Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Steps towards racial justice

RSS By: MNYS Anti-Racism Task Force

Our Anti-Racism Task Force members will be taking turns in writing posts that shed light on issues surrounding racial justice work in our church and society. The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the authors.

How Much Would You Pay to Become White?

Sep 12, 2016
By Pr. Marcia E. Parkinson-Harrison
Pr. Marcia E. Parkinson-Harrison, born in London, England was raised on the islands of Jamaica, West Indies, and Long Island New York. She served as Vicar in Zimbabwe before her current call at The Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Resurrection in Saint Albans, New York. She received her Masters of Divinity from New Brunswick Theological Seminary with post-graduate work at Princeton, New Jersey and The Lutheran Theological Seminary in Philadelphia. She is a member of the Anti-Racism Task Force. 

As an adolescent, I found myself in the pulpit on many a youth Sunday. My go to text was, and still is, John 4; the story of the Samaritan woman at the well. Far from being the image of the sacred, she knew that she was profane. In this encounter, Jesus filled this woman’s brokenness. She became the first preacher when she turned around, went home and said: "let me tell you about a man!" The account of this woman struck a resonate chord within me. Like me, this woman was blessed, broken and used for the glory of God. She proclaimed the story of the living Christ to the uncircumcised, untouchables.

La Samaritaine, Philippe de Champaigne (1648)

Somewhere and sometime between the pulpit and the table, I received "the call" to represent the family of God. Theologians of the great councils of the early Christian church agreed to call it the Triune God or the Holy Trinity.  Our world is changing faster than our eyes can blink. How we articulate our experience of the sacred in these rapidly changing times is the challenge for the continued life of the Christian church. Those of us who lift the life and light of our great redeemer, Jesus, are faced with the challenge of keeping the context of our doctrine relevant. In this new millennium, communication has been reduced to a staccato conflagration of acronyms. Having come of age in the twentieth century, I need younger persons to translate this newspeak for me. Fortunately, the community that I serve is multigenerational. Together we bridge our communication gaps. Jurgen Moltmann once said something like "progress is a mythical bird flying backward into the future watching the heaps of carnage, some smoldering, some blazing, left in its wake." In other words, we spend all our time dissecting the past (to no avail) while not considering implications for the future. We don’t anticipate the next tragedy, yet our memories are refreshed almost daily by the latest epic event. By the time this article is read, there will be more. Reinhold Niebuhr taught us that a preacher should exhort from the pulpit with the Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other. The life and witness Dietrich Bonhoffer provided a Christian moral pulse in the immoral society of Hitler’s Nazi Germany. These voices, within the former dominant discourse, inform my faith.


As an ordained pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, my sense of knowing is deeply rooted in the reality that we must speak the language of the people. When Martin Luther penned his theses’ it was not to have the spirit of the reformation bound by the inertia of tradition. It was to serve as a benchmark for the continued reforming of Christian fellowship. Now, at the waning dawn of a new millennium, our witness and proclamation of the resurrected Christ are being pushed to the margins again. In spite of the onslaught of the forces of unseen powers and principalities, Christianity continues on a path of gender bias, cultural separation, and intolerance of our increasingly diverse sexual identities. The renowned Cornell West, Ph.D. has written an arcane book simply titled Race Matters. White men know that their numbers are dwindling. White men spare no effort to maintain and preserve their entitlement. Diversity workshops in the corporate sector (the last bastion of white male power) abound. There is an exercise where the white participants are asked: "if you had unlimited resources and were a person of color, how much would you pay to become white"? Without fail, the longer the question is on the table, the higher the number gets. When I was in seminary, the son of one of my European American colleagues wasn’t shy to tell his story of driving his mother’s car while smoking marijuana, without a driver’s license. When stopped and questioned by the police, of course, it was only natural for them to return the ‘wayward son’ to his ‘worried mother.' A friend told me about a man who was of age during the Vietnam draft era. He worked as an orderly in a hospital in the city where he lived. There he met and was befriended by black men who were his co-workers. He was a pacifist then, as now, and he knew he could file for and receive conscientious objector status. While he and his workmates lamented their destinies to be shipped overseas, he was aware that they had no legal recourse. So his act of resistance was not to register. At that time, his uncle was the federal district judge who was in charge of penalizing draft dodgers. The young pacifist was one of his grandmother’s favorites; she ordered her son (the judge) not to touch her grandson, his nephew. The young idealist never received a summons from the courts.


No person of color would dare to expect these reactions or treatments. We, who are judged by the color of our skin and the contour of our figures, have through the ages, embraced and celebrated the life, death, and resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus. It has been legitimately asked; how is it that the religion that was fed to Africans in America to ensure joyful adherence to continued enslavement was embraced, cultivated, and cherished by the masses of the black people in the northern hemisphere? My answer: the redemptive power of a risen Christ, through the prodding of the Holy Spirit, transcends any small-minded presentation of a pigeonholed God. Some would say racism is a disease. It is definitely a compulsive behavior. Racists, although immune, are carriers of this aggressive and infectious condition. Past and present events indicate obsessiveness in maintaining the so-called status quo. All the while, population trends have already made a woman of color, like myself, the majority in the world. Attrition is rendering the so-called dominant discourse ineffective. It is quickly becoming mute and moot. The pandemic disease of racism has affected and infected the entire planet.

