November 20, 2008

disturbing stories about race

Greg has a story about a Southern Baptist woman making a racist remark about Obama. Two other friends have shared similar experiences. One just about lost it waiting in a doctor's office while a very stupid woman used the "n" word repeatedly. Our other friend is experiencing a family divide over the election--a divide that cancelled Thanksgiving. Her family members have openly disparaged Obama's race, and one even expressed concern that his "grandmother was white." The same friend had to listen to someone make jokes about planting watermelon in the White House gardens while she waited to vote early.

Some of these may have the excuse of poor education and never being challenged to rise out of their culture. That doesn't excuse them, but it does add a context. Some of the others have no such excuse. Greg's example was a SBC church planter's wife. That reminds me of some historical scholarship on Southern evangelicals that suggests that in the early National period, Baptists and Methodists were quite radical about social justice. They opposed slavery, and even advocated much more equality for women--all drawn from their religious beliefs. To survive in the South, however, they had to give up those challenges to social status and focus on the sins of drinking and gambling. Racism, I fear, is still so embedded in that culture (and obviously not just the South, of course) that a good many church-going moral people have never even challenged those prejudices.

The good news in all of these examples is there was someone there to challenge the racism. And in several cases, the racist person had a child there who was embarrassed by the racism. We can only hope that means that there are some challenges to racism, and we are slowly gaining on it. But I fear that some of those kids who hate racism now, will be worn down by their own cultural assumptions by the time they are older. It would be nice if the conservative evangelical churches would make this their cause instead of going after gays. My sense is that they avoid racism as they have torture--perhaps falsely assuming that everyone knows right from wrong in these situations. Or perhaps they are following the model of people like Dobson. Either way, they leave us with a lot of otherwise moral people standing for immoral policy, or repeating immoral racist drivel.



Monk-in-Training said...

Last year I received a telling email from a friend. He said the highest ranking person of African descent at the SBC national headquarters was the head janitor.

I was thunderstruck.

I have always found a way to see the sin issues in my own life are to look through the eyes of others, especially those affected by my issues.

Brandon said...

Like you said, its been embedded in that culture for years and years. I can think of many conversations I've had with older family members and such who grew up never coming into contact with a black person but hearing all sorts of bad things about them. Once their work or even church called them to be in the presence of a black person regularly, they simply couldn't believe that they are just like us. The good news is that as many people as I know whose rascist ideas have been eradicated by simply getting to know a black or hispanic person, it proves to me that it honestly wouldn't take much to beat this thing. Someone needs to take a stand about it.

Streak said...

I used this analogy with Anglican, but I am reminded of how I often rinse large bottles or carboys after brewing. I sometimes just let the warm water fill the bottle until it overflows and gradually takes all the soap suds with it. I have hopes that the weight of history and enlightenment is like that water, slowly flushing out the old racism and old bigotry. I fear, however, that those youth who are more exposed to gay friends, and friends of color, will grow more conservatively prejudiced as they age.

I hope not.