racism

Why Anti-Racists Should Embrace “Being Divisive”

Why Anti-Racists Should Embrace “Being Divisive” 5184 3313 Corey Leak

Photo by Pawel Janiak on Unsplash

“I have come to set fire to the earth.” These are the words of a First Century Palestinian Rabbi and social activist. Today most people who quote this man refer to him as “Saviour” or “Lord,” and remember him as a meek hillside teacher with a long flowing head of hair, soft features, and fair skin.

Jesus told people he wasn’t trying to bring peace or unity. Yet, Black people, speaking in favor of black freedom, dignity, and liberation from white supremacy, face consistent accusations about our stance’s alleged divisiveness. For many white evangelical believers in Jesus, “you’re being divisive.” is their go-to counter-argument against anti-racist reformers.

I’ve decided to wear “divisive” as a badge of honor. If one of the world’s most famous social agitators believed that the best strategy for social change was a disruption of the status quo, why would any of us think that passive submission to oppressive ideologies is a better method of change?

I’ve come to believe what most people mean when they lob the “divisive” grenade at an anti-racist is: “I don’t like what you’re saying or doing.” The reason they don’t like it is that they haven’t wrestled with their own biases enough to support anti-racism rather than trying to debunk or resist it.

White supremacy doesn’t just punish black and brown people, but it also rewards people who learn to leverage its oppressive hegemonic arrangement. People offer implicit and sometimes explicit support for racism, and in return, our anti-black society hands them participation trophies.

Anti-racism is about disrupting commonplace ideas, structures, and institutions that have hindered Black people since the birth of this Nation. We are not trying to make peace. We are trying to bring about justice.

We are working for justice in the way schools educate Black children. We are seeking justice in how police deal with black people they encounter. We are seeking justice in the way lenders do their business with Black people, and how cities zone and resource Black communities.

However, the quest for a more just society has never come without resistance. As Frederick Douglass said: “Power concedes nothing without struggle.” Struggle connotes two sides creating tension by pulling in two opposing directions.

There is a struggle for racial justice because there are people who are pulling in the opposite direction towards more white supremacy. When we who are committed to a just and fair society pull toward egalitarian human behavior, folks content with the way things are pull back and call us “divisive.”

I imagine Jesus anticipated people considering him a divisive trouble maker, so he beat them to the punch and made the open declaration about himself. He lived in a time, like ours, where powerful people bullied, threatened, and oppressed their way to more and more power.

When secret police roam our streets capturing people using the agency afforded them by the Constitution of the United States to protest injustice, we don’t have time to defend ourselves from being called “divisive.” It’s time to embrace it so that we have the energy for the real struggle ahead.

How Bethel Church Continues to Hinder Black Salvation

How Bethel Church Continues to Hinder Black Salvation 1096 478 Corey Leak

*Editors note: After the publishing of this piece, it has come to light that the event in the youtube clip below was not at Bethel Church, but at a conference where Bill Johnson (Bethel’s lead pastor) was speaking.

Evangelicalism is the tip of white supremacy’s sword. It has other functions, such as proselytizing the world and telling the story of Jesus. However, its most profound impact in America has been thwarting Black people’s attempt to break free from racial tyranny.

In recent years no white evangelical church has been more problematic to Black people than Bethel Church, an Evangelical Mega-Church best known for their contemporary Christian music and unmitigated support for Donald Trump.

Bethel has been guilty of more than a few transgressions to the black community dating back to 2018 when Brian Johnson, one of their senior leaders, posted a noose in an Instagram post insinuating that planned parenthood was more dangerous to Black lives than the KKK.

After Brian received backlash for the post, Bill Johnson – the lead pastor of Bethel and Ben’s dad, doubled down by reposting the image and caption followed by claiming the post was ok because a black man created it. To be fair, Bethel did ultimately issue an apology for the post.

A Bethel worship leader, Sean Feucht led a band of white evangelical worship leaders to evangelize the mourners and demonstrators at a George Floyd rally in Minnesota shortly after Floyd’s lynching.

Sean followed that up by leading a mass gathering on the shores of Huntington Beach, where he professed that the event symbolized a resurgence of the “Jesus People Movement.”

And, a week ago, a black “prophetess,” on Bethel’s stage declared that God told her she could eradicate racism by enacting a ceremony borrowed from Gandalf the grey.

While posting images of nooses and referencing the KKK is obviously harmful to black people and shows at minimum a lack of cultural humility, the other incidents I mention may need a little unpacking for some.

