Classism and Racism Require Building Bridges of Hope

Grace and Race Ministries, Inc. invites you to join us for this critical conversation on race and class. Believers are commanded to love others as Christ loves us. Let’s discuss ways to be better informed and find ways to move forward building bridges of understanding and sharing hope in the midst of classism and racism in our society.

 

Not So Easily Broken: A Week On the Breaking Plantation

Monday, 22 July 2019, 19:49 | Category : Building Bridges of Hope to End Racism
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By Rev. Dr. Leslie Copeland-Tune 

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There’s something especially cruel, horrific even, about a breaking plantation…as if slavery itself wasn’t cruel enough. You see, breaking plantations are where they sent the slaves who kept trying to run away. On the grounds of this one where I’ve spent the last week, is a sign: “Whipping Post & Magnolia Tree,” marking the space where the enslaved people were beaten into submission.

Or, so they thought.

Honestly, when I arrived, I looked around and texted a friend expressing my doubts about the place. I told her that I didn’t think I was going to be able to stay here for a week. The facilities are nice enough but there’s nothing around us, I texted. A city girl on a plantation is just not a good look.

And, the remnants are everywhere, it seems to me.

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The ground is unapologetic and unforgiving. It gives testimony to the bygone era and demands to be recognized. Cotton bursts through the ground and taunts me: Somebody’s gotta do some pickin’!

To which my soul shouts back, Our pickin’ days are over!

The resistance of my ancestors lives in me.

Looking out across the expansive plantation the trees are mostly around the perimeter with large open spaces. Nowhere to run. No way to escape. These are the thoughts that capture my attention. How would they get out of here?

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Then there is that tree. The tree that is stripped bare. No leaves. Split on one side. Stripped of so much that once hinted at its full majesty. This tree stands out to me. This tree is haunting me and pulling on my spirit, begging to be noticed, asking me to pay attention to it. Did a strike of lightning seal its fate? Or, was it something else? For some reason, I can’t help but wonder if someone was lynched here. Somehow, that’s what I see when I look at that tree. Letting me know that pain resides in its limbs and the blood of the slaughtered saturates its roots. But, still standing and commanding my attention.

Selah.

There is a rhythm to the day here. And, the train reminds me of it and helps me to mark time. The train elicits the same response from me time and time again. “FREEDOM” rings in my ears. It seems to get louder throughout the day. FREEDOM is just through the trees. FREEDOM is calling and beckoning me. FREEDOM, O, Freedom! Freedom, O, Freedom! FREEDOM is near!

Is this what they thought about as the lash of the whip tore their flesh? Is this what crossed their minds as they toiled bent over in the fields picking cotton? Is this what they prayed about as day turned to night and night turned to day?trail off the plantation

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You see, there’s no way this place quieted or quenched the resistance in the spirits of those they brought here. I just don’t believe it. Fire kept burning in them and found new ways of living, surviving and growing because the fire would not die and they were not so easily broken. I can imagine that each attempt to break them only reignited the fire even deeper in their souls. There is no breaking us! Freedom, like fire, is shut up in our bones! We are still here! We will not be broken. We. Will. Not. Be. Broken.

YES! I know this for sure. Because the resistance of my ancestors lives in me.

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Special thanks to Rev. Dr. Leslie Copeland-Tune for allowing Grace and Race Ministries, Inc.  to share this thought-provoking reflection, which was originally posted on her blog Mondays At the Altar in May.

My Blindspot to Romans 13:1-7

Learning to read and study the Bible was an important step in my spiritual formation. My grandmother would tell me to memorize verses of scripture to serve as encouragement and guidance. She would say “you should always have the Word of God in your heart even when can’t have a Bible in your hand.”

I can remember some of the lessons I was taught about how to read and study the Bible: find a quiet time and place, take notes, (we didn’t dare write in the Bible), pray, read, reflect, and to respond to the question, “How can I apply this biblical narrative to my life?” I also learned about the potential danger of using a scripture to justify or promote my point of view.

I am aware of the context in which Romans 13 was written and I am also keenly aware of what crosses my mind when I read the words in verse 1-7 “Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God…” This text has been used in support of slavery and of unjust immigration policies resulting in children and parents being separated. When I must read Romans 13, I hasten to get to end the of the chapter to be reminded of what I believe to be true, even in our present context.

In the book, Blindspot: Hidden Biases of Good People, by Mahzarin R. Banaji and Anthony G. Greenwald, the authors discuss a broad range of biases all of us have hidden in our brains. These hidden biases can show up to influence our relationships with people based on our exposure to cultural attitudes about age, gender, race, ethnicity, religion, social class, sexuality, disability status, and nationality and more.

