Friday, March 16, 2018

#AntiRacismForLent Week 4: Community & Beloved Community

What is community?  How does it come into being?  Do people always, "naturally," group together with their own "kind?"  Or, do we discover that systems have been in place for a long time to keep certain people separate from the ones who are most preferred?

This week, I got to create the content for our Repenting Of Racism page, and I was excited to draw heavily upon my new life in the community of Detroit.

How has your sense of the word “community” been limited to the neighborhood you’ve been living in? 

Do you find yourself living in a community that some might view as “over-advantaged?”

How have you mis-understood other communities?

What is God showing you about His definition of community?

Part of truly learning how to understand a community other than our own involves, first, removing the blockages and misconceptions many of us have been raised to maintain.  One might argue that this is close to the heart of the Samaritan parables of Jesus, casting the hated outsider as the hero in several passages. 

For today’s #HabitOfJustice, watch this video by Imaeyen Ibanga​ on the community-based work of The Black Panthers.   What surprises you as you watch?  Does it rub against understandings you have trusted for decades about black activists? 

Part 2, and if you have time to dig deeper: I, Matthew​, personally invite you to watch this recent video made here in Detroit last December by Building the Engine of Community Development in Detroit​ (BECCD) about a diverse community bringing many stakeholders together to think deeply about change in our city:

I grew up in the suburbs of Detroit, and I was told by many of my childhood neighbors that black Detroiters were dangerous and ready to hurt me.  Living here, I have certainly found that to be false, and beyond that, incredibly sad.  This video shows a glimpse of the many ways a diverse community can truly commit to work together, despite disagreements and difference of backgrounds.  

Based on narratives you may have heard about #Detroit, as the largest city to file for bankruptcy, how does this sit with you? -Matthew

For more on Repenting of Racism for Lent, click here.

#AntiRacismForLent is being facilitated by Maddie Joy​, Luke Arthur​, Lauren Grubaugh​, Daniel Russell​, Matthew John Schmitt​, Meggie Anderson-Sandoval​ and Lydia Lockhart​ as sparked by an idea from Andre Henry​. We invite you to join us in action and in conversation. Keep up with the daily habits of justice on the #RepentingOfRacism For Lent Facebook page, linked above.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

#AntiRacismForLent Week 2: Communication

This week, we focus on communication, how white people tend to "other-ize" people they deem as not white, or not "normal."  A friend sent me this Key & Peele video, imagining a black teacher in a mostly white classroom, mispronouncing all the students' names.  I definitely remember hearing painful stories of my African-American and Vietnamese-American students in New Orleans' reporting to me that various white substitute teachers had butchered names like Geraldnisha, Deshondalisa, Troychelle, and many others, and even would say insulting things like, "why couldn't your parents have just given you normal names??"  This was certainly made to honor that struggle.

How do I, how do you, treat people that do not pass as white like they are "other," like they are "not normal?"

And, continuing on with our repenting of racism work for Lent, here were this weeks' posts:

#AntiRacismForLent is being facilitated by Maddie Joy​, Luke Arthur​, Lauren Grubaugh​, Daniel Russell​, Matthew John Schmitt​, Meggie Anderson-Sandoval​ and Lydia Lockhart​ as sparked by an idea from Andre Henry​. We invite you to join us in action and in conversation. Keep up with the daily habits of justice on the #RepentingOfRacism For Lent Facebook page, linked above.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

All I Know, All I Know, Love Will Save the Day

I confess, a little bit of a stretch during #RepentingOfRacism while giving up "white" entertainment, we allowed it because the main character is black and incredible, (Jahi Diallo Winston is a glorious young actor, though the writers and producers are, indeed, all white...)... but we checked out Everything Sucks on Netflix. It's 90s high school nostalgia for the two of us, complete with one character's die-hard love for Tori Amos.   Yes, completely set in a mostly white suburban high school, which is, yes, similar to the high schools Darcie and I attended. scene has Jahi re-enacting 90s music videos, and he referenced this one. I had forgotten all about this song, and Yvette and Josh know how much this fit right into the lessons I re-learned this week:

All I know, all I know is love will save the day.  Thank you Des'Ree.