Let’s begin with the white Saviour trip to the site of George Floyd’s lynching. In the wake of George Floyd’s brutal lynching, advocates for black lives took to the streets to cry out for justice. They were grieving. They were lamenting injustice.

At the height of their grieving and crying out, Sean showed up with his guitar and band of merry worshippers to evangelize the crowd with bright smiling faces and contemporary worship music.

Not only did Sean not join what was already happening in Minnesota, but he tried to interrupt black lament and grief. White Saviours don’t allow space for Black people and our allies to mourn injustice. There is always an attempt to refocus our attention on something else.

In showing up in Minnesota the way he did, Sean Fuecht showed his commitment to the white evangelical brand of squelching Black agency and Black resistance of racial injustice.

Now to Sean’s subtle erasure of Black history on the beautiful Huntington Beach shoreline. Sean references the “revival” he witnessed on the beach as a second coming of the Jesus People Movement of the 1960s.

Why wouldn’t a “revival” taking place in California be reminiscent of an older revival that took place 45 years earlier than the Jesus People? That revival was Azuza street, and it was lead by a black preacher by the name of William Seymour.

The “spirit-filled,” pentecostal way Bethel and other charismatic churches practice worship has its roots in the Azuza Street Revival movement. And while failing to mention Reverend Seymour may seem like an innocent omission, it’s consistent with Sean and Bethel’s disregard for Black culture.

Lastly, the Gandalf incident… (Below for anyone who hasn’t seen it)

In the past, I’ve written about how many white evangelical leaders rely on trite, symbolic gesturing as their only answer to racism. Unfortunately, Black people who have received the baptism into a faith tradition rooted in white supremacy participate in these shenanigans all too often.

Symbolic gestures hold substantive change to racial hierarchies at bay. They keep people of faith who long for a racist free society from asking their leaders the tough questions about power and agency.

By standing on stage and declaring that racism was over because they chanted Gandolf’s words from Lord of the Rings, Bethel once again proved what we should’ve already known. They are an evangelical three-ring circus incapable of helping society move toward salvation.

Bethel’s leaders seem to believe that we find salvation in irrational belief, cultish practices, and mystical rhetoric. None of those help to protect future black people from suffering violence at the hands of white supremacy. Any salvation that doesn’t defend Black futures is no salvation at all.

Bethel’s black prophetess believed she was doing the work of God, and Bethel was all too happy to have a black shield to hide behind again. This moment during a church service is not just cannon fodder for memes, gifs, and remix videos. The moment is also indicative of a culture that ignores, opposes, and trivializes Black America.

3 Things You Should Ask Your Church To Find Out How Committed They Are To Anti-Racism

3 Things You Should Ask Your Church To Find Out How Committed They Are To Anti-Racism 6000 4000 Corey Leak

Chances are your church is on week two or three of a brand new series on racism. Some of you have seen more black faces speaking at your church over the last few weeks than you’d seen in the previous three years. 

Perhaps you’re on this journey with your church with guarded optimism – hoping that you and your church will find yourselves on the right side of history.

Or maybe you’re expecting all this race talk in the church will be over soon, and you can get back to listening to expository sermons on the book of Acts. 

No matter what your disposition is on the stance your church has taken lately, there are three ways to know that your church plans on committing to anti-racism for the long haul. 

Ask someone in senior leadership about President Trump.

Churches and Christian leaders tend to take apolitical stances. It’s one of the reasons so many churches are only recently engaging in extensive content on the subject of race and racism. Race talk has a name – “identity politics.”

It may be challenging to get a direct answer from someone in senior leadership at your church about their personal feelings on the president. Try anyway.

Men and women of the cloth shouldn’t tell you who to vote for, but they should be able to articulate the moral ineptitude of the president with great clarity. 

A church committed to anti-racism will have leaders who can recognize the racist statements and policies this president has put forth over the last four years and the overt racism that plagued his business affairs from years before he became president. 

Certainly, no church committed to becoming anti-racist would ever endorse this president to their congregants. That should go without saying, but you never know. 

Ask about church oversight and leadership.

The pastoral staff and board leadership lead churches.  *Dr. James Cone said: “there is no justice without power, and there is no power with one, two, or three tokens.” Email your church and find out who makes decisions.

If your church is going to be about racial justice, then there should be black people and other non-white leaders at both the board and directional leadership tables. 

There can be no serious progress toward anti-racism if there is no such leadership in place and no clearly articulated plans to place voices of color in leadership roles.

