Racist and Anti-Racist

I’m white/European-American and recently added “racist and anti-racist” to my Twitter bio. I’m writing about that not because it’s a great feat of any sort. But it’s a reflection of something important to me and something I want to write down here… just in case anyone asks what the hell I’m getting at. It’s a reflection of an identity I’m trying to own.

I’m not even sure how to talk about this. My language, knowledge and training are profoundly inadequate.

I’ve been expanding my Twitter timeline more actively lately, and I’ve found several people saying really important things on vital, life-giving subjects. Some directly engage race issues, like Bruce Reyes-Chow, who just came out with the book But I Don’t See You as Asian: Curating Conversations about Race, and Cristina Cleveland, who does work around understanding privilege, and rooting out white supremacy in the body of Christ, making space for Christians to truly value diversity. I follow Janet Mock, an advocate for trans folk and for trans people of color especially, educating our culture regarding some of the challenges faced at the intersection of gender and race. They are authors and activists putting themselves out there as touchpoints for conversations that need to happen. So, I know I’m actively invited to follow them even as I’m often challenged and intimidated by what they say and the good work they do.

I follow other strangers that simply come from a different racial background than me, and others who are white but get caught up in certain race-related issues. I’ve recently followed several Muslim women of different racial backgrounds, and I learn from them about their lives, and about Islam and the intersections of race, ethnicity and religion. I have no personal connection to Islam, though, and a little secondhand knowledge of it. Gaining knowledge is part of the reason I’m following their Twitter accounts, and my understanding is that I’m invited (in general, not individually) to follow their thoughts. I’m not unwelcome, I don’t think, or I’d leave. Mostly, I shut up and listen/read. I do worry sometimes though, especially when they say something I want to retweet, if a RT functions as a respectful notation/passing along of ideas… or if it takes certain information, filtered through my interests/desires, out of context in disrespectful ways.

And I wonder in interacting with all of them, their Twitter lives and insights and work and persons, how I can best do that without being a douchebag.

I’ve spent most of my life exploring justice issues, but it’s been years since I’ve directly studied race issues, their effect on me and my impact on issues of race. This reality is directly tied to the enormous amount of white privilege I have. I have benefitted every day of my life from racist structures. I have had the luxury of going weeks, months or years without thinking much about my race if I don’t want to. I know I was trained to be racist, and that I still am, and that I will continue to be even as I hate being racist and try not to be.

I’m looking for ways to understand my privilege, and learn more about what I don’t know. I’m looking to understand my own culture better, and how it differs from other cultures, so I don’t project it or its standards onto other people (or, if that’s impossible, do it less). I’m looking for that balance of speaking up when I can accomplish something that lessens oppression in the world, and shutting up when my input would increase oppressive control over others. I hope to keep learning about other folks’ lives and lived cultural connections without simplifying, colonizing or appropriating (if that’s possible).

So, in case you were wondering, that’s what I mean when I say I’m racist and antiracist.

Published in: on July 6, 2013 at 7:25 pm  Leave a Comment  

Enterprise Theology

Edit: Episode Index here!!

I vividly remember watching the two-hour premiere of Star Trek: The Next Generation when I was 13 years old. It was a Wednesday.

I had already begun an emotional investment in the series before that night. My dad had shown me some of the original series and movies; I enjoyed the universe and wanted to see more that wasn’t so “old”. I had also passionately followed news of the developing show long before the first episode aired. Fan mags (I believe my favorite was called Starlog) had been giving us production memos, casting updates and official announcements many months before the show premeired (it was the 1987 version of livetweeting its creation!). I remember first hearing there would be an android in the crew, and that we had made peace with our mortal enemies, the Klingons; one Klingon had even entered Starfleet! I remember taking in the riskiness and newness of the endeavor too. This was long before reboots and multi-series franchises became popular. It was, in fact, ST:TNG that helped blaze that trail. Grafting a new story onto an old one like this hadn’t been tried on this scale in mainstream entertainment before. It was a huge gamble.

I watched the first episode, and every one after it, for seven years. That’s age 13 until age 20 – a profoundly formative time. I fell in love with some characters, overidentified with other characters, and I really couldn’t begin to imagine how very different I might be as a person if I hadn’t adopted Jean-Luc Picard as a powerful role model and surrogate father (a choice I’m still quite thankful to my adolescent self for; my family of origin was an utter mess during my formation, and I could do a lot worse than aim for pleasing Picard). The crew felt like family.

For being a rerun whore, I’ve seen shockingly little of the show since it went off the air. I caught a few reruns perhaps ten years ago now, but at that point in my life I got entirely preoccupied with, well… some quality control hiccups I hadn’t noticed first time around. It’s possible – perhaps just a smidge possible – that there’s some wooden acting here or there. It may be true that a special effect or two might not have come together just right. Aaaand there might be a wrinkle or two in dialogue. Or plot holes the size of your average Klingon Bird of Prey. After 4 or 5 episodes of being distracted by those, my self of ten years ago stopped watching, chalking the series up to a child’s pleasure that didn’t hold up well. It felt a lot like how my honey describes his experience of the A-Team.

But I stumbled onto the show again just a couple of months ago (thank you, BBC America!). And what I’m struck by this time is the show’s heart, and what hidden gifts it gave me. I’ve been amazed by the depth of its reflections of my own journey and my own ethics over the years. I see just how formative the show was for me, how profoundly it has shaped my theology and politics. Some influences I have eventually rejected, but others are still there, as important anchor points.

I would really like to know more about how this show shaped me.

To that end, I’m about to take a journey. I’ll switch from the seemingly randomly ordered episodes broadcast on a cable channel to a chronological run-through of the whole series (thanks, Netflix!), starting at that fateful Wednesday-night encounter at Farpoint Station. I suspect that I’ll be writing here on the experience, but I don’t expect to focus on the plots, details or quality of the show. I want to explore the memories of my adolescent self, through a lens of narrative theology. I want to unpack the theological problems and social critique presented in the stories, and see how those themes have echoed through my own journey, over the 16 years since the show ended and left an impact on me.

Hopefully some elements of this exploration are compelling to you too, whether you’re a Trekkie, a Trekker, or don’t know a tribble from a tachyon emitter. I believe there are deep commonalities to be found in how our sacred stories can shape each of us. Please join me if you can.

Edit: Episode Index here!!

Further edit: Star Trek: The Next Generation and all images from the series are copyright Paramount Pictures. My footnotes on images serve to highlight multiple fansites and databases of Trek lore. I’m making no money off of this website.

Published in: on May 22, 2012 at 3:26 am  Leave a Comment  

OccupyBaltimore Mic Checks Karl Rove

I really enjoy the queering of the space that happens with this Human Microphone technique. I’m most familiar with the technique being used for basic communication needs in large crowds of protesters where electronic systems of communication are not available or permitted. But here it is specifically used be those typically silenced in a lecture-type situation. They wrest power over the “airwaves” in the room, and it is clear that Rove is not amused at losing the control he expects to have.

The mic check starts at about 1:48, and be aware the volume increases dramatically at that point:

Published in: on November 20, 2011 at 10:35 pm  Leave a Comment