It’s Not About Guilt, It’s About Hope – by Matthew, #TheTableSetters #DismantlingWhiteousness

Charlottesville.  The United States of America.  2017.  What follows is a collection of some of my Facebook posting, along with some friends who inspire me, in the after swirl.

In Christ’s family there can be no division into Jew and non-Jew, slave and free, male and female. Among us you are all equal. That is, we are all in a common relationship with Jesus Christ. – Galatians 3:28, The Message

“We are not born with prejudices, they are made for us by someone who wants something…to break us into small (and conquerable) groups.”

If a politician or a pastor doesn’t call out the hatred of #WhitePower, maybe we should ask, might it be serving them?

We know what fascism is. We know what racism is. We must resist and we must wake up.(The clip above is from an anti-fascism film made by the US Government in 1943 called “Don’t Be A Sucker.”)

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August 12, 2017  Screen Shot 2017-08-15 at 5.27.33 PM

 

Dear European-American Christians: I take this moment to remind you that following Jesus and claiming Christianity are two very different things. Jesus called out the religious elite of his day for being in collusion with political and economic power as opposed to trusting the truth of God.

If your church does not make reference to the hatred on display last night and today, if someone tells you it is just the “fringe” of the Republican party, be very suspicious. #UniteTheRightRally is meant to divide and conquer.

If you’re happy that your church doesn’t bring it up, I implore you to read Isaiah. Read Jeremiah. Read any one of the four Gospels from start to finish. Take notes. Pay attention to how the leaders and kings lead and how they are confronted. Pay attention to who Jesus singles out as the protagonists in His lessons and the antagonists. Pay attention to the overall arc of justice that plays out.

I’m going to say it: 45 is a golden calf. Made by the white people, made for the white people, made as a substitute for God. We are witnessing a worship of a golden calf.

Reddit user Reagente created this map.

Awaken. There is hope in the Bible. It’s real to me and it’s being cheapened by politically powerful white America to a sickening degree. Jesus invited us all to the table. None of us are over or under welcomed, and none of us deserve it any more than another. #BlackLivesMatterwas a reflective response to the dominant #OnlyWhiteLivesMatter reality we’ve been subjected to since this country’s founding. As Andre Henry says: there is not room for argument here. You either accept that reality or you live in delusions.
Please, now, open your eyes and your ears and your hearts. I pray for the Holy Spirit to guide us all.

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August 13, 2017

(I stepped back and listened this day.  Here’s the best of what I found.)

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The incredible poet, activist, minister, Diane Ujiiye

I called this the post of the century.  Seriously, hilarious and chillingly spot on.  

Follow Donna Givens, Executive Director of the Eastside Community Network in Detroit, Here.
Follow Pastor Mike McBride, Director of People Improving Communities through Organizing, Here
 ——–
August 14, 2017
Seriously, super stress-relieving.

The passive and excuse-laden comfortability with the ongoing legal, social, and nationally supported systems of White Supremacy, both the overt and riotous, as well as the more insidious and hidden daily aggressions from well meaning white people (like myself, I admit), makes me want to knock shit over today. Thank God I’ve still got Angry Birds on my phone.

How in the hell do we move past this with integrity, equity, and effective consequences? How do I, as a Jesus-follower, contain my anger and find love for my current enemies to “heap burning coals” upon their passivity and reveal that God meant what he said when he challenged us to love our neighbors, and that heaven will be hard to get into if we are spiritually diluted by our privileges here on earth? People: I believe this tension is what it’s all about. Do we trust God enough to actually love and fight for our neighbors?

——–
August 15, 2017

To be clear:

I am not against white people. I am against white dominance, and anything that seeks to support white dominance as “all-powerful” or “most preferable” is deeply problematic. I actually grieve for white people who are consumed by maintaining “whiteness.” I have seen this destroy more white people than I can bear to mention. It has caused me depression and anxiety. I believe it is because it was never God’s intent for any one group to believe themselves better than any other. This is not about guilt. It’s about hope.

Yes white people have had to work hard. I’ve never denied that. But why is it so challenging to accept what I’ve seen, from years of teaching in European, African, Asian, and Latino-American school contexts: the kids I’ve taught with browner skin have had to work much harder to achieve similar levels of success, than their lighter skinned peers. I am not making that up, it is real and it is a problem. Why is that so hard to accept and so tempting to dismiss as “emotionality,” or “playing the race card,” or whatever else has been said to discredit what those of us who’ve crossed boundaries know to be true?

