White people are not more likely to die at the hands of police

There is a lot of miscomprehension of data going on as it relates to police killings of unarmed citizens in America, especially in relation to race. Time to clear some things up. I keep seeing many white people posting things like “more white people have been killed by police than black people”. In saying so, they seem to assume that they have magically dismantled the whole reason why #BlackLivesMatter exists. Of course it does no such thing. While that simple fact is true, clearly people are not taking any time to think about basic demographic proportions in the United States when making their statements. A little less repetition of conservative media quips and a lot more openness and a true desire to seek understanding can go a long way. Here is where that basic math course available in college, you know, “practical math for life” or something like that, can help us all.

So, 578 white Americans were killed by police in 2015. To understand the actual meaning of this number we must remember that white people are over 60 percent of the American population. BUT 578 white fatalities, while still a problem, only represents 50% of the 1136 total killings of Americans at the hands of police in 2015. That means white people are disproportionately not being killed. They are actually significantly underrepresented in police fatalities. If things were spread out equally they would make up 60% of the total deaths by police not 50%. So yes, in whole numbers there are more white people that have died at the hands of police than anyone else but each individual white person is less likely to die at the hands of police than an individual black person.

For example, black people are only 13 percent of the population and yet they make up over 26% of the people who were killed by police in 2015. This means, for those that are not math inclined, they are ridiculously over-represented in police fatalities. Look at the chart below. Yes, white people have a higher number of fatalities, but as the largest racial demographic group that is expected. What we must keep track of is the proportions, which you can do by looking at the “difference” in the chart. You will see that these numbers make all the difference.

Screen Shot 2016-01-20 at 12.13.21 PM

 

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The time for justice is now: November 12, 2014 at Freedom Plaza in Washington D.C. at 12:30 p.m

Brothers and Sisters, the time for justice and truth to break loose in our society has always been right now. We cannot afford to merely remember the courageous actions and words of our heroes of the past like Martin Luther King Jr. and Ida B. Wells, we must embody the spirit of that struggle of love and hope, but for our time and in solidarity with this new emerging movement of justice that is clashing with the death-dealing powers that keep crushing the most vulnerable. We are called to speak up for those that have no one to champion them. The truth right now is that Black people are being killed on the street without consequence. The rise of executions of unarmed black people, and the equally alarming silence of the Church that claims to worship the Unarmed and Executed One, is a sign that we have lost sight of our calling to stand in solidarity with the victims of state dominance.

However, it is never too late to repent from our alignment and complicity with the very evil forces of worldly power & state violence that crucified Jesus, and we can now instead participate in the life-giving, mercy-filled, and justice practicing, way of Jesus. And for those that are in the DC area, you are in luck, because my friend Ched Myers pointed me towards an important protest that is happening on Wednesday, 11/12/14 in your area!  Here’s your opportunity to walk humbly with God along with masses of people who are willing to speak truthfully to our society about who we have become, and how we can actually begin to be a just and righteous people. Check it out:

“We can’t all be in Ferguson but we can be in DC!”

“When future generations of Black children ask, ‘where were Black people during state sanctioned murders and why did it take root, what will you say?’ When future generations of White progressive youth ask White progressives, ‘where were you when they moved on Black people… why did you let it take root?’ What will White progressives say? When future generations of Latino children ask, ’where were you when they moved on our community and the Black community?’ What will Latinos say? When future generations of lesbian and gay children ask, ‘where were you when the police murdered members of our community, most of whom were Black?’ What will you say? These are the questions of today. Where are you standing? Did you ignore the issues because the largest numbers of state sanctioned murders are of Black people?”

“As state sanctioned murders reach an unprecedented high and creep up in all communities throughout the nation, where will you say you stood in the face of this militarized state killing machine? Stand is an action verb. As for me and the SpiritHouse Project, history will show a clear and dedicated commitment to breaking the silence on modern day lynching. Our history shows, that even in the face of insurmountable odds as a small organization, we stand on the right side of history when we convene a national memorial service on Nov. 12, 2014 at Freedom Plaza at 12:30pm in Washington, DC for the 1000 Black people murdered by police since 2007.”

