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What Can We Do about Family-Separation and Detention?

As Legislative Liaison to the Episcopal Diocese of Southern Ohio, I have been asked by members of the parish and the Diocese what we can do. I offer you a list from Carter Heyward and an article from The Slate which might be helpful.

“Dear friends, sisters, brothers, and sibling Americans, we are living increasingly in a nation in which an authoritarian is ruling via fear, hatred, and lies. This can only get worse before it finally breaks apart. So what do we do at this time?

(1) SPEAK THE TRUTH BOLDLY about what you see happening. Speak, write, preach, draw, paint, sing, dramatize, or otherwise communicate the Truth in whatever contexts and ways you can. Communicate with your legislators — relentlessly. Make a nuisance of yourself if you’re met with unresponsive legislators. Use newspapers, social media, and other media to communicate whatever is true and important. Do this as often as you can. Don’t let a day go by without your truth-speaking-voice being heard by someone!

(2) CONNECT WITH OTHERS. Don’t let yourself get isolated or depressed. Join together with others who want to do something constructive. There are countless organizations from which you can choose ones that appeal to you.

(3) VOTE — and not only you personally. Make sure your friends, family, and neighbors are registered to vote. Use whatever power, skills, and clout you have to help folks register and make sure they vote. Consider joining the Get Out the Vote campaigns of your local Democratic Party or of organizations like the NAACP, Black Lives Matter, AAUW, ACLU, Indivisible, and other groups committed to getting folks to vote.

(4) GIVE $$, however much or little, to organizations and people who are working for justice — for immigrants and refugees, communities of color, women and LGBTQ persons, environmental sustainability, universal health care, quality public education, etc. Even sending $5 or $10 to several groups from time to time is GREAT — and with lots of us doing it, it builds up.

(5) DEFEND DEMOCRACY! Remember that our democracy is under attack both from without (Russia) and within (Trump). Don’t let yourself be distracted from this concern or lulled into thinking that the Russian connection has been overblown — or is in the past. No question the Russians will be/are trying to confound the USA in our upcoming elections.

(6) PROTEST! Join others in taking to the streets whenever the times are right, and to the offices of your legislators, locally and at state and national levels. Be inspired by the kids from FL who are 100% committed to gun sanity and safety. Be inspired by the outpouring of rage and resistance to Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy at the borders, in which babies and children are being taken from parents. Be inspired by the courage of all who are speaking out, marching, refusing to be silenced. Be bold and outspoken in speaking truth to power.

(7) MUTE TRUMP’S LIES. Don’t give Trump’s tweets, rantings, and self-indulgence center stage. Marginalize his voice. Call his lies what they are: LIES. If you have to quote him to make a point, make clear to your readers/listeners that whatever it was Trump said is a LIE being used by him malevolently to sow confusion.

(8) BRIDGE DIFFERENCES. Do your best to speak truthfully and candidly to people who don’t agree with you about what is happening, whether they like Trump or not. Speak truthfully, and invite them to do the same. Don’t argue, much less fight, with those who disagree. But hold your own perspective — and never, ever, make peace with your own oppression — or that of others.

(9) TAKE TIME FOR YOURSELF. Don’t disregard your own needs for fun and fellowship, or for spiritual renewal, in order to keep on keeping on. Take some time everyday simply to relax. You don’t need to apologize for taking some time away. Get restored whenever you need to. Don’t run yourself into the ground. You’re too important! We need you — and you need yourself.

(10) TAKE HEART. Consider the truth and wisdom in the poetry of Renny Golden, who wrote that “struggle is a name for hope” and take heart! We are in this struggle together. You are not alone.” – Carter Heyward
 
In addition, here are some resources that are working to help those in detention, who can always use some help:

Here’s How You Can Help Fight Family Separation at the Border

Lawyers, translators, donations, protest.

Members of a caravan of migrants from Central America wait to enter the United States border and customs facility, where they are expected to apply for asylum, in Tijuana, Mexico April 29, 2018.Members of a caravan of migrants from Central America wait to enter the United States border and customs facility, where they are expected to apply for asylum, in Tijuana, Mexico, on April 29.

This list is being updated with new information. Last updated Tuesday, June 19, 2018, 12:58 p.m.

If you’re horrified by news of families being separated at the borders, here’s a bit of news you can use.

