Friday, March 8, 2013

we justice-loving types can have a hard time letting things go. if there's a point to be proven, we're probably the first to sign up. if there's a wrong to be righted, we can't imagine not trying everything in our power to do so. personally, i have a hard time giving an apology without also giving a self-defense. (conversely, sometimes it's tempting to apologize when someone else has wronged me - just for the sake of reconciliation.)
fighting for justice is well and good. but what about when we can't? or, is it possible there are times when we simply shouldn't? where is the line between putting into action the justice we know to be of God... and stepping aside and letting God enact God's own justice?
the words recorded by the prophet are wise, pairing together the imperatives "do justice" and "love mercy." oh yeah, and the third one: "walk humbly with your God." i guess maybe that's the how-to part.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

What if I wasn't white?

Did you ever get on a bus and realize you're the only person on it who would be called "caucasian"? That happened to me this morning, which was kind of a surprise because it was the bus stop right by my house. Then I realized that it was a bit after the morning rush, so it made a little more sense why all the "normal, white" city people were absent, and instead there were mothers with babies, some elderly, and various other people, all of other ethnicities, who maybe don't work 9 to 5.  That got me thinking about how I much prefer this kind of setting, as opposed to the business-suit-wearing, all-made-up with dyed hair, downtown-working type of people I sometimes sit among on public transportation. Times like that make me feel some kind of foreign (to me), Type A pressure, and induce in me disgust at the materialistic life I imagine them all to be pursuing. I'd sooo rather be here with people who don't operate on business hours and standards. Times like today's bus ride are highlights, to me, of living in the city. They make me jealous of my new sister, who spent last weekend with me and whom I followed around shopping in stores where she smiled and chattered in Arabic with the women who worked there (who in turn showered her with fashion advice and discounts). I'd barely have the guts to enter some of those stores alone. (I'm working on it, though, because I saw some really affordable clothes in one of them that I want to go back for!:)
Race is a tricky topic. Some may argue that race is not even real, because it's not biologically founded. But even though it's socially constructed, we must not and cannot truly deny that it's real. It affects all of our lives whether we like it or not. However, I still struggle sometimes to talk about issues pertaining to race. Don't want to offend anyone! (Or contribute to problems that already exist.) Even rereading the paragraph above, I feel uneasy about my choices of wording. Reflection on that actually reminds me of another difficulty with the concept of race: In all practicality, when we talk about race/racism - we're really talking about class/classism. Certain people with certain shades of skin color are more often located in certain classes. (For clarification: I'm talking about "socio-economic" class, a.k.a. the classes of our society marked by varying degrees of wealth and poverty.*) But there don't seem to be clear lines connecting race/ethnicity to "racism" (the discrimination, oppression, etc, that people experience). So work toward "undoing racism" is also tricky, because in addition to people's personal experiences of racism based on their physical appearance, other deeply rooted problems must be addressed. For example, the generational-cyclical nature of poverty. Or the ridiculous gap between rich and poor as exemplified by the wages of average company workers versus their CEOs (brought to my attention again recently by this short video).
*If you don't believe in or don't understand the class system in our society, a good starting place is a book called "A Framework for Understanding Poverty," by an educator named Ruby Payne.
And lastly (if you're still reading, bless you)... trying to figure this whole race thing out can be exhausting. I personally have not tried so hard that it's exhausted me, but I've witnessed some people who have. My fiancé is wrestling with the issue in educational settings (like CPE - training that hospital chaplains and other ministerial types go through), as well as within his religious denomination's well-intentioned but discombobulated attempts at racial equality. Sometimes at the end of the day I gotta feel sorry for the guy who has a heart of love for all kinds of people, but carries a huge burden of racism and oppression, in that un-envied position of "white, middle-class male." I've also witnessed students at my internship site face the issue of race from multiple angles - being black but not black enough, being white but too rich, growing up in poverty and being misunderstood, being born in the wrong region of the country and being stereotyped, being biracial or being someone that people just don't understand and therefore not belonging anywhere. The one thing I keep learning is that racism hurts all of us. And it is sad to me. Even as I sit here and wonder what good my own efforts and words can do, and worry about the probably hundred times in this post that I've said something so white or implied something so white or ignored or denied something important simply because I am white. Today, I don't like being white.

"White is the color of fresh milk and snow. It contains all the wavelengths of visible light without absorption, has maximum brightness, and does not have any hue. It is the opposite of black.
According to surveys in Europe and the United States, white is the color most often associated with innocence, perfection, the good, honesty, cleanliness, the beginning, the new, neutrality, lightness, and exactitude."