Tag Archives: white privilege

White and Yellow

A short time back, I subscribed to Grace Ji-Sun Kim’s blog –  Grace Ji-Sun Kim ~ Loving Life.

In today’s post (24 April 2013), Grace reflects on race and privilege and racism.

She begins with an experience on a plane trip with her daughter. A brief encounter while leaving the plane brought the reminder that:

… an Asian is always already viewed as a foreigner no matter how long they have been living in this country.  Even fourth or fifth generation Asians are viewed as the “perpetual foreigner.”  Asian Americans have been depicted as “perpetual foreigners,” “unassimilatable,” and other stereotypes that reveal historic and persistent racism experienced by this racial/ethnic group.  For example, almost every Asian in America has been afflicted with the perpetual foreigner syndrome.  Many have been asked, “Where are you really from?”  This loaded question, which I shall call the “really-question,” differs from the usual one, “Where are you from?”  The really question figuratively and literally ejects the Asian American respondent to  Asia, because the assumption behind the question, even if the questioner is oblivious to it, is that Asian Americans cannot be “real” Americans.

From the experience on the airplane, Grace proceeds to explore being viewed as the “other” or a “perpetual foreigner.” She considers the social construction of “whiteness” and white superiority and white privilege. Race, as she notes, intersects with gender, sexuality, age, sexual orientation and more.

Her story and reflection remind me to remain ever vigilant about the role of privilege in my life. In so many ways, I am privileged.That brings me responsibility to challenge the systems and structures that create the privilege and give it to me. Sometimes I do not do that well. Sometimes I do. Always I must pay attention and try to do better.

Grace closes with a vision:

I envision a world for my daughter in which people of all races, ethnicities, sexual orientations, and social classes can come together in harmony and love.

The reality of my privilege challenges me to work to overcome racism and other systems of domination and strive to create another world. The vision encourages me to do the same. Check out Grace’s post and see how it speaks to you.

See you along the Trail.

 

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Filed under Antiracism

I prayed for Trayvon

I prayed for Trayvon Martin today during the Training Day sponsored by the Presbyterian Compassion, Peace and Justice ministries.

I had called my friend and colleague J. Herbert Nelson, the director of the Presbyterian Office of Public Witness on Wednesday saying that we should remember Trayvon’s death in some way. He agreed. I said I would bring one of my hoodies.

I arrived in D.C. on Thursday and J. Herbert asked if I would pray and include a prayer for Trayvon. After some reflection and prayer, I came up with an idea.

I put my hoodie in my backpack and carried it with me to New York Avenue Presbyterian Church. After J. Herbert preached, we sang A Mighty Fortress. During the next to the last verse, I went up to the chair beside J. Herbert, put down my backpack, and got the wireless mic. When the hymn ended and the congregation sat down, I moved into the pulpit and began.

“Sometimes we pray with words. Sometimes we pray in silence. Sometimes we pray through symbolic actions. Today we will pray in all three ways.”

I left the pulpit, picked up my backpack, and moved to a table set up in the center of the pulpit area. The table would later be used for a panel presentation.

In silence, I opened my backpack, and removed my hoodie. I deliberately shook it out so all could see. I then held it as high above my head as I could and slowly rotated it so that it faced each part of the congregation. It also prevented me from making eye contact with anyone and bursting completely into tears.

After I had shown the hoodie to the whole congregation, I snapped the hood back and showed it to everyone again.

Then I put on the hoodie and slowly rotated so everyone could see me.

Finally, I raised the hood to cover my head and moved back to the pulpit.

There I prayed with words for Trayvon and for all children who are victims of overt violence – children whose names are known and whose stories are told, children who are known only to the family and friends who love them.

I prayed for all children who are victims of structural violence – economic injustice, racism, homophobia – the systemic realities that shape our lives and too often stunt and snuff out the lives of children.

I prayed for those who gathered in Washington, D.C. to engage in advocacy for justice in Jesus’ name. May we have the grace to move from a love of power and the wisdom and courage to continue our ministry of speaking truth in love to power – this weekend and always. May it be so.

I uncovered my head and stepped down from the pulpit. As I moved back to my seat I again made sure not to make eye contact.

I am grateful to J. Herbert for this opportunity. I wish I could do more. I will.

See you along the Trail.

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Filed under Human Rights, Photo

I wish I had made a sign like that

It isn’t the best photo, but her sign conveys a powerful message. I wish I had thought to make such a sign for the Million Hoodie March that started on New York City’s Union Square. I thanked her.

Hoodies were not required – I went straight from work.

Check out #millionhoodiemarch for more about the evening.

See you along the Trail.

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Filed under Human Rights, Photo

All our sons, all our daughters

Trayvon Martin

Our position of privilege tells me that what happened to Trayvon Martin is less likely to happen to my sons than it is to the sons or daughters of many of my friends. Less likely than it is to happen to the sons or daughters of people I do not know. Less likely than it is to happen to children of color.

I grieve for Trayvon and for his family and for every family that has had to endure such a heartbreaking experience. I grieve for all who have been victimized by violence. I grieve for our society in which such acts occur.

I grieve that there have been calls for a bounty on George Zimmerman. Vigilante justice is wrong. It is not the answer.

I grieve that for all our efforts to dismantle racism and overcome racial prejudice – for the significant progress we have made on the journey toward the Beloved Community – so far remains to go.

I tremble as I ponder the trust and friendship that I receive from people of color. Trust and friendship that provide continuing definitions of grace.

I confess that I have spoken too late and too timidly on behalf of Trayvon and his family.

I acknowledge that I have failed to work as faithfully or diligently as I should have done to address the racism upon which our society is structured.

I grieve. I tremble. I confess. I acknowledge. I will do more.

I will sign a petition started by Trayvon’s family. I hope that the investigations that have been announced will be fair, full, and transparent. Only in that way can justice be done for everyone involved.

I will be on Union Square for the Million Hoodie March this evening.

I will look for additional opportunities to speak and act.

I will place a hoodie at the front of the workshop I will lead at a Presbyterian gathering on peace and social justice on Friday.

I will pray for Trayvon Martin’s family and friends; for George Zimmerman and his family and friends; for those who investigate this event; for the people of Sanford, Florida; for our country; for peace, for justice.

For in the end, our lives intertwine in this country and on this small rock hurtling around the sun.

In the end we are made, not for ourselves alone but for each other.

In the end, is not Trayvon my son? Is not George my son?

We are brothers and sisters. We are all each other’s sons – all each other’s daughters

See you along the Trail.

This post has been revised in response to comments and observations made on Facebook and in other places. Some language has been edited; other material has been added. I am grateful to all those who took the time to read and comment.

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Filed under Family, Friends, Human Rights