First, the policy: It helps to be incredibly clear on what the law is, and what has and has not changed. When Donald Trump and Sarah Huckabee Sanders say that the policy of separating children from their parents upon entry is a law passed by Democrats that Democrats will not fix, they are lying.

There are two different policies in play, and both are new.

First is the new policy that any migrant family entering the U.S. without a border inspection will be prosecuted for this minor misdemeanor. The parents get incarcerated and that leaves children to be warehoused. The parents then typically plead guilty to the misdemeanor and are given a sentence of the few days they served waiting for trial. But then when the parents try to reunite with their children, they are given the runaround—and possibly even deported, alone. The children are left in HHS custody, often without family.

Second is a new and apparently unwritten policy that even when the family presents themselves at a border-entry location, seeking asylum—that is, even when the family is complying in all respects with immigration law—the government is snatching the children away from their parents. Here, the government’s excuse seems to be that they want to keep the parents in jail-like immigration detention for a long time, while their asylum cases are adjudicated. The long-standing civil rights case known as Flores dictates that they aren’t allowed to keep kids in that kind of detention, so the Trump administration says they have to break up the families. They do not have to break up families — it is the government’s new choice to jail people with credible asylum claims who haven’t violated any laws that is leading to the heartbreaking separations you’ve been reading about.

So that is what is happening. Whether or not that is what the Bible demands is the subject of a different column. Good explainers on what is and is not legal detention of immigrants and asylum-seekers can also be found here and here and here.

Next: Which groups to support.

• The ACLU is litigating this policy in California.

• If you’re an immigration lawyer, the American Immigration Lawyers Association will be sending around a volunteer list for you to help represent the women and men with their asylum screening, bond hearings, ongoing asylum representation, etc. Please sign up.

Al Otro Lado is a binational organization that works to offer legal services to deportees and migrants in Tijuana, Mexico, including deportee parents whose children remain in the U.S.

CARA—a consortium of the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, the American Immigration Council, the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services, and the American Immigration Lawyers Association—provides legal services at family detention centers.

The Florence Project is an Arizona project offering free legal services to men, women, and unaccompanied children in immigration custody.

Human Rights First is a national organization with roots in Houston that needs help from lawyers too.

Kids in Need of Defense works to ensure that kids do not appear in immigration court without representation, and to lobby for policies that advocate for children’s legal interests. Donate here.

The Legal Aid Justice Center is a Virginia-based center providing unaccompanied minors legal services and representation.

Pueblo Sin Fronteras is an organization that provides humanitarian aid and shelter to migrants on their way to the U.S.

RAICES is the largest immigration nonprofit in Texas offering free and low-cost legal services to immigrant children and families. Donate here and sign up as a volunteer here.

• The Texas Civil Rights Project is seeking “volunteers who speak Spanish, Mam, Q’eqchi’ or K’iche’ and have paralegal or legal assistant experience.”

Together Rising is another Virginia-based organization that’s helping provide legal assistance for 60 migrant children who were separated from their parents and are currently detained in Arizona.

• The Urban Justice Center’s Asylum Seeker Advocacy Project is working to keep families together.

Women’s Refugee Commission advocates for the rights and protection of women, children, and youth fleeing violence and persecution.

• Finally, ActBlue has aggregated many of these groups under a single button.

This list isn’t comprehensive, so let us know what else is happening. And please call your elected officials, stay tuned for demonstrations, hug your children, and be grateful if you are not currently dependent on the basic humanity of U.S. policy.

Update, June 17, 2018: Thanks to readers who updated us with more organizations fighting this policy. Other good work is being done by the following:

CLINIC’s Defending Vulnerable Populations project offers case assistance to hundreds of smaller organizations all over the country that do direct services for migrant families and children.

American Immigrant Representation Project (AIRP), which works to secure legal representation for immigrants.

CASA in Maryland, D.C., Virginia, and Pennsylvania. They litigate, advocate, and help with representation of minors needing legal services.

Freedom for Immigrants (Formerly CIVIC), which has been a leading voice opposing immigrant detention.

• The Michigan Immigrant Rights Center represents all of the immigrant kids placed by the government in foster care in Michigan (one of the biggest foster care placement states). About two-thirds are their current clients are separation cases, and they work to find parents and figure out next steps.

• The Northwest Immigrant Rights Project is doing work defending and advancing the rights of immigrants through direct legal services, systemic advocacy, and community education.

