We’re still here!

We’ve been on a bit of a blogging hiatus, but we’re still actively sharing resources and having discussions on Facebook. So while we’re away, you can find us there!

We hope to be back soon with fresh posts, including a conversational review by Kate and Cayce of Christena Cleveland’s new book, Disunity in Christ. Grab a copy and join us!

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Since Tuesday, most of my social media feeds have been full of laments claiming the end is nigh, God’s judgment is on its way. Thanks to this election, America will no longer be the hope of the world. Leaving aside that I believe there’s only one ultimate hope of the world, Jesus, I have to say I’ve been disappointed, near-distraught by the distress of my people over the President’s re-election.

Kate reminded me Tuesday (and Wednesday) of Psalm 146 and it’s command to put not our trust in princes. Yet my brothers and sisters in the white evangelical community are in literal mourning over this election. Yesterday I even heard a DJ on the local Christian radio station consoling her audience, saying “God wasn’t surprised by these results. He’s still on the throne.” (which, for those unfamiliar with our ways, is how we usually comfort those shocked by horrible tragedies. I first heard this comment after 9/11 for instance.)

What we’re missing in our grief over here is the large numbers of people of color who wanted President Obama to win:

Obama’s share of each of those blocs was overwhelming: 93 percent of African-Americans, 71 percent of Latinos, 73 percent of Asians, 55 percent of the ladies, and 60 percent of the kids. New York Magazine

There were lots of white Christians, too, voting for Obama, but in our white evangelical communities (78 percent voting for Romney), we’re completely ignorant of the fact that Christians of color went to the polls and made a different (not immoral, different) choice.

To me, this doesn’t say that we as a Church have an ideological divide to overcome. We have a racial one. And the longer we white Christians (evangelical, Catholic, and everywhere all over/in between) claim our political choices are the only ones Christ would approve of, the bigger that gap between us and people of color becomes.

Racist family vacation

So, I have family visiting. I wouldn’t recommend watching election returns* with your very knee-jerk conservative-libertarian family members, or discussing immigration with them, unless the liquor at your house is plentiful. I’ve been getting through the week with wine and chocolate, but every night I ask myself why I’ve got nothing harder around.

At some point I may write a longer postmortem about this visit, but for now I just wanted to put it out there that my family (who I don’t see very often, due to geography) is/has become way more openly, unapologetically racist in recent years than I remember from childhood, and it’s been freaking me out all week. How racist are they, you ask? Well, someone used the term “wetback” in a ha-ha/nostalgic sort of manner, whilst advocating for self-deportation of “people who know they’re illegal” and ranting about how “it USED to be a PRIVILEGE to be an American citizen.” I mean. This is just a sample of the madness I’ve been dealing with this week. It’s the tip of the crazy iceberg.

And the thing is, I really can’t debate things like that rationally. Logic goes out the window. As soon as my husband or I point out an Actual Fact, someone comes back with “well why don’t we just OPEN THE BORDERS and LET ALL THE MURDERERS VOTE!”

So, given that there’s no chance to challenge any of these opinions using calm, factual discussion, and really no chance of changing people’s minds…I guess I’m looking for other advice on how to deal with my family and their comments. Especially when this stuff begins to happen, as it inevitably will, in front of my two kids. Because having children raises the stakes quite a bit, and my family filters NOTHING. We just kind of let it all hang out. It’s kind of a point of pride.

And if you advocate limiting or cutting off contact due to crazy unapologetic racism, I’d like to hear about that too. In all seriousness. I don’t know if that is on the table for me, right now, with these particular family members, but I find myself wondering more and more if it’s ever justified. Have you done it yourself? Would you? Under what conditions? How bad does it have to be before you say, you know what, my kids just can’t be around THIS?


* It’s not being talked/written about as much as I would like, but: President Obama won 73% of the Asian vote in 2012. I’m basically going to be talking about this from now until the end of time. I want it on my tombstone — you all are my witnesses.

You have to watch this clip of Melissa Harris-Perry sounding off on poverty in America. Passionate and full of truth:

Check out the full segment on MSNBC.

