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American Racism

 

Devotional by Mark Dugan

The face of American Racism

We like to think of our society as pluralistic and as moving beyond racism. We like to congratulate ourselves for our progress. Of course there are examples of blatant prejudice and racism against African Americans, Muslims, and immigrants. But surely these examples are few and far between, the exceptions that prove the rule. Right?

Not necessarily. In law practice, I frequently see the real face of American racism:

  • One man, a homeless immigrant, worked for several months for a restaurant in Kansas City, Kansas, cleaning the grounds, running errands, and unloading trucks. The restaurant owner allowed him to live in the basement, and over the course of several months, he paid a total of $50. For months, the worker trusted that he would be paid more. He wasn’t.
  • A couple from Mexico, here legally but with little facility in the English language, purchased a cleaning franchise and found themselves working long hours, paying high franchise fees, and taking home a pittance at the end of the month. The franchising company bragged that 80 percent of its franchisees, those who paid the high fees and took home the pittances, were African American or Latino.
  • An immigrant father and his two sons worked for years at a Mexican restaurant for 60 hours a week, but were paid for only 40 hours, making $2.30 per hour plus tips. Not wanting to lose their jobs, they never complained until they were sure they had other jobs. The attorneys for the restaurant, seemingly blind to cultural differences, are incredulous that the workers would work for so long without complaining about being underpaid. They insist the workers are lying.
  • An immigrant from Mexico who started a carpentry business had to put up not only with being shorted on several jobs by a general contractor, but with hearing the contractor call him a “dirty Mexican” and tell an exterminator, “we’re spraying for Mexicans today.”

 

defendant

 

The people perpetrating this racism are not necessarily so different from us. They are business owners who think they are providing employment opportunities, valuable contracts, or even the “American dream” of business ownership. Clearly they could benefit from a little self-examination, but so could we all.

Saint Andrew provides a place not only where we can celebrate moving beyond our cultural assumptions, our biases, and our racism, but where we can examine the assumptions, biases, and racism we have not yet shed. Looking at these parts of ourselves might not be comfortable, but in secure environment, we might just find the keys that will help us move beyond our biases and appreciate authentic pluralism.

God of us all, thank you for the opportunity to explore our imperfections, and thank you for the diversity that confronts us, challenges us, and enriches us.

(Mark, his wife and two sons are members of Saint Andrew. He is an attorney who recently started his own practice in environmental, employment, and commercial law.)

 


 

 

 

Next

 

So some of you may have heard the news by now….I’ve accepted a new position with Week of Compassion, the global development and disaster relief agency of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).  It’s bittersweet–I’m excited about my work with WoC, but I’m sad to leave my position at Saint Andrew.

This will inevitably lead to a change in how the blog is maintained.  Once I leave, entries will come from a variety of members and staff from Saint Andrew.  The talent in the pool of writers is vast, and I’m sure you’ll enjoy hearing their thoughts on faith, life, and all sorts of other things.

It’s been great to have this as a venue for my random musings.  I hope the three of you who’ve been reading enjoyed it!

If you want to see more aboutwhat I’m gonna be up to, you can check out the press release here .

Shameless

Yes, this is shameless self-promotion for the new book series I’m co-editing.

 

Wanna pre-order a copy of the first book?  Go to Chalice Press and the good folks there will help.

We’re going to be hosting a workshop on the series at Community Christian Church, Kansas City, MO on August 8th, 2 PM.  Drop a line for more details

Hegemony

Just wondering if anybody else heard this or read this?

Fascinating.

(please be aware there are ethnic slurs, though starred out, in the second article)

Nashvegas III

Part Three of the SAY dispatches from Nashville, TN

SAY is in Nashville this week on our mission trip.  We are practicing living simply so others can simply live.  Yesterday our assignment was to create our own service project.  Each group was given fifty dollars and an all day bus pass.  We were divided into three groups where we had to plan our project and carry it out.

      Our group decided to help the homeless people on the streets of Nashville.  Our group consisted of  Zach Ast, Alexx Burnside, Laura Hoeven, Lindsey Johnston, Caitlin Jordan, and Jennifer Sommerfeld.  We took our money to the grocery store to buy bread and peanut butter to make sandwiches.  We also bought bottled water and applesauce to hand out to the homeless on the streets downtown. We made two signs to carry with us, one was advertising the free sandwiches and water and the second was a free hug sign.   

