Why you shouldn’t growl when people cry “Jim Crow” about NC’s new voting law

jim crowSo what’s the big deal with making people flash a photo ID at a poll before they vote? You have to have a photo ID to buy beer; why shouldn’t you be required to have one to vote? And how dare you call it a racist Jim Crow law! Since I know I have readers who have thoughts like these in their heads when they hear the criticisms of the voting law NC governor Pat McCrory signed yesterday and because I love you and want to have a more productive conversation with you than just flaming and shaming, I thought I would try to calmly go through the problematic portions of the law and explain why I and other people see them as problematic.

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Nope, no racism in America…


An official clown at the Missouri state fair wearing an Obama mask with a broom stuck up his butt. The announcer whipped the crowd into a frenzy asking if they wanted to see the Obama clown get run down by a bull. Nope, no racism going on here. None at all. The Missouri state fair by the way is a taxpayer-subsidized event, but it’s not socialism because it involves cowboys.

Should allies “stay angry”? Putting @RachelHeldEvans in conversation with the Blerd Theologian @rtrdh

Should Christians “stay angry” at the injustice in our world? That’s a question raised in two different blog posts this week. Rachel Held Evans says she “can’t stay angry” even while she stays committed to her prophetic witness while my friend Rod the blerd (black nerd) theologian explains why he does “stay angry,” particularly at patronizing white moderates who presume to tell black people when to “just let it go.” I don’t see these two pieces as point and counter-point, nor do I interpret Rod’s piece as a dig on Rachel since she wasn’t telling black people what to do. Reading the way that Rachel and Rod accent and nuance the issue differently has forced me to really wrestle with what it means to be a genuine ally to people of color and others who have been marginalized in our battles against injustice.

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Unsafe in black and white America


I was frustrated when I took this picture last night from the fifth row at the Lynyrd Skynyrd concert because I wanted a picture of the eagle that is the symbol of “Free Bird,” one of my favorite songs of all time, but there was a big old Dixie flag underneath it so I couldn’t share it on my facebook page. The reason I decided to share it now is because many people who look like me get offended when they hear other people say that today, in 2013, it still isn’t safe to be black in America.

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Tony Jones & the white emergentsia’s “Pentecostal problem”

Because I like to go against the grain, I wanted to try to stick up for Tony Jones (or sympathetically deconstruct him?) since he’s taken a lot of heat (here, here, here, here) in the progressive Christian blogosphere lately for his exhibition of white male privilege, most recently a rant about  “being called a racist.” I’m less interested in arguing with anyone else’s criticisms or reflections which have generally been useful and thoughtful than I am in looking more deeply at the specific context that got Tony into trouble for better diagnostic and learning purposes. Basically, the “emergent” theology that appeals to post-evangelicals who grow up in a privileged context is very different than the theology that attracts the poor in the Global South, with whom emergent post-evangelicals desperately want to be in solidarity and whose theological dissonance is a huge source of anxiety. This is what I would call the white emergentsia’s “Pentecostal problem.” Continue reading

The disaster of not talking with your enemies

One of the most cogent things that Barack Obama said during his 2008 presidential campaigns was that he would sit down with America’s enemies since it’s bad strategy to “punish” them by not talking with them. He was widely ridiculed by people whose heroes Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon accomplished their greatest foreign policy achievements with the USSR and China precisely through their willingness to treat America’s enemies with dignity, which happened in a different time before American politics became an adolescent conversation. It has been painful to watch Obama walk back his stance so thoroughly that instead of continuing the somewhat successful (though expensive) counter-insurgency strategy of building relationships with enemies that worked in Iraq, now he sends in drones to speak with bombs and missiles instead. How would the Cuban Missile Crisis have gone if Kennedy had “refused to negotiate with terrorists”? Probably about as well as the Gaza disaster is going for Israel. The Communists were no less ideologically committed to the fall of America than Hamas is committed to the fall of Israel. And yet instead of negotiating with Ahmed al-Jabari, the Hamas military chief, Israel assassinated him, which was a huge strategic blunder if they have a genuine interest in peace.

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John Derbyshire & me: confessions of a fellow racist

John Derbyshire’s now-infamous article from last week’s Taki’s Magazine has pretty thoroughly torpedoed any claim that we live in a post-racist society by saying aloud what every white person knows to keep in our heads. For those of you who haven’t read it, it seems like its purpose is to parody “the talk” black parents describe having to give their kids about life in a world with white people who are predisposed to think less of them. Derbyshire’s mock “talk” proclaims boldly the hideous thoughts that most white people would be ashamed to admit having about things like their fears of large crowds of black people, their annoyance at black state employees who Derbyshire goes ahead and accuses of getting their jobs because of affirmative action, and the anxious, desperate need to acquire a certain quota of “intelligent, well-socialized blacks” in order to defend themselves against charges of prejudice. What first struck me as I read this is what a fearful, pathetic little world Derbyshire and people like him live in. And then my second thought was that I have lived in that same fearful, pathetic little world as a fellow racist. So I thought I’d share a few fragmented memories of my personal history of racism in order to completely subvert Derbyshire’s intentions by turning his mocking, hurtful rant into an opportunity for confession and healing. Continue reading