• The Women’s Refugee Commission has aggregated five actions everyone can take that go beyond donating funds.

• And finally, the International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP)—which organizes law students and lawyers to develop and enforce a set of legal and human rights for refugees and displaced persons—just filed suit challenging the cancellation of the Central American Minors program.

Update, June 18, 2018, 8:19 p.m.: Listed below are more organizations that are helping separated families at the border. Thanks again to readers who sent in information:

Houston Immigration Legal Services Collaborative has a guide to organizations throughout Texas that provide direct legal services to separated children. Also listed within the guide are resources for local advocates, lawyers, and volunteers.

Immigrant Justice Corps is the nation’s only fellowship program dedicated to expanding access to immigration representation. Some IJC fellows work at the border, and others work in New York, providing direct representation in immigration court to parents and children resettled in New York City and surrounding counties.

• The Kino Border Initiative provides humanitarian aid to refugees and migrants on both sides of the border. They have a wish-list of supplies they can use to help migrants and families staying in the communities they serve.

The Rocky Mountain Immigrant Advocacy Network supports undocumented immigrants detained in Aurora, Colorado.

Several companies also match donations—if your company does this, you need to provide the tax ID of the charity you have given to, which is usually listed on these organizations’ websites.

Update, June 19, 2018, 12:58 p.m.: The National Immigrant Justice Center represents and advocates for detained adults and children facing removal, supports efforts at the border, and represents parents in the interior who have been separated from their families as a result of aggressive enforcement.

 
 
Dahlia Lithwick, Margo Schlanger, The Slate, June 19, 2018 
How you can fight family-separation at the border

The Tragedy . . . and Hope Of ‘#MeTOO’

I have been horrified by the thousands of women (and men) who have posted ‘#MeTOO’ on Facebook recently in response to the egregious sexual misconduct of Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein. Every status I have read has filled me with both thankfulness and grief. I am thankful for the courage and the bravery of those who have shared their stories. I am grieved that the prevalence of sexual assault and harassment is still so widespread and still so unacknowledged, and that it has taken thousands of voices on social media revealing their personal pain publicly to convince the world of the extent of this problem. Bolstered by centuries of patriarchal dominance over women, powerful and thoughtless men have heaped sexual harassment and abuse on women because they could. In more recent decades, as women have gained success in career fields previously closed to them, they have been accosted by sexual predators at every turn. Now, sad and horrifying stories abound on Facebook and elsewhere – told by women of all ages and walks of life –  about assault and abuse, not only in the entertainment field, but in business, government, academia, and the church as well. Male authority have taken tawdry advantage of women in exchange for using their influence or workplace position to assist those women in ‘breaking the glass ceiling’. “Locker room talk” has been accepted with a wink and a nudge, and predatory behavior against women has been a young man’s ‘rite of passage’ for far too long. We can only wonder how many more women are carrying these terrible stories around, afraid to tell them. We hear stories from friends and strangers, stories of pain, abuse, assault and harassment; we can no longer say that we did not know or ‘that is just the way things are’. “#MeTOO’ demands a response from all of us.

Unfortunately, for Christians and many other faith groups, their respective holy books are ready sources for the misguided belief that women are possessions, and do not deserve a place in society equal to men. From the beginning of recorded history, women (and female children) have generally been counted in the tribes as part of the chattel. Their purpose was to keep the home, procreate, care for children and, primarily, be in the background, much like a slave or indentured servant. What we now consider inappropriate and even abusive sexual behavior was sanctioned within the culture and tribal system.

For too long, men have participated in and benefited from a culture that allows, profits from, and ultimately, rewards abusing women. And, more to the point, men HAVE and ARE doing this. Even words spoken lightly with the intent of a compliment have frequently had the effect of placing women in compromising positions. Male silence when they have seen a woman objectified… their failure to use their dominant power to create safe spaces with clear expectations about consent in touch, conversation and action … is inexcusable. Although women assuming more and more positions in society will help to eradicate their sexual abuse and assault, there is an important role that men must assume in correcting this long-standing problem.

