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Questions with No Answers: Thoughts on Michael Brown & Furguson & Me?

August 15, 2014 1 comment

I’m not really looking for posted answers to my questions.  I am just processing out loud.  For me it’s medicinal, because I get so agitated with these incidents, stories, reactions, and my lack of ability/opportunity to really do much about it, let alone talk about it with another with out at least one of us (usually both of us) getting angry.  AND that just with the ones who actually agree with me!!!

 All that to say, here are a sampling of the questions that run through my brain as I watch, read, and listen to the news and to comments by friends online and in real life.

I wish I knew for sure the answer to just one of them.

Michael-Brown-Protest-Police

Is this injustice because Michael Brown was shot  – or shot and unarmed-or that he is black and was shot – or that he was black and was shot by a white cop – or because he is the latest lightening rod of a really big and continual race/class issue in our country that in some ways, has little to do with Michael Brown/Ferguson?

Is this injustice because we react based on incomplete (and probably inaccurate) and premature news from media whose goal is often more about getting ratings and being ‘sensational’ than being accurate?

Is this injustice without racism?

Is this racist injustice?

Is this the same as incidents in American during/prior to civil rights movement or does it just ‘smell’ like it?

Where has Capt. Ron Johnson been and why can’t he be put in charge of more stuff?  Is he a real life superhero?

Is this injustice because we can’t talk about it without getting heated or because we can’t listen without hearing through our shaded lenses of preconceived notions (that often run along lines of race/politics/if you are related to a cop/etc…)?

If I was a cop in a rough neighborhood, and a 6’4” 290 dude (with type vibe of a dude who can blatantly steal and manhandle the store owner and in fact, unknown to me, just earlier did that) came at me, what would I do?   AND/OR If I was a guy in a neighborhood,  where I already don’t trust the police, and one of my boys, who was minding his own business crossing the street, just got shot, gangland style, by a cop right on the street, what would I do?

Is this a black thing?  A people of color thing?  An American thing? A mankind thing?

What  does a healthy honest word from a white guy sound like?  Is it needed?  Is it healthy?  Can it be heard?  Can it be helpful?

Are Rev. Jesse and Rev. Al helpful or obstacles?

If we all were the same race, would this stuff still happen?  If so, what would we blame it on?  What would divide us?

Do white guys get shot by white cops?  Do black guys get shot by black cops?  Is it possible that a cop can shoot a person of another race and it not be about race? How many people interact with cops without getting shot?  Is this type of thing regular?  Or does news coverage make it seem like it happens a lot, kind of like place crashes, shark attacks,  school shooting, etc… but in reality, it is an extremely small % of incidents when taken into the larger context?

Is racism so ugly, so real, and so prevalent that these types of things, which don’t happen as much to white people (though it does happen),  are literally every day experiences (not perceptions, but legit ‘yeah that just happened’ experiences)?  If so, what’s next?  If not, why is it perceived that it is?

What are the accumulated injustices of a community that simmer just below the surface, that drive people to riot when incidents like this happen?   Is any of that going to be addressed?  If justice happens in this specific incident, whatever that means, will it change any of the accumulated stuff?  Will it even address any of that?

What do riots actually accomplish for good/for bad?  Are most rioters taking advantage of the situation to do bad stuff or are they most people who are truly outraged and are simply expressing, explosively, their emotions or are some just caught up in the mob?

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Categories: Uncategorized

Coffee With Martin Luther King Jr.

January 20, 2014 Leave a comment

After reading some speeches/sermons by Martin Luther King Jr (and a lot of coffee) I’m, as usual, filled with inspiration and lots of questions.mlk 2

I think his insights to help poor (please don’t read lazy, free loader, stupid, etc…  I think we all know some rich and poor people that are lazy freeloader and we all know some rich and poor people who work their butts off) people to “leap the gap from backwardness to competence” are very powerful and wonder what he would have to offer in our country’s economic situation today.

If I could have a cup of coffee with him, I would love to hear his take on these questions.

