"I heard a voice from heaven saying, 'Son, let this woman be a bride to you in the restoration of my people. Let her be a mother for these people, regenerating souls through the salvation of spirit and water.'" (Hildegard of Bingen, Scivias)

Monday, October 31, 2016

Black Lives are Sacred Day 31: Apologizing for Racism Again

The cis white boys are way ahead of the cis white girls this week with Chris Hemsworth's superhero apology added to his picture--appropriately dressed in Thor armor--standing with Standing Rock.

“I would also like to take this opportunity to raise something that has been bothering me for sometime. Last New Year’s Eve I was at a ‘Lone Ranger’ themed party where some of us, myself included, wore the traditional dress of First Nations people. I was stupidly unaware of the offence this may have caused and the sensitivity around this issue. I sincerely and unreservedly apologise to all First Nations people for this thoughtless action.”

In contrast, Amy Schumer's aggressive non-apology claiming a lack of intent to hurt Black women with her racist Formation parody made me wonder again about that ever popular hurtful excuse in fauxpologies. If people don't actually intend harm surely the response to learning they had unskillfully caused it, as the Buddhists say, would be humble contrition and passion to speak words which heal, rather than compound, their victims' wounds as well as gratitude for the privilege of being confronted and invited to learning and growth.

The contrast inspired me to conclude the monthlong series by returning to my initially planned post about apologizing for racism, which was set aside for what became a three part series inspired by a recent anti-Semitic social media fail. For the curious: 1) Apologizing for Racism. 2) Making Amends for Racism. 3) Forgiving Racism.

There are some great pieces out there about the importance of a willingness to apologize for aspiring allies, and ways to implement that which help heal, rather than compound, the pain and damage caused by both intentional and thoughtless racist words and deeds. Racist thoughts should, of course--like all others--be dealt with via better thoughts and/or other discussion venues than victims who don't need or want to know they have been sinned against. This is one reason I am profoundly grateful for the practice of sacramental Reconciliation in my faith tradition allowing me to seek conversion and transformation going beyond direct amends when appropriate and replacing them when, as the Ninth Step teaches, they would further harm that person or others.

And for the belief in the "communion of saints," i.e. interaction between heaven and earth allowing me to reach out in prayer to both personal and historical people who have passed into the full safety and power of divine love to both express repentance and request assistance. (Recent prayerful apologies for what my wise maiden termed "the anti-Semitism debacle" ranged from Mary Magdalene, my sister in PTSD and apostleship, to Simone Weil, whose life and writings moved me deeply as a first year doctoral student, to Professor Michael Signer, who offered generous compassion and a rabbinic Shabbos blessing at a medieval conference when I earned and then lost a prestigious position at a Jesuit university due to discrimination as both a mother and a feminist theologian).

Intent versus impact.

How to apologize for a racist (etc.) comment.

(How to avoid) white apologetics.

And the ever-helpful SorryWatch blog--in this case Maimonides' rules for healthy apologies on any subject.

The one piece often left out, which I would like to highlight as I learned it through hard Ignatian experience, is the immediate temptation the evil spirit throws in once a harmful racist act has been identified and repented for: to make the repentance dramatic and self-centered instead of humble and focused on the apologizee. This is always a temptation for oppressors who are programmed to center themselves from birth. So in addition to the willingness to accept and respond to confrontation I always pray for the grace to keep my apologies short, sweet, and specific to the person to whom I owe amends. And do my best to save the detailed introspection and white girl tears--necessary parts of the conversion process that they may be--for my prayer time, my confessor, and other aspiring white allies.

One of the greatest gifts in my learning process on this came from a respected womanist colleague. I was revising a divine feminine prayer book to include more matriarchs and initially decided to exclude Hagar for some ridiculous reason that seemed plausible at the time. I was uneasy enough about it enough to double check with her, though, and her incisive yet gracious reply rapidly opened my eyes, mind, and heart. So I thanked her sincerely for schooling me on the subject...and asked her forgiveness and Hagar's...and further asked in a pushy and entitled way that she would continue to call me out if and when I screwed up again. Her response was fricking brilliant and life changing, and I quote it verbatim:

[ ].

Translation:

"Not. Your. Mammy."

I got it. And confessed it. And began to make amends by keeping my fool mouth shut. And followed up by exercising exquisite care to avoid the "f word" and any other demand for emotional labor when the Spirit prompted an apology for something else the following year, which was apparently non-idiotic enough to honored with a calm and kind verbal response.

More recently I was profoundly moved when she noted the concurrence of Yom Kippur and Coming Out Day two weeks ago with a brief and beautiful social media apology as a straight Christian for the harm both groups have inflicted on queer and Jewish folk. And inspired to follow her example soon afterwards when she expressed frustration with white feminists excited about a possible female president exalting Susan B. Anthony--and shared some powerful links indicting the egregious racism of her and other white suffragettes.

I had vaguely known about this problem in the past but it was this courageous sharing of her sacred anger and pain that finally pulled my cowardly ostrich head out of, er, the sand enough to read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest more of the truth about the poisonous roots of racist white feminism and white feminist racism in myself and many of my sisters. And to add it to my doozy of a list for today's healing sacraments appointment at the Carmelite monastery, where my beloved spiritual brother laughed with delight when I replaced the usual formal closing words indicating "done with the sins, bring on the penance" with "I totally suck and God totally rocks and the mercy is amazing!" And to join with others on her social media feed expressing gratitude for the wake up call with prayer for the right words...and needless to say, no expectation of response given the immense debt to her and hers--calling for a lifetime of metanoia and unworthy handmaid reparations--from me and mine.

Thank you indeed. It will be a powerful addition to a stuck blogpost on this issue. I humbly apologize to you and all your sisters on behalf of my mothers in racist white feminism from suffragettes through Second Wave. And on my own behalf for fleeing the fullness of the horrible truth about their and my participation in white supremacy and hence the actions of metanoia to which She is calling me through the sacred Passion of our victims.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Black Lives are Sacred Day 30: Preschool to Prison Pipeline

Totally heartbreaking.

Black students are disproportionately suspended from class, starting as early as preschool, according to new data from the U.S. Department of Education collected from all public school districts during the 2013–2014 school year.

Black preschool children were 3.6 times more likely than white children to receive one or more out-of-school suspensions, according to the survey data. Although boys were more likely than girls to be suspended in preschool, black girls also had high rates of suspension.

More.

And one solution:

Let’s say a child runs inside with a dirty can and excitedly says, ‘Look what I found!’ A non-attuned response would be, “Put that down! It’s gross!”

An attuned response honors that the child is coming from a place of curiosity, openness, and excitement. You might respond by saying, ‘Wow, that’s a shiny can you found. It looks pretty dirty, though, so let’s look at it outside.’: It’s being aware of the child’s experience and tuning into it.

To build healthy relationships between the child and the teacher, the teacher needs to base their responses on what the child is putting forward in the interaction.

Research has shown that attuned relationships can be a buffer for kids who may be encountering difficult things in their homes or communities.

Attuned relationships do a lot to create the brain structure that promotes later learning, but this is missing in typical early childhood teacher training.

Saying ‘this kid doesn’t know how to behave’ isn’t helpful. As the adult, it is my job to understand what this child needs. An attuned relationship meets the child where the child is.

