Race

How We Are All Connected

As an Asian-American activist, I must constantly negotiate what it means to be a woman faith leader – all while challenging misconceptions of the “model minority myth” and the “otherization” of my identity in a dominant culture that often sees anything other than whiteness as foreign, exotic, or suspect. And yet, I know that my experiences do not pale in comparison to the hardships of those experienced within the greater sisterhood.

Dismantling Gender Bias

Illustration by Jon Krause

Illustration by Jon Krause

AS WE APPROACH A PRESIDENTIAL election in which each candidate’s gender is sure to be discussed, it’s worth evaluating the automatic assumptions we—yes, all of us—make when it comes to women, men, and the meaning we attribute to gender. These assumptions include everything from outright sexism to subtler forms of gender bias, such as the knee-jerk association of men with “competence” and “gravitas,” women with “incompetence” and “emotion.”

“The battle for women to be treated like human beings with rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of involvement in cultural and political arenas continues, and it is sometimes a pretty grim battle,” writes Rebecca Solnit in the title chapter of Men Explain Things to Me, a 2014 collection of essays that helped coin the term “mansplain.” “This is a struggle that takes place in war-torn nations, but also in the bedroom, the dining room, the classroom, the workplace, and the streets.”

I would add, of course, that this battle also takes place in the church, our spiritual homes. After all, for women this is a struggle that’s older than feminism, perhaps as old as our faith traditions themselves. So how, exactly, can we end the battle?

The answer, it seems, lies in understanding the difference between explicit and implicit bias, the former resulting from deliberate stereotypes, the latter a growing topic in social science that doesn’t absolve us of guilt but helps us understand how biases of all kinds have been so difficult to identify, name, and change.

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Racism is a Sin Affecting Abuser and Abused

Brandon Hook / Sojourners

Sojourners Lisa Sharon Harper speaks with the film's star Alfre Woodard after screening. Brandon Hook / Sojourners

The ethos of slavery still runs deep in our national consciousness. Alfre Woodard, a supporting actress in the upcoming movie 12 Years a Slave, hopes that point is taken by all who see it.

“Whenever there is repression, it takes toll on everyone; especially a physical and psychic, stunting pain on the abuser,” Woodard said at a panel following a pre-screening of the movie hosted by Sojourners last week. “My hope, expectation is that audiences will start to think about slavery in a new way. That they’ll come away with some small perspective to understand each other better.”

The panel gathered to begin the conversation about residual impacts of slavery on the United States. Woodard started the discussion with a description of what it was like to be set and involved with a film that revolves around such a difficult emotional topic.

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How Beyoncé Slayed the Super Bowl and Fox News

The white power structures were offended, so they fought back. Fox News interviewed Rudy Giuliani about the halftime show. The interview is a textbook case in America’s 400-year history of silencing black voices. The segment shows four white people critiquing Beyoncé’s performance and the black lives matter movement. They lectured Beyoncé on her performance. One commentator said, “In the end we find out that Beyoncé dressed up in a tribute to the Black Panthers, (the dancers) went to a Malcom X formation, and the song, the lyrics, which I couldn’t make out a syllable, were basically telling cops to stop shooting blacks!”

Giving Up Indifference for Lent

Here is what Pope Francis said to the world in his Lenten message:

“Indifference to our neighbor and to God also represents a real temptation for us Christians. Each year during Lent we need to hear once more the voice of the prophets who cry out and trouble our conscience.”

Instead of giving up chocolate or alcohol for Lent, the pope seems to want us to give up our indifference to others.

How to Move from Allies to Accomplices

Jim Wallis meets with attendees at Politics and Prose book discussion, Washington, D.C. Photo via Carla Debbie Alleyne/Twitter.

When I began writing my latest book, America’s Original Sin: Racism, White Privilege, and the Bridge to a New America, my hope was to help foster that new conversation on race in America — and to point to the action that needs to come from it. Because only when we openly and truthfully speak to the roots of racism and inequality in our country — white supremacy, white privilege, and the dehumanization and devaluation of black lives and bodies — will we able to deal with the modern-day realities of that legacy and solve the obvious problems before us in racialized policing and the blatant racial disparities in our criminal justice, education, and economic systems. So we launched a “town meeting” tour that creates space for the voices of diverse local leaders in each city and allows for the multiracial, truth-telling conversations and actions we so urgently need across this country. I’m happy to say that tour has started, and it has been powerful to see and hear.

The Second Career of James Crow, Esq.

Our lawyers have made a strong case this week that the voter ID component of this legislation places an unnecessary and undue burden on voters — especially poor and African-American voters. We will ultimately win this fight in the courts. But this case is about much more than defeating voter ID laws. It is about a central question of 21st-century American politics: is a multiethnic democracy possible?

The First Week

We had a good first week with America’s Original Sin. I wanted to share with you and many other friends along the way of our ongoing tour my favorite interview of the week. It was on Morning Joe. I was delighted to see that some genius producer there had invited Eddie Glaude, the Chair of the Center for African American studies with an endowed chair at Princeton to join the discussion. Eddie had been on Morning Joe the week before to promote his new book, Democracy in Black, which I am reading right now. The dialogue we had on the show was both exciting and encouraging, at least from both of our perspectives! 

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