The Persistent Racism of Theological Schools

Adam Dyer:

I look at this article and I gather great hope because of the questions it raises. It makes me ask these questions of my current academic home (The Pacific School of Religion) and my previous one (Starr King School for the Ministry.) It also makes me ask these questions outside of the academy and in government and commerce? Check our Part II as well!

Originally posted on Our Lucha:

GraduationAcademic departments of religion lack faculty of color not because they have difficulty finding any; but simply, they lack the will to hire any. If you are considering attending a theological school that does not have core professors (as oppose to adjuncts) who are from multiple communities of color, or simply has the one or two tokens, then seek another school. If the faculty fails to represent the diversity of the population, then that school – even if it claims to be among the Ivies – lacks academic excellence and rigor.

Since childhood, those of us who resided in the underside of history have been taught to see and interpret reality through the eyes of the dominant culture, specifically white, heterosexual, middle-upper class, patriarchal eyes. Scholars of color in general, Latino/as in particular, are usually kept at bay from contributing to the construction of how we perceive reality. Just look…

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Being ‘Just Black’

Adam Dyer:

Beautiful insight from my beautiful friend Jai Lobo! Please read!

Originally posted on Jairo Lobo:

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This morning I wrote an article in Dutch and after seeing the reactions and how often it was shared, I realized that it was also internationally relevant. Here is the English translation:

Among all the ‘us’ against ‘them’ discussions, lately I have been feeling rather displaced in the Netherlands. The prevailing general opinion seems to be that the starting point for dealing with one another is that there are people who are ‘from here’ (the white ones) and people who are ‘not from here’. Those are the immigrants and they are black. Native Dutch equals white and immigrant equals black. Even the people who take a stand against racism and segregation seem to do this based on the distinction between us and them. ‘Equal opportunity’ is created for ‘them’ (case in point: me). And that is exactly where the shoe pinches: the fact that (based on skin color) we have first determined…

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Coming Soon…All Out Adam!

Soon I will be launching my second blog: All Out Adam.  This new blog will be a space to focus entirely on gay men and race.  My hope is to also use this  as a collaborative space, where my brilliant friends and colleagues who are part of this conversation can contribute as well.  Stay tuned!

ALL OUT ADAM

The Next White Flight?

I was speaking with a colleague from Detroit this week, lamenting our position as activist, black, gay men who are also clergy and we realized that we are often in situations where we are asked to choose our allegiance: are we working on/with black issues or LGBT issues? I also recently attended a meeting of local black LGBT leaders where the same question arose: black or LGBT? The way that communities of color and LGBT groups are so disjointed sometimes, leaves someone like me at odds. Too frequently, in black and brown spaces, we are asked to leave our LGBT selves outside, because it is felt that sexuality issues dilute the power of the race conversation, or that LGBT is a “white” issue. Likewise, in predominantly white LGBT spaces, people of color are frequently ghettoized (that is, called upon to speak for our entire race) or entirely left out of the conversation because of access (funding, location, cultural setting, etc.) Case in point, I also attended a presentation by one of our local LGBT politicians (a dynamic young man of color) yet I was the only African American in the audience, although there were a couple of Asian and Latino folks. Questions from the audience were all targeted at youth, marriage equality and local LGBT history; the only question on race was one that furthered the perception of local black communities harboring negative feelings for LGBT issues.

“What happens when the LGBT fight becomes predominantly black and brown?”

There is a disturbing threat on the horizon. As a gay man who cannot ignore the issues of race in the United States, I watch the events of Baltimore over the last few weeks as well as New York, Oakland, Chicago, Ferguson and Sanford over the last few years and I am worried about the very real potential for “LGBT White Flight.”

What happens when the LGBT fight becomes predominantly black and brown? When the Supreme Court rules to make Marriage Equality the law of the land, will the funding from white LGBT donors dry up? Will the white LGBT allies fail to show up at the marches or more importantly at the polls?  Will we see an uptick in the number of LGBT folks who align with conservative fiscal policies that promote their personal wealth over the overal health and welfare of those who are marginalized? Right now, significant LGBT wealth is pouring into the fight for Marriage Equality. Even a cursory glance at major donors and supporters of this effort, shows how LGBT donors and organizations sometimes have significantly less connection to communities of color, and if they do, it is very narrowly focused. Yet organizations who are funding and supporting racial justice work, are much more likely to be public and financial allies of LGBT efforts.  If the commitment is only marginal now, what will the motivation be to make it more equitable in the future?