More.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Tiffany Martinez: Academia Needs Work

It's really embarrassing to be a cis white feminist this week. Racist t-shirts from the cast of the Suffragette movie, racist Formation parody and double-down excuses from Amy Schumer, and now a brilliant Latina first generation college student already accepted to graduate school subjected to false public accusations of plagiarism from the female, almost certainly white, professor of her senior seminar.

They assumed that the work I turned in was not my own. My professor did not ask me if it was my language, instead they immediately blamed me in front of peers. On the second page the professor circled the word “hence” and wrote in between the typed lines “This is not your word.” The word “not” was underlined. Twice. My professor assumed someone like me would never use language like that. As I stood in the front of the class while a professor challenged my intelligence I could just imagine them reading my paper in their home thinking could someone like her write something like this?

In this interaction, my undergraduate career was both challenged and critiqued. It is worth repeating how my professor assumed I could not use the word “hence,” a simple transitory word that connected two relating statements. The professor assumed I could not produce quality research. The professor read a few pages that reflected my comprehension of complex sociological theories and terms and invalidated it all. Their blue pen was the catalyst that opened an ocean of self-doubt that I worked so hard to destroy. In front of my peers, I was criticized by a person who had the academic position I aimed to acquire. I am hurting because my professor assumed that the only way I could produce content as good as this was to “cut and paste.” I am hurting because for a brief moment I believed them.

and

The grade on my paper was not a letter, but two words: “needs work.” And it’s true. I am going to graduate in May and enter a grad program that will probably not have many people who look like me. The entire field of academia is broken and erases the narratives of people like me. We all have work to do to fix the lack of diversity and understanding among marginalized communities. We all have work to do.

Academia needs work.

More.

After her blog post went viral Ms. Martinez was featured in a followup interview at the Chronicle of Higher Education. I am glad they are giving her a voice and mad that they minimize the racist pedagogical malpractice as a "microaggression." And I hope that the university requires the abusive professor to make amends by apologizing to her victim in front of the class--always ethically required for a public insult unless, as the Ninth Step says, it would harm the person sinned against or vulnerable others. That is something the old confessional manuals got spot on as a matter of justice and SorryWatch blog recently pointed out in analyzing Illinois Senator Mark Kirk's wimpy fauxpology for his sexist-ableist-racist trifecta of hateful insult to challenger Tammy Duckworth. In fact, the really impressive thing would be to woman up and apologize in a comment or, if Ms. Martinez would like, a guest post at the blog. It's often tough but also something I can testify from home, classroom, and social media experience--when those environments are safe--is a fire of roses for the sinner as well, bringing sweet freeing mercy along with the purifying pain.

Q. Do you think the professor has seen the blog post?

A. We actually did have a conversation today. My issue isn’t even this certain encounter. My issue is that after I posted that, I’ve noticed that thousands — and I’m not even being dramatic — thousands of students, of faculty members, of academics, have contacted me telling me similar experiences. This isn’t even an isolated incident. This happens all the time, and I didn’t even know that. I thought this was just something that was happening to me, but it’s so widespread. Even if it’s not someone’s intention to be racist or discriminatory, it’s still having an impact on students.

Black Lives are Sacred Day 29: Black Police Victim of White Police Brutality

More than one Black off-duty or plainclothes police officer has become a victim of police brutality from brothers in blue, and the latest is Officer Robert Parker of Washington D.C.'s Harbor Patrol. He was attacked and injured for the crime of wearing a hoodie and jeans while Black in a neighborhood in which a Black man in a similar outfit had shot someone at a mall.

Parker, who is assigned to Harbor Patrol as a diver, says he was thrown to the ground and punched in the head, even as he was identifying himself as an officer, obeying all commands.

"And I can't remember if I said okay or was just kind of baffled at the moment, and he walked up to me and he started patting me down and I'm just thinking, is this really happening? Because I know the protocol because I'm a police officer," Parker told FOX 5's Paul Wagner. "He reaches around and feels my sidearm, my firearm and I look at him and I see the look in his eye and I say, 'I'm the police.' I'm literally slammed. I went to the ground I kept saying, 'I'm the police, I'm the police.' There were two other officers there. I felt their presence and they placed me in handcuffs, and then somebody hit me in the right side of my face."

Parker says he wasn't resisting and felt the take down and punch were totally unwarranted. He says he hates to pull the race card, but believes had he been white, the take down and what he views as excessive force would not have happened.

During the incident, Parker says he injured his wrist and went for treatment at the police and fire clinic as well as a hospital emergency room.

Needless to say the department is shielding its perpetrator with lies of "acted professionally and with restraint." The most egregious lie is that Officer Parker failed to identify himself promptly--as if any Black man in danger of his life would fail to do so, much less an experienced member of law enforcement.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Black Lives Matter Day 28: Anthem Heroines, Anthem Villains

Last week at the Sixers-Heat game Denasia Lawrence became the first vocalist to sing the entire National Anthem kneeling and wearing a Black Lives Matter t-shirt.

"We're being unjustly killed and overly criminalized," Lawrence wrote. "I took the opportunity to sing and kneel to show that we belong in this country and that we have the right to respectfully protest injustices against us."

Lawrence followed Leah Tysse, who took a knee during the final lines at a Sacramento Kings game, and inspired Sevyn Streeter to attempt to wear a We Matter t-shirt to sing at the Sixers-Thunder game on Oct. 26.

“I’d say two minutes before we were about to walk out...the organization told me that I could not wear my shirt while singing the national anthem at their game. I was never given any kind of dress code. I was never asked beforehand to show my wardrobe,” Streeter told The Associated Press.

She went on to explain why she choose to wear the jersey for her performance. “I also felt it was important to express the ongoing challenges and ongoing injustice we face as a Black community within the United States of America—that’s very important to me. Yes, we live in the greatest country in the world, but there are issues that we cannot ignore. This can’t be ignored.”

The team leadership couldn't have taken a clearer stance of racist hatred telling Black citizens not just that their lives don't matter but that they will be viciously punished if they have the temerity to claim that they do. And they followed this up by the shameless, Pontius Pilate lie that they are the ones taking a stand for justice.

“The Philadelphia 76ers organization encourages meaningful actions to drive social change. We use our games to bring people together, to build trust and to strengthen our communities. As we move from symbolic gestures to action, we will continue to leverage our platform to positively impact our community.”

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Black Lives are Sacred Day 27: Ta-Nehisi Coates on Reparations

Ta-Nehisi Coates' in-depth, brilliant article on reparations for racism made news when it came out in 2014 and again earlier this year when Georgetown announced its plans to begin addressing its roots in slave labor and sales. It is a long but clear and very important read.

Coates has also published several shorter pieces as the dialogue about reparations has continued, including an analysis of Bernie Sanders' opposition and one linking reparations to successful decarceration.

Most recently, he argued cogently that even having a significant investigation and discussion of reparations could be a start toward real progress in countering the deadly legacies of yesterday's racist systems in today's.

Nevertheless, the most striking portion of Drum’s rebuttal is not his obsession with divining an installment plan for a debt he has no interest in paying, it is the preciousness of his worldview. Drum blithely asserts that “few people” deny that “black labor and wealth” had been plundered for centuries. He offers no evidence for this sweeping generalization.

That isn’t because there’s no evidence to be found. Indeed in 2014, a YouGov and Huffington Post poll revealed (unsurprisingly) that the vast majority of white Americans—75 percent—opposed reparations in all forms. White Americans did not oppose reparations because they were flummoxed by the practicalities of making good on the debt. They opposed them because, ultimately, they didn’t think the legacies of slavery and Jim Crow were any longer that big of a deal. Seventy-eight percent of White Americans said that the legacy of slavery is either a “minor factor” or “no factor at all” in today’s wealth gap. Sixty-four percent of whites thought the same of Jim Crow.