Foghorn Leghorn–Leghorn Swoggled (1951)

The old cartoon; Foghorn Leghorn (Rooster and the Chicken Hawk) is an appropriate comparison. It is the classic model of abusive relationships. Everyday, the rooster seeks approval and friendship from the chicken hawk. Everyday, Henerey Hawk plots, and schemes some diabolical plan to discredit and destabilize the Foghorn Leghorn. Everyday, the chicken hawk dutifully victimizes the rooster. Every time Foghorn Leghorn is outwitted or entrapped by the Henerey Hawk, Foghorn swiftly beats the barnyard dog. Such is the endless cycle of racism. Perpetrators of violence depend on a steady supply of uneasy, gullible, yet unwilling victims. The church mirrors our society. "If there had been no racism in America there would be no racial churches. As it is, we have white churches and black churches; white denominations and black denominations; American Christianity and black religion." (C. Eric Lincoln) In addition to this reality, we have black, as well as other ethnic groups, in separate congregations within the so-called mainline denominations. The ELCA is no exception. For more than twenty years what has traditionally been called "mainline" has been pushed to the margins. Non-denominational mega churches, Islam, and the rapidly growing unchurched community have overshadowed our mission…. " that we are freed to serve and love our neighbor. With our hands we do God’s work of restoring and reconciling communities in Jesus’ name throughout the world" If we are to be that bright shining light, we must be true to our faith in Jesus. We must be "Marked with the cross of Christ forever" so that "We are claimed, gathered and sent for the sake of the world." We must remember that we were created to love. The love that saved our sin-sick souls calls us to love without question. In Christ there is no Greek or Jew, there is no slave nor free. One of my members is an elder widower migrated from Jamaica. When asked about racism he said "It always been all over the world. We claim that we love, but we don’t know what love is." He went on to say "Me, I love everybody; everybody." This man is wise as a serpent and gentle as a dove. He is remarkable because he is invisible. He holds have the keys to our church He opens the doors in the morning, fires up the furnace when it is cold outside. He cools off the offices from the sweltering heat and humidity of summer. He is an all round, welcoming presence; a true emissary of God with us. His gifts of stewardship, other than his widower’s mite are his abiding love.


This love was lacking during the great crusades. This love was lacking when Queen Isabella of Spain sponsored Columbus and his band of ragamuffins when they terrorized, tortured and massacred the inhabitants of the land that was named "America". This love was lacking when fine upstanding Christians murdered, kidnapped, raped, and enslaved God’s own creation with guiltless impunity. This love was lacking when evangelical missions yielded "the other" beside them in the pew, and whole worship communities raided the church coffers and assets (like stained glass windows), bought farmland, and ran to what became the suburbs. The love that Jesus commissioned with his dying breath must appear in our pulpits and pews. We, the Christian remnant in a post-Christian age, cannot stand divided. We must confess. We must repent. We must joyfully give the abiding grace that we have received. The blood of Jesus is sufficient.

God Calls Us to Change

Aug 22, 2016

By Pr. David Parsons

Pr. David Parsons, a member of the Metropolitan New York Synod Anti-Racism Task Force, is pastor of St. John-St. Matthew-Emanuel, Brooklyn.



I’ve been tasked with writing a reflection on the deaths of Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, Brent Thompson, Patrick Zamarripa, Michael Krol, Lorne Ahrens, and Michael Smith.


Two of the men, Mr. Sterling, of Baton Rouge, and Mr. Castile, of Falcon Heights, Minnesota, were killed by police officers. Both men were African-American. Their deaths were captured on video. The names of Alton and Philando thus join a terrible litany… Michael, Eric, Tamir, Sandra, and on, and on… of African-American citizens who have died at the hands of police in the last two years.


The other men who died recently were police officers in Dallas. Seven of their fellow officers were also wounded. They were all on duty, protecting citizens who were peacefully protesting the deaths in Louisiana and Minnesota. All of the Dallas shooting victims were white. A lone Army veteran, Micah Johnson, an African-American, has been identified as the shooter in Dallas. He died when a bomb delivered by a remote-controlled robot exploded near his hiding place.


A New York Times article on July 13 reported on a poll conducted after the shootings in Baton Rouge and Falcon Heights and Dallas. 69% of Americans believe that race relations are generally bad, and getting worse, the highest level since the 1992 riots following the Rodney King verdict in Los Angeles. The article went on to say, "More than two-fifths of black people say the police in their communities make them feel more anxious than safe. By wide margins, whites and Hispanics say the police make them feel safer."


The_Black_Madonna_of_PragueIt is a fearsome thing to be asked to speak a word of hope, to craft a faithful response, in such a time as this. The situation is unbearably complex, and my location as a white male of considerable privilege properly renders anything that I have to say as worthy of suspicion.


As I’ve been thinking and praying over these last days, it seems to me that, for people seeking to follow the way of Jesus, to focus our attention on police, their policies and practices, and the nature of their interactions with those they serve, especially communities of color, is to see only the tip of the iceberg.


Speaking from a position of privilege, it seems to me that we get the police we want, and then we give them an impossible task.


