Socially Acceptable Racism

A few days ago I saw the graphic below that highlighted socially unacceptable and socially acceptable racism. It was soon after the lynching of George Floyd by the police in Minneapolis, MN. What struck me were the words “Socially Unacceptable” and “Socially Acceptable.” It got me thinking about all the “socially acceptable” ways I had experienced racism growing up in Chippewa Falls, WI from 1977-1988.

Things that came to mind:

Make up – Remember that green eye shadow of the 1980’s?  It didn’t look good on anyone and it really didn’t look good on me.  However, it was all that we had – all we had were the colors made for light skin and not colors made for my skin tone.     

Hair – No products for black hair in northern Wisconsin in this time period.  No internet for my mom to try to figure out black hair on YouTube.  The most memorable moment being a haircut in 5th grade where the stylist must never had thought she would ever be cutting curly hair.  I went to school with a hood on for at least a week. 

School – One of my close friends growing up was brown like me, but her ethnic background is Pilipino/German.  I’m Black/English.  We did not look alike.  However, one of the principals of my high school could not tell us apart.  We weren’t the same height, shape, hair texture, you name it. 

Insults – The top three I remember are 1) Go back to Africa.  I would remind them I was born in Madison, WI. 2) Black people swim? I was on the swim team and last I looked on a map there are lakes and rivers on the continent of Africa and, like all continents, it is surrounded by water. 3) Black Widow Spider.  This one came from the kids at my church. My dad was the pastor. 

Dating – When I came back on to visit early on in my college career, I went to a gathering of others who were home on break.  At the party, a guy told me that he had wanted to ask me out in high school but was afraid that his parents wouldn’t be okay with it because I was black.

Dollar Dance – If you have been to a wedding in the mid-west, you have experienced a dollar dance.  I will never forget the dollar dance when I approached the groom he said to me in a really creepy way, “I have been waiting for this moment for a long time.”  He also held me uncomfortably close. 

Each of these examples could be its own blog post, talking about the ways that People of Color (POC) are told we don’t belong, that we don’t matter, that differences make people afraid (and it is the POC who are different not those who are white), and the over-sexualization of black women.  Maybe, over time, each of these examples from my life will be expanded on.  What I wanted to do in this first post was start to unpack my experience for you and to say that these “socially acceptable” forms of racism need to be called out and made unacceptable. 

I’m a Christian Pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of American (ELCA).  I believe in calling what is evil – evil, and calling what is good – good (theology of the cross).  The evil of slavery and the dehumanization of black and brown people is a deep wound in America. 

I also believe in healing, reconciliation and resurrection.  I believe deeply that one of the roles of the church is to bring healing to communities.  Healing comes by speaking our truths, being heard, and working together for the common good of all.  And, my dear white friends and family, this issue of race is not just an issues for POC.  It is an issues for all of human kind.  It is an issue for the whole human race.  I’m pissed about how it impacts the lives of POC.  I’m going to use this righteous anger to bring reformation to my church and to the world. 

Welcome to Pissed Off Pastor.        

24 thoughts on “Socially Acceptable Racism

    1. Suzy Busta says:

      Thank you, Kara, for giving your anger a voice and offering hope and healing through transformation. You know I am listening and that I love you. I remember another story from our youth that I may never have told you. Can’t wait to talk soon…you beautifully busy Pissed off Pastor!

  1. Jason Ramirez says:

    Pastor Baylor, thank you! Thank you for being a light for others and always having the courage to bring us together, not apart. I look forward to following your blog and miss our conversations very much!! Take care!!

  2. Tina McGee (Kvapil) says:

    Great first blog! A few typos that you may want to go back and fix…. but overall very powerful. You were easily one of my favorite people in high school. Not only were you on the swim team…. but you kicked some major bootie in back stroke! It’s weird….i never really held it in my head back then that you were black…..i know….. I’ve had friends tell me that’s part of the problem and I’ve worked hard to become more aware and mindful. I just want you to know that what i saw in you way back then is probably what makes you a great pastor… a beautifully kind soul. I wish i could bear some of those awful experiences for you…..i wish I’d known more about what you were going through back then….. wish i would have put more effort into getting to know you….
    Thank you for this…. the opportunity to learn more about you and to spur thought and discussion. Keep on keeping on lady!

  3. Kim Veltus says:

    Thank you for sharing, and bringing greater awareness for positive change to our society. Love and prayers

  4. Debby Klinkhammer says:

    Wow, I have always admired you Pastor Kara and I love your courage and strength! I am so sorry and sad that you have to live with this every day. You should be pissed off! Thank you for opening us up to our blindness- I pray that we can all become one race-HUMAN! I look forward to reading your blog and I am behind you all the way! No wait, I will stand BESIDE YOU all the way! Keep being You! ❤ Debby Klinkhammer

  5. Kathy White says:

    Thank you, Kara, for your honesty and guidance. As always, your words challenge us (me) to do better. Love you.

  6. Christy Schwan says:

    Our daughter sent us this. You confirmed our oldest granddaughter, so we are forever linked. Thank you for your insight, your courage and clarity. Yours is a voice of truth and opens the door for awareness that leads to healing. We grieve that injustice singles out and oppresses anyone that appears to be different than our circle of family and friends. Let’s make the circle bigger for all of us.

  7. Kirsten Graves says:

    Thank you Kara. You always open my eyes and inspire me to do better. I’m looking forward to learning so much more from you. Love you!

  8. Claranna Vytlacil says:

    Thanks for sharing Kara. It is good to learn some of the challenges POC face that as a white person we may sadly not even realize without your sharing.

  9. Andrea Zimdars says:

    Thank you Pastor Kara for sharing your experiences! I would just like to say that NO rasicism is socially acceptable and whoever made that statement is a part of the problem. I look forward to reading and sharing more of your blogs! Keep it going #pissedoffpastor

  10. Laura Carpenter says:

    I have always loved learning from you in all of your facets, just a few of them being … as a pastor, as a boss, as a friend, as a mom, as a wife, as a daughter, as an adopted child, as a woman, and as a person of color. Your perspective helps me see the world wider, taller, deeper, and in more technicolor than I did before. I know I am not the only one. I despise the vile reasons this blog was created, but I’m thankful I have this new way to share your wisdom
    with the world. Your heart, words and passion changes me, and they will continue to change others too.

    1. Christy says:

      Laura, I love your comment about seeing things more in technicolor. I think that may be part of the answer for all us.

  11. Jill Dahl says:

    Thank you Pastor Kara
    Keep pointing out our failures , we need to face them. You help us to be better Christians and I thank you for that.

  12. Gary says:

    Excellent blog Kara! I’m sorry that your hometown had to leave you with so many horrible memories inside you.

  13. Jeffrey Grant says:

    Hi Kara

    You received a lot of praise above. I do not know anything about you so I cannot offer praise or criticism.

    I am not a big fan of any organized religion.
    I was raised Catholic but I consider this church to be the most corrupt business in the world. I am spiritual. I am curious.
    I can talk to God anytime I want without the aid of a priest.

    I am drawn to your words in this blog because you are saying things that I have never heard before. “Socially Acceptable Racism” is a term I have never heard before. These three words speak volumes!

    I am 72 years young and enjoy learning. Are you prepared to teach me, Kara? Can you stimulate this elderly brain? That’s a challenge that I hope you accept!

    Sincerely, Jeff

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