And:

Drum’s argument implies that before any of this can be answered—or even really asked—a detailed plan of repayment must first be constructed. It suggests that assailants should only consider paying compensation after their victims have offered spreadsheets detailing how best to dispense it. Drum believes that the problem with the bringing pirates to justice is the distribution system. I believe the problem is piracy itself, and grand piracy always extends beyond the act of theft. It requires the construction of an elaborate architecture to either justify the theft, or to justify non-compensation for the theft.

I have always believed that one of the great benefits of considering reparations lies in their potential to expand the American political imagination. Before there could be a Republican Party, abolitionists first had to imagine emancipation. A country that could actively contemplate atoning for plunder, by devoting significant resources to compensating its victims, would be a very different nation than one we live in now. You don’t get to that different country by waiting to talk about it
.

More.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Black Lives Are Sacred Day 26: Rev. Dr. Wil Gafney, Love God Herself

2016_10_20 Wil Gafney from Candler School of Theology on Vimeo.

I have been reading Dr. Gafney's "voice" for so long that I forgot its lovely sound--sweet as the Bride's in the Song--from the women's ministry conference where we met eight years ago. This guest sermon in the Candler School of Theology Chapel is especially moving when watched but you can also engage the text in lectio divina at her website.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Black Lives are Sacred Day 25: Beyonce If I Were a Boy

I was profoundly moved to discover this song on Katie's Iphone playlist during a drive a few weeks ago. And the bittersweet validation of women's realities came to a whole new level today when I saw the brilliant video.

Age and Gender Power Imbalance

I had trouble posting a comment at a fascinating new-to-me blog today. And it was pretty lengthy and directly related to recent entries around the BLM Stations of the Cross. So I will reproduce it here as a post and invite the writer to conversation via email.

One of my second grade girls today gave me a flower at recess. It was just a dandelion, but quite lovely. I was very touched, and I thanked her as I tucked it up behind my ear, much to her evident delight.

A while later, I was chatting with another second grader who had had a dispute with one of her classmates. As our conversation wrapped up, she, without any warning, reached out and plucked the flower off my head. “There,” she said in a thoroughly satisfied manner, “now you don’t look like a girl.” And before I could respond, she ran off.

More.

Hi Race!

I found you through the Feminism and Religion post--so delightful to find brothers who also experience Her as the primary (or sole) face of divinity!

I am moved by the anecdote and glad you are so passionate for the protection of transgirls and boys. I am also heartbroken that this little cis girl has already internalized the misogyny of church and society which is at the heart of sexism as well as homophobia and transphobia. Women must stay in their oppressed stance and men in their oppressive one in the kyriarchal binary--which leads to femicide and queercide when the border is threatened by "uppity women" or "feminizing men." So she, like a black child enforcing white supremacist beauty standards on himself or other black children, is acting out received oppression as a victim rather than a perpetrator.

Hence I am profoundly uncomfortable with your description of the encounter between a very young female student and a male adult in a position of authority over her. Especially since the adult apparently made no attempt to gently address either respect for other people's possessions and physical space-- or the deep panic induced in her by the blurring of gender strictures forced upon her since the day she was wrapped in a pink blanket and destined for rape culture and the wage gap.

This tiny child "without any warning reached out and plucked off" your flower leading to her "thorough satisfaction" then "ran off before [you]could say anything." You "felt a sickness lurch in [your] stomach." The "seed" of "oppression" and "violence" was in "her words" because she had "made it her own."

All these words are strongly reminiscent of my own feelings as a victim of clergy sexual abuse from a male pastor enabled by a sexist church and academy--and of mine now, and my teenage daughter's, as queer cis women when we are experiencing aggression and boundary violations by straight or gay cis men who have us at a significant power disadvantage both physically and socially.

This week that is taking the form of her first experience of foolish mansplaining and traumatic gaslighting from a straight white cis male pastor in response to respectful critiques of the misogynoir in his anti-racist art installation. So I would greatly appreciate your reading over and reconsidering your piece with the power dynamics of age and authority between you and your student, and of gender/sex between you and her--and me, and all female assigned people--in mind.

Thanks!

Monday, October 24, 2016

Why I Homeschool

Because my 13 year old maiden woke up today:

1. Fully rested at 9 with the ten hours of sleep that her body and brain, like that of all teens, require.

2. Heard "Good morning, warrior princess!" from a mother who had enjoyed several lovely hours of pleasure, prayer, self-adornment, and feminist exegesis.

3. Enjoyed the freedom to choose an outfit fits her mood and celebrates her passions. Today it was a pair of shorts and her Dean Winchester red flannel shirt, but she often stays in her leopard footie pajamas if it's not a college or gym day. And sometimes changes it up with an elegant muscle and curve skimming dress like the one above, which may or may not display her sexually titillating shoulders and collarbone.

4. Heard this on the way to the bathroom:

5. Engaged in a passionate hour and a half discussion with her professor while feasting on OJ, baked eggs with extra sharp Tillamook, and buttery sourdough toast.

6. Then went online to complete the high school and college coursework preparing her for doctoral work in psychopathology to fulfill her vocation of taking down femicide as a criminal profiler.

7. But called me over first to share her latest Tumblr discovery this:

I spent three weeks in a mental hospital and what I discovered there I feel like should be put into words.

we are not who you think we are.

the boy with tourettes told the funniest jokes

the girl who raked her nails up and down her skin could create the most exquisite drawings

the girl who abused drugs had the wisest soul

the boy with schizophrenia had the biggest heart

the girl who tried to kill herself told the boy with insomnia stories to help lure him to sleep

the boy who wanted to kill himself had the deepest passion for cooking

the girl with slits and scars all over her body dried my tears and told me I was beautiful

the boy with anger issues gave the warmest hugs

the girl with bulimia told everyone every day that they looked beautiful in their bodies

the boy who was a compulsive liar told us that he wanted us all to get better, and that he was for once telling the truth

the girl who almost drank herself to death stood up for anyone that felt they were feeling bullied

the boy with social anxiety made sure nobody sat alone at meals

we are not who you think we are.

Or maybe she should sleepily bolt a bowl of cereal with a stressed out mom and race in for a daily dose of boredom and social anxiety triggering, with a heaping scoop of body shame, misogynoir, and rape culture on the side:

More.

Black Lives Are Sacred Day 24: The Queen of Katwe

Totally amazing Disney movie even sitting in the front row really close to the screen of the small room (ComputerGuy gamely suggested "let's call it IMAX"!) I was sobbing audibly with joy and gratitude at the end as well as grief that hardly anyone will see it. Cause in our very large, ostensibly progressive area it's only showing for a couple weeks in a couple theatres. Cause misogynoir.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Black Lives are Sacred Day 23: It is Well

More honey-sweet sounds from Committed today--this time joining with Erica Campbell in an innovative transformation of a classic Gospel hymn.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Black Lives are Sacred Day 22: Lift Every Voice and Sing Again

Busy day finishing my Ignatian homework for tomorrow's class. So feast your eyes and ears on these gorgeous Black princes' stunning a capella take on the informal Black national anthem. I appreciated the inclusivity of "the place for which our parents sighed" in the lovely rendition I posted last week. But "fathers" is perfect here as they serenely defy the white cishet patriarchy which so furiously desires to see them raped in jail and dead in the street.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Black Lives are Sacred Day 21: BLM Stations of the Cross, Part 2

Marc Chagall, White Crucifixion.

