Eugene Cho

“…a nation of cowards”

Are you a coward?  Chicken? When it comes to the issue of race, why are Americans [including Christians] so reticent and reluctant to engage in honest conversations?What are we scared of?  This is such a thought provoking and honest assessment about the American people and the issue of race by Attorney General Eric Holder.

“Though this nation has proudly thought of itself as an ethnic melting pot, in things racial we have always been and continue to be, in too many ways, essentially a nation of cowards…” 

I have two instructions for you:

  1. Read the article below.
  2. Discuss.  Agree?  Disagree?  Damn it: Why does it always have to be just about black and white?  What does “translated into policy” mean?  What are we afraid of?  

For those bored, I have some previous stuff dealing with race:

Here’s the article:

WASHINGTON (CNN) — In a blunt assessment of race relations in the United States, Attorney General Eric Holder Wednesday called the American people “essentially a nation of cowards” in failing to openly discuss the issue of race.

Eric Holder spoke to an overflowing crowd for Black History Month at the Justice Department Wednesday.

In his first major speech since being confirmed, the nation’s first black attorney general told an overflow crowd celebrating Black History Month at the Justice Department the nation remains “voluntarily socially segregated.”

“Though this nation has proudly thought of itself as an ethnic melting pot, in things racial we have always been and continue to be, in too many ways, essentially a nation of cowards,” Holder declared.

Holder urged Americans of all races to use Black History Month as a time to have a forthright national conversation between blacks and whites to discuss aspects of race which are ignored because they are uncomfortable.

The attorney general said employees across the country “have done a pretty good job in melding the races in the workplace,” but he noted that “certain subjects are off limits and that to explore them risks at best embarrassment and at worst the questioning of one’s character.”

“On Saturdays and Sundays, America in the year 2009 does not, in some ways, differ significantly from the country that existed some 50 years ago. This is truly sad,” Holder said.

Following his address, Holder declined to say whether his unexpectedly stern message would be translated into policy.

“It’s a question of being honest with ourselves and racial issues that divide us,” Holder told reporters in a hastily arranged news conference. “It’s not easy to talk about it. We have to have the guts to be honest with each other, accept criticism, accept new proposals.”

The nation’s top law enforcement official vowed to “revitalize the Civil Rights Division” at the Justice Department but offered no specifics.

In a reference to the highly divisive issue of affirmative action, Holder said there can be “very legitimate debate about the question of affirmative action. This debate can and should be nuanced, principled and spirited.”

The attorney general criticized past public debates on the issue as “too often simplistic and left to those on the extremes who are not hesitant to use these issues to advance nothing more than their own narrow self-interest.”

President Barack Obama has not yet nominated an assistant attorney general to head the Civil Rights Division, which is charged with enforcing the nation’s civil rights laws and which helps fashion race-related policy.

Allegations of politically motivated hiring in the division and increased emphasis on combating religious discrimination and human trafficking — rather than concentration on traditional civil rights enforcement — during the Bush administration caused some dissent in the department.

[photo: AP Photo/Charles Dharapak]

Filed under: politics, , , ,

52 Responses

  1. jHong says:

    I’m an American Ethnic Studies major and when I tell people this, I have to emphasize the “n” sound otherwise people think I’m an American Ethics Studies major to which I always respond, “There’s no such thing.” And though I say this partly in jest, it’s also quite true considering the nature of the things I study. Essentially I’m learning the unspoken, unreported histories of generations of people of color whose stories have been omitted from the American canon in an effort to preserve the mythical heroic narrative of our country. The fact that I have to take alternative “ethnic” history courses populated almost exclusively by students of color proves that America has long avoided the painful revelation of its depraved roots and the repercussions that are still so ubiquitous today. So if it’s true that truth sets us free I’m afraid it’s time we call to question America’s claim to be a land of liberty.

  2. eugenecho says:

    @jHong: schnap. i think you’re ready for your papers, tests, or whatever you’re working on.

  3. queermergent says:

    Great things to think about, especially in regards to adding the LGBTQ community to the mix. i agree that it is more often about black and white instead of other minorities such as Asians, Native Americans, Latinos. “Melting pot’ is a figment of our imagination.

    Thanks for pushing the envelope, Eugene.

    Warm Regards,

    Existential Punk

  4. Kevin Davis says:

    I think he is mostly right – very thought provoking. The line that stood out the most to me was, that we still live “voluntarily socially segregated.”

    I grew up in Colorado, experienced a decent mix of race and diversity – but I’ve been living in the Motor City for the past 3 years and I can’t believe how segregated it is here. There are places in Detroit where white folk are not welcome and the evidence of white-flight is everywhere. It is sad.

    I think we do voluntarily live socially segregated from one another and need to have more courage to engage and live together.

  5. Matt says:

    policy cannot change people. policy can enforce certain things into the lives of people, but it will never change people. This conversation really has to start with the church, on every side.

  6. […] read the article, you should, if you care anything about this subject.  One of my favorite Post Modern evangelical ministers out in Seattle gives us his opinion and you can read the Holder article if you […]

  7. i hate it when white people tell people of color that they haven’t REALLY experienced racism. that being said…

    i’ve been in seattle my whole life so I have not experienced racial issues in my everyday life. seattle has its problem but as a culture, I think it succeeds in valuing diversity. i am told that it is still quite an issue in other areas of the country like the south. am I afraid to talk about it? Not really, but what’s to talk about? racism is bad. it should be done away with but that’s ultimately up to individuals. besides, the government already has many protections in the workplace, lending, renting for this. At some point, people don’t know what else to do. they hear about race all the time, but do not consider themselves racist and have not seen racism locally meaning being given the chance to stand against it. eugene- our church is very mixed and that’s a good thing. other churches in this area that I’ve attended, while predominantly white, I never saw minorities being pushed out of social circles. in other parts of the world we have racism leading to genocide, so we should be thankful for our progress. Slavery abolished (well, the historic American kind anyway), civil rights movement, Obama (and Holder) and Condi Rice and Powell in senior admin positions.

    some might say (and rightly so) that as a white guy, me talking about racism is like a rich guy experiencing poverty. fair enough. when someone tells me that they’ve personally experienced racism, I don’t doubt them, and I would not wish anyone to experience that. but it’s an honest question- how do we combat something that we do not see actively and consistently taking place? when it happens on a national level- O Reilly piping off about blacks in harlem, don imus, or a basketball team or miley cyrus acting foolish by mocking race in a photo- the negative reaction (including from whites) seems to be pretty loud and consistent. so we as a population are not numb to the issue…in fact, I would say that we’ve almost become so reactive to race that it’s somewhat divisive in and of itself. there needs to be a balance between wanting equality/diversity and becoming hyper-sensative about it.

    I think classism is a much bigger problem in our country. Look at the polling- most folks feel the government serves not the will of the people but instead the interests of big business and the wealthy, not one particular skin color. Cowardly, yes we are, but “cowardly about race” would not be at the top of my list. Maybe if I lived in El Paso I’d be singing a different tune.

  8. Sue says:


    While I agree that policy cannot chnage people, it has the ability to change cirumstances and situations that may then, change people. If the policy to integrate schools weren’t put into action, I imagine that Barack Obama would not be president today.

