Posts Tagged ‘native american’

This week Sesame Street celebrates its 40th anniversary.  I think the appropriate gift for 40 years is rubies, but since wisdom is better, I thought I’d share a little Street smarts:

If you have a favorite memory or clip from the show, feel free to post it in the comments.

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At 11:00 on Sunday morning when we stand and sing and Christ has no east or west, we stand at the most segregated hour in this nation. This is tragic. Nobody of honesty can overlook this…. The first way that the church can repent, the first way that it can move out into the arena of social reform is to remove the yoke of segregation from its own body. –Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

I’ve been wanting to post this for a while, and linking to Professor Rah’s blog made me remember it. A short interview with Soong-Chan Rah, in which he explains that the so-called “death of Christianity in America” is really a decline among white upper-and-middle class Evangelicals. Other churches are experiencing lively growth. What’s next for Evangelicalism?

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Don’t miss part 2 at The Ooze!

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On this October 30, 2004, we, the Faith Community of St. Augustine Catholic Church, dedicate this shrine consisting of grave crosses, chains and shackles to the memory of the nameless, faceless, turfless Africans who met an untimely death in Faubourg Treme. The Tomb of the Unknown Slave is commemorated here in this garden plot of St. Augustine Church, the only parish in the United States whose free people of color bought two outer rows of pews exclusively for slaves to use for worship. This St. Augustine/Treme shrine honors all slaves buried throughout the United States and those slaves in particular who lie beneath the ground of Treme in unmarked, unknown graves. There is no doubt that the campus of St. Augustine Church sits astride the blood, sweat, tears and some of the mortal remains of unknown slaves from Africa and local American Indian slaves who either met with fatal treachery, and were therefore buried quickly and secretly, or were buried hastily and at random because of yellow fever and other plagues. Even now, some Treme locals have childhood memories of salvage/restoration workers unearthing various human bones, sometimes in concentrated areas such as wells. In other words, The Tomb of the Unknown Slave is a constant reminder that we are walking on holy ground. Thus, we cannot consecrate this tomb, because it is already consecrated by many slaves’ inglorious deaths bereft of any acknowledgement, dignity or respect, but ultimately glorious by their blood, sweat, tears, faith, prayers and deep worship of our Creator.

Read more about the Tomb of the Unknown Slave.

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We are a very large country, with… one of the longest-standing democratic regimes, unbroken democratic regimes, in history. We are one of the most stabile regimes in history. There are very few countries that can say for nearly 150 years they’ve had the same political system without any social breakdown, political upheaval or invasion. We are unique in that regard. We also have no history of colonialism. So we have all of the things that many people admire about the great powers, but none of the things that threaten or bother them about the great powers.

-Prime Minister Stephen Harper
Speaking at the G20 Summit in Pittsburgh, PA
September 25, 2009

Sara MacIntyre, spokeswoman for the Prime Minister’s Office, said, “[The comment] was really focused on the international financial scene.”

Conservative Senator Patrick Brazeau, the former head of the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples, also said the statement had been taken out of context: “It is important to consider the context of [Harper’s] comments last week. The prime minister sought to differentiate Canada’s history with that of past global empires with histories of colonialism. [Harper’s] apology for the tragedy of Indian residential schools last year clearly acknowledge the wrong doings and racist policies of Canada’s past.”

Not everyone is convinced. Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs Grand Chief Ron Evans said, “I am just shocked that someone would say something like that knowing the history of their own country. They tried to destroy a race of people.”

Michael Cachagee, executive director of National Residential School Survivors Society, said the prime minister’s statement undercut last year’s seminal residential school apology. “This man speaks with a forked tongue,” said Cachagee. “He has mud on his face on this one. Colonial pie.”

Ghislain Picard, grand chief of the Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador, said, “Denying the history of colonialism in Canada is like denying the holocaust.”

National Chief Shawn Atleo of Canada’s leading native organization, the Assembly of First Nations, said:

The current line of response from federal officials that the Prime Minister’s remarks were taken ‘out of context’ is simply not good enough for someone in his position…. The effects of colonialism remain today. It is the attitude that fueled the residential schools; the colonial Indian Act that displaces traditional forms of First Nations governance; the theft of Indian lands and forced relocations of First Nations communities; the criminalization and suppression of First Nations languages and cultural practices; the chronic under-funding of First Nations communities and programs; and the denial of Treaty and Aboriginal rights, even though they are recognized in Canada’s Constitution.

Internationally, Canada has been scrutinized and harshly criticized for its treatment of Indigenous peoples and failure to respect Aboriginal and Treaty rights. Canada is increasingly isolated as one of only three nations in the world that has refused to sign the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, a document that rejects the doctrine of colonialism.

The Prime Minister’s statement speaks to the need for greater public education about First Nations and Canadian history. It may be possible to use this moment to begin bridging this gulf of misunderstanding. The future cannot be built without due regard to the past, without reconciling the incredible harm and injustice with a genuine commitment to move forward in truth and respect.

First Nations leaders and Canadians call on the Prime Minister to honour [last year’s] apology and to make clear the path to reconciliation.

