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.