Recently, I was involved in a pretty heated debate on a blog of someone I know out in California, who made a post claiming that Presidential Candidate, Barak Hussein Obama is a Racist, because the church he attends, Trinity United Church of Christ, after it’s number one mission point, to have a a commitment to God, has a few items explaining its commitment to the Black community in the United States. The blog author had an issue because, the claim was that, if a church were to exchange the word “black” for “white”, the church would be deemed racist by the Liberal society that we live in, therefore a double-standard exists, therefore, Barak Obama, and his church, are “reverse racists”.
Simple enough? Or is it so simple…
It was a very inflamed discussion, as it hammered at nerves that usually go untapped, but it really brought out what people really believed. I learned some things about all the participants, and they learned many things about me.
It had me thinking, and had me question and define what I believe about equality, and about the state of racial reconciliation in the USA, as well as it made me define what I believe about topics such as segregation, integration, discrimination, and ignorance.
The first question:
A service is usually offered if there is a need. Consequently, to claim a service as illegitimate is to claim that need is also illegitimate. Logical enough, no? Taking as an example, the debate mentioned above…..What I couldn’t quite figure out from the debate was…. Is the problem that these people have, that: a) Obama’s church is providing an illegitimate service for an illegitimate need? OR b) Is it that the need is possibly or even absolutely legitimate, but since other groups supposedly cannot create such an organization to cater to their specific needs, a double-standard is created.
or maybe a little bit of both.
Now, it brings up an interesting point. What if a church DID come out and say “We have a commitment to the White family. We have a commitment to White culture.” I think that would make the hairs stand up on many people’s backs, simply because, it encompasses a shadow of a terrible time in America’s past, and rings similar to the mantras of white supremecy groups….but is this just an emotional reaction to a statement with a negative connotation? Why can’t such a church exist? Wait a minute! There are groups who are NOT considered racist who are perfectly legitimate that have such a mission in their existence, and one of them is the Russian Orthodox Church. No one’s pounding down their doors with accusations of racism… so what’s the problem, exactly?
Support DOES NOT EQUAL Supremecy
I believe that it is perfectly legitimate for a group to render its mission towards a specific group of people that have a COLLECTIVE EXPERIENCE that is UNIQUE to that group, that NO OTHER groups have experienced.
Here’s another question….
Is that even the ideal we should achieve in America, when every community looks out only for themselves? I don’t think so! What about cooperation… what about community? Why can’t Obama’s church exist, and be legitimate, and receive the support from other groups who are not part of the black community, simply because these other groups can stand and say “yes we acknowledge a need, and we support the service provided”? What if the white community in the US had specific needs that other groups didn’t have. Then for sure, as an act of service and in the spirit of community, other groups outside the white community should rally and support, or at the bare minimum, acknowledge.
But what is the GOAL for these communities? Is it equality and freedom, or is it power and control over the others? And that, I believe, is the main question at hand. Because our Country’s principles are based on the notion of the equality of all people, then the standard should be, towards equality. Supporting and committing to a community is MUCH different than promoting the supremacy of that community over others.
So the question I pose to this side, who claims that a church like TUCOC should not offer service to a community (irrespective of the validity of that need)... For them to say that there is no need, or that need is not legitimate, it would have to really take one with an informed and holistic experience within that community to make that statement.. otherwise, without that bit of humility to say “I don’t know”, the result is pure arrogance and lack of empathy.
So, if the problem is not the validity of that need, (and that of the service provided), then if TUCOC cannot meet that need, because it is “racist”, then who can? who will? Someone can hate on TUCOC, but then, what is that someone doing to improve the situation? Some say, that community should “suck it up and help themselves”. Well, isn’t that what TUCOC is doing?
Being a person of color, myself, I grew up experiencing what it means to be different, and regardless of what I was taught, that stayed with me for quite a while. Some people embraced my difference, while others detested…. But I can now appreciate that difference, instead of reject it. But I look at my own community around me, and I see the reality of culture-clash… first generation immigrants, trying to be 100% AMERICAN… and still maintiain their culture. There are true issues unique to being someone of Egyptian Coptic heritage… does this make us victims? hardly. It’s just a reality, and whether the society around us wants to help support or not, is irrelevant, we need to learn to heal each other, and thereby heal the world around us.
This is a tougher one. I think before we can talk about groups, we have to talk about individuals. Think about a time where someone has told you or judged something about you, without even knowing who you are. Think about those moments where your own experience was not even taken into account in an effort to understand you. I think we’ve all been there at some point in our lives. Sometimes others can speak truth into our lives… but think about who those people are? These are people who have earned and gained our trust. These are people who are NOT us, but we have trusted them over time, and allow them to empower and encourage us. I don’t think it is that different when it comes to communities as a whole. I believe a cohesive group of people can operate in parallel to the individual experience.
Some people however may not relate to this. Who have had decisions made for them, and they just obey trusting that it is the best thing for them. Maybe they were right, maybe they weren’t and only time will tell.
I think using this model, I believe there needs to be trust, and context, and experience with a community, before one can make true judgments about who that community is, what that community can do, and what that community may need at a certain point in time.
Here’s an Example:
I remember some dude telling me once, that because of my culture, I would have a harder time than others in this country to have a relationship with God.
Brings me to my last question…
Some people out there believe the answer is to ignore color. Color is not a bad thing… it doesn’t have to be a source of controversy. For a person of color, to be told that they should ignore color, is to ignore a part of themselves, is to ignore their experience. One of the biggest misconceptions in America, is that when people can own their past or their history and acknowledge their experience, it automatically makes them victims. That couldn’t be further from the truth. For me personally, embracing my identity does not make me better or worse than anyone else, because I know just like I have my experience, others have their own experiences.
... Too much to say!
Anyway, I think the point of all this… I believe to deny a group its legitimacy by serving a specific group because of a collective need, is to deny that group’s experience… and I don’t think even people who wish to deny others of their experience would appreciate if they themselves were denied of theirs. I guess the one thing I would like to understand is what is it that makes people so against something like the TUCOC… I don’t believe positions aren’t so much about what they’re against, but because there’s something that they need that’s not being met… and I wonder what is it that they need? I know I have a lot to learn… but I still stand to these principles that I mentioned here. I can only speak for myself, and what I’ve learned an experienced in this life. I’m interested in dialogue…. feel free to share your thoughts.