1.  If we could somehow redistribute the world’s (or even just the USA’s) wealth in a fair and just manner, which would happen first:

  • Peace, justice, and the elimination of poverty
  • Money would end up in hands of previously wealthy and poor would be poor again
  • A new social economic class would be set up and a new people group would be poor
  • Something else better
  • Something even worse

2.  Is our democratic capitalist system in America just and fair to all people?

  • Is it really equal?
  • Do some have an easier way to prosperity simply based on race, gender, class, economic situation as opposed to simply “pulling yourself up by your bootstraps”?
  • Does our system have a way to help a person who doesn’t have a “bootstrap” to pull on?
  • Do we have laws and financial systems that are actually obstacles to some to pull themselves up?

3.   Why is government financial help for the “haves” (buyout, tax break, subsidized loans, education grants, $8K tax credit for first time homebuyers, social security, GI Bill) called and often viewed as something different that for the “have nots” (welfare, public assistance, food stamps, section 8 housing, WIC)?

4.  Can those who live under the poverty line move above it without the government’s help financially (assistance), programmatically (jobs), and legislatively (dealing with laws that are unfair)

5.  What are the pros and cons of democratic capitalism?  What are the pros and cons to democratic socialism?  Are there better options or hybrids of the two?

6. What are the key factors that contribute to poverty, specifically in such a rich country as the U.S.?  What are some of the solutions to help alleviate poverty relevant to each factor?

I might need two strong cups to understand his answers.

Would love to hear your thoughts, questions, and comments.

Categories: Uncategorized

Articles on Martin-Zimmerman tragedy

July 19, 2013 Leave a comment
Categories: Uncategorized

Trayvon Martin and Compound Grief

July 18, 2013 6 comments

make_trayvon_martin_heard_by_skullthefox25554-d4ufft6

For many reasons, the Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman tragedy and trial has been on my mind and heart.  There has been much written and said, from a broad spectrum of our society.  But for me personally, what’s been on my heart more than who’s right, who’s wrong, what actually happened, and stuff like that is the strong emotional reactions from people.  Above all, that’s what this post is about.  But, before I get going, there are a few disclosures I would like to make that give a broader context into my thoughts and comments:

  1. I’m Biased:  I am incredibly indebted to African Americans.  From teachers to coaches, musicians to authors, co-workers to neighbors, shipmates to teammates, professors to colleagues, family physicians to dance instructors, pastors to congregants, pediatricians to counselors, mentors to role models, from girlfriends to the best man in my wedding, I have been so influenced by black folks that without these relationships, I would not be the man, husband, father, friend, citizen, pastor, leader, counselor, educator, musician, or cook that I am today. So, in the same way that I hurt when family members hurt, even if I don’t entirely get it, I hurt when stories like this come up and it impacts a community of people that are so endeared to my heart.
  2. I’m White:  Having said all that, I still don’t or can’t understand what it’s like to be African American.  To a certain degree, I get it. BUT… I don’t live it.
  3. I’m Opinionated:  Personally, from my very limited vantage point on the trial, I think Zimmerman should have gotten a manslaughter charge.  That’s not the point AT ALL of this post, but I think it’s important contextually.
  4. The Intended Audience: Mostly me, and others like me who are wrestling with things like ‘Why is there such an outcry from the African American community on this particular story?”
  5. Why Bother?:   I have found that black people usually talk to black people about black people/white people things and white people usually talk to white people about black people/white people things, but black people and white people don’t usually talk with white people and black people about black people/white people things.   I guess this is my attempt to have such a conversation.

So… here’s what I think the biggest issue is with the story.  Not race, though that is part of the story.  Not the justice system, though I think most of us agree something, somewhere needs fixed.  It’s not even the verdict, gun control, the media, or a host of other things that are relevant to the story. Although I think each of these are very, very important, I think they get in the way of really wrestling with the heart of the reaction to the story – COMPOUND GRIEF.

Let me illustrate

Let’s say I invest $100 a year for 10 years with no interest.  After 10 years of this kind of investing, I have $1,000.  If I don’t make another investment, in 30 years, it’s still $1,000.

