BTSF in chronological order (most recent articles appear first):

Sunday, August 13, 2017

#Charlottesville

Image result for wake up and do somethingWhat else is there to say? Have we not convinced you?

Were you surprised at the images and videos this weekend?
Did you think we were exaggerating when we said the nation's demons were being released?

"I can't believe this is happening"
Aren't you persuaded yet?

Or maybe you are, but you're paralyzed. Feeling overwhelmed, helpless. Deadened.
But it is you that the movement needs. Your voice that must be heard.

Have you spoken up yet? At the dinner table, in the office?
Have you put a stop to snide remarks and crude judgements?
Have you done the hard work on your own heart?

It takes each one of us. Particularly those that haven't been vocal to this point.
Maybe you thought others were handling it. Maybe you thought it wasn't your fight.
Maybe you thought it was too controversial. But the reality is, it takes you.

Image result for charlottesville rally cartoonPeople of color fight these forces every single day, not just when it hits main stream news.
What are white folks willing to do?

What will you do?

And what about the Church? Our worlds' beacon of hope, justice, and mercy?
Has your church spoken up yet? If not now, then when?

Many laws have come and gone. It's the Church that is charged with changing hearts and minds.
How will the church respond when hate is perpetrated?--not in spite of Christian beliefs, but often because they are Christian.

We need a Church that will redeem us from our nation's sins, so that we don't have to relive it all once again. So that we don't have to go through this one more time. So we don't have to see these scenes yet again.

What will your church do?

"It is not the episodic marches and rallies that define white supremacy,
it is the ordinary, dull ways that society props up the racial caste system
that lead to the most egregious offenses."
-Jemar Tisby

Sunday, August 6, 2017

On Affirmative Action

In discussions about "reverse discrimination" the conversation often quickly slides to the subject of affirmative action. Dr. Tatum devotes an entire chapter to the subject, subtitled "I'm in favor of affirmative action except when it comes to my jobs." She notes that many white people wonder "Will I get the job I want or will it go to some 'minority'?" The implication being that the minority that got the job is inherently less qualified and only got it based on color.

Obama  acknowledged fears of white people in his A More Perfect Union speech:
"Most working- and middle-class white Americans don't feel that they have been particularly privileged by their race. Their experience is the immigrant experience — as far as they're concerned, no one handed them anything. They built it from scratch...And in an era of stagnant wages and global competition, opportunity comes to be seen as a zero sum game, in which your dreams come at my expense. So when they are told to bus their children to a school across town; when they hear an African-American is getting an advantage in landing a good job or a spot in a good college because of an injustice that they themselves never committed; when they're told that their fears about crime in  urban neighborhoods are somehow prejudiced, resentment builds over time..."
Particularly in this economy, it's scary to think that one might lose an opportunity because of skin color. But this is a  fear that people of color have  to deal with every day--and have been for centuries.

But two wrongs, don't make a right, so let me try to explain why I don't think affirmative action is a wrong.

Those that don't like affirmative action generally feel that through these policies their whiteness becomes a disadvantage. In fact, white privilege and systemic disparity acts to bolster white folks so much that whiteness can never truly be a disadvantage--affirmative action just makes it so we aren't so way out ahead (see post on so-called 'White victims of racism').

Forty-years of "advantage" cannot begin to reverse the 500 year head-start white people had (see post: Academic Admissions), or erase the economic and psychological mars that oppression has left on >40% of this country. There are still severe inequalities that prevent otherwise-qualified people from coming to the interview with a fair shot. We have a responsibility to rectify the discrimination in the classroom and in the workplace, as well as the historical head start white folks have had. 

One problem affirmative action faces is that it gets confused with quotas. Filling quotas and affirmative action are two different things. In my view, quotas are used to fulfill a requirement and then say "there. we're done. we can stop now. we have our token minorities." It is a system totally unrelated to merit or qualifications, which is why a lot of white people freak out about it. These practices are no longer allowed.

Affirmative action, on the other hand, when done well, is goal driven. That means the numbers can be exceeded and the policy acts to aid the company's success as well as that of the employees'. Remember that "seeking the empowerment of people of color is not the same as disenfranchising white people." The idea of proactive enrollment is that you decide what qualifications one needs to be successful, including a diverse background with an understanding of multiculturalism, and then you stick to those qualifications. You cast your net wide, advertising the position in Black Enterprise (or whatever applies to your field), and you remember that bringing diversity into the workplace is one of the job qualifications during the interview process. Keep in mind, there are many white people that fulfill this requirement and everyone has  the opportunity to gain a background in cultural diversity, but more people of color may have taken advantage of those opportunities (often can hardly help but to!) and so may be more likely to fit the job description.

Allow me to describe a situation where the model I describe might be relevant.

Applications for medical school are a tough business. What does it take to get in? It takes top notch grades for sure. Last year's Ohio State class had an undergraduate GPA averaging 3.7. The next biggest thing is the MCAT--OSU's average is a 33. So lets assume anyone with those numbers is fit to be a good doctor. Then what? OSU says you will need clinical and research experience, 'leadership,' 'volunteer service,' and 'extracurricular activities.' What exactly does all that mean? And how much is enough? who knows.

