Was a non-descript clone really God’s idea?

Snapshot 2:26:14 1:54 PM

Can you be a Christian and…

This seems to be a dominant conversation in my world. Almost every twenty or thirty-something I know is asking this.

I had a a young woman meet with me last week. Her biggest concern…can she be a feminist and a Christian? As we talked it was more can I be a feminist and part of a church? part of a Christian community? Everything she was reading in the Bible was setting her free. Everything she learned about Jesus brought life to her. She also has a group of friends who equated Christianity with Jesus and they let her know in no uncertain terms that Christianity was just a ruse for male domination. For men being in charge and stating why women were inferior. She didn’t see that in scripture. She doesn’t see that yet she was afraid to ask anyone in church. AFRAID! She was afraid this beautiful, loving, guiding, convicting, embracing voice of Jesus would be taken from her if she dared to ask questions. She both desperately wants to belong, to be in conversations, to grow in faith and is scared to death of finding out that what her feminist non-Christian friends have said might be true. We talked for a long time. We talked of the amazing creativity and openness of Jesus. We then talked of the struggle to be a Christian and…




Not in ministry (and don’t want to be)

In the military

A stay at home parent

A mom who doesn’t stay at home


Into science

Everything I listed above is from a similar conversation I have had in the last twelve months with someone about being a Christian and…

Seems for many people there is always someone telling them who is in and who is out. For most of the people with whom I talk, they’d like to be in. In fact they are reading the Bible, seeking Jesus, praying…and then they tell me why they have been excluded. It’s really confusing. They are facing toward Jesus, walking ever closer and yet are told why there is some barrier that they can never overcome unless they become other than what they are.  Paul Hiebert famously wrote of this years ago in a conversation on bounded sets and centered sets. In short, one why of deciding who is in is by a strict boundary, the other way is by who is seeking Christ.

The passage that is most often quoted when we talk about this inability to be Christian and is Galatians 3:28. Pete Rollins says Galatians 3:28 “is not an expression of both/and in which we retain our identity when located in a new community of believers, but rather a neither/nor where we put aside those identities…Some worry that such an idea does violence to our particularity. But far from  trying to pull back from the violence of this verse, perhaps we need to affirm it all the more strongly…” (Church in the Present Tense, p. 23, 25) In all fairness, I think Rollins was actually trying to widen the realm of possibilities for people to become “other” as transformation in Christ is experienced. His fatal flaw on this one point for me was in essentially pathologizing particularities. Just naming that he knows that is a criticism does not make it any less a valid critique.

So back to the young woman with whom I was meeting. Can she be a feminist and a Christian? I say yes. Just as I said yes to every other person with whom I have had this similar conversation. God never intended that we all be clones, looking, sounding and existing in one narrow model of what constitutes a Christian. Rollins names it, it is violence but not a violence to which we are to succumb. It is a violence from which we have been set free.

P.S. I did point her toward Sarah Bessey. What a fun conversation to let her know she is not alone on this journey!



Why Christians should know about #blackgirlsrock

There are weeks that are just busier than others. Then there are weeks where someone else honestly says better than me what needs to be said. With that in mind…

Why I’m not here for #whitegirlsrock

Read, reflect and consider what the Christian community contributes to this kind of conversation. We may not be gracing the covers of magazines or headlining in movies but we certainly need to do a better job of lifting up the voices of all people in every situation. I have been a part of more diversity committees than I could count at this point. On several best intentions were present. On some, they were a smokescreen for the deeply rooted sexism and racism that was not about to change any time soon. All have been ministry or Christian education related. I wonder how we might re-write the above referenced article about ministry. I dream of a time when we don’t have to.

“For whites (like me): On white kids” by J.Harvey

I’m sharing this post from Living Formations.com. As an instructor of a majority of white students I think this piece is right on target. If you’re a parent or educator of white students this is a must read…



Posted by Jennifer Harvey on August 6, 2013

Dear parents of white children,

I vote that we strike the following from our parental lexicon:

  1. “Everybody is equal.”
  2. “We’re all the same underneath our skin.”