Let’s say you invest $100 a year at 10% interest.  After 10 years of this kind of investing, you would have $1,753.  Most people would say, “What, that doesn’t make sense mathematically?”  But, it’s not $1000 x %10 x 10 years, it’s the interest calculated on the principal amount invested, which is then added to the principal amount, and compounded again.  Simply put, your $1,000 made over $700.  If you never put another dime into the account, after 40 years at 10% interest, you would have $30,588.44.  All from a $1,000 investment.  Negatively, that’s why it is so hard to get out of credit card debt.  The compound interest of the debt becomes larger than the minimal payment, which makes it impossible to get out of debt making minimal payments on a large debt, even if you chuck the card, but that’s another story for another time.

Compound grief works the same way.  One tragedy plus another tragedy plus another tragedy doesn’t equal 3 tragedies on our hearts, it’s compounded.  It’s more like 9.  Or 81.  Or 6,561.

Here’s some other ways to look at compound grief.  If you have ever eaten food that has made you sick, the next couple of times you smell that same food, it makes you nauseous all over again, even if it is perfectly fine.  Or, how about the solider who did a tour in a combat zone?  When she comes home, something as simple as a person working on a roof, that I might not even see, could bring on a full fledge anxiety attack.  Or, let’s take a dog with an invisible fence.  After a few zaps, the fence is no longer needed because the dog won’t get close to the line that we can’t even see or touch.  Have you ever cried because a song, a place, or holiday brought back memories of a deceased loved one?  It makes the loss as fresh as yesterday.  Have you ever been hit by a pitch and flinched the next time a ball was pitched to you, even if it wasn’t close?  Have you ever been scared upon arriving at an intersection where you had a bad accident, although there is not any traffic?

Somehow, our bodies react physically to something that ‘reminds’ us of a trauma in our past.  These things are not exactly rational, but that doesn’t mean they are irrational.  And, it doesn’t necessarily matter if the new thing is good, bad, right, wrong, real, perceived, evil, racist, unjust, or whatever,  because it ‘feels’ just the same as the wrong thing in our past.

So… I am wondering if this Martin/Zimmerman tragedy:

  • Smells nauseating – like ‘liberty and justice for all’ during slavery
  • Causes anxiety – like ‘all men are created equal’ during Jim Crow era
  • Feels like being zapped – like ‘separate but equal’ during segregation
  • Brings back memories – like white flight, voter oppression, and desegregated busing
  • Makes people flinch – like at banks, schools, job interviews,  purchasing  homes, shopping, vacations, being ‘articulate’, or getting pulled over by the police.
  • Scares people – like the overwhelming stats in the African American community on people murdered, in prison, undereducated, underemployed, or the crazy discrepancy between verdicts for black people and white people in the ‘Stand Your Ground’ Law.

stand your grand stats

All that to say, I think the reaction to the story is more about compound grief than anything else.  The kind of grief that’s compounded in the African American Community’s emotional bank account.  Even when good ‘deposits’ are made by the government, churches, communities, good people, or whoever, they don’t come close to  equaling out the original deposit and the negative interest of compound grief that comes with being black in the United States.

So… yes, our society isn’t the same racially as it was in 1619, or 1789, or 1865, or 1954, or 1964, or 1968, or even 1993, but to too many people, the shooting of Trayvon Martin and the acquittal of George Zimmerman sure smells too similar, looks too similar, feels too similar, sounds too similar, and seems too similar to not be sick, anxious, tentative, or to cry, flinch, or just avoid the whole mess.

Here are a few articles, from varied perspectives, that I have found helpful.

  1. Edited articles
    1. The Verdict Is In… and We All Lost
    2. The Issue is Justice, Not Race
    3. 3 Things Privileged Christians Can Learn from the Trayvon Martin Case
    4. Black Racism Killed Trayvon …
    5. We Should All Be Terrified
    6. What Does A Black Parent Say To Their Child After the Zimmerman Verdict
    7. Dear White Folks
    8. Open Letter to George Zimmerman
    9. Why This Verdict
    10. Obama Issues Statement
    11. If Our Black Brothers and Sister are Hurting, Why Can’t We Just Shut Up, Listen, and Mourn With Them
    12. That Doesn’t Mean It Doesn’t Sting Any Less
    13. You Are Not Trayvon Martin
    14. Is There Racial Bias In  ‘Stand Your Ground’ Laws?
    15. Charles Barkley said he ‘agrees’ with George Zimmerman verdict