I lament the fear of “the other.” I believe when Jesus challenged us to trust God and love all our neighbors, he meant that. In my life, I have found that learning from people in races and cultures and socio-economic classes other than the one I was born into has given me an ever-clearer picture of the kingdom of God. The diversity helps to paint a fuller rendering of how amazing God is. So I strive to learn more, and I trust the experiences of first hand stories more than news stories framed and reframed for profit and ratings.

I may be using social media more than is healthy at times, but social media, for me, is a way to generate dialogue that is hard to have on a daily basis. Of course, it’s easy to get stuck in a loop, so we all must encourage one another to take these important conversations into our face to face interactions. We don’t have a precedent for how to best use this medium, so we are all learning as we go.

I believe people do change, when confronted with the right stories in the right contexts. I’ve also seen great hope in my family and my friends. I mean, isn’t that what the entire walk with Jesus is meant to be? A place to continually move your life more and more in line with His? If we don’t believe people can change, then it’s a pretty shallow Gospel.

I make mistakes all the time. Some kind old friends recently pointed that out to me. I’ve been guilty of trying to save all the poor black kids and I’ve gotten my ass handed to me over a warm cup of Gumbo. I’ve engaged in fights that should’ve ended in more prayer and walking away. I’ve been called the “white devil” as well as “racist against white people.” But let me assure you, these are not the worst things that can happen. These are survivable.

What is not okay to me: turning a blind eye to actual suffering, especially when doing so out of convenience or uncomfortability. True, we can’t fight every battle and it would be arrogant to think otherwise. But I’ve been deeply troubled by the lack of concern for the ongoing systems that support one group’s pursuit of life and liberty over another’s, especially from within the Church when there are ample passages decrying economic structures of oppression. I feel we must stand strong. Whiteness is the problem with race, whiteness invented the current structure of racial hierarchy in this country, and it works hard to support itself. It wants to rule economically, morally, and culturally. It is the distraction that I feel called to stand against. It is not the only problem we Christians are expected to combat, but it’s the one I feel God asking me to focus on, through how I was made and how life has shaped me along the way.  (Original post, with comments, here.)

With love, hope, and peace by peace,
Matthew

Come along side our work at The Table Setters.  We’ll pass the gumbo.

The Truth About the Movie DETROIT! – by Marvin #theTableSetters #Detroit

The Truth is:

Everything from our physical being to our intellectual prowess of street culture, medical innovations that were tested on our persons without our permission, to breeding us for selling. All this for the financial gain of others, mainly Anglos. Moreover, from the “Ghetto-izing” (Ghetto-*) of our culture, to overtly gobbling up everything we had the boldness to wear in the ghetto. From our style of hair, dress, music, dance, and other abilities that were stolen in some form and sold. So now we come down to history, our history as African-Americans. It is American History. So who gets to tell it? We live in such divided communities (redlining*) that it is a sensitive subject when it comes to, yet again, exploiting our stories for financial gain. The gap between the everyday experience of black and white people in this country is as broad as a suburb of Detroit with all white people and a great educational environment due to property tax dollars in wealthy areas and the struggles of a large amount of minority youth who are not in school in Detroit (and other urban cities) with high levels of crime in most areas due to lack of education and unemployment. Cities like Chicago (less in Detroit) is so out of sorts that having less than eight murdered on a weekend is considered a low number. Also, Detroit, even though it is starting to address there situations and have honest conversations with representatives from all areas included in the discussion still struggles with their narratives of what really happened. But honesty is not always represented well, or the full story told in narratives that involve telling “our stories”. And frankly, it pisses me off.

