I read Krista Tippett’s book over the last month, and think Becoming Wise is such a wonderful book. Here is an interview she gave about the book. Read it or listen to it. Either way, get it.
Every decision we make changes things. The people we befriend, the examples we set, the problems we solve…
Sometimes, if we’re lucky, we get to glimpse those ripples as we stand at the crossroads. Instead of merely addressing the urgency of now, we can take a moment to focus on how a quiet insight, overlooked volunteer work or a particularly welcome helping hand moves so many people forward. For generations.
How did you get to where you are? Who is going to go even further because of you?
Thank you for passing it forward.
From Seth Godin whose words you should read.
Each of us belongs to larger groups or systems that have some investment in our staying exactly the same as we are now. If we begin to change our old patterns of silence or vagueness or ineffective fighting and blaming, we will inevitably meet with a strong resistance or countermove. This “Change back!” reaction will come both from inside our own selves and from significant others around us. We will see how it is those closest to us who often have the greatest investment in our staying the same, despite whatever criticisms and complaints they may openly voice. We also resist the very changes that we seek. This resistance to change, like the will to change, is a natural and universal aspect of all human systems.
(From Harriet Lerner’s The Dance of Anger pgs. 14-15)
Read Professor Lawrence Ware’s post here at the Root.
For me, being woke means awakening to the pervasive, intersectional insidiousness of white supremacy. This awakening is not limited to people of color. Black folks are not the only ones who needed a wake-up call.
Souls that inhabit white bodies can be allies and accomplices in the fight against oppression, in the same way that black folks can be agents and accomplices in promoting, promulgating and protecting white supremacy. As my grandmother once said, conjuring Zora Neale Hurston, “All your skin folk ain’t your kinfolk.” Meaning that you can inhabit a black body and be an agent of white supremacy. Just ask Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, or any of the thousands of black Americans who are more concerned with white feelings than with black lives and bodies. Black folks don’t have the market cornered on being “woke,” and there is no agreement about how best to actualize the potentiality of the black community.
White supremacy frames black intellectualism as monolithic. Put another way, to expect black folks to think the same is an assumption filtered through a white conceptual lens. To quote Kanye West’s “New Slaves,” white supremacy says, “All you blacks want all the same things.” But this is not true. Black people may all awaken to the reality of institutional, covert and overt racism and still disagree about what is the best response to those ills.
This book is many things. Primarily a historical, political, and philosophical treatment of this country’s ethic, it explains the moving parts of politics, justice, civil rights, and philosophical discourse as they gather together and furnish this democracy with promise or poison. The book is history and also a glimpse into the future. Bailey writes as a concerned and prophetic scholar.
As I prepare this review, I think of the ways prophets were known in the first testament of the Bible. Prophets told the truth. They spoke forth what the community knew and what the community didn’t know. Prophets talked history and what the people of God already understood as God’s word which had been delivered through the vessels of graced hands and blessed mouths. And prophets also talked about the future and pushed the people to see a new, unknown tomorrow which was, always, a work of faith.
Prophetic work is faith work. Dr. Bailey works at his faith in that sense as he writes a compelling, interesting, and informative book about the history and future of the United States of America. He pulls up a chair for us and walks us through the perennial questions about our country and its unfulfilled promises, its strain to be an exceptional nation, and its insecure moral footing. He invites us to careful examination of those things said most loudly (which are usually the least true) relative to our country’s moral arc that has bent back from justice.
“While we are still making progress, we have lost the path (and especially the togetherness that characterized our first steps on it), and we have become more and more lost, unsure of the future.” Despite the troubling material he serves us, Bailey still has hope. And he offers his plan for locating and electing leaders with hope, with ethical strength, with generosity, and with moral courage.
He mines the current political and legal realities in Black and non-Black communities, holding out a convincing application of social-psychological theory and the clear ways our frames of reference are developed so as to prevent us from seeing. He moves through the double standards of politics and civil discourse. He talks fundamental attribution error and its relation to racism and white privilege.
He writes swiftly and clearly, “White privilege blinds those who would claim that Black America is its own worst enemy.” He continues, knowing that his truth is the truth and installs his rendition of the rise of President Barack Obama, contextualizing Mr. Obama’s campaign and victories, and noting the key agreements between those political achievements and the longer narrative of all those earlier (and all those future) acts of reclamation and recovery in previous times.
