#4 Rethinking Key Concepts

Image result for i have a dream

1.      “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.” –James Baldwin (p. 91)

“All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.” –Edmund Burke (p. 98)

In light of these quotes, in what ways to you relate to the author in stating, “I understood then that it was possible to be both a good person and complicit in a corrupt system.” (p. 99)

 

2.      “Color-blindness, a philosophy that denies the way lives play out differently along racial lines, actually maintains the very cycle of silence, ignorance, and denial that needs to be broken for racism to be dismantled.” (p. 102)

 When Martin Luther King, Jr. prophesied that one day his kids “will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character” (“I Have a Dream” speech, 1963),  he appears to advocate a sense of color-blindness.

 In light of Debbie Irving’s quote above, in what ways should we live being “color-blind”?

How should we avoid being “color-blind”?

 

3.      In her chapter, “My Robinhood Syndrome”, Irving begins the chapter with the quote, “The audacity of thinking I knew what was good for ‘others’.” She writes about the “’dysfunctional rescuing,’ helping people in ways that actually disempower them” (p. 106-07). How do white resourced people who run well-intentioned nonprofits “hurt” the cause of racism and the suppression of low-income peoples? Why does she indicate that the good programs she instituted to help the poor African-Americans may have been hurting them? What are some programs in Atlanta that have cause harm while trying to help?

Section 3: Why I didn’t wake up sooner?

“We don’t see things the way they are, we see them as we are.” –Anais Nin

1.      The author references the way adults are addressed as a cultural difference (pp. 76-77). When you were young, did you address adults who were of different “races” differently? What about now? Do you ever notice African-American salespersons addressing you differently because of your “race”? Personally, I cringe and often notice adult African-American men, whether a baggage clerk or sophisticated business person calling me “Mr. Richard.” How is that cultural address being taught and perpetuated? And how should I respond?

 2.      Experiment with the exercise on p. 91 to list the different sterotypes. Do any of your thoughts surprise you? Can you recall stories from your past that reinforce the stereotypes or bust them?

 Personally, I am surprised that in thinking of these categories from when I was high school age or younger growing up in north Florida, I cannot recall anyone I knew who was Native American, Jewish, Latino, Muslim and only two Asian girls in my school from the Philipines. And even though my town was over half African American, I cannot recall the names of any children or youth my age who were “black” other than “Caveman” and “Fleetfoot Fields” which were nicknames of kids on my All-Star football team in seventh grade. The city took kids from the white and black leagues and made an integrated city team for All-Stars. That was the only chance of getting to know kids “across the tracks.” And other than Black and White, we had little diversity in my town. I often ponder how that affected my stereotypes. When I came to Emory University, people would claim someone was obviously Jewish with the name “Stein” which was totally unknown to me. Some stereotypes never took hold of me and others predominated. And certainly tv shaped much of my world view. How about you?

 3.      What have you done that has put you in a position to challenge the stereotypes you inherited or you assume from the culture that is 90% unnoticed? I have pushed myself to take mission trips that immerse me IMG_0306_0001in other cultures and allow me to meet people from situations vastly different than my own. I encourage churches to do so with great care to understand and appreciate the cultures and environment in which our partners are living. I am so limited in putting myself in their shoes but I can attempt to immerse myself to notice.

Section 2: Midlife Wake-up Calls

(I apologize for the delay in posting–some technical difficulties delayed this post and then a wedding and honeymoon. More to come soon)

 

King St
Things are different now on King Street in my small Southern town where I grew up. Different in some ways; the same in others. Coca Cola stock made it one of the richest small towns and yet farming keeps it with one of the highest poverty rates in Florida and now a tri-culture of Blacks-Hispanic and Whites (if I may use these terms for description).

“Education is learning what you didn’t even know you didn’t know.” –Daniel J. Boorstin
1. Since you have become an adult, what have you learned about racism that surprised you? What were you not taught as a child or what subjects were avoided?