We worked as a team to serve the homeless population as best we could, and all of the hard work and walking was well worth it in the end. In the beginning, we were all skeptical as to whether or not our project would be successful. However, once we got up the nerves to approach the homeless, we found communicating with them to be much easier than one would think. Our entire group, as well as the other members of SAY (who were also roaming around downtown, serving the homeless in other ways) agreed that the reactions of the people who received the food and water was the most rewarding part of the experience. At the end of the three hours allowed, we had distributed all of our food and water- consisting of 50 sandwiches, 48 water bottles, and 36 containers of applesause. We all saw  the face of God in the people we served and in the way the homeless people were looking out for their friends.  It was a great experience that none of us will ever forget.

Nashvegas II

Part Two of the SAY dispatch from Music City.  (This Parthenon pic, by the way, is from Centennial Park in Nashville, not Greece)

IMG_4246When we were given our budget for the day, we were excited, but honestly, we had no clue what we were going to do.  We had lots of ideas—distributing newspapers that support the homeless community, performing on the street, and passing out water to those in need—but finally, we came up with a simple new idea—passing out chalk, bubbles, and coloring books at a local park to simply give the city kids a little joy. So after a quick run to the Dollar General, we were off in search of a park.

“Park,” however, is a bit of a loose term in the city. Basically, our first “park” was a city hall courtyard that had jumping fountains (i.e. Crown Center). We welcomed people to draw and blow bubbles with us, when we happened upon a cameraman who was filming the fountain for the Channel 5 news. We told him about our mission and what we were doing, and he filmed us a little and went on his way. Because the fountains weren’t as successful for drawing a crowd as we had hoped, we moved our project to Centennial Park, a popular park closer to our church.

   IMG_4191When we first set up our bubbles and chalk, we were afraid that after a whole, long day of trying to figure out what to do, we would ultimately fail. Nobody seemed to be interested. Stranger danger, right? But after a little invitation and the deliberate attempt to display our non-creepiness, children began to walk over and join in on the fun. Soon, we had the whole park involved; parents asked us what we were doing, kids who didn’t even know each other were forming friendships, and we youth came closer to one another as well. To sum it up, our experiences in Centennial Park were: inspiring, community, love, joy, fabulousness, and God. It was impossible not to experience God that day in the park; each new child we befriended or each new parent we met just beamed of the kind of love and joy that only God could give. Sometimes, something as rudimentary as bubbles and chalk can make a simple day at the park something as significant as—do we dare say it?—grace.

-“The Red Team”—-Mark Anderson, Jordan Holsinger, Nathan Fulkerson, Emily Atteberry, Ellie Fogleman, Collin Heng-Patton

Nashvegas

A dispatch from the SAY (Saint Andrew Youth) group, which is on a mission trip to Nashville, TN.

At the start of the day, we brainstormed different ideas on how we could help people. We decided on taking the bus to go to the farmers market. We tried to figure out how to get there but the bus map was really confusing. We went to the farmers market and picked out a bunch of fresh fruit that we were going to give away to people. We also bought some water bottles at the store across the street.  We got peaches, apples, and bananas.  We had to carry all of our stuff around town and took the bus to downtown and set up our stuff in front of the “arcade”.

Luke played his guitar and Blake played his harmonica while Ginny, Lauren and Emily H passed out free fruit.  A lot of people were very thankful and really appreciated our kindness.  Many people were very surprised that we were just giving out fresh fruit.  Also, everybody really enjoyed Blake and Luke’s music.  We ended up meeting this very cool guy who was formerly homeless named Alonzo. He told us that there were a lot of people who would love to have food down by the library.  So we bought more food with the money that we made from donations and walked down to the library with him and ended up giving away alot of our food before we even got there. 

At the beginning of the week, Allison gave each youth member 2 gems to give away to people they saw God in throughout the week.  Ginny and Emily both gave their gems to Alonzo because they both felt that they saw God in him.  He was such a nice guy and he told us that he really appreciated what we were doing and that when he sees kids like us, he is not so scared of the future.  He also said that when he rode up on his bike and saw us outside, he felt something special and that he thought that it was God who brought us together. He said that today was one of those days where he could feel God working in crazy ways.

We all found God in many ways throughout the day. Lauren was very happy and giving the fruit away made her smile permanently for the rest of the day. Ginny’s favorite part of the day was when our groups meshed together and we made up fun choreography to random songs so that we could perform in front of people at the farmers’ market. Even though it wasn’t a huge hit, it was still fun. Blake was very surprised at how genuine the people were. Luke saw God in the way that people really loved listening to their music. He liked that because he loved the fact that others enjoy music almost as much as he does. Emily saw God in Alonzo. He was a very cool person who cared about the others living on the street. Also, it was very cool that we met him and he just happened to know alot of the same people Allison knew. He was just a very nice and sincere person.