Thought Mashup 1.18.16 - Martin Luther King, King Kunta and being uncomfortable.
I love MLK day… it is my favorite American holiday.
It is a day that talking about race and race issues, as universally tabu dinner conversation, is for short period suspended. In that my ethnic heritage is 62% white and 48% brown, the navigation of my racial identity has been… shall I say… complex. So, dialogue is helpful for me. Thus the universal relaxing of social norms around racial conversation is for the day welcomed. I am really thankful for today. I am thankful to be in a country where these conversations are not continually met with physical violence. I am thankful to be in the time I am now as opposed to 60 years ago where someone with my skin complexion and ethnic heritage would have difficulty doing the things I presently get to do.
However, I think MLK Day creates a dangerous notion in the American conscience.
Today on all forms of social media, (And on mine if you go back in my history) we are able to pat ourselves on our backs about abstractions like “justice” and “love” and tell ourselves that given enough time, western civilization can save the world. And for proof we can point to the civil rights movement. People of color try to remind our neighbors often that race does affect how we live our lives and I am afraid that today is a temporary reprieve in the american psyche where we can say … don’t worry it will all work out… because America is awesome. I am afraid, today is a day where many of us will try to convince ourselves that Dr. King was the obvious conclusion of the American project and we prove it by saying, “Lets close the banks!” I am afraid today is a day that, as Hauerwas observes, we try to forget “Slavery was an institution so wrong there is nothing the can be done to make it right. Slavery and its continuing effects are a wound so deep in the American soul that we prefer… to ignore its continuing presence in our lives.”
As many of us have seen play out on across our TV/Computers screens or have experienced in our lives, race issues in America are not solved. We have deep issues that we have not addressed. And we would rather forget them than to be made uncomfortable. So, instead of allow MLK day to be a day we try to Co-op his voice into the American project and delude ourselves into thinking that MLK was martyr for the American virtues, I am going to allow him to speak prophetically to our present moment.
What would the twenty four hour news media do if this was said by a community leader today?
What would a president do with a prominent public figure who said such a thing?
What would a patriotic public do for questioning our safety?
What would an evangelical community in Bellingham, WA do with a critique that makes me so uncomfortable?
Today this quote reminds me that the type of justice that MLK believed in is one that does not find a home in the present worldly kingdoms but does hope that those kingdoms will one day confess that “Jesus Christ is Lord (Philippians 2:10-11).” I am reminded today that MLK paid for his dream with his life. I am reminded that the scope of his dream is bigger and more hopeful than the American one. I am reminded that his dream will meet its completion not because of the inevitable progress of western democracy but because I am confident in “the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ (Philippians 1:6).” And in all of this I find hope for the way we talk about race in this country because it source is not in this country and it will not stop when this country ceases to exist. Today I am reminded that the dream of people like MLK should make us uncomfortable... it should make us question the way things are. It should give us hope... not fear. Today I am reminded that dream that Dr. King dared to dream does not come from the established order that he confronted, that ended up killing him and today celebrates his work. This helps me remember that MLK and his dream was unabashedly vocal that his dream is derived from God's dream... the kingdom of God, which is at times at odds with the Kingdoms of this world.
So, today on a day when it is temporarily ok to reflect issues of race in a public way, I pray a simple confession that my theological boyfriend Stanley Hauerwas makes in an essay in this book called Why Time Cannot and Should Not Heal the Wounds of History:
“I know of no ‘solution’ to the [racial] relations in america that is not finally the solution of a people who have learned to pray together. To so pray is not to pretend unity by playing at being pious; rather it is to discover we are God’s people… So I believe that truth and reconciliation are possible here. Indeed I believe, even in a society as secular as the United States, truth and reconciliation are even possible between [all people of color]. God never tires of miracles.”
King Kunta and Reformed Rap...
These have been my jam as I have reflected today on these issues today.
Kendrick's music picks up at like 4:11... but the interview is worth it.