The seventh post in this monthlong series describes two key moments. The first was my excitement at discovering a Way of the Cross focused on the modern Passion of Christ in his precious tortured Black Body and sacrilegiously spilled Black Blood to use in praying the life-giving penance from a powerful celebration of sacramental Reconciliation. The second recounted my embodied, engendered experience of making those Stations during a retreat later that week when I was sickened by the misognynoir in the ninth station with a supremely ironic title--"Intersectionality"-- and subject--Jesus' powerful exchange with the traumatized Jewish women of occupied Jerusalem keening at his lynching by kyriarchal Roman power.

The station, embedded in depictions of Black men like Eric Garner, equates the powerful white men who mercilessly smothered him with a terrified Black woman popping her son upside the head as she screams at him to put down his brick before the Ferguson police pump him full of bullets. This brands her as a perpetrator, rather than a victim, of both the white supremacist violence the work claims and intends to call out and the gendered violence it totally ignores. It enacts a toxic lie crucifying Jesus the Truth again in her and her sisters. It precisely mirrors Pontius Pilate's vicious taunts blaming his Jewish victims for his torture and murder of their brother and champion--and the crazy-making, victim-blaming response of individual and social oppressors on every axis of unjust supremacy when survivors name abuses and call for justice and repentance.

I invested many hours of emotional and intellectual labor in an attempt to compassionately educate the white cishet male pastor who created the work, and learned a tremendous amount from the process myself. I reproduce my final email to him here as both a resource and conversation starter for readers and a means of reclaiming my power and healing the PTSD triggering that I knew might result when I womaned up and began the process.

Dear Greg,

As my blogpost explains, my experience of praying with your work as a woman, a survivor of clergy sexual abuse, and the mother of a dangerous son was “visceral trauma and sacred rage.” This is true on my own behalf, and my young daughter’s, in our constant physical and emotional danger of male violence in a misogynistic rape culture unchallenged by the churches. And it is doubly so on behalf of our Black sisters–above all the mother so unjustly vilified in the deeply problematic ninth station—who face even more danger than us, and in most ways than their brothers, yet are often neglected in the very movement begun by three black queer women.

It took tremendous courage and emotional energy to take the risk of graciously reaching out to you with my concerns and then agreeing to the even more vulnerable situation of a phone conversation. That no longer seems wise, so you can free up your calendar on Monday and I will do the same. My initial optimism about your repeated promises to “listen and learn from my wisdom” has turned to disappointment and distress as you first ignored and then refused my requests to do that by reading the blog series giving context to the post. And I was stunned that you could read both the anguish the work occasioned, and the cogent feminist/womanist theological analysis of its hurtfulness, without being moved to either compassion for my pain or repentance for its sexism and emotional endangerment of all women, especially Black ones, where our unique sharing in the Passion of Christ should have been most honored. Your naming of your reading of my words as “privilege” is indeed true, in both senses.

The most important thing I would like you to take away from our interaction is your responsibility to make lived amends to those most dishonored by the work, Black women, by listening to and learning from their profound wisdom. An ideal way to begin is with the work of the Rev. Dr. Wil Gafney (blog, twitter, and books) who has been a profound influence as I have wrestled with my own white privilege. Her website is a great starting place, as is the hymn I dedicated to her and the Morenita of Montserrat which inspired it and serves--to come full circle--as the button for the blog series. Ta-Nehisi Coates’ book linked in my blogpost, Between the World and Me, contains the insightful reflections on child discipline which I cite there. It is also a beautiful example of a man speaking to his own and his son’s particular oppressions while acknowledging the even deeper danger of Black women.

It would also be appropriate and courageous to make direct amends by editing your site to acknowledge the flaws in the ninth station, either there or in the introduction, and/or via a comment at my blogpost. And it would be wonderful to discern the creation of another “Passion” piece next year focusing on violence against women, which would no doubt lead to much learning for you and your community.

May our powerful, wise, and loving Mother God bless and guide you in that adventure and always.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Black Lives Are Sacred Day 20: Forgiving Racism

Monday's blogpost focused on the homophobic Trump decal to which the above graphic was one response. A very different one can be seen in Monica Robert's astute commentary:

There is no hugging or forgetting the fact that these white supremacists wish for me and my people to not exist, and me being unapologetically trans also heightens their hatred as the Klan anti-trans recruiting leaflets popping up back in May demonstrates.

It's also an intersectionality fail in that it cluelessly fails to acknowledge that flag's negative history, and also make the connection that for Black trans, bi and same gender loving people, that flag is as odious to us as the Nazi swastika banner.

And I ask the obvious question, when did non-white BTLGQ people get erased as being part of this community?

It is not incumbent upon the people who are being oppressed to forgive their oppressors. That's where this graphic fails.

Roxane Gay made a similar point, citing healthy Catholic theology, when she honored the choice of some surviving family members at Mother Emmanuel to forgive unrepentant white supremacist murderer Dylann Roof but criticized the racist pressure to do so for the others.

As a child, I learned that forgiveness requires reconciliation by way of confession and penance. We must admit our sins. We must atone for our sins....What white people are really asking for when they demand forgiveness from a traumatized community is absolution. They want absolution from the racism that infects us all even though forgiveness cannot reconcile America’s racist sins. They want absolution from their silence in the face of all manner of racism, great and small. They want to believe it is possible to heal from such profound and malingering trauma because to face the openness of the wounds racism has created in our society is too much. I, for one, am done forgiving.

An NPR interview expanded upon her controversial op-ed:

In the bail bond hearing, the judge was talking about how there are two sets of victims: the families of the nine slain and then Dylan Roof's family. And I was stunned because he spent more time talking about Roof's family and what they must be going through. And that really, for me, exemplified the power of whiteness. And we've also seen a lot of this expectation that as black people, 'OK, we forgive this so that we can move on, so that we can heal.' But I don't think that it's our job to forgive anymore. I think that it's time for reconciliation on the part of people who enable this kind of racism.

Church and society alike are profoundly threatened by the prophetic and self-empowering witness of victims who exercise their God-given, Christ-endorsed authority to retain sins by refusing or delaying forgiveness where unpaid debts of justice remain, thus showing true mercy to the soul of the offender as well as other potential victims. Hence there were many articles pontificating that the only way family members could find healing and freedom from their trauma was to forgive, dishonoring the agency and heroism of those who made that choice as well as cruelly shaming those who did not. SorryWatch hit it out of the park again by calling this out in a powerful Rosh HaShana post analyzing Maimonides' rules for healthy apologies.

I have experienced retraumatizing pressure to forgive unrepentant and dangerous perpetrators myself while receiving healing ministry, and worked hard to help the damage this grave pastoral and preaching malpractice has caused many of my own clients. Hence I tried to exercise great care with forgivenesss language in my recent Facebook amends discussed in the Apologizing for Racism post. I knew my victim had zero obligation to forgive me, so I did not presume to ask. Inspired by the incisive SorryWatch blog, I focused instead on attempting to allay some of her hurt by naming each of the specific sins I had committed in the incident, including the crucial, fruitfully heart-piercing, "anti-Semitism."