  9. elderj says:

    Well I am a southerner, born and raised and proud of it and am tired of folks talking about how racism is supposed so much worse in the south. It isn’t. There are some things here that irritate and annoy, and in some rural communities there is some stuff that happens which is racist. But the south is no more racist than any other part of the country, it only serves as a convenient foil for people in other parts of the US to salve their conscience (well, it MUST be worse in the South. After all, they don’t even wear shoes there and marry their sisters!)

    Residentially the south has been less segregated than the north and even the west. While there are segregated neighborhoods, that has much more to do with class than with race, at least in the last forty years.

    To be honest, I think we are NOT a nation of cowards. Few nations with a history as ours has dealt with race as we have. We talk about it constantly. It was the most significant undertone of last year’s election and significant reason why so many people were elated over Obama’s election. There are movies, books, plays, articles about race — except as you say Eugene it is largely always Black/White. But Black/White has always been the issue in this country, not Asian or Hispanic. In fact Hispanic /Latino isn’t even counted as race in the census, since a person can be Latino of any race. And let’s be honest, when ethnic Asians talk about going to an “American church” they don’t mean a Black church do they?

    One of the things that is obscured in the race segregation is discussion is that people largely socialize based not just on race, but on social class, economic class, and education. There is a lot of interracial socialization happening in “tha’ hood” and lots of bi-racial babies running around. This doesn’t qualify in many people’s mind because in upper middle class circles, it isn’t happening as much, but it is, except not with Blacks and Whites, but with Whites and Asians.

    And just what is an “honest conversation?” Most people frankly don’t have time for “honest conversations” because they are working and living and loving and getting on with life. “Conversation” is an obsession of the educated elites (us) who have the time and education and yes, resources, to sit around having discussions about things like race. Also the notion that something needs to be “translated into policy” is a disturbing one. What does that mean?

  10. Joanna says:

    I’m totally and absolutely not uncomfortable. At all. Nope. Not me.

  11. Nina Seong says:

    I was just wondering when the next Race & Religion talks were going to be.

    I have some people interested in going. 🙂

    You rock, Pastor Eugene.

  12. mrs p says:

    I hear what you are saying, and I can understand where you’re coming from about whites making exclamations about overt racism.

    But what so many people of color understand that most whites to not, is the covert racism. Institutional racism. Ingrained, invisible, mindset racism. And I agree with the attorney general that America is afraid of addressing those topics. Whites are afraid that we would have to change something. A worldview. Perhaps a lifestyle. That we may have to sacrifice something. And it is so much easier to not know, to not believe…

    I can’t explain what I have learned and continue to have revealed to be about these seemingly hidden topics for whites, in a post here (while i am on the clock…). But please, everyone white person out there at least, pick up a copy of the book Divided By Faith and read it. And get in a deep relationship with a person of color. Become a member of a church, community, or group in which you are the minority. And listen, listen, listen.

  13. hey elderj. To respond to your gripe- I have friends who have had personal experiences (and first-hand encounters) with racism in the south, and come from families who have lived there and can speak to their experience. My source wasn’t a redneck comedy show.

  14. elderj says:

    I appreciate the weight of the anecdotal experiences your friends have had. I speak as well from personal experience as one who grew up and was educated in the south and who has parents who lived through the civil rights era. I know racism and have experienced it first hand. I do not deny the reality of it. As a native son of the south, I think I am well positioned to speak about the culture and climate here.

    What I am speaking to is the knee jerk reaction many have when one mentions the word “race” in concert with “the south.” There is an unthinking reaction that almost automatically extrapolates from incidents and anecdotes to castigate an entire region when the same kinds of incidents and anecdotes don’t lead to that conclusion when they occur in other parts of the country. It was not, after all in the south that the Rodney King beatings took place, but no one suggested from that incident that southern California is racist.

    Likewise, there are far more Blacks in politics from the south (at many levels) than in other parts of the nation. Partly that is a function of demographics, but whatever the cause, Whites in the south are much more likely to experience being under the political leadership of a Black than in Seattle.

  15. Mrs P- your heart for this issue jumps off the screen. thanks for the post.

    I appreciate that you can’t give a lengthy reply while on the clock, but to ask the question- what are we (whites) afraid of? what worldview? what lifestyle? what sacrifice? maybe someone else can take a crack at this answer?

    I think many thoughtful white Christian people would wonder aloud with me “what are we doing wrong?” and “how have we failed you?” Conversations have to be two-sided. If we are playing into, or ignoring “covert, institutional” racism or racism as a mindset, that needs to be explained very precisely, specifically, with examples. When my wife asks me to consider changing my behavior for her, I need the same thing: to know what I did (or didn’t do) and how that effected her, so that I have some context to weigh my ongoing behavior.

    If racism has moved from being obvious to being covert and invisible, then those seeking help need to educate the rest of us CLEARLY so that we can lend a hand or a shoulder. We’re all ears, and that’s the truth. If any Quest-ers are reading this, you can grab me any Sunday before or after 11am and pull me aside for a conversation about this. I am willing to bet many of the other brothers and sisters there (of all ages) would be willing to do the exact same thing. But vague, shapeless accusations do nothing to educate or inform.

    I am in a deep relationship with a person of color- one of my longest and closest friends. I don’t say that to gloat or make myself immune from criticism. The point of me saying that is- I have learned a lot from him about this issue, and have a richer perspective thanks to him, and still- questions exist.

    So full circle- but I’d say specific, and not just honest- conversation needs to occur.

  16. eugenecho says:

    @elderj: “And let’s be honest, when ethnic Asians talk about going to an “American church” they don’t mean a Black church do they?”

    you need to educate me. what does that mean?

    i agree that conversation can be overrated. i just think you’re underestimating it and underestimating the value of conversation and the “oral tradition” to even those you don’t consider “educated elites.”

  17. elderj says:

    @elderj: “And let’s be honest, when ethnic Asians talk about going to an “American church” they don’t mean a Black church do they?”

    I mean specifically that often 1st generation (or even 2nd) Asians often refer to the non-Korean, or non-Chinese church as “American church.” For instance,it wouldn’t be unusual to hear someone will say at lunch when talking about a friend, “Oh, she and her husband go to American church.” They do not when they say that, have in mind a Black church. For many immigrants American = White.

    I don’t mean to underestimate the value of conversation. I simply think it is not the sine qua non of the issue, and yet it is often held up to be. It is also a luxury of those classes of people who have time, resources, and exposure to sit around and chat about such things. Many people, arguably most people, do not.

  18. @ elderj: just to wrap this up as I don’t want to monopolize the comments- I trust your experience but that leaves me confused. You have experienced racism in the south, acknowledge pockets of racism locally, but do not agree that the south faces racial issues greater than some other parts of the country? As a son of the south, how can you speak to where it ranks in regards to other areas that you haven’t lived? While my friends and their family’s southern experiences/living aren’t a full-fledged survey, it’s more than nada.