“1000 murdered victims by the police make it clear that this is not relegated to sporadic crimes against a few individuals. Rather, when we call the names of the 1000 Black dead, it is clear that state sanctioned murders go beyond sporadic murders of individual Black people. State sanctioned murders target and profile entire communities.”

“We are clearly in the grips of an American epidemic predicated on racism and state violence. Unless we halt the spread of this epidemic, history will write that good people remained silent and failed to act. Nov. 12th is an opportunity to act. We cannot all be in Ferguson, but we can be in DC!”

For more details of the protest please click here. Let’s stand in solidarity with those that have been murdered and collectively say “No more”!

(Fixed Link) New Christian Century Post : Navigating the waters of post-Christendom visions

“for, between the Christianity of this land, and the Christianity of Christ, I recognize the widest, possible difference—so wide that to receive the one as good, pure, and holy, is of necessity to reject the other as bad, corrupt, and wicked.” (Frederick Douglass, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass)

It seems like everywhere you go Christians in one way or another are talking about Christendom. Actually, the word being used most is post-Christendom. At the turn of the 21st century we are still in the cloudy shadows of a post-everything society. Postcolonial. Postmodern. Post-Christendom. In most cases, there is no agreement about what exactly is to come. Postmodern thinkers, for example, do not have one agreed upon theory that they are all working out of. The only thing they can agree to is that modernity and its tools of reasoning have failed to deliver what it promised. Similarly, most postcolonial thinkers do not think we have really fully left colonialism behind, and so the future form is still merely pencil sketches. It is no surprise then that there isn’t consensus on what it means for us to be going through a post-Christendom shift in western society.

DIFFERENTIATING POST-CHRISTENDOM VISIONS
As I write this, I can imagine at least three different ways that people broadly use the term post-Christendom. I am going to risk being overly simplistic and brief, in what could potentially be a book given the topic, but I hope to differentiate these positions some, so that there is clarity around what exactly is being said. The challenge with words is that people can use the very same words and yet mean or imply different things. I for one have found the language of Christendom and post-Christendom helpful at times, but not always congruent with other people that might think we are sharing concerns. Hopefully with just a little more clarity around our disposition towards Christendom itself, we can create more appropriate partnerships and alliances as our trajectories align. Likewise, we might find that some partnerships indeed have been faulty and must be dissolved because of conflicting goals. Lastly, I might also add that though I am sketching three approaches, my goal here is not to do so in a manner that advocates for some ‘halfsies’ middle ground and mediating position between the two radical stances, as some are prone to do. Those hierarchical power games that sketch an artificial center from which one just happens to find themselves in every discrepancy, is not only convenient, but it is deceptive as well. That said, I can’t promise that my descriptions are fair or objective, in the sense that those that hold to them will probably differ some on the descriptions. You are welcome and encouraged to descriptively elaborate your own position in the comments if you would like.

THE LAMENTED SHIFT
There are some that talk about post-Christendom shifts as a dreaded moment in Christian history. For this community Christendom is the way things ought to be. The Church is supposed to control and encompass all of society. That Christianity should be expressed seamlessly from the top-down, through every institution, political body, and social entity, is common sense. Christendom is good. If that is the case then the possibility that we are entering a post-Christendom era is a terrible thing. It is a failure of the Church and a sign that our society is currently on a steady decline. These advocates of Christendom lament that we are losing power and influence in society. Given that this undesirable reality is out of control, the understanding is that we must prepare ourselves for this new grim context that is on the horizon.