His book is a reflection of the exact and ever-present power of white privilege, the absence of non-white privilege, and the corresponding injustice that results. His book addresses these things in the slow, careful way a good teacher would and with the loving embrace of a brother and friend. He serves to us an explanation of the fear in us as a collective people and how religious views contribute since religion is a hot, undeniable area where change is most needed and most difficult. Early on he says what feels like a summary and an echo of his spirit throughout:
“Until an essential humanness replaces the hierarchized core of our racial discourse, we will continue to dehumanize the dark-skinned in both word and deed. Until the roots of structural racism are uprooted and an egalitarian worldview is planted in its place, the financial poverty of America’s inner cities will remain a reflection of the moral poverty in our nation.”
And he states such things carefully while, at the same time, challenging us to hold a “horizontal integration of the mission.” Bailey sounds like a pastor and professor, activist and contemplative. He sounds concerned and moved by love. He was hard to read–because his truths were, simply, true–and completely invitational at the same time.
The four central chapters cover in deft, artful ways topics that anyone interested in justice should sit with, including racism, xenophobia, poverty, and income inequality. Bailey speaks to the spirit while illuminating the mind. He teaches through his writing.
Tracing Civil Rights and Jim Crow, he explains what the Voting Rights Act was and how it was done true damage by the recent rule of the US Supreme Court. He takes you to school without making you feel like you missed out on the previous week’s homework.
He inspires you, hurts you, and challenges you. He tells it the way it should be told: decide what you believe about freedom and determine if those things should be offered to others.
That is the spirit of his invitation around economics and income, work and jobs. I get the sense that Bailey is dancing to the music of economics and political theory and history and morality. Of course morality is the cooler, distant term for spirituality.
There is a bottom to Dr. Bailey and though I read of portions of it, I can tell that his center is on display as he highlights moral decline in the United States. He writes of our need for a spiritual revolution even if it is not religiously based. It is a challenge and a call. It is necessary and for our own good, as well as a road we have often missed.
“But, so often, those who cause the most hurt are those who are meant to represent love, caring, and respect for the wholeness of persons. Churches and schools are beacons of light in communities, yet our churches denounce gay, transgendered, and queer parishioners in favor of pedantic adherence to an old exegesis of scripture, while our inner-city schools arrest students before counseling them, remove them before reviving them.”
His tone is not one that is easily dismissed. Even if your theory differs from him; even where your reading of the same historical moments generate a different conclusion; even if your political vision diverges from the biblical images he calls upon to color his perspective; you cannot dismiss his enduring sentiment and its corresponding energy. You have to contend with Julius Bailey’s love. And any good teacher would be pleased with that contention.
I’m posting quotes as we go through the fuzzy zone of being new parents again in these next days. This quote comes from Jaco Hamman (Becoming a Pastor, 71):
Ministry, like any other truly human activity, emerges from your inwardness, for better or worse. As you lead and pray, you project the condition of your inner space and those around you. Ministry opens the window to your soul.
I’m posting quotes as we go through the fuzzy zone of being new parents again in these next days. This quote comes from Carrie Doehring (The Practice of Pastoral Care: A Postmodern Approach, 111):
People become most aware of their values when they reach turning points in their lives and must make choices or when they are thrust into decision making because of a crisis. Prior to such moments, they may not have thought much about the values that orient them to the meaning and purpose of their lives. At its simplest, theology is a way to talk about people’s deepest values.
I’m posting quotes as we go through the fuzzy zone of being new parents again in these next days. This quote comes from Howard Thurman (Disciplines of the Spirit, 113):
When a man is despised and hated by other men and all around are the instruments of violence working in behalf of such attitudes, then he may find himself resorting to hatred as a means of salvaging a sense of self, however fragmented. Under such circumstances, hate becomes a man’s way of saying that he is present. Despite the will to his nonexistence on the part of his environment or persons in it, he affirms himself by affirming the nonexistence of those who so regard him. In the end the human spirit cannot tolerate this.
I’m posting quotes as we go through the fuzzy zone of being new parents again in these next days. This quote comes from Gerald May (Simply Sane, 107):
Whatever is being held, one can ease one’s grip. In the midst of any situation, no matter how tense or pressing, it is possible to relax. First the body, just easing the muscles and allowing the limbs to become flexible. Then the mind, in the same way, relaxing. Not avoiding the tension of the moment, it is possible to relax into it. Deeply….Whenever a knot is found, it can be allowed to loosen and perhaps unravel completely. Never by picking at the knot itself, but rather by easing the tension upon it.