Hello, hello. Lots of stuff has been going on that I’ve obviously not been blogging about. Two things this week have gotten my dander up; one of them even led to a very interesting, genuinely productive, 52-comment long Facebook discussion. It’s this news release about a new study from Tufts University researchers about how racism is perceived by black and white study participants:

Whites believe that they have replaced blacks as the primary victims of racial discrimination in contemporary America, according to a new study from researchers at Tufts University’s School of Arts and Sciences and Harvard Business School. The findings, say the authors, show that America has not achieved the “post-racial” society that some predicted in the wake of Barack Obama’s election.

Both whites and blacks agree that anti-black racism has decreased over the last 60 years, according to the study. However, whites believe that anti-white racism has increased and is now a bigger problem than anti-black racism.

“It’s a pretty surprising finding when you think of the wide range of disparities that still exist in society, most of which show black Americans with worse outcomes than whites in areas such as income, home ownership, health and employment,” said Tufts Associate Professor of Psychology Samuel Sommers, Ph.D., co-author of “Whites See Racism as a Zero-sum Game that They Are Now Losing,” which appears in the May 2011 issue of the journal Perspectives on Psychological Science.

Not shocking at all that the white people surveyed felt this way. Still very frustrating, of course. But I was glad that the ensuring discussion I had with friends ended up being about racism and white people’s lack of understanding about it, and not so-called “reverse racism.” As one of my (white) friends said, “I think ‘not understanding racism’ is definitely the culprit — not so much just because of privilege and how it exempts you from certain experiences, but because ‘limited access to certain experiences’ or anything to do with privilege is NOT the definition of racism that most (white) people have been taught. In school and media, racism is basically synonymous with prejudice or discrimination, and most of the kid-aimed stuff is on the level of ‘racist people think other people are not real human beings,’ or ‘racist people think looking different is bad,’ or ‘racist people think you can treat people differently for a given reason,’ and this kind of stuff, which truly most people of our time have been educated to (at least consciously) reject. And prejudice is obviously something that everyone experiences to one degree or another. Then this understanding can persist because most white people don’t discuss the experience of racism (!!! how MORtifying!) with POC. And it takes a while to learn to see.”

This led to many spin-off discussions, one of them related to how race is discussed (or NOT discussed) with children and youth in the classroom — and at home. I think for many parents, the assumption is that schools are “safe spaces” where racism and prejudice will not be an issue; or, if it is, will be perpetrated not by “good kids” but by kids who may already be seen as “lost causes” — just as those adults perceived as “genuine racists” are thought to be rare and irredeemable.

There is also the belief that if well-intentioned parents don’t “raise their child to be a racist” (who does that, anyway?), then their mostly unspoken good intentions will somehow outweigh all of the other negative and prejudiced influences young people are subject to. As if it’s about them and their family and what’s “in their hearts,” as opposed to reality and what is actually said and done.

We talk a good game about how evolved we are, but we still aren’t giving our kids the basic tools they need to be in a school (or any other) environment and deal with these issues. Schools aren’t “safe spaces” — not for a lot of kids — and they never have been. Schools are exactly the places where most people of color first experience racism and/or prejudice. As soon as we’re old enough to begin noticing, society conditions and teaches us to be hugely insensitive to and ignorant of the experiences of ANYONE not exactly like us — this is the default we’re all subject to.

Related to white privilege as default and how it reaches our children, today I came across this blog post by Linda Sue Park (Newbery Award-winning author of A Single Shard and other novels as well as children’s books; see our kids’ reading list!), bringing my attention to NPR’s “100 Best-Ever Young Adult Novels.” Linda wrote:

The initial nominations were made by NPR listeners/readers. 1200 titles were proffered. A panel of judges narrowed the list to 235, and it was once again listeners/readers who voted for that top 100.

Anybody see a potential problem here?

I listen to NPR. I love it. It’s on permalock on my car radio. And I would wager that its demographic is: educated, middle-class or wealthier…and *mostly white.*

I have tremendous respect for the panel that narrowed the list; I have worked with some of them personally. But if NPR had been serious about that ‘very best’ label — as opposed to ‘very best if you’re white, educated, and middle-class’ — it should have attempted a vital corrective by selecting a panel that included at least one person of color.