I realize this is counterintuitive. But I’m completely serious.

These statements are so abstract they’re mostly meaningless when handed to a seven (or even seventeen) year-old. That’s at best. At worst, they’re empty filler—stand-ins for the actual conversations about race, racial difference and racism we need to be having with our kids.

Sugar when our kids need protein.

Yet, if white college students are to be believed, these statements are standard in many white households.

My students write racial autobiography papers. It’s a pretty straightforward assignment: describe the impact of racial identity in your life—not race generally but your race, significant experiences/teachings/thoughts pertaining to that identity at various life stages. Interview two family members about their experiences of and beliefs about being ‘x.’

(As it turns out, this is a really hard assignment for white students for reasons that are important and revealing. More on that later in this blog series.)

Time and again my white students write that “everybody’s equal” is the “most important” thing their parents taught them about race. Time and again a not insignificant number of them then proceed to describe their present trepidation about a) telling their parents they date interracially; b) bringing home a Latino/a or Black classmate; c) Thanksgiving break when everyone will silently tolerate the family member who makes racist comments; or d) something else that reveals how deeply and clearly these students know this “most important teaching” doesn’t mean a hell of a lot to their actual white experience.


Few notice the contradiction they have themselves managed to describe in the space of only four pages.

I struggled to make sense of these papers for a long time. Then, Nurture Shock (not a book about race) gave me some help. It reports on social scientists’ studies to figure out why so many white kids have such poor facility in engaging racial difference and challenging racism despite their exposure to (liberalish) white culture’s “everybody’s equal” mantras. Turns out our kids, literally, don’t know what “everybody is equal” means. It’s an empty phrase. A numbed out flourish. (Sugar.)

Meanwhile, they are daily assailed by a relentless barrage of anti-black imagery, Native American stereotypes, slurs against dark-skinned non-native English speakers and on and on.

Our happy equality and shared humanity platitudes just don’t stand a chance. It’s sort of like putting your kid in front of a 30-minute television show. The first 28 minutes show children bullying and generally treating each other like crap. The last two resolve into a nice, moral lesson on kindness. Guess which part of the show kids absorb and imitate? (Another amazing study reported in Nurture Shock.)

Note: this is aside from whatever’s going on in families which have somehow simultaneously taught “we’re all equal” while making clear interracial dating is a no-no. (Eduardo Bonilla-Silva documents something similar among individuals. Liberal, conservative, or moderate, whites interviewed insist they don’t see color only to say something overtly anti-black/brown/etc. mere moments later. Incoherence is, apparently, pervasive in white culture.) But, even if we’re assuredly not the parents who convey negative views of interracial dating, there is urgency here. We must figure out what these findings—Nurture Shock’s and my own—mean for how we talk (and don’t and should talk) to white kids.

I know “everybody’s equal” means “we all deserve to be treated with fairness.” And when we tell kids we’re all the same underneath skin, gender, sexuaity, physical abilities and other differences we’re trying to tell them we share human dignity and worth.

Obviously I believe these things.

But, have you ever actually met a “generic” human? Someone without a race or a gender?

Well, guess what? Neither has your child.

And by the age of three our kids are aware of this fact (even though they don’t yet use adult categories to talk about it). If you don’t believe me, pick up The First R. You will be stunned by what preschool children know and do in regard to race.

Assailed. Everyday.

Platitudes are not enough.

One more “stat.” I read a study some time ago (I now can’t find it now, sorry!) comparing white and Black families. It found that on average African American parents start talking about race with their African American children by age 3. White parents with white kids? Age 13.

Is it any wonder my white students are so racially baffled and behind? That they look like deer in headlights when I tell them we’re going to talk about race in their actual lives? It’s not just the fact of being white, and thus insulated from the negative affects of racism**, that works against their developing aptitude about race and anti-racism. We, their parents, are working against them too!

