Corey Evan Leak

Justice & Unity Matter to God So They Matter to Me

Amber, Hugs, and Forgiveness

Amber, Hugs, and Forgiveness 760 428 Corey Leak

There have been so many great perspectives shared about Amber Guyger’s trial, sentencing, and absolution. I’ve been challenged, annoyed and conflicted by some of what I’ve read, so I will be using the N-word quite a bit throughout this piece. I need to warn you about that at the outset of this blog.

I’ve written like 1000 words about this and then deleted them. I’ve struggled to find a creative flow for my thoughts, but I said I’d answer those of you who asked for my thoughts. So, here you go. If you didn’t ask, here you go as well.

My Thoughts:

I don’t believe her story entirely. I’m confused about how her trial was so quick. Her trial ended with more unanswered questions than Game of Thrones. I mean, “Where did Drogon go with Daenerys?” pales in comparison to “How did she not know she was in the wrong apartment?”

We don’t know what justice looks like. We understand vengeance, rage, and punishment, but not justice. How could we? We’ve never really witnessed it. Justice is a divine concept that we will never get right until we slow down long enough to allow ourselves to imagine a new way of being that is beyond our punitive concepts of restoring peace.

Amber Guyger deserves to be forgiven. She’s a human. What Botham’s brother did in hugging and saying he forgave her was commendable. It was his grieving process. It’s not any of our place to judge the validity of how any other human chooses to grieve.

The judge acted emotionally and inappropriately. I understand that she was caught up in the spirit of the moment and felt compelled to suspend her official role as judge and move into what she believed was the compassionate role of Christian, but that wasn’t her place.

I agree with many of my colleagues who have pointed out that white America wants to project Brandt Jean’s forgiveness onto all black people as an example of how to get over the past.

I’ve often said that gesture has become the white evangelical tool for dealing with racism because it’s easier and less messy than accepting the end result of contrition – the vacating of privilege.

Turning the other cheek is admirable, but it can never be demanded of oppressed people by their oppressors. Too often black people are asked to be the express image of Jesus by white people looking for cheap absolution.

I hope the irony is not lost on you that black people get asked to show white people what the love, compassion, and forgiveness of Jesus looks like even though every mainstream image of Jesus depicted in art or film is that of a white man.

Forgiveness is beautiful on the inside, but often hard to look at from the outside. Even the Christian idea of mercy for which a bloody cross is the symbol shows that forgiveness is painful and ugly. No wonder so many people were upset at the notion of Amber receiving mercy from Brandt.

Black people are not obligated to forgive Amber Guyger simply because two other black people hugged her in a court room. Forgiveness can’t be demanded, it has to be granted.

So, there are my raw thoughts about Amber, hugs, and forgiveness. I’m sure there are things you agree with and things you don’t I’m sure some ideas I shared seemed like I was taking “both sides.” I did warn you that I would be using nuance quite a bit.

Rest in power, Joshua Brown. Say his name.

My Tension With Kanye West’s Sunday Service

My Tension With Kanye West’s Sunday Service 1100 618 Corey Leak

“He’s fashionable, he’s reaching a lot of people who weren’t going to church and he sits with people who have diverse opinions.”

I’ve heard a wide range of thoughts about Kanye West’s latest artistic project – Sunday Service. Some people love it, and some people believe it’s heresy. I’ve been asked more than a few times over the last week about what I thought, so I decided to process those thoughts with you.

I’ve refrained from writing or talking publicly about the “revival” Kanye is leading because I have had conflicting ideas about the movement.

When I first heard about Kanye doing a Sunday morning service, my response was similar to my reaction when I heard that he said slavery was a choice.

I initially felt like this was a stunt “Yeezus” was using to center himself, and therefore I was extremely cynical. But, when I looked deeper within myself, I found that part of me was jealous that Kanye was creating the kind of faith communities I long to organize myself.

All that being said, here are my musings about Kanye West’s Sunday Service movement. They are in no particular order, and as I already said, some of them are probably contradictory. I feel tension within myself about it.

I don’t trust him.

I would personally never ask Kanye West for spiritual advice, and I imagine based on everything I’ve seen about what he’s up to these days, that he wouldn’t give it to me if I asked. He doesn’t seem to want the title or responsibilty of spiritual advisor.

