BTSF in chronological order (most recent articles appear first):

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Halloween Costumes

This post originally appeared on October 31, 2011:


There are plenty of articles about racially inappropriate costumes, yet every year ignorant folk insist on perpetuating appropriationcaricature, and humiliation as Halloween sport. It is an annual affliction, so I guess it's worth making the point yet again...

Using a culture, race, or ethnicity as a costume is not appropriate. Ever. 

On Halloween, we get the opportunity to disguise ourselves as something 'other,'something different from normal, something bizarre. That people of color might be one of these costume options is tragic and offensive.

Halloween outfits basically come in three flavors: scary, funny, or fantasy. Real cultures shouldn't fit into any of these categories. By using people's identities as costumes, we imply that they are 'not one of us,' or not even  fully human, belonging instead to the realm of ghouls and goblins.

In the U.S., we spend the entire year marginalizing POCs, maintaining low visibility on TV, in movies, and in the media, but then suddenly become hyper-interested in 'appreciating culture' for one offensive night (as though dressing as a Hollywood version of what you think a culture is has anything to do with appreciating it).

When we claim that it's all 'good harmless fun,' we reveal our privilege never to have to face the consequences of such stereotypes in our own lives. We reveal the power we hold to dictate who defines 'harmless' and 'fun.' We reveal how loudly our own voices are heard, even as we silence others. We reveal our capacity to imagine fantasy worlds for real cultures, while ignoring the historical baggage that makes us feel uncomfortable.

 Students Teaching About Racism in Society (STARS) at Ohio University began a poster campaign to educate folks about the hurtful nature of racist costumes with the slogan "we're a culture, not a costume." All of the costumes they depict are real, and are perennially reprised  They get big props for concisely and clearly communicating what many of us have been frustrated with for years.

Also, check out this great video in which Franchesca Ramsey eloquently and hilarisiously explains the issues with these types of costumes:

Monday, October 29, 2012

Am I Appreciating or Appropriating? (Part 1)

Maxine Naawu joins us once again to share her thoughts on the difference between 'appreciation' and appropriation. Among many other things, she blogs about art, film and photography at Side Hustle Stories and hosts her own artistic work at her website.


Every fall, it’s easy to find examples of culturally insensitive Halloween costumes. They may be intended “just for fun,” but in practice, end up stereotyping, mocking, and or disrespecting of other cultures. There have been several posts on this blog and others describing why such images are especially harmful for those not in the majority because of the limited images of us in general in society. However, it doesn't have to be Halloween for someone to be culturally insensitive in their use of elements of another culture. Consider the following examples:

A white, non-muslim woman wore a head covering for a day in order to help understand the struggles of veiled Muslim women. She wrote a heartfelt post detailing how she finally understood the discrimination Muslim women go through. Her post received a mixed response (some positive, some negative) from many Muslim women bloggers and allies.

Also recently, a blog by a white woman chronicling her adventures while wearing a costume afro wig got a lot of negative attention from the black blogosphere and natural-haired black women. The author gushed about how the fro “changed her life” and helped her channel a sense of openness and “fun” in her everyday life. This was also derided as an insensitive act of appropriation.

While these women may have thought they were appreciating different cultures, they ended up actually hurting others. The women in these cases both have something in common -- they claimed they were trying to appreciate the experiences they were borrowing from, and trying to understand it in a better way.

“But,” one might say, “
 isn't getting a better appreciation for other races and cultures struggles the entire point of blogs like this? Why should someone’s effort to do so be attacked?”

I understand that the outrage in response to these efforts to reach out might dissuade others from reaching outside their own racial and cultural comfort zones. However, it’s worth examining why these efforts ended up hurting the people who were supposed to be “appreciated.” 

Here are some ways you can avoid making the mistakes they made: 

1. Credit the Source       
Arguably, the most offensive form of appropriation is when a person uses an aspect of someone else’s culture without acknowledgement of the source, especially when that person is profiting off of that stolen aspect of culture.

