Justice, Race, George Floyd, and Cross Cultural Service

Why missionaries, humanitarians, and anyone working cross culturally needs to care about racial justice

A week ago, I watched a black man die under the knee of a white police officer. Previously I’d listened to the story of a black woman shot in her own home. The week before that my daughter and I joined the run to remember a black man shot while jogging. I watched the Instagram video of a white woman threatening a black man.

I have been watching my city, and then my country, burn all weekend long. This has not come out of nowhere. There is a reason people are angry and grieving.

We must deal with issues of race and by “deal with,” I don’t mean Tweet about or offer “prayers and thoughts” about. And I don’t mean for this week, while it is the hot topic in the news. I mean we should be doing this already and we need to continue doing the work. Sometimes we can share our thoughts and the books that have helped and other times we will need to be silent, go inward, not advertise, let others be heard.

In The Missionary Podcast newsletters (Not Just For Missionaries and Who Gets To Tell The Stories), I’ve raised the topic of the white savior complex through the story of Renee Bach in Uganda, but race problems are not just about savior complexes. This is about history and economics, justice and complicity. It is about violence and judgment, policing and infrastructure. Racial complexities occur in the countries we’ve left and in the countries in which we work.

We cannot bury our head in the sand and say, “I don’t live there.” Or, “I’m not local here.” These are dangerously simple excuses that allow expatriates to remain silent and complicit. They are perilously comparable to the, “but I never owned slaves,” or, “but I have friends of color,” statements.

We must start with being educated on racism and issues of justice over the course of history in the countries we come from. We must listen empathetically and be moved to action in the cultures we come from. We are better equipped both to understand and to respond to these problems where we come from and if we can’t or don’t engage there, we won’t be equipped to face the problems with wisdom, humility, and perspective in the countries where we serve. These are issues everywhere and we enter the systems everywhere we go. And, we bring ourselves with us everywhere; we bring all our prejudices, assumptions, judgments, ignorance, and history. We have to be aggressive in addressing it no matter where we live and work.

It would be the epitome of naivete to pretend that we are talking about how to Do Good Better and to not address current events.

I’ve been trying to learn for a while now, reading books and listening to podcasts and talking with friends. Every day this week I will be posting on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram just a few of the resources I have found instrumental. Follow me there if you’d like some ideas.


Start here. Addressing Institutionalized White Supremacy and the Murder of George Floyd, a YouTube video by Mark Charles.

Think about this concept of “shared memory” and how that applies where you live and work. What is your “memory” of this place and how does it differ from the local "memory”?

If you don’t know the local memory (of things like colonialism, slavery, economics, international interventions…) and the role your country, race, or religious compatriots may have played, time to find out.


The Multiple Unfolding Crisis for African Americans in Minneapolis

By Isaac Chotiner and Leslie Redmond, The New Yorker

This is a Q/A in which Chotiner talks with the head of the Minneapolis NAACP, Leslie Redmond.

Leslie says, “If people put it into perspective, for young people, they have grown up their entire lives watching black bodies murdered on social media, in real time, with no grief counsellors, with no therapy, with no one to help them make sense of it.”

What do you think?


Christians and Racial Justice, Discussion Guide

Sojourners

This is a massive long PDF. I haven’t read all of it yet and don’t expect y’all to read it right away. But in my research, I found it and want to offer it to you as a tool for wrestling and growth.

If you only have time to read one piece, I recommend this one by Dr. Leah Gaskin Fitchue: No Cheap Peace. Dr. Fitchue was the first woman to serve as president of any historically black theological seminary.

“Even the church impedes the reconciliation it preaches. We claim to be followers of Jesus, and yet we find no contradiction in openly and sometimes not so openly treating women as if they were inferior to men, treating people of color as if they were inferior to people who do not have that color, and treating poor people as if they were inferior to rich people.” 

What do you think?


Killing of George Floyd exposes blind spot on racism, Catholic advocates say

By Christopher White, Crux Now

This is a clear and powerful call for Catholics specifically, but I would also add Protestants and any person of faith, to examine our blind spots when it comes to race and the value of a human life.

“Gloria Purvis told Crux that Floyd’s death - and the commentary around it - evidences a “blind spot” among white American Catholics, as well as a double standard among pro-life Catholics who fail to see that combatting racism should be an integral part of their pro-life witness.”

What do you think?


An American missionary’s racist rant in Uganda shows the disturbing reality of White Savior complex

By Rosebell Kagumire, Quartz Africa (2018)

Why does it matter that cross-cultural workers, humanitarians, and missionaries address racism? 

It is important, however, that these savior narratives are discussed and not tolerated. This is especially true in the age of Donald Trump, who dubbed African nations “shithole countries.” At a time of raging debate on white supremacy, nationalism, and anti-black racism in the United States, one wonders why the work of white missionaries isn’t in America today—and not Africa. 

The place of missionary work in the 21st century cannot be divorced from its roots in colonialism and imperialism.”

What do you think?


Don’t Ignore Your Passport Country

By Rachel Pieh Jones (yes, quoting myself), A Life Overseas

I wrote this as a personal rebuke a while ago. It is far too easy to not pay attention to the issues in my home country. We can’t do that. It is irresponsible and lazy. I know because that’s how I have behaved. Easier to stick my head down and say, “but look over here!” than to feel solidarity with and learn from the community that formed me and launched and to which I will one day, insha allah, return.

It is true that there is a lot of pain in the world. But it is also true that ignoring it can be selfish and lazy. The trouble with being expats is that we have two neighbors: our nearby ones and our faraway ones, the ones we live among and the ones we used to live among and in all likelihood, will live among again one day. We need to engage with both. Yes, it is hard. Yes, it is heartbreaking. No, we won’t solve anything. Not here and not there.

But I, for one, want to be part of seeking justice and pursuing mercy all over the place and if I am going to be so bold as to ask people to care about my little corner of the world, I need to be willing to care about theirs.”

What do you think?


Twitter Thread

By Ally Quaranhenny

She starts with, “I’ve noticed that with every killing of an unarmed black person, there are white folks who decide that they want to “fight racism.” I’m not here tryna kill your vibe, I’m happy you’re here, but it’s also time for some honesty. So let’s sit down and have a chat.”

What follows is an important “discussion”. Time to listen. Read the whole thread.

What do you think?