It is the responsibility of women everywhere to stand up, no matter difficult that may be, and say ‘enough!’ A problem cannot be rectified if there is not a clear definition of the root cause. Announcing ‘#MeTOO’ on social media does not solve the problem – but it is having a significant purpose:

  1. to raise the awareness of the general population that their mothers and sisters and daughters and even grandmothers have been subjected to demeaning misogyny;
  2. to affirm and strengthen those who have suffered in silence because of fear of reprisal, or guilt, or a feeling that ‘they were the only ones’.

Many harassed women who felt alone have now found the strength to add their voice to the ‘#MeTOO’ campaign.  And there also are many men who have realized their actions were inappropriately demeaning and have posted their objection to such words and actions, along with heartfelt support for their female friends and family.

However, raising awareness is NOT going to eradicate the problem. It is the responsibility of both men and women, mothers and fathers, all citizens of our country, to take action. Women and girls should be taught, reminded, and urged to call up short any who harass or abuse them; parents, families, and society MUST make a strong statement that this is no longer permissible or acceptable behavior.

Sexual harassment is not about sex – it is about POWER. . .  the power men hold over women and children in this society. It is time for women to speak up and demand respect and equal power in the workplace and society. It is time for little boys and girls to be taught to respect one another as equals. Just as we teach children about inappropriate touching, we need to teach them not to accept inappropriate words.

We like to think of the church as a refuge from the brokenness and sinfulness of the world. We like to think that, within the Christian community, we are kinder to each other, that we are better at “doing unto others.” But the truth is: we are not immune. The sound of ‘#MeTOO’ echoes within the walls of the church. Every female clergy I know has experienced at least one incidence of sexual harassment. Victims are sitting in our pews, our classrooms, and our church offices. Too often, neither a Christian community, gender, age, marital status, nor pastoral authority has protected us.

The church must take responsibility for their culpability in the acceptance of this behavior as a social norm. It is time for faith communities to oppose every form of sexism toward women. We must create an environment where there is zero tolerance for harassment, abuse and violence. We must remind our communities that Jesus preached we are to ‘love each other as brothers and sisters’. Our churches should be seen as safe havens, where we treat one another with compassion and respect. These should be places where no one has to worry about being harassed, demeaned, assaulted.

We should all feel sick and sad over the continuing stories of women suffering verbal and physical assaults. Today it’s in the spotlight, and that’s important. But as fast as news comes to our attention, it becomes ‘old news’, and we move on to the next thing. My fear is that ‘#MeTOO’ will fade away as another topic takes its place – that all the discussion and identification of the types of harassment and its impact will become a shadow in the mind, and we will go back to the ‘same old, same old’. Men and women must continue to speak out; and the church must lead the way in creating new norms of social behavior.

We in The Episcopal Church and Saint John’s can exercise leadership in our communities to increase fair treatment, respect, and love in all aspects of our communal life.

How can we do this?

  • By shifting from masculine-only and patriarchal language in conversations and services to non-gender inclusive language;
  • By making our young people aware of their important role in creating new and kinder social norms of behavior between genders in all phases of their lives;
  • By ensuring that our worship, formation, and activities do nothing to reinforce disrespect of any person or group;
  • By supporting gender parity and mutual respect of all persons in our civic life (government, schools, organizations, entertainment);
  • By raising awareness of problems of misogyny wherever they are found;
  • By confirming and affirming those who speak out.

That is my hope – that true and lasting good may come from this ‘#MeTOO’ campaign. That following the courage of younger generations, we can stand up, speak out, and make the church and our world a better place for ALL of us.
 
 

Written in response to the ‘#MeTOO’ campaign after disclosure of sexual harassment by Harvey Weinstein and other prominent men, 1 November 2017

“Fake News” and Real Citizenship

We are all aware that our national public life has become a chaotic swirl of arguments and controversy, fed by Tweets, incessantly repeated ‘soundbytes’, 24-hour news channels, and social media. What’s more, we are now cautioned to beware of ‘fake news’.

In Wikipedia, we find ‘fake news’ defined as:

“… a type of yellow journalism or propaganda that consists of deliberate misinformation or hoaxes spread via traditional print and broadcast news media or online social media. Fake news is written and published with the intent to mislead in order to gain financially or politically, often with sensationalist, exaggerated, or patently false headlines that grab attention.”

In the middle of the din of information – and mis-information – it is difficult to separate fact from opinion, truth from lies, and reality from concocted propaganda.