One example I often see is the appropriation of the Hindu religious festival Holi’s tradition of splashing colorful powder and paint on people as a celebration of springtime. This celebration often results in beautiful photography, but I often see artists using similar techniques with zero credit to its origins. It would be like, for Christians, as if wearing a pretend crown of thorns and fake stigmata became a fashion trend, and the people selling this crown didn't acknowledge its source or significance.

In this case, “appropriation” could just as easily be called “stealing” if the artist is trying to act as if the cultural technique being used is something new and original, rather than something done by others hundreds of years earlier. This form of “appreciating” is actually offensive because it turns what was significant to many into just another thing to be consumed by the majority, and renders those originally attached to that piece of culture invisible. 

Crediting the source doesn’t automatically make borrowing from another culture ok, and in some cases it isn’t possible. That’s why it’s important to follow the next step: 

2. Educate yourself first

If you’re using another culture in your art, wardrobe, worship celebration, etc, it’s important to not only credit that culture, but to do research on whether you are using it appropriately (or should be using it at all). 

One great example is the use of Native American headdresses in art, specifically on women. These headdresses are traditionally worn by men for specific religious, historical, and cultural reasons, and their use by those who haven’t earned the privilege is considered offensive, and culturally they are never/rarely worn on women. Yet it’s often done. Even when crediting the source (and without educating yourself, how would you even know how to properly credit? “Native American” is far too general) use of this headdress for artistic purposes would be offensive. 

Some self-education by Michelle, the white woman wearing an afro wig to bring some “fun” into her life, would have taught her about the long standing issues with black women and natural hair, the struggles of going up against western beauty standards, and the fact that many black women are pressured away from wearing their hair in their natural “afro” state in order to keep employment. She was enjoying the “fun” of having natural hair without knowing a single thing about the struggle behind it, which is at the very least, insensitive. In this particular case, hundreds responded to her blog and explained to her why her actions were offensive, but she doesn’t quite get it yet

Educating yourself also keeps you from perpetuating stereotypes about the culture you’re borrowing from. Michelle made jokes about going to a fried chicken festival, and changed her personality to match what she thought being a black person was like. Many Halloween costumes people wear to ‘embrace’ another culture are, in reality, simply offensive stereotypes. The fact that minority cultures in the U.S. are much more harmed by these stereotypes is just one of many reasons to remember the next step... 


Continue to step three, and practical advice on appreciating without appropriating...

Friday, October 26, 2012

Friday Fruit (10/26/12)




On Fridays, BTSF offers links to other discussions about race & Christianity. It's an opportunity for you to read about racial justice & Christianity from other folks, and for me to give props to the shoulders on which I stand...



Weekly Round Up:

These are some of BTSF's links of interest this week. What are yours?

Feel free to contribute your own links in the comments section, or submit items you feel should be included during the week. Self-promotion is encouraged. 

Sunday, October 21, 2012

The Trouble with Voter ID Laws (Part 3)

This is the final installment of our examination of the racial implication of voter ID laws. The following originally appeared as a guest post from BTSF on Urban Faith on 9/13/2012:


A Troubled History at the Polls
Discrimination and intimidation at the polls is nothing new. Our country’s voting history is fraught with poll taxes, literacy requirements, racial gerrymandering, and voter intimidation (all of which were legal in our lifetime — or at least our parents’). Indeed, as I describe, many of these injustices are still practiced in one form or another today.

Both modern and historic laws use carefully coded language to allow for legal discrimination, without ever explicitly mentioning race. When poll taxes were legally in use, they often came with a grandfather clause that allowed citizens whose ancestors had voted in the years before the civil war (you know … before the abolition of slavery) to forgo the tax.

The implications for such a legacy are profound. Years of disenfranchisement leads to a foundation of legal precedent and accumulated power that perpetuate disparity and injustice. It’s no coincidence that that the Senate is still 96 percent white. As Christians, we know God says to “choose some wise, understanding and respected men from each of your tribes, and I will set them over you” (Deuteronomy 1:13), but some groups are still embarrassingly absent from our leadership.