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Late last week, one of our favorite race blogs, Racialicious, featured a story about a justice of the peace in Louisiana who refused to marry an interracial couple because he was worried about “the offspring” such a marriage would produce.  The JP, Keith Bardwell, claims he’s not a racist in this video from the AP:

Since the story broke, several prominent political figures in Louisiana, including Governor Bobby Jindal and Senator Mary Landrieu, have publicly rebuked the JP’s actions and called for his resignation.  Bardwell refuses to resign, but says he had previously decided after 34 years in elected office not to run again when his term ends in 2014.

Last week I picked up a book on the subject of interracial marriage and parenting called Just Don’t Marry One by George and Sherelyn Yancey (themselves an interracial couple).  Strangely enough, the Racialicious post I mentioned above featured the cover art of this book.  The title fits the story perfectly.  It’s the very objection every “non-racist” white person makes when their kids ask about befriending or even dating a person of color.  I have to admit, I was a little embarrassed carrying this book around with me for a week thinking that the title, which is clearly ironic, might make me look like some kind of supremacist.

The book is a collection of essays by evangelical Christians from various ethnic backgrounds (Latino, Black, White, Native American, Asian, to name a few) on the subjects of interracial dating, marriage and parenting.  As one who often criticizes the church (or at least my wing of it) for being AWOL on race issues, I was very surprised to see such a dedicated group of people who were not only educated on these subjects, but actively educating others about them.

While each writer had their own take on things, and almost all of them had their own personal experiences to influence their opinions and counsel, each seemed earnestly working toward justice and ultimately reconciliation within the body of Christ.  Several of them sharply scolded their own faith communities for a lack of congregational educational resources.  As A. Charles Ware puts it in his essay on pastoral counseling of multiracial families:

Interracial families are not the only ones needing accurate information.  The entire church must be educated. (p. 36)

Several of them were more frank than I expected.  Sherelyn Yancey, a white woman married to a black man and the co-editor of the book, writes:

In many families and churches, the prejudice of racial superiority manifests itself when it comes to interracial dating and marriage.  We repreat our sinful history when we pass on unwritten rule: ‘Yes, you can play together and go to school together.  You can even be friends.  But…just don’t marry one.'” (p. 87)

Many of us remember the fracas raised when Senator John McCain referred to then-Senator Barak Obama in a debate as “that one.”  Despite white Christians’ protest that they “aren’t racists,” often the prospect of being related to a person of color or having multiracial grandchildren brings out their true colors.

This justice of the peace in Louisiana is a good example of this very situation.  Concerns about interracial relationships are often masked in false concern over the fate of biracial or multiracial children.  In his essay in Just Don’t…, David Tatlock takes this issue on first by quoting author Lee Chanult:

‘What white people are saying with that statement is that they think racial prejudice is awful, especially when it affects children, and they sure are glad their kids are white!’  The only reason biracial children suffer is because they live in a racist society… (p.116)

Tatlock further explores this derailment tactic as it relates to white Christians:

Yes, biracial children will go through a process of discovering who they are, like everyone else.  A child with godly self-worth can endure societal torment and taunts.  Besides, the Bible teaches that my children will have to endure tremendous hatred and be considered social outcasts–just for being Christian!  I have never heard a believer aska Christian couple through tear-soaked eyes, “Have you thought about the implications of having godly offspring?  It says in the Bible that if you have children who follow Christ, they will be hated.  What about the children?’ (p.117)

I got into a heated argument a couple years back with a close relative about the prospect that one day our white kids might come to us with a desire to marry a person of color.  My relative said that she would have a conversation with her child about whether or not they were prepared to handle the social barriers that one might face with an interracial marriage.

While on its face, this is not a bad question, coming from someone who up until that moment in the life of their child had probably preached “colorblindness” and an implicit (though unintentional) sense of white superiority, the question is more meant to discourage the union than to encourage the kids to guard their hearts against the prejudices of others.   Most likely the time an interracial couple has reached the point of marriage, they have already endured some degree if not a great degree of societal scorn during their courtship.  Just like the “think of the children” comment, this so-called concern is often an indicator of familial disapproval.

The book touches on many of these issues, and I really believe much of it to be a good primer for the church, particularly for white folks.  While it doesn’t contain much new material for a seasoned anti-racist, it would be helpful for Christians exploring these subjects for the first time.  Many of the problems addressed (yea, even the title itself) explicitly confront white attitudes about interracial marriage and family.  The books is often prescriptive, giving white people a place to begin a life of anti-racism and inclusion.  In her essay on the history of interracial sexual relations in America, Sherelyn Yancey writes:

When it comes to race relations, we white Christians seem to have historical amnesia over past interracial sexual relations and resulting multiracial children…Many of us might complain, ‘I wasn’t there.  I can’t help it if my family owned slaves or killed Indians.’ No, we are not responsible for others’ behavior, but we are accountable for how we use our social and economic inheritance. (p. 86, emphasis mine)

Unfortunately, while we white people are learning and growing and messing up and begging forgiveness, Christian people of color have their own burden in the reconciliation process.  Randy Woodley, a minister and member of the Cherokee nation, writes in the book about the church’s role in the subjugation of indigenous people.  Woodly talks about a piercing experience in forgiveness that he had during an organized walk along the Cherokee’s path during the Trail of Tears.