On top of all this, we are learning that forces seeking to weaken the United States government and sow discord in our national life are using demographic studies and profiles to target us with propaganda and lies meant to mislead people about the integrity and motives of our leaders and agencies in government, religion, academia, and charities.

This sort of ‘fake news’ and unsupported  opinion, not based on fact or reality can have real-life consequences. We are seeing shootings, riots, and other violent and hostile actions that are caused by some angry or disturbed people responding to that ‘fake news’. Those so inclined then latch onto this information and promulgate it to thousands of other people of the same ilk, further fueling the anger and propaganda.

The more exaggerated or inflammatory the headlines are, the more likely they are ‘fake news’. Headlines or social media subjects are meant to get the reader’s attention, but they’re also supposed to accurately reflect what the story is about. Now headlines use exaggerated language to intentionally mislead or are blatantly untrue.

How Do We Determine What Is Real?

  1. It is not only the responsibility of the platforms to determine the existence of fake news and issue a retraction or take the offenders down (as Facebook, Twitter, and Google have recently learned), but we as subscribers also have a responsibility to monitor what we pass on as ‘real’. It is disheartening that we can no longer trust all we read, but as responsible citizens, we must be more vigilant than ever about checking facts and not passing along lies and propaganda. How can we do this? The most recognized authority for getting at the truth is:

The International Fact-Checking Network (http://www.poynter.org/category/fact-checking/) is the recognized authority for fact checking. Every statement checked goes through a rigorous process for verification of validity.

Other sources for fact-checking are:

Snopes (www.snopes.com) or

Hoax-Slayer (www.hoax-slayer.net)

FactCheck (www.factcheck.org).

USE THEM!

  1. Another safeguard is to pay attention to the domain name and the URL; many websites can be ‘ghosted’, looking like a legitimate source. If the URL has an entry after the “.com”, the website is suspect, particularly if it contains inflammatory information.
  1. On Facebook, check the ‘About Us’ section; it should be straightforward without melodramatic or incendiary claims. Check the language usage; often the fake news sites use broken English, have misspellings, or poor syntax.
  1. Legitimate news sources will contain quotes attributed to experts in their fields; if an item attacks a person and contains text with no quotes, but rather attributes to ‘an informed source’, these are suspect. If an unfamiliar name is cited, Google the person; often that person does not exist.

There are several satirical websites that are ‘real lies’, but the sites will always state that they are satirical. Some of these include The Onion, Babylon Bee, Burrard Street Journal. A list of the top 50 satirical websites can be found at https:/blog.feedspot.com/satire_blogs.

  1. We must also guide our teenagers and children in deciphering truth from fiction on social media. Parents, grandparents and families should take time to explain the concepts of ‘fake news’ to children. If something is incendiary with pictures, younger children will be inclined to believe it. And fake news can cause unnecessary fear in children (thinking September 23, 2017 is the end of the world, for instance).

Each of us has a responsibility to stop the proliferation of this ‘fake news’. For the companies operating the sites, it is a fine line between restricting the ‘fake news’ sites and still allowing freedom of speech for its users. We can help in this effort by checking anything that we share with others. If you see someone in your circle who is passing along ‘fake news’, let them know and ask that they take the entry down. This may not be comfortable, and some may ‘unfriend’ you, but everyone has to correct ‘fake news’.

It is now more important than ever that we stand up for, and honor the First Amendment of the Constitution:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press;”

Within this Amendment lies the keys to much of our freedom as a people. Yet, also, herein lies the danger if forces are free to promulgate lies in the name of ‘free speech’, we must all be ever vigilant in finding those lies and correcting them!

Two-thousand years ago, Jesus of Nazareth was crucified by people who believed ‘fake news’, gossip and lies, and were afraid to stand up for the truth. Lies travel faster now, and can be sown more quickly. But the urgent need for each person to stand for honesty and integrity in the face of lies is as great now as ever.

Remember, passing along one ‘fake news’ entry may reach millions of people with one click of the button.

Be responsible!
 
 
(Graphic provided by The International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA)
Written for The Crossroads, Saint John’s Episcopal Church in Worthington and Parts Adjacent, Worthington, OH; 13 October 2017

Care of the Earth: The Vital Imperative of the 21st Century

The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and TAKE CARE OF IT. (Genesis 2:15)

The earth has endured an increasing array of disasters over the past several years: floods, tsunamis, forest fires, tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes – all in increasing numbers. The past three weeks have seen the most powerful and destructive hurricanes on record do devastating damage to large areas of the United States and the Caribbean. “Harvey” and “Irma” have wrought billions of dollars of damage to major cities and entire states and nations, much of which will take years to recover and rebuild – and it appears more is on the way to these same areas – “Maria”.