Here is how President Obama put it in his remarks at the memorial service for the slain police officers in Dallas on July 12:


We also know what Chief Brown [Chief of the Dallas Police Department] has said is true, that so much of the tensions between police departments and minority communities that they serve is because we ask the police to do too much and we ask too little of ourselves. As a society, we choose to under-invest in decent schools. We allow poverty to fester so that entire neighborhoods offer no prospect for gainful employment. We refuse to fund drug treatment and mental health programs. We flood communities with so many guns that it is easier for a teenager to buy a Glock than get his hands on a computer or even a book. And then we tell the police, "You’re a social worker; you’re the parent; you’re the teacher; you’re the drug counselor."


We tell them to keep those neighborhoods in check at all costs and do so without causing any political blowback or inconvenience; don’t make a mistake that might disturb our own peace of mind. And then we feign surprise when periodically the tensions boil over.


President Obama says, "We ask the police to do too much…" We ask them, in essence, to make up for centuries of subjugation, suppression, and oppression suffered by our brothers and sisters of African descent. We ask them to do it without inconveniencing us. For the vast majority of people of color, "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" must seem to be alien fantasies, rather than the unalienable rights that our founders believed were endowed to all human beings by their Creator.


"We ask too little of ourselves…" As a society, as a nation, we are willing to consign a significant minority of our fellow citizens to communities where shelter and food and educational opportunities are substandard, if not virtually absent. Then we send in police as our representatives, symbols of the system that has failed those communities, expecting them to be responded to with tolerance and respect… and, as President Obama says, we are somehow shocked when that is not the case.


What are we to do? How are we to change the fearsome dynamic of race relationships in this nation so that we honor God’s ancient call formishpat and tzedakah, mercy and righteousness, for all God’s people?


President Obama suggested, as a beginning, that we turn to the prophet Ezekiel: "I will give you a new heart, and put a new spirit in you. I will remove from you your heart of stone, and give you a heart of flesh." (Ezekiel 36:26) He went on to say, "That's what we must pray for, each of us: A new heart. Not a heart of stone, but a heart open to the fears and hopes and challenges of our fellow citizens." 


What can we do with this new heart? As an overwhelmingly white denomination, we can commit to educating ourselves about race in America, and about what our fellow citizens of color need from us.


Here are two, excellent resources to start with:

These were not always easy reading for me. My reaction is that the truth hurts. In the first resource especially, some of the language is crude, even profane. I can imagine that this may upset some who choose to investigate these resources.


People are dying. Strong language is called for. I am choosing to take my cue from an item in "12 things white people can do now…" (#10) don’t be afraid to be unpopular


If you choose to be an ally, a comrade, with people who are demanding an end to racial oppression, demanding access to the rights and freedoms promised to them in our founding documents, you will upset some people.


But then, remember, you go to church. You know how upset people get about which color wine to serve at communion, or what time Sunday school should be, or what people ought properly to bring to coffee hour, or (fill in your own "trauma" here (_____). You know, the important stuff.


Change is uncomfortable. It will hurt to change our heart of stone to a heart of flesh. I submit that we have to do it. God calls us to do it. The flesh of our brothers and sisters is being destroyed.

My Son’s Future

Aug 08, 2016

by Joel Bumol

Joel Bumol has been a member of Oceanside Lutheran Church for over seven years. He is a family doctor working in the Bronx and is a member of the Anti-Racism Task Force.


I worry about the future. As the sun sets on another week of violence in the United States of America, I put my son to bed and worry about the future. My son Jude is black. In 15 years when he is an adult, he will have to face realities about being a black man in America that I, as a white man, never had to experience.


The cynical parts of my personality are not optimistic for change after the deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile this past week almost 2 years after Michael Brown's death in Ferguson, Missouri. The tragic death of these two men was followed by yet another tragedy in Dallas, where five police officers upholding the law to allow for peaceful dialogue and protest were killed. This story is not new. My son was not a month old when 20 children were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary.


Prince Jones, who Coates had known through Howard University, was similarly killed at the hands of law enforcement.

The story of black men being disproportionate victims of police violence is also not new. Last summer, I read Ta-Nehisi Coates' open letter to his son, Between the World and Me. Fifteen years earlier, Prince Jones, who Coates had known through Howard University, was similarly killed at the hands of law enforcement like Michael Brown, Philando Castile, Alton Sterling and far too many others. Like any parent, I was already fearful for the future for my son. The thought of his future being at greater risk because of his skin color, and the assumptions others might make about him because of how he looks, are the thoughts that can lead to anger, division, blame and more fear. Jesus is weeping.


I often think back to a time in my honors English class in high school where we were wrapping up a discussion about race in the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain. I remember giving a short speech about how I saw people as people, that I thought we should all be "colorblind" and that race should no longer be a source of division. I think back to this moment and often cringe. The fact of the matter is our society is not post-racial. Racism and inherent biases and prejudices are alive and rampant. And before my son was born, as I white person I had the privilege of forgetting or ignoring that this was a problem in our day to day world.


If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.
-Desmond Tutu

One of the things I have learned about being a Christian is that it is not easy. We are called to love others without conditions, to fight for justice where there is suffering, and to speak truth even when we do not want to hear it. We have a God and savior who truly invited everyone to His table, who shattered all divisions and erased all lines. How quickly after His death do we forget these lessons and fall back into what is convenient and easy. To my fellow sisters and brothers who are white, how easy it is to continue our day to day lives and forget the horrors that racism exacts on our sisters and brothers of color every day.


