Wednesday, July 27, 2016

The "O" Factor...

Or "3 Reasons White Folks Deny the Existence of Systemic Racism"

In my post yesterday I talked about standing with oppressed people as an act of love for our neighbors. I am sure there are people who read it and thought, "the slaves were freed in 1863, what are they complaining about?!" or "the Civil Rights movement happened 50 years ago, it's their own fault if they aren't succeeding!" 

Statements like these are heartbreaking, because it means we truly do not see what is all around us. We have convinced ourselves of a narrative that the day Dr. King dreamed about has come and everything is fine. The idea that we are all judged by the "content of our character" and not the color of our skin makes us feel good, but the truth is we are not there yet. The following are actual things I have heard people say as reasons they do not believe racism (systemic and personal) exists:

1. "I love Oprah and she is black!" or "Oprah has more money than God and she is black!" 
2. "OJ wasn't convicted and this proves the system is not rigged against black people!" 
3. "We elected Obama. We can't be racist because we have a black president!" 

Here's my brief response to each of these statements:

1. Oprah is amazing. She has worked extremely hard for everything she has and is an inspiration to many people. However, we (white Americans) have a history of using black people for our entertainment. The fact that you love Oprah does not convince me that you are not racist. Especially when you say things like, "she's not like other black women...most black women are angry and all Oprah wants to do is give people new cars." I'm just gonna leave that one there. 

2. A couple weeks ago I watched ESPN's "OJ: Made in America." It was really well made and extremely painful to watch. The commentary on race relations and the history of LAPD's violence against the black community made me weep. After hearing all the 911 calls Nicole had made over the years and seeing photo after photo of her bruised face from OJ beating her, I nearly threw up when I saw the crime scene photos. When it was over I thought two things, "you don't stab someone you don't know that many times..." and "I suppose if I were black in Los Angeles in the wake of the Rodney King verdict, I would've been rooting for OJ's innocence too." 

The problem with using OJ's acquittal as proof that systemic racism does not exist is the Mark Fuhrman tapes. That trial hung on 2 things: tapes of Mark Fuhrman (who you can catch on Fox News as an "expert") detailing racial profiling and use of excessive force against the black community and a glove that didn't fit (for reasons I won't give away here). The reality is that (because of their poor choices) the prosecution failed to prove their case and OJ's history of spousal abuse was overshadowed by the history of the LAPD's abuse of the black community. Both are tragedies because, like I said before, injustice is everywhere. 

3. Barack Obama is the 44th president of the United States of America- we have arrived! The fact that we are "proud" of this (like posting on social media that we helped an elderly woman cross the street) shows we have so far to go. He is 1 of 44. Yes, we elected a black president. We also have never seen people try to disprove a president's birthplace like what we have seen against President Obama. It pains me to say that even in the last year of his presidency I've heard people say, "but he wasn't even born in America!" Let me put your mind at ease, my friend's neighbor is the doctor who delivered him here in Hawaii. He's American born (and even better- he is Hawaii born!). 

These examples or, The "O" Factor, are household names because they are exceptional. Their stories are not the norm. We know them and cite them as examples of our progress because we don't want to be racist. Racism = bad morals and we want to think of ourselves as moral people. However, the fact remains they are exceptions to a not-so-silent truth that black people cannot get as far as white people in our country. 

This must continue to change- but it won't happen by pretending we don't see color...

Tuesday, July 26, 2016


For months I have been drafting something on this subject, but have not published until today. I suspect this will be the first in a line of posts that will ruffle feathers, but I've never been one to shy away from conflict and this is one I consider worth my energy. The intention of these posts is not to offend or upset, although I realize that will happen, it is to help us love our neighbors. Or maybe just realize who our neighbors are...

Over the last year I have posted statements of solidarity with an oppressed population of people. When I first began posting these statements, I did not realize how many people it would upset. I did not realize how many people in my social media would fiercely oppose this idea of standing with a group of people who are being oppressed. I certainly did not realize that it would go so far as being trolled by people I once considered friends.

Standing with the oppressed is something I believe in because I am a Christian, not in spite of it. I believe that when there are people who are pushed down, it is my call to stand with them and say "this is not okay!" or rather, "Your Kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven!"

There is no shortage of injustice in the world. Violence happens in every corner, in every culture. It happens among people who look the same, and it happens against people who look, speak, and believe differently. We live in a fallen world and this is just the way things are. However, I think we can all agree, this is not the way things should be.

The #blacklivesmatter movement was born as a response to historical and systemic injustice. It was never a statement that meant "black lives matter MORE" or "other lives don't matter". Anyone who is affiliated with this movement has said that the silent word at the end of the phrase "black lives matter" is "TOO" or "ALSO" or "AS MUCH AS OTHER LIVES". It is not excluding white lives, blue lives, rich lives etc. It is a plea for their lives to matter as much as the aforementioned. If you are violently objecting my use of this phrase you either A.) don't believe that black lives matter as much as other lives or B.) still do not understand what it means.

Now, some of you are probably really angry right now. You may be saying:

1. "But all lives matter!" or
2. "But that guy killed those cops in Dallas!" or
3. You are convinced that the only way to get beyond racial injustice is to pretend it does not exist ie, "we have to come together! we can't talk about race! talking about race only divides us!" or
4. "I have black friends and they don't feel this way."

1. Yes, all lives matter. But right now, there are oppressed people who are asking to be seen and heard. Let's open our eyes and ears and hear their stories.
2. That was a horrible tragedy. It has shaken many selfless law enforcement officers and their families to their core. But that psycho on a rooftop no more speaks for #blacklivesmatter than the Westboro Baptist Church speaks for all Christians.
3. Yes, we need to come together. But ignoring racial injustice does not bring unity. Honest dialogue about real issues brings unity. Crying with those who mourn brings unity.
4. Maybe this is true, it is not my place to say how anyone else feels. But, maybe you guys aren't really "friends". (A test of this would be to ask yourself, "how often do we eat together? how often do we talk about real stuff?")

Tune in tomorrow for my top 3 reasons white folks don't believe in systemic racism...