What effects might this disparity have on controversial or racially veiled legislation moving forward? Even assuming no intentional prejudice, surely we can’t presume that homogeneous legislatures have full understanding of the needs of their constituents of color.

The Truth About Voter Fraud
As Christian voters we have an obligation to “discern for ourselves what is right; let us learn together what is good” (Job 34:4). It’s true that there are cases in which voter fraud has been a problem, but these cases most often occur in the context of absentee voting, a scenario that is not at all helped by the requirement of a photo ID at the polls.

While some of the new legislation has been struck down, others remain up for debate and it’s important to inform ourselves about the effects of the legislation. If you haven’t registered for this year’s election, do so. And educate yourself about the ID requirements in your state. 

If you’re already registered and ready to go, help some who aren't in that same position. On Election Day, join with other believers to unite around the communion table as a way of practicing our common bond in Christ amid our theological, political, and denominational differences. And on that day, consider giving of your time to make sure every citizen can cast a vote safely and legally.


What do you think of voter ID laws? Share your view in the comments section below.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Friday Fruit (10/19/12)


On Fridays, BTSF offers links to other discussions about race & Christianity. It's an opportunity for you to read about racial justice & Christianity from other folks, and for me to give props to the shoulders on which I stand...


Weekly Round Up:

These are some of BTSF's links of interest this week. What are yours?

Feel free to contribute your own links in the comments section, or submit items you feel should be included during the week. Self-promotion is encouraged. 

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The Trouble with Voter ID Laws (Part 2)

This is part two of a three-part examination of the racial implication of voter ID laws. The following originally appeared as a guest post from BTSF on Urban Faith on 9/13/2012:

Injecting Race Into the Race
In addition, these issues are conflated with race. Nationally, more than one million black residents and half-million Latinos live more than 10 miles away from locations issuing valid photo IDs. In Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia, driver’s license offices “that are open more than twice a week are located largely away from rural black populations.”

Legislation has also targeted such options as early voting for individuals who aren't able to make it to their polling places on Election Day. In the process of overturning these laws, some compelling stories have come to light (this court case in particular), but often at the expense of privacy and dignity. Ohio State Representative Alicia Reese notes, “Citizens have come up to me asking why, as a voter, have I been called lazy? Why, as a voter, have I been called a criminal because I want to go vote? As a voter, why are they making it more difficult because I work two shifts and I want to get to the board of elections to vote but I don’t want to lose my job in the process? Why in Ohio is the vote under attack?”

What is more, the proponents of these laws seem to be well aware of the laws’ nuanced and biased consequences, allowing the swirl of myths and fear mongering from a select few to confuse their motives. Pennsylvania State Representative Mike Turzai exclaimed that the new voter ID law “is gonna allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania — done.”

In a recent case regarding their voter ID law, the state of Texas argued that “poverty is not a protected classification under the Constitution,” and if “minority voters are disproportionately indigent,” they are nevertheless not being racially discriminated against. But a lack of intent to discriminate does not ensure a lack of discrimination. Indeed, a national survey demonstrated a correlation between those supporting Voter ID laws and those harboring negative attitudes toward people of color, which wasn't simply explained by party affiliation.

It’s important to note that many proponents of voter ID laws are not intentionally trying to be discriminatory on the basis of class or race. But when we view the world from only one perspective, we tend to forget that the prevailing system favors the privileged in our country. Those that support voter ID laws are often the same folks who equate poverty with laziness, and blackness with criminal behavior, without ever digging into a deeper understanding of the subtle, often subconscious, biases that we all maintain.

Troubling Consequences
It is ironic that as we send troops overseas to “defend freedom and democracy” abroad, we create ways to hinder our own democratic process at home. Shouldn't we laud an increase in voter turnout rather than trying to suppress it? Shouldn't we want more citizens to become engaged in electoral proceedings, not fewer? How does decreased participation enhance the democratic process?

Perhaps there is a fear that by allowing more voting opportunities the “wrong” policies will be enacted. But if one’s policies are good and righteous, won’t they appeal to the majority of voters? We must remember that “righteousness exalts a nation, but sin condemns any people” (Proverbs 14:34).