I am blessed to have been working as a family doctor in the Bronx for the past five years. One of the projects I am involved with are well child group visits, where infants receive their well child care in a group setting rather than traditional individual office visits. Recently I had the privilege of observing three young infants interact in a group--one African-American, one Hispanic, and one Middle Eastern. There was nothing but joy in their eyes as they played with each other. Any future prejudice they learn will be entirely our fault--not just from the vocal racist, but from the silent majority who did not work against racism and for equality.


So after finishing Coates' book, I felt I needed to do something. Giving money, participating in worship, and volunteering time are all important, but I know from Jesus' life and teaching that challenging the status quo and speaking truth are necessary to living the Gospel. Here is truth: Racism is real and alive and present today. It is not popular to say this. Our sisters and brothers of color, because of ingrained individual and structural stereotypes, live in fear from the police who would seek to protect all of us. Jesus would be and is on the front-lines calling for an end to racism and any system that creates divisions among us. Having tough conversations about subjects like race, and how we move forward on these issues guided by Jesus' teachings, are at the heart of Christianity. If it feels hard or challenging or uncomfortable, then it means we are probably moving in the right direction.


So today my Lutheran sisters and brothers, in the wake of these recent tragedies let us live out the Gospel. Let us work to have tough conversations about racism and prejudice without fear of judgment, persecution or resentment. Let us find resurrection out of death, and work towards a future where my patients can continue the same joy and laughter at age 60 as they do at age 6 months. This road is not easy, but neither is being a Christian. Despite all the sorrow around us, I am ultimately hopeful for our children in the years to come. I have faith that we can continue to bend the arc of history towards justice. We will not get there by being silent, being too afraid or being unwilling to have conversations about race. And as a parent of a young black man, I implore that we start today. My son’s life may depend on it.


African Descent Lutheran Association Invites Church to Prayer and Intentional Action

Jul 15, 2016

Pr. Lamont Anthony Wells, MNYS Director for Evangelical Mission and National President for the African Descent Lutheran Association released this statement in the wake of the recent tragedies in Baton Rouge, Minneapolis/St. Paul, and Dallas.


adlaThe African Descent Lutheran Association (ADLA) offers its collective prayers and empathy for the recent tragedies in Baton Rouge, Minneapolis/St. Paul, and Dallas. In fact, our condolences grow each day as we all wake up and are notified of new incidents of violence upon innocent lives. The tensions of this real pain amongst people of color in each of our communities must be addressed by all of us with a sense of urgency. We unashamedly declare within the church that black lives matter. Although many of our white brothers and sisters may feel our declaration is an obvious truth in light of God's love for all God's children, we need you to know and see that has not been the experience for many of us in the USA, global community, and even in our church (ELCA).


We invite all of us to think on these things that are true: young black males in recent years were at a far greater risk of being shot dead by police than their white counterparts–21 times greater, according to a ProPublica analysis of federally collected data on fatal police shootings. Major evidence and reports show that black women in crisis are often met with deadly force. Other realities that cannot be ignored include transgender people of color who face greatly elevated negative outcomes in every area of life. It would be even more troubling to mention the great inequalities experienced within the ELCA concerning people of color.


All of these are daily realities of faithful people among us. Much of this real pain and suffering has gone unnoticed and unaddressed far too long. Therefore, when black lives are systematically devalued by church and society, our outrage justifiably insists that attention be focused on black lives.


We invite the entire church to show up prayerfully and intentionally against all societal values of supremacy, superiority, and complacency. For those wondering what to do and how to engage in this mission of solidarity, grab a prayer partner and just show up, pray, and provide an authentic ministry of presence as a part of our domestic mission and faith practices. Even if it is uncomfortable, be intentional in coffee hour conversations, sermons, social media and in each of our communities to declare action and support for the eradication of systemic practices that prevent true equality for all people. Develop alliances and connections with local associations like ADLA, civic/justice groups, ecumenical partners, and especially historically black churches who are already doing the work of transformation. Together we can do more by joining in with others.


Jesus insists on the intrinsic value of all human beings and he models for us how God loves justly. We join in sharing the recent message of our Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton, who reminds all of us of Jesus’ words recorded in Luke 4, that ‘Jesus proclaims good news to the poor, release to the jailed, sight to the blind, and freedom to the oppressed’. The African Descent Lutheran Association in solidarity with each of the other ethnic specific associations further declares that this is what our church and theology should look like: disciples who love publicly in a world of inequality.’ May we live out the love of God justly by publicly saying #BlackLivesMatter.


The Rev. Lamont Anthony Wells

President, African Descent Lutheran Association (ELCA)


Think undocumented workers are all cleaners and laborers? Think again

Jun 27, 2016

By Juan Carlos Ruiz

Juan Carlos Ruiz is a candidate for public ministry in the Metropolitan New York Synod and was invited by the Anti-Racism Task Force to share his story here.


I left my seminary in Mexico at the age of 13. Now I work as a missionary supporting people who’ve come to the US without documents.