(**Though I believe white children are deeply harmed as well—in different ways.)

Worse, imagine what happens in my classes when students of color describe their experiences of racism, and their white peers stare at them numbly, repeating: “everybody is equal,” “we’re all the same underneath our skin.” Let’s just say nothing about this exchange inspires robust interracial friendship to develop. Nor does it provide students of color reason to think they’ve found the allies they’ve been hoping for: interested peers prepared to help build a more just racial future.

I vote that we strike. Turns out these aren’t teachings at all.

So, if it’s your four-year-old starting to notice darker skin (which happens when we raise our kids in predominantly white environments), the platitude “we’re all the same underneath” implies they’re noticing something they shouldn’t and insinuates there’s something wrong with darker skin we must need to overlook (meanwhile, your child hears remarks about beautiful blue eyes and blonde hair all the time). How about discussions about and images of the many different beautiful shades of dark skin instead?

If it’s your eight-year-old describing a racially-tinged encounter at school, to respond “everybody’s equal” is to hand her/him a passive belief where active, imaginative, strategic thinking about an empowered action is what she/he needs. “How did you feel when that happened? What do you want to do if it happens again? How can I support you in trying that?”

Unfortunately, I don’t have a list of pat answers on what we should be teaching. But, that’s not a cop out. That, in fact, is the point.

We don’t assume pat answers are adequate for enabling our children to learn to navigate relationships, nutrition, sexuality, religion, emotions, or any other challenging reality. Nor do we leave them alone to figure it out.

We equip ourselves, so we can enable them.

Why should race and racism be any different?

Pat answers may be evidence of how many parents haven’t ourselves developed the very facility we need to help our children build. As a result their questions, observations and experiences launch us into terrain we haven’t learned to navigate. They make us deeply uncomfortable.

But again, we are able and willing to develop facility and work through discomfort in so many areas parenting springs on us. Race is no different.

So try this. Imagine the conversations that may have taken place between parents and their Black or Latino/a children after Trayvon Martin was killed and Zimmerman walked. I’d be willing to bet that pat answers were nowhere in site.

This thought experiment doesn’t give us the content, but it does show us the standard for what caliber of  conversation is required of us. If we want our white children to live in a world with more racial justice than the one we live in now, we need to figure out how to have conversations with them as real, thick, painful, resilient, strategic and authentic as the conversations those parents had to have. So that our kids can help build that world.

As much as we love our kids, we can not only want to figure this out. We can figure it out.

Yours in Search of Robust Protein,

A fellow parent with white kids



the race museum


I’m on the last full day of vacation with family in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. The weather has been superb, bright, sunny, warm ocean waters and no rain… so far. We rented a condo near the beach and are thoroughly enjoying ourselves here in the friendly hospitable south.

Even though my dad was born and raised in South Carolina, it’s not a place I have frequented. He migrated to the east coast when he was 16 in search of work and a wife and hardly ever returned to the south with his newly created family when I was growing up. So, the first time I was here in South Carolina was as an adult about 17 years ago when a friend and I spontaneously decided to drive down to Myrtle Beach to visit other friends who were staying here for the summer. It was the mid-1990s and I fully embraced the pretty beaches, the endless golf courses, swimming pools, water parks and ton of great places to eat.

However, I also recall curious feelings when staring back at a white woman who stared at me as I ordered ice cream in an ice cream parlor. She didn’t seem to care that I saw her staring, I tried smiling but she maintained her stare. I also remember going out to a dance club and meeting a man dressed like a cowboy, donning the boots and hat with jeans and plaid button down shirt. He slithered up beside me, said “howdy” and told me he lived nearby and wanted me to come visit. I kindly declined. He smiled and said “it’s ok honey, you should know, I love me some black women.” He was white. I just nodded, “oh yea?” And the few black people I met who annoyed me when they appeared to defer to white people all the time. Ugh. The only other place I experienced similar feelings was in New Orleans, LA.