My belief about spiritual leadership, which he is now positioned as whether he wanted it or not, is that the people we look to for spiritual leadership should be trustworthy in matters pertaining to Divinity. Which also carries with it the expectation of high moral character.

He’s by all accounts genuine.

I believe the countenance of those closest to us reveal our character. Kanye’s wife has been quoted as saying Kanye has had a genuine experience with God, and that is enough for me to at least look at what he is doing with less skeptisim.

People who have been in the space where Kanye has led Sunday services have said they believed the worship environment was authentically spiritual. I’m reluctant to dismiss the experiences of so many people who claim to have been touched by what they heard and saw.

I’m afraid.

If God uses Kanye West, who I have been angry with over claiming to be “Jesus” and cooning for Trump, then what does that mean for the faith I’ve grown up believing? My Christian roots, which I have am in almost daily conflict with, are unsettled by the idea that someone as weird as Kanye would be God’s agent of evangelism.

I am confronted with the idea that God can and does use people I don’t like or would not choose all the time. This movement Kanye has started has me looking at the man in the mirror, revealing that God does indeed use “undeserving people” every day.

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His celebrity drives his influence.

It’s been over a decade now since he first time I was in a large audience listening to a prominent Christian speaker. I remember when she took the stage and a friend we attended the gathering with started crying. The speaker hadn’t said a word yet, but her mere presence moved my friend to tears.

I also remember that she opened her message by showing a video of a debt being canceled. The entire room exploded into cheering and clapping. I can’t remember anything about the content of what she shared about God or humanity, but I remember what if felt like to be in the room.

Her personality and fame gave her content more juice than it would have possessed had it been presented by someone with less cache.

Kanye is the natural progression of celebrity church culture.

Over the last 20 years or so with the emergence of Christian television and social media, we have seen a rise in pastors and preachers who are every bit as rich, powerful, and famous as any other celebrity. TMZ is as likely to stop them in the airport as they are Justin Bieber. (Often because they have been seen out with Bieber or another celebrity)

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This is a pedestal we’ve created makes us believe that these men and women are more qualified to be God’s agents than the people who preach at and pastor small faith communities in urban and rural contexts all over the world.

The celebrity culture isn’t evil. It is a reality of the era we live in. The pastors featured by “Preachers N Sneakers” aren’t phonies or false prophets. They are the human bi-products of our desire for larger than life figures to point us toward God.

They say things in a way and with a style that moves us. We believe that swag invites “outsiders” to see what God and faith are all about, so we are happy to point our friends to the latest videos and tweets of famous preachers saying ordinary things in creative and flashy ways.

How is he different?

I bet you thought the first quote in this piece was about Kanye West. It wasn’t. It was how a friend of mine articulated why I should be careful in my criticism of what I perceived as a well known pastor’s lack of theological framework.

Those are my thoughts. Share yours in the comments here or on FB, Twitter or Instagram.

My Mental Health Journey

My Mental Health Journey 467 700 Corey Leak

A few years ago I was flying home from my dad’s funeral. It was a normal flight all things considered. I was obviously sad he was gone, and for the first time in my life I felt the existential reality of death. I felt like its imminence. I felt like I moved up one space in line for the trip every human being takes to the unknown. The place ancient people called Sheol.

After having a drink I fell asleep in the window seat next to my wife. I don’t often fall asleep on flights, but this time I fell into one of those really sweet sleeps that only alcohol or anesthesia can induce. I was at peace – until I wasn’t.

Suddenly I woke up out of my sleep having trouble breathing and feeling extremely disoriented. I don’t even remember how I got past my wife and the person in the aisle seat, but I rushed to the lavatory in the back of the plane, sat down, and splashed water on my face while saying “Jesus help me.”

I felt like I was dying. Since I grew up Pentecostal my instinct was to believe that I was being attacked by a demon – some kind of airplane devil or something.

What I didn’t know then that I know now is that I was experiencing a panic attack. I learned that because on the next flight I took the same thing happened.

After that the second incident, I googled my symptoms and read what panic attacks are and how to cope with them. That was the day I decided not to white knuckle this issue.

