might Makes Right (Or, What Are We Teaching Them?)

Some of my friends and family who are only slightly older than me well-remember the “Duck and Cover” drills that schools conducted in the 1950’s and early 60’s, at the height of the Cold War. What they mostly remember when they talk of those drills is the fear, the feeling of helplessness, the terror that some bogeyman (in that case named “The USSR” or “The Communists” was going to use to press a button or turn a key that would cause a terrible and evil weapon (Nuclear Bombs) to take everything away: their homes, their school, their friends, their lives. Nuclear Bombs. The ultimate weapon of terror.

And so, what were we kids being taught in these drills so long ago?

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About the Billy Graham Rule

The Gospel is very clear and very explicit on this: It is we who must change to include others. They are not called to conform themselves to our standards.

There’s been quite a furor in the news recently (as noted in this link to a column on CNN) about two lawmakers in Mississippi who are invoking what they call “The Billy Graham Rule.” They are using it to shut women out of the political process in ways that are what I’d term antediluvian: resorting to tropes and portrayals of women that we know to have never been respectful, let alone accurate, and which have the effect of oppressing and excluding women from public life; keeping them under the control of men; and treating them more as property than as persons worthy of respect in their own right.

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There But For The Grace of God Go I

Florida Governor Ralph Northam in Blackface,  1984There’s been quite an outcry against Virginia Governor Ralph Northam (D), just as there was a couple of weeks ago against Florida’s Secretary of State to be, Michael Ertel (R). In both cases, both men – and both quite a few years ago – did some things that were at best ill-advised and insensitive at the time, and which are now seen (rightly) as very racist.
Both are examples of judgment being levied before the facts are known, just as we recently saw happen in the encounter of Covington Catholic High School Students with Native American activist Nathan Philips in Washington DC.
In looking closely at the careers of Governor Northam and Mr. Ertel, we see men who are very focused on a just and fair political system for everyone. We see men who have been taking principled stands against those who would undermine our political systems in the name of power and advantage.

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Healthcare Crisis Renewed

The recent court decision in Texas that invalidates the entire ACA (a decision that will be subject, no doubt, to numerous appeals and a future SCOTUS decision) exposes the fatal flaw at the heart of the ACA.  That is is that the ACA in effect requires that universal medical care be funded mainly by employers.  But, is that fair or reasonable to do?
 
The ACA relies on the largely ad hoc mechanisms for provision of healthcare that have sprung up in the USA over the last few decades as a result of our lack of political will and ability to address the issue in a comprehensive fashion.  And, when you think about it, what we have is not a workable or fair approach. Our sky high healthcare costs and byzantine insurance and medical system are the result of all this. — Which is why  employer based healthcare insurance is an approach not used in most other countries; and why government funded universal healthcare is the norm – and very successful.
 
While the Texas decision breaks the partial and beneficial mechanisms that ACA provided. But, it was never a complete or totally viable solution; nor was it ever envisioned as such.  Ultimately, we cannot rely on employer-based insurance to fix all of the problems in our healthcare system; and Congress knew that when the ACA was passed.

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GM is not the problem

Regarding the just-announced GM Factory shutdowns. It’s economic reality: the market is changing, the company is pivoting to be a leader rather than a follower in responding to those changes.
 
Companies that do not adjust as the market changes will die – as Sears recently did.
 
The world is always changing, nothing is ever certain. Much of the “Wisdom Literature” in the Bible: Job, Lamentations, Proverbs, reflects and even dwells on this. The nature of a change can sometimes be influenced or tempered, but change itself cannot be stopped.
 
So, I’m not impressed with all of the furor condemning GM for it’s announcement. It’s all political posturing, and won’t last long – as GM well knows.
 
What I want to know is whether the change is being done in as compassionate and careful way as possible: is the company (and, even more importantly, State and Federal governments) doing enough to help those who will be losing their jobs? Will they be doing enough to help the affected communities and local businesses transition to life without GM?

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Is Government Regulation Simply Bad?

The New York Times recently published an opinion piece (“A Bad Move That Exposes Kids to Chemicals“) that tells us why the Administration’s recent move to undermine the Environmental Protection Agency’s  (EPA’s) “Office of Children’s Health Protection” is very worrisome, and likely to have profoundly negative effects upon the health of our nation’s children.
If, as I expect, the ultimate reason for this possible torpedoing of yet another important and productive EPA program is because it is “hurting the profitability of American companies”, then one must consider what that long-held gospel of the GOP really means.

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Sexual Violence and Redemption

In thinking of the alleged crimes of SCOTUS Nominee Brett Kavanaugh, I find myself wrestling with a thorny issue: one that has been seen over and over again in the long list of sexual predators who have been revealed (or accused) in the recent past.

To begin with, let’s get one thing perfectly clear.  Any sexual crime, no matter how seemingly minor it is (or was), nor how long ago, nor whom the aggressors (or victims) were, is precisely that: a crime.  It must be treated as such.  It is NOT something to be swept under the rug, nor hidden, nor ignored.  Those who are the victims of such crimes – no matter how fragmentary and disjointed their memories seem to be – must be heard.  They must be treated with respect, with compassion, with impartiality, and without prejudgment as to who they are, or how valid or invalid of a person (or victim) others may portray them to be.

Frankly, any victim of oppression must always be presumed to be telling the truth – until proven otherwise.  Our first and foremost duty is to immediately see them, hear them, and protect them,  They must be kept safe, and feel safe, from further aggression by either the original oppressor / abuser, or from the attacks of others.

And that leads me to my main point, which is a twofold concern.

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Thoughts on Judge Brett Kavanaugh & Professor Christine Blasey Ford

1024px-Judge_Brett_KavanaughBy now I’m sure you’ve heard of the accusation being laid at the feet of Judge Kavanaugh during the Senate’s Confirmation hearings for his nomination to the Supreme Court.  Namely, that at age 17, while “stumbling drunk,” he attempted to rape a then 15 year old young woman.

Several thoughts…

As we know, the Republicans are crying “Foul” because this accusation was revealed at almost the last minute before the Committee was to vote on whether to recommend that the Senate as a whole approve Kavanugh’s nomination.

Democrats have been saying all along that the process the GOP is using (what there is of it) egregiously flouts both the written and unwritten rules and guidelines that have always guided the process: shutting out all opposing or questioning voices from the process in a rush to get another conservative seated on the Court while Republicans still have control of the Senate.

As I (and many others) see it, it is more than a bit disingenuous for the GOP to call “foul” at the Democrat’s attempt to throw a wrench in the process when the GOP did exactly that with wild aplomb with regards to the nominations of hundreds of Judges for years – until they had control of both the Senate and the White House.  A case in point being President Obama’s nomination of Judge Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court.

So, the GOP will get no sympathy from me on this.  To put it another way, “What goes around comes around.”

That being said, the real heart of the matter is how one should respond to Professor Blasey Ford’s claim of Kavanaugh’s attempted rape of her.

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