I woke up and realized I was afraid. Again. (Gender & Power)

I looked up and perhaps ‘woke up’ to realize that I have fairly happily jumped out of the fray of ministry and most especially gender advocacy for nearly ten years.  I stepped away to lick my wounds and be angry, because it was getting too hard and I was burned out and exhausted.  I didn’t want to fight any more.  I gave up.

“The fate of a nation depends on how it treats its women.” – Malcolm X.

What’s brought me “back” has been this damn book, Deadly Viper, and beginning to read blogs about the microcosm of the Christian world and realizing that after nine years —  it seems that it’s almost exactly the same.

Okay, I’ll admit that my sampling is small and cannot be representative.  There have got to be success stories and some happy women and minorities in the church and Christian world.  There have got to be examples of organizations that are doing multi-ethnicity well.  I’ll look.  You know me, I will look.  But the language  and graphics used in Deadly Viper and the whole Presidential search for Wheaton to name two.  Or the painful musings of a new person in my life, Kathy Khang, author of More than Serving Tea and multi ethnic director for a parachurch organization.  All of these make me shake my head and say wow.

But the other thing I realized is that I owe it to myself and to those involved in my situation to at least get some closure.  I haven’t spoken with people in IV about this.  For that, I am wrong.  I should have had some conversations about why I was really leaving, what I experienced, and worked at the very reconciliation that I refer to below. I’m a hypocrite in this.

But even as I write I can’t help hearing that nagging  and doubting voice saying: “How long have you been gone?  They didn’t want you there and aren’t knocking on your door to come back.  They are not going to care about what happened a decade ago.  Let it go. ”  But for me, it is as fresh as if it was yesterday.  Not the pain, because I’m far enough removed from it all to not feel it anymore.  But the injustice of how that whole situation was handled still stands.  The fact that it was never resolved, and that I was “just sort of set out to pasture.”

A lot has changed.  It won’t be easy for me.  I’ll likely sound like a whining woman, a thing I dread and loath.  But I will do something about this.  I just found this great quote by Marian Wright Edelman: “If you as parents cut corners, your children will too. If you lie, they will too. If you spend all your money on yourselves and tithe no portion of it for charities, colleges, churches, synagogues, and civic causes, your children won’t either. And if parents snicker at racial and gender jokes, another generation will pass on the poison adults still have not had the courage to snuff out.”

And I’ll add, if you’re too scared to stick up for yourself, your kids will be afraid too.

And to follow-up on my ongoing conversation about race, gender and Deadly Viper, I wrote my letter to Zondervan.  It’s similar to what I said in my last post, but also different in many ways.

Dear Mr. Vines, Jason:

I wasn’t sure if putting Deadly Viper in the subject line would make you immediately biased against my email, because of all the frustration you’ve undoubtedly experienced over the last few weeks.  I hope not, because I honestly am writing out of care and concern, as a fellow believer, committed to reconciling our differences in the kingdom of God not fueling our fires.

That said, I am a forty-something white woman.  I have a background in communications both by study at Azusa Pacific University and in my thirteen years with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship.  I was the director of Urbana Communications for three of the student mission conventions ’96, 2000, ’03.   My responsibilities included PR, marketing, all publications, the website, development, etc.

But I’m writing today as a frequent consumer of books and a woman.  I am writing today out of care for and concern for Christian women. I tell you my background because I can never take that hat off really, but I can also never stop being a woman (thankfully) and since I began to read about some of the controversy around the culturally insensitive and offensive book, Deadly Viper I’ve concluded that the only way to change that story is to boycott the book.  Ha, a boycott of one is silly and ineffective but you know now that I will never buy that book or books like it, and I want to tell you why.

Apparently the authors are nice guys and didn’t mean any harm with it. I can accept that on the level of ignorance. But I have to say it’s still not okay for an organization like Zondervan to produce a book like that, with the racial caricatures and inappropriate humor, and sexist generalizations, in this day and age.  This is the 21st century and it’s just not okay!