I did conclude my public acknowledgment ethically required for a public insult with "I would be humbly grateful for your forgiveness as well as passing the amends on to your friend since she exercised wise self care in blocking me." This was primarily intended to signal recognition of the gravity of the offense--naming the magnitude of my debt which is part of the larger horror of Christian anti-Semitism which led directly to the Shoah. It was a request, not a demand, accepting that even a sincere and humble apology fell far short of repayment and that the call was to patiently and peacefully carry it as long as the Spirit leads. And committing to make lived amends with Her guidance and grace by deeper study of Judaism. And to give special attention to the intensely painful and complex situation in Israel which is part of the fallout of Christianity's original sin of intentional and conscious anti-Semitism, now often continued in unconscious but damaging shame and lies in spirituality, exegesis, and preaching. And to continue to explore that in myself so as to make humbler, gentler, more persistent efforts to explain and model a better way in my own teaching, research, and ministry. I did not expect a public response, and my friend was indeed too wise to offer one lest it seem like absolution from a secondary victim for a sin primarily committed against someone else.

I then sent a private message thanking my friend for her courage and charity in offering the public reproof which so deepened the repentance begun by the strong, loving, and wise boundary set by her friend in the FB block. I repeated the request for forgiveness there making sure to clarify that this was not for the harm to the other woman which could only be her call, nor for the whole sinful mess which will be my confessor's in our next monthly appointment. Instead it was for the harm specifically to her by harming her friend in her space, toxifying that wise and safe space, and putting her in the uncomfortable dilemma of how to respond. She graciously granted my request, which was balm to my soul and hopefully to hers, and deepened our treasured and mutually formative spiritual friendship. And I reminded myself that the lack of similar closure with the primary victim--not just of a response to the apology but of any contact including her wise and witty comments at my friend's page-was part of my penance. And a reminder to pray for her healing as she continues to navigate a country and world full of unacknowledged bigotry, as well as to seek ongoing conversion on this issue lest I repeat the harm to any of her sisters or brothers.

Edited to add:

The night before that Reconciliation appointment, you could have knocked me over with a feather when I saw a comment on my friend's page which indicated the courageous and undeserved mercy of unblocking. I took a breath and liked it, and she liked one of mine. After a couple rounds of social media rapprochement I started to wonder if I was being graciously offered the profound privilege of offering a direct apology. I prayed for guidance, waited for clarity, composed one, and sent it to her messagebox hoping (and naming) that it would not be an intrusion or burden. And was stunned again by her generosity in what rapidly turned into an in-depth, moving, and hilarious conversation. When she capped her kindness by sending a virtual hug it finally felt right to return it with a forgiveness request. "Absolutely, and thank you for being so kind" bowled me over with joy, and gratitude, and the desire to pay it forward by emulating her gentleness and humility toward other sinners. I give thanks to Shekinah, for She is good; Her mercy endures forever!

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Black Lives are Sacred Day 19: Irish Lives Matter?

Of course Irish lives matter, because all lives matter. And the near-genocide by the English in the Great Hunger (no famine, just calculated stealing of all food laboriously grown by the victims) the was an inexcusable tragedy which should not be forgotten.

But IRISH LIVES MATTER, and T-shirts, and the related claims that Irish indentured servitude was equal or greater to Black slavery are hurtful and intellectually bankrupt attempt to dismiss and silence the righteous protest of the Black lives that are being endangered, assaulted, and slaughtered with impunity. And to avoid examining the complicity of some Irish people as slaveowners....and the way that many initially oppressed Irish immigrants later achieved whiteness and social power, often used viciously against Black people, by entering the ranks of law enforcement in large numbers.

In 1919, an African-American boy who was swimming was killed as a result of whites throwing heavy rocks at him. When blacks sought to report the incident to police, they themselves were arrested while the white individuals who had killed this young man went unpunished.

As African-Americans began peacefully protesting, whites began to violently assault them, forming mobs that eventually sought to harm African-Americans through various avenues, from attacking patients in black hospitals to setting fire to the homes of blacks. The Irish Hamburg Athletic Club was among the groups who made an effort to kill many blacks; a man who would eventually become mayor decades later – Richard J. Daley – was an active member of this group.

The Irish gangs who carried out these brutal attacks would in mass numbers be recruited to the Chicago Police Department. That’s right! Instead of being punished for attacking innocent black people, the city recruited Irish gangs into the Chicago police department.

My last name is Irish, along with the largest chunk of my mostly European personal melting pot--one of whom married my treasured bis-bis-Abuelita from Sonora, Augustina Contreras. So I was deeply grieved to learn of this mini-movement and find this Facebook page.

To Start I Believe All Lives Matter! This is peaceful page and is to speak about the misunderstanding of white privilege and to lend a voice about the oppression of Irish Thru out History. After All we where 1 of the 4 enslaved people to help build this country. Native,African,Oriental,& Irish

At first I thought I should share that at the page, despite its unlikeliness to be heeded, but then decided it would not be prudent given its weird and scary mix of sentiment, humor, and guns--which feel especially sacrilegious in a graphic with the shamrock that Patrick used to explain the Trinity. So I will pray instead, and ask him and Brigid to intercede for these misguided folks, and those they harm, and those of us who need to do more.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Black Lives are Sacred Day 18: Young Heroes Persecuted

I have been tremendously moved by the power and courage of all the athletes, cheerleaders, and coaches--and one singer--who have followed Colin Kaepernick's example of dignified silent protest against racist police brutality during the National Anthem. Like Jesus, Black children, women, and men are being lynched--that is, legally murdered, by whatever means--in huge numbers by the public servants who are supposed to protect them. So they would have every right to make the Black Power sign as did Tommie Smith and John Carlos in the 1968 Olympics, supported by white Australian Peter Norman. Instead, they humbly and proudly take a stance of prayer begging God to intervene in defense of their lives and we, the white supremacist country celebrated by that blasphemous song, to stop slaughtering them and truly become "the land of the free and the home of the brave."

The most courageous so far, who have also paid the most viciously unjust price, are a football team of young boys who know they could be the next Black child to be murdered on a park bench by a police officer for peacefully holding a toy gun in a state with legal open carry of real guns. Or face life imprisonment for courageously defending mother, siblings, and self from a lifetime of vicious abuse and death threats. So they respectfully asked permission of their coaches and league, received it, took a knee as one in their first game, and the truth of their claim that their lives are garbage was confirmed when they were deluged with "racist taunts and death threats" from the good white Christians of their town. So the league reversed itself and began a campaign of vicious intimidation against them and their coaches and parents which culminated in being banned for an entire season they had already paid for and in which they were leading championship contenders.

It's not too late. While the whole thing is a mess, the team and the league still has time to reinstate Coaches Barber and Dean, apologize to the boys and their parents, and allow them to finish their season with dignity. I was about to say that this would require the adults to act like adults, but I'm afraid that that's what messed the whole thing up in the first place. Adults today are too often petty and mean-spirited. Just take a look at our presidential race. Instead, we need the adults in this situation to stop thinking about their egos and think instead of the young boys of the Beaumont Bulls. Salvaging their season should be the top priority right now. Anything short of that would be a failure.

Boys — you've done well. You were right to take a knee for injustice. You were right to follow the lead of so many NFL players. You were right to keep doing it even when they told you not to. You did not create this mess. It's not your fault. I am incredibly proud of each and every one of you.

