How do you define racism?

In the last five years living in the United States (2014-2019), I had many conversations with friends, family, and complete strangers about race, racial disparities, and racism in America. Some of these conversations were very enlightening – some even encouraging – and many left me scratching my head or venting my frustration to my closest people when otherwise wonderful and reasonable friends and family became too emotional to be able to have these important conversations.

One theme that I discovered in these conversations was that many of my White American friends and relatives didn’t feel equipped to have in depth conversations about these topics because their experience hasn’t prepared them. As my brother often reminds me, in difficult conversations, it’s super important to start by defining your terms. Many White Americans don’t understand the definition of “racism” in the depth or complexity that social scientists and many Black or Brown Americans do, which means everyone comes to the conversation with a different starting point.

Many White Americans understand racism as an individual to individual phenomenon, usually conscious and with bad intent. If such a person looked up “racism” in the Oxford dictionary, they would agree with the definition which says that racism is unfair treatment of people of other races. So, if I am not aware of any conscious prejudice against another race, I am innocent. “That guy wearing a KKK hood and spouting white supremacy – he’s a bad guy. But, I’m good, and racial categories don’t apply to me.” This individual-level understanding of racism is a narrow definition of a broad phenomenon.

Many of my Black American friends, due to a lifelong experience of living while Black, understand race and racism in a more complex and broader light. Sociologists too (and even computer scientists) who have spent their careers studying race and the history of societies also see racism as much more complex than between two individuals. Sociologists define racism as an institutional and structural phenomenon. Sociologists define racism as a system of actions in place that maintain a social hierarchy differentiated by race, which provide social benefits to some more than others (read a more extended definition here).

Obviously, definitions are important. To have an effective conversation, we have to use shared language. Here’s an introductory video to define some important sociological terms, like “prejudice,” “stereotype,” and “racism”:

If you’re curious to learn more, and to strengthen your ability to have robust conversations about issues of race, look at some of the following videos and articles:

How to Have Conversations About Race
Creating Conversations on Race (16:54), Tricia Rose, Ph.D.
Why “I’m Not Racist” Is Only Half of the Story (6:33), Robin DiAngelo, Ph.D.
Intent vs. Impact (4:00), Leadership and Communication Illustration

Where, When, and How did “Race” Get Defined, Anyway?
Defining Race and Ethnicity (10:58), Crash Course Sociology
The Origin of the Idea of Race, Anthropology Essay by Audrey Smedley
Philosophy of Race and Racist Institutions (7:04), Eduardo Mendieta, Ph.D.

History of Structural Racism in the USA
Systemic Racism in Jamal and Kevin’s Lives (4:23)
Prejudice and Discrimination (9:53), Crash Course Social Psychology
Racism of America’s Food System TEDx (16:34), Dr. Regina Bernard-Carreno
Racism and Childbirth in America (4:53), Dr. Karen Scott and Panelists
How Structural Racism Works (54:18), Tricia Rose, Ph.D.

Understanding Whiteness (AKA, realize that it’s not baseline “normal”)
Center for White American Culture
I’m White: I don’t have a culture, Courtnay Veazey
What is Whiteness in the USA? Looking at Stats, Mona Chalabi
White Americans, Psychology Research and Reference
What is White Fragility? (1:23:30), Robin DiAngelo, Ph.D.

Want to go further?
Be the Bridge – book lists, trainings, movies, and Facebook community

On the Occasion of my First Thanksgiving in Korea

I awoke to a thin layer of snow falling gently upon the mountains. Breathing fresh air through an open window while watching snowflakes slowly descend, I felt as though time were suspended and I, caught up in a snow globe. A moment frozen. And in that moment, I was so small in the scope of a world, yet so intimately known and loved by the Creator of it all, Whose eyes smiled at my soul delighting in the day’s beauty.

Oh what a wonderful day to be alive. My heart swells with joy on this, my favorite holiday. I’m far from my beloved family and rituals, but I’m very aware that the joy of gratitude and the ability to love is not lost across the miles. I am enjoying a quiet evening after work, reflecting on the meaning of gratitude and feeling the bliss of it – for life overflows with beauty when we put on the lenses to appreciate it.

Even as I practice offering worshipful thanksgiving for all the good, my heart feels an ache – twinges of nostalgia and grief for those I’ve loved and lost. This is a right feeling. It is important to feel, for it reminds me of the good and the joy and the beauty that was. Even if they be no longer accessible save but for memories, those moments were real. They happened. They were. And, if I can continue to express and experience gratitude in the memory of those moments, they still are. This is why I love this holiday. The autumn season. I love the depth of it. The timelessness of it. The beauty that fades to light.

Why are we grateful?

Albert Schweitzer said, “Nothing that is done for you is a matter of course. Everything originates in a will for the good, which is directed at you.”

Why do we give thanks?

Every good and perfect gift comes to us, not because of our own merit, but as a gift. Our joy in these gifts – our full hearted delight – is why they have been given. Our gratitude is an echo of our joy – a small offering of glory to the Giver.

Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.”

Be Thankful
Author Unknown

“Be thankful that you don’t already have everything you desire,
If you did, what would there be to look forward to?

Be thankful when you don’t know something
For it gives you the opportunity to learn.

Be thankful for the difficult times.
During those times you grow.

Be thankful for your limitations
Because they give you opportunities for improvement.

Be thankful for each new challenge
Because it will build your strength and character.

Be thankful for your mistakes
They will teach you valuable lessons.

Be thankful when you’re tired and weary
Because it means you’ve made a difference.

It is easy to be thankful for the good things.
A life of rich fulfillment comes to those who are
also thankful for the setbacks.

Gratitude can turn a negative into a positive.
Find a way to be thankful for your troubles,
and they can become your blessings.”

A Summer Day
by Mary Oliver

“Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention,
how to fall down into the grass,
how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed,
how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

Gratitude
by Henry Van Dyke

“‘Do you give thanks for this? — or that?’
No, God be thanked I am not grateful
In that cold, calculating way, with blessing ranked
As one, two, three, and four, — that would be hateful.
I only know that every day brings good above.
My poor deserving; I only feel that, in the road of Life,
true Love Is leading me along and never swerving.

Whatever gifts and mercies in my lot may fall, I would not measure
As worth a certain price in praise, or great or small;
But take and use them all with simple pleasure.
For when we gladly eat our daily bread,
we bless The Hand that feeds us;
And when we tread the road of Life in cheerfulness,
Our very heart-beats praise the Love that leads us.”

Gratitude and Love to God
by William Cowper

“All are indebted much to Thee,
But I far more than all,
From many a deadly snare set free,
And raised from many a fall.
Overwhelm me, from above,
Daily, with Thy boundless love.

What bonds of gratitude I feel
No language can declare;
Beneath the oppressive weight I reel,
‘Tis more than I can bear:
When shall I that blessing prove,
To return thee love for Love?

Spirit of charity, dispense
Thy grace to every heart;
Expel all other spirits thence,
Drive self from every part;
Charity divine, draw nigh,
Break the chains in which we lie!

All selfish souls, whate’er they feign,
Have still a slavish lot;
They boast of liberty in vain,
Of love, and feel it not.
He whose bosom glows with Thee,
He, and he alone, is free.

Oh blessedness, all bliss above,
When thy pure fires prevail!
Love only teaches what is love:
All other lessons fail:
We learn its name, but not its powers,
Experience only makes it ours.”

Giving Thanks: Classical Music and Reflections on Fall, Food, and Gratitude
(2hrs, .mp3 download)

Theology on Homosexuality

I appreciate the tone and reasonable discussion of what the Bible teaches and how theology informs Christian thought on homosexuality. This teacher refuses to take a “conservative” or “liberal” political perspective, but focuses on walking in Christian truth and love.

(This post is part of a series of posts on homosexuality and healing)

Discernment? Or Discontent?

Yeah. The discernment thing is an ongoing in life, I think…. perhaps especially for those of us who are in a station of life that we didn’t anticipate or don’t exactly LOVE. :/

I mean, we already know what God has asked of us. Scripture is full of Jesus’ guidance – and the prophets and epistles of the apostles give us practical instruction for how to live righteously on earth… but we want more, don’t we?

Forgive me, I’m processing as I write… 😉

I think sometimes, we just want more because we have a hard time accepting that God is pleased with us where we are at. He has something for us – right here – in this place. We are equipped with His Spirit and sent day by day into our workplaces and relationships with all that we need for life and godliness… but we so want more… because we struggle to be satisfied with Him here. Today.

We want to be further along in our careers or families or achievement (based on whatever expectations we’re clinging to!). We want to be dating or married. We want to have more knowledge or more capacity or more finances or more faith or more… more whatever.

But, He’s already given us all we need (2 Peter 1:3).

Instead of strengthening our inner life of virtue and prayer, we waste it – desiring what we haven’t attained yet. Instead of spending our inner life daily delighting in our God who gives us all we need – we come to Him as beggars and leave unsatisfied. We come to Him, bearing our burdens – and then we carry them away too! We miss the gifts he offers us in THIS place, because our eyes are so focused ahead of us… we look beyond Him… we miss what He is doing TODAY.

But, godliness with contentment is what we should strive for (1 Timothy 6:6). Being satisfied in our God. Submitting our stubborn wills and distractable attention to Holy Spirit’s gentle redirection – day by day, making ourselves present to God in the here and now – allowing Him to form us and shape us… and surprise us with His goodness.

I just typed all that really fast as it was coming to me. 🙂 I’ll have to read back over it and meditate on it for myself… and see what God is saying to me. 😉 If it doesn’t resonate with you – please disregard. It may just me trying to sort out my inner world.

Yes, we need more of God. But, it grows as we live with Him in the daily.

"Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you."     Philippians 4:9