Don’t settle for a picture or a list of names. If you’re committed to investing your time and resources into a church, find out what influence Black people an non-black people of color have at your church. 

Ask about the plan for creating an anti-racist culture beyond Sunday. 

The music, preaching, announcements, and kid’s programs are all part of the Sunday morning experience churches provide, but they are not the totality of what makes a church function. 

Every church has an organizational culture. They have values, language, and expectations for what behaviors will receive rewards and which behaviors cause them to part ways with employees. 

Ask your church what actions they are taking to address the climate of their work culture. Ask them if their staff is going through any implicit bias training or any other practices to ensure an anti-racist work environment. 

How your church responds to these three questions should give you a glimpse into how committed they are to anti-racism. 

The work is a marathon, but it’s reasonable to expect your church leadership has considered these questions before presenting racial justice talks if they are serious about long-term sustainable change. 

Photo by Edwin Andrade on Unsplash

*The Cross and the Lynching Tree by James Cone 

How Well-Meaning White People are Killing Their Black Friends

How Well-Meaning White People are Killing Their Black Friends 2500 3750 Corey Leak

Photo by Shamim Nakhaei on Unsplash

America is a cesspool of trauma for black people. Beginning with slavery, through Jim Crow segregation and now a despotic dictator who literally uses white evangelicalism as a sword to demonize black and brown people – this country crushes the soul of black people.   

Anyone with a conscious must concede that America is anti-black and historically a dangerous place for black people. Black citizens like Emitt Till, Fred Hampton, Martin Luther King Jr., Alton Sterling, and George Floyd were all assassinated by whiteness. 

We recognize the weapons used to kill them as dangerous, but there is a subtler way that white America is killing black people. And this killer is unaware of its lethal effects on black bodies. 

Well-meaning white people awakening to the heinous realities of our white supremacist state pose a clear and present danger to the black people they are attempting to show empathy.

Would-be allies, eager to learn what they can do to bring change to this country and attempt to show their support, are not allowing black people to grieve. 

Many of us want to help. Many of us have been putting effort into educating the public about anti-blackness and white supremacy, and we will continue to do so. But right now…

We are tired! We are worn down! We are bogged down with grief!

We are living in a country that doesn’t love us, and every day of our lives is emotionally taxing. We carry ancestral trauma in our bodies and the daily emotional tax of continually looking over our shoulder for anti-black aggressions. 

Add to that trauma, the grief of watching black citizens murdered and lynched publically on social media and in the news with regularity. We are vexed! 

We have high blood pressure, anxiety, and depression as a result, and now well-intentioned white people are asking for us to help them understand racism and process their grief.

You are killing us. 

When people experience death in the family, most sane people give them space to grieve. People offer meal trains, money for food, thoughts, and prayers. They don’t typically ask them to explain the circumstances that lead to the death of their loved ones. 

I know that white people want to show solidarity and offer help, but at this moment, the best way to do so is to show the same support people show those grieving a death in the family. 

Allow black people to grieve. Round up the white nonsense in our social media feeds. Connect with the work that many black people have published to help educate white folks on these issues on your own. Check on Black friends without asking for anything in return. 

Now is not the moment for Black friends to help safeguard white people from appearing racist. It’s not appropriate for Black people to carry the burden of more free labor in the service of America. 

The men and women who have curated content under the weight of dehumanizing conditions are doing so at considerable personal risk to their mental and physical health. 

Black leaders should be paid for engaging in anti-racism education in the current National climate. Any organization or individual looking to solicit the time of a black thought leader or friend should do so with a willingness to compensate them. Those Black leaders and friends deserve hazard pay. 

Spineless – Why Black Pundits are Failing Colin and All of Us

Spineless – Why Black Pundits are Failing Colin and All of Us 480 285 Corey Leak

I’m not sure if I’m supposed to do this or not, but I am anyway. I’m writing angry. I’ve spent a week off of social media to give myself a break from the back and forth about Kanye, impeachment, and all the white cat memes – though I did miss the memes, they are hilarious. 

I came back to social media just in time for Colin Kaepernick’s long overdue “opportunity” to showcase his talent for NFL scouts. After three years of being denied the right to perform a craft he has proven to be one of the best in the world at doing; he was finally supposed to get his chance. Only, he didn’t. 