    Furthermore I think Southern Cal is rife with racial issues! gang violence, illegal immigration, mexican drug war spilling over, pourous border fence, massive protests- i think it’s hard to argue that the southern border states including CA are not impacted by these issues in the way of race perception. fair enough? Cities like detroit and baltimore are also quite divided by race due to economic conditions and unjust gov policy like the war on drugs. these things are widely written about, I’m not really going out on a limb here. I don’t think seattle would even rank among “areas with the greatest racial struggle.” i’m not trying to brag here; the only reason I bothered to compare was to say my exposure to racism has been virtually non-existant in everyday life, or in my immediate community which got at my larger point. That doesn’t make Seattle or its population “better.” Seattle has a whole list of other challenges.

    having said that, I take your point about not leaning too heavily on anecdotal evidence (something I completely agree with you about). I thought I was being careful in my initial post, but if that didn’t translate well and I was too general, I apologize. i’ll try to be more cautious about that.


  19. Fred says:

    We just voted the first African-American as the President of the United States! What does he mean that we are a nation of cowards?

  20. Rusty says:

    @ Ian – I would encourage you to follow up on Mrs. P’s suggestion to pick up a copy of Michael Emerson’s _Divided by Faith_. It’s short and very readable and might help you out with some of the examples of structural racism you are looking for. Emerson is himself a Christian and deeply committed to the idea of eliminating racial divisions in the church.

    @ Eugene and ElderJ – your exchange about the “American” church reminds me of a chapter in a different Michael Emerson book _People of the Dream_. You should check out chapter six of this book for a thesis about the two American indigenous cultures (black and white, he argues) that speaks to your exchange.

    As a white guy who is now living in Houston but has also lived in Kansas City, Chicago, Montana, and Boston I agree with elderj that racism is by no means limited to the South. ElderJ, have you seen the new book by Thomas Sugrue, _Sweet Land of Liberty_? It’s suppose to be amazing – totally belies the myth that racial issues are a southern thing by looking at the civil rights movement in the North. Can’t wait to read it.

  21. jHong says:

    I lived in Nashville, TN for about 4.5 years and traveled around the South quite a bit and as an Asian American woman, I can say that my experiences there were very different than they have been anywhere else. I would get asked questions like, “How’d YOU end up with a name like ‘Jessica’?” or “Where are you REALLLY from?” and when I failed to laugh at any racial humor, I was simply dismissed – “You wouldn’t get it, it’s an American thing.” In fact, my first encounter with racism of any kind happened at the first church I visited when the Pastor and his Wife mocking bowed at each other during the announcements, speaking in stereotypical “oriental” accents. That being said, is the South any more racist than the North or any other part of the country? I’m not sure, to be honest. I’ve had friends who have grown up in Seattle say things like “I could only date white guys because, you know, I want a man’s man.” or “For a white girl she listens to the most ghetto music” and so on and so forth. I think generally, what the other parts of the nation may have over their Southern counterparts is a modicum of tact, but I think all of this non-talk about the issue may be helping that gap shrink.

    Let me reiterate my original comment in some different terms: American Ethnic History classes at the University of Washington are attended almost EXCLUSIVELY by people of color. We are separating the history of people of color as extracurricular, non-essential education and the implication there is that people of color themselves are extracurricular, non-essential, exotic, not “normal” whatever that means anymore. This might seem like a bit of a reach but I don’t think it’s reaching that far.

    People of color have to go out of their way to hear about their immeasurable contribution to our country — WE ARE DOING SOMETHING WRONG.

    Representations of people of color in all forms of media, entertainment and culture are still extremely limited and largely one-dimensional — WE ARE DOING SOMETHING WRONG.

    The city of Seattle is one of the most racially segregated cities in the country — WE ARE DOING SOMETHING WRONG.

    and p.s. — I know this incident hit a little closer to home for me so I may be ranting but per the comment that the outcry among whites about racial incidents a la Miley Cyrus being loud — Not NEARLY loud enough. The fact that Michael Phelps take a hit on a bong and looses millions of dollars in sponsorships and meanwhile Miley Cyrus mocks an entire race of people and only blogs a couple half-assed apologies with no greater repercussions — BOGGLES MY MIND! Where were the big protests? Why didn’t any retailers pull merchandise? I mean, the mocking Cyrus did is STILL HAPPENING on playgrounds around the country subject countless Asian American children to the VERY denigration she perpetrated — children who were very likely fans of her career, children to whom she owes her very livelihood! And granted, I am just as guilty as anyone else for not making enough noise because truth be told, other than a mini-rant in my Race/Gender/Sexuality class this is my first public contribution. Nevertheless, to echo a sermon PE preached a few weeks ago about injustice, WE ARE NOT ANGRY ENOUGH. Okay, maybe I’M angry enough, but you get my point.

    Okay. Done. Breathing. Caps UnLocked.

  22. jHong says:

    p.p.s. — I really hate that I typed the term “whites” because that in and of itself is also denigrating and let’s face it, sounds a lil ig’nant. I apologize. I got a little heated. I will think, breathe and THEN type in the future.

  23. elderj says:

    @jhong — whites is a self chosen descriptor. Also, I’m in Nashville, so I know that it must have been challenging as an Asian American woman.

    @rusty – I’ve read emerson’s book, though its been a while

    One thing about the south which is generally not recognized is that race cannot be avoided here, as it often is in other parts of the country. There are places that have long been “majority-minority” in the south, but suddenly that is a big shocker and everyone wants to talk about race.

    One reason other parts of the country have had the luxury of being perceived as not as racist is because they don’t have very many Black people, and often in places that do, there is rampant segregation. Asian Americans generally aren’t perceived as much of a threat to Whites as are Blacks (and are far likelier to intermarry) and also are a far smaller minority. Even on the west coast, Asians rarely total more than 10% or so of the population, but are often disproportionately represented in colleges and universities. So the class / education status trumps the racial categorization.

    What even is racist though? Does ignorance = racism? If I’ve never encountered large numbers of Asian Americans before, and I ask a stupid question, am I racist or just unaware? No matter where you are in the US, it would be hard to be unaware at some level of racism against Blacks or what constitutes a racial slur. Not so with Asian Americans. There are many Asians in this country who are first generation and who don’t speak English every well. Is it racist to acknowledge this?

    This race thing is complicated.

  24. eugenecho says:

    i guess that’s what i’m insinuating in some way when i say ‘american’ church. such is the case for many that if you’re not white [or anglo to be politically correct], you’re not really american. the uphill battle i [sometimes] feel is that no matter what i do, achieve, contribute, or whatever, i’m not truly an american. and in some way, i’m at much more peace about it now as it aligns with my theology as a resident alien of sorts…that my citizenship is elsewhere.

    @fred: while that is a significant event, i fear that many will use that to say, “it’s all over” and it’s not.

  25. Tom says:

    I thought elderj’s comments re the importance of social, economic and educational ‘class’ are very significant.

    We’re highly segregated, no doubt, but I think that segregation is pretty complicated. Even if there were no racism of any kind in the U.S., we’d still be very segregated and in ways that would look on the surface like segregation motivated by solely by racial distinctives.

    That’s not to say that race isn’t still a very potent divider around the country. It is, and I’m glad Holder spoke up the way he did though I’m not sure I would have put it just that way.

