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Every denomination needs one of these...

A Sacred Farce on Race

Monday, May 12, 2008

The "sacred conversation on race" called by our denominational leaders is a farce because it only came about to blunt the criticism we received because of Jeremiah Wright's comments. No honest person can claim that this conversation would have happened otherwise. I'm glad that at least one minister with standing in the United Church of Christ recognizes the disingenuous nature of this "sacred conversation on race" albeit for different reasons. From Rev. Dennis Sanders:
The United Church of Christ, the denomination that Wright is ordained in, has decided to make next Sunday, May 18, a day to have a "sacred conversation on race." On the surface it seems to make sense; let's talk about this issue that has had such a prominent role in American history. I've heard others talk about having a conversation about race and again, it sounds good. But in the end, this conversation ends up not really being a conversation at all. In some ways, it seems more like a play, where persons of color and whites have roles to play, where the script has already been written well in advance.

The pastoral letter on racism from the leaders of the United Church of Christ is interesting, in that it paints an extremely dark view of race relations in the United States circa 2008. This is a sample:
The Pastoral Letter on Racism documented what it called “a sobering truth” – namely, that despite the meaningful progress achieved during the civil rights era, “quality of life for the majority of racial and ethnic people is worse today in many ways than it was during the 1960s.” The letter went on to name a number of disturbing trends that signaled growing racial intolerance and hostility: increasing inequities between the rich and the poor; charges of “reverse racism”and attacks on affirmative action; a resurgence of racially motivated hate crimes and; fear of “foreigners” surfacing in movements such as “English Only.” Seventeen years later, in 2008, we might wish to believe that we have made significant progress in addressing and reversing those alarming trends. Lamentably, that claim cannot be substantiated.

We have witnessed a systematic assault on affirmative action policies at the state and national level. In the wake of the “war on terror,” our Arab American and Muslim brothers and sisters contend daily with discrimination, racial profiling,and misunderstanding about the true nature of Islam. As unemployment rates soar and jobs are outsourced overseas, frustration and rage are unleashed upon the most vulnerable within our borders – immigrants and those who some call “illegal aliens.” After more than two years, thousands of dispossessed residents of New Orleans are still in diaspora, awaiting our government’s promise to help rebuild their homes and neighborhoods. The divide between rich and poor is greater than at any time since the Great Depression. Despite the rise of a Black middle class over the past 40 years, the average net worth of White families in 2008 remains 10 times greater than the average net worth of Black families. Racial segregation in our public schools has intensified and has now been condoned by the United States Supreme Court.
There is a lot here to agree with in some case and a lot to disagree. On the belief that the quality of life for persons of color is worse than it was in the 60s, I have to respectfully disagree. I've said this before, but back in the 50s, my father could not get a hotel room or eat in a restaurant when he made trips to his native Louisiana from Michigan. Black people were getting killed by whites and all-white juries let them get away with it. Is life a racial utopia? No. We still have problems. We still have cops shooting unarmed blacks and too many who think hanging a noose is funny. But we are not the America of the 50s and 60s where whites were trying hard to keep blacks down.

The letter also seems to ignore the most important change of the last 40 years: a political party is on the verge of nominating a black man for President and all indications point to this same black man becoming the 44th President of the United States. A nation that once treated its African immigrants as property might very well elect someone of African heritage.

Barak Obama's historic run for the presidency can't by itself atone for America's racist past, but it is important and can show that we have come a long way. To not hold this up is puzzling.

But maybe what is most puzzling about this letter is that this isn't as much a conversation as a monologue. It lists a litany of problems and says white people don't care and that life is hard for persons of color. I'm not saying any of this is a falsehood, but there isn't much room in this letter for a conversation on race. It has one view and one view only.
Indeed it has only one view because this is not an authentic call for a conversation on race. I talk to a number of different ministers all over the political and theological spectrum of the UCC and I don't get the sense that there is any enthusiasm at all for this "conversation". This Sunday we will be a denomination of mostly white people pretending to have a conversation on race and we'll pat ourselves on the back for this phony gesture of social justice.
posted by UCCtruths, Monday, May 12, 2008


Abortion on demand - which the UCC does NOT protest - has killed more people of color than the "Klan" ever did. John Thomas needs to get into the real world and stop being a shill for Louis Farrakhan!