Friday, February 23, 2018

#AntiRacismForLent Week 1: Entertainment and Representation

This week, we focus on entertainment, and representation, and why it matters.  We ask how and what we choose to spend our "fun" money on, for those of us who have that in our budgets...

If you think this is trivial, or that we should be "beyond" it, consider how much entertainment you watch, listen to, consume, stream, and consider how that shapes your understanding of the world: both yourself and how you view "others."

Why do you think the way you do? How have you come to think that way? If you tend to live in mostly or all white areas, work in mostly or all white companies, how else do you form your concepts of other cultures?

And thank you Rissa Long for sharing this with me, too:

Saturday, February 17, 2018

#AntiRacismForLent, Day 4

The #HabitofJustice on this #DialogueDay is to engage in at least 15 minutes of discussion with another white person regarding what you've learned about yourself this week. What is one behavior or attitude which you are committed to change? Pay close attention to your own implicit biases, especially ones that frame people of color in negative ways, and how a system that favors white people over everyone else has made your life more comfortable. 

Here I am discussing week 1 with Lauren Grubaugh

For more on Repenting of Racism for Lent, click here.


#AntiRacismForLent is being facilitated by Maddie Joy​, Luke Arthur​, Lauren Grubaugh​, Daniel Russell​, Matthew John Schmitt​, Meggie Anderson-Sandoval​ and Lydia Lockhart​ as sparked by an idea from Andre Henry​. We invite you to join us in action and in conversation. Keep up with the daily habits of justice on the #RepentingOfRacism For Lent Facebook page, linked above.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

#AntiRacismForLent Day 2

For today’s #HabitofJustice, we invite you to find a comfortable position, take a few deep breaths, and watch this video: Author Jen Hatmaker On Raising Black Kids In America: 'This Is On Us ...

Having watched Jen’s story, we invite you to enter into prayer, noticing:

- What moment was most life-giving or hopeful for you? Speak to God about this moment of consolation. Listen to how God might be seeking your attention. What might God be inviting you to be, do or change?

- What moment did you find most upsetting or concerning? Speak to God about this moment of desolation. Listen to how God might be seeking your attention. What might God be inviting you to be, do or change?

Write these reflections down to carry with you into the rest of the 40 days.

For more on Repenting of Racism for Lent, click here.

#AntiRacismForLent is being facilitated by Maddie Joy​, Luke Arthur​, Lauren Grubaugh​, Daniel Russell​, Matthew John Schmitt​, Meggie Anderson-Sandoval​ and Lydia Lockhart​ as sparked by an idea from Andre Henry​. We invite you to join us in action and in conversation. Keep up with the daily habits of justice on the #RepentingOfRacism For Lent Facebook page, linked above.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

#AntiRacismForLent:Day 1

A Daily Prayer to Practice Anti-racism at Lent

God our Creator,
We affirm that You have made all people in Your image,
Instilling us with dignity,
Calling us good.
You created us in a beautiful array of colors,
Each one, fearfully and wonderfully made.

God, in overt and subtle ways, we have been taught a lie:
The lie of white supremacy.
The lie that white lives matter more than other lives.
This lie denies Your image In our non-white brothers and sisters.
We confess of consciously and unconsciously falling prey to this lie.

Eternal God, we confess the sins of our ancestors,
Ancestors who built systems to enrich and empower themselves
On the backs of millions of people of color.
They carried out genocide against indigenous peoples.
They enslaved Africans.
They used and abused immigrants.
The list of injustices goes ever on....

God, we confess to actively and passively maintaining a system that sins.
It denies healthcare to the needy,
Incarcerates at a profit,
Unjustly shoots precious lives...
When any of Your children suffer, our souls suffer too.

We confess that we fear the cost of following You, O God:
If we stand up for justice,
Our reputation may suffer.
If we stop ignoring cries of injustice,
We will lose the illusion of innocence.
Ending our sin of ‘no action’ means we have to get to work.
To ‘take up our cross’ is painful.