    Lots of good literature out right now explaining the complicated story of why we’re segregating ourselves and the kind of costs we pay for that segregation. Richard Florida’s book Rise of the Creative Class and his new article in this months Atlantic Monthly (‘How the Crash Will Reshape America’) are good examples of that ‘class lit’ that explores how metro areas like Seattle/Portland and Denver/Boulder and San Francisco/San Jose are increasingly enclaves for a very specific and certain class of folks. He argues we’re not just segregating into neighborhoods based on class and education in specific cities, but that certain ‘elite cities’ are becoming segregated from the rest of the US. He argues those cities are going to be the economic winners that will survive the depression and that cities like Detroit will probably be dealt a death blow. He’s not celebrating that outcome, but tries to explain how we got where we are.

    Anyway, if we sometimes struggle to talk about race outside of ‘educationally elite’ circles, I think we have an even harder time talking about class. Lots of clues in that topic for understanding segregation.

  26. mike says:

    Of course the world is screwed up when it comes to race, should this issue be any different than sex, money, relationships, integrity, work, etc.?

    I guess I would be more interested in hearing about how ya’ll think the church can actually be diverse. Not just ‘look we have black and white people in the same building,’ but real diversity. Different age groups ministering together. different economic classes living in community with each other. Worship happening in multiple languages. Even (heaven help us) people of differing theological and political positions belonging to the same local church.

    I mean heck, I just wanna know how to have worship music that includes diverse groups (not just a young multiracial crowd, but a really diverse crowd of rich and poor, young and old, various languages, various cultures, various races.)

  27. Jeong says:

    @ Ian, read this column:

    It is implicit and scientifically proven. For those who think that racism does not exist in the South, spend some time in Saint Louis, MO. The segregation is literally black and white.

  28. […] and reconciliation: why is it so hard? Last week, I shared a post entitled “a nation of cowards” and asked if we’re indeed cowards when it comes to the conversation of racism and the […]

  29. kate says:

    @Eugene: I am a white female who loves you as my pastor and Quest as my church. But I am insulted by your article and the subsequent comments. I have understood that diversity is a huge deal to Quest (and that is all well and good). But this recent discussion makes me wonder, “Diversity for all?” Or just another reminder that white people cannot and do not do enough.

    I have experienced racism in the northwest too (GASP!). I once really liked a Korean guy at my school and he liked me too but he wouldn’t date me because (as he told me himself)- his parents wouldn’t like it and it would be “weird” to take me to his all Korean church. ok…

    I totally agree that racism towards minorities exists in our country and is HORRIBLE. As a result our coutry has flung itself wholly on the Politically Correct side. And I wonder if that is a form of suppression and racism as well? For example, as I am writing this I am terrified that because I am speaking up (and because my speaking up isn’t loaded with white guilt) that I will be labeled as “ignorant” or a racist. Or what if I boycotted Dave Chapelle for making white people jokes? No one would care, in fact I would somehow be a white power freak for it.

    I have been witness to you yourself making jest at being Korean. Isn’t that just perpetuating the kind of segregation you are ranting about? You make a joke about sushi and we all laugh but if I made the same joke AT you, would it be funny?

    It is my sincere hope that this article was intended for EVERYONE to read and contemplate not just a chance to indulge in the victim mentality that is so accepted as a right these days.

  30. Jeong, as a matter of “science,” you’ve cited an Op-Ed piece from the New York Times loaded with polling data? This is something I can speak to based on my job, but polling and testing can achieve false results either intentionally or not by the direction of the language one way vs. the other. That’s why polling and social testing are often dismissed in court. What’s particularly sleazy about that article is the writer’s favorite conclusion (and focus) on WHY the results are as they are- predominately white bias.

    I am also sensing this vibe on this post and comments and the ‘racism and reconciliation’ post and comments, (and I hope I’m mistaken): that those who don’t categorize or view racism as severely as others must be doing so based on some internal deficiency or bias. That’s quite an offensive implication, and is no way to win an audience.

    In closing- I think my initial response was too casual and I want to set the record straight. I make the mistake of assuming that people know me (which many or most here don’t) and so I write in a way that can be seen as dismissive. If I came off that way, I apologize. I do not wish to diminish the suffering of any person here who has experienced racism. I do think Seattle suffers from prejudice; when I hear “racism” I immediately think of the more jaw-dropping stuff like blatant, borderline violent slurs, protesting or policy wars directed at different races. I think Seattle struggles with prejudice more than outright racism, and it comes from all sides. I have certainly made the mistake in the past of being offensive and prejudiced, and have also sat in church while a pastor of color in this area (not Eugene, just to be clear) made jokes about white people that no white pastor would ever attempt to make about african americans without losing his job. Plenty of other examples that I could share but that’s not the point and we all have our experiences. If we’re being honest, we’ve all made those mistakes, and we all have something to learn about this. So let’s be sure the target here isn’t big bad white people.

  31. eugenecho says:

    @kate: thanks for your comment and your kind words of support for me as your pastor and your joy of the community and ministry at quest. i want you to know that i am glad that you and your husband are part of our fellowship and mission. it’s a joy to be your pastor.

    as to your comment:
    1. you are insulted at which article?
    2. are you insulted that i posted the article as i would assume you know that i didn’t write that article?
    3. are you insulted that i posted the article for engagement and critical discourse?
    4. are you insulted that i allowed comments to take place freely?

    honestly, i’m not quite sure what i did that may have insulted you? maybe it’s simply that you don’t agree with my views – which is course, is completely ok.

    if you say you’ve experienced racism and/or prejudice, i have no reason to doubt you.

    i think many, if not most of us, can agree that racism and prejudice on various levels exists not only in our city but in the larger country.

    in our context, when i speak about racism and ‘white privilege,’ many anglo folks get offended because they tend to think that i’m trying to demonize all anglos. i am simply trying to shed light that while you, i, and other individuals may experience prejudice, there is system of privilege [or systemic racism] that gives power, benefit, and inherent privilege to those who are anglos/white.

    i’m not sure if you’re implying or directly saying that i wrote the blog entry to specifically call out white people or to call all white people racists. if you’re asking a question, it was intended for everyone as i believe that every single person is capable of prejudice and racism. but i’m also not afraid to engage the conversation of ‘white privilege’ on a larger systemic level because we have to talk about power.

    as for the sushi comment, i really have no idea what that’s about. i simply said ‘sushi is my kryptonite’ and i stand by that comment.

    @ian: you’re doing fine. thanks for engaging. as i wrote in my entry today, it’s a tiring and confusing conversation – and while there are some safety nets to do so ‘online,’ there’s also another web of confusion and misunderstandings.

    if you’ve sensed that vibe here and on the other post, i don’t really know what to say. i can’t speak for “internal deficiency and bias” that you’re referring to because i’m not sure what that means. i just know that the human heart is bent towards sin and depravity and we are all susceptible to ugly things.

    racism is present. i’ve met many people who don’t think it exists or can’t acknowledge that while we can’t come to specifics, there’s a structure of power and privilege in place. it was present in the days before christ, during christ, and certainly after christ and as folks informed and transformed by the gospel, we’re instructed to turn things upside down towards the shalom that God intended.

    while this may sound severe to some or played off as me playing ‘victim,’ there’s not a week that goes by when i am not reminded that i am ‘an other.’ just last week, there was [likely] a 4th or 5th grader, that walked past me and called me a chink. i’m a grown man and i’ve learned to not mess with a 5th grader but it pains me much to see this happen to my kids.

    try to check out the face and race classes. but i’ll warn you, you won’t enjoy it because most of the participants that come out are ‘people of color’ and there’s a lot of pain that they share. it’s not that you don’t have pain but i would encourage you to just listen.