Side note, “white-knuckling” might be the only pejorative reference to something “white.”

I didn’t “feel” an overwhelming amount of grief over my dad dying, but I believed that the panic attacks were a signal that something was new in my emotional headspace. I wanted to find out what that was, so I sat down with a counselor and processed what I was feeling about death, life, religion, and my own mortality.

I also explained to the counselor that I had had panic attacks, and they introduced me to “mindfulness exercises.” I assumed that like any other time I was prescribed medicine from a doctor, that would cure me, and I’d like to say that was the end of the panic attacks – but it wasn’t.

I continued to see a therapist to discuss depression, anxiety, and more generally, how I felt about myself. However, every time I got on a plane, I would feel panic trying to come on. In fact, I still feel anxiety about flying – especially alone. I think I had one or two more episodes while flying before one session with a therapist changed everything for me.

There was nothing terribly profound about what the counselor said to me. I can’t remember the exact words, but I remember that they told I needed to accept the new reality of my mental state.

I suffer from anxiety, so when I get on a plane I expect to encounter my old friend panic, and while that’s not a practice that is designed to prevent panic attacks, I haven’t had any since my therapist introduced that idea to me.

Perhaps you’re reading this as a person who quietly suffers through anxiety alone because you believe that it’s something to be ashamed of. Maybe you’re someone whose religious experience precludes you from seeking professional help. To both of those inclinations I’d say REPENT.

I don’t mean repent in the tent preacher revivalist sort of way. I mean it in the old Jewish way of changing your thinking. Try to consider that there is no shame in carrying a disease that plagues millions of people around the world, and consider that science is teaching us things about the human brain that the Bible writers had yet to name or discover.

All that to say, if you’re struggling with or even casually encountering depression, anxiety, or panic, seek out professional help from a licensed mental health professional. There is nothing weak or sinful about asking for help.

About My New Podcast – Existential

About My New Podcast – Existential 1944 1944 Corey Leak

My new podcast (Existential) will be debuting in just a few days from now! (Tuesday 9.3.19) I hope this isn’t your first time hearing about it, but if you are…MY NEW PODCAST (EXISTENTIAL) WILL BE DEBUTING IN JUST A FEW DAYS FROM NOW!!! There, now you’ve heard about it twice. Before you listen to the podcast, I want you to know why I’m doing it and why you should listen to it.

Two years ago I was working at a large evangelical church. I would describe my job as the gatekeeper for how the church communicated its message on a macro and micro level – the former being each weekend service and the latter being who the church was and what it was about through web and social media content.

I’m not sure that’s how they would describe the job, hence one of the reasons I no longer work there. But, that’s a story for another day perhaps.

If you’ve heard the story I’m about to tell before, bear with me. I often forget who I’ve told stories to and who I haven’t.

I remember sitting in the auditorium of the church on a Saturday night and getting a text from my oldest daughter. She was 15 at the time. She texted me to see if I had heard about all the “Charlottesville” stuff people were talking about on social media.

She was relatively new to twitter, and she would pretty regularly send me funny videos from “black twitter” I initially assumed that there was a huge festival that featured some of her favorite artists performing and she wanted me to know about it. I wish it had been.

I honestly don’t remember what she said about what was happening, but I do remember that whatever it was made me get on Twitter during the sermon I was listening to in church that night. Who am I kidding, I was probably going to get on Twitter during the talk anyway.

You’ve done it too.

When I opened the twitter app, I was aghast. I’m not sure if I was more bothered by what I saw happening in Charlottesville or the fact that my 15-year-old teenage daughter had witnessed it. I don’t need to tell you what happened. You know.

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From that day on, I had this burning desire to talk about the stuff that was happening in the world around me. I wanted to say things and be part of discussions that were directly related to issues that affected people daily, especially the things that directly affected POC.

I would find myself sitting in church services and having my mind wander off to issues of gender, human sexuality, race, and the guy in the oval office. Did you catch that? My mind would “wander off” to these issues from my seat inside a church building.

I was starting to realize that I needed to find another platform to speak about the social issues that mattered to me. It seemed as if the church was focused more on heaven than it was on earth, and I couldn’t unsee what I had seen.