Saturday, the NFL proved once again that they are not trustworthy. From the unusual waiver they presented that Colin’s lawyers advised him not to sign, to the prohibition of media – the NFL revealed Saturday that they weren’t interested in dealing in good faith or transparency. So, Colin took matters into his own hands and wielded his own narrative by setting up a public workout, open to the media where he could display his talent, which, incidentally, was never really in question. The NFL seems to have a never-ending agenda to keep Colin and his advocacy for black people away from their product, but that’s not why I’m writing angry. 

I’ve come to expect powerful white people in America to act unjustly. I’m not shocked that the NFL acted in ways that are consistent with their character. They set up a work out that seemed like a valid opportunity that was, in fact, not what it appeared to be. They wanted to appear to be doing the right thing while maintaining the power that allows them the position to continue to do the wrong thing. They behaved just like the powerful white men before them who “abolished” slavery only to create an industrial prison system that continues to incarcerate black men at an inordinate rate. They behaved themselves in an untrustworthy manner and unjustly towards someone whom they have had a history of treating unfairly. Duh.

I will, however, never accept or stop being appalled at the sight of – black people undermining the cause of other black people courageous enough to fight for justice. I watched an Instagram clip of an ESPN personality, well known for his theatrics, yell into the camera of his phone about how disgusted he was that Kapaernick opted to tell his own story rather than leave it to the NFL. That same personality throughout the weekend and into this morning has been promoting the idea that black people need to accept injustice to survive while condemning the young black men at the center of this struggle. He also seems extremely reluctant to center the NFL as the real perpetrators of evil in this situation. 

The sinister result of growing comfortable with injustice is that we start to call evil, good and good, evil. 

We all know that we live in a world where black people don’t receive just treatment. Black people know that there is a certain degree of unfair and unethical treatment that we have to learn to come to grips with. That doesn’t mean that we should EVER look with contempt on the brave souls that refuse to accept the status quo and dare to challenge it. Instead, we should all get behind prophets like Eric Reid and Colin Kaepernick. They are not gods and are subject to criticism like anyone else, but they have earned the right to be trusted when they take a stance. And at minimum, we should offer them the benefit of the doubt when something seems strange or off-putting. 

Black people, since day one of our struggle in America, have argued with one another about the best route to our freedom. But history has shown that we have to drive ourselves there. At no time in human history has a revolution been carried to fruition by the very oppressors responsible for the need for that revolution. Why is today different? Why are so many people ready to trust that the NFL was acting in good faith when it came to Colin’s original workout? White people aren’t as interested in black freedom as black people are. Insert Maya Angelou quote here… 

Colin believed the NFL the first time. He saw, as all of us watching see, that the issue has never been about his arm talent, speed, strength, or readiness. The issue has ALWAYS been about his activism. One white sport’s personality said this morning that “Colin is still an activist.” He said it as an indictment. As if the cause for which Colin and Eric are advocating for is no longer valid. 

People keep saying that if Colin wants to play in the NFL again that he should capitulate to the NFL’s terms so that he can continue his advocacy from the inside. The people saying that are missing the more significant point, and therefore failing to recognize the moment we are witnessing. 

THIS IS BIGGER THAN FOOTBALL! I speak for myself when I say: who cares if Colin ever plays football again if it means that he has to betray the very ideals and human beings he stands/knelt for. I’m disappointed that one fifty-year-old sports reporter, in particular, is missing this broader point. What he is either blindly or more dastardly, purposefully overlooked with his comments, is the cost of change. 

No change that humankind has ever witnessed was without brave men and women refusing to play by unjust rules.  

I’ve watched a perilous trend recently. I’ve seen people conflate common sense and acquiescence – comparing what black parents have to tell our children about encounters with police to Colin doing whatever the NFL asked of him to get his job back. 

I hope that seeing the two written out side by side can help you recognize the problem. Life is precious. Every human living in a world that threatens their existence should learn to do what they must to keep living. But what is life without freedom and equality? We black people are encouraged to keep our hands at “ten and two” when in the presence of the police so that we can live to see or bring about total justice for our brothers and sisters of color. We aren’t alive to continue to beg “Massa” to grant us our freedom and dignity. 

Colin proved once again that he can play. Professional sports are supposed to be the ultimate meritocracy – where the best talent gets the opportunity to compete every day to stay employed as athletes. He shouldn’t bear the additional burden of laying down his deeply held mission of advocating for the rights of black and brown people to get his shot. 