And… by the way

  1. 1619 – First slaves came to America
  2. 1789 – When American Constitution went into effect
  3. 1865 – Thirteenth amendment that abolished slavery
  4. 1954 – Segregation in schools deemed unconstitutional
  5. 1964 – 24th Amendment abolished poll tax and Civil Rights Act ends Jim Crow Laws
  6. 1968 – Fair Housing Act
  7. 1993 – Rodney King verdict and riots

 

Categories: Counseling, Race

Racism

July 8, 2013 Leave a comment

eggs racism

“The biggest problem through the history of man is the fact that racism is anything but an anomaly” – Erik Hansen

Frankly, I get sick of the topic of racism.  It exhausts me and generally leaves me in a very bad mood.  And to boot, I think most ‘discussions’ and accusations are pretty lame, which makes it even more difficult to achieve anything productive out a very difficult, emotional,  and personal conversation.  BUT, I think we need to talk about it.  In new and better ways.

I think one huge divide (maybe the biggest) that makes this a very hazardous conversation is huge gap between the definitions of racism from those being accused of racism and those accusing another.

Racism definition from the accused:

  1. A belief or doctrine that inherent differences among the various human races determine cultural or individual achievement, usually involving the idea that one’s own race is superior and has the right to rule others.
  2. A policy, system of government, etc., based upon or fostering such a doctrine; discrimination.
  3. Abusive or aggressive behavior towards members of another race on the basis of such a belief
  4. Hatred or intolerance of another race or other races.

By this definition, I am guessing that most of us pass the test of not being racist.

Racism definition from those accusing:

“Lukewarm acceptance is more bewildering than outright rejection” – Martin Luther King, Jr

By this definition, I am guessing that all of us, regardless of race, fail the test.

So… to bridge the gap between accused and accuser, I have come up with a racism spectrum to help us all when we say either “I’m not racist” or “You’re racist,” I have created categories of the different types of racism I have experienced, witnessed, read about, or participate in.  In the spirit of openness, I think I have been guilty of 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 9, 11,12, 13, 15,16.   Which means to me that even though I have never joined the Klan or advocated for a law that keeps anyone oppressed, and even more,  I actually have a black friend, I would have to say that by some definitions, I have a history of racism more than I would like to admit.

Here are my categories (I think the best and most honest ways to view these is beyond white and black, to assess yourself as both the accused and accuser, and to think through this beyond American/contemporary history).

  1. Radical Racism – fighting and extreme actions against other races.
  2. Intentional Racism – knowingly prejudice and supportive of actions against another race.
  3. Ignorant Racism – unknowingly prejudice, but generally unsupportive of outright actions against another race.
  4. Lazy Racism – not really paying attention to world around me and thinking that since I’m not racist (ie:  radical or intentional), than racism isn’t really a big deal and impacts only a small % of people.
  5. Trumped Black Card Racism – since the race card is played ‘too much’, the ability to correctly play the race card is lost (or since the President is Black…).
  6. Legal Racism – laws that favor a race and oppress another race.
  7. Culturally Accepted Racism – cultural norms that favor a race and oppress another race.
  8. Systemic Racism – combination of legal and cultural accepted racism that has created systems that work for one race and against other races.
  9. Beneficial Racism – a person who is not supportive of racism, but reaps benefits (knowingly or unknowlingly) of being in the ‘majority’ race due to past and present systemic, legal, and culturally accepted racism.
  10. Reverse Racism – to compensate for past racism, groups who experience intentional, systemic, legal, and culturally accepted racism get ‘unfair’ advantages.
  11. Stereotypic Racism – lumping individuals of a race into the characteristics (real and perceived) of the whole race.
  12. Confusing Racism – A Spike Lee joint can drop the ‘N’ word but a Quentin Tarantino movie can’t.
  13. Superhero Racism – when people try to do good by helping ‘those’ people out, but are unintentionally trying to turn ‘those people’ into ‘us.’
  14. Narcissistic Racism – when one group thinks they are the only group that experiences racism, often resulting in intentional or ignorant racism of another group.
  15. Advocate Voiced Racism – when a person for a majority group has to speak on behalf of a group so that ‘other group’s needs can be heard and that those people are validated.
  16. Neurotic Racism – having had negative experiences at the hands of another race (real and perceived), the expectation is that all people of that race will do the same thing for the same reasons.