So I began to use my social media platforms to make statements and engage people in dialog about issues that mattered to me.  It seemed from the response that this stuff mattered to more people than just me.

After about six months of feeling this tension and dipping my toes into cultural conversations online, I found myself sitting in the head pastor’s office with the executive pastor, who was my boss. The meeting began with words I’ll never forget. “Get ready for a tough conversation.”

In that conversation, I learned that I would need to find another place to work because it wasn’t working out with me in my role. From a job performance standpoint, I was surprised, but I can’t say that I was surprised from a relational perspective. It was time. They just initiated goodbye before I dared to say it myself.

A month after the “tough conversation” I started blogging, and without the need to preserve my standing with a job at an evangelical church anymore, I started being more candid about issues of justice, faith, and culture. I’ve continued to share candidly to this day, and now the next phase of tough conversations will be in the form of a podcast.

I’m calling it Existential because the podcast will be conversations with humans about human stuff. Every issue we have within religion, politics, or race all begin with humans.

Often the reason we fail to find our way to real justice in the world is that we lose sight of others and even our selves as human. Existential aims at reminding us that we are all human.

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I’ll have conversations with you and other friends of mine about how the issues that polarize us affect us as wives, fathers, mothers, brothers, husbands, sisters, friends, neighbors, and co-workers.

Each episode will explore issues of justice, faith, and culture from the human perspective. We will condemn racism, xenophobia, homophobia, and all forms of bigotry. I’m not trying to heal the world by making all of us blind to the realities we face.

I hope that we find ourselves more willing to see the humans on the other side of the issues, agendas, or arguments we all feel so strongly about and that we can contend for a better world together – one conversation at a time.

Why Sit-Downs With Oppressors are Overrated

Why Sit-Downs With Oppressors are Overrated 660 440 Corey Leak

There continues to be a lot of talk about Jay-Z’s partnership with the NFL. People are going round and round about whether it’s a good thing or a bad thing for him to have sat down at a table with Roger Goodell and the NFL.

Some people, like myself, believe that any partnership with the NFL that is aimed at addressing social justice issues that doesn’t include Colin Kaepernick is disingenuous at worst and suspicious at best. Others believe that the partnership is a well-conceived plan by Jay-Z to do good for the black community. Only time will honestly tell.

I’ve heard people compare J to prominent civil rights leaders of the past sitting down with racist government officials to advance the cause of Civil Rights for POC – the argument being that social change isn’t possible if we aren’t willing to sit down with the powers that be to affect that change.

Similar arguments were made over a year ago when a group of black clergy, most notably John Gray, visited the white house to discuss prison reform with the President.

People then and now are asking the question – “how can we do any good for POC if we don’t have a seat at the table?”

While I agree that there are a time and a place for POC to have a seat at a white man’s table, I can’t help but wonder if the idea is overrated. If we look at the actions of history’s most prominent agents of social change, how often do we see them sitting at the table with oppressors? Was that a significant component of their strategies?

If I were to ask you to name five revolutionary leaders of social change movements who comes to mind immediately?

I won’t presume to know all five names on your list, but I feel like I can say with high confidence that MLK, Malcolm X, or Jesus were among the names that came to mind when you read the question.

Since these are people universally recognized as people who brought about monumental change, it’s only reasonable that we look at their actions/in-actions as examples of methodology that brings about systemic reformation.

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Malcolm X famously said:

“As long as you got a sit-down philosophy, you’ll have a sit-down thought pattern.” 

Try doing a google search to see if you can find images of Malcolm X sitting down at the table with white men who were resistant, reluctant, or undecided about the equal rights of black people. I can save you the time – there are none.

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Similarly, there are no images of the sit-down between Dr. King and Bull Connor because no such meeting ever occurred. And while Dr. King is known for his diplomacy, he was also sharply critical of presidents whose approach to equal rights was to slowly and sparingly dole out freedoms to black folks.