If voter ID laws were purely about preventing voter fraud, the entire country would benefit from this added security. But if one political party makes gains from voter suppression, what does it say about that party’s platform? Clearly not that it is formed with the benefit all citizens in mind.

What does it say if one has to silence the voice of the people in order to win a seat in government? Could this be a sign that one’s policies are no longer benefiting the majority of one’s constituents? In some cases, I think it might. But rather than adjust their policies or “sell” voters on their positions, some politicians seek to increase the barriers to voting for their opponents.

Both modern and historic laws use carefully coded language to allow for legal discrimination, without ever explicitly mentioning race. Continue to part 3...

Sunday, October 14, 2012

The Trouble with Voter ID Laws (Part 1)

The following originally appeared as a guest post from BTSF on Urban Faith on 9/13/2012:

One of the most hotly contested election battles isn't just over the economy or foreign policy; it’s over the fundamental right to vote itself. Recently, we have seen an upsurge in voting-related laws being proposed and passed. As is too often the case, these new laws disproportionately work against people of color, as well as low-income populations.

Christians have a legacy of electing leaders, and we have a responsibility to protect this right for all of our sisters and brothers. The early church decided that it would be good for them to “choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn responsibility over to them” (Acts 6:3). Indeed, we are to “select capable men from all the people — men who fear God, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain — and appoint them as officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens” (Exodus 18:21). When we exercise the right to vote, we participate in a history passed down to us from both our political and spiritual forebears.
The total number of in-person
voter fraud cases since 2000. 

But new laws seek to selectively impair voting capacity of a subset of the population by reducing polling hours and by requiring photo IDs. Some estimates suggest that in Pennsylvania, for instance, 9 percent of registered voters do not own a driver’s license and that nationwide these percentages could add up to approximately 22 million otherwise legally eligible voters being disenfranchised at the polls this year. Yet there have only been ten instances of in-person voter fraud in the nation since the year 2000. Ten.

What’s Wrong with Showing an ID?
One may wonder why obtaining a simple driver’s license is such a big deal. Doesn't everybody need one anyway? But as it is less common to drive in urban settings, these populations are less likely to need driver’s licenses. And car ownership itself is a privilege of economic status that many in the middle-class take for granted. In fact, most other interactions that require a driver’s license are also habits of privilege (cashing a check, making purchase returns, renting a car, boarding a flight). Alternative forms of photo ID (like passports, government IDs, and college IDs) are also upper-middle-class documents.

It’s true that some types of non-driver’s-license photo ID are available for free, but they often require documentation like birth certificates and Social Security cards that can cost a significant amount of time and/or money to obtain. A simple task that is supposedly a right of citizenship quickly becomes a multi-day bureaucratic saga that requires energy and time away from work, often when one can’t afford either.

Those that use public transportation are especially burdened when original documentation, photo ID, registration, and actual voting all happen in different locations with restricted hours of operation. And in the meantime, local taxes that fund such public services are voted down by those least likely to need those services.

Homelessness or low-income folk that are apt to move frequently are in an even more difficult situation. It becomes almost impossible to establish residency, provide a mailing address, or show proof of identification. Yet a mailing address is often necessary to receive voter ID cards that individuals have to show on Election Day (regardless of photo ID requirements). All the while, those with the privilege of ease of access to voting can influence policies on housing, welfare, and social services, to the exclusion of those whom the policies actually affect.

Continue to part two "Injecting Race into the Race"

Friday, October 12, 2012

Friday Fruit (10/12/12)


On Fridays, BTSF offers links to other discussions about race & Christianity. It's an opportunity for you to read about racial justice & Christianity from other folks, and for me to give props to the shoulders on which I stand...


Weekly Round Up:

These are some of BTSF's links of interest this week. What are yours?

Feel free to contribute your own links in the comments section, or submit items you feel should be included during the week. Self-promotion is encouraged. 