I had read on some blogs that aspects of Deadly Viper are offensive to women.  But before you get annoyed because we women are always offended, please understand how much I do not want to write this email knowing you may think I should stop whining.

Here’s something I wrote recently on my blog:

“…For me it starts with questioning why people, but Christians especially, cause one another pain so needlessly out of our ignorance. And especially why do we cause pain for those that are different from us? …. We, above all, as followers of Christ are instructed to love, as Jesus loved especially if a person is in pain. I’m especially cognizant of this because I have three kids very close in age and my husband and I are constantly being called upon to administer justice.(i.e. break up fights.)  Is it: a) their own fault for being too sensitive or getting hurt? b) the fault of the person who caused the pain in the past so it’s pushing buttons and causing additional anguish, or c) the fault of the person who caused the pain this time?

I suspect though, as we try to figure out who did what to whom and why, that we are asking the wrong questions.  Someone was hurt and pain occurred.  Where do we go from here?  How to make it right.  How to create conversation and learn?  These are the things I try to work through with my children and these are the things we should focus on now, as it relates to very difficult painful experiences.

Let’s be honest, Mr. Vines, sexism is real though I genuinely wish it were not so.  And it causes women pain, sometimes deeply and scarring because it is often repeatedly happening. And yet we live with it.  We learn to get along. Sometimes we even smile and act polite; we don’t want to offend. Occasionally, we get angry.  Women don’t want to be perceived as a b***h.  Christians don’t want to be perceived a liberal.  Many don’t want to be labeled a feminist.   And so we live with the pain of repeated offenses, getting along and leaning on those who are the lightning rods for us.

I haven’t been in the fray for a long time.  And I haven’t missed it, not really.  But allow me to tell you a true story, the short version of nearly ten years of my life.  Every word is true although admittedly my perspective.  As I said, I worked at InterVarsity (a more open organization in terms of affirming women.)  I was lucky in that I was given tons of responsibility and opportunities for leadership.  I was using my abilities, influencing, it was a good place.   As fast as I could catch I was being thrown responsibility and I love it.  I was Gen X right when Gen X was hot and I was able to bring that to the organization’s communications efforts.  Admittedly, I was promoted quickly over just a few years.

Running parallel to this was a tension growing between myself and another leader.   He was older (by two decades ), white and male obviously, intellectual,theological, super influential and made a big splash all the time and he had made himself integral to all aspects of the organization.

I was an up and comer and although people liked my work, and my work ethic and my productivity, it wasn’t long before it was clear that we were competitors.  There are more spiritual ways of saying it without sounding crass, but there’s only so much turf in a small organization and we both wanted it.  Were fighting for it all the time.  Oh, not to each others’ faces but in everything we did we were working toward taking charge of the area of communication. Trust me I was not a perfect leader by any means, but I would say probably my greatest vice (other than an insane desire to be perfect and in control of everything and working too hard) was working my staff too hard and not providing enough coaching.  No one had ever coached me and I didn’t know how, but that’s another topic (throwing leaders into the fire without grooming them.)  His vice?  Temper, temper.  He threw a Bible at my friend in anger.  He treated people (below him) horribly.  He emotional/verbal abuse which I would hear about and would bring up with my supervisor and it hit the President’s office and stayed there.  They were buddies.

I cried floods of tears at home to my husband and I prayed, but at work I tried to prove to everyone what I “just knew” — that I was supposed to be the one in charge.  I was young, innovative, I was ‘the future.’ Meanwhile, I was also having babies while working full-time. I had no intention of slowing down or working less or becoming an at-home mom. I was committed to that job.

I would have these meetings with my supervisor where I would try to make him understand how horrible it all was the infighting and how people were being treated and that people were leaving the organization because of this person, and as he said “We waded through blood together.”

Then one day he brought me into his office and he had a time line on the whiteboard.  I kid you not, he had a time line for my life where I would finish out the current assignment, go be a mommy for a few years, and this person hopefully would have retired or something, but the organization would have more space for me, and then I would come back!