Former priest Juan Carlos Ruiz now collaborates with St. Jacobi, Brooklyn

I was not technically a wetback – I crossed the border by air. I came to be reunited with family. They had trickled up to El Norte from the state of San Luis Potosí, Mexico. First my father. Then my oldest brother. Then the rest of the family; my mother, a sister, and three younger brothers. I was 13 when I decided to stay in Mexico without them, as I had already entered the seminary to become a priest. After two years on my own, I came to visit. It was the late 1980s. I joined the rivers of people being crushed by the mighty dollar.


After being here for a month on vacation, I decided not to go back. I became undocumented for the next eight years. Born into a family that places a high value on faith and education, all of us managed to go to the university and pursue careers. I followed the calling to serve God in Miami, South Orange, Berkeley, Puerto Rico and finally Chicago, where I was ordained a deacon and then priest in the Roman Catholic church. Before that happened, I got a religious visa as a religious worker, which regularized my status. In that sense, I married God.


Eventually, I became a missionary living on the margins with undocumented people, who are kept in the shadows by a broken immigration system. They are oppressed by the militarized fist of the all powerful Homeland Security Complex.


The fact that I had been undocumented inspired me to take on that work, as did people I had met on my life journey. A close friend at seminary – who had spent most of his time in the 1980s in jail for witnessing against the invasive foreign policy of the US and creating the violent conditions that continue in Central America – introduced me to the Catholic Worker movement. There, I met priests, such as the Berrigan brothers, and Father Gutierrez, whose lives were an example of the fire of love and compassion that had already taken a hold of my spirit. I embraced Liberation Theology – a leftwing form of Christianity that expresses solidarity with oppressed and marginalized people across the world.


My work among the undocumented continues. As long as the flow of military and economic aid keeps flooding the global south, there always will be displaced people bubbling up. Forgive the cliche, but: we are here because you are there.


Juan Carloz Ruiz (left) during the Tres Reyes Magos celebration with Sion and Saint Peter’s, Manhattan

Where I live in New York City, I meet people who keep defying the bullets of the death squads, the cartels, and their governments. They cross the southern border of Mexico into the US with the hope of making their dreams come true. Our government keeps spitting them out. There is not an option for them but to keep coming back.


That’s why, in 2007, we launched the New Sanctuary Movement as we began talking about how to make visible the suffering of our brothers and sisters who live in a legal limbo. At the end of 2006, we began to talk about organizing our faith communities by listening to their stories and amplifying their voices.


Standing on the shoulders of the original Sanctuary Movement of the 1980s – which pushed for the US to provide a safe-haven for Central American refugees fleeing civil conflict – we hope to remind the people of this nation that the US can become a great nation once we acknowledge our responsibility to our neighbors. The refugees we have created and are responsible for.


We know that their suffering and displacement is tied to our ever-expanding global policies. It is time for the United States to recognize its responsibility towards people who have been pushed out of their homes – and bring them out of the shadows once and for all.


What are you?/¿Que eres?

Jun 10, 2016

By Oneida Garcia


I open my mouth to say something sassy in perfect Spanish but I am dark-skinned and now everyone is confused. Someone asks, "What are you?" I respond, "I am an Afro-Colombian, Plus-Sized, Young, Strongly Opinionated, Argumentative, Hispanic, Female, Dark-skinned, New Yorker who is currently in a serious monogamous relationship with a male". Meanwhile I know the only thing they want to know is, "What kind of black is she?" Now I feel some kind of way and it’s not the first time.



Definition(s) of Racism

According to Merriam-Webster’s racism is defined as; a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race. I believe the first definition is incomplete. Webster’s 2nd definition of racism includes racial prejudice and discrimination. That sounds more like how I often feel, judged just by one glance.


Cultural Misappropriations

According to the Huffington Post by Mawuena Akyea, "when marginalized groups express they're cultural traditions or styles they are stigmatized, but when a person from a dominant group does they get celebrated. It's never "just hair" or "just dancing," appropriation creates a double standard that puts down oppressed groups."


Growing up in a Spanish church, I was often asked, "when do you plan on doing something about that pajon? (Racist hair joke.) In junior high school, I was asked, "what did you do to plump your lips? (Racist/sexual joke.) In high school, I was asked, "what did you eat to keep your butt so [insert racist/sexual joke]? Now these same features are en vogue. It’s as if the world wanted me to hate myself but worship others.



At 12 years old I learned my skin color put me in a different category. According to Derald Wing Sue, Ph.D. in Psychology Today, "Micro-aggressions are the everyday verbal, nonverbal, and environmental slights, snubs, or insults, whether intentional or unintentional, which communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative messages to target persons based solely upon their marginalized group membership."


Three of my light-skinned friends invited me to the pharmacy after school. All of a sudden they left me and the security guard was only paying attention to me, so I left to look for them. A few minutes later the girls came out, and each offered me one of the items they had stolen. I refused, said goodbye, and as I turned around I let my tears fall down my face. I realized they had only invited me because they knew my dark skinned presence would distract the guard. That thought made me hate my skin, myself.


Going Natural/Ethnicity

During a summer vacation at the age of 13 in Cartagena, Colombia, I decided to show the world my self-love; I decided to go natural; not using chemicals or heat on my hair. I returned to the United States excited to show off my new long micro-braids to my church friends and classmates. Some people said I looked pretty with long (chemically/perming straight) hair implying something is wrong with my (natural) own hair. Some people said braids were Caribbean, which was a confession: They thought of the world as Hispanic or Black, as if being both was impossible.