The face of the Marriage Equality fight is overwhelmingly white. Although there are a handful of plaintiffs who are people of color, and a significant number of children of these families are people of color, the positioning of the benefits to be gained from marriage status (tax benefits, partner, employment benefits, community and social standing) are portrayed on the surface as benefits that are associated with white affluence in our country. Yet, when this one battle is won, the LGBT fight for opportunity will be far from over for people of color. In a recent study from Movement Advancement Project and Center for American Progress ( PAYING AN UNFAIR PRICE: The Financial Penalty for LGBT People of Color in America) the numbers are clear that poverty and lack of opportunity and lack of security plague LGBT people of color more than their white or non-LGBT counterparts:

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A 2014 report from the Black Youth Project ( Moving Beyond Marriage: What Young People of Color Think about the LGBT Agenda) has some surprising numbers as well showing how a majority of young people of color think that the LGBT Agenda isn’t aligned with their priorities:

“This report demonstrates that while young people grant strong support to same-sex marriage, young people—especially young people of color—also believe that several other policies should have greater priority in the fight for LGBT equality. For instance, more than 80 percent of Black, white, and Latino youth support policies to guarantee employment rights, while 65 to 70 percent of young people support same-sex marriage….

Our findings also indicate that young people of color are skeptical about whether mainstream LGBT organizations advocate policies that are important for LGBT individuals in communities of color. Young people of color are perhaps uniquely situated to identify what policies are most likely to have the greatest impact on their communities.”

We cannot choose one identity or the other.  We all live at crossroads of identity.  The question is, will the same happy gay and lesbian couples who embrace and celebrate on the steps of the Supreme Court in victory for their ability to marry and share benefits, then be willing to turn around and travel the 29 miles up Interstate 295 to march in the streets of Baltimore to support their black trans* siblings who are targeted and murdered by police (Mya Hall)? Will the major donors to Equality California also fund safe spaces for Cambodian LGBT youth in Long Beach?

We cannot let the LGBT movement turn into a cultural Detroit, Oakland or Cleveland…abandoned by the people who can now afford to disappear into the suburban mainstream.

Unitarian Universalists of Color Unite to support Baltimore

The world has been watching the story unfold in Baltimore.  We continue to feel the pain of this community…and all of the other communities that feel the sting of police brutality based on racial profiling.  My colleagues and I have issued a statement that sums up where we stand.  No one, let alone communities of faith, should be silent at this hour.

Please check out the following link to hear our collective voice in this ongoing struggle for justice:

UU Professionals of Color Statement on Baltimore

I See You Rekia Boyd…

rekia-boydI’ve just returned from an incredible, celebratory and relaxing time in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.  I am not rich and nor do I have a glamorous lifestyle.  I had a little money on a credit card, some dear friends with a little room and a little imagination. And I realized that if I didn’t do something for my 50th birthday, I would regret it for the rest of my life.

But when I returned yesterday, I had a real wake up call.  I was struck by how invisible I felt.  Maybe it was the contrast of having been among such loving friends for a few days, but I could swear that no one met my eyes when I looked at them in San Diego airport; no one smiled back walking down the street in Hillcrest (touristy, white, gay neighborhood where I live); I was invisible.  And it made me feel raw.  It was such a contrast to how I felt in Mexico where people looked at me, spoke to me, smiled and even flirted with me.  I was alive and visible and I mattered.

But I don’t think its just that Mexicans are exceedingly friendly or that as a tourist, I was in high demand.  This is a United States problem.  As a black man, I am completely invisible much of the time, unless I’m perceived as a threat.  My black friends can attest to this. Every time I travel from or return to this country (and that is 5 passports worth), I get that reminder.  In fact, as I left for my weekend, I had my hair (dreadlocks) searched by TSA even though I was surrounded by white women with much more voluminous hair and easy-to-hide-things-in styles.  And when I questioned the agent (who was quite ironically a black man), he was honest and said “they don’t like the [dread]locks….”

And now I see the news of Rekia Boyd. It seems that no one was responsible for killing her.  No one was responsible for acting vigilante style while off duty. No one, mistook a cel phone for a gun; and no one fired that gun into a crowd putting a bullet in the back of her head. No one was reckless and no one was recklessly endangered.  No one did any of that, because no one sees Rekia Boyd. Like too many other black lives, male AND female, she is completely invisible in the eyes of the court, the media, education, health,…until, she is perceived to be a threat or a burden; then for as long as it takes a bullet to travel from the barrel of a gun, she becomes a haphazard target for a testosterone charged index finger that is trained to contract at the sight of black skin.

But you know what?  I see you Rekia Boyd…and God willing, many more of us see you too. And we are fighting to see more of you in headlines that don’t include the words “murder,” “victim” or “rape.”

I See You Rekia Boyd

I see you,
I see you Rekia Boyd
That night, thinking
“I’m alright”
That day, feeling
“I am loved.”