Once I got over the hurt of even having a conversation like that, and knowing that he was done advocating for me AND that he was essentially telling me I had gone as far as I was going to there I finished the gig I had and quit.  That was nine years ago and I haven’t gone back and they haven’t asked me. That man, has folded everything I used to do and more into his domain and is very happily ensconced.

Draw your own conclusions.

AND SO I FOUND A PARTIAL COPY OF DEADLY VIPERS ON-LINE. I began to read.  I first learned one of the authors owns a Media Firm (Yikes! What a revelation!)  They need some sensitivity training. But I digress, sort of.

You know what I’d like to ask the authors of Deadly Vipers?  Do they have daughters?  Because if they do, how can they speak so diminutively about girls and women?  Here’s an example:

“there’s little old us looking like school girls with plaid skirts on, because we are unskilled and undisciplined in the area of character. We’re weaklings with rail skinny arms and toothpick legs.” DV, page 8

I have a daughter.  I must say how much I resent being used as an example of weak and pathetic, totally lacking in character and discipline and I do not want my daughter thinking that she is either.  Even worse, perhaps would be my sons learning about leadership from macho, cool, trendy dewdes.

These guys even make fun of ugly people!! Yes, I mean nerds, geeks, “four eyes,” the person you would never have danced with in high school, me.  So that did make me cringe and wonder at their sophomoric attempts at humor and need for being perceived as cool.

But I stopped reading when I read the phrase:  “We are asking you to go balls out with us.” mostly because I had to look it up.  Are you serious?  Don’t you all have editors or someone reading this stuff?  Surely, I’m thinking, they can’t mean what I think they mean …?  I can tell you that you exclude women(and culturally sensitive men) from your book/s at this point, as this is something that we females just physically can’t do.

But if we forget about Deadly Vipers, because I don’t really want to beat up on these poor guys.  They are just trying a little too hard to be cool, and hip and relevant.

So, putting my PR hat on… a few thoughts on offensive situations like this.

1) Say you’re sorry and you messed up, when you’re sorry and you mess up. Just do it cause it will make you a stronger person. Humility is a part of integrity.  Then, fix it.

Once I produced a promotional poster for Urbana featuring all sorts of images of people serving in different capacities.  It was diverse, it was cool.  What I didn’t notice, nor did the graphic designer, or the writer, or a whole slew of other people who saw the thing, was that all of the servees were ethnic or darker skinned and the servers were lighter skin.  The posters got a reaction from our multi-ethnic staff that they could not and would not use a poster like this and you can imagine.  We had our conference calls and strategy meetings.

I was crushed.  But I had messed up.  So, I pulled the posters, went over budget to quickly create a new promo poster.  And I can tell you that I will never forget that.  Not because I messed up, but because I saw how you can do so and survive if your heart is remorseful and you are willing to change.

2) Change your infrastructure. I don’t care what you believe about 1 Timothy (okay I do, but it isn’t relevant here.) you must have women and minorities at the table on all levels of your organization if you want to stop making these huge grotesque blunders.  (Well, they are huge and grotesque to me.)  In the board room, in the leadership, in the communications team, as your artists and ideas people, we need to be there.  I’m not an ethnic minority so I can’t speak to that, but there are people who consult on such things who could generally help the communications of an organization.  With my background I could easily look over anything quickly to tell you if it’s insulting to women. Many times a few edits would save a whole lot of head aches.

3) If that seems too impossible a task (to hire someone I mean) then get your organization some cultural and gender sensitivity training.  Again, there are tons of firms that could help both secular and Christian.  Every person on staff should get such training.

And then tonight I read about Presidential hiring process at Wheaton College and to be honest I had no idea Wheaton had gotten to be so  backward.  One would assume that Wheaton would hire the best qualified people without discrimination on the basis of race, ethnicity, or sex which is not only illegal, but morally wrong. Truly, I cannot believe that women and minority candidates aren’t being considered.