That was then. Now it’s 2013 so I figured things could only be better, and they are. However, as I sat in a pancake house near the beach the other morning with my nieces, ages 11 and almost 13, an elderly couple sitting at the booth across from us kept staring at us as if we were objects in a museum. I figured maybe it was my imagination and decided to ignore them. But it was clear; they were staring and didn’t seem to care that we noticed them staring. After we finished our pancakes and went outside one of my nieces asked, “why was that couple staring at us like that?” The 13 year old continued, “I tried to smile at the lady but she didn’t smile back, she just kept staring.” Sigh. How do you explain potentially racist behavior to this generation of youth? They’re millennials, born on the east coast with a host of multi-racial friendships and unfamiliar with some of the blatant racist attitudes that persist in parts of the south. That is not to say that racism does not occur in the northeast, indeed it does, but it’s often less blatant than this dehumanizing staring thing.

After explaining how some white people don’t seem to think black people are quite human so they stare to see what we do, how we do it, and if we’ll fulfill any of their primitive stereotypes of us, I began an anthropological thought. I told them about a series of essays I have my first year anth students read that deal with tourism and village walks, shaping the tourist’s gaze and representing ethnic difference in Nepal, by Arjun Guneratne. The essays are an interesting analysis between foreign tourists visiting Nepal and high caste Nepalese tour guides who appease the foreign (read “western” or “white”) tourist gaze with exotic representations of the Tharus as primitive jungle dwellers who live as if they’re in an earlier time. The tourists look and stare at the so-called primitive people as if they’re in a museum.

Flipping the script I told my nieces that the white people staring at us were primitive people still living life as if they’re in an earlier time. Lets just stare back as if we’re looking at racism inside a museum. It is 2013 isn’t it? I’m just saying.

In Christ’s family there can be no division into Jew and non-Jew, slave and free, male and female. Among us you are all equal. That is, we are all in a common relationship with Jesus Christ ~Galatians 3:28-29

Curly hair

Cierra and I are finishing up week three of a month in Dundas, Ontario, a small town of 20,000 swallowed up by the metropolitan area of Hamilton, a city of over half-a-million people. We are staying in a delightful condo in the quaint downtown area. Almost daily we have walked the roughly six-block main street, stepping in to a shop here or there, mostly looking for food. For the first two weeks we walked past the old post office that now houses small shops – a bakery, a clothing store, and a place called Ellenoire. But we didn’t go in. Ellenoire advertises on the sign outside that it is a place that specializes in curly hair.

The first time we walked by I noticed the sign and mentioned to Cierra that it was refreshing to see that they had emphasized their specialty in ‘curly hair’ not ethnic hair. (I have never understood that phrase which has always seemed such a stupid and even racist phrase. White people don’t have ethnic hair, we are the norm. Everybody else has ethnic hair.) We continued our walk. And on every jaunt since, we continued by until Wednesday. As we passed by the post office building once again, the smell from the bakery drew us in. (Like I said, we are usually out looking for food.) We decided to check the shops out. Cierra got a peanut butter cookie in the bakery and as we walked back into the hallway, I suggested we just stop by Ellenoire and what a delightful experience we had. Cierra has pretty short and straightened hair and the owner of the salon wanted to make sure that we new upfront that they focus on natural hair, not artificially straightened hair. There were four employees and several customers in the store. Everyone joined in the conversation to talk about societal pressure on black women to have straight hair – to conform to cultural expectations of the broader culture. As we talked, the owner made a comment about the impact if black female celebrities stopped straightening their hair or getting weaves. And I responded with, “or maybe a first lady.” She laughed and said, ‘Yeah. But can you imagine the uproar and the political costs to her husband if she decided to go natural?” But wouldn’t it be a seismic shift for American culture if Michelle Obama, in the President’s final year in office, decided to stop weaving and straightening? Anyway, she suggested that Cierra and I watch Chris Rock’s movie “Good Hair.” I had seen snippets of it, but not the whole thing.