More.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Black Lives are Sacred Day 17: Making Amends for Racism

This morning on Facebook a lesbian pastor friend posted a horrifying and violent car decal combination endorsing both Trump and violence against LGBT+ people, with the request for those who love them and people of color (and, I would add, women) to prayerfully consider this before voting for him. A commenter declaring himself straight but with friends in the LGBT+ community minimized the offensiveness of the decals and told her "get a sense of humor and a thicker skin" followed by accusing her of not truly being open minded when she calmly and graciously invited queer folk and those of color to comment on the topic of getting thicker skin.

Her friends rose to the challenge with a wide variety of honest, charitable, and witty responses sharing their experiences of oppression and danger and inviting the commenter to a change of mind and heart. One of my favorites was that it was people in oppressor groups who need to develop thicker skin in order to listen to and learn from, rather than dismiss and shout down, the protests and self-defense of people in oppressed groups. This thin-skinned defensiveness and terror of facing my anti-Semitic behavior and its roots was exactly what spurred my initial Facebook re-aggressing, rather than repenting, in response to prophetic challenge on Yom Kippur.

So I knew just how to make my own response here, as concrete lived amends following up on my public and private verbal amends for the above situation--so unlike the shaming and superior tone of so many of my previous "white knight" call-outs. This is especially the case when I was not expressing the justified anger of a victim, as with sexism, but the aggressive and arrogant stance of a "better ally" as with racism. This actually meant being a poorer and self-deceived ally acting on my own oppressive privilege shared with the called-out person, because the admonition was all the less likely to be received when carried out in that way.

The process of writing the FB comment and then reflecting on it here have been a graced, if challenging, Ignatian First Week consolation as I was moved to both deeper contrition for the anguish I caused my victim and renewed gratitude for the fiery mercy of God mediated through her courageous protests and my friend's appropriately public calling me in. I pray that none of their pain go to waste by a failure to fully embrace the conversion of my heart She offers, that She might anoint my lips when I am called to embody Jesus' fiercely gentle and humble teaching of other sinners and my ears when I am called to receive it.

E., I understand how hard it is to honor and acknowledge the protests and pain of people in an oppressed group when we are in the group that oppresses them because I said something unintentionally but very hurtfully anti-Semitic on a friend's FB feed last week... and my first response to her Jewish friend's protest and hurt feelings was totally dismissive and defensive of my "innocence" and her "oversensitivity"-- thus adding even more trauma and leading the friend's friend to block me.

It was very difficult for me to recognize my gravely sinful behavior, and her terrible danger and oppression for her faith in comparison to my unjust power and privilege for mine, until God and my friend engaged in some very loving and very honest sisterly correction for which I am (finally) profoundly grateful. And this is true not just despite the fact that I pride myself on being a progressive theologian with a deep appreciation for Judaism and distress at Christian anti-Semitism, but because of it. Because those good beliefs and intentions made me totally unwilling to see that sin in myself out of shame and fear.

This is the same shame and fear, I believe, that fuels straight cis men's unwillingness to recognize their safety and power, and our grave danger as women and queers, from the physical and emotional assault and abuse that Trump engages in and endorses. And the accompanying hurtfulness of mocking our pain and fear rather than standing against those who cause it. So I will pray for you to receive the same grace and mercy God my loving Mother and her precious Jewish Son granted me to see a bit more of their sweet and searing truth and begin to make both direct and lived amends so as to be less part of the problem and more part of the solution. Thank you so much for listening and considering and P. thank you so much for making this safe space for conversation and letting me share.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Black Lives are Sacred Day 16: All Widows Matter?

The Hebraic widows, who were more ethnically aligned with the majority of the church leaders, were just fine. They did not see the issue. Why were these Hellenists so upset? What’s the big deal anyway? A widow is a widow, right?

But, the Hellenist widows WERE being overlooked; they were being treated differently, and valued differently—because of their ethnicity.

So, they spoke up.

When their experience confirmed to them a pattern of discrimination, they started a hashtag, #HellenistWidowsMatter to explain that they, too, were important. They mattered. Their needs and lives were important.

That made some people uncomfortable.

Some dismissed the Hellenist widows as attention seekers. They started a competing hashtag, #AllWidowsMatter, because, they explained, no one was better than anyone else.

The people who started #AllWidowsMatter meant well—they wanted to affirm the value of all widows. Since “all” included the Hellenistic widows they couldn’t see a reason their hashtag was in any way a bad thing—all widows matter.

But, all widows were not being devalued, the marginalized Hellenistic widows explained, the Hellenistic ones were.

Visit Christianity Today to read more of this helpful scriptural analogy about why "Black Lives Matter" means "also," not "only."

And why the true in isolation, possibly well-meaning statements "All Lives Matter," or "Blue Lives Matter," in this context where it is black lives that are being disproportionatley slaughtered, actually function to mean "Shut Up and Stop Saying Black Lives Matter," which means "Black Lives Don't Matter Enough to Talk About." Which means "Black Lives Don't Matter At All."

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Black Lives are Sacred Day 15: Apologizing for Racism

For centuries Christians have called Mary the Ark of the Covenant. As they used other Jewish titles for her, seldom have they accepted the fact that she was a Jew. If Mary had lived in Nazi Germany, Mary would have been thrown into a concentration camp with other members of her race. Jewish Mary is the archetype of the Christian church, a church that stood by silently while her people were being exterminated. This icon is an act of repentance for Christian indifference, then and now. We shudder at what the Nazis did, but 1,000 years of forced conversions and violent persecutions by Christians paved the way for the Nazi Holocaust.

Robert Lentz, "Captive Daughter of Zion." More info/Purchase.

I'd planned to post another Black Mary this Saturday. And I had planned this post as a low-key one following up on "Confessing Racism" --mostly consisting of quotes and links discussing helpful and unhelpful ways to respond to being called out for racism by others and/or the Holy Spirit. And I had a couple of tame anecdotes about what I think were fairly effective apologies-one to a colleague and one to a friend--it's still a relatively new part of my personal experience since having actual black people in my life is too.

The Spirit, She had other plans--as did St. Teresa of Avila, whose feast is today and who was the daughter and granddaughter of persecuted, forcibly converted Jews publicly shamed by the Spanish Inquisition. Because this Yom Kippur they brought me to face the deep well within me of another deadly racist sin of hatred, bigotry, and profound structural injustice and abuse: anti-Semitism. So the Black Lives Matter Madonna went up yesterday leaving time for much challenging prayer and reflection which was also a good reminder as I become more comfortable with wearing my BLM t-shirt on Fridays to consider it more like sackcloth and less like a medal. And it feels like the only way to address this topic with integrity is to posting and discuss the apology I posted on the friend's Facebook wall where it happened:

You are totally right, N., and thank you so much for the sisterly correction confirming and deepening the Spirit's points in my examen that night and allowing me to offer public amends for the public offense. I am heartily sorry for all the ways I hurt you and your readers by both comments: harsh judgment, rash judgment, self-deception, arrogance, defensiveness, willful ignorance of my privilege, sexism...and especially anti-Semitism, which is appalling in a theologian and must have been especially traumatic on Yom Kippur. I would be humbly grateful for your forgiveness and especially--since your friend exercised wise self care in blocking me--for your passing the message of amends on to her with, of course, no expectation of a response unless she would find it more healing.

Rather than going into the details of my immense fail, I will focus on the the dynamics of the process both internally and in the associated conversations. It is profoundly characteristic of the defensive, dismissive response that people with structural unjust power and privilege often give when confronted by a member or ally of an oppressed group for hurtful behavior. And it is certainly the one I have found most frustrating and traumatizing in male responses to my own prophetic speech on sexism--both my own partner in dismissing my analyses of the concrete injustices in our own relationship and men who claim to be feminists and use this to aggressively justify rather than apologize for sexist behavior.