The reason or ‘blame’ for all this is argued by various factions of society: some say it is God’s wrath for our godless actions, some blame religions or minority groups – and all this finger-pointing only serves to further exacerbate the tribal divisions that are plaguing our society. The arguing also directs attention away from the clear causes ratified over and over by scientists and meteorologist: it is the rapid and dangerous effect of our changing climate and the plundering of the earth caused by a dramatic increase in the earth’s population and the resulting demands for more energy.

More people demand more fuel and for over 100 years, that demand has been answered by increased use of fossil fuels, oil, coal, and natural gas. As these burn, the carbon dioxide produced builds up in the earth’s atmosphere, acting as a ‘blanket’, holding in heat, and thus warming the temperature of the earth, i.e., ‘global warming’.

Other human actions also contribute to throwing our earth’s equilibrium off-balance: increasing destruction of forests, big commercial agriculture and construction, chemical pollution of our waters by industry, and rampant populate growth.

Unless we attend to this growing destruction of our planet NOW, consequences and costs will be much more severe. So, pointing fingers of blame to elements of societal prejudice really harms us all. The blame is on each one of us, and the responsibility for correcting the problem resides in each of us as well!

Here are some things we all can do right now:

  1. Get involved; contact your local, state and federal representatives and express your support of measures to decrease our carbon footprint. Encourage legislators to impose carbon taxes on those energy polluters.
  2. Be energy efficient; switch to efficient light bulbs and try to minimize your use of energy, particularly those that contribute to our carbon footprint
  3. Trim your waste; carbon dioxide and methane gas from landfills contributes to the increase in earth temperature, so try to use recyclable goods.
  4. Minimize driving; drive as little as possible. If you can’t use public transportation, look at energy-efficient automobiles (either hybrids or electric), or carpool.
  5. Green your community; work within your community to reduce the use of non-green energy, reduce waste and work with organizations that encourage/legislate for clean energy.
  6. Stay informed; belong to elists and organizations that are actively working to switch to clean energy and reduce our carbon footprint.

Moreover, perhaps it is time for all of us at Saint John’s to move together to promote these ideas and actions within our community and the world.

We pray for the healing of the earth, that present and future generations may enjoy the fruits of creation, and continue to glorify and praise you. Amen.
 
 
Written for Crossroads, Saint John’s Episcopal Church of Worthington and Parts Adjacent, 18 September 2017

Charlottesville is OUR Fault

Systemic and corporate racism is something that the majority of Americans don’t want to acknowledge exists or they contribute to that racism. And we don’t want to admit that, no matter how inclusive we feel we are, we are all racists to some extent.

This article was written by a young man who had an epiphany after the events in Charlottesville that we are ALL responsible for the racism that exists in the United States. His language may be a little harsh for some of you, but it needs to be said. I hate to admit it, but I see myself in passive racism; I am pledging to no longer remain silent – and I hope you will not either.. – Deacon deniray+

 

I live in rural Northeast Georgia, and was raised in rural Upstate South Carolina. I grew up hearing the black kids called monkeys and the ‘n’ word at the playground in elementary school. I’ve heard members of my family say derogatory things about other races, including these racial slurs. I was even told in third grade that I couldn’t have a black girlfriend because, “people just don’t like that.”

I could make an argument that systemic racism is the cause of a vehicle plowing through a group of protesters in VA, but I know too many people who claim that “racism doesn’t exist.” So please, friends and family, hear me. I’m going to set aside the argument for systemic racism for a minute and look at the four types of racism that I see every day living here in the south.

I see this as a pyramid with the smallest population at the top and the largest at the bottom.

The four levels of the pyramid:

Active Racism: Active racists truly believe that one race is superior to another and they are willing to make their race have a higher standing than another. An example would be Hitler in Nazi Germany. Or, a more topical example, these idiots in Charlottesville.