As we walked back to our condo, I asked Cierra what she thought about the conversation. Her first words were, “I’m not ready to go natural. The cost would be too great at school. Maybe when I graduate from high school, but not now. The only girls that don’t straighten their hair or have weaves are the one or two black girls that are African immigrants. They can get away with it. The rest of us can’t.” (BTW, at her high school, one-third of students identify as African-American, so when Cierra says that only 1 or 2 black girls embrace their natural curls, that means there are about 200 that don’t).

Later that night we did watch Chris Rock’s movie and we talked during and after about the pressure on black women to conform to culturally-idealized standards. Cierra said, ‘we should write a letter to Michelle Obama and tell her to let her hair be curly.’ And, then she also said, but I’m not ready to go natural. I have too many other battles to contend with at school to take that one on.


Stupid is as stupid does

Cierra and I are just finishing up our first week of a four-week holiday in southern Ontario, a place we dearly love. But before I get to why we love Canada so much, I must share about the road trip that brought us here. Cierra is closer to her sixteenth birthday than her fifteenth, while emotionally she vacillates between two and thirty-two. Thankfully, at least for me, she tends to hover mostly around the twenty-something way of feeling and acting. But I digress. The road trip. Not feeling any need to push the drive and get to Ontario on a certain schedule, we planned to drive 5 to 6 hours per day, stopping when we felt the need. I like to stop in small towns, which for this trip meant out of the way places in the upper Midwest, which also meant a very white world-small town experience. I am not exaggerating when I say that in every coffee shop, diner and the one McDonalds (there was nothing else) we stopped at, people stared intently – not at me – but at Cierra. She is a typical teenager. And, she is quite beautiful, but as I watched this happen over and over again, I knew that what caught peoples’ attention about her was her skin color. I noticed, but I didn’t say anything. In one particularly awkward moment, I looked at her and she said, “Every time. . . . You would think that people, especially older people, would have better manners than to stare. You know why they are staring at me, ‘cause I’m black. I just get so tired of it.” Then she said to me, “I know you probably never have these kinds of thoughts, but I often think about what it would be like to be a white person. To be able to walk in almost anywhere and people accept that I’m there and don’t question why I’m there because of my skin color.”

We eventually made it to Ontario and to Dundas where we will stay for the next month. Dundas is a quaint, small town of 20,000 people swallowed up by Hamilton, a city of over 500,000 people, a very diverse metropolitan area. Downtown Dundas, on the other hand, is a mostly white place. On day two, we walked the downtown area of shops. At one, we purchased a few items and as we stepped outside, Cierra remarked at how different the experience was than from our road trip. Puzzled, I asked her to explain. “It’s not that people are oblivious to the color of your skin”, she explained, “and this little town is mostly white”. What’s different here is that it’s just fine for you to be different – to look different. I don’t feel like I’m supposed to apologize for showing up. It’s okay that I’m here.”

Today we went browsing the downtown shops again. We bought fresh mozzarella at the Cheese Shop, a basil plant and fresh pasta at the Italian grocer, and a fancy rolling pin at the kitchen store (I’m feeling a need to bake pies). It may have been my imagination, but Cierra seemed freer to just be – to interact with people, to laugh, to be herself. For a few moments, she didn’t feel the need to be wary and watchful of what other people were thinking about why she was there.  As I watched her laughing, I had two disparate thoughts: 1) I am so thankful that she has this time and I pray that it breathes healing and joy into her young life and 2) I am so angry that some people are just stupid! 


talkin’ back: gender by the sea

#sembythesea  Just back from Old Orchard Beach, Maine where I facilitated a session on gender and hip-hop at a seminar-by-the-sea gender studies course. I talked about black feminism and the politics of wreck in hip-hop culture. Queen Latifah’s line, “I bring wreck to those who disrespect me like a dame” from her 1993 U.N.I.T.Y. is used by hip-hop scholar Gwendolyn D. Pough* in her wonderful analysis of the whys and ways black women talk back to black men and society at large through rap and hip-hop. Hip-hop culture was/is male dominated and this breaking of silence for black women was/is revolutionary gender analysis stuff.