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Affirmative Action

In light of the Supreme Court's taking up Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, we're re-running our 5/5/2010 post on affirmative action. We also recommend taking a look at the post 'Racism in Academic Admissions':

In discussions about race, conversations often quickly slide to the subject of affirmative action and "reverse discrimination.Dr. Tatum devotes an entire chapter to the subject, subtitled "I'm in favor of affirmative action except when it comes to my jobs." She notes that many white people wonder "Will I get the job I want or will it go to some 'minority'?" The implication being that the minority that got the job is inherently less qualified and only got it based on color.

Those that don't like affirmative action generally feel that through these policies their whiteness becomes a disadvantage. In fact, the white privilege that we carry around every day acts to bolster us so much that our whiteness can never truly be a disadvantage--affirmative action just makes it so we aren't so way out ahead (see post on so-called 'White victims of racism').

Forty-years of "advantage" cannot begin to reverse the 500 year head-start white people had (see post: Academic Admissions), or erase the economic and psychological mars that oppression has left on over 40% of this country. There are still severe inequalities that prevent otherwise-qualified people from coming to the interview with a fair shot. We have a responsibility to rectify the discrimination in the classroom and in the workplace, as well as the historical head start white folks have had. 

One problem affirmative action faces is that it gets confused with quotas. Filling quotas and affirmative action are two different things, so lets not confuse them. In my view, quotas are used to fulfill a requirement and then say "there. we're done. we can stop now. we have our token minorities." It is a system totally unrelated to merit or qualifications, which is why a lot of white people freak out about it. These practices are no longer allowed.

Affirmative action, on the other hand, when done well, is goal driven. That means the numbers can be exceeded and the policy acts to aid the company's success as well as that of the employees'. Remember that "seeking the empowerment of people of color is not the same as disenfranchising white people." The idea of proactive hiring is that you decide what qualifications one needs to be successful in the job, including a diverse background with an understanding of multiculturalism, and then you stick to those qualifications. You cast your net wide, advertising the position in Black Enterprise, or whatever applies to your field and you remember that bringing diversity into the workplace is one of the job qualifications during the interview process. Keep in mind, there are many white people that fulfill this requirement and everyone has had the opportunity to gain a background in cultural diversity, but more people of color may have taken advantage of those opportunities (often can hardly help but to!)  and so may be more likely to fit the job description.

Allow me to describe a situation where the model I describe might be relevant.

Applications for medical school are a tough business. What does it take to get in? It takes top notch grades for sure. Last year's Ohio State class had an undergraduate GPA averaging 3.7. The next biggest thing is the MCAT--OSU's average is a 33. So lets assume anyone with those numbers is fit to be a good doctor. Then what? OSU says you will need clinical and research experience, 'leadership,' 'volunteer service,' and 'extracurricular activities.' What exactly does all that mean? And how much is enough? who knows.

There are about a million med school applicants with high high GPAs and MCAT scores. So in what activities could an applicant participate to make her application more attractive? Debate team? Orchestra? Baseball? What about becoming a member of Diversity Roundtable, or the Multicultural Student Union. Attend a diversity retreat. Go to events where you are in the racial minority. These options promote the development of any number of important skills for med school: well-roundedness (so you don't go crazy in your first year),  cross-cultural understanding (vital for any doctor who wants to see patients outside her immediate family), relating to different perspectives (collaboration is the new hot trend in the research community), empathy, patience (hello bedside manner!).

Maybe a candidate has a 3.7 GPA AND was a member of the biology honors society, phi beta kappa, and graduated magma cum laude.  But so what? Those accolades are largely redundant. We already said a 3.7 makes you a good doctor, so stick to that qualification, and accept a student who brings other qualifications in addition. My point is, we have determined when a student is academically smart enough to become a doctor, lets makes another priority be that she is socially and culturally smart enough to be a good doctor. If this were more a part of our rubric, I actually think a lot fewer white people would qualify. 

