White folks, let’s keep learning

There is a lot to keep on being aware of in our lives and culture. This kairos moment is an opportunity for more folks to see what has been going on around us… and for a very long time.

I am a baseball guy so I love baseball movies. A classic for me is “Field of Dreams.” It’s the story of a guy in Iowa who plows up part of his cornfield to build a baseball field so Shoeless Joe Jackson can come and find some rest or reprieve in his soul after being banned from baseball decades before. It has the famous phrase: “If you build it, he will come.”

At the end of the film there is a scene with a stodgy brother-in-law who has been trying to buy the farm with some investors. He’ll let the family stay in the house, but he wants the land to build a farming business. He can’t see the baseball players on the field who are there from the past. Then, an emergency happens and one of the players from the field steps across the magic line and turns into the aging doctor he had become in real life after a short stint in the major leagues. The doctor saves a kid’s life. The stodgy brother-in-law looks up to see all the players on the field and asks, “When did all these baseball players show up?”

For a lot of white folks, we’re the brother-in-law. We’re just now seeing the field as it really is. So… we have some catching up to do.

I have passed around book recommendations in the past but sometimes shorter articles are helpful. They can get us familiar with some issues a bit quicker and allow us to digest some things then go explore further.

Minneapolis, where George Floyd was killed, is not in the south. That may be news for some folks. But why I say that is it is a city that too often prides itself on its progressive attitudes while not dealing with a LONG history of racism.

This article gives some context to the severed disparities that exist in the Cities and uses the corridor where the riots took place as a starting point.

Census data from 2015, for example, showed homeownership rates for black families in the Twin Cities was about 23 percent; for whites, that number was 75 percent, putting it among the highest in the nation. In 2018, the unemployment rate for blacks in Minnesota dropped to a historic low of 6.9 percent. It was still three times the rate of white unemployment.

A 2019 study by economists at the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis showed that, although students in Minnesota beat the national average on math and reading scores, these scores for white students were about 20 percent higher than for black students. The incarceration rate for black residents? That’s higher too.

Clearly, Minneapolis has a reckoning to deal with when it comes to doing better for all people.

I was able to have an article passed along that dealt with a town near where I live in Alabama. Fairhope was established, oddly enough, by northerners who came with progressive ideas. Fairhope was established with the idea of having a place that was beautiful and accessible to anyone. But land near a big body of water is desirable and discrepancies began to settle in. Who gets left out? It’s not hard to guess.

I like this article because a source was a friend of mine who is a black pastor and activist in the area. From this article:

“By the 1920s Fairhope was a mature social experiment,” reads a sign in the museum. There were free thinkers, artists, visitors and “mavericks” putting their children in the Organic School. With no rich people and few who were poor; with no hierarchy, pretension or ostentatious homes, Fairhope seemed to demonstrate the virtues of Henry George’s economic theories.”

But not for everyone. Whitfield’s father pastored Antioch Missionary Baptist Church in Point Clear for 35 years. They lived in Mobile and he said going with his father to Point Clear was “like going through a time warp.”

“The black children couldn’t attend the closest school but walked miles through red dirt to the school that accepted them,” Whitfield said. “The old Antioch church burned, but the bell that they rang for hurricanes and jubilees is still there.”

I share these because we need to dig into our own contexts. We need to SEE the field.

We also have a phrase that may be new to us: “Defund the Police.”

I am still learning and I can quickly conclude there is a wide gamut of opinion on this one, and that wide range comes from those SAYING that phrase.

While I want to say that in a nutshell it does NOT mean “get rid of the police”… alas, some folks say the phrase and mean exactly that. BUT… it’s a wider issue than that. So, before you get totally offended, read some material from different viewpoints. Explore. Listen.

This article tries to make a softer phrase more user friendly to explore what “defund the police” can mean in a positive way.

This article uses the phrase “abolish the police,” but walks the reader through what that means and how more positive actions can help properly police a community.

From the article:

Abolishing the police isn’t about establishing some kind of free-for-all utopia where everybody polices themselves and you just hope that nobody decides to police themselves into robbing you or killing you.

It’s about recognizing that we have taken almost every single one of our country’s most pressing social issues and handed them over to the police to fix with guns and handcuffs and charges and prison.

And finally, this article by a conservative thinker demonstrates the deep concern all folks can have when we finally SEE the field.

From the article:

We each like to think we’re not unduly influenced by our immediate environment and culture. That’s a phenomenon that affects other people, we believe. I’m the kind of person who has carefully considered both sides and has arrived at my positions through the force of reason and logic. Sure, I’ve got biases, but that only matters at the edges. The core of my beliefs are rooted in reason, conviction, and faith.

Maybe that describes you, but I now realize it didn’t describe me. I freely confess that to some extent where I stood on American racial issues was dictated by where I sat my entire life. I always deplored racism—those values were instilled in me from birth—but I was also someone who recoiled at words like “systemic racism.” I looked at the strides we’d made since slavery and Jim Crow and said, “Look how far we’ve come.” I was less apt to say, “and look how much farther we have to go.” 

We all have homework. Seriously. We need to look up and SEE the field. There are players there we never really saw before… and that leaves us with a new responsibility.

Do the homework. Read. Find friends different than you and begin to forge a listening friendship.

Let us seize this kairos moment as a gift and forge something new.

Central States Conference Issues Statement on Death of George Floyd

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