A few months passed, I was tired of hearing racist complaints about my braids (like they were disgusting) and feeling compelled to explain natural hair cleansing techniques. I decided to cut the braids off. The result was a short Afro, and as soon as I saw it in the mirror, I returned to the same salon that had been chemically perming my hair straight since I was five. While I waited I thought, why did I choose braids? Why was it so difficult for people to accept the blackness of the braids? Why was it so it difficult for me to deal with the short Afro?



I’m Afro-Latina, and that comes with a lot of baggage and a lot of pride. I know that some of my ancestors bought others or were sold, or their land was stolen. Then together they all built continents with blood, sweat, and tears. And so, I have a painful and beautiful legacy to continue; THIS IS WHAT I AM…Oh, and a good cook, a good dancer and super corny.

Por Oneida Garcia


Abro la boca para decir algo descarado en perfecto español, pero yo soy de piel oscura y ahora todo el mundo está confundido. Alguien pregunta: "¿Qué es usted?" Respondo, "Soy afrocolombiana, gordita, joven, fuertemente pertinaz, argumentativa, hispana, hembra, de piel morena, de Nueva York que se encuentra actualmente en una relación monógama seria con un hombre". Mientras tanto, sé que la única cosa que quieren saber es, "¿qué tipo de negra es ella?" Ahora me siento mal por dentro y no es la primera vez.



Definición(es) de racismo

De acuerdo con Merriam-Webster racismo se define como "la creencia de que la raza es el principal determinante de los rasgos y habilidades humanas y que las diferencias raciales producen superioridad inherente de una raza en particular." Creo que la primera definición está incompleta. La 2ª definición de Webster sobre racismo habla también sobre "los prejuicios raciales y la discriminación". Esto se acerca más a como yo me he sentido muchas veces: juzgada de acuerdo a un simple vistazo.


Malversaciones Culturales

De acuerdo con Mawuena Akyea del Huffington Post: "cuando los grupos marginados expresan sus tradiciones culturales o estilos, éstos son estigmatizados, pero cuando una persona de un grupo dominante lo hace, él(la) es celebrado(a). Nunca es simplemente "la forma en que luce tu cabello" o "tu forma de bailar". La apropiación crea un doble estándar que pone abajo a los grupos oprimidos.


Al crecer dentro de una iglesia de habla hispana a menudo se me preguntaban: "¿cuándo piensas hacer algo con ese pajon? (broma racista sobre mi cabello). En la escuela secundaria me preguntaban: "¿pero qué hiciste para tener unos labios tan rellenitos? (broma racista y sexual). En la escuela preparatoria me preguntaron: ¿pero que comes para tener un culo así de [insertar broma racista y sexual]? Parecería que estas características siempre están de moda. Es como si el mundo quisiera que me odiara a mí misma, pero adorara a otros.


Los micro-agresiones

A los 12 años aprendí que mi color de piel me puso en una categoría diferente. De acuerdo con Derald Ala Sue Ph.D. de Psychology Today: "Micro-agresiones son las acciones cotidianas verbales, no verbales y ambientales, desprecios, desaires, o insultos, ya sean intencionales o no intencionales, que comunican mensajes hostiles, despectivos, o negativos para elegir a una persona como objeto únicamente en base a su pertenencia a grupos marginados."


En alguna ocasión, tres de mis amigas de piel clara me invitaron a la farmacia después de la escuela. De repente me dejaron y el guardia de seguridad sólo me estaba prestando atención a mí, así que salí a buscarlas. Unos minutos más tarde las chicas salieron y me ofrecieron cada una, uno de los artículos que habían robado. Me negué y me fui. Al darme vuelta, lagrimas se derramaron por mi rostro. Me había dado cuenta de que sólo me habían invitado porque sabían que mi presencia de piel-oscura podría distraer al guardia. Ese pensamiento me hizo odiar a mi piel, y a mí misma.





























Going Natural/origen étnico

Durante unas vacaciones de verano a la edad de 13 en Cartagena, Colombia, decidí mostrarle al mundo mi amor propio, decidí estar 'al natural', dejando de utilizar productos químicos o calor en mi cabello. Volví a los Estados Unidos emocionada por mostrar mis nuevas trencitas largas a mis amigos y compañeros de clase de la iglesia. Algunas personas dijeron que me veía mejor con el cabello largo y lacio, implicando que no me veía bien con mi propio cabello. Algunas personas dijeron que las trenzas eran del Caribe, lo cuál fue una completa confesión para mi. Ellos pensaban en el mundo como Hispanos o Negros, como si estos términos se excluyeran mutuamente y fuera imposible considerarse ambos.


Pasaron unos meses, y ya cansada de escuchar las quejas racistas sobre mis trenzas como si fueran repugnantes, y de sentirme obligada a explicar las técnicas de limpieza de cabello natural; decidí cortarme las trenzas. El resultado fue un Afro corto, y tan pronto como lo vi en el espejo, regrese al salón dónde siempre me he hecho el alaciado permanente desde los cinco años. Mientras esperaba, pensé, ¿por qué elegí hacerme las trencitas? ¿Por qué fue tan difícil para la gente aceptar la "negrura" de las trencitas? ¿Por qué fue tan difícil para mí hacerle frente al afro corto?