Employers and churches need to understand the benefits that diversity minded hiring can bring. In addition to accessing the skills mentioned above (which any white person may avail herself of), proactively increasing the racial and ethnic diversity in the workplace leads to entrepreneurial success and is the savvy thing to do. People that grow up in a similar way will think a similar way, will tackle problems in similar ways.

If I want advancements in my company's or my church's goals, I need to bring people together that are entirely different from one another, that they might stretch each other and bring new perspectives. We have no idea what innovations we are missing by limiting ourselves to work with those like us. We are loosing vast amounts of brain resources by not actively rectifying and widening the narrow pool we currently think in.

I cringe to think of how long ago we might have had the cure to cancer if we were taking advantage the all brilliant minds that, though historic discrimination, had to struggle through school while they worked part-time to help support their family (it is easy to get into college when you don't have to worry about the next utility bill). Or what about the inventor of an eco-friendly biofuel that couldn't get a job interview because she has a funny name? Or the broker of peace in the Middle East that got teased so much in high school that he didn't have the confidence to apply for college. It happens. And we are screwing ourselves over because of it.

Let's be clear though, our own evangelical and economic benefit is not the primary reason to rectify discriminatory hiring practices, it is only a fringe benefit.

The heart of the matter is recognizing that white people have privilege. and with it comes our responsibility to care for others and make sure that we work to right the wrongs that brought us to that place of privilege (you know...'love one another,' 'give the cloak off your back,' 'do justice, and love kindness').

Too many employers stop at the 'cast the net wide' part of creating an open interview process. They figure they will advertise widely and then just choose the best candidate. But this strategy ignores the systematic advantages that white people have to making it through the interview process (or even TO the intereview process).

Many studies show that when resumes are close or identical in their content, black candidates are more likely to loose out on the job.  White folk have the right hair, the right cloths, the right accent. How must it feel to worry whether wearing your hair the way God put in on your head will keep you from getting a job? 

A couple of important points to leave you with. First thing to remember: just because someone is black in a predominantly white work environment does NOT mean that person got the job because of affirmative action. And even if she did, that fact has no bearing on her ability to do the job, or how qualified she is. Affirmative action is there to ensure that the many highly talented minority applicants get seen, heard, and hired, despite the  pressures in society to keep them invisible. It has nothing to do with hiring unqualified workers, so stop letting that little voice convince you of a lie of superiority

Second, it is my opinion that I have benefited for so long from white privilege that I owe it to my workplace my church, my POC sisters and brothers, and myself to make some sacrifices to reverse wrongs done. Giving up some of my privilege is the right thing to do. We have an imperative to fix the wrong that we benefit from, even if we personally didn't cause it to develop. 

If you haven't read in a while, take a look at Acts 6:1-7, with the concept of affirmative action in mind. This is a story about how the church first deals with marginalized members of its community and how it uses affirmative action to remedy the situation. A minority group of Jews (who were Greek), were complaining their widows weren't getting their fair share of the food distributions. And what did the Apostles do about it? They promoted seven (fully qualified: "full of the Spirit and wisdom") Greek leaders to make sure rations were distributed fairly, not only to the Greek widows, but to any marginalized group. The apostles gave their full support to this equal employment opportunity by laying hands on them and blessing them.

Notice that, after it was brought to their attention, the Apostles recognized and acknowledged that an injustice was occurring. They didn't dismiss the complaint, or claim that the Hellenistic Jews were just trying gain an unfair advantage. They didn't blame the victim, or claim it was a "Greek problem" to be solved by the Greek community. They stepped up a fixed the situation. And what happened? "So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith"

I don't know how to right the centuries of racial wrongs that have compounded themselves. I don't know if the methods discussed here even come close-- at best they are indirect solutions that don't guarantee immediate equality. But it might help, and for now, it is all the law allows. And we've gotta do something.