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None of the gospel writers who tell the story of Jesus’ 30 plus years on earth write about a face to face meeting he had with any Roman authorities in a strategic effort to liberate the Jews from the oppression of Rome. Luke writes that Jesus, in the face of being threatened that Herod would kill him for talking about a Kingdom of equality, called Herod “that old fox” – a far cry from trying to sit at a Roman table to bring about change.

When people tell you who they are believe them the first time – Maya Angelou 

Many of the sit-downs POC have attended have been little more than publicity stunts and photo opportunities that allow oppressors to hide in plain sight from the liability of their participation in systemic racial oppression.

The league that Roger Goodell represents is still blackballing Colin Kaepernick. Donald Trump tweets and says racist things with impunity on the regular.

If POC sit down with these men and don’t also condemn their racist words and behaviors, why should we expect to see change come of their sit-downs?

When people with a history of complicity with racism invite POC to have a discussion, isn’t it reasonable to expect some contrition from the inviter before the invitee agrees to talk?

There is a time to take a seat at the table. That time is when the people who own the table have shown through their deliberate action a sincere desire to dismantle the system that allowed them to own the table you built for them.

 

Please feel free to share your thoughts below or comment on social media.

 

 

Jay Z, Colin Kaepernick, the NFL and “Harold’s Grass N Feed”

Jay Z, Colin Kaepernick, the NFL and “Harold’s Grass N Feed” 1484 989 Corey Leak

I’ve been asked enough about what I think about Jay-Z’s partnership with the NFL that I thought I would share my thoughts here in the form of a story.

Imagine you work for Harold’s Grass N Feed and one day on your way to work you see a cow being slaughtered inhumanely at Bobby Lee’s farm a few miles from Harold’s. You are so disturbed by how Bobby Lee nem treat their cows that you decide to make a demonstration at work.

Bobby Lee comes into the grass and feed store all the time, but you don’t care because you believe the cows should be treated more humanely. You know you’re putting your job on the line, but the injustice you’ve witnessed is too great for you to stay silent.

Soon after your first demonstration, other co-workers join you, and the display draws the attention of the local media. They ask you why you’re demonstrating. “I don’t believe we should slaughter animals inhumanely in this town,” you say into the camera. “I’ll continue my demonstration until something changes.”

Soon after the media picks up the story, it becomes all anyone wants to talk about all over town. Some people are angry that you’re protesting at work – especially Bobby Lee. The local PETA group is thrilled that someone is bringing attention to animal rights, and others are on the fence. The local media LOVES it because people keep tuning in to hear the latest developments.

Months pass and Harold calls you in and says they have to suspend you indefinitely. It turns out Bobby Lee called and said he would be shopping at Menard’s as long as you were making a fuss at work. Harold knows he can’t outright fire you, so he finds a way to get you away from the store by suspending you quietly.

Months go by, and you’re basically unemployed. A few of your co-workers continue to protest, and tho the media doesn’t talk about the cows every day anymore. Bobby Lee’s farm is still killing cows inhumanely every day, and now, more and more people are becoming aware of the cruelty of Bobby Lee’s farm.

People are curious about why you aren’t at work anymore, and that becomes a part of this story as well. From time to time, the media will talk about how many days it’s been since you were last seen at work.

Harold insists that they’re just not scheduling you, but it has nothing to do with your demonstrations.

Due to the rising pressure from the local PETA groups and the conscientious people of the community, Harold feels the need to get involved in advocating for the cows. Harold doesn’t care about the cows, but he knows that he doesn’t want his store to be on the wrong side of history when 50 years from now the town re-tells the story of the cows.

Harold decides to take some money and bring in a consultant to help put together a campaign to save the cows. He decides to hire a well-known figure from the community named Jerry. Jerry agrees to help, and they have a press conference to announce their new initiative.

Jerry is a friend of yours who you met when you began to demonstrate several months back. He’s worked with PETA on other animal rights projects and is highly respected amongst animal lovers. Jerry has been an outspoken supporter of you getting back to work, but he never talked to you about his plans to work with Harold.

The media covers the story of Harold and Jerry’s new collaboration to commit dollars and action to save the cows, but Harold continues to keep you suspended from work indefinitely.

How do you feel about Harold and Jerry? That probably sums up my thoughts on the partnership between Jay Z and the NFL.