And so, God of Justice, we come to You.
Reveal to us our blind spots.
Surface our unconscious preferences.
Give us the courage to withstand honest self-examination.
Give us the strength to fight for change that relieves suffering and provides fairness.
Give us Your vision of the community You designed us to become.

This Lent, God of Mercy and Hope,
convict our hearts, stir our spirits, transform our minds.
May this transformation create a ripple that lasts beyond this season.
May it extend beyond our personal lives and into our communities.
May we be agents of Your liberating work in the world.


Tuesday, February 13, 2018


Friends of European Descent with skin the same color as mine: Andre Henry wondered, amidst his Facebook community, if white people might take on the task of educating other white folks about undoing systemic and overt racism: why it matters that we do this, what kinds of attitudes to work on adopting, and tangible steps that can be taken. For the next 40 days, several colleagues from seminary and I will be devoting time to this challenge, calling it #RepentingOfRacism and #AntiRacismForLent.

We very much hope you engage, attempt, question, wrestle, pray, and open your hearts to actively fighting the impacts of ongoing racism in your consciousness, in your conversations, in your financial decisions, in your choices of entertainment, in the moments you find yourself where you know something is just wrong.

樂樂樂 I wonder if I know any white people that would take on the following challenge for Lent. Every day for 40 days,...
Posted by Andre Henry on Saturday, February 10, 2018

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Malignant Whiteousness, by Donna Lillian Givins

Today's words come from Donna Lillian Givins, CEO of The Eastside Community Network in Detroit, and a new friend.  It originally appeared on the Thinkofone blog here:

Jesus commands us to love our enemies but what is love without understanding? Here is my attempt to understand the evil unveiled under the Chump aka Twitler aka Cheetolini, but never President because he is never presidential.

Malignant whiteousness is the damaged offspring of malignant narcissism inbred with righteousness and white supremacy. Whiteousness is a disease of distorted reality, of miseducation and misinformation and an aggressive denial of a threatening reality that all men are created equal. And women are equal to men. Like all malignancies, whiteousness spreads and it kills.

Consider, for example, the malignant Whiteous alt-right movement of college-age and young adult white men who gather in online forums under the banner of Pepe the frog. Bred to be masters of the universe, they enter college at an immediate disadvantage to immigrant African and Asian and other brown students who prepare with precision, ace entrance exams and set every college-curve. They are educated alongside a growing cadre of the descendants of people their ancestors enslaved, who – freed from the shackles of Jim Crow oppression, illiteracy and poverty – assimilate comfortably into college and careers. And they are equalled or bested by women at every front – academically, socially, politically. Women, it seems, have reproductive choice, economic power and social identities independent of their menfolk.

And so some whiteous men recede into righteous anger and resentment and enter into a fantasy world of white male triumphalism, replete with Pepe the Frog and nostalgic dreams of days-gone-by when women were powerless, Black people were subservient, and Asian ambitions were colonized. Math and science have been mastered by immigrant Browns and Blacks and, therefore, neither sciences or maths are trusted or respected fields. History is damning in its detail of past atrocities, hypocrisies, and worldwide oppression. Truth is, therefore, a lie.

According to the Whiteous, America must be restored to the haven of privileged white maleness. Black people must be subdued, immigrants must be detained and deported and women, robbed of reproductive choice, must be returned to dependency on the goodwill of men. These beliefs are malignant because many people, wishing for a simpler past, grab pieces of these dreams without considering the whole problem they represent. They are dangerous because white supremacy is so ingrained in our national psyche and toxic maleness is so familiar that others unknowingly imbibe these lies without forethought or intent. They taste familiar. And they are deadly because the angered whiteous are violent and destructive and the people they target will not submit without a fight.

I had a few friends who were favorite children growing up. These children were always the most admired, most supported, most rescued members of the family. On the one hand, the favored child was coddled and protected and the less favored child had to work harder for basic needs and supports. On the other hand, the favored child was more fragile, more in need of constant praise and adulation. The favored child developed into a narcissist believing with religious fervor in his own superiority and blaming every piece of evidence to the contrary on a biased and disloyal world.