THE OPPORTUNISTIC SHIFT
While some want to hold on to the 1950s era, when Christianity still seemed to dominate the landscape, others have been much more skeptical and have readily been inviting this new context. For them Christendom involved a series of co-options, diversions, and missteps for the Church. That was unfortunate in their eyes, but hey, they can see more clearly now, and they can identify how exactly the Church failed in the Christendom era, to live up to its name. It merged with state and governing powers too much. The Church confused the gospel with western culture too much. And it lost a sense of distinctiveness as a Church community. Rather than be sent out, it called people to come in. Rather than disciple people it developed powerful institutions. Rather than yielding to the spirit it yielded to capitalistic and militaristic forces. This group however doesn’t want to judge or take sides against Christendom either, because they are our ancestors and they make mistakes, just as we are likely too. Rather than condemning the past the focus is purely on examining and engaging the new future context, in which a plethora of possibilities reside. These post-Christendom Christians are excited and pumped about jumping ship from the now failing methods of Christendom to the new post-Christendom praxis they are discovering.

THE SHIFT OF LIFE AND DEATH

Finish reading the end of the post here.

Beyond White Privilege (Full text is at “Taking Jesus Seriously”

(Reminder: My blog home has moved. However, here is the first half of my recent post. The link to the full article can be found at the bottom of the post. Don’t forget to add my new blog home “Taking Jesus Seriously” to your RSS feed to keep up, which can easily be done from my new home page on Christian Century.)

Speaking about race and racism generically hasn’t done anyone any good. Though white men dominate and control an unjustly disproportionate part of the church’s leadership, face, and voice, many white men in the church and broader society also are the quickest to cry “reverse-racism” and at the slightest mention of racial inequities, many have dismissed concerns as merely “playing the race card”. I would be rich if I got a dollar for every time I had a white man quote Dr. King’s statement about the content of one’s character not the color of one’s skin as the basis for judgment, out of context to me in a way that went against the very logic of the “I Have A Dream” speech, which focused on righting the racial and economic injustices and disparities in America. It seems that the more one is squarely situated in the center of dominant culture, having gained advantage from it, the more likely one is to live in a state of denial in regards to the actual past 400 years, and the continuing white hegemony and racial oppression that pervades our society.

However, people’s beliefs and actions are not determined by race and gender in some fatalistic manner. I’ve known hundreds of white women and men that have opted out of aligning themselves with white dominance, and instead affirm the humanity of all people and have chosen to live lives that resist white hegemony while coming to struggle alongside those that have been most directly impacted by the ungodly racial systems, practices, and beliefs that have morphed and flourished in new and often mischievously subtle ways (though sometimes they have not been so subtle). Regardless, there is a tradition that goes back to slavery up to the present day, of white people challenging racism and oppression, and to not acknowledge those rich and beautiful stories as a parallel narrative to the black determination and struggle for justice and liberation would be a dishonest account of America’s troubled history.

One of the inherited terms that arose along the way that has gotten a lot of mileage in aiding white people to become aware of their own complicity and accommodation to racism is the language of “white privilege”. Basically, through various means of sharing, talking about invisible knapsacks, and confession times, white folks have wrestled with the various ways that the current racial order offers white people in general, and them in particular, certain advantages and privileges as a white person. For some people, this has created a moment of awakening for them. They suddenly looked at their life, built on generations of white advantage. They considered G.I. Bills and Homestead Acts by their ancestors, loans received, opportunities to live where they wanted to, access to social networks that included people of means, and on, and on, it went. White privilege has been the banner and primary rhetoric for engaging white people about racism in America.

However, there have been a lot of challenges to this language, especially highlighting its weaknesses and limitations. I noticed that this issue was revived in the midst of Christians discussing the Michael Brown execution and the protests and demonstrations that followed in Ferguson and around the country. Not only in response to this moment, but in general, I have witnessed the deployment of white privilege ideology in ways that I found not helpful, and at times simply disturbing.