The truth is:

The film Detroit, as timely as it is, is a narrative that misrepresents black folks based on who was allowed to tell the story of one of many American Tragedies when it comes to the African-American community. Is it timely, yes? Well done, I am sure it is. Accurate, in some instances, yes. Creative license taken? Of course. However, I believe, just like Selma (Ava Duvernay re-wrote 60% of script, no credit given) that from a perspective of an African-American filmmaker (like myself) the story would have been vastly seen through a different lens. However, that was not the case. Due to the extensive racism that exists in the Hollywood “studio system” of who gets to tell their cultural stories, or any story for that matter, this was not a productive film that forwarded any of those discussions. Nor did it forward the conversation of who has the power to approve who tells the story. The black narrative is not only under represented in film and television (and in all narrative areas), but it is also unrepresented with perspectives from filmmakers who are black, or for that matter of Latin or Asian backgrounds. So yes, it is a sore spot with me. I do not subscribe for anyone to see the film. Also, the market place is bearing that out. Let me be very clear, it’s not the full responsiblity of the actors. An actor relys on the director for performance. An actor accepts a role. And considering the horrible path of blacks in cinema, they stand unscathed in terms of my disappointment in the filmmakers.

Mojo Film Tracking

Domestic Total as of Aug. 13, 2017: $13,421,464 (Estimate)
Distributor: Annapurna Pictures, 
Release Date: July 28, 2017
Genre: Crime Drama, Runtime: 2 hrs. 23 min.
MPAA Rating: R Production Budget: $34 million
( film must double its production cost to begin making money)

The Truth is:

I believe it is unfortunate that people of color do not trust our narratives with Anglos. I believe in working together, but the scales are beyond unbalanced. It is going to take a long time to balance the scales, which I doubt will happen in my lifetime. Seems like every endeavor when it comes to people of color will “take a long time.” Why? Because, once again, and my Asian and Latino and Latina people of color will back me up on this, it has been the entire history of this country (and continues to be in so many ways) that this obstruction of the narrative has taken place since 1776. Who tells the stories, who writes the books, who teaches in schools, who is the majority, and who is the minority?  Even when the majority are the minority, when it comes to stories, it never works out for the minorities unless we are in charge of our own narrative. It actually saddens me to make that statement, but The truth is, it’s true.

The Truth is:

As someone who has a non-profit that preaches sitting at The Table, this subject tests me the most. However, we need to continue to try and talk and discuss at length who gets to tell our narratives as people of color, who gets to decide that, and better yet; how can we get people of color to step up and not be dismayed by the powers that be and still tell their own story?  I can tell you personally that the frustration in not being heard is overwhelming to the point of not wanting to even attempt to be heard. However, I am personally committed to telling my story, my way. I am determined to stand at the gates of financiers, independent film companies, foreign film entities, and domestic studios to pitch and tell my story and to have an opportunity to tell my story my way. I do expect and welcome collaborators with me of all ages, race, and genders to join me in telling those stories that I deem significant. Also, hopefully, someday, someone in power (that looks like me and doesn’t look like me) to see it that way. I am optimistic. So then Detroit throws me for a loop. I am sure it has thrown Kathryn Bigelow, the only woman to win an Oscar for directing, for a loop as well.

The Truth is:

If you’re not a person of color, it is a hard and awkward position to understand, and most Anglos simply don’t! Mainly due to a lack of conversation about why we, as black folks (and others of color), would feel the way we do. Also, there is a fear of saying the wrong thing which also stops the conversation from happening. Fair? To some extent, it is not fair, but neither was the Transatlantic slave trade, auctioning of human beings, breeding and selling people (my ancestors), centuries of murdering our brown bodies, followed by Jim Crow, and many other forms of systemic racism (school to prison pipeline). Life is not fair, we all learn that. Black folks did not cause this, but we do have a responsibility to change this narrative. How?

 

The truth is:

We must metaphorically act as if we were at The March on Washington where Dr. King gave his speech. Or Bloody Sunday on Edmond Pettus Bridge (Selma) with all those people marching. In other words, we must flood the streets with story tellers in all forms. From filmmakers, authors, photographers, orators, and teachers, who stand at studio offices, TV executives, and publishers doors and demand to tell our stories ourselves with manuscripts, scripts, photographs, art works, speeches, and poems ready to go. So lest you think this is an exaggeration, it is not. The gap is wide as miles 1–14 in Detroit!

The Truth is:

Here are the numbers that prevent narratives from being told by people of color concerning the film and television business. I have not even discussed numbers for my Latin and Asian folks. Without even looking I can tell you they’re worse.