The less favored child was both strong and resilient unless s/he was abused or seriously neglected, which caused a host of other problems. This child learned at an early age to never depend on the world or other people for his physical or emotional needs; never to accept what the world had to say about him. He learned to make a way out of no way; to bury his emotional needs so deep that no one could dislodge them, sometimes not even himself or his wife or his children. Those who succeeded, learned to work twice as hard to get half as far. Those who failed learned to expect nothing, hope for nothing, and they learned how to handle having nothing – not prosperity, not peace, and — all too often — not life itself.

Whiteous white people are those without a system for preserving healthy self worth; their worth is predicated on their superiority over others of lesser status. When my favored-child friends left home and were confronted with a real world that granted them no sense of specialness, many of them struggled and others found other ways to create a sense of self-importance. They became bullies or workplace sharks or abusive spouses.

Whiteous whites are now living in a world where a Black man ascended to the presidency, brown people are dominating scientific and technical fields (hence anti-science), and other brown people are posing a threat to the preservation of their international privilege. And so we endure the backlash of hateful resentment – how dare you, how dare we, how dare the world question their divinity.

They use proof of Black men broken by racism as evidence of Black inferiority. They use proof of American birthright of immigrant non-acceptance. They use proof of a God they forsake in every other way, as evidence of the evils of birth control and abortion.

Malignant Whiteousness is evil and its danger must be confronted through resistance to the thinking, behavior, and actions of the Whiteous.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Mexicans, Blacks, Whites, Suburbs, and Hoods

Rudy and Celah of Grace And Two Fingers, a show where "a Mexican and Black guy from the hood in Los Angeles talk about what Jesus has done and is doing," invited me & Marvin on their podcast with the question "why do Black and White people fight so much?"  This blossomed into a rich and funny conversation about the intersections of faith, racism, "Whiteousness," Jesus and the humor that can be found in the tensions when we keep coming back to the tables.

Take an hour and dig in, you won't be sorry.

+Matthew John Schmitt - The Table Setters

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Detroit. Challenge. Circuitry.

Garlin Gilchrist III speaking about his bid for
City Clerk at Lauren Hood's SpeakEasy
So, I wanted to write a stellar blogpost about the challenges of Detroit that I've come to see, now living here for a year.  I want to write a whole piece about over-privilege and arrogance and delusion and racism and the profitability, both economically and politically, of negative stereotyping of brown-skinned people and how that is the real reason Detroit looks like it does, but can't quite find an entry point.  Possibly here....did those of you who live in the suburbs know that in the 1950s onward, before Civil Rights legislation put an end to it, that white families, and only white families, were encouraged to move to the suburbs because the government provided all kinds of financial subsidies making loans easier to access and the ability to own a large suburban home more affordable than renting in the city?

(But, again, only if you were white, very clearly, written into the laws.  Talk about how big government has supported and created economic gains for some people, and their descendants, who currently lash out at government assistance for people who are financially struggling.  Do they know that their ability to amass such a comfortable living, and for some, the ability to go far beyond that, was sparked by a massive welfare program that literally created suburbia?)

However, this blog keeps urging me to get personal, to be vulnerable and honest.  Authentic.  And to reflect, once again, on my need to dismantle some of my own Whiteousness.

Last week I was inducted into the 6th Team of the Challenge Detroit Fellows.  It was an immersive week learning about critical work being done by awesome networks of people in Detroit, and a week of learning how the history I alluded to above creates a particularly complicated set of obstacles for moving forward.  But one thing kept nagging me all week:

I feel too old for this.

I admit, I looked around the room at the Millennials and kept feeling like, "I should be elsewhere, I should be further along than this, why can't we get The Table Setters to jump to the next level yet?"  Though the Challenge Detroit staff reassured me that every year there are people in their late 30s and some who already have kids, it would seem that this particular year, I'm that guy.  I'm the only one who's married, the only one with kids.  It didn't help when one of the presenters, who I've known this year from other networking, asked me, "aren't you too old for Challenge Detroit?"  And of course, a peppering of comments in sessions like, "you all are too young to remember VHS tapes," etc.

But then, on our final day, Maggie DeSantis, founder of Building the Engine of Community Development in Detroit, kept explaining her lifelong journey through advocacy and community engagement as "circuitous."  There was no real map to get to where she's at.

