Inequality

A Convenient Truth: I Am White

Brian E. Konkol
Brian E. Konkol

Editor's Note: This column is part of a duo of posts commenting on racial reconciliation in light of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Read the accompanying piece, "An Inconvenient Truth: I Am Black."

I am white. It is quite convenient to be white. In fact, it has always been convenient to be white in the United States of America.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, I am more likely to be employed than someone who is not white, I am less likely to be incarcerated, I am more likely to be covered by health insurance, and I am more likely to enjoy a comfortable retirement and eventually die peacefully in my elder years. I am more likely have a college education than a non-white person, my (white) wife is more likely to receive excellent medical care, my (white) children are more likely to attend private schools with skilled teachers, and my (white) family is more likely to have a roof over our heads, a few cars in the garage, and more than enough food on our table.

While individual cases vary, to be white is – generally speaking – a convenient truth. 

There are countless factors one could cite for the current levels of race-based inequality in the U.S., and many opinions exist surrounding potential solutions, yet there are three points of emphasis that need to be addressed for the advancement of racial reconciliation. 

The Presumption of Equality

A ninth-century mosaic of women leaders in the church of St. Praessede, Rome.

EVER SINCE THE apostles positioned Mary Magdalene as an “unreliable narrator” telling an “idle tale” in Jesus’ resurrection story, some men in the church have claimed maleness as normative and orthodox and femaleness as, well, not.

In the recent case of the Vatican vs. the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), the integrity of women’s witness is, once again, called into question by male hierarchs.

These Catholic sisters represent an unbroken, cohesive expression of faith in the history of American Catholicism and in women’s presumption of equality, completeness, and active moral agency both under law and under God—a presumption that is a shining light for women around the world. The sisters might have once shared accolades for faithful servant leadership with their brother priests, bishops, and cardinals, but over the course of nearly 30 years of unfolding pedophilia scandal and blasphemous mob-like cover-up, the laity has learned to look to the sisters alone for examples of Catholic gospel witness and Christian maturity, strength, and just plain grit.

But let’s not sideline this issue as “a Catholic thing.” We don’t get off that easy. The struggle over women’s authority runs right through the denominational diaspora of the body of Christ.

“Christian churches have long been ambivalent about us,” wrote Protestant female theologians in a letter of support to the women of LCWR. “Women’s roles have been embraced in private, not public forums. Women leaders are affirmed as long as they are seen, but not heard (at least too much).” And as long as what the women say doesn’t contradict male authorities.

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Paul's Letter to the 1%

Each Sunday, in many churches across North America, congregants hear these words preparing them for communion: “The Lord Jesus, on the night when he was betrayed, took a loaf of bread ...”

However, few churchgoers kneeling for bread and wine at the altar may know that these words in 1 Corinthians 11:23-26 are set in a longer section (11:17-34) that begins sharply: “Now in the following instructions, I do not commend you, because when you come together, it is not for the better, but for the worse!” Paul continues the attack in verse 20: “When you come together it is not really to eat the Lord’s supper. For when the time comes to eat, each of you goes ahead with your own supper, and one goes hungry, and another becomes drunk” (emphasis added).

What Paul describes sounds more like a food fight in a high school cafeteria than our solemn rituals. Have we missed something in this text?

This article isn’t mainly about food. It’s about inequality—the 99 percent versus the 1 percent. But when you live in the Roman Empire where most inhabitants live at or below subsistence, earning enough daily bread is the main thing you think about.

A longtime friend, George McClain, and I are presently finishing a curriculum simulating a house church planted by Paul in Corinth during the years 50 to 51 C.E. We owe much to the research of biblical and classical scholars and archeologists on power relations in the Roman Empire. This “empire-critical” method examines the sociological, political, religious, and economic structures that underpin first century Rome. Such structures contrast starkly with the “kingdom of God” as proclaimed by Jesus and his apostle Paul.

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Afternoon News Bytes: Feb. 10, 2012

Demonstrations Whisper Of An Arab Spring In Jordan; Perfect Storm Threatens Long-Term Unemployed; Obama: Birth Control Policy Meets Everyone's Needs; Will Inequality Keep Getting Worse?; What Davos, Occupy Have In Common; On Immigration, 'Amnesty' Isn't A Four-Letter Word (OPINION); In Year Of Uprisings, Reporters Brave Crackdowns From Wall St. To Tahrir Square (OPINION).

Afternoon News Bytes: Jan. 31, 2012

The End Of 'Compassionate Conservatism'?; Tunisia Faces A Balancing Act Of Democracy And Religion; Occupy D.C. Protest Stays Peaceful As No-Camping Deadline Passes; The Republicans' Hispanic Problem; What Does The Future Hold For Iran?; The End Of Health Insurance Companies (OPINION); Syria Unrest: Clinton And Hague Back Arab League Plan At UN; Inequality, The Middle Class, And Growth; Number Of Asset-Poor Americans Rising.

The Morning News: Monday, Dec. 5, 2011

Democrats See Opening To Attract Religious Voters In 2012 Election; Does Inequality Matter?; From Occupy To Progressive Renewal: Demanding The Just Society; Occupy Movement A Reminder Of What We Value; The Annual 'War On Christmas' Shows How A Faith That Once United America Now Divides It; Religious Leaders Target Repeal Of N.C. Death Penalty Law; Gulnare Free Will Baptist Church: Kentucky Congregation Overturns Ban On Interracial Couples.

The Afternoon News: Friday, Nov. 18, 2011

Top 10 Reasons Alabama’s New Immigration Law Is A Disaster For The State’s Economy; Undocumented Immigrants Facing Deportation: Caught Up In Confusion, Lost Records, Inconsistent Policy Enforcement, And Difficult Choices; A Deeper Look At Income Inequality; Why The Debt Panel Is In Trouble; How Congress Occupied Wall Street (OPINION – Sarah Palin); 68 Percent Of The Sons Of The 1 Percent Work At Their Dad's Company; More Than 1 In 5 U.S. Children Poor, Census Says.

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