Tuesday, January 20, 2015


Talking about race

Last night, I went to an event hosted by Nekima Levy-Pounds, my St. Thomas colleague who is one of the ten people charged with misdemeanors in relation to the Mall of America protests.  She is a great presenter and facilitator, and led a remarkable discussion.

We talked about race.  The discussion began with a reflection on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s statement that "moderate whites" are the biggest obstacle to racial change.  In response to this, several people-- including me-- identified ourselves as white moderates.  I'm not ashamed of that description, and had the chance to talk about the work I have done.  It led (as you might imagine) to a broader and fascinating discussion about a wide array of racial issues among a group that was about evenly split between black and white. 

I suppose what struck me most was how rare this discussion is, at least in a racially mixed environment.  It's brave and good of Nekima to do this-- and next time I will post on the blog that such a discussion is coming up!

As many suburbanites bemoan the effort required to maintain their white picket fences, service the two cars parked in their garages, save for college, while remaining current on the fitness club membership and having handy spare change for their morning mocha latte - many, if not more, residents (similar to Ferguson, MO) have their hands full being on time for two jobs, paying for housing, putting food on the table and praying for safe neighborhoods.

Susan Stable shared a wonderful excerpt from an imaginary letter from St. Paul to American Christians written by Martin Luther King in 1965 on her blog this morning,

"…America, as I look at you from afar, I wonder whether your moral and spiritual progress has been commensurate with your scientific progress. It seems to me that your moral progress lags behind your scientific progress. Your poet Thoreau used to talk about “improved means to an unimproved end.” How often this is true. You have allowed the material means by which you live to outdistance the spiritual ends for which you live. You have allowed your mentality to outrun your morality. You have allowed your civilization to outdistance your culture. Through your scientific genius you have made of the world a neighborhood, but through your moral and spiritual genius you have failed to make of it a brotherhood. So America, I would urge you to keep your moral advances abreast with your scientific advances."

Just as many suburban homeowners are seldom seen behind their well-maintained picket fences, few residents of cities similar to Ferguson have taken active roles in city governance. Suburbia often seeking more, often rebels against paying more that may benefit the many; while ‘the many’ are often seeking what they believe their ‘fair share’. Both frequently looking to ‘moderates’ unlike themselves to deliver the results sought – Rhetoric often taking many forms; ‘Pull yourself up by your boot straps’ and / or ‘Black (minority / poor) lives matter’.

If our neighborhoods do not foster brotherhood, where should our personal attention be focused?
See blog, first page of today's Waco Tribune-Herald, re BU BB fan.

The picture speaks a thousand words.

Some subjects are not always and everywhere fit subjects for oral conversation. Can't imagine my black neighbors and I profiting by verbalizing on the subject of race in general terms, and no need to on a personal level. Basketball, chinch bugs, irregular postal delivery, and concerns about health, bereavement, the neighborhood association and Neighborhood Watch have real world relevance and are more in our line.

"Hey Rico, how do you feel about race relations in Waco?" I don't think so.

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