Circuitous.  Circuitry.  Connections and energy flow and repair and rewiring and restoring and reminders.  My fuses have been a bit blown out from the past year.

A few days earlier, we had done a high ropes challenge as a team.  With my climbing partner, Jasmine, we were supposed to get ourselves up a hanging ladder made for a giant.  The rungs were too far apart to reach without working together.  We were about 2/3 of the way up and feeling like giving up (both of us enjoyed a gratuitous use of the word "motherf***er uttered in harsh whispers only the two of us could hear.)  And Arnesha, from down below, called up to me, "go Matt, you're a dad, you can do anything!"  She literally flipped and recharged the phrase that I had been muttering internally (ugh, you're the old dad), to a statement of respect and empowerment.

A resurgence of energy infused me, and Jasmine and I made it to the top.  Jasmine literally pulled me up to the final rung and then we both grabbed the top of the platform.

Maggie DeSantis described her circuitous route, and I started remembering something, something I've known for decades now, something I was in danger of forgetting.  In the Prison Creative Arts Project, we used to engage in this activity called "Cops In The Head," which was part of Augusto Boal's Theater of the Oppressed.  One person was to imagine all the people who've spoken into their lives, positively and negatively, and then assign those people to be characterized by the rest of the group.  The person would explain the roles: like a coach who had encouraged; a grandmother who was always mean and judgmental, etc.  The person would walk through this group, gauntlet-style, and the negative people would shout discouragement while the positive people would whisper closely in your ear to help you get through the staged turmoil.  Everyone always cried, even the biggest muscled men I worked with years ago on the inside.

Here I was feeling too old, feeling like I had somehow failed to achieve "what I'd been supposed to have achieved by now."  But Maggie got me thinking about cops in my head, and the voices of guidance and love, too.

I was succumbing to my own Whiteousness.  I won't name names (so don't ask), but there have been suburban neighbors and even family members who ask questions that deeply imply, or outright state, that I'm not yet good enough, stirring up the overwhelming narrative of where a man, and definitely a white man, should be at this state in his life....

But voices like Arnesha's cut through that last week. I'm a dad.  She doesn't know this, but my first month as a dad was horrible, and it set a precedent of insecurity that still haunts me today.  I've worked hard to redeem that, and the joy of being the person who delivered our second child is something that, even as I type this, nearly brings tears to my eyes.  And so I remembered, that all along the way, it has been primarily African American folks, mostly women, who've offered me the most reminders of my worth and my capabilities.  (Remember Matthew, you wrote this not too long ago: To the Black Women Who Loved the Death out of Me.)  It was the black mothers and aunties in New Orleans who first addressed my debilitating perfectionism with love, grace, and humor.  It was Latinas in Los Angeles who fed us and allowed us to be part of their families' lives that taught me what it really means to take care of a family, despite great odds and daily fears.  It's important to note that almost all of these women love and follow Jesus, too.

This past year has been monumental, with all "the feels" (a new phrase I'm learning from my Millennial peers.)  We've had great blessings: housing and neighbors and a diverse school community and outreach to us.  We've almost let the stress of not finding jobs to tear our marriage apart.  I'm not saying that lightly.

On the job front, though, I also needed to confront some of my expectations and internal pressures based on the privileges I've been brought up with.  It is clear to me that I've been created to build bridges between racial, socio-economic, and interreligious divisions we've allowed to fester in our country for far too long.  I am passionate about deconstructing narratives that have favored abusive rises to power on the backs of others.  In our country, that is White Supremacy.  Period. Full Stop.  Given that sense of call on my life, my job journey just may well be "circuitous."

I recently had the privilege, yes privilege, of being a co-panelist with the brilliant Dennis Talbert, and he helped to break apart the buzzword of "white privilege."  It comes down to how many opportunities are laid out in front of you.  Opportunities to get jobs, opportunities to get invited to attend life changing events, opportunities to exist in a way that is less about mere survival and more about moments of really thriving.  I've had more opportunities laid out before me than most of the students I've had the privilege of teaching.  I would say it also comes down to how many chances you get if you make a mistake, which I suppose is also another way of saying, "how many opportunities will you be granted to prove your worthiness and goodness in society."