I see you…

I do not need to know you,
To see you,
Because once,
I was also 22
And just like you, I knew I was superhuman;
And funny wasn’t just funny
It was a riot…
And nights didn’t end
They became mornings…
And friends were forever,
And love was a weekend or two,
At least I hope that’s the way it was for you too…

But no worry,
I see you.

I see you,
Good choices and bad.
I see you,
In a crowd.
I see you,
Alone.
You’re alright,
You are loved,
And I pray
That others see you too.

I see you Rekia Boyd.

Gawker Article on Rekia Boyd Verdict

Black Lives Still Matter

IMG_0150Consider this:

The Dred Scott Decision, Plessy v. Ferguson, Woodrow Wilson’s segregationist policies within the Federal Government, all targeted in explicit language, the rights of blacks in the United States1. All state based anti-miscegenation laws included blacks whether or not they included other races or religions2. Throughout the history of the country, the gross majority of the time the federal government, or state or local governments have acted to restrict or exclude a race, it has largely been targeted at blacks or those with black blood in explicit language (albeit not exclusively, particularly in light of laws that restricted Chinese and Mexican immigration, interred Japanese citizens, etc.) The United States Census continued to use the term “Mulatto” until 1920 to protect whiteness in the population and vacillated between use of “color” or “race” until 19803; Even today, Black and White are still not broken down in the census except in their relationship to “Hispanic.”  Racism in the United States is built on the foundation of white superiority over black.

Now consider this:

The 15th Amendment speaks of “race, color, or previous condition of servitude” even though its intent was to rectify a restriction that was aimed at blacks4; Executive Order 8802 (1941 desegregation of Federal Government) and 9981 (1948 desegregation of the armed forces) speak in general terms about “race, color, creed” even though they both only effected blacks and people of African descent (Native Americans were allowed to serve alongside whites as code breakers.)5 6 Brown v Board of Education was explicitly brought concerning blacks yet the ruling and the language of the decision speaks broadly to admit the plaintiffs to desegregated schools in the case on a “racially nondescriminatory” basis with all deliberate speed7. The voting rights act of 1965 although it was fought because of specific actions being taken against blacks includes the following broader less specific language:

“No voting qualifications or prerequisite to voting, or standard, practice, or procedure shall be imposed or applied by any State or political subdivision to deny or abridge the right of any citizen of the United States to vote on account of race or color.”8

Time and again, the “solution” to specific discrimination aimed at blacks in the United States has not been specific to fixing that discrimination.  In 2005, 2008, 2009 Congress took baby steps toward acknowleding the government’s specific failure with blacks on this front by issuing first an apology for not passing anti lynching legislation9 and then issuing apologies for the United States’ role in the slave trade and the years of Jim Crow that followed the end of the Civil War.10  All of these congressional orders make specific reference to African Americans.  But this has been the exception to the rule.  Yet, when the Chinese Exclusion act was repealed in 1943 by the Magnuson act, the language was specific and spoke directly to people of Chinese decent11.  Somehow, whenever it comes time to fix something that is specifically aimed at blacks, white legislators get cold feet.  Even in addressing racism, black lives have not specifically mattered.

In medicine, one does not treat a sprained finger by putting someone in a body cast; One doesn’t remove the entire liver because someone has gall stones.  The goal in treating illness is always to be as specific and targeted as possible.  Rectifying the sickness of anti-black racism in the United States needs to be the same kind of specific surgery.  We cannot continue to speak or act in broad terms.  There is no shortcut, no blanket application to address black oppression because black oppression is unique; just as every other oppression that is experienced is unique.  What Black Lives Matter challenges us to do is address the specific issues surrounding black oppression without entering into the oppression olympics.  The movement tells us that we can look at the unique social location intersection that one group represents, whether that is race, color, nation of origin, sexual preference, gender identity, ability, or relationship status (or any combination thereof) and take the time to appreciate, uplift, uphold and defend each and every one of them.

Anti black racism is also not just going to “fade away.”  If the incidents at Sigma Alpha Epsilon in Oklahoma and North Carolina are any indication, young people are learning the language and action of racism just as their parents did before them12.  We are not “post racial;” If anything we are pre-racial for we have never been able to fully accept and explore concepts of identity with any sense of truth, honesty or equity.  We have only begun to explore who each of us really are.  Black Lives Matter is one step forward in that exploration.

#BlackLivesMatter

 

Footnotes

1. Dred Scott/ Plessy
2. List of Anti-Miscegenation Laws
3. United States Census Lists
4. Fifteenth Amendment
5. Executive Order 8802
6. Executive Order 9981
7. Brown v Board of Eduction Original Document
8. 1965 Voting Rights Act
9. US Government Apology for Lynching
10. US Government Apology for Slavery
11. 1943 Magnuson Act
12. SAE Under Fire