People get tetchy about this. Of course white gatekeepers are capable of recognizing quality work by people of color–it happens ‘all the time’.


When we reflect on this question, our focus as a culture is almost always on the ‘creators’–grants and awards and media coverage for authors and illustrators of color. These efforts are essential and laudable.

But to me, what gets almost completely ignored is the absolute necessity of people of color in the gatekeeping roles. The editors & publishers. Reviewers, critics, commentators. Academics. Booksellers. Librarians. Um, panelists. We will NEVER achieve the diversity we seek in books for teens and younger readers until the gatekeepers themselves reflect that diversity.

To have more people of color in these roles would result in a paradigm shift: Not simply more books by and about people of color, but better and more diverse books for everyone.

Park also linked to another blog post by Shaker Laurie, a teacher in Minnesota, who sums it up perfectly:

As a teacher of reading and English in schools with large populations of students of color, young adult fiction about characters of color is high on my radar. Many of my students don’t see themselves as readers when they walk into my classroom. Reader identity and engagement are a huge component of the work we do as we address student reading problems, and when students are handed books full of characters that are unlike them racially, culturally, and socio-economically, the chasm between their picture of themselves and their idea of books and who books are for only widens…

Such an exclusive list isn’t just problematic for teens of color; when white teens are told that the ‘good’ books are all about white people, it normalizes the white experience and bolsters white privilege. For me, growing up in a community that was 99% white, reading was one of the first ways I was able to interact with narratives of people of color. Books lay a foundation on which kids can reflect on social justice and understand that the lives, conflicts, and struggles of people of color are important—that people of color are equal actors in the world. Yes, kids want to read about themselves, and that is important, but it is also critical for kids living with privilege to read about people living without those privileges, not just for some requisite ‘exposure to diversity,’ but because, if we want them to be committed to changing the world, they have to understand it needs to change.

I realize I do go on about the lack diversity in literature, especially young adult fiction, and Linda’s point about “gatekeepers” is an important one. Of course, you might say — and you’d be right — there are bigger fish to fry when it comes to racist influences on our children and in our society. But it’s a maddening phenomenon because it is one more thing teaching and contributing to and normalizing a white-centric view of the world — even imaginary worlds. Kids and teens in the real world deserve something a whole lot better.

As best I can remember, it started in high school. Being told I don’t exist, or at least that my understanding of myself either wasn’t possible or wasn’t allowed. The form looked something like this:

RACE (choose one)

  • Caucasian (non-Hispanic)
  • African American
  • Asian American/Pacific Islander
  • Native American
  • Hispanic/Latino

I sat in my desk, puzzled. I had no idea what I was supposed to check. I approached the teacher and asked him what he thought I was supposed to check. He advised me to pick whichever option seemed right to me. The other kids in my predominantly white class didn’t seem to be having this problem. They were already filling out other sections of the form. I returned to my desk, still puzzled. I am white, I thought, looking at my absurdly pasty skin. But I am hispanic, I argued with myself. OK, but I’m not Latino, I countered. Yes, but the form means Hispanic and/or Latino. I cannot check “non-Hispanic,” that definitely wouldn’t be true. I checked “Hispanic/Latino.” I would not deny that dimension of my identity.

Obviously there were other problems with this form. There was, for example, no multiracial option to speak of. But the problem for me was that it confused race and ethnicity, requiring me to choose between being white or being hispanic. The form told me that I don’t exist, or at least that my understanding of myself either wasn’t possible or wasn’t allowed.

Hispanic is not a race. Hispanic people come in all human colors. The t-shirt I acquired at a hispanic multicultural festival in college, however simplistic, attempted to illustrate this: a black person, a yellow person, a white person, and a red person leaping into a bowl with the caption “Diverse ingredients make the best salsa.” We are descended from peoples of many nations and cultures from every populated continent. Many of us are multiracial.


Hispanic. Not all of us like the term. Not all of us use the term. But it includes all these people and more.