The gender course was filled with women (although men are invited, they don’t show up) making the space psychologically and emotionally safe for the women to say and/or write what was really on their minds. Ages 19 through early 20s, young American women and a few international representatives hailing from Ghana, South Africa, and Russia shared the space. Exciting.

However, in a space which is majority white female other things can arise for me. I often tell the peculiar story of the one time I was asked by a very grown white woman in a workshop on race, if it was more important for me to be a woman or to be black. Wow. I’m always both at the same time and one informs the other. I only understand my racial designation (a social construct) as a black woman and only understand my gender designation (another social construct) as a black woman. In other words, I have no real idea what it’s like to be a white woman or a black man. And that’s ok… not a critique, just a fact.

However, Pough’s history lesson, particularly her discussion of black women of the civil rights movement who apparently chose race as most important …for the sake of the black community, U.N.I.T.Y., women stayed in the background and let black men shine as movement leaders and spokespersons. Pough suggests early hip-hop possessed similar cultural learning by women. Let the men shine, stay in the background, let black male voices be heard as representations of the whole community. But this was problematic, especially as the rap game began spewing misogynist lyrics.

In 2004 Pough wrote “women of the hip-hop generation, like the black women who went before them, find themselves in a similar position of trying to navigate a space for themselves in a black-male-dominated public discourse. While we cannot say women of the hip-hop generation hold the same spaces in the public sphere as their foremothers, we can say with some degree of certainty that the way black women of the past navigated the public sphere has had a direct effect on the way black women of the hip-hop generation feel they can move within this sphere. Quite frankly, by the time we reach the hip-hop era, black women have had generations of conditioning to stay in the background while black men claim the limelight. We also have a history of seldom speaking out against black manhood even when it poses a direct threat to black womanhood. We also have, however, glimmers of black female outspokenness that grabs public attention and disrupts the black male dominance of the black public sphere. Examples of these instances surfaced when Michele Wallace wrote Black Macho and the Myth of the Superwoman and had the nerve to go on TV and defend her ideas; when Ntozake Shange wrote For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide and the play made it all the way to Broadway; when Alice Walker wrote the novel The Color Purple and it was adapted as a feature film; when Terry McMilan wrote the novel Waiting to Exhale and it too was adapted as a feature film. Each of these instances of black female outspokenness was met with tremendous outcry from the black public sphere. They were lambasted by black men and even some black women for portraying negative images of black manhood or showing black men in a negative light. Some people even accused them of the classic ‘airing dirty laundry’ ” (pg. 75 ff).

Sometimes dirty laundry has to be aired if it is to become clean and good smelling again.  Early Hip-hop’s fixation on identity, community, and place is ideally the locale for truth-telling, love and healing to occur. So as a woman who happens to be black or a black person who happens to be a woman, I’m down with bringing wreck wherever and whenever necessary, if it’s done to bring U.N.I.T.Y. to an otherwise fragmented scene.

*Pough, Gwendolyn D. Check It While I Wreck It: Black womanhood, hip-hop, and the public sphere (2004)


In celebration of anger

Years ago I was asked “do the things that make God angry, make you angry?” I loved this question. It freed me to actually be angry about a few things. I am not naturally wired this way and it was absolutely liberating to embrace the notion that anger could actually be righteous!

A few years after that I had a parent of one of the teens in the church where I served tell me that God is never OK with our being angry. This was the teaching they were giving their teenage daughter and she beat herself up every time she became angry with her little brother or some other injustice in the world. She lived in a space where she felt she had to be absolutely at peace and in control regardless of the circumstances around her. She also lived with a lot of guilt and frustration.

While I know in my head that anger is OK, I still don’t know what to do with it. I don’t want to be angry about everything and in fact am rarely angry with wrongs that happen to me. I am much better at being angry for others or for bad situations in general. I usually try to turn my anger into advocacy. When it comes to being angry when I’ve been wronged, I’m still not very good at it. Mostly I just feel hurt. And yes, I have enough schooling to know that is just anger turned inward and is not all that healthy, a post for another day.