 

2. “Unearned privilege”: what advantages or disadvantages did your grandparents have from their skin color? My grandparents met at Emory University and Agnes Scott College here in Atlanta in 1930. Did they have privileges others did not? Did your parents benefit from the GI Bill or V2 programs after WWII? Were there jobs your parents or grandparents not allowed to pursue based on skin color? Were you “born on third base and thought you hit a triple?” p. 59 Did you know what “redlining” was and hear news reports even today of this happening? P. 44

3. How do you designate your own race on a census form? How do you notice differences between the races? For example, why is the NBA (National Basketball League) mostly African American and the MLB (Major League Baseball) or NHL (National Hockey League) mostly white? Why do most of our major institutions of higher learning have a disproportionate number of African-American’s? Do you buy Debby Irving’s statement that “whiteness…is but a pigment of the imagination”?

Midlife Wake-up Calls

“Education is learning what you didn’t even know you didn’t know.” –Daniel J. Boorstin
1. Since you have become an adult, what have you learned about racism that surprised you? What were you not taught as a child or what subjects were avoided?

2. “Unearned privilege”: what advantages or disadvantages did your grandparents have from their skin color? My grandparents met at Emory University and Agnes Scott College here in Atlanta in 1930. Did they have privileges others did not? Did your parents benefit from the GI Bill or V2 programs after WWII? Were there jobs your parents or grandparents not allowed to pursue based on skin color? Were you “born on third base and thought you hit a triple?” p. 59 Did you know what “redlining” was and hear news reports even today of this happening? P. 44

3. How do you designate your own race on a census form? How do you notice differences between the races? For example, why is the NBA (National Basketball League) mostly African American and the MLB (Major League Baseball) or NHL (National Hockey League) mostly white? Why do most of our major institutions of higher learning have a disproportionate number of African-American’s? Do you buy Debby Irving’s statement that “whiteness…is but a pigment of the imagination”?

4. In your photo albums as a child, do you have pictures of children or adults of other races? What significant relationships did you have as a child and youth that shaped your views on race?

 

 

Section I: “Childhood in White”

“If I love you, I have to make you conscious of the things you don’t see.”–James Baldwin

Each week we will take a section at a time, this week starting with pages 1-27 “Childhood in White.” The point of the book is not to simply tell of the author’s life, but to get us to reflect on our own life and how it shaped our own understanding and judgments. So, this week I want each of us to share in a couple of paragraphs an autobiographical remembrance of some events that shaped your childhood. (You will need to sign up with an email in order to share—let me know if you need help).

Tell your story—what aspects of your childhood shaped how you viewed your family, your own culture and that of “others” who were different?

I’ll go first with some key impacts on my childhood. My mother came from a fairly well-to-do doctor’s family in a small Southern town in North Florida. I was born in 1962 into a white-Southern family. Till I was nine we lived in Montgomery, Alabama. It was a baby-boomer scene with the two parents, two boys, in a new neighborhood of middle class white men aspiring to the American dream of wealth, while mothers stayed at home. My IMG_1628mother took me to the Republican headquarters where she volunteered. The only black folks I saw were the maids at my grandparents where I spent summers. They did all the household work and cooking. They wore white uniforms and had to use their own restroom in the garage—just like the movie, “The Help.”

But my Baby-Boomer world was fractured in 1966 when mine were the only parents I knew to divorce. My mother went to work at Head Start teaching the teachers and often took me with her to work and to the schools where I played with poor black children and poor white children. We were pretty strapped too, but our grandparents helped us out and instilled a high value of education, even in elementary school where I strived to make all A’s. In first grade I had no black children in class but integration started in second grade and was normal by third grade. Then, at age 9 we moved back to my mother’s hometown of Quincy, Florida that was very segregated and had an extremely wealthy white community (tobacco growers and Coca Cola stock) and extremely poor black community of sharecroppers. I was sent to a small all-white private school started because of integration. I had basically no chance to make friends with black kids and the only black folks I knew were our house-keepers. The extreme reversal of what I was taught in Montgomery vs Quincy always made me skeptical that I was being raised in a bubble and others, especially Blacks in our community, lived in different worlds. I have always sought to understand “their” world and how being white has “colored” my own. Therefore, I love reflecting on how my upbringing has steered and calcified my judgments. I have often been ashamed of being white or at least did not consider myself a “typical” white person. But I am still learning how I had and have advantages just from my color and the dominant culture in which I live.

Please reply with your own story rather than commenting about mine. Let this thread be a journal of sharing each of our own stories.