UPDATE (05/13/11)--Ta-Nehisi Coates articulates some good points in this article Black Privilege for The Atlantic:
There are some legitimate criticisms of Affirmative Action. I think this is one of the dumbest. The underlying premise is that society is generally fair, and no one receives a leg up ever, except black people. Or it assumes that such advantages exist, but negritude, in the nation of white leagues, black codes, and red lines, imparts the sort of boost heretofore unwitnessed. 
But the history of America, itself, is, in no small measure, the history of an Affirmative Action program for white people. Mitt Romney was born in a Detroit neighborhood where the deed read
"Said lots shall not be sold or leased to or occupied by any person or persons other than of the Caucasian race. But this shall not be interpreted to exclude occupancy by persons other than of the Caucasian race when such occupancy is incidental to their employment on the premises." 
In other words, the neighborhood, like virtually every nice neighborhood in Detroit, and many throughout the country, was a giant set-aside for white people who didn't want to compete with blacks. But no one feels that Mitt Romney achievements--or the achievements of white people in general--are tainted by red-lining. No one says, "Would Mitt Romney have succeeded without race preferences?"

...I've talked repeatedly about my concerns with race-based Affirmative Action. But none of those concerns involve ill-gotten goods. Who is the successful human who can claim that they have never, not once, been advantaged by society? And who, with honesty and intelligence, would seriously claim that, among those advantages, black privilege is king?

See Also:
Reverse Racism
Academic Admissions
Twitter Conversation about Privilege

Monday, October 8, 2012

Creation Myths: Christopher Columbus



What we now accept as the true history of the United States in reality is comprised of decades of creation myths. After the American revolution, having separated ourselves from the rich history of Europe (and having sneered at this continent's indigenous histories to the point of annihilation), the newly formed United States found itself without a heritage with which to construct its new civilization. We were left without a history, without heroes or cultural icons. And the void needed to be filled.

As a result, we now have a cultural reliance on several sacred stories of our foundation. We revere the country's holy texts, and ritualistically repeat the essential creeds to our children. The stories of Jamestown, the pilgrims, and Plymouth Rock can be piously recalled. Yet none of the modern tales match the actual reality of our past. James Baldwin notes, "what passes for identity in America is a series of myths about one’s heroic ancestors."

And we have made heroes out of our cruelest ancestors, not the least of which was Christopher Columbus. After first encountering the Arawaks, Columbus realized "with 50 men we could subjugate them all and make them do whatever we want." Thus was born America's true founding legacy.

To take advantage of Columbus's 'discovery', Spain declared that "with the help of God, we shall powerfully enter into your country, and shall make war against you in all ways and manners that we can, and shall subject you to the yoke and obedience of the Church and of their highnesses; we shall take you, and your wives, and your children, and shall make slaves of them, and as such shall sell and dispose of them as their highnesses may command; and we shall take away your goods, and shall do you all the mischief and damage that we can, as to vassals who do not obey, and refuse to receive their lord, and resist and contradict him; and we protest that the deaths and losses which shall accrue from this are your fault, and not that of their highnesses, or ours, nor of these cavaliers who come with us."


The crimes that followed Columbus's landing set the stage for centuries abuse and atrocity, the legacy of which continues today. Much of these works were carried out in the name of Christ. Consider that the first English ship to carry enslaved West Africans to the New World was named JesusFor hundreds of people this was the first encounter with God's Son, He that had come to 'set the captives free,'

Many of us already know that the stories we heard in grade school are myths. But white America perpetuates and clings to them anyway. Why? Perhaps we are too afraid to look straight into the face of our generational sin. White Americans continue to benefit from our ancestors' actions, and it's time we owned up to the implications.

That Columbus is lauded as a hero is shameful and embarrassing. We need to rethink what stories we tell. Begin by watching this video, and consider who and what we celebrate on Columbus Day:


Friday, October 5, 2012

Friday Fruit (10/05/12)

On Fridays, BTSF offers links to other discussions about race & Christianity. It's an opportunity for you to read about racial justice & Christianity from other folks, and for me to give props to the shoulders on which I stand...


Weekly Round Up:

These are some of BTSF's links of interest this week. What are yours?

Feel free to contribute your own links in the comments section, or submit items you feel should be included during the week. Self-promotion is encouraged. 
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By Their Strange Fruit by Katelin H is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
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