Like Justice Sonia Sotomeyor said, “if you are a white male who (still) thinks that race and gender don’t matter, conjure up the image of a Supreme Court made up of all-hispanic and black women, and you will know how the rest of the US feels when faced by the prospect of an overwhelmingly white male Supreme Court.”

I’ll conclude by saying that I know if women want an equal world, we have to work for it by accepting positions of authority and responsibility and not by walking away from the fight, like I did.  You need to know that I believe I gave it everything and frankly almost lost my faith in humanity in the process.  (I only mentioned the name of the organization to you so that you’d understand it’s not small fry organization.)

Here’s my heartfelt prayer: For a day when men can work side by side with women and people of every color and stripe, with joy and common purpose. That did not happen for me, but I speak out here because I hope that things will be better for my sons and daughters, for my nieces and nephews, who are all bi-racial or of a minority culture.   It will be a better world for these boys and girls.  It just has to be.

I believe fundamentally, it is our hearts that give us up every time.  And out of our hearts spew what we believe.  It’s our hearts that need changing.  But until that day comes, can we at least edit for less offensive language even if you don’t believe in the principles of equality?

With regards,

Melody Harrison Hanson
Imagine Photography, LLC
distinctive photography for hire
https://logicandimagination.wordpress.com/

I will sort all this out.

I’ll take it one day at a time, before my Maker, asking what is it you require of me?  Why me?  What do you want?

And I’ll try to live it out with integrity and dignity.

Thanks, again, for reading to the end.

Melody


It’s about pain: Concern for Christian women in the church

This is a followup to writing about multi-ethnicity, race and culture and the culturally insensitive and offensive book, Deadly Viper. I’ve concluded that the only way to change that story is to boycott the book but even that is ineffective. And apparently the authors are “good guys” and they didn’t mean any harm. Okay.  Beyond that, I’m going to continue to follow and cheer on, virtually, my (new) Asian American contacts, for they must continue to raise their concerns about WHY this is so inappropriate.  If you want to do something, here’s the email for the appropriate person to contact at Zondervan, the VP of PR and Communication, Jason.Vines@Zondervan.com.

I keep reading on (mostly) from women blogging, and here, that aspects of Deadly Viper are offensive to women, to which I heave a sigh of frustration!  I don’t want to read their silly book.  I’m not ready to talk about my pain and concerns for Christian women in the church.  And I do not look forward to writing this post which is essentially about PAIN! Yes, pain.

Before you, dear reader, get annoyed because we women are always offended, please understand how much I do not want to talk about this, knowing you think I should stop whining.

For me it starts with questioning why people, but Christians especially, cause one another pain so needlessly?  And especially why do we cause pain for those that are different from us?  Why are Christians so dogmatic, so closed-minded, so unwilling to change, so proud, and so damn selfish?  This is a serious generalization, but I cannot stand the reputations that Christians have right now in the media and in any secular context.  I cannot stand the way many, many Christians behave, it’s embarrassing!  We, above all, as followers of Christ are instructed to love, as Jesus loved (Remember the poor, the meek, the widow, the prisoner.)

If a person is in pain, whose fault is it?  I’m especially cognizant of this question because I have three kids very close in age and my husband and I are constantly being called upon to administer justice. (i.e. break up fights.)  Is it: a) their own fault for being too sensitive or getting hurt? b) the fault of the person who caused the pain in the past so it’s pushing buttons and causing additional anguish, or c) the fault of the person who caused the pain this time?

I suspect though, as we try to figure out who did what to whom and why, that we are asking the wrong questions.  Someone was hurt and pain occurred.  Where do we go from here?  How to make it right.  How to create conversation and learn?  These are the things I try to work through with my children and these are the things we should focus on now, as it relates to very difficult painful experiences.