For today, I want to celebrate anger. I want to say it is really OK to be ticked off at the injustices and crappy things in the world. In particular, to be angry over the crappy things the church and christians have done to others, both in the church and outside. To be angry that we are far more exclusive than Christ Himself ever was. To be angry that we have managed to reverse the trend of scripture from opening up faith to others to closing the circle ever tighter. To be angry that far too often our colleges and seminaries pander to donors rather than standing for what is true. To be angry that brilliant students love to learn and are encouraged and challenged and then realize that what they hold to be true is unable to be spoken aloud in churches leading to conflicted ministers and congregations who have their ears tickled rather than being transformed into the church. To be angry that clergy have abused their power spiritually, emotionally, physically and sexually. To be angry that we are more concerned with who is “holy enough” rather than “needy”. To be angry that still children and youth are too often relegated to an afterthought and not considered as precious and equally made in the image of God. To be angry that racism, sexism and a whole host of other discrimination takes place in the name of serving God.

Tradition says that today is the day we remember the Jesus’ cleansing of the Temple. God incarnate, after riding into Jerusalem on a donkey knowing full well death was just around the corner, goes to the Temple and flips over the tables calling a spade a spade. He says “My house shall be called a house of prayer but you have made it a robbers den!” He named, out loud, that the Temple had become other than it was intended and in one action opened the doors for the blind and the lame, for children and for all those who were not in powerful positions seeking to maintain the status quo.

The response was “Hosanna”!!! We typically think of this as a word of praise…it really connotes a cray for salvation.

Hosanna today, this week and in this point of history. May we be saved from our own devices and instead become who God created us to be. May we be angry enough that we have been on the wrong path that we fight to make it right.

What makes you angry pulling out your own response of Hosanna?

Guest Post- To be Young, Gifted and Black… in Waco

Much could be said and I could repost all of her words but seeing Sharyl Loeung’s blog offers the impact needed. She is a former student of mine turned friend and fellow Christian longing for something better. She has worked in cross cultural settings for more than a decade and is an advocate for those often not seen nor heard. She works in a school where she sees inequality far too often and in this post she grapples mightily with the other side of knowing teens who make the nightly news and the incessant racism that accompanies this. Check it out!


a week of equality

carnivalI’ve been restless lately. Something I experience several times a year when wanderlust fills my being again. Lately I have dreams of teaching at a university in the Virgin Islands or somewhere in Brazil where the sun, beach and ocean are on constant display, the food is scrumptious and people are warm. Then I realize it’s carnival season, or carnaval Brazilian style. Carnival kicks off on February 9th and the samba schools are kicking it up with dance, floats and costumes. Samba always fills the air in Rio, but especially this time of year as it is celebrated through the annual spectacle of carnival. Carnival and samba are romantically intertwined. Samba evokes these happy narratives of equality, class and racial harmony that permeate the country of Brazil. Millions of people enjoy samba music and dance and it has this way of maintaining relative social peace in Brazil, at least for a week. During carnival people from all social classes and races mingle and talk, dance, drink, kiss and make love together. Samba is pervasive in the ways people of Rio prefer to view themselves as harmonious, peaceful, loving, non-racist people. Those ideals are embodied in Samba.

One night I met a young Afro-Brazilian rapper in Lapa who told me, “samba is a lie, rap tells the truth.” He dared to challenge Brazil’s sambastic narrative of peace and harmony as it positioned itself a truth-teller of Brazilian reality. “If you want to really know Brazil,” he said, “listen to rap.” And so I did. Rap told stories of race and class inequality, racial disharmony and state violence. It told a completely different story.

Remembering that young rapper and Rio during carnival season, and the one-week of celebration when roles and social scripts are temporarily suspended in order to imagine a world where equality, harmony, and justice reign… but only for a week.