Some of us are white. In 2010, the majority of American hispanics (53%) identified themselves as white to the U.S. Census Bureau (see Table 2 here). I am a white hispanic woman, even when forms don’t allow it. I’ve got the knapsack to prove it. But despite the high profiles of people such as Cameron Diaz, Martin Sheen, and Alexis Bledel, it seems that a lot of Americans still haven’t caught on. They think of “hispanic” as a race, a race that excludes us from being white and receiving white privilege.

So the denial of my existence continues. Almost a month after Trayvon Martin was fatally shot by George Zimmerman, I started seeing claims here and there that the media had “invented” the concept of a “white hispanic.”

“He’s only a ‘white Hispanic’,” said Bernard Goldberg, “because they need the word ‘white’ to further the storyline, which is ‘white, probably racist vigilante shoots unarmed black kid.’”

“The media then created a special rubric ‘white Hispanic,’” wrote Victor Davis Hanson, “when its narrative of white-on-black crime was endangered by new information that Mr. Zimmerman had a Latino mother, although it normally does not use such terminology for others of mixed ancestry — Barack Obama himself being a good example.”

A Real Clear Politics headline explicitly shouted, “The Media’s Latest Invention: ‘White Hispanic.’”

At least some of the sources of this narrative got the timeline right, as Hanson did, even if they got many other things wrong. Others, such as Goldberg, didn’t even seem to get the timeline correct. Here’s what really happened, chronologically speaking:

  1. The initial police report on February 26 identified Trayvon Martin’s shooter, George Michael Zimmerman, as a white male. This was the basis of the earlier media identification of George Zimmerman as a white male.
  1. On March 15, the Orlando Sentinel published a letter by Robert Zimmerman, the father of the shooter, which claimed: “George is a Spanish speaking minority with many black family members and friends. He would be the last to discriminate for any reason whatsoever.” This letter led many news outlets to update their previous use of “white” to “white hispanic.”

Looking at the chronology, it’s clear that the media didn’t add “white” to “hispanic” in order to fabricate a “white-on-black crime” story. George Zimmerman was already identified by police as a white man who shot an unarmed black teenager, and reporters later modified Zimmerman’s race with his ethnicity to accommodate his father’s elaboration.

Comments like Hanson’s frustrated me in more than one way. “White hispanic” is not some novel invention of the media. It’s me. Being hispanic doesn’t mean I’m not white and don’t receive white privilege. For the love of God, quit telling me I don’t exist!

But I am also pissed off that Hanson, among others, adopted Robert Zimmerman’s flawed reasoning. The shooter’s father has suggested that hispanics cannot participate in white privilege, are somehow immune to the prevailing racial prejudices of our culture, and cannot act on those prejudices in ways detrimental to people of color. In reality, however, we can and we often do. Because I do exist, I know this from personal experience, and I have something to say. Those of us who are white are often the recipients of white privilege, whether we want it or not, even if some of us contend with other prejudices and discrimination against us on the basis of ethnicity. Everyone imbibes the prevailing racial prejudices and stereotypes of our culture, even if we harbor other racial prejudices, even if we dislike and resist the prevailing prejudices, even if we have family members and friends mitigating their influence on our thinking and acting. Kenneth and Mamie Clark’s “doll tests” illustrated that even black people can internalize anti-black prejudices to their own detriment. Hispanic people like me and George Zimmerman are not any more immune.

When people raise the issue of Zimmerman being a “white Hispanic,” to me that does not erase the fact that an African American male was targeted and killed. You could be a Latino or white or Asian and still wrongly target an African American male. That’s the issue that we’re looking at…. Whether you’re a black or white Latino, indigenous or mestizo, once you step into the U.S., you begin to get racialized by the way the U.S. defines whiteness because of the way in which the country operates. Even a white Latino at some point gets racialized in the United States, some also get privileges because of the way they look. There is a dominant race framework that everyone is fitting into, that society is defining. That’s the world that we live in. I have a son who has a black mother and a Latino father. And culturally he may be raised with the traditions of Louisiana, Costa Rica and Mexico, but at the end of the day, he’s not gonna be judged by those cultural traditions, he’s going to be judged by what he looks like. (Alberto Retana)

See also: “Conservatives baffled at idea of white Hispanic people: A brief primer on race versus ethnicity” by Alex Pareene.


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