Casting Out Whiteness

George Houser
Bayard Rustin started the original Freedom Riders with George Houser, a white boy who broke rank back in the early 1940’s.

By Tommy Airey

Note: this piece has been edited after it was originally posted. 

“At stake is not just a new cognitive awareness and objectivity about the situation of race, but a new passionate posture and subjectivity founded on a new spiritual interiority.”—James W. Perkinson, White Theology: Outing Supremacy in Modernity (2004)

A year ago, Ruby Sales invited white men to email her if they were interested in convening a conversation about breaking rank from what James Baldwin called “a pantheon of the relentlessly mediocre.” We organized a gathering that she called “The Council on the Way.” I joined her and 22 other white men from New York, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Minnesota, Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, California and Oregon for a spiritual conversation centered on a redemptive white male liberation theology. We gathered on Capitol Hill, a stone’s throw from the Supreme Court. We hoped it would be a mustard seed for a movement breaking rank from white male mediocrity. Continue reading “Casting Out Whiteness”

Racism, Exorcism + Baptism

PIPFrom the conclusion of Rev. Bill Wylie-Kellermann’s chapter on racism (“Exorcising an American Demon: Racism is a Principality”) in Principalities in Particular: A Practical Theology of the Powers That Be (2017):

William Stringfellow’s source of authority and hope at the Chicago
conference was tied to baptism:

[Racism] is the power with which Jesus Christ was confronted and which, at great and sufficient cost, he overcame. In other words, the issue here is not equality among human beings, but unity among human beings…The issue is baptism. The issue is the unity of all humanity wrought by God in the life and work of Christ. Baptism is the sacrament of that unity.

As the Ephesians letter (which itself may be read as a baptismal meditation) puts it: the new humanity in Christ’s body breaks down the wall of hostility (2:14–16). In this new humanity which baptism seals and affirms, our relationship to every other human being, every human community, indeed to every creature, is renewed. The wall has no
claim upon us. The powers do not rule in our lives and community. We
have died, with Christ, out from under their spirit and dominion (Eph
2:1–8). Continue reading “Racism, Exorcism + Baptism”

Racial Capitalism

KelleyAn excerpt from a podcast interview with Robin D.G. Kelley, professor of American History at UCLA (interview on The Intercept, June 24, 2020).

…racism is a by-product of capitalism. That is, capitalism emerges and racism is a way to divide workers. It’s a way to extract greater value from, say, enslaved people, Indigenous people, etc. But what Cedric argued was that the grounds of the civilization in which capitalism emerges is already based on racial hierarchy. If you think of race as assigning meaning to whole groups of people, ideologically convincing others that some people are inferior to others, that some people are designed as beasts of burden, then what you end up getting is a system of extraction that allows for a kind of super-exploitation of Black and brown people. And racial capitalism also relies on an ideology or racial regime, and the racial regime convinces a lot of white people, who may get the crumbs of this extraction through slavery, through Jim Crow, convince them to support or shore up a regime that seems to benefit whiteness based in white supremacy but where their own share of the spoils is actually pretty minuscule. Continue reading “Racial Capitalism”

When They Call You a Terrorist

When They Call YouBy Tommy Airey

Re-posted from June 2018.

In our hyper-connected world, a buffet of spiritual practices abound. One immediately thinks of meditation, contemplative ecology, yoga, fasting, sabbath, jubilee, self-reflective bible study, liturgical direct action, poetry, therapy, 12-step recovery, mutual edification and confession. Now is a better time than ever for the somewhat privileged people of faith and conscience among us to fast-pass the practice of attentive listening to the front of the line. After all, Spirit moves when the marginalized and muted are given voice—those who are Women, who are Black and Brown, who are Queer, who hail from Somewhere Else. Continue reading “When They Call You a Terrorist”

We Vow to Break the Yokes

FloydBy Grecia Lopez-Reyes, an L.A.-based community organizer. This was written for a memorial for George Floyd in L.A. (right) a few weeks ago.

Jesus of Nazareth, you who were wrongly accused and crucified by the state, break the bonds of injustice.

We have gathered here today in pain, grief, and anger demanding justice. We gather remembering the life of George Floyd, who as Jesus of Nazareth was crucified by the State. The murder of George Floyd and the wrongful killings happening in our black communities has shaken this nation. You have woken us up Lord, because justice demands it! Continue reading “We Vow to Break the Yokes”

A Sustainable Culture Built Around Anti-Racism

resmaaAn excerpt from an interview Kristen Moe did with trauma therapist Resmaa Menakem, originally posted on Medium (May 24, 2020).