  32. Andy M says:

    I grew up in a small-town in a church where “feed the poor” means bake cookies to send to the couple of college students that came from that church. When it came to the people in town who we could actually say was poor, in poverty or whatever, it was always left to the assumption that if they really needed help, they would just do it themselves. So if they didn’t do it themselves, then they were just lazy, or a sad story, or whatever.

    Essentially, it was an attempt to find any excuse not to take initiative to be a part of that person’s life. If anybody did ever help someone else, it was usually an arrogant gesture showing how good they were to take care for that poor loser.

    If you were to ask them whether they felt they were helping to poor, they would have said “Yes.” They just couldn’t see the difference. It isn’t to say that they were mean-spirited or anything like that, I believe they really think they are doing what Jesus would want them to do, it just wasn’t their business to help some people, or it wasn’t within their realm of capability, like waiting for God to act in that person’s life but until then…

    I think that this is similar to the race issue. Segregation and discrimination, in my perspective, is not usually obvious like it used to be, (of course sometimes it is obvious, but not usually), it is underlying and unseen, but present. People don’t see obvious displays of racism, so they justify their indifference or ignorance by thinking about how they don’t say racist things or how they think they don’t treat people of other races differently. All the while ignoring the ways we are segregated socially and politically, the ways the criminal justice systems discriminate by class and race, the ways our education systems favor the middle and upper classes while ignoring the lower class of people.

    I would bet that if we were to compare how much attention two different schools, a middle or upper class and a lower class, would receive if there were, God forbid, to be a school shooting in each of them. I would bet that there would be nationwide coverage on TV about the middle to upper class school with people crying, “How could this happen?”, while the lower class school would get mentioned on the sideline of the news essentially implying that they are not really all that surprised that there was such an act of violence at “that” school.

    Racism is alive and well, and we have to learn to see it in the deeply hidden parts of our social, political, and economic structures.

    Some people want to argue that racism is gone because we elected Barack Obama as President. Now don’t get me wrong, because his election does signal a giant event in terms of racism and equality and I am proud that our country has come to a place where we can elect a black President. But how much of the election had to do with the fact that many, many people were desperate to get away from anyone who had anything in common with George Bush?

    I have had to learn how to see the underlying currents in our society, and I could be incorrect in my statements, but I believe that we need to learn to see the things that are harder to see and usually harder to deal with. We need to confront these issues instead of pretending they aren’t there. We need to not be afraid of taking the difficult road that will lead us away from racism and class divisions.

  33. Hey Eugene- By internal deficiency or bias, I meant that I’m getting the vibe both in comments here and in your ‘racism and reconciliation’ post (and especially that NYT op Ed that was linked) that, if folks are not viewing the race struggle to be as severe or serious as you or another might characterize it to be, then it’s because they are full of bias or some other problem like cowardice, fear, denial etc. While you are absolutely correct that we all have to deal with the ugliness of our sin, I think it’s offensive to say that this racial disconnect is always due to sin. We all have different experiences, and those very personal journeys paint the race perspective for us. And that is why those with less exposure need to hear (as you said) and understand the stories of others, and why others need to share, rather than just reiterate that racism is bad.

    Your personal example of the exchange between you and a 4th to 5th grader is appaling. I am amazed and saddened that you experience that level of racism so frequently. That’s the kind of stuff that is very helpful to hear about, because it’s a clear demonstration of the nature of the problem we’re still facing.

    thanks for the reply, man.

  34. Andy M says:

    All racial disconnect is due to sin. I’m not sure how it could be offensive to think so. Does it mean that if I have racial prejudice against someone else that it was all my sin that produced it? No, it could have been ingrained in me from my parents, society, or somewhere else, but it is still sin. Just because it didn’t originate with me doesn’t absolve me of guilt, but just because it is from me doesn’t make me the only one guilty.

  35. Andy M- So because I haven’t known first-hand someone else’s tougher experience with racism, and therefore don’t see all the subtle ways that racism exists, that means I have sinned? Please tell me you’re joking or better yet- that you misunderstood me. Actually I think you did, as you’re categorizing “disconnect” as immediate racism, prejudice etc. I am not saying that we are not individually responsible for our individual prejudices (so we agree), but that the disconnect (differences in understanding) is due to PERSPECTIVE and not always a guilt/sin/moral neglect issue, and we should be careful before saying “those who don’t see racism the way I do are missing it because they are [insert something negative].”

  36. Andy M says:

    That is a fairly good question, because I believe there are connections between many things that we do not see or understand.

    As an example, if you, having not really experienced or known racism, don’t see how racism affects the world, does it mean you have sinned? No, not directly at least, but it does have to be asked why couldn’t you see the problem? It could be said that if you do not see the problem, it is because sin has, in a sense, broken the way we see the world. You are unable to see it, because sin has clouded your sight.

    I believe that if we truly were not at all affected by sin, we would see every injustice for what it is, regardless of personal experience, or perspective. Sin is darkness, and darkness hides, but the light and truth of God shows everything for what it is.

  37. eugenecho says:

    i think it’s important to distinguish personal sin and capital ‘S’ Sin

    as christians, we believe in “Sin.” it is because of ‘S’in that there’s something not entirely right with our world. i think we shouldn’t hold back in citing that Sin has led to such things as racism, slavery, human trafficking, exploitation, etc…

    as for personal sin, we obviously need to examine our own lives. i know that for myself, i often exculpate myself because i don’t DO certain things but wonder if my silence – for example with human trafficking is a part of my disobedience as a follower of Christ.

    and sometimes, i just don’t know because well, i don’t know. it’s hard for me to live out of my own experiences. for many years, i just didn’t quite grasp the ‘uphill’ battle that women went through and i’m sure i still don’t but hearing, reading, and seeing their stories kind of opened my eyes.

    andy/ian: i think you guys are saying similar things but approaching it from different angles.

    i really need to get some work done…

  38. Andy M says:

    I think I am guilty of doing something I often do, which is think universally when other people are talking about more local things. I tend to see the big picture before I see much else (curse/gift?), so when we talk about sin, I go to the part about how sin has infected and shattered the way God intended the world to be, as a whole. But this tendancy of mine isn’t helpful in many discussions.

    and Eugene, please don’t let me keep you from your work.

  39. Thank you Eugene- your reply is pretty much exactly what I’ve been wanting to hear from someone here.

    To Andy M and Eugene: with some slight variations, we are all getting at the same thing now. What a relief (I was pretty concerned not to have heard this from anyone earlier in the discussion). Thanks to both of you for talking it out with me.

  40. csy says:

    “nation of cowards”? Perhaps Mr. Holder or those who agree with his statement could tell us another nation on this planet that’s braver about dealing with racism than the U.S. That way, we American “cowards” can have a shining model that’s got race figured out better than us that we can look up to and emulate. Anybody?