The Numbers:
Film Directors: 8–1 white, Writers: 3–1 white (that gap is closing, thank goodness), Film Studio Heads 94% White, 100% Male. (same, if not worse for film studios)

For more on this, View the Hollywood Diversity Report, 2015

The Truth is:

This brings me back to Detroit, the movie. It is uncomfortable in so many ways. How ironic that a town that somewhat balanced out the middle class by creating jobs (the auto industry) that evened the playing field without it being a sport where brown skinned people could be treated a little bit fair. Most families, even if they didn’t live in the same areas (and they didn’t because white people would not allow it) could at least have somewhat equal pay, a good job, and put their kids through their schools in their area of 8 miles or below. So why has this movie got me riled?

Detroit Poster, 1942

The Truth is:

Well, the fact is, we could see it coming 8 miles away.  The movie posters plastered all over every major “urban city” depicts cops standing off against brown folks, with the tag line, “It’s Time We Knew.”  It’s time we knew what? That “some police” (not all, as I have friends and family that are officers) have been brutal murderers and abusers to people of color? And who’s time is it to know? Certainly not people of color, we’ve been knowing! And I’ll dare you to actually put in a voice over in the trailer for this film that “we will reveal the truth!”  That misrepresents the blood spilled by my ancestors who made it a point to discuss every incident that seemed to mostly fall upon deaf ears. The Detroit tragedy, as awful as it is, sits in a line of many since the inception of this country which racism was truly The Birth of A Nation called The United States of America!

A small list of atrocities:
Slavery itself, Tulsa Town Burning, Rosewood Town Burning, Emmitt Till murder, hangings, draggings behind trucks, seven Nation of Islam people shot in Los Angeles, Black Panthers murdered in Philidelphia, Watts Riots, LA Riots, Rodney King….

Still photo from movie, Birth of a Nation

The truth is:

America does need to know the truth. I call all story tellers of color and people who want to help us tell our story with us in positions of leadership and power to affect the viewpoint of the story; it is time! Detroit proves it. Even in comedy, a film like Girl’s Night is a prime example of great collaboration. Yes, I saw the movie, it is a riot, and the box office reflects it. Go see it!

Girls Trip:

Domestic Total as of Aug. 13, 2017: $97,139,980/Foreign Total, $9 Million & Counting. Predicting 120–150 million domestic, 15–20 million foreign=Total 135 to 170 million. Production Budget: $19 million

A must See Interview, then watch the trailer:

*Ghetto Etymology-

The word “ghetto” comes from the Jewish area of Venice, the Venetian Ghetto in Cannaregio. However, there is no agreement among etymologists about the origins of the Venetian language term. The various theories trace it to: a special use of Venetian getto, or “foundry” (there was one near the site of that city’s ghetto in 1516);[3] Yiddish get, or “deed of separation”; a clipped form of Egitto (“Egypt”), from Latin Aegyptus (presumably in memory of the exile); or Italian borghetto, or “small section of a town” (diminutive of borgo, which is of Germanic origin; see borough). By 1899 the term had been extended to crowded urban quarters of other minority groups.

**Redlining-

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A HOLC 1936 security map of Philadelphia showing redlining of lower income neighborhoods.[1]

In the United States, redlining is the practice of denying services, either directly or through selectively raising prices, to residents of certain areas based on the racial or ethnic composition of those areas. While the best known examples of redlining have involved denial of financial services such as bankingor insurance,[2] other services such as health care[3] or even supermarkets[4] have been denied to residents (or in the case of retail businesses like supermarkets, simply located impractically far away from said residents) to result in a redlining effect.[5] Reverse redlining occurs when a lender or insurer targets particular neighborhoods that are predominantly nonwhite, not to deny residents loans or insurance, but rather to charge them more than in a non-redlined neighborhood where there is more competition.[6][7]

The Pastor as Spiritual Guide Recommendation

Table Setters are doing critically important yet hard work seeking to foster integration by bringing together peoples from different cultures and ethnicities to that common, universal experience of eating together at the table. Integration is, humanly speaking, hard because it creates personal anxieties, power struggles, losses, and calls forth spiritual disciplines such as surrender, openness, and trust. At the same time, it invites wonderful gains, such as joy, peace, freedom, love, laughter, understanding, and most especially belonging or community. Those of us affiliated the with PSGP pray God’s blessings upon The Table Setters and encourage them as well as our represented communities to invite their leadership and modeling of The Kingdom of God. – The Pastor as Spiritual Guide