“A civilization is not destroyed by wicked people; it is not necessary that people be wicked but only that they be spineless.” – James Baldwin

Why I Can’t Stop Talking About Race

Why I Can’t Stop Talking About Race 849 557 Corey Leak

No one in the history of humankind was born to be a person who speaks out about race. I’ve never heard a first grader say that they want to be an activist when they grow up. People admire revolutionaries like Dr. King, Gandhi, Mother Teresa, and Malcolm X, but no one wants to BE them.

When I was in elementary school I wanted to be a doctor, and by the time I got to high school, I just wanted to grow up and be rich. As a junior in High School I knew that I was supposed to be a public servant of some sort. In my Christian tradition we would say I got the “call” to ministry. I knew I was destined to share good news with the world about the benevolent nature of Divinity, but I also didn’t want to be poor. Little did I know that some day clergy would be some of the richest people in the world. Go figure.

Even though I knew I was uniquely wired for being a religious leader, I would never have imagined that I would be in reality or perception – an activist.

I’m not sure there is a day that goes by that I don’t have at least one conversation about race or racism, and I wouldn’t say that’s an enjoyable place to be. Perhaps you’re thinking: “Why don’t you just stop talking about it?” That seems simple enough. I could choose to not bring up race at all in conversation, in my podcasts, or in my writings, and that would….

Wait… what would that do? Would it eliminate race from being a topic of discussion for me? Let’s see… If I stopped talking about race today…

I would still have people asking me about race and racism. I would still have friends, family, or otherwise cracking jokes about me being the “radical race guy.” I would still have black children who come home and share their exhaustion with being black in the suburbs. Lastly, I myself would still be a black man in America. The luxury of being insulated from race conversation is simply not afforded to me.

Talk to any activist, civil rights leader, or clergy person of color about why they are outspoken about race, and they will tell you that they have no other choice. The bell can’t be un-rung. What has been seen cannot be unseen. Racism/Injustice is a menace to society. We who recognize it as such know that it is not only an existential threat to us people of color, but it is a threat to all human beings – privileged or not.

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. – Dr King

There are lots of reasons I started and continue to talk about race and racial injustice. Here are three of them.

  • We still live on unjust soil.

If I were to sneak into your house in the middle of the night, take the only pictures you have of your parents off your walls, eat all your food, and dump all the medicine in your medicine cabinets in the toilet – leaving you sick and one of your children dead, how often would you talk about that? How often would your surviving children? How would you feel when you saw me or my children healthy and thriving out and about?

America’s most vile racist acts of injustice are not in the ancient past. People who are alive today witnessed and experienced lynchings, segregation, and state-sanctioned assassinations of Black leaders. These actions happened here on American soil, on the streets we live on, in the hallways of the schools our children attend, and at the hands of people still alive today.

  • Society screams “White Power”

I’ve talked with several black people who work in corporate America. Every one of them has told me that they are the only black person in the room over 90 percent of the time that they are in high level leadership meetings. Each of them face micro-aggressions. Each of them have felt that they had to work twice as hard due to being black. Each has been passed over for promotions by less qualified white people with lesser performance ratings.

Think about the wealthiest, most influential, and powerful people in the world. Are most of the names you’re thinking: Bob, Bill, Mike, Chris, Steve, Rich, Don, Frank…? Why is that? Do you believe that is coincidence? Is it a benign happenstance of natural selection?

I would argue it’s the result of an intentional strategy that has been successfully doing its thing for generations. And, as long as we have the construct of white power, none of us will live in a just society.

  • The source material for my faith is justice themed.

Evangelical churches don’t talk about race that often. You might be hard pressed to find an evangelical church that talks about justice. I sat in, volunteered in and worked for many an evangelical church not realizing that justice was the central theme of the Bible. I thought that when the church talked about a social issue like race, even tho I am in fact black, the church was diverting from the Bible to talk about society.

It wasn’t until I went on about a 3-year journey into the context and history of Biblical texts and narratives that I began to realize how central justice is to the ideas, poetry, stories, and principles of Biblical literature.

After realizing that the Bible has a historical context and that that context has strong political, social, and ethnic implications, I began to feel like I had Divine backing to engage in social conversations. And not only did I have backing – I had a moral obligation to use my platforms to lift up the plight of the marginalized in society.

I guess you could say I’m fulfilling my “calling” after all. It is exhausting to talk about race and racism. It is not fun. It does not often feel very rewarding, but those of us who talk about it know that if we stop, future generations will suffer for it.

I wish we lived in a world where racism wasn’t a systemic issue that plagues the primary structures of our communities. I would love to live to see a time where no one talks about it because there is no need, and I’m doing my part to get us there – one conversation at a time.

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.

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?