Quiet Racism: Quiet racists also truly believe that they are superior to others, but they’re just not willing to say that in public. This is the scariest group of people on this list. Here’s a personal example: I once needed some work done on my vehicle and I took it to a shop. When I went inside, I was greeted with a heavily used dartboard with Obama’s face on it, followed by a conversation with the owner in which I heard the n word several times. This guy is not ramming cars into people or at a Neo-Nazi rally, but it’s easy to see how the people that are at these rallies are surrounded by folks like this guy. I’m a teacher, and on multiple occasions I’ve had students tell me about some of the things that their parents have said about people of other races. They justify police shootings followed by riots by explaining how “they are made that way” or have “genetics that make them criminals.” This is real, folks.

“Soft” Racism: Soft racism is when people make racist comments or have a racial thoughts that they don’t realize are racist.  “Today I was on the road and I saw this black guy walking”… or, “I teach a lot of “urban’ students,” or, “I have black friends, so I can’t be racist” etc. This group also contains racial bias. Radiolab did a fanatic podcast about a father who had adopted a black daughter, but still found himself being cautious around a black man walking down the street. Even though he had just explained to his daughter that it’s not fair that people do this, he still found himself being a part of the problem. Why is this?

Every single person I know would say that they are not racist. And, again, we’re setting aside systemic racism for this argument. But I would argue a lot of people I know are soft racists. This is where I sat most of my life, and still find myself here on occasion. It is important that we not fear the prejudices that we are taught as kids (“people won’t like it if you date a black girl”), but to make ourselves aware of when these thoughts happen and to war against it, just like the man in the story above.

Passive Racism: For the most part, people I know aren’t any other these other three groups. Most people I know (including myself) fall into passive racism: they don’t speak up when others are racist, intentionally or unintentionally. I can’t tell you the number of times that I’ve heard a racist joke or even an off color statement where I haven’t had the guts to say, “hey, that’s not okay.”

This passivism is the root of the problem. Most people know racism when they see it (when people on the passive level see people on the soft level or higher), but just don’t say or do anything about it. But, what if this majority became active? What if we all agreed to, kindly, inform others that we’re not going to let people around us say or do racist things? What if, instead of blaming the president, or Nazis, or the alt-right, we took responsibility for our actions and the people in our own lives?

We must begin to speak up because by being passive and letting racist jokes and statements slide, we are literally building the foundation on which the KKK, Neo Nazi, and White Supremacist’s groups are built at the top of the pyramid. It doesn’t matter if it makes you uncomfortable or if it hurts your relationships, people are literally dying because the masses aren’t speaking up for those without a voice.

It is also easy to just cut off our friends and family who are soft and quiet racists. But, it is our job to stand up when racist ideas are brought up. As white people, we have an audience with our families and white circles that the black community will never have. If we do not start to have these conversations at the lower levels of the pyramid, who will?

So yes, Charlottesville was my fault, and your fault, and the fault of anyone who is not standing up to racism in our daily lives. Please, please, don’t be defensive, but take a moment to attempt to see that silence really is compliance.

I’m making a stand today to no longer sit by and let these things happen. I hope you’ll consider standing with me.
 
 
Josh Bryan, Sarondipity Universe, August 13, 2017
Charlottesville was my Fault

 
Written for Crossroads, Saint John’s Episcopal Church in Worthington and Parts Adjacent, 20 August 2017

The Tragedy at Charlottesville

We saw the underbelly of American the last two days in Charlottesville, Virginia. People who now feel that they have ‘permission’, even support from people in the government, to spew their hatred and bigotry and racism openly and violently. We saw armed militias carrying Confederate flags marching in goosesteps, white supremacists shouting angry slogans, members of the KKK no longer hiding under bedsheets, but openly proclaiming their part in the election of the president and their right to return America to a white, Christian nation. Hatred consumes these people; something that is NOT a Christian value.

And most tragic of all, we saw a young person from Maumee, Ohio, deliberately drive his car into a group of peaceful counter-protestors, killing at least one innocent bystander just trying to cross the street, and injuring scores of others, some who may still succumb to their injuries. This kind of hatred and violence does not only happen ‘somewhere else’, but right here in our state and our communities. We need to stand against this.

But we also saw a group of people of faith joined together (Catholics, Protestants, Jews,  Muslims, Buddhists and others) singing This little light of mine in love and fellowship to counter the vitriolic chants of the ultra-conservative Alt-Right, Neo-Nazis, KKK, nationalists, white supremacists, armed militia, and people angry because Charlottesville is going to remove a statue of Robert E Lee from a park called ‘Emancipation Park’.