Ubuntu, by Dan Selock of #theTableSetters

I am who I am because of who we all are…I am because we are

I have learned much about the essence of being human through Tom Logan, co-founder of Marion Medical Mission.  He and his wife, Jocelyn, have directed the Shallow Well Program for the last 25 years, helping to install about 27,000 shallow wells in Malawi, Tanzania, and Zambia, Africa.  Those wells have enabled three to four million villagers to have safe drinking water.  Only a small number of them have ever had safe drinking water, “since the beginning of mankind,” according to one of the village elders my wife, Susie, and I met in Malawi last fall.  We are proud to have assisted with 144 wells of the 2,754 installed in 2016, and we are planning to return to Africa in the future.

Notice I said “assisted.”  Tom was very clear that the wells belonged to the villagers; we were only there to assist.  They located the subsurface water source, dug the 15 to 25 foot well, formed and baked the clay bricks, laid the brick walls of the well, and created the concrete cap to keep the water clean and apron to drain away excess water.  We Americans raised the $450 needed to pay for the cement, pipe, pump, and wages of the African field officers, well building supervisors, and installation supervisors.  We Americans drove Toyota Land Rovers loaded with well parts over rough terrain to remote villages.  Once there, we recorded the GPS location and construction data on an android, checked the quality and safety of the well, and celebrated the completion of the well with a dedication ceremony.

Only together, Africans and Americans, were we able to be who God created us to be.  Only together did safe drinking water become available to thousands of villagers.  Together, people of color and white people actualized a dream, became friends and established relationships, and served one another.  Together, we sang songs and praised God for His goodness.  The attached video is a gift of song to my wife and me for coming to their town in Malawi and assisting with wells.  The verses are, “Who will enter into Heaven?  Our father is there.  Only the holy will enter.  You are holy.  Enter into Heaven.  Our father is there.”  Susie and I felt we had entered into Heaven for those moments of the song.  I still tear-up when I watch that video.  Gestures of love from God’s children are powerful.  The people of Malawi have such open and warm hearts.

I write this story to illustrate how people who are different can effectively come together and achieve a dream.  In this land the “American Dream” is at stake. The only way people of color and white people can actualize that dream is to become friends, establish relationships, and work together, as we did in Africa.  The time for such an encounter is now; it is long past due.  And, if we do not succeed today, what kind of world will our children and grandchildren inhabit tomorrow?

Ubuntu, I am who I am because of who we all are.  Invite the Table Setters to your church, school, business, or community organization and allow them to facilitate relationship building.  It’s diversity training on a personal level.  Many of us know very little about people who are different.  Come to the table; share at the table; stay at the table; and come back to the table.  Only through relationship building can we learn who we all are and, as a consequence, learn who each one of us are.  I am because we are.

 

 

 

Displacement and Gathering: #DismantlingWhiteousness with #TheTableSetters

It’s been 11 months since we displaced ourselves from Los Angeles to Detroit.  But yesterday, I got to come back to Hollywood, thanks to an incredible exhibit called “Displacement and Gathering” at First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood which featured a live artistic performance of a Table Setters gathering around a table to discuss race, politics, the idolization of all things white.  We talked about what we might learn from other cultures, other perspectives, and other people with whom we might expect to disagree with, be afraid of, be opposed to meeting.  We talked about why God created diversity to begin with, if it wasn’t to learn how to appreciate God’s love for beauty in variety.

Marvin’s All-American photos and videos with quotes by Frederick Douglass and Andre Henry were featured alongside original artwork by Hyung-in Kim, Maria Fee, Anne Baumgartner, Andrea Kraybill, Brian Fee. I want to let you have a glimpse of that work below.

For me, personally, I felt “gathered,” after being displaced.  I was invited to play piano again during the worship service.  I was invited to dinner with old friends.  I got to hang out with the old team of Discerners from the Gregory avenue neighborhood, kids I knew since they were kids, and now they are all hovering around 21.  It was great to be gathered back.  But I also thought of how many people get displaced and are never able to return to glimpses of home.  I think of Native Americans pushed off their land.  I think of people living homelessly in Hollywood who get shuffled along, especially during the Oscars, every year.  I think of warriors snatched out of their homelands to come build a country for white men.  I think of refugees fleeing impossible situations, either economically or politically, to do right by their families, to survive.

