[rare summer post]
I really do think that the topic of race relations is generally not helped by the way most people concerned about the matter approach it.
As fallen human beings, we often like to think ourselves quite self-sufficient. Confident we are able to overcome the problems we have, we charge into them headlong, full of righteous conviction, and in doing so easily exacerbate the divides that we feel exist, and in some cases really do exist… between us.
Yes, I have this problem too.
That said, I did my best to write a paper that I thought really could bridge divides, and create more light than heat. I talked about the paper, published in the journal Lutheran Mission Matters in this blog post, and you can read it here.
I recently shared this paper with a student of a mixed-racial background who read it, and here is what she said to me (this and other correspondence below shared with permission):
Thank you so much for sharing the paper with me, I truly did enjoy it and must say that it was indeed a helpful paper. Sometimes it can be difficult to get things across to certain family members of mine as they cannot picture themselves in my shoes. They live in a small town where everyone looks like everyone so I can see why they may have such a negative mindset on certain topics but I want to change that. I would love to share this paper with them in hopes to help them understand the importance of reaching out and loving minority communities. They are very religious and me not being as religious as I used to be, they sometimes try to use the word of God against me and I struggle thinking of things to say back. This paper speaks their language and spoke to me in a way I could understand. I am so thankful for this class as it is bringing me closer to God and will hopefully bring me closer to my family and make difficult conversations with them easier.
Update: Later on, she shared this: “Thank you so much for listening to my words and voicing them. I have shared this article with a few family members and the outcome was positive. I am so thankful that this article has given me a starting point to further discuss these topics with my family.”
Now, this student lives in the area of Minneapolis that was affected by the recent George Floyd situation. Here is what this student had said to me before I shared this paper:
“I think the topic of suffering we are discussing has really described my life lately. I’d say I am mentally suffering from the many conversations I find myself having with both family members, co workers and even some friends describing the events and protests that have been happening these past weeks. Being half white and black, I have had to confront many white family members. It sucks honestly, constantly seeing them post that they do not understand the protests and the “black lives matter” movement. I have seen so many posts about people being upset about George Floyd being able to have a funeral, him being held a hero and the changes being made to the MPLS police department. To top it off, a family member today posted that real Christians would not hop onto the BLM “bandwagon”. Bandwagon? Are you kidding?
I’m hurt. I’m confused. I do not really have any place to vent. Because I am biracial, my whiteness often causes my experiences to be invalid to some people. I really hate seeing family members post things like this because I love them so much but having a son of my own now who is biracial as well, I will cut ties. I do not want him to grow up hating a part of him like I did.”
Here is how I responded:
It is a hard time for a lot of people right now. I’ll be honest and say that I don’t know what to say, but I feel I need to be honest too. It looks to me like George Floyd was killed unjustly and I saw all the people on the right and even “far right” (according to the media) condemn the killing as unjust. So why could people not be brought *together* through this? Instead, it seems like many used the situation for political gain (I am not talking about the peaceful protestors). I think the issue is that a lot of people who are white (my ancestors, by the way, came to America after the civil war and were German and Finnish, so immigrants) are confused about why they are being told they are white supremacists. Also, when they hear “Black lives matter,” they think “Don’t you believe I think that is true? Of course I believe that.” When they also find out that the BLM website says this:
-We are self-reflexive and do the work required to dismantle cisgender privilege and uplift Black trans folk, especially Black trans women who continue to be disproportionately impacted by trans-antagonistic violence.
-We dismantle the patriarchal practice…
-We disrupt the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure requirement.
– We foster a queer‐affirming network. When we gather, we do so with the intention of freeing ourselves from the tight grip of heteronormative thinking, or rather, the belief that all in the world are heterosexual.
…or at least did (I don’t know if it has been taken down now, but that *is* at least what it said)…
They are confused about why someone needs to support BLM in order to be pro-black. Or how Christians can be expected to support such an organization.
I have studied the issue quite a bit, and I wrote a paper addressing racial issues. I wonder, yyy, if you might do me the honor of reading it and sharing your honest opinion with me. I tried to write it to be helpful, to offer a constructive way forward: https://lsfm.global/uploads/files/LMM%2011-19__Rinne.pdf
yyy, if you don’t have time to read it, or time to read it and talk with me more, I get it. I don’t want to exhaust you too, and I’m sorry to hear you have had a bad couple weeks. *Thank you* for being honest and reaching out to me, even if you regret it now (I certainly hope not). Know in your heart that I look so forward to this!:
9 After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands….
I have been watching the presentations at the 2018 MLK 50 conference from the Gospel Coalition. Most of the talks I have not found to be terribly helpful, but this short 10-minute one really stands out, I think. It certainly spoke to me.
Would that we might hear more messages like this when it comes to this fraught and terribly difficult topic:
UPDATE 2: This is also an excellent new article dealing with related issues.