  41. Andy M says:

    There may or may not be such an example, but do we only wish to judge ourselves by a comparison to others? That will make some things easy, since we would only have to be better than some other countries. Imagine a conversation like this, one person says, “We have a civil rights problem in America!” and another person just says, “But we don’t need to worry about it because at least we are better than China!”

    We may be the most progressive country when it comes to things like this, but that does not mean that we should not continue to progress forward.

    And his language is strong, but in a country full of apathy and indifference, strong rhetoric is sometimes all you can do to get people’s attention.

  42. Andy M says:

    There may or may not be such an example, but do we only wish to judge ourselves by a comparison to others? That will make some things easy, since we would only have to be better than some other countries. Imagine a conversation like this, one person says, “We have a civil rights problem in America!” and another person just says, “But we don’t need to worry about it because at least we are better than China!”

    We may be the most progressive nation in these kinds of issues, but that doesn’t mean we should not keep making progress.

    And his language is strong, but sometimes strong rhetoric is all you can do to catch people’s attention in a nation full of apathy and indifference.

  43. Andy M says:

    Sorry about the double post. I tried it once, it didn’t seem to work, I waited several minutes, and checked several times to see if it posted it, and it hadn’t, so I tried it again. Then it shows itself. Very irritating, sorry.

  44. csy says:

    Andy M — I’m not saying “compare-ourselves-to-nations-doing-it-WORSE-so-we-don’t-need-to-worry-about-doing-anything”. On the contrary, I’m saying let’s compare ourselves to who’s doing it BETTER, so we can learn from them and hence better ourselves. There’s nothing wrong with *that*, is there? The way I hear it, Holder’s strong rhetoric implies that the U.S. is not as good as some other nations, since no other national leaders I know refer to their nation as “cowards” re: racism. So if we are indeed a nation of cowards, then why not show us the nation of bravehearts we can all emulate? But if those better nations don’t exist, then as a public figure, I think Holder needs to steer his rhetoric away from such unhelpful hyperbole (btw, I consider phrases like Bush’s “axis of evil” and Reagan’s “evil empire” as unhelpful hyperbole, too). My intent was to call Holder’s words out for their vague abstractness by demanding more specifics geared toward a solution.

    I echo elderj….I don’t think we are a nation of cowards when it comes to race. I think the U.S. concerns itself today with the races of its citizens WAY more than any other nation in the world. We’re not perfect about it, true, but we do have much to be proud of. We’ve come a long way, baby (and I say this as an Asian who’s heard my share of “chink”, “where are you REALLY from”, “go back home” comments over the years….and not just from white people). I totally agree we can always add to the progress on top of the progress we’ve made. But Holder’s rhetoric, in spite being made by the first black AG working for the first black president, suggests we’ve made NO progress at all. Maybe that wasn’t his intent, but that’s how it came across to me.

    In my experiences, when we don’t talk about race, it’s more out of fatigue than fear. Calling us all “cowards” after all so many of us have been trying to achieve over the years compounds that fatigue, quite frankly. Instead of inspiring and igniting, it demoralizes, discourages, and confuses. Instead of blanketly denigrating a entire nation for cowardice, Holder could identify specifics on where he sees things are broken today race-wise so we know what tangibly needs fixing. That, IMO, would be much more helpful and responsible. Talking about race IS hard work because words have to be well-thought-out and carefully chosen….a labor-intensive endevour prone to, yes, fatigue. Holder, IMO, didn’t do that with his “nation-of-cowards” remark.

  45. Andy M says:

    I would say this comes down to a difference in opinion, because I see no reason to imply from his words that there are “better” nations. I just don’t see it. And just because no other national leaders use that kind of language it does not mean that it isn’t true. Is a leader’s nation as good as the leader says it is? I appreciate honesty over political correctness. I would rather have someone be blunt about the truth, then tell us that it’s all O.K. when things really aren’t that great.

    I agree that if there are nations that have dealt with the race issue in productive ways, then yes, absolutely lets learn from them. I actually believe there is much we can learn from various people around the world.

    I also don’t see any implication in his word’s that there has been NO progress at all. And I would be think that he didn’t mean to imply such a thing. Honestly, I think we are cowards, because as a people we don’t really want to deal with hard issues, whether it be race, poverty, or various other things. People as a whole don’t look to find the best solutions, they go from their most basic assumptions and stick to it, ignoring anything that challenges their way of thinking, whether they are correct or incorrect. It takes years, decades, sometimes centuries for society to change the way they see the world.

    Part of the reason I have no problem with him calling us a nation of cowards is because it is so easy to get comfortable with how far we Have come, and we stop pressing forward. It is easy to get comfortable, thinking that we’ve reached the destination, but we haven’t, we still have a long ways to go.

    Maybe he shouldn’t have used that kind of language, maybe it isn’t helpful. We’ll see. But whether it is helpful or not, I don’t doubt that it is right.

    But as I said, some of this will be difference in opinion.

  46. csy says:

    You ask “Is a leader’s nation as good as the leader says it is?” I presume this question is rhetorical, leading to the answer “No”, which I agree. But consider the converse i.e. “Is a leader’s nation as *bad* as the leader says it is?” I would say “No” there as well. Although things aren’t perfect race-wise, I don’t agree that it’s as bad as Holder says. The non-PC bluntness of Holder’s rhetoric does not necessarily make it truth, or even honest for that matter. I’m wondering if Holder himself is going, as you say, from “his most basic assumptions, sticking to it, ignoring anything that challenges his way of thinking, correct or incorrect”? Tendencies towards basic assumptions go both ways….neither side monopolizes it. And for the race conversation to have any value, the challenges to such basic assumptions should go both ways as well.

    Call me optimistic, but I don’t think it’ll take centuries or even decades for societies to change the way they see the world. We can thank the Internet for that. The racial missteps of the likes of Miley Cyrus, Michael Richards, Jesse Jackson, Ray “Chocolate City” Nagin, Al Campanis, Jimmy the Greek, and Fuzzy Zoeller are but mouse clicks away for all the world to see and respond to.

  47. Andy M says:

    Optimism is good, but history is against your optimism, internet or not. The rate of change in the world is speeding up, but what is speeding up? Has humanity really progressed as much as we usually think, or have we only progressed in particular ways and possibly regressed in others. Some would say that we have only found more efficient ways of killing each other.

    Anyway, maybe things aren’t quite as bad as he implied, but there is one aspect of the issue that may have influenced him towards saying what he did. I would say that many people in this country believe that racism is, for the most part, no longer a problem. Because of all of the “progress”, and the fact that blatant racism is fairly rare, most people assume that it just is not a part of our society anymore, or at least “they” have nothing to do with it if it is. So he said what he did in order to catch people’s attention, to get them talking about what he said, for or against.

    Again, maybe he shouldn’t have said it, maybe it isn’t all that helpful, but I see no strong reason that he shouldn’t have.

    Now if he starts turning every issue into an issue of race, then I will think there is something a bit off in his priorities, but that is for the future to show us.