I applied to all kinds of non-profit jobs, ministry roles, community engagement and development roles throughout these past 12 months while driving for Lyft (a specific opportunity available to me because I have the privilege of owning a car) and working as a part-time teacher evaluator.  Not once, but several times, I knew I was a top choice as I was called in for several final interviews.  But I didn't get the jobs, and I was becoming increasingly heartbroken and fearful.  As a finalist, I was invested in who actually got those jobs, and 90% of them went to black men and women who had lived in Detroit proper their entire lives, or at least much longer than myself.

And this is right.  I can hear some of you, (in fact, some of you have said it directly), but isn't that reverse racism?  Isn't that discriminating against you because you're white?  Do you know that, sadly, most of the jobs in the city today are held by white people from the suburbs?  Maybe you don't care about that, but those of us who are fighting for justice and equity in the level of opportunities have to accept the fact that it means that if we are successful, white men like myself might have to learn a bit of something that people of color have had to have, in abundance, for decades: patience.   Patience, and of course, just a fraction of the patience that's been endured by people who look different than myself.  And, for the person who asked me if this was reverse racism, did it ever occur to you that I may not have been as qualified as the people who got the jobs?  Even if all things were equal in terms of qualifications,  I stand fully supportive of the fact that my non-profit directing experience in LA was seen as less preferable than a person who has worked hard alongside their parents to endure the lack of jobs in Detroit all these years.  That certainly offers them an edge on my experience.  If we are both wanting to work to create more job opportunities for Detroiters to work in Detroit, especially the communities of color who've been shut out of too many roles for too many years, my lack of being hired makes sense.  It is just.

But this year also meant I had to keep experiencing rejection.  Which is always hard, especially for a perfectionism-prone mindset like mine.  I've woken up hearing the voices: what's wrong with you, why can't you find a job, you should've done this instead of that, you should've.....and then Teen HYPE called a few months ago offering me a job alongside becoming a Challenge Detroit Fellow.  I'll write more about Teen HYPE in the future, but for now, it's been an honor to step into a program that celebrates the youth of Detroit by confronting barriers and building bridges.  And I heard Levi's voice from years ago inside Western Wayne Correctional Facility, encouraging me to help tell the full and honest stories.

Last week, the team of fellows were invited to attend Detroit Homecoming.  It was, again, all the feels.  Exciting, infuriating, confusing, inspiring, exhausting, and fun.  And humbling, for me.  Because here I was coming off a week of feeling old and, full disclosure, a little arrogantly "above" all these younger folks in my cohort.  Detroit Homecoming was very well attended, it was noisy and abuzz with energy the entire time.  Though we weren't supposed to do this, and even got in a little bit of hot water afterwards, the team of fellows began to send group messages to each other during upsetting moments of presentations; during moments where someone didn't understand a policy being described, to celebrate the Diva-tastic moments of Mary Wilson. It was bonding.  It was informative.  It was sneaky, sure, but I wouldn't trade it in.  We were all helping each other to stay engaged and up to speed with what was going on, especially during a two day period where we had very limited time to reflect and process.

I felt part of the team.  I felt cared for.  I noticed others weighing in and questioning and supporting and challenging one another.  Eric and Monti taught me about the United Nations' 17 Sustainable Development Goals.  I learned phrases I had always wondered at the meaning.  Summar helped out by taking my daughters to the stadium bathroom at the Tigers' game.  I felt like this is going to be an important step in my circuitous path. 

So here I am, the guy who preaches to appreciate all kinds of diversity and the blessings and challenges that arise from that, the guy who says you've got to push through the awkward discomfort and even the offensiveness sometimes to discover our mutual value....I had to relearn that Millenials are incredible and sometimes when they (and me) are on our phones we aren't less engaged: we're super engaged and working through this. ( But, of course: we should not be on our phones in intimate neighborhood meetings when people are expressing their hopes and dreams!)