One of the reasons I have been so shaken by it is finding the exact same thing in myself on an issue where I felt highly, smugly, and judgmentally confident of being totally immune due to my theological training and advocacy in teaching and ministry against the many forms of unwitting anti-Semitism often found in Christian preaching, exegesis, iconography, and spirituality....Which is also why I am so grateful to God and Her courageous human voices for getting through to me when I resisted so strongly and came so close to staying in that defensive place and missing this huge and really important invitation to repentance, learning, and growth on this specific issue as well as all the other ways that I hold unjust power and privilege.

So, long story shortish: Wednesday night I find a really cool feminist language blog by a linguistics scholar and start gobbling up the posts. I come across one post on women (supposedly) apologizing too much and post the link on my FB, tagging a dear friend whom I knew would be interested because of some past discussions on apologies and overapologies. She reposts it with an acknowledging tag, adds her own helpful comment on the topic, as does one of her FB friends I have occasionally conversed with at her place. I visit her page, weigh in with an appropriate comment sharing my own perspective...and then another comment with some intense and unprocessed venting about another blog that I felt recently blew off, rather than acknowledging, two polite and grounded critiques.

I attribute this to a combination of moral cowardice and privilege on their parts--both what is clear from their bios and what I assume, and pretty similar to mine--remarking in passing that as far as I can see their only oppressed identities are being female and, in one case, Jewish. (Kind of questioning should I mention the latter since I know that my friend's friend is Jewish, but rationalizing that I mean it well as an acknowledgment of not being totally privileged). Needless to say my friend's friend is hurt and protests with some warmth; I respond with total defensiveness focusing on a niggly point of what I thought she thought I was saying, and the even more traumatized friend's friend responds to say she is blocking me.

Still totally closed-hearted and clueless, I vent some more to Katie and ComputerGuy about my innocence and good intentions and her oversensitive overreaction; and some minor imperfection in one earlier conversation; and Christ have mercy, think to myself that Jews aren't really oppressed any more, they're white and well off; and put it out of my mind totally convinced that I am the victim. And Christ have mercy again, looking forward to more venting about the blog I critiqued in this very post since the topic is directly related. Soon afterward I go into the bedroom, light my oil lamp, and start praying about my hurt feelings...and somehow, slowly and very gently and frankly miraculously, parts of the truth start to dawn on me and send some shoots into my intensely closed heart and mind.

I start to see disturbing mirrors when I remember a white friend in grad school saying another friend isn't really oppressed because his subgroup of Latinos are relatively comfortable (I snickered right along with him). I see the likeness of my behavior to the men who haven't listened to me and the standard public salt in the wound non-apologies whenever a celebrity is called out for racism; recognize it as similar but far worse defensiveness as that on the blog I mocked; start to recognize some of the immense and unjust Christian privilege I hold over the blogger I mocked, and my friend's friend, and the 8th grade friend whose courageous protest about Christmas carols at a secular prep school I totally dismissed; and realize with horror that it is Yom Kippur, of all days surely the worst to both harm a Jewish person and fail to apologize when confronted. I pray with calm, mild contrition and gratitude and resolve to write an amends message to my friend and to ask her to forward one to her friend, and put it out of my mind until it becomes possible on Friday morning after my weekly personal day of rest from work and internet on Thursday.

Friday morning I awake refreshed and ready to take action--even looking forward to it a bit--and start reflecting on what to say to my friend when I contact her, and how much to apologize to her personally since I am not sure how seriously she may be taking the whole thing. Something nudges me to review the actual conversation before writing so I visit her page. And it plunges my heart to a totally new depth of the sweet and searing Truth that is Jesus the Jew tortured and murdered by imperially privileged Gentiles like me to find that she has written a profoundly calm, incisive, kind, and respectful comment. And that it is a stunning example of how to embody the spiritual work of mercy of admonishing the sinner as well as the ally work of using her unjust privilege--Christian, in this case--to advocate for an oppressed person deprived of it, without a shred of the shaming, triumph, and self-satisfaction that characterizes so much of call-out culture and has often tainted my own practice.

It starts by acknowledging my two valid points about the blog, which begin to feel very small; asks me to examine my own privilege; and points out that both misogyny and anti-Semitism are endemic in public discourse right now and that the bloggers have no doubt experienced both. It is so effective not just because of its quality but because it draws from a rich account of relational capital: the bond we share as scholars, mothers, and women of faith as well as her constant readiness to both honor my achievements and insights and offer compassion for the the injustices and traumas I have faced. And it is reinforced by her modelling of integrity and accountability including a post earlier that day acknowledging posting an article that said "not-x," with the comment "Both the article and I were wrong, and here is a reference demonstrating x, and this is why it is really important that we all clearly recognize x."

A private person with the utmost respect for the dignity of others, I knew that she must have engaged serious discernment about speaking publicly--and the fact that she did, combined with the way that she did, drew my attention to the gravity of the offense like nothing else could and enabled me first to see and then to name the constellation of sins in the apology above. And to start making lived amends by finding Jewish blogs, especially feminist ones, and being even more horrified to learn that anti-Semitism is alive and real and hideous today.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Black Lives are Sacred Day 14: Black Lives Matter Madonna by Mickey McGrath

Have some complex posts in various stages of completion and a very busy day. So I am keeping it simple with another beautiful piece of art today by Brother Mickey McGrath. Purchase. And the invitation to join me in the new movement to wear a Black Lives Matter t-shirt on Friday to support our sisters and brothers who die at high and unjust rates from a two and a half to three times higher level of infant mortality and a four times higher rate of maternal mortality than whites through a far higher rate of police brutality and over-incarceration at all ages to an overall shorter life expectancy meaning significantly earlier deaths for those that survive to old age.

Seven Quick Takes: Black Lives are Sacred

For Respect Life month I am taking the Write 31 Days challenge with a focus on the timely but sometimes forgotten focus of racial injustice which still claims too many Black lives at every stage.

This button for the series is the Black Madonna of Montserrat at whose shrine in Spain Ignatius kept an all night Vigil on the feast of the Annunciation, leaving his armor and weapons of war there after his conversion.

I am linking to some favorites of the 12 posts published so far.

1. Index post which was actually published the second day and has more reflection Our Lady of Montserrat as well as links to all posts published so far for those interested.

2. Confessing Racism on my personal and sacramental journey around this issue.

3. Sr. Thea Bowman, FSPA--a new-to-me-intercessor on these issues researched on the feast of St. Francis, plus a beautiful icon of them together by Brother Mickey McGrath.

4. Free Bresha Meadows: the heartbreaking story, with action requests, of a young girl forced to defend her mother, siblings, and self from long term egregious abuse by her father with the gun he frequently used to terrorize them--now on suicide watch in jail. Katie was especially moved by her plight and I count the letters of support and prayer we sent Bresha as our most important homeschool activity last week. Please reach out to her as well in this virtual corporal work of mercy: "visiting those in prison."

5. Our Lady of Ferguson. Stunning icon honoring the suffering of Christ in his slaughtered Black sisters and brothers.

6.Black Lives Matter T-shirt on Fridays. New little known practice but one I am grateful to have learned about and embraced for the past few weeks --wearing one today too. Includes the link to purchase the lovely one in the picture from a small, great-service, business by a young black man who is also a DJ.