It shouldn’t be surprising though. The idea that telling white people that they have privilege as the solution to fix our racial woes was short sighted and bound to fall short of the radical creative transformation that Christians articulate when we speak of God’s reign breaking into our world. I actually don’t blame white people for messing up. If I were white, and someone told me I had “white privilege”, I don’t think I would necessarily know what to do with that. For some people, they find themselves in a perpetual state of guilt and shame, but never finding a new mode of being. They are mentally stuck within a state of awareness of their white privilege, without a new path forward. Another response that could leave someone stagnant in white privilege is to think about it as a positive. I mean, in America, most citizens want all the privileges they can get. It gets confusing for a culture with such individualistic values, to actually decide that the privileges one has, whether the result of racial inequities or not, is a negative thing. Some might think “good, I’m going to take full advantage of my privileges”!

Read the end of the post here: http://www.christiancentury.org/blogs/archive/2014-09/beyond-white-privilege-modelnbsp

Detailed Instructions (and options) for Watching & Participating in the #MennoNerdsOnRace Event

Please take a moment and read over the instructions to actually participate in the live event on Race, Mutuality, & Anabaptist Community this Thursday. Here are detailed instructions for how to log in when it starts, as well as how to propose questions for the panel. We know many people have not used Google hangouts before so we are making the instructions as plain as possible. There are a couple different options as well that you should be aware of.

Click the link for details:

http://mennonerds.com/joining-the-mennonerds-panel/

A Selection from Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Poem “Who Am I?” – written in 1944 while in prison

Who am I? This man or that other?

Am I then this man today and tomorrow another?

Am I both all at once? An imposter to others,

but to me little more than a whining, despicable weakling?

Does what is in me compare to a vanquished army,

that flees in disorder before a battle already won?

 

Who am I? They mock me these lonely questions of mine.

Whoever I am, you know me, O God. You know I am yours.[1]


[1] Bonhoeffer, Kelly, and Nelson, A Testament to Freedom, 514.

Emptying Whiteness: Engaging In Absurd Christian Social Performance

The reality of whiteness affording privilege in America continues to be a touchy subject in our nation. While many (not all) would agree that minorities are marginalized and discriminated against, somehow the idea of some necessarily being disadvantaged does not automatically translate into privilege for those who enjoy dominant places in American society. The truth is that to be considered white, and to have obtained whiteness in America has always, and continues to offer privileges.  Consider this finding, in which various ethnic minorities went to the courts to legally battle for white status before the law in the early 1900’s.

Court decisions on white status were based on a mix of supposedly scientific criteria and the common understandings of the day, leading to a mess of contradictions. Syrians were deemed white in 1909, 1910, and 1915, but no in 1913 or 1914. Asian Indians won white status in 1910, 1913, 1919, and 1920, but not in 1909, 1917 or after 1923. The persistence of immigrants in suing for whiteness is evidence of the financial and social benefits that came with white status. After all, no one sued to be considered Asian, much less black.[i]

Beyond the absurdity of the fact that the criteria for whiteness was so arbitrary that people went back and forth being deemed white and then once again recognized as a person of color, we must also consider its broader significance.  Very quickly, even in the 1900’s, immigrants realized that there were serious social benefits that went along with being recognized as white in America and therefore they fought for such status in the court room. Whiteness then clearly affords benefits to those who arbitrarily fall into the right side of the haphazard pseudo-scientific racialization of people groups.

Now if race is a racial construct, which has the sole purpose of racially dividing society to benefit some while disadvantaging others, then whiteness from a Christian perspective must be dealt with. To be European, is to talk about one’s ethnos, a people group and ethnicity recognized by God. To be White, however, is to embrace and utilize man-made racial hegemony and social domination. Whiteness equals oppressive societal positioning. Following Christ however, necessitates a rejection of privilege and oppressive lifestyles. Remember what Paul said:

You should have the same attitude toward one another that Christ Jesus had, who though he existed in the form of God did not regard equality with God as something to be grasped, but emptied himself by taking on the form of a slave, by looking like other men, and by sharing in human nature. He humbled himself, by becoming obedient to the point of death – even death on a cross! (Philippians 2:5-8)[ii]

For the Christian, an emptying of whiteness and a taking on the form of marginality is a necessary social performance that must be enacted to faithfully have the same attitude that Jesus had. The fairly obvious theological conclusion has been avoided and skirted around for a long time, because in America, despite our peculiar calling, we have decided that it is best to take advantage of all our privileges and opportunities. The concept of rejecting any privilege runs counter to American values and norms. Only a radical awareness of the Lordship of Jesus over all things could and would lead someone to rearrange their lives in ways that currently reject social, political, and economic benefits. Hopefully, the end result will be the humanizing response of European men and women who stand with rather than on top of their darker pigmented brothers and sisters.