Let’s be real. Racism exists.  Homophobia is very real. And I can step up boldly to the mike and say: SEXISM IS REAL and alive, though I genuinely wish it were not so.  And it causes minorities, gays and women pain, sometimes deeply, scarring because it is often repeatedly happening.

And yet we live with it.  We learn to get along. Sometimes we even smile and act polite; we don’t want to offend.  occasionally, we get angry.  Women don’t want to be perceived as a bitch.  Christians don’t want to be perceived a liberal.  Many don’t want to be labeled a feminist.  Hardly anyone is willing to, dare I say it, admit to being a person that loves gay people.  And so we live with the pain of repeated offenses, getting along, and leaning on those who are the lightning rods for us, like Dr. Soong Chan Rah and Kathy Khang .   I’m not so sure who other lightning rods are for women but I appreciated Julie Clawson on the topic this week.

So where do we go from here?

I haven’t been in the fray for a long time.  And I haven’t missed it, not really.  But allow me to tell you a true story, the short version of nearly ten years of my life.  Every word is true although admittedly my perspective. I worked for many years for a para-church organization.  I was lucky in that  I was given tons of responsibility and opportunities for leadership.  I was using my abilities, influencing, it was a good place.   As fast as I could catch I was being thrown responsibility and I love it.  I was Gen X right when Gen X was a hot topic and I was able to bring that to the organization’s communications efforts.  admittedly, I was promoted quickly over just a few years.

Running parallel to this was a tension growing between myself and another leader.   He was older (by two decades ), intellectual, theological, super influential and made a big splash all the time and he had made himself integral to all aspects of the organization.

I was an up and comer and although people liked my work, and my work ethic and my productivity, it wasn’t long before it was clear that we were competitors.  There are more spiritual ways of saying it without sounding crass, but there’s only so much turf in a small organization and we both wanted it.  Were fighting for it all the time.  Oh, not to each others’ faces but in everything we did we were working toward taking charge of the area of communication. Trust me I was not a perfect leader by any means, but I would say probably my greatest vice (other than an insane desire to be perfect and in control of everything and working too hard) was working my staff too hard and not providing enough coaching.  No one had ever coached me and I didn’t know how, but that’s another topic (throwing leaders into the fire without grooming them.)  His vice?  Temper temper.  He threw a Bible at my friend in anger.  He treated people (below him) horribly.  Severe abuse which I would hear about and would bring up with my supervisor and it hit the President’s office and stayed there.  They were buddies.

Being an emotional person, I cried floods of tears at home in bed to my husband and I prayed, but at work I tried to prove to everyone what I “just knew” — that I was supposed to be the one in charge.  I was young, innovative, I was ‘the future.’  Meanwhile, I was also having babies while working full-time.  I would have these meetings with my supervisor where I would try to make him understand how horrible it all was the infighting and how people were being treated and that people were leaving the organization because of this person, and as he said “We waded through blood together.”

Then one day he brought me into his office and he had a time line on the whiteboard.  I kid you not, he had a time line for my life where I would finish out the current assignment, I would go be a mommy for a few years, and this person would have retired and then I would come back and rule!  Once I got over the hurt, knowing that he was done advocating for me AND  he was essentially telling me I had gone as far as I was going to there.  So I finished the gig I had and quit.  That was nine years ago and I haven’t gone back and they haven’t asked me.  Draw your own conclusions.

AND SO I FOUND A PARTIAL COPY OF DEADLY VIPERS ONLINE.

I began to read.  I first learned one of the authors owns a Media Firm (Yikes! What a revelation!)  They need some sensitivity training.  But I digress, sort of.  I’d like to ask the authors of Deadly Vipers if they have daughters.  Because if they do, how can they speak so diminutively about girls and women?  Here’s an example:

“there’s little old us looking like school girls with plaid skirts on, because we are unskilled and undisciplined in the area of character. We’re weaklings with rail skinny arms and toothpick legs.” DV, page 8

I have a daughter.  I am a daughter and a woman and I must say I resent being used as an example of weak and pathetic, totally lacking in character and discipline and I do not want my daughter thinking that she is either.  Even worse, would be my sons learning about “leadership” from macho, cool, trendy dewdes.