I think of all the many people in Detroit who’ve been told their house is not worth the cost it would take to fix the roof, so they just have to slowly let the water seep in.  I think of what it might mean for us to turn back that tide.  I think of what it might take.  I pray to God we have the strength and courage to dismantle the walls that divide us, and I think Whiteousness has always been one of the most formidable.  Like the forcefield blocking entrance to the planet with all the secret codes in Rogue One…..

This week: we moved into a new house.  Another displacement and re-gathering.  We are trying to buy this house, but are facing challenges because, like many of our neighbors, it is not being valued as high as the seller is hoping to sell it.  What is value, and who decides?  The nature of this post is understandably scattered and questioning, which I think fits well alongside the artwork to follow.  Let it speak to you too.

What if we could allow everyone to be considered, “white?” Of course, i think that would be a terrible idea, as whiteness is the problem.  But, what if we could truly understand each person as a beloved child of God, as beautiful as God intended?

But first, listen to the incredible Diane Ujiiye deliver an opening prayer of sorts through spoken word:

Displacement and Gathering

“Remembering for Refugees” by Hyung-in Kim: the interlacing strands were produced in art workshops. In these educational venues the artist directed participants in the shared activity of braiding bands as a pedagogical tool to raise awareness of cultural diversity and to build empathy. Her project also commemorates the 25th Anniversary of the LA Riots.

“Pourous Wall” by Maria Fee: a wall is erected as a barrier: it can contain, or it can keep things at bay. Boundaries are necessary to create distinction. Yet when a wall is impenetrable, how can relationships occur between what’s inside and outside? When a wall is too high, how can the strange draw nearer to become more familiar?

“Alienation” by Brian Fee: to exist is to struggle. In attempt to elevate the self, someone else may be pushed away. This brings about a double alienation: the one who is cast off, and the offender left alone.

“Gather and Embrace” by Anne Baumgartner: welcome can function in many ways, both literal and symbolic. Through words, expressions, and physical space, God utilizes the particularity of place to gather the many in order to embrace them. How can we create room for each other and also the Holy Spirit?

“Interwoven” by Andrea Kraybill: the multi-layered bands installed above the church’s entrance, found near the intersection of two streets, further speaks of hospitality. It provides an alluring invitation for passersby to enter into a meditative space for renewal and refreshment.

Heartbeats in the Heartland: #TheTableSetters in #Illinois and #Indiana

Spring has arrived now.

Will we blossom once again?

Healing could happen.

I’m writing from Carmel, Indiana as we are concluding our time with leadership of The Synod of Lincoln Trails, the Presbyterians of Illinois and Indiana.  It has been such an encouraging moment of togetherness, while the rest of the country is celebrating or pointing fingers over the future of healthcare.  Thursday, we spent time with brave pink-skinned people in a community center of Olney, Illinois, where our new friend, Beau Brown, serves as a Presbyterian pastor.  From there, we met with a slightly more diverse group (some African and Asian Americans, some with Native heritage, some with biracial children and grandchildren)  of Presbyterian leaders in Carmel, Indiana, just outside Indianapolis.  Our friend Beau was then installed as the new moderator for the Synod of Lincoln Trails, and he is passionate about working towards moments of racial healing from his corner of Christianity.

We talked about the pain that exists, the feelings of animosity that are deeply held, when we’ve been hurt by someone from another race.  While these are personal examples, like the black bully I had in middle school (who later apologized and meant it!), they matter.  Of course, my pain on this level is relative to the pain that my friends of color experience, because I only have a handful of personal pain stories.  Marvin has luggage, as he calls it, involving both personal stories of being intentionally hurt, alongside the everyday ache that systemic racism causes.

And it wasn’t a time of presenting solutions.  But a time to hold in each other’s pain.  These steps matter, and are often overlooked to jumpstart towards solutions.

Trust is needed.  And trust takes time, repeated positive experiences, to build.  Then, and only then, when we know we have each other’s backs, or more pointedly, when people of color know that white people aren’t going to cut and run when the going gets tough, only then can we start to dream up anything close to solutions.

Thank you brave souls of Olney and Lincoln Trails.  You have encouraged us and we hope to set more tables with you and your communities soon.

Peace by peace,

Matthew