His story, like many who are working on anti-racist education and justice, remains somewhat unresolved.  Woodley is clearly determined to forge past his own difficulties in forgiving others, but does so knowing that the task is not an easy one, nor is he always going to immediately cooperate with the process:

Though I may not always welcome [reconciliation], I am a mixed blood and based on my understanding of Scripture, I am a bridge. (p. 149)

As frustrating as it can be for me, a white woman, to bear with my white brothers and sisters who are wrong on the issue of interracial marriage, I have to do just that.  I will not go quietly, and they will not go uncorrected (at least not if I am in the room), but ultimately, it is the truth and kindness that leads to repentance.  Change is a messy process and in an effort to make progress, there will undoubtedly be offenses on the part of all (but mostly us) that require forgiveness and patience.  Like Randy Woodley, I am a bridge.  If necessary, tread on me.

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People who define themselves as mixed-race recognize the look and they’ve come to expect the question: What are you? In our Race-obsessed nation, if a person doesn’t fit nicely into a single-category identity box, undoubtedly it causes a commotion.

In March 2008, Lori Tharps and Tesia Barone created ?RU, a line of hip and funky clothing and accessories that challenges people to wear their identity in style. ?RU products redefine normal with items that are beautiful to behold and just a little bit different.

“?RU products are for anyone who chafes at identity boxes,” said Tharps. “And for anyone who wants to redefine normal,” echoed Barone.

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I’m a bibliophile. I read lots of different kinds of books, both fiction and nonfiction, on a variety of subjects. But this year I’ve been thinking more about the books that I read, and I find that my bookshelf doesn’t yet include very many authors of color.

Like Lisa Kenney, “It wasn’t that I was consciously reading only white American authors, but … I was missing out on a lot of great work I hadn’t heard of.”

There are many contributing factors in play, and one of them is marketing. Justine Larbalestier, a white Australian author who writes young adult novels in which most of the protagonists are people of color, has been told by editors, sales reps, and booksellers that “black covers don’t sell.” (You can read about the controversy over her most recent book at Racialicious.) Can all the blame be laid at the feet of consumers? Larbalestier does not think so.

The notion that “black books” don’t sell is pervasive at every level of publishing. Yet I have found few examples of books with a person of colour on the cover that have had the full weight of a publishing house behind them. Until that happens more often we can’t know if it’s true that white people won’t buy books about people of colour. All we can say is that poorly publicised books with “black covers” don’t sell. The same is usually true of poorly publicised books with “white covers”.… Perhaps the whole “black books don’t sell” thing is a self-fulfilling prophecy?

Malaika Adero, a senior editor at Atria Books, suggests the same:

Literary African-American writers have difficulty getting publicity. The retailers then don’t order great quantities of the books. Readers don’t know what books are available and therefore don’t ask for them. It’s a vicious cycle.

So part of the reason “I was missing out on a lot of great work I hadn’t heard of” is that publishers and booksellers are doing very little to tell me about these books they claim “don’t sell.”

Consider also the way bookstores and libraries shelve books. For example, if you go into a bookstore just to browse mysteries or Christian fiction, you may not find books by the African American authors writing those genres. Some bookstores put books by African American authors in an “African American fiction” section. This means I may need to visit the African American section to find a book by Claudia Mair Burney.

So another reason “I was missing out on a lot of great work I hadn’t heard of” is that I didn’t know where to look for a book I might want.

One of the editorials at the Inkwell Bookstore blog laments, “More often than not, White customers buy books by White authors. While this in no way makes them racist, their unwillingness to explore something outside their comfort zone does make them dull.”

Yes, another reason “I was missing out on a lot of great work I hadn’t heard of” is that I need to make the effort to throw off that dullness and broaden my reading horizons. The publishers and bookstores may not be helping me, but that’s no excuse. “It wasn’t that I was consciously reading only white American authors,” but neither was I taking off the blinders of whiteness.  Larbalestier asks:

Consumers need to do what they can. When was the last time you bought a book with a person of colour on the front cover or asked your library to order one for you?

Good question. I need to examine my choices.

Novelist Tayari Jones shares an insight: “The ugly truth is that stories by writers of color are thought to be of interest only to readers of that community.” I think this is a factor in all the points mentioned above:

  • publishers tend to think writers (and characters) of color will only interest readers of color,
  • booksellers tend to think writers (and characters) of color will only interest readers of color,
  • we white consumers tend to think writers (and characters) of color will only interest readers of color.

The good news is that if we discover that we’re not reading enough books by writers of color, we can change our reading habits!

Author Carleen Brice is inviting white (and other) readers to read black authors at White Readers Meet Black Authors. I love her video proposing that December should be celebrated as “National Buy a Book by a Black Author and Give It to Somebody Not Black Month”:

But don’t stop there. Look for Latino authors, Asian American authors, and Native American authors, too. If your bookshelf, like mine, is wanting in diversity, please start making an extra effort to seek out authors of color.

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