Most of us cannot make any sense or see any justifiable reason for the actions of those who chose to create discord and spew bigotry and hatred and xenophobia. But, those people of faith chose to take the risk, get out there, arms joined together in solidarity, and do what was right.  They chose to get out of the boat! – to risk life and limb to present to the world what the love and teachings of Jesus really are.

They got out of the boat!

So where are you this morning?

Huddled in the boat with a life jacket and your seat belt on?

One leg in, one leg out?

Out of the boat, but fearful, still clinging to the edge?

Or looking with faith into the eyes of Jesus and walking on water?

Let us pray.

Lord Jesus, help us to walk with you wherever this life may take us. Help us to recognize whatever it is that:

Helps us to seek you,
Helps us to trust you,
Helps us to obey your teachings.

Help us to face our fears and trust whatever the storms of life may be, You are there, guiding and redeeming us. Be with those who have died and are injured physically and emotionally from this horrid incident in Charlottesville. Wrap your loving arms around them and the rest of the nation, reminding us that

The greatest of these is love  (1 Corinthians 13:13)

And give us the strength to get out of the boat.

Amen.
 

Excerpted from a sermon (‘If You Want to Walk on Water, You  Gotta Get Out of the Boat!’) delivered at Saint John’s Episcopal Church  of Worthington and Parts Adjacent, Worthington, OH; 13 August 2017

Why We Should Be Active In Our Community

You have often heard me preach about our need to go out into the world and try to restore justice. We are commanded by Jesus to correct the wrongs perpetuated against the ‘least of these’. But there are other reasons to get active in our community.

Right now our nation is not only deeply divided, but inundated with nasty rhetoric and a general mood of selfishness and greed. Probably, in no other period of history, have the people of this country-at-large been so alienated from one another and unwilling to work together for the common good. Many are depressed, feeling totally hopeless and helpless to find a way to change their attitudes or the country.

Activism is the answer! Some would say that individuals cannot make a difference; we can only change ourselves. Yet, a change in individual attitudes becomes, in time, a ”global mind change” or a change in the entire world.

Being an activist often is stressful, and is plain hard work; burnout is a real problem. But, in the end, activism makes us feel good; it is exhilarating to gather with like-minded people to work for a common goal. Moving chairs, passing out flyers, and lobbying elected representatives is not so dreary when you do it with other people.

If, people who have never been active before, see you enjoying your activism, they may be encouraged to get out also. Who could resist all those women in pink ‘pussy’ hats at Women’s March; they were making a serious statement, but were having fun doing it. . . and all who went described the march as an experience of a lifetime!

When you get out and work with others in your community, it strengthens the bonds of that community; you have a common purpose and goal. Each person encourages the other to make their own little piece of the world a little better place. People are sharing love and energy.

Today’s events have left a lot of people depressed, fearful of where the country is going. Some would like to dig a hole and come back out in four years. Each new revelation makes them become more depressed and fearful. If they will get out and become active, their lives will have a rewarding purpose; it is really hard to be depressed when you feel you are contributing to our own community.

And, believe it or not, activism can be very effective. Sometimes you feel that you will not make any difference – the issues or problems are insurmountable. But that is not true. Just remember Ohio Senate Bill 5 (Collective Bargaining Limit of 2011); that law that was overturned because thousands and thousands of people in Ohio felt it was unjust and successfully campaigned to have it overturned. Each and every one of those people and their vote at the ballot box made a difference!

True, activism is not all fun and games. Each person must believe in the cause and dedicate themselves to the work that it takes to effect a change. It is hard work, but if the belief is strongly held, it is not a burden to go out and campaign.

And remember, activism does not have to be political; it can be cooking for the homeless, reading to the blind, being a school ‘grandparent’, teaching English as a Second Language. It may be driving senior citizens to the doctor or the grocery store, or just having coffee with someone who is shut-in.

Activism makes a difference in your world and makes a difference in your life. Get out of the house and do whatever you can to make this community and world we live in a better place.

But to do something positive for your community and world, joining with your friends and neighbors can possibly change the world, and surely change you!

Don’t rage -ENGAGE!

 
 
Written for Crossroads, Saint John’s Episcopal Church in Worthington and Parts Adjacent, Worthington, OH; 20 February 2017