antiracism

Listening to Martin Luther King, Malcolm X and James Cone

Crossposted from As of Yet Untitled.

Last evening I sat around our living room with 22 other Living Water Community Church folks and had a frank conversation about racism. The conversation was passionate and open. It ranged from personal stories to talk of definitions of racism and even touched on the practical. It was a new conversation to have with so many people in our congregation. My hope is that our sharing together will the start of a serious process that will include our whole church and not just a one Sunday event in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

As most of you well know, the vision of Martin Luther King was not simply dreams of black and white children playing together. It was not just about sitting down and being friends. Some of us have heard of his radical critique of the triple evils of poverty, racism and war. But in Malcolm & Martin & America: a Dream or a Nightmare?, James Cone goes far beyond the quotes and the sound bites to look at the grain of King’s life and shows how his life path and vision was and is inextricably linked with that of Malcolm X.

I highly recommend Malcolm & Martin & America for Christian who recognizes that the problem of racism in the United States did not go away with the election of Barack Obama. It is a surprisingly readable history that tells the story of both men in the context of the history of black nationalism and integration struggles. I’m not qualified to write an overall review of the book, but I will share a few quotes from the book that stood out for me along with a few of my own thoughts.

(more…)

Justice & Unity: Reflections on Mennonite World Conference

“Will you forgive us?” they said from the platform at Global Youth Summit. “As North Americans, if, through pride or selfish independence, we have said, ‘I am not part of the body…’ Will you forgive us? If we have known that other parts of Christ’s body suffer, and have refused to share their pain… Will you forgive us? If in place of Christ, the head of the body, we have served our own theology, tradition, or prejudice, and loved only those who loved or looked like us… Will you forgive us?” As I reflect back on my experience at the 15th Assembly of Mennonite World Conference, this litany, shared by North American young people, remains at the forefront of my mind. It was an important reminder to me that true unity is not possible without a recognition of power inequalities in the church.

In order to bring about this unity based on reconciliation, power imbalances in the church must be named. In Mennonite Church USA we recognize that this means questioning our institutional structures and the ways in which they favor white, Euro-centric styles of leadership over the leadership styles of other groups of people. As a denomination we have committed ourselves to being anti-racist and we recognize that it will take much time and effort to overcome the oppression that is embedded in our structures. (more…)

Confronting Racism in Mennonite Central Committee

Friends,

At the urging of others, I am making my first YAR appearance.

I am part of a group of constituents pushing MCC (Mennonite Central Committee) to address patterns of institutional racism.  Members of the group include Tim Barr, Calenthia Dowdy, Brenda Zook Friesen, Karissa Ortman Loewen, Conrad Moore, Yvonne Platts, Tobin Miller Shearer, Regina Shands Stoltzfus. We are especially concerned about how MCC relates to staff.  There has been a decades-long pattern of staff of color leaving MCC on bad terms, a pattern which has intensified in the last few years.  Many people in this group have been in conversation with leaders in MCC about this issue for decades, and they feel that it is time to take a new approach.

At this time, we are calling for people to sign our letter to MCC leaders and to withhold half of their normal contributions to MCC until MCC makes significant steps toward real change in addressing internal racism.  (see our blog & petition).

Here are three steps that we believe would move MCC forward in its journey toward inter-cultural health:

1)    MCC follows through on its current intention to undergo an independent anti-racism audit of both existing and proposed structures of the entire institution;

It is hard for any institution (or individual) to see themselves clearly.  People within the organization are sometimes not in a position to be fully honest about their experiences as it affects their work environment and could even feel threatening to their position. (more…)