These guys are my worst nightmare.  They even make fun of ugly people!! Yes, I mean nerds, geeks, “four eyes,” me.  Yep guys, you’ve gone and made me mad.  How can you use ugly people in such a way?  So that did make me cringe and wonder at their sophomoric attempts at humor, and cool, and their strange lingo.  But I stopped reading when I read the phrase:  “We are asking you to go balls out with us.” mostly because I had to look it up.  They can’t mean what I think they mean …?  Go look for yourself, but I can tell you that you exclude women from your book at this point boys, as this is something that we just physically can’t do.

So forget about Deadly Vipers.  I’m tired of that topic already and I don’t really want to beat up on these poor guys.  They are just trying to be cool, and hip and relevant.  Just trying is what they are doing, trying too hard.

I shall put my Communications hat on for a second and tell Zondervan and their PR people what I think.

1) Say you’re sorry and you messed up, when you’re sorry and you mess up. Just do it cause it will make you a stronger person. Humility is a part of integrity.  Then, fix it.

Once I produced a poster for a convention featuring all sorts of images of people serving in different capacities.  What I didn’t notice, nor did the graphic designer, or a whole slew of other people who saw the thing, that all of the servees were ethnic and/or darker skinned and the servers were lighter skin.  The posters got a reaction from our multi-ethnic staff.  I was crushed.  But I had messed up.  So, I pulled the posters and they were trashed.  We quickly redid a promo poster and I can tell you that I will never forget that.  Not because I messed up, but becuase I saw how you can do so and survive if your heart is remorseful and you are willing to change.

2) Change your infrastructure. You must have women and minorities at the table on all levels of your organization if you want to stop making these huge grotesque blunders.  (Well they are huge and grotesque to me.)  In the board room, in the leadership, in the communications team, as your artists and ideas people.  I’m not an ethnic minority so I can’t speak to that, but there are people who consult on such things who could generally help the communications of an organization by having advice on the ways that you communicate and what you’re saying.  I am a woman with a background in communications/marketing and I could easily look over anything quickly to tell you if it’s insulting to women.

3) If that seems too impossible a task (to hire us I mean) then get your organization some cultural sensitivity training.  Again, tons of firms that could help both secular and Christian.  Every person on staff should get such training.

And then tonight I read about Presidential hiring process at Wheaton College and to be honest I had no idea it had gotten to be so backward.  One would assume that Wheaton would hire the best qualified person.  Discrimination on the basis of race, ethnicity, or sex is not only illegal, but morally wrong.  I cannot believe that people feel they need to ask that some women and minority candidates be considered,but like Justice Sonia Sotomeyor said,

“if you are a white male who thinks that race and gender don’t matter, conjure up the image of a Supreme Court made up of all-hispanic and black women, and you will know how the rest of the US feels when faced by the prospect of an overwhelmingly white male Supreme Court.”

If women want an equal world, we have to work for it by accepting positions of authority and responsibility.  Not by walking away from the fight, like I did.  But I gave it everything and frankly almost lost my faith in the process.  And so, I have to look forward to a day when men work side by side with women,  people of every color and stripe, with joy and common purpose. That did not happen for me, but I speak out because I hope that things will be better for my sons and daughters, for my nieces and nephews who are all bi-racial or of a minority culture.   It will be a better world for them.  It just has to be.

Fundamentally, it is our hearts that give us up every time.  And out of our hearts spew what we believe.  It’s our hearts that need changing.

CS Lewis wrote: The heart never takes the place of the head: but it can, and should, obey it.

Enough for tonight.

Race, ethnicity & culture

UPDATE:  Zondervan has pulled all the material from their shelves and has an official apology here.  I am surprised and in awe of their willingness to do this.