  48. csy says:

    Our country has abolished slavery, granted voting rights to women and minorities, done away with gov’t-sanctioned segregation in schools, buses, diners, sports leagues, military, bathrooms, media, etc., and increased minority representation in media and gov’t. over the past 100 years….a pretty positive, upward historical trend that looks cause for optimism to me. But since you don’t see that it that way and even refer to it as “progress” in quotes, how much worse do you think our history’s going to get?

    Bringing up “technological efficiency in killing” is a bit of a non sequitur. I’m referring to the Internet’s instantaneous ability to grant folks like you and me the potential to influence others in the corners of our world from the comfort of our own homes, a power once held only by media elite. That’s unprecedented, don’t you think? I mean, look at how newspapers are failing all around us. Personal blogs and YouTube videos are more and more making news, not just the other way around. The world’s ability to expose and be exposed to more different ideas and individual experiences at our convenience and connect disparate societies across oceans instantaneously is bound to have great impact on those societies in the foreseeable future. The folks I mentioned earlier such as Miley Cyrus, Michael Richards, Jesse Jackson, etc….they’re getting RAKED over the coals in the public arena, thanks to media and the Internet. And their foibles will stay on the Internet for as long as the Internet lives, influencing people’s opinions of them and eventually their conduct and those who follow them long into the future. That kind of shame is a hugely powerful behavior modifier.

    You admit racism is less blatant than before, which is true. And because it’s less blatant, it’ll require a LOT more work to convince the public-at-large that it’s still as big a problem today than it was 40-50 years ago. To arouse public reaction productively, those believing it still is that big a problem have to give that problem better definition and tangible specifics….and today’s race conversations that stress the “institutional, systemic” nature of today’s racism woefully lack that, IMO. Today’s race conversations start from the abstract, whereas the race issues of decades before didn’t. There are no more white-only bus seats to brazenly move into or images of “whites-only” diner signs or a disfigured body of a 21st-century Emmett Till that’ll galvanize a collective into action like decades before, even with the Internet. It’s realy tough to rally the public-at-large around invisible, unseen abstractions. So if you have to work that hard to find racism today, then as elderj said, most people, except for a few elite on the top of Maslow’s hierarchy, don’t have the time/energy for that. It’s labor-intensive and, yes, fatiguing.

  49. Andy M says:

    Honestly this could go back and forth forever. This discussion has pretty much come down to two sides, one more “optimistic” I guess you could say, and one more skeptical. I have the odd position while I am hopeful and wish for the world to change, my opinions are led by the long history of the human race that leans towards self-destruction.

    As far as the internet goes, while it is wonderful in many ways, allowing faster distribution of information, it is also a curse, as now everybody is an expert on everything and can share their misinformation all over the world at the touch of a button.

    And as for your last sentence, so if racism is hard to see, it either must not exist, or we just can’t be bothered with it?

    Racism isn’t quite that hard to find, it just isn’t as easy to make a media spectacle of it. Look at poverty levels between races, incarceration rates between races, etc. There is an inequality.

  50. csy says:

    Of course this could go back and forth for a while. Did you think any serious debate about racism would be resolved over a dozen comments on an obscure blog? Or perhaps you’re realizing just how such a discussion could be so fatiguing (as I sense you’re becoming)?

    Yes, I am optimistic. Some of us, like our president, do have “the audacity of hope”. Adopting a pessimism like yours is anathema to such hope. And as long as you present no specifics as to how the American history of race is getting worse, not better, I have no compelling reason to adopt your pessimism.

    Which begs the question: if “how racism is seen” just comes down to matters of opinion, why bother then trying to change anyone’s views about it? Why bother trying to “catch people’s attention and shake out apathy and indifference” with rhetoric like Holder’s? Why don’t we all just do as the Quran would say, “To you be your way, and to me mine”? But I, for one, do think it’s worth the time to debate this. Do you? Am I not one of the “cowards” whom you’d like to persuade (along with any other “cowards” who may happen upon this thread) to see racism the way you see it? Wouldn’t that help your cause? Or would you rather not be bothered?

    So what do you consider “misinformation” on the Internet? Anything that doesn’t see racism the way you do? So do you wish such “misinformation” would all just go away? Or perhaps it’s just too fatiguing to convince people like me to see racism your way? You seem to think opposing points of view shared “all over the world at the touch of a button” as a curse….so do you support censorship of opposing views?

    You said, “so if racism is hard to see, it either must not exist, or we just can’t be bothered with it?” Really, does your pessimism keep you from seeing more than just those options? As I mentioned earlier, why not consider the option that you work all the more harder to make the unseen racism seen? Or is this (at the risk of repeating myself) just too fatiguing an endeavour? I’m really wondering whether *you’re* the one who just can’t be bothered with the hard work of making unseen racism seen.

    “Media spectacle”…a curious choice of words to describe what today’s racism needs in order to be seen. Reality TV is more worthy of the description “media spectacle”, not the brave racism-busting activities of Rosa Parks, Medger Evers, and MLK. At any rate, thanks to things like YouTube, it’s easier than ever to bring the hidden out into the light….to make “spectacle” of it, as you put it. Look what the Rodney King video, taken by an ordinary bystander, brought to the national conversation about race….and all without YouTube! So why not use the Internet to post compelling visuals of the so-called racism-based poverty and injustices you see to convince us of your views on racism? Or is that too much work to be bothered?

    “Looking at poverty levels between races, incarceration rates between races, etc.” makes me wonder how this is different than looking at the dominance of a particular minority group (and it ain’t Asian) in American pro sports. People consider it racist to comment out loud and make race-based conclusions on the latter, but not the former. Why? We can “look” all we want at racial disparities in all parts of society, but does such “looking” tell us anything specific about the actual, underlying systems you believe are causing it? Again, to progress towards real solutions, we must get beyond such vagaries and start analyzing it deeper….otherwise, we’re just punching at air. One good start would be to name actual names of persons, companies, and institutions you believe are at fault within these so-called racist systems (and THAT takes courage, IMO). At least then we have something concrete to work with.

    I’ve lived more than 10 years in an inner-city apartment sharing walls and ceilings with impoverished families, none of them white. At the beginning, I might’ve blamed their plights on systemic racial inequities. But after knowing, eating, playing, interacting, and working with many of them, I’ve concluded that an outside system of racism plays a lesser factor in their poverty than other things that are more within their power to change. Recognizing and dealing with those controllable factors gives the poverty-stricken a hope and a realistic sense of empowerment; waiting around for an unseen, unobvious, unnamed system to change does not (especially when you can’t adequately shine light on it in order to change it).

    I also work for a homeless shelter and have noticed that a huge percentage of the men, women, and children served there are white. In the context of the comments made about white-powered racism, all I can say is — a fat lot of good the “system of white privilege” did for them.

  51. Andy M says:

    Regarding my “lack of specifics”, since these are comments towards an initial post, I wasn’t aware that I was expected to make the official case of racism, listing out all of the specifics and details so that I can irrefutably prove myself right, or whatever. Sorry if that is what you wanted, but I’m sure you could find that either on the internet, in books, whatever.

    Personally I don’t think that I am pessimistic. Optimism should always be bound with realism, the two go together or else you end up floating around on clouds oblivious to the problems around you. I am optimistic about people, because they can often surprise you, and there are many beautiful things that people have done that are inspiring and wonderful. But I also know that human history is bloody, and I don’t agree with the Enlightenment’s assumption that we are progressing. The bloodiest and nastiest wars in history have happened within the last century. My only real way to simplify this from my thoughts is this: I know and believe that people can choose to be good, stop lying cheating, stealing, murdering, etc. But I’m not going to be surprised when they do those things.