There are thousands of med school applicants with high high GPAs and MCAT scores. So in what activities could an applicant participate to make her application more attractive? Debate team? Orchestra? Baseball? What about becoming a member of a Diversity Roundtable, or the Multicultural Student Union. Attending a diversity retreat. Going to events where you are in the racial minority. These options promote the development of any number of important skills for med school: well-roundedness (so you don't go crazy in your first year),  cross-cultural understanding (vital for any doctor who wants to see patients outside her immediate family), relating to different perspectives (collaboration is the new hot trend in the research community), empathy, patience (hello bedside manner!).

Maybe a candidate has a 3.7 GPA AND was a member of the biology honors society, phi beta kappa, and graduated magma cum laude.  But so what? Those accolades are largely redundant. We already said a 3.7 makes you a good doctor, so stick to that qualification, and accept a student who brings other qualifications in addition.

Once we have determined when a student is academically smart enough to become a doctor, lets make another priority be that she is culturally smart enough to be a good doctor. If this were more a part of our rubric, I actually think a lot fewer white people would qualify. 

People that grow up in a similar way will think a similar way, will tackle problems in similar ways. This is not a good way to run any organization. We limit ourselves and each other. We have no idea what innovations we are missing by limiting ourselves to work with those like us. 

I cringe to think of how long ago we might have had the cure to cancer if we were taking advantage the all brilliant minds that, though historic discrimination, had to struggle through school while they worked part-time to help support their family (it is easy to get into college when you don't have to worry about the next utility bill). Or what about the inventor of an eco-friendly biofuel that couldn't get a job interview because she has a funny name? Or the broker of peace in the Middle East that got teased so much in high school that he didn't have the confidence to apply for college. It happens. And we are screwing ourselves over because of it.

Image result for cast a wide netLet's be clear though, our own evangelical and economic benefit is not the primary reason to rectify discriminatory hiring practices, it is only a fringe benefit.

The heart of the matter is recognizing that there is systemic injustice. And with it comes our responsibility to care for others and make sure that we work to right the wrongs that brought us to that place of privilege (you know...'love one another,' 'give the cloak off your back,' 'do justice, and love kindness').

Too many employers stop at the 'cast the net wide' part of creating an open interview process. They figure they will advertise widely and then just choose the best candidate. But this strategy ignores the systematic advantages that white people have to making it through the interview process (or even TO the interview process).

Many studies show that when resumes are close or identical in their content, black candidates are more likely to loose out on the job.  White folk have the right hair, the right cloths, the right accent. How must it feel to worry whether wearing your hair the way God put in on your head will keep you from getting a job? 

A couple of important points to leave you with. First thing to remember: just because someone is black in a predominantly white work environment does NOT mean that person got the job because of affirmative action. And even if she did, that fact has no bearing on her ability to do the job, or how qualified she is. Affirmative action is here to ensure that the many highly talented minority applicants get seen, heard, and hired, despite the  pressures in society to keep them invisible.

Second, those that have benefited for so long from an unjust system owe it to our workplaces, our churches, our sisters and brothers of color, and ourselves to make some sacrifices to reverse wrongs done. We have an imperative to fix the wrong that we benefit from, even if we personally didn't cause it to develop. 

Take a look at Acts 6:1-7, with the concept of affirmative action in mind. This is a story about how the church first deals with marginalized members of its community and how it uses affirmative action to remedy the situation. A minority group of Jews were complaining that their widows weren't getting their fair share of the food distributions. And what did the Apostles do about it? They promoted seven (fully qualified: "full of the Spirit and wisdom") Greek leaders to make sure rations were distributed fairly, not only to the Greek widows, but to everyone in the community. The apostles gave  full support to this 'equal employment opportunity' by laying hands on them and blessing them.

Notice that, after it was brought to their attention, the Apostles recognized and acknowledged that an injustice was occurring. They didn't dismiss the complaint, or claim that the Hellenistic Jews were just trying gain an unfair advantage. They didn't blame the victim, or claim it was a "Greek problem" to be solved by the Greek community. They stepped up a fixed the situation. And what happened? "So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith"

I don't know how to right the centuries of racial wrongs that have compounded themselves. I don't know if the methods discussed here even come close-- at best they are indirect solutions that don't guarantee immediate equality. But it might help, and for now, it is all the law allows. And we have do something.

To close, Ta-Nehisi Coates articulates some good points in this article Black Privilege for The Atlantic:
There are some legitimate criticisms of Affirmative Action. I think this is one of the dumbest: the underlying premise is that society is generally fair, and no one receives a leg up ever, except black people. Or it assumes that such advantages exist, but negritude, in the nation of white leagues, black codes, and red lines, imparts the sort of boost heretofore unwitnessed. 
But the history of America, itself, is, in no small measure, the history of an Affirmative Action program for white people. Mitt Romney was born in a Detroit neighborhood where the deed read
"Said lots shall not be sold or leased to or occupied by any person or persons other than of the Caucasian race. But this shall not be interpreted to exclude occupancy by persons other than of the Caucasian race when such occupancy is incidental to their employment on the premises." 
In other words, the neighborhood, like virtually every nice neighborhood in Detroit, and many throughout the country, was a giant set-aside for white people who didn't want to compete with blacks. But no one feels that Mitt Romney achievements--or the achievements of white people in general--are tainted by red-lining. No one says, "Would Mitt Romney have succeeded without race preferences?"

...I've talked repeatedly about my concerns with race-based Affirmative Action. But none of those concerns involve ill-gotten goods. Who is the successful human who can claim that they have never, not once, been advantaged by society? And who, with honesty and intelligence, would seriously claim that, among those advantages, black privilege is king?
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By Their Strange Fruit by Katelin H is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
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