[i] Meizhu Lui and United for a Fair Economy, The color of wealth : the story behind the U.S. racial wealth divide (New York: New Press : Distributed by W.W. Norton, 2006), 250.

[ii] Biblical Studies Press., NET Bible : New English Translation., 1st Beta ed. ([Spokane  Wash.]: Biblical Studies Press, 2001).

Kony 2012: American Atrocities, Simplistic Solutions, and Christ Crucified

I shared a couple tweets on the subject, but other than that I have not really said much about the Kony 2012 agenda. I have mixed feelings critiquing the movement, because on one hand I do see the impact of Kony and the LRA as horrific and needing appropriatehuman response and on the other hand I see the campaign and effort to make Joseph Kony famous overly simplistic, naive, and blind to historical, political, and socio-economic realities that exist in Uganda, the continent of Africa, and also throughout western nations like America.

Furthermore, while I am all for putting an end to those atrocities, I think that we must also address the atrocities that have been and continue to be committed by our own nation. Millions, not thousands have died on account of American action here on our soil as well as on account of our military and the policies that we (a democracy) have allowed to be enacted around the world. The almost complete genocide of the indigenous people of the land and their continued discrimination and suffering are on the hands of America. Our very existence on this land alone ought to serve as a continual reminder of the millions that no longer exist because of colonial expansion. Probably those who participated in the unjust war crimes against the First Nations people should have also had a campaign against them with their faces on posters. I could continue on and on about America’s role in the middle passage, slavery, black codes, the sharecropper system, Jim Crow, nuclear attacks, unjust wars, participation with dictators (and then later turning on them and attacking them), immoral masses of money spent on the military industrial complex, over-imprisonment of our most vulnerable citizens, colonizing of other nations and people groups, foreign policy that punishes the poorest and most vulnerable, and the consequential and unimaginable number of deaths that have come from all these and other actions that America has perpetrated under the banner of innocence, freedom, and democracy.
I know this probably will not be a popular post nor will it be received well by many. However, I just thought it would be important to offer caution before we get too self-righteous as we look with shame at Joseph Kony, and instead first turn the judgment around for a moment to realize that we as a country collectively (and many individually as well) deserve to have a poster made with us on it. Then, when we realize our own faults and shortcomings as it relates to injustice, we can begin to humbly move forward doing true justice. This justice will no longer be done as though we are the center of and saviors to the world, but rather as those who being a part of the chaos, also understand that the ugliness and injustice we see is complex and will not be fixed with wristbands and posters. There are complex forces at work (spiritual, political, social, and economic) which all play factors in the injustice we see unfold around us. Stopping one man or making one man famous will not redirect these forces. The demonizing of one man may make us feel good and right, but it will not accurately explain the complex political context that gave space for such a movement to come to be. Not as an excuse for Kony, but as I have always understood it, Uganda has had ongoing political corruption since western invasion and colonization, which the LRA was responding against. Kony’s horrific crimes are not justified, however, wearing a bracelet to make him famous will not solve the problem at the root, but is merely putting a band aid on a fatal wound while scapegoating only one man for the actions of many people, nations, and forces. If Kony is arrested, I will not be complaining. However, I know that will not put an end to the oppressive rulers and authorities in Africa, in America, or in our world, that is what Jesus’ victory on the Cross was for; the continual defeat of oppressive and evil powers by God’s rule and reign which is breaking into our world.
Colossains 2:15 “Disarming the rulers and authorities, he has made a public disgrace of them, triumphing over them by the cross.”