Today, I am acknowledging my religious bias, my blind spot, my personal preference for one interpretation of a text over another, based on my lived experiences as a Christian. The concluding verses of Romans 13:8-10 focus on the single most important commandment.

Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.

The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

10 Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.

The more I study the Word of God, the more I realize I have major blind spots, the more I thank God for His love, mercy, and grace.

Dear God, thank you for loving me in spite of my failures. Help me to recognize and address my biases, as I strive to honor Your clear and concise commandment to love my neighbors.

Blackface – Another Teachable Moment

 

 

In moments like these, the work of bridge building across racial lines stretches me emotionally. But God led me to start Grace and Race Ministries, Inc. for such a time as this. I want to believe that people of the Christian faith start with at least one shared belief. God loves us in spite of our failures.

The endless news about the revelation of Virginia government officials who wore blackface has emerged as yet another teachable moment. When the governor first spoke and offered an apology, I was ready to move into my “Grace and Race” mode. I was able to acknowledge right away, that in his context in 1984, he was perhaps not yet aware of the racist implications of such behavior.  My “grace-filled spirit” paled a bit with the apparent – present lack of knowledge –  exhibited in the now infamous press conference.

My husband asked me what I thought the governor should do – step down or press on? I responded that if he could surround himself with wise counsel from his constituency, he could use this as a moment to become an ambassador for racial understanding. From his position, he  can become a spokesperson for making this 2019 Black History Month, the beginning of a paradigm shift. His apology means nothing without some form of positive action toward change. What investment can he make in providing resources and creating space for constructive dialogue informed by studying and acknowledging white privilege and the continuing impact of the dehumanization of Black people? Is he willing to say, I am sorry, ask for forgiveness, and to press on to become an active agent for change?

God’s grace toward me is a constant reminder, that although I have done things that would not be pleasing to God, God still forgives me and challenges me to forgive others as God has forgiven me.  Sharing well-researched, historically accurate information and creating spaces for healing are important steps in the process of moving forward. The blog from the National Urban League is a useful primer for those who still may not understand and query why the blackface controversy matters.

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So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 2 Corinthians 5:17-21 NSRV

 

 

Ten Ways to Build the Beloved Community

Wednesday, 30 January 2019, 13:58 | Category : Building Bridges of Hope to End Racism
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Grace and Race Ministries, Inc. was founded with the goal of helping to build bridges of understanding to overcome racism and become the “beloved community” envisioned by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The most frequently asked question we hear has become “what can I/we do?” Rev. Dr. C. Anthony Hunt has prepared a resource to inform and guide next steps for communities of faith willing to commit to the goal.  The following is a brief excerpt from his writings in The Beloved Community Toolkit . It is my prayer that you will identify a next step for your role as a bridge builder.

A universal human striving is for authentic community. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was among those who framed the conception of community in what he termed the Beloved Community. King asserted that “all life is interrelated.” This interrelatedness was rooted, for King, in the fundamental belief in the kinship of all persons. He believed that all life is part of a single process; all persons are sisters and brothers, and that we all have a place in the Beloved Community. Because all of us are interrelated, one cannot harm another without harming oneself.   King also said “everyone could be great because everyone could serve.” In these uncertain times, churches and our broader society must make a sincere commitment to engaging in acts of compassion and justice as means of living out our faith and loving our neighbors. Individuals, churches, groups, organizations, institutions and even governments can continue to pursue Dr. King’s vision of the Beloved Community by making a sincere commitment to community- building and social engagement.

 

Here are ten ways that individuals, churches, and other organizations can promote peace with justice.

1. Support and develop community-wide plans aimed at expanding economic opportunities for racial-ethnic persons and women specifically in the areas of housing, banking, and employment practices.
2. Actively participate in programs that reach out to help those in the most need – the hungry, the homeless, and the unemployed.
3. Do your part to assure that every inner city and rural young person can look forward to an adequate education. Adopt an inner-city or rural school. Offer your skills where appropriate.
4. Encourage schools, colleges, and universities in your area to include the teachings of Dr. King and other freedom fighters in their curricula and programs.
5. Take specific actions to deal with the problems of drugs, alcohol dependency, teenage pregnancy, and family violence in your community.
6. Advocate for the removal of all weapons from our streets, homes, and schools. Support causes that promote freedom, justice, and peace abroad.
7. Help extend human rights, dignity, health, and economic well-being to all persons.
8. Actively oppose groups that promote hatred and violence. Vigilantly oppose racism, homophobia, xenophobia, and other forms of hatred in our communities.  

9. Sponsor and participate in programs that encourage interracial, intercultural, and inter-religious goodwill and unity.

10. Read the Social Principles of your denomination and strive to make them an integral part of your life and the life of your church and community.

 

You can find the entire toolkit online  THE BeLOVEd CoMMuNiTy TOOLKIT – Rackcdn.com

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