I am a White, heterosexual, Jesus-following, married, educated, 50-year-old woman born and raised in the predominantly White suburbs of Richmond, VA , which was once the capital of the Confederacy. I now live in the predominantly African-American/Black inner city, just a 1/2 mile from the lowest income census tract in the Metro Richmond area. You probably wonder why I started off telling you all of that. You see, not everyone who reads this knows me. In all of the diversity training I have attended at work, we were encouraged to own your identity…to name it. “I’m speaking from a white woman’s point of view.” So, I wanted YOU to know from where I speak. And… I want to own my identity.
I have read a number of articles, watched the news, and have discussed the “Paula Deen situation” with friends of different races, backgrounds, cultural contexts, etc. One of the most interesting took place in my friend, Emmanuel’s barber shop – Edify 360, while E was cleaning Louis up. Although this is a horrible and complex situation all around, we can’t stick our heads in the ground like an ostrich, but we should be intentionally engaging in loving dialogue with others about it….especially those different from us.
I’m not ‘going there’ with this post, but want to share this one piece, 7 Stages of White Identity, that I just read and want to pass along. Christena Cleveland states that her “passion is to help the body of Christ find the power of unity. Using social psychological insights, biblical principles and practical applications, I equip people – from head to heart to hands – to do the work of unity and reconciliation.” She has a blog that you can find at www.christenacleveland.com. This post was written by a guest author, Daniel Hill, Pastor of River City Community Church in Chicago.
7 Stages of White Identity is a MUST-READ for everyone. I know it’s long…a really long post…and has 7 Stages. But, it is well worth the read. And I will be reading it again…and again. It’s a journey. A worthwhile journey, not an event. Oftentimes, it’s a painful journey. I have learned so much about myself, about God and about others along the way….and I am still learning. I haven’t arrived – that’s for sure! I didn’t end up living in and loving my neighbors in Southern Barton Heights, married to Louis, without first going intentionally embracing this journey. I am grateful for many friends and experiences that have furthered me in my journey, especially for my dear friend and Pastor, Don Coleman, and his loving wife Florence. I met Don in my first year of moving to Southern Barton Heights, and things would have been much different without them in my life.
I really resonated with this post and see much of my story laid out in these 7 Stages. As much as I wish I could have skipped over some of the stages, it’s not gonna happen – nor would I have wanted it to. Stage 7 is a place I think I am entering… Empowered. Take a read as the author talks about how Dr. John M Perkins (you know I’m a fan of his!!!) significantly impacted his life.
What Dr. Perkins said next became a beacon of hope for my life. In response to her story, he talked about his own journey of understanding and embracing his racial-cultural identity. He said it like this: “I am not Afro-centric, but I haven’t forgotten who I am. I use my blackness to extend the Kingdom of God. You need to live from who you are – you were created for a specific purpose. We must not err to ethnocentrism, but we must also not err to forgetting who we are.”
So – the question Daniel Hill goes on to ask is….
What does it mean to use my whiteness to extend the Kingdom of God?
This is where I do want to go…
If you are on this journey, where do you find yourself? What stage?
What does it mean for all of us to use our race to further the Kingdom of God? What does that even look like?
So, take a read, if you dare. Be sure to read the comments, too. They were very informative and insightful as well!
Louis and I just returned from a 3 week trip. After spending about 2.5 weeks in Oregon/Washington, we stopped in Indianapolis, IN for the Christian Community Development Association (www.ccda.org) National Conference. We took a way a ton from the 4 days we were there; and it’s going to take us a while to unpack it all. However, there is one group of stats that really stuck with me, from the workshop titled by Helping Those You Serve Find and Keep Meaningful Employment, conducted by Jobs For Life (www.jobsforlife.org). I attended this workshop, because we are in the process of implementing their program, Powered for Life in the near future….but, more to come on that later…on with the startling stats.
Here are just a few stats…
- Poverty – 1 out of 7 people live in poverty in the US (46 million). 1 out of 5 children live in poverty (US Census). Most people are poor in the United States because they either do not work or work too few hours to move themselves and their children out of poverty (Brookings Institute)
- Domestic Violence – An extensive report by the National Institute of Justice found that the rate of violence against women increases as the male unemployment increases.
- Divorce – Financial stress and pressure not only impacts businesses but is often the leading reason couples file for divorce according to the Institute for Family Studies.
If you don’t see a need for job and life skills training from the stats above, let me share these. The presenters then provided the following summary from the research study called Meaningful Differences. I hadn’t heard of it before, but found a ton of info by googling it.
|Avg cumulative # of words heard by the age of 3||30 million||13 million|
|“Business” talk (correction, direction, instruction)||10 million||10 million|
|Other (including supportive, encouragement, affirmations)||20 million||3 million|
|RESULT||I am valuable.||I am worthless.|
The study has many more details…but after reading up on it, I found these quite meaningful indeed. Children hear a lot more words if they come from a family where someone is working, and they aren’t on welfare. In addition, the types of words spoken significantly impact the child’s future. Both groups receive the same number of directive/business/’get ‘er done words. In poverty/welfare homes, only 23% of the words spoken are supportive, encouraging and affirming. In what was labeled Professional homes, 67% of the words are positive in nature. Yowza!
The end result becomes…the child grows up thinking they are either valuable or worthless. The child (1 out of 5 children) grows up to think, ‘I am worthless’, ‘I am good for nothing’, ‘I do nothing right’, etc.
What can be done? How can we change this? What role does the church play in this? We can’t count on the teachers to make up for the loss of language skills and emotional psyche. How can we speak words of joy and hope into this? Words that speak…’You were created in God’s Image’, ‘You are unique’, ‘You are valuable’, and ‘You were created to work’ (Genesis 1:27-28) and….it was VERY good! (Genesis 1:31)
Dr. John Perkins said “the best welfare program is a job” during one of our morning Bible studies. This too has stuck with me. This is where Jobs for Life comes in. Thanks to a grant from Wells Fargo, we purchased the biblically based program, Powered for Life a couple of months ago. At the request of some community friends, Louis and I, along with our friends, are preparing to train, prepare and equip young people to find and maintain a job. We will be looking for people to help! People who are willing to speak life, encouragement, and truth into the lives of the youth of our city. People who are willing to employ them. People who will train and instruct them. So…stay tuned….more to come! Organizational meetings will be coming soon.
If you are interested in participating after prayerful consideration, please feel free to contact me!