commented by Blogger Admin, 8:56 PM  
I am a UCC minister and this Sunday I will not lead my congregation in a sacred conversation on race. Why? Am I a racist who refuses to confront the issues of racism within my community? No. I do think it is helpful to discuss matters of race within our society. I don't find this call genuine. It comes as damage control for one of our clergy who embarrased many of us with his approach to racial matters. What will I do at my Church instead of having a sacred conversation on race? I'll preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Specifically Mark 8:22-33
commented by Anonymous Anonymous, 7:57 AM  
I am not a UCC pastor, but I plan on bringing up the subject this Sunday. Not that many of us have conversations from the pulpit... Whether the call was from good motives or ill, it is an issue that affects our culture; is the Gospel relevant to where we live, or not?
The deepest conversations always take place between good friends, where a level of trust has been built. How about a call to make friends across cultural/ethnic lines?
commented by Blogger Steve, 11:51 AM  
There are a lot of well-meaning people at UCC. I just wish they could open their eyes and objectively view Black Liberation Theology.

But there's just too much double-speak that is justified in an "by all means necessary" mentality.
commented by Blogger Freedomnow, 4:18 PM  

Good to hear from you. I will be mentioning it this Sunday because of a racist incident in our community and because of JT's call. And tie it in with Confirmation and the Trinity. Somehow. :-)

For me the convicting word came not from John Thomas but from my wife. I was complaining about the timing of this, etc., etc. and said, "Good grief, we have a Racial Justice Sunday every February. She looked dead at me and said, "I've never heard you say a word about Racial Justice Sunday." And she was right.

Oh, I talk about loving enemies, inviting everyone, etc. But I have never preached about the social and personal sin of racism in thought, word and deed or mentioned it in a prayer of confession or addressed it directly with confirmands.

It's time I said something.

p.s. I did write something for the local paper and posted it as a diary at http://streetprophets.com/
commented by Blogger Don Niederfrank, 4:50 PM  
Everyone's entitled to their opinion.

I thought it was a bad idea personally because not even God can rid people of their biases.. especially those who are in the majority. Regardless of all the GREAT things Trinity has contributed to the UCC, judging by a lot of the comments on the main ucc site, a lot of the white membership feel like Wright speaking about racism is a sin worthy of excommunication. I read an article in one of the mainstream publicans and it attempted to show that the people with the most racial bias were the most offended when the subject of racism whether on a person or systematic level was discussed.
commented by Blogger truthToPower, 12:12 AM  
The biggest problem with racism these days is reverse racism.

I grew up as a Latino in a predominately African-American neighborhood and experienced racism on a regular basis.

While I saw that in the 70s there was a problem with whites being prejudiced against blacks, I have seen that problem has just about evaporated, but there has been little improvement in the black community during this time.

Black neighborhoods are still off-limits or very dangerous to whites simply because of their race.
commented by Blogger Freedomnow, 4:18 PM  
Freedomnow I don't buy your argument. With all of the gentrification going on and white people moving into black neighborhoods I don't see your point as to black neighborhoods being off limits to whites because of their race. That's a stereotype...

My mom lives in a black neighborhood she's a home owner but alot of white people own property there and are there on a regular basis doing maintenance and upkeep.

The former projects in Chicago Cabrini green where there are still some project buildings has seen MASSIVE influxes of white people. The ride their bikes on the streets right through the ghetto...

The reverse racism charge doesn't stick. Like i said before if a black person complains about systematic racism they are accused of being racist..
Martin Luther King was accused of being a black racist
So was nelson mandela

this is a fact
commented by Blogger truthToPower, 4:20 PM  
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
commented by Blogger Freedomnow, 2:39 PM  
Truth to Power,

That is not a stereotype. Throughout my life I have experienced this first hand. I lived in a predominately black neighborhood for about 7 seven years. I can’t count the number of times that I experienced racism from blacks.

It is absolutely true that whites are afraid to go to black neighborhoods because of a very real threat of racial violence. I am not making that up.

Whites have made enormous strides in racial conciliation, but there has been very little progress in black communities. Rev. Wright is an example of why this is. There are worse examples, though.

If you are denying that reverse-racism is not an important issue then I would be very willing to help you see the truth.

Anyways, I never accused MLK and Mandela of being racists did I? One thing doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with the other.
commented by Blogger Freedomnow, 3:03 PM  

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