Why People Are Abandoning Christianity But Not Jesus

Why People Are Abandoning Christianity But Not Jesus 1280 720 Corey Leak

Last month Josh Harris, author of the popular Christian book “I Kiss Dating Goodbye,” made it known to the world that he was “falling away” from his faith through an Instagram post. In the post, he wrote that he was no longer a Christian. He kissed the faith goodbye. I couldn’t help it. I’m sorry. I’m ashamed.

Yesterday I learned that Marty Sampson of Hillsong fame also declared to the world that he was no longer a Christian either. Here is what he said:

This is a soapbox moment so here I go . . . How many preachers fall? Many. No one talks about it. How many miracles happen. Not many. No one talks about it. Why is the Bible full of contradictions? No one talks about it. How can God be love yet send four billion people to a place, all ‘coz they don’t believe? No one talks about it. Christians can be the most judgmental people on the planet — they can also be some of the most beautiful and loving people. But it’s not for me.

The singer-songwriter who once sang “One way… Jesus… You’re the only one that I could live for…” has reached a place in his life where he can no longer reconcile the world he sees with the beliefs he’s held about the world through his Christian lens.

These two men were two of the most influential voices in modern evangelicalism, and within one month, they both publically declared that they could no longer stand under the umbrella of “Christian.” What led them to that conclusion? What happened that convinced them to abandon a faith that been the foundations for their lives and careers?

I hope you didn’t think I was going to answer that. I don’t know those dudes. If you were moving to the edge of your seat to read what the answer was – I’m sorry. I can’t speak specifically to why Marty and Josh turned in their badge and Bible, but I can tell you why I believe they and many others like them still believe in and even follow Jesus.

The Jesus we read about from the writers of his biography is one of drastic, culturally challenging acceptance. Jesus ate with, talked with, and put his hands on people who society deemed less than or unworthy of God. Much of that is lost in the Western view of faith and culture – as we tend to paint a picture of Jesus reaching out to people who “aren’t that bad.”

The reality is that Jesus accepted people that were outcasts and associated himself with marginalized people. The writers that told us of his life seem intent to prove that Jesus spent most of his time amongst people religious folks tended to avoid and label as outsiders.

Status quo and religious institutions tend to create a world of in and out, us and them, saved and unsaved. The in-crowd is always determined by how well a person fits within the confines of conventional thought and behavior.

Read the stories of Jesus for yourself and see if I’m lying to you about him treating people utterly opposite of that.

Jesus once spoke a parable about separating sheep and goats. It’s a famous story in Christian circles, but not one that emerges as what it means to align with Jesus for most Western Evangelicals.

We tend to be more concerned with right doctrine and personal piety. However, Jesus describes the people who were on his team by explaining how they acted towards people who were outsiders. He doesn’t even welcome them based on how they treated God!

In the parable, he says that how humans treat the hungry, imprisoned, sick, foreign, naked, and thirsty will determine who gets to sit with him and who has to “go somewhere.”

Jesus embraced those who cared for the outsiders and rejected those who didn’t. But both were surprised.

Neither the sheep or the goats knew they had rejected or accepted Jesus. They seem to have lived their lives treating other humans in ways that probably seemed natural to them.

They were both surprised that how they treated people on earth mattered that much to the Divine King.

That story is a microcosm of the radical acceptance and mystery that is following Jesus. That acceptance and mystery are often lost in Christian practice and teaching these days, but anyone who is following Jesus is heading into a world of great mystery and absurd love and grace towards people.

I don’t suspect that is what Josh, Marty, or the many others who have deconstructed their faith are abandoning.

 

For more thoughts about Christianity and things our faith could stand to be more honest about, check out: https://coreyevanleak.com/if-were-being-honest/

 

 

Why Racism is a One Way Street

Why Racism is a One Way Street 960 500 Corey Leak

Racism in America is a one-way street. I know that is a hard saying for some of you, but it’s the truth. There are not multiple people groups equally responsible for the racial divide we’ve been talking about ad nauseam for the last several years now. There is one responsible party — one group who started and sustained racism in America – white people.