Soy Afro-Latina y eso viene con un montón de equipaje y mucho orgullo. Sé que algunos de mis antepasados ??compraron a otros, o los vendieron, o sus tierras fueron robadas. Luego, todos juntos, construimos este continente con sangre, sudor y lágrimas. Tengo un legado doloroso y hermoso a seguir: ÉSTO ES LO QUE SOY ... ah, y una buena cocinera también...sin olvidar lo buena que soy para bailar y lo súper cursi.



The work of the Anti-Racism Task Force

May 30, 2016

Anti-Racism_LogoThe Anti-Racism Task Force has identified a mission that drives their work: We seek to unify our synod in the wholeness of Christ by dismantling the walls of racism. We are all called to this mission together. Please join us for our introductory anti-racism workshops in the months to come. There will be a concrete first step and very clear opportunity to make a difference as we fight together against racism.


As those of you who were at the 2015 Synod Assembly in Tarrytown will undoubtedly recall, this body overwhelmingly approved a resolution calling for our synod to affirm its commitment to confronting racism and to begin to address issues of racial oppression on all levels: societal, institutional, interpersonal, and internal. As part of this resolution, an Anti-Racism Task Force was formed in late 2015 and began work earnestly in early 2016. Over the past months, the Anti-Racism Task Force—a sub group of the Sent Committee—has been working steadily not only to organize introductory anti-racism workshops for leaders at all levels in this synod, but also to begin to lay the foundation for the ongoing, active work of dismantling racism that we are called to in the days and years to come. Because racism is a deeply entrenched problem at all levels of our society, from the personal to the institutional, it does not have easy fixes. Instead we are called to commit together to the holy, lifelong work of continual reflection, conversation, and bold action that will help us begin to dispel this sin that is in our midst and inside of each one of us. Our work of dismantling racism does not end in December 2016, but instead we hope this year will serve as a launching pad for all that will follow–trainings, speakers, events, and advocacy that will be an essential part of this synod’s life and ministry together in the years to come.

We are all called to this mission together. We cannot engage this challenging, life-giving work without each other because we are connected to one another as the body of Christ.


The Anti-Racism Task Force has identified a mission that drives their work: We seek to unify our synod in the wholeness of Christ by dismantling the walls of racism. We are all called to this mission together. We cannot engage this challenging, life-giving work without each other because we are connected to one another as the body of Christ. To paraphrase the Apostle Paul, when one member of the body suffers, we all suffer. When a member of the body thrives, we all thrive. The only way to dismantle racism as the body of Christ is for all of us to be in this together. That’s the only way to do it.


As the ELCA church body ministering to the largest city in the United States and its surrounding area, we are uniquely poised to address the many different forms of racism for two reasons: the history of New York City and our region is full of racist actions on interpersonal and institutional levels; and we are one of the most diverse synods in the ELCA. In addition, in the past few years, our communities have been the location for recent protest movements, such as Occupy Wall Street and Black Lives Matter, which have pointed out to us that our country and even the territory of our synod does not offer equality to all. Some lives do matter more than others.


Likewise, the history of the communities in which our congregations are located also reflect that white lives matter more than brown or black lives. From 1892 to 1954 over 12 million immigrants passed through the halls of Ellis Island, many of their names were Anglicized to make them more "American." Over a quarter of the population of New York City was made of African American slaves before the Revolutionary War and even Central Park was built upon land seized from an African-American neighborhood. And in an effort to keep out the poor and people of color, the bridges over the parkways of Long Island were built too low so that buses could not pass under them.


The territory of our synod reflects the vast reach of the different aspects of racism. But perhaps the most insidious part of racism is white privilege because it can be easily ignored or dismissed by white people. Of course not all white people are privileged in the sense of being wealthy, but white privilege is something specific and different than the size of your bank account. White privilege is the idea that just by virtue of being a white person, you are part of the dominant group, which tends to be respected, assumed the best of, and given the benefit of the doubt. That just is not the case for people of other races, no matter how wealthy, smart or hard working they might be. White privilege is a type of societal advantage that comes with being seen as the norm in America, automatically conferred irrespective of wealth, gender, or other factors. It makes life smoother, but it is something you would barely notice unless it were suddenly taken away—or unless it had never applied to you in the first place. Job applicants with white-sounding names are 50 percent more likely to get called in for an interview. Black defendants are at least 30 percent more likely to be imprisoned than white defendants for the same crime. And, on average, clergy of color in the ELCA wait longer to be called to serve a congregation as pastor than do white clergy.


Racism, we should understand, can also go far beyond skin color and race but can also be based on culture, language, spoken accent, and perceived migratory status. We can see this played out in recent anti-immigrant rhetoric spoken by politicians and also in the event when actor Sean Penn asked, "Who gave this guy a green card?" referring to Mexican director Alejandro González Iñárritu (who, by the way, is white of European descent and still also Mexican), when he won the Academy Award for Best Picture in 2015. Many came to Penn’s defense, saying it was just a joke between friends, but others did not take kindly to the actor’s playful treatment of a serious issue that has affected millions of families in the United States.


