Kevin Rector offered what he believed to be a critical response to my post. I feel such issues need to be addressed and I feel Eric’s comments will help some of us find a place where we can discuss these issues as people on the Way.
His comments are in italics.
The comment I quoted used exclusionary language that separates one racial group from all others and castigates it for a particular behavior.
Actually the practice of normative gaze practiced by some forms of European American Christianity ‘separates’ racial groups or subtly suggests to them to forgo their culture and become ‘white’. The separation is already here. I am calling these things into question asking why. And part of it has to do with the construction of a particular form of whiteness that excludes and ‘defines as normative’ for everyone else. I am not speaking of all ‘whiteness’. I am talking of that ‘whiteness’ that speaks loud and clear to me when I enter into many churches ‘led’ by European American Christians that say to me, “forget you are a negro and worship like us as we supposedly are seeking diversity in our crowd.”
I believe that racism is this very act of separating one race group out for generalization.
I believe that is a very thin definition of racism given its concrete history. Race-ism is when a group dominates the discourse, defines definitions, sets up the hierarchy, controls the way we interpret reality, presents its view of the world as normative and also perpetuates it by creating its own social orders to protect its privileged position of being the ‘universal culture’. For instance, I’d be interested in knowing where you learned your definition of racism. Have you read other voices on racism besides European American Christian voices? or do you find their voices more ‘authoritative’ on the matter. Just curious.
It’s no more appropriate to say that “European-American Christians consider their expressions of faith normative” than it is to say that “African-Americans like watermelon and fried chicken” or “Mexican-Americans are lazy”. It’s simply not acceptable and it has little to nothing to do with reality.
According to your definition of racism…this would be true. But the problem resides in the concreteness of how some forms of European American Christianity in how it assumes its particular and contextualized understanding and practice of Christianity as normative for everyone else. That you would use cultural stereotypes as analogous to this reveals your ignorance of the history of racism in the North American church. Which is understandable seeing how many white churches don’t even deal with the subject. When you go to a black church they will tell you, “this is how we do it here.” In my experience, going to a white church, it is assumed that this is ‘worship’…the ‘worship’. You won’t hear this is how we do it. In such situations I am told to forget about your cultural/ethnic identity…and worship Jesus (read like us white folks). Such calls to worship are the assumption of the normativity of whitness. Have you ever been to a black church before? What was it like?
But it has everything to do with reconciliation. As long as we are willing to revert to these generalizations we build barriers to people being reconciled to each other through the person and work of Jesus Christ. These barriers are the heart and soul of racism.
But if you don’t want to deal with the barriers as they are understood by the cultural other…if you don’t want to take into account the interpretation of the barriers by the cultural other in the church then you won’t see ‘reconciliaton’. Sin has to be named before there is true reconciliation. Reconciliation requires the truth…and that can be hard sometimes.
It is extremely easy to fall into the trap of generalization. Even though I try not to, I do it on a regular basis as does probably everyone else. But generalization is lazy, imprecise, and often very offensive to people who don’t see the world through the same set of lenses that we do.
No doubt it is easy to fall into such traps. What is ironic is that I am here naming the Powers that influence the way North American Christians practice Christianity. I guess if I was to stay on topic and squabble about epistemology, consumerism, nationalism, constantinianism, and modernity without touching ‘race'(which strangely enough is a product of Modernity in many of its North American forms) then I’d be telling the whole truth? The fact of the matter is that this issue is rarely talked about…and it is a reality for non-European American Christians and non-Christians everyday. Such indifference to this issue simply perpetuates the way the Powers continue the hostility.
This is why I gave you the alternative which leaves off generalizations and challenges all Christians to re-examine whether they are oppressing the minority cultures in their context. This seems to me to be the more accurate, graceful, and challenging approach:
Racism, in the North American context, is embodied when Christians assume, oftentimes unknowingly, the normativity of their expression and practice of the Christian faith to the exclusion of other cultures in their midst.
I actually said that in the post. Did you even both reading the next sentence? I said, “This is exampled by European-American churches that think they are racially diverse but still have a white, middle-class aesthetic while having people of different cultures present in their worship. Such practices are racist and are examples of the church being handmaiden to the Principalities and Powers that continue to oppress and render hostile different cultures towards each other.”
I hope I did not offend you with my comment; that was never my intention. I just felt like your post needed and deserved a more critical reading than it was receiving. Perhaps I have misunderstood you to some degree and you can correct me?
Aside from the fact that I believe your understanding of racism is not true to alot of non-European American Christians experiences (quite thin actually) I commend your courage to step up and participate in this kind of discussion. I am committed to racial harmony, reconciliation, diversity, etc. But the powers have to be exposed if we are going to get to the truth as to why we remain divided..why the subtle hostility still exists…why the normative gaze? Just as many in the emerging church conversation have narrated modernity and its political and philosophical underpinnings and consequences I want to take it further and discuss how race is very much a part of the ‘modern’ church. It seems Christians in this post-conservative, post-liberal, and post-modern will only take their narration of modernity so far.