By now, if you’ve done any work at all to examine the history of race and racism, you know that white and black are made-up categories to ensure that white remained more powerful. Therefore, as long as we have people cherishing whiteness in America, we will have an unbalanced power dynamic. People clinging to their whiteness and others striving to achieve whiteness is at the root of our issue with race.

Instead of grappling with the history of slavery and dehumanization of Africans that was ground zero for American racism,  some people today approach racial healing as if black and brown people are somehow equally complicit in racism. I see this most prevalently among Evangelicals who talk about “racial reconciliation.”

Not too long ago I watched online as a young white pastor on a panel discussing race said that church leaders needed to talk about racism with caution so that they wouldn’t offend the white people in the room. I understand the sentiment, and I believe the pastor’s intentions were pure, but his ideology is lacking. The idea that reconciliation requires that we not offend white people is… I’m finding it hard to finish that sentence. Maybe it’s better if I let you finish it yourselves.

The president echoed similar thoughts when he said there were “very fine people on both sides” in the wake of the Charlottesville white supremacist circus.

Contrary to what you might have heard from gaslighters on tv or the internet, the president equivocated when talking about white supremacists. He stopped short of naming the power structure that keeps racism in place – white supremacy.

When we talk about racism without naming white supremacy as the leading cause of racial tension and hatred, we are doing nothing more than pontificating about current events. We will never move into a more just and equal society that way.

Unfortunately, this kind of honest talk about racism often leads to people hurling accusations at the truth-tellers. I’ve been accused of everything from hating white people to race-baiting for sharing things like this in the past, so I know that naming the pillars of racism won’t win you any popularity contests. However, those interested in deconstructing racism have no choice but to take a jackhammer to the foundations to tear it down.

Tearing down racism has never been more imperative in light of the El Paso shootings we just witnessed. A white supremacists drove TEN HOURS to open fire inside a Walmart known as the “Mexican Walmart.” He wrote a manifesto echoing rhetoric from our president and then proceeded to kill 19 people to maintain the supremacy of white people.

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There are no two sides to blame for that act of terrorism. There is no two-way street to go down to find out what happened in El Paso. There is one. Until we are willing to face the ugly truth and call it what it is, those who want so desperately to cling to the privilege afforded them by being white will continue to terrorize us all and keep us from justice and peace.

 

3 Reasons You Yes YOU Are Blind To Racism

3 Reasons You Yes YOU Are Blind To Racism 1200 800 Corey Leak

In the last couple of weeks, we’ve seen two very public displays of blatant racism. We witnessed a white youtube executive profile a black software engineer outside an apartment building in SanFranscisco where the engineer was visiting a friend. The exec not only profiled the black man but proceeded to call the police. See the video of the interaction below. The executive, Christopher Cukor, has since apologized.

WARNING THERE IS SOME ADULT LANGUAGE.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p3TnFqXI-ok&t=7s

In another public display of racism, #NotMyAriel was trending on twitter on the FOURTH OF JULY! Let that one sink in. White people didn’t respond well to Disney casting actress and singer, Halle Baily as Ariel in the upcoming live-action “Little Mermaid” film.

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Disney “defended” their choice after protests arose due to them choosing a black star to play Ariell. I wonder how many of the protestors are offended at Euro-Jesus, a full cast of white Persians, or Katherine Hepburn playing the role of the legendary African Queen Cleopatra.

I took to social media to call out both of these situations as racist. I felt like both were pretty blatant examples of modern racism, but I found that there were people who didn’t see it. That left me wondering how it’s possible that people can be blind to such blatant examples of racism, and I came up with a list of three possible reasons for the blindness.

Privilege

Privilege positions the person with it in a place that removes them from the plight of typical POC. As such, even successful people of color are also susceptible to being unable to recognize racism when it appears. Once people begin to benefit from the status quo, they are less likely to participate in dismantling the structures that support it, no matter how unjust they may be.

When people can’t imagine themselves being the target of racist behavior, words, or sentiment, they begin to side with the oppressors in the name of being “objective.” Trying to see racism from “both sides” is a fallacy. The victims of racism don’t have a role in perpetuating racism. If they have a “side,” it is passive at best.