7. BLM Stations of the Cross: a Protestant adaptation that slightly adapts the traditional Catholic fourteen, prayed with much fruit during my retreat last Friday at Mission San Luis Rey.

Issues of racism are terribly scary to us who benefit from the structural injustice favoring white people that is still in place in so many ways. So I am praying to engage them in my life and on my blog with love, humility, and respect for people on various stages of understanding and comfort level. I commend everyone who has the courage to read, invite your sharing in the comments and prayers for my conversion, and feedback on what is going well and how I can do better especially in speaking to other white people, a primary job of an aspiring white ally to Black people in their brave and sacred work for dignity and justice. Many thanks and many blessings!

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Black Lives are Sacred Day 13: St. Michael the Archangel by Brother Mickey McGrath

Purchase.

Since angels are pure spiritual beings who can manifest in any physical form, depictions of them ought to be a diverse delight including all races, genders, ages, etc. Unfortunately they are almost always shown as white and the warrior angels like Michael almost universally as male. When I searched for female warrior angels I got a fan art blogpost that had some powerfully beautiful ones and also some sexually exploitative ones along with handsome but never over-sexualized male versions.

A nice exception in children's literature are the is Danuta Mayer's racially diverse angels in the beautiful (art and theology alike) book we loved when the kids were younger: Do the Angels Watch Close By?. Purchase. A search for black angels turned up a more conventionally Christian style site with some lovely images--but it is sad that this will mostly be searched for by, and marketed to, black people with general angel art following the haircare rule of regular human = white and ethnic/diverse/niche market = of color.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Black Lives are Sacred Day 12: Jesus Christ, Liberator

Robert Lentz' icon of Jesus Christ Liberator.

More. Purchase.

The justification for this icon lies in the text Christ holds (Matt. 25:31-46). "When did we see you…?" those on Christ’s left will ask him at the Last Judgement. This text reminds us that Christ identified with the poor and oppressed of the world. The lives of the saints abound with stories about how Christ appeared as a beggar or a sick person in need. Christ has suffered in the Black members of His Mystical Body for many centuries -- slavery, exploitation, prejudice, and racial violence. The time has come to depict His solidarity with the Black peoples of the world -- in iconographic form.

The badge for this series below is a Black Mary, Our Lady of Montserrat, and I also posted Our Lady of Ferguson this past Saturday. But it is equally important to show Jesus as Black--both for Black people to see their own power and dignity and for us white people usually caught in our own complacent and inaccurate assumptions that the Afro-Asiatic peoples of the biblcal lands looked like us to be challenged to honor and adore Him in them as well.

Which reveals two ironic weaknesses in Lentz' write-up above--perhaps he would do better today as this was from some time ago. First, he omits the historical and scientific fact that Jesus, Mary, and all the other disciples looked far more like Black and Brown people today than they do like whites--citing only the theological justification that Jesus is truly present suffering in all who are oppressed. So it is the standard Nordic/European depictions of Jesus and Mary that are the creative license.

Second, he sees and mentions only the suffering and rejected and oppressed Black Christ in Black people and fails to see the courageous, brilliant, powerful risen Black Christ in the wonders of their lives, work, cultures, and achievements in the face of the hideous evils of white supremacy, racism, and misogynoir. I only recently came to this realization myself--in part from having more in depth contact with actual Black people here (despite losing the beauty of multiple casual encounters in our Detroit suburb) via the Baptist church I sometimes attend downtown and my amazing supervisor in the abortion healing retreats for which I am presently developing a Spanish team.

The groundwork was laid in my last Sunday before the move, though, at an Episcopal Eucharist in a country parish where I reconnected with a wonderful retired priest from our brief first round in Detroit sixteen years ago. I was praying over the question of my call around racism and ally work and realized the profound egocentrism in the usual paralyzing guilt and condescending pity which have so often caused me to push myself and burn out, judge less aware white people, and then suppress the issue altogether--all in the desperate panic to not be "bad" which so often stops those with oppressive privilege and supremacy from facing their structurally abusive power. Grace opened my eyes to marvel at their beauty, power, and goodness in God's image and the power of Her grace and their cooperation with it to bring about the needed changes. And it helped me realize that though I can hopefully become more and more cleansed of internal bias I will never be free from the more significant issue of racism (like sexism and all other structural injustices): benefiting from a system that unjustly gives power and privilege and supremacy and basic rights to me and mine while denying these to Blacks and other people of color. And that the call is not the illusory quest to become the perfect white person free of this participation (like male "feminists") but to peacefully and humbly and steadily rest in that grace while trying to learn and join in Her and their saving work to transform those structures as much as possible.

It also helps me better understand the resistance to social justice thought and work on all the isms, especially from people in the oppressed groups, when pointing out power imbalances is perceived as branding them helpless victims. Many anti-feminist women sound notes like this and I am increasingly passionate about understanding, honoring, and dialoguing with all my sisters regardless of their strategy for managing the misogynist abuse and oppression we all face on a daily basis.

And it helps me aim at ever more effective use of the "epistemological privilege of the victim" so as to empower myself and others and avoid dismissal of our causes as much as possible. Feminist Current recently had a detailed and powerful piece on the dismissal of women's perspectives on sexual assault unless, and sometimes because, they come with our citations of personal trauma. It is worth a read despite a brief appearance of their frequent misunderstanding and fear around trans issues.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Black Lives are Sacred Day 11: Supreme Court Fail on Police Brutality

Image: Latina magazine profile.

When I blogged about the uber dangerous, environmentally racist Dakota pipeline yesterday I had not yet seen the heartbreaking news that a US Court of Appeals struck down the injunction forbidding further progress while the court case deciding the legitimacy of the pipeline proceeds. Praying for justice and strength for the courageous protesters in their sacred work.

In another tragic miscarriage of justice Sonia Sotomayor--indeed a very wise Latina--was the lone dissent in yesterday's Supreme Court decision to continue lowering standards of accountability for irresponsible and violent police officers. In this case, state police had placed spike strips to stop a suspect fleeing by car and a trooper later censured by a review board shot and killed him in defiance of his superior's order to wait and see if the strips worked.

Then Sotomayor offered a crucial fact that the court seemed to have purposely ignored.

“When Mullenix confronted his superior officer after the shooting, his first words were, ‘How’s that for proactive?’” she wrote.

“The glib comment does not impact our legal analysis,” she wrote as she explained the legal standard governing use of force. “But the comment seems to me revealing of the culture this Court’s decision supports when it calls it reasonable — or even reasonably reasonable — to use deadly force for no discernible gain and over a supervisor’s express order to ‘stand by.’”

Then came this bit of legal realism about police violence — perhaps the greatest indictment of police brutality written in a Supreme Court opinion since events in Ferguson drew the national conversation to that subject last summer.

“By sanctioning a ‘shoot first, think later’ approach to policing,” Sotomayor wrote, “the court renders the protections of the Fourth Amendment hollow.”

More.

A Slate article has a thorough discussion of the issue with regard to recent incidents, including situations where the perception and/or reality of danger used to justify the assault or killing of citizens, is itself created by police misconduct. This includes the murder of 12 year old Tamir Rice for holding a toy gun in an open carry state, when the police sped up to his immediate vicinity rather than stopping at a safe distance, taking cover, and using the megaphone to demand that he drop the toy --which he would undoubtedly have complied with.