    Considering Youtube, it might be really easy to put important things on the internet with it, but then it is also right beside all the crap videos of UFO’s, Bigfoot, and who knows what else. That is the problem with the internet, is it legitimizes everything that people put on it. Somehow, in people’s minds, things said on the internet have authority, like things in newspapers are supposed to have authority. Kind of like in the movie “The Incredibles” where he points out that “and when everyone’s Super, no one is”. If everyone is legitimate, then nobody is legitimate. I don’t support censorship, but you have to be realistic about the effect that the internet has.

    My “media spectacle” comment, was more about how our culture today only sees the blatant, obvious things while ignoring the underlying problems. The media has a strong incentive these days to report the outrageous, because it sells. And if there isn’t anything outrageous, then they make something outrageous. People are very desensitized to the smaller things that tend to make a large difference. Again, as for Holder’s comment, maybe it was his way of catching people’s attention, and maybe it was not the best thing to say. That is up to your opinion.

    I don’t think it is a good comparison between Pro sports and incarceration rates. Interesting topic though. There is no doubt a great deal of talent, but thinking about a more local point of view, how many kids in that minority group have the expectation placed upon them that the only way that they can make it in life is to either make it into pro sports and/or be a gangster rapper? And these days those two aren’t too far from each other. I knew a kid whose parents placed pro sports expectations on him, all he ever thought about was playing sports, and he ended up flunking out of college (was amazing he got accepted into college). He didn’t have the talent to continue in sports, and because of the expectations laid upon him, he didn’t care about anything but that.

    Now there are differences in the expectations of family and the expectations of the culture. Of course not all African-American families are going to have this expectation, but the culture sure does. For the most part, the strongest representation for them in society is through sports and the rap gangster image. The latter being one most likely to land them in prison. Bad comparison, interesting correlation.

    And the only other thing to say about pro sports is, honestly, if people of a minority happen to just simply have more sports talent than the majority, that is about talent and skill, not race. The kind of equality that we strive for in this country is not uniformity.

    As far as your experience in the inner-city. It is interesting to me, and if I see and hear about more experiences like yours all around the country, then I will be more persuaded. But it leads me to questions, what city are you in, what are the economic, social, and historical factors that would have played into all of it? Without knowing more specifics it is hard to understand fully. And to be honest, one of the problems that can come from being “privileged” is that we have the choice to completely destroy ourselves. And another question, those people you have interacted with, if it is within their reach to change, then why don’t they?

    Now, I love and fully believe in grass-roots movements, and I believe that that is the true way to really change the country, but that isn’t what we are talking about. We are talking about systemic injustice, essentially whether it exists or not. I believe that it does exist, and you (as far as I can tell) do not. So my question is why don’t these people change if they can? Is it education? Is it that they just don’t want to? Social factors? Economic factors? If we are looking at this from a political leader’s perspective, what would our responsibility be to help those people?

    I have never said that we are to just sit around waiting for the system to change for our benefit. We have been talking specifically about systemic injustice, so that is what I have been commenting on. If people know and believe that they can change their circumstances and just simply choose not to, well that is something else. But I don’t believe that is the truth in most situations. I think that there are other factors that keep people from succeeding. Think about it, regardless of race, if poverty is simply affected by their own choices, then why help them? They chose their way. Isn’t that they American ideal, we can live as we choose? Well they chose it. But what if they don’t always choose their way? What if there are other factors that keep them in poverty? That would be a different thing altogether, and a politicians job is to work for the benefit of those people, removing those barriers.

    My responsibility as a Christian is to have relationships with those people, help them, and do what we can to show injustice for what it is, a politican’s responsibility is to create a just beneficial system for those people. The roles are different. But again, because our starting point for this conversation was political and systemic, that is where I began, if we had been talking solely about personal responsibility and how people can learn to help themselves, then it would have been a different conversation, probably with it’s own disagreements.

    Now, I have serious doubts that we are going to come to an agreement on this, and to be honest I’m not sure you have understood anything I have written so far, given your response to my last comments. And maybe I wasn’t articulate enough, I don’t know. So I don’t believe I will be commenting again on this thread. I don’t think that that the whole discussion of racism would be solved quickly and easily, but what I am saying is that us two battling it out on some other guys blog isn’t going to do much. Like what often happens with these comments on blogs, it ends up that nobody can agree on everything and everything that people say ends up getting misread. If it were possible to have a more constructive face to face conversation then I would be interested. I would like to learn more about your experiences, but us going back and forth on this blog like this I don’t think is constructive. I’ve done that before, and it led to a few years of not looking at discussion boards or blogs.

    If I am fatigued, it isn’t fatigue at the topic at hand, it is fatigue of the pure fact that I think this conversation has crossed the threshold of being helpful to being pointless. You and I have had the last 9, and with this one 10, posts! And this comment ended up much longer than I had figured on. Everybody else has gone on, and you and I are just going back and forth. If anybody else considered this a healthy discussion, they would probably join in, or still be commenting, but they aren’t.

    You might say that this is me wimping out or whatever, and if that is your opinion then so be it, I don’t really have time to spend arguing endlessly on the internet with someone I’ve never met. I like discussions not arguments.

    Oh, and just to point out, what happened to Rodney King happened in 1991, Youtube wasn’t created until 2005. That was all on TV, not the internet. And to continue this line of thought, everything in the Civil Rights Movement happened long before the internet, and I would assume given the social climate at the time, limited exposure on TV (obviously not absent, but limited), though I could definately be wrong about that, I wasn’t alive at the time.

    Andy M.

    “The thing I hate about an argument is that it always interrupts a discussion.”
    G.K. Chesterton

  52. […] week, I shared a post entitled “a nation of cowards” and asked if we’re indeed cowards when it comes to the conversation of racism and the […]

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stuff, connect, info

One Day’s Wages

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Jesus came during the darkest hour, bringing hope and light. Even in times of apparent silence, God is not absent. God is at work. God is not yet done.


Reflecting back on my first visit to the Holy Lands couple years ago with a friend to learn the stories from both Israel and Palestine. Staff retreat. A day of visioning, connecting, and dreaming. Grateful for these sisters and brothers that give and pour out so much for the glory of God. Thank you, team...and thank you, Lord! Oh, how I miss the @qcafe. I haven't been the same since... God often leads us on journeys we would never go on...if it were up to us. 
Don't be afraid.
Take courage.
Have faith.
Trust God. .
Hope is not that God guarantees us a life of ease, bliss, and perfection but that in all seasons, trials, and circumstances...God is with us.

This is our hope.
Truly, Jesus is our Hope. Woohoo! The #ChristmasLights are up in the Cho family home!!! And I just lied.

These lights are from our brief trip to #Vancouver, BC for Thanksgiving.

Our kids often ask why we don't do big Christmas lights and decorations. I tell them that it's because they eat so much and I have to pay the electricity bills. They then roll their eyes. Yes, I'm a great dad.

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