Whiteness

In a previous blog, I wrote about the construct of whiteness. Ironically,  some people were so attached to the construct they’ve accepted as their central identity that they read the title and headed for the hills without even reading it.

The construct of whiteness was built to protect racism. When someone attached to whiteness sees something racist in front of them, they do what they are conditioned to do –  defend it. This reaction goes into effect unconsciously. For many sympathizers of racism, they aren’t even aware they are behaving as white supremacists.

Ignorance

Duh. I know. Hear me out. I’m not talking about a general ignorance but rather an ignorance as to what racism is. Some people genuinely believe racism is about hating people because of skin color. Due to that minimal view of racism, people blinded by ignorance assume that if there is no white hood, a burning cross, or cotton field, then there is no racism.

These folks believe in myths like “reverse racism” because they don’t understand that racism is about hatred and power. Without the energy or systemic cultural reinforcement of racial supremacy to support hatred, there can be no racism.

 

These are a few of the blinders. Can you think of any more? Which blinder do you see most in yourself and the people around you?

 

Two Practical Reasons Why Betsy’s Flag is Offensive

Two Practical Reasons Why Betsy’s Flag is Offensive 1200 600 Corey Leak

Before eight hours ago, “Who is Betsy Ross?” would have stumped me in a trivia game. I’m sure she is someone that came up at some point in my elementary education at Christian Life, but I can’t say I remember much about her.

The folks over at Nike are aware of who she was. They designed a special edition sneaker that featured the American flag she created on the heel of it.

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Nike decided to cancel the release of the shoes after Colin Kaepernick informed them that the “Betsy Ross flag” was offensive to people of color. However, I’m sure there is a preacher or two who got their hands on a pair and will be featured on preachers n sneakers later this month.

This story seems pretty straight forward and non-offensive to me. A company plans to release a product. One of their spokespeople informs them that it has the potential to alienate a large number of its customer base, so the company chooses to change course. But, maybe it’s simple to me because I’m not white.

I don’t have a deep attachment to American history. The role my ancestors played in America’s history was as extras and props in a story about the excellence of white people.

That’s the excellence and pride that Nike was headed towards celebrating with the flag they originally chose for their shoe. Thankfully Kap stepped in and spoke up.

Today a couple of white friends asked me what I thought about the uproar. Neither of them understood why the flag was a problem. I explained to them why the flag that Nike initially chose was problematic (see the list below), and after I did, one of the friends asked me if I was personally offended by the flag.

I pondered the question for a bit. I hadn’t given the Betsy Ross flag much thought before today. As I thought about my friend’s question, Cracker Barrell immediately came to mind – I ate there this morning with my family.

I remembered what it felt like walking around the gift shop and seeing the antique decor and old-time American trinkets and images, and I text back: “Bro… Some days I find Cracker Barrell offensive.”.

Imagine you’re the offspring of a good man who is beheaded by an evil king. It’s been a few years since your father was beheaded, but you still live in the region. Every year there is a celebration of the king’s “victory” over your father.

The locals celebrate with images of the king, songs, re-enactments of your father’s demise and the banner of the king. How would you feel? I’m going to guess like a black man walking around Cracker Barrell or staring at an image of the Betsy Ross flag.

For those of you looking for practical reasons why POC would find this flag offensive, I’ll give you two.

1. The America of Betsy Ross was oppressive to black people. 

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America has had 26 official flags. The latest was officially recognized in July of 1960, and while blatant, state-sanctioned racism, riddled the US in the 60s, the country was progressing toward equality.

There has yet to be a time in American history unplagued by the disease of white supremacy, but at least our latest flag comes from an era where blacks are legally 100 percent human.

2. White Supremacist hate groups use the Betsy Ross flag as a symbol.

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Perhaps Betsy is rolling over in her grave knowing that racist bigots have taken to her flag as a symbol of their supremacy and hatred for POC. That wouldn’t change the fact that it has come to represent hate by virtue of the fact that hate groups use it.

I highly doubt Betsy would be too upset to know that white people are using her flag to remind upity niggers that they aren’t white, but even if she would mind, that flag is problematic today. Some would argue it always has been.

 

How do we as Americans manage the tension between remembering our history and being sensitive to the groups that suffered to make the American dream come true?