I am looking forward to working with this team all year.  I hope that my experiences have something to offer, and yes, even my age.  But I can already sense that I have much to learn on the road ahead from these effervescent and deep thinking people in their twenties.  The energy is palpable.

Circuitry.  A circuitous route, but a valid one nonetheless, as Maggie reminded me.  I can't wait to keep plugging in, networking, finding how to best use our energy and ideas to really celebrate what has been going well in Detroit despite great obstacles, and how we can move forward together.  Racially, generationally, socio-economically, and amidst the variety of our belief systems and backgrounds.  We all have something to offer, we truly all do.  Less factions, and more interconnected, intersectional, ebb and flow of energy and ideas and hope.

+Matthew John Schmitt - The Table Setters

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

It's Not About Guilt, It's About Hope.

Charlottesville.  The United States of America.  2017.  What follows is a collection of some of my Facebook posting, along with some friends who inspire me, in the after swirl. 

In Christ’s family there can be no division into Jew and non-Jew, slave and free, male and female. Among us you are all equal. That is, we are all in a common relationship with Jesus Christ. - Galatians 3:28, The Message

"We are not born with prejudices, they are made for us by someone who wants break us into small (and conquerable) groups."

If a politician or a pastor doesn't call out the hatred of #WhitePower, maybe we should ask, might it be serving them?

We know what fascism is. We know what racism is. We must resist and we must wake up.

(The clip above is from an anti-fascism film made by the US Government in 1943 called "Don't Be A Sucker.")
August 12, 2017 

Dear European-American Christians: I take this moment to remind you that following Jesus and claiming Christianity are two very different things. Jesus called out the religious elite of his day for being in collusion with political and economic power as opposed to trusting the truth of God.

If your church does not make reference to the hatred on display last night and today, if someone tells you it is just the "fringe" of the Republican party, be very suspicious. #UniteTheRightRally is meant to divide and conquer.

If you're happy that your church doesn't bring it up, I implore you to read Isaiah. Read Jeremiah. Read any one of the four Gospels from start to finish. Take notes. Pay attention to how the leaders and kings lead and how they are confronted. Pay attention to who Jesus singles out as the protagonists in His lessons and the antagonists. Pay attention to the overall arc of justice that plays out.

I'm going to say it: 45 is a golden calf. Made by the white people, made for the white people, made as a substitute for God. We are witnessing a worship of a golden calf. 

Reddit user Reagente created this map.
Awaken. There is hope in the Bible. It's real to me and it's being cheapened by politically powerful white America to a sickening degree. Jesus invited us all to the table. None of us are over or under welcomed, and none of us deserve it any more than another. #BlackLivesMatter was a reflective response to the dominant #OnlyWhiteLivesMatter reality we've been subjected to since this country's founding. As Andre Henry says: there is not room for argument here. You either accept that reality or you live in delusions.
Please, now, open your eyes and your ears and your hearts. I pray for the Holy Spirit to guide us all.

August 13, 2017

(I stepped back and listened this day.  Here's the best of what I found.) 
The incredible poet and activist, Diane Ujiiye

I called this the post of the century.  Seriously, hilarious and chillingly spot on.  

Follow Donna Givens, Executive Director of the Eastside Community Network in Detroit, Here.

Follow Pastor Mike McBride, Director of People Improving Communities through Organizing, Here

August 14, 2017
Seriously, super stress-relieving.
The passive and excuse-laden comfortability with the ongoing legal, social, and nationally supported systems of White Supremacy, both the overt and riotous, as well as the more insidious and hidden daily aggressions from well meaning white people (like myself, I admit), makes me want to knock shit over today. Thank God I've still got Angry Birds on my phone.

How in the hell do we move past this with integrity, equity, and effective consequences? How do I, as a Jesus-follower, contain my anger and find love for my current enemies to "heap burning coals" upon their passivity and reveal that God meant what he said when he challenged us to love our neighbors, and that heaven will be hard to get into if we are spiritually diluted by our privileges here on earth? People: I believe this tension is what it's all about. Do we trust God enough to actually love and fight for our neighbors?