Having said all that, I actually think classism has become an even bigger problem than racism and that if we were all the same race, we would figure something else out to fight over (examples:  as in Russia, Ireland, Korea, Sudan, etc..).

Categories: Race

Communion as…. Eucharist

June 24, 2013 Leave a comment

eucharist

Some Christians refer to the Lord’s Supper as communion, others Eucharist,  and others, well… they call it the Lord’s Supper.

The term Eucharist comes from a translation from a Greek word (language Bible was written in) to English (language I understand most of the time) from the story of Jesus offering bread and wine (and a whole lot more) at his last meal with his followers.

“The Lord Jesus, in the night in which he was betrayed, took bread and when he had given thanks (eucharisteo), he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.”- 1 Cor. 11:23-24

The root word for Eucharist is charis, which shows up all over the place in the Bible as different words in English:  Grace (Romans 3:23-24), Joyful (1 Thes. 5:16), Thanks (1 Thes. 5:18), Rejoice (Matt. 5:12)  , Overjoyed (Matthew 2:10), Hello (Matthew 28:9), Goodbye (2 Cor. 13:11), Give (Galatians 3:18), Forgive (Ephes. 4:32), and Gift (1 Cor. 12:4).

So… what’s the point?

To tell you the truth, I’m not exactly sure.  But, I think the connection of all these words make me think there is something important about how they all connect.  Maybe it is something like this:

REJOICING in the EUCHARIST is one means, in fact the highest means, of GREETING one another and together expressing our JOY from RECEIVING the FORGIVENESS of God’s GRACE, which has enabled us to both receive spiritual GIFTS AND to GIVE them as THANKSGIVING for the common good of His church.

Or in other words

REMEMBERING THE GRACE WE RECIEVED in the MEAL OF GRACE is one means, in fact the highest means, of GRACING one another and together expressing our CELELBRATION OF GRACE from RECEIVING the GRACING GIVING of God’s GRACE, which has enabled us to both receive spiritual GIFTS TO GRACE OTHERS WITH  AND to POUR OUT GRACE ON them as THANKSGIVING OF GRACE for the common good of His church.

Fair

June 21, 2013 4 comments

I’ve been reflecting on the idea of ‘fair’ over the last few weeks as I process through a broad range of situations and conversations that range from racism to dealing with change, from major health concerns to lack of finances, from disciplining children to global poverty, and so forth and so on.pout - fair

I have come to two conclusions.

  1.  The expectation that life should be fair is usually more the issue than the actual problem
  2. In most cases, the problem isn’t really about fair as much as I didn’t get what I want.

So, what do you think of these definitions?

Need (from the mind of Bryan):  American slang for “want.”

Fair (from the mind of Bryan):   American slang for “rules established to meet my ‘needs’”

Fair (from the dictionary): Free from bias, dishonesty, or injustice: a fair decision; a fair judge.

Below is a more poetic way to think about it that I have found helpful.

There is a secret wisdom-of-the-ages

that holds the key to breaking

our cycle of self-imposed suffering.

The secret wisdom is,

“Life is not supposed to be fair.”

Get over it – Life isn’t Supposed to be fair.

You don’t have the power to make life “fair,”

but you do have the power to make life joyful.

Get over yourself, and be of service to others.

“Fair” is not a useful concept.

Life is not “fair.”

You can’t make life “fair.”

You can get angry.

You can complain about life not being “fair.”

You can attempt revenge – perhaps violently.

You can inflict great suffering upon yourself

in the name of life being “unfair.”

And Life is still not “fair.”

– Jonathan Lockwood Huie

Categories: Poverty, Reflections