This form of prejudice does not provide the truth about a person or a group of people because it is based on a perceived illusion. It is our responsibility—not only as a religious community, the body of Christ, but also as residents of New York City and this region—to undo racism and shed light on its false assumptions. Iñárritu said, in reference to the term illegal immigrant, "there is no human being who, as a result of desiring to build a better life, should be named or declared illegal." We cannot create an environment of unity if we do not carefully consider "new" waves of immigrants, and to do so, it is vital to remain aware of even the smallest daily acts that have led to the epidemic of racism still pervasive in our society and our church.


Often times, we are quick to forget that the Scriptures we call holy contain stories that speak to the complex issues of racism.

Speaking to a not-so-small act, Iñárritu has also commented that a plan to build a Mexico–United States barrier would "betray the foundation of this country. The power of this [the U.S.] relies on diversity." It is our responsibility to understand that the best foundation of this nation and the city of New York is a foundation deeply rooted in the mass migrations of groups of people throughout its history. And for those who came before to look down on those tired, poor, and huddled masses yearning to be free who now arrive on our shores is wholly un-American and un-Christian, or more specifically, un-New Yorker and un-Lutheran. Often times, we are quick to forget that the Scriptures we call holy contain stories that speak to the complex issues of racism.


I hope this small taste of the work that task force has been engaging in has whetted your appetite to dig deeper and learn more about racism, privilege, internalized oppression and what you can do to make a difference. Please join us for our introductory anti-racism workshops in the months to come. There will be a concrete first step and very clear opportunity to make a difference as we fight together against racism. Please join us in June at Ascension in Deer Park, in September at Advent in Manhattan, and in November at Grace in Yorktown Heights for introductory anti-racism workshops that will serve to teach us, get us all on the same page, and fire us up for the work ahead. You are invited to be a part of the transformation. Turn the overwhelming commitment to dismantle racism that we made a year ago into action.

The three upcoming Anti-Racism Introductory Trainings are open to all leaders our church: all elected and volunteer positions; synodical boards, committees, teams; rostered leaders, synodically-rostered leaders, candidates in the call process, congregation call committees, and staff. Each event in free, but requires pre-registration online.

White privilege? I thought we were talking about racism

May 16, 2016

By David Parsons


I’ve decided to participate in the work of the Metropolitan New York Synod Anti-Racism Task Force because I understand systemic, institutionalized racism as the essential issue for all who seek to not only pray, but live out, Jesus’ teaching on prayer: "… Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth…"


The reading and education and self-reflection that I’ve done over the last few years has led me to understand that I am racist. I don’t like to think of myself that way. I like to think of myself as welcoming to all people, embracing diversity, committed to equity, an ally to those who are the targets and victims of racism. That feels good.



What has become clear to me is that I am the product of a system of privilege that has rendered me functionally unconscious of that privilege, leaving me unable to see how it oppresses my brothers and sisters of color, and how it oppresses me.


Here are some concepts and tools that helped me to begin to understand my location, and impressed upon me the need to work for change, personally and institutionally.


A mentor who’s worked for many years on racism told me, "given my background as a white, middle-class, college-educated person; I learned that it is best for me to assume that my motives in any given situation are informed by a matrix of racism and white privilege. That seems to give me the best chance of acting in a loving, open manner." That approach has been working for me, working on me, slowly and steadily.


At this point, it might be reasonable to say, "White privilege? I thought we were talking about racism." Privilege, specifically white privilege, seems to me an essential aspect of racism. Peggy McIntosh wrote a seminal work, "White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack." She describes me when she states, "I was taught to see racism only in individual acts of meanness, not in invisible systems conferring dominance on my group." You can find a copy of the "knapsack" here.


Jane Elliott, an antiracism educator and activist, posed the following scenario to a largely white audience in a video (as an exercise, if you are a person who identifies as white, you might want to read this sitting down): "If you as a white person would be happy to receive the same treatment that our black citizens do in society, please stand… Nobody is standing here. That says very plainly that you know what’s happening, [and] you know you don’t want it for you. I want to know why you’re so willing to accept it, or to allow it to happen for others." I remained seated. I’m not willing to accept that any longer, in myself, or in my church. If you’d like to see the video, you can find it here.


Street_ArtWhat I’ve come to understand about racism, from my privileged, white location, is that it is a lose/lose proposition. Racism not only harms those who are its targets, its victims. As the Rev. Joseph Barndt, a Lutheran pastor, antiracism trainer and organizer, and the former director of Crossroads Ministry in Chicago, writes in his essential book, "Becoming an Anti--Racist Church: Journeying Toward Wholeness" (Fortress Press), "racism’s most devastating power is that it takes all of us prisoner. It controls and threatens to destroy us all." (emphasis added) Rev. Barndt urges churches who wish to confront racism first to look within: "… The mission to build a multicultural church does not begin with outreach, but rather it begins with "in reach" into the center of our sanctuaries. We cannot escape the painful realization that our own people and our churches are imprisoned by racism and are not free."


If you read this far, I’m grateful for your time and attention. I covet your prayers for the work of the Anti-Racism Task Force, and for the Metropolitan New York Synod. We have work to do. It is God’s work, holy work. May the Spirit surround us as we journey together.


Privilege in the land of Sojourner Truth’s slavery

Apr 29, 2016

by Rev. James Rowe


Early Saturday