August 15, 2017

To be clear:

I am not against white people. I am against white dominance, and anything that seeks to support white dominance as "all-powerful" or "most preferable" is deeply problematic. I actually grieve for white people who are consumed by maintaining "whiteness." I have seen this destroy more white people than I can bear to mention. It has caused me depression and anxiety. I believe it is because it was never God's intent for any one group to believe themselves better than any other. This is not about guilt. It's about hope.

Yes white people have had to work hard. I've never denied that. But why is it so challenging to accept what I've seen, from years of teaching in European, African, Asian, and Latino-American school contexts: the kids I've taught with browner skin have had to work much harder to achieve similar levels of success, than their lighter skinned peers. I am not making that up, it is real and it is a problem. Why is that so hard to accept and so tempting to dismiss as "emotionality," or "playing the race card," or whatever else has been said to discredit what those of us who've crossed boundaries know to be true?

I lament the fear of "the other." I believe when Jesus challenged us to trust God and love all our neighbors, he meant that. In my life, I have found that learning from people in races and cultures and socio-economic classes other than the one I was born into has given me an ever-clearer picture of the kingdom of God. The diversity helps to paint a fuller rendering of how amazing God is. So I strive to learn more, and I trust the experiences of first hand stories more than news stories framed and reframed for profit and ratings.

I may be using social media more than is healthy at times, but social media, for me, is a way to generate dialogue that is hard to have on a daily basis. Of course, it's easy to get stuck in a loop, so we all must encourage one another to take these important conversations into our face to face interactions. We don't have a precedent for how to best use this medium, so we are all learning as we go.

I believe people do change, when confronted with the right stories in the right contexts. I've also seen great hope in my family and my friends. I mean, isn't that what the entire walk with Jesus is meant to be? A place to continually move your life more and more in line with His? If we don't believe people can change, then it's a pretty shallow Gospel.

I make mistakes all the time. Some kind old friends recently pointed that out to me. I've been guilty of trying to save all the poor black kids and I've gotten my ass handed to me over a warm cup of Gumbo. I've engaged in fights that should've ended in more prayer and walking away. I've been called the "white devil" as well as "racist against white people." But let me assure you, these are not the worst things that can happen. These are survivable.

What is not okay to me: turning a blind eye to actual suffering, especially when doing so out of convenience or uncomfortability. True, we can't fight every battle and it would be arrogant to think otherwise. But I've been deeply troubled by the lack of concern for the ongoing systems that support one group's pursuit of life and liberty over another's, especially from within the Church when there are ample passages decrying economic structures of oppression. I feel we must stand strong. Whiteness is the problem with race, whiteness invented the current structure of racial hierarchy in this country, and it works hard to support itself. It wants to rule economically, morally, and culturally. It is the distraction that I feel called to stand against. It is not the only problem we Christians are expected to combat, but it's the one I feel God asking me to focus on, through how I was made and how life has shaped me along the way.  (Original post, with comments, here.)

With love, hope, and peace by peace,

Come along side our work at The Table Setters.  We'll pass the gumbo.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Take "Our" Country Back

Fulfill the promise of [45] and take "our" country back, says David Duke today..... 

Who do you know he means when he's using "we" and "our" and "America?" It doesn't look like our America. I'm using our in a different way...

This is nothing new, this is as old and as American as apple pie. And, those of us who see the country as more than just a white man's promised land need to speak up, need to resist, need to fight back.

Sometimes, when I use the term #Whiteousness, I am talking about the subtle ways people defer to #Whiteness being preferable, being the standard to measure against, and that white people have all the best ideas for everything...

But sometimes, I'm talking about this. This is the KKK proudly not wearing their masks. They feel like they don't have to hide, because they have a government that is allowing them to gain momentum again.

It all needs to be dismantled. Now. And I call on the churches to wake the hell up and stop signing off, either vocally or silently, on this kind of power and this kind of Hitleresque Voldermorting taking center stage again.

Stand up. Post right. Argue against. Make friends in the midst of the struggle. March if you have legs. Donate to other movements if you have money. Take risks against racism. Sit down and block the way of elitism. We need to do all the things.

#Charlottesville #DismantlingWhiteousness #BlackLivesMatter