…we will not fix the problem of structural racism and racial violence in this country unless we heal the ways that racial trauma lives in our bodies. It will not happen. One thing that white people and white justice leaders are starting to understand is that there’s work to be done among white people — and that work has to be embodied. White people have got to start to lean into how to create culture around the abolition of white body supremacy. Not workshops, not book clubs, but culture. There’s been a culture built around segregation and assimilation; but there has not been a sustainable culture built around anti-racism. Not yet. How do we build a culture in which white people name their children in the tradition of anti-racist heroes? What are the stories of that culture? What are the rules of admonishment and rules of acceptance? What does the elderhood process look like in an anti-racist culture? How do we teach our white children about race in a way that is open and honest but doesn’t center them as the standard? How do we leverage our white body currency to make lives for our children less arduous? How do we develop the ability to notice when we’re taking up too much room, or when we’re hiding because we’re uncomfortable? Continue reading “A Sustainable Culture Built Around Anti-Racism”

It is Time to Wake Up

gethsemaneThe following devotion was offered by Rev. Solveig Nilsen-Goodin during the weekly online gathering for ELCA leaders on “Being Church in Times of Crisis,” Wednesday, June 17, 2020 (The Commemoration of the Martyrdom of the Emanuel 9). See video here.

On Maundy Thursday of 2020 I posted about praying like Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. Today, as tens of thousands take to the streets daily demanding racial justice and systemic change, Jesus’ call to WAKE UP couldn’t be more urgent. Dear fellow white Christians, the hour is upon us. It is time to WAKE UP! Continue reading “It is Time to Wake Up”

White Folks, Relationships are Key for Movement Building

Shenk 2
Demonstrators at a June 14 nonviolent assembly and vigil supporting the Movement for Black Lives and in honor of loved ones killed by police violence in Grays Harbor County, Washington. Photo credit: Chaplains on the Harbor, chaplainsontheharbor.org.

By Tim W. Shenk

Part 2 of “Don’t Delete Your White Friends.”

I wrote a short piece recently, encouraging my fellow white people not to delete our white friends who post hurtful or misinformed opinions, especially around race and racism.

Lots of people have read this piece. Many have gotten what I was trying to say, but I don’t think I was clear enough. It’s not about penance or doing hard things out of guilt about our whiteness, and it’s not about staying friends with white supremacists. Here’s a second attempt to say more about what I was driving at.

I want to be clear that the “don’t delete white friends” proposal applies to people we’re actually friends with — in real life! Not just on social media. “Don’t delete” is less about curating a Facebook profile and more about an orientation for our actual lives. The friends I’m talking about are people that at some point have shared something significant in common with us. People who have some reason to care about us and what we think, and vice versa.
Continue reading “White Folks, Relationships are Key for Movement Building”

Divine Strangers

Birmingham
Birmingham, Alabama 1963

By Tommy Airey, a sermon on Genesis 18:1-15. For Storydwelling, a local community of belonging, ritual and resistance in Central Oregon (June 14, 2020).

“Abraham looked up and saw three men standing near him. When he saw them, he ran from the tent entrance to meet them, and bowed down to the ground. He said, ‘My lord, if I find favor with you, do not pass by your servant.’”—Genesis 18:2-3

For some context: Abraham and Sarah are a very wealthy couple who cannot get pregnant. They try and try, year after year, decade after decade. Nothing. Late in life, God promises that they will have a child. Ten years pass. Still nothing—so Sarah gives Abraham her slave Hagar as a surrogate wife to bear their child. Hagar is Egyptian. She is a Black woman. When Hagar gets pregnant and gives birth to their son Ishmael, Sarah gets resentful and violently abuses her. This was the original version of The Handmaid’s Tale. Continue reading “Divine Strangers”

On Racial Justice and Evolution

jyarlandBy Jyarland Daniels, executive director of Harriet Speaks

*Re-posted from social media (June 9, 2020)

One day I will write a book (as too many people continue to ask me to do). And a chapter of that book will be my evolution as it relates to race, racial justice and racial equity work.

That chapter will go something like this:

For much of my child and young adulthood, I was suffocated by racism, but didn’t recognize it as such. Later, I had my own personal awakening. The removing of the scales that clouded my vision started in college and in my early corporate life. In my protest, I walked away from a very lucrative career in business. I have receipts of what I have given up to do this work. Yet, I have no regrets. I only regret that I left bodies in my path. In my harshness and reactionary ways, I didn’t stop to consider that power is important to making change and somebody still needs to have a seat at the table; because, if you aren’t at the table then you are on the menu. I didn’t stop to consider that speaking up to in a way that allows you to heard is just as important as speaking up. Continue reading “On Racial Justice and Evolution”