 

I will be the first to admit that I know so very little about race and ethnicity.  And being white, I think my admitting that point right away is the most important way to start (more important than saying what  little I may know.)

My parents (Dan & Shelby Harrison of Wycliffe & InterVarsity) genuinely loved many people from varied cultures and who were in our home some as friends and others as honored guests from all over the world.  I have shared meals with everyone from Chinese international students to high level Russian educators and everyone in between.  I enjoyed listening to their stories and sharing in laughter and good food.  It was an extremely good way to grow up.  It taught me culture is more than simply to food and conversation.

Sometimes I wonder if I truly learned something meaningful from those people and their life experiences.

I have always felt comfortable within other cultures, but  have never felt a part of them.  My dad always said we (Harrison Family) were Heinz 57 or mutts; not really from anywhere.  Now I’m labeled Caucasian and I have no ‘culture’ to speak of, except for the mix of traditions that my parents brought to our family.  My mother is Texan.  My father culturally Chinese.  (Yes, stories for another day.)  In third grade my best friend was Sarah Wakabayashi.  And over the years, with a few exceptions, my friends were diverse.  Because of my experiences as a missionary kid, even though my skin was white, I have always gravitated toward minority culture kids and I found these friends were more accepting.  Majority culture kids just wanted me to become homogenized.

Today, my best friends here in Madison are a first generation Japanese woman and a Malaysian/Scottish woman.  My dearest lifetime, soul mate and friend is African-American and Japanese.  I feel understood by them, accepted.  But sometimes I think about and wonder why I don’t know more about their experiences of race and racism. We have had some conversations but they were hard to say the least.

This week I followed a conversation over the web between some leaders of the Asian American Christian community and the authors of  Deadly Viper published by Zondervan.  [Deadly Viper is leadership book whose art and concepts use Kung fu and Asian-looking graphics, but the book wasn’t written by Asians nor is it about anything Asian.]  I have no way of knowing if I would have been offended by this book seeing it on the shelf without this context, because my first exposure was through the lens of Asians.  But just looking at it from a marketing perspective (which I know something about because of my job with Urbana & InterVarsity) it used Asian stereotypes and it was just plain stupid sounding. (Seriously, sometimes I wonder about the artists at these conservative Christian organizations.  They need a crash course in cultural sensitivity.)  But as I read (as a voyeur that the web strangely allows for) I realized how offensive it would be, & painful, for Asians, as they saw their culture caricatured and used to sell a book.

Some of their leaders called the issue to light including Dr. Soong-Chan Rah, who was one of the first and has received the most flack.  I was especially moved by Prof. Rah’s personal reflections and impressed by the good and gracious hearts of the Asian leaders.  Sadly, until organizations reflect the diversity of the kingdom of God, these blunders will continue. (more later).  “From a distance [it was] a great statement of how we can move positively in the direction of “authentic” reconciliation and journey towards multi-ethnicity.” (a friend Jimmy McGee on Facebook responding to Dr. Rah.)  I’d urge those of you who want to learn more about this, to read Dr. Rah’s blog, which seems to be a place where he helps people like me understand things from an Asian perpective.

All of this has gotten me thinking.

It got me thinking about my friendships over the years.

How well have I listened?  Have I asked the right questions? Or have I been so afraid of offending  and so fearful that I don’t know how to ask.  I am fearful of hurting my friends have I therefore committed the sin of omission?  I do know that acting casual about race wasn’t better than always talking about our differences.  It’s certainly easier (for me) but no, I do not think it is ever better.  I need to do more.

It got me reading.

There are billions of blogs (http://www.racialicious.com/ is a great one) out there where folk talk about their experiences of racism and being from a minority culture.  They are trying to help us majority folk to understand.  It’s out there.  I spent a few hours on Friday night, just following links.  I will post some of that in the future.

It got me feeling.

My sister Paula has written a book on being white in a multi-ethnic world and I haven’t read it.  I’m sorry Paula but it’s now on my bedstand!  See below for a description of the book.  And I personally own many books which speak to the topic, after working at IV.  I should read them.  Two that jumped from the shelf: Living in Color by Randy Woodley and A Beginner’s Guide to Crossing Cultures: making friends in a multi-cultural world, Patty Lane.  I have dozens more.  [guilt]  I guess I’ve always thought that having friends was good (enough.)

It got me listening.

It is important to listen to the painful experiences of minority culture folk, especially in this instance the Asian, and remembering some of the mistakes I made with Urbana communications trying to speak to many different audiences.

I feel profound sadness for the courage of these beautiful people and I don’t even know them.  I’d like to figure out how to ask my own friends about their experiences of race and racism, because I love them and I should know.

It got me remembering.

Nine years ago I wanted (and felt called in many ways) to attend a multi-racial church here in Madison.  It was hard to find one!  How difficult it was to find what “fit” our family.  Mostly my discomfort was my culture rubbing up against others’ and knowing I wasn’t ready to change.

[The only multi-racial church in Madison that I was aware of was Fountain of Life and for me it was very African-American and pentecostal and not as multi-cultural.  (Nothing being bad about African-American or pentecostal, just very different from my life experience.) It was so different from what we were used to, that my family wasn’t ready to sacrifice what was comfortable and known.]

I compromised, on both multi-ethnicity and the issue of women, by attending the church that I do.  I still need to think about this some more but it is a sad and startling realization.

And as for what happened with Zondervan Publishing (a major Christian publisher) .

Well, when will organizations learn that we offend by our ignorance. And we re-offend by our pride and unwillingness to change or admit our ignorance. We must be willing to say “I don’t know” and “I was wrong” and “I’m sorry.”  And even then, our dear friends are so gracious and so tired of saying ‘it’s okay.”  Because it is not okay.

And we can’t stop there.  I can’t stop here.  One week of being worked up about pain caused by whites is not going to change anything.  The Church needs to figure this out.  There’s too much pain here.  It was almost physical for me as I read these comments from dear, dear people.  My friend Noriko says I have a deeply compassionate heart.  She is so good at reminding your of the good qualities.  It’s a double sided blessing Noriko.

My heart is breaking.  The wrong people are at the tables of power. The wrong people are in charge.  What can be done?

I have to leave it here for today.  Dinner to cook.  Homework to supervise.  But before I go, if you are white and just beginning to think about what it means to be white, please read about Paula’s book below.

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Have you ever thought about what it means to be white?  For me, I am often ashamed of being white.  Or to a lesser degree, I never know what to bring to school for the International Potluck, where you’re supposed to represent your culture.  Well, my own sister has written a book on the topic and below is a description.  — Melody

Are you white? Do you know what this means? Are you aware of racial inequality but have wondered, So what do I do?. Paula Harris and Doug Schaupp present a Christian model of what it means to be white, wrestling with issues of history, power, identity, culture, reconciliation, relationship and community

Being White, by Paula Harris & Doug Schaupp, InterVarsity Press.

What does it mean to be white?

When you encounter people from other races or ethnicities, you may become suddenly aware that being white means something. Those from other backgrounds may respond to you differently or suspiciously. You may feel ambivalence about your identity as a white person. Or you may feel frustrated when a friend of another ethnicity shakes his head and says, “You just don’t get it because you’re white.

  • How can you overcome the mistakes of the past?
  • How can you build authentic relationships with people from other races and ethnicities?

Paula Harris and Doug Schaupp present a Christian model of what it means to be white. They wrestle through the history of how those in the majority have oppressed minority cultures, but they also show that whites also have a cultural and ethnic identity with its own distinctive traits and contributions. They demonstrate that white people have a key role to play in the work of racial reconciliation and the forging of a more just society.

Filled with real-life stories, life-transforming insights and practical guidance, this book is for you if you are aware of racial inequality but have wondered, So what do I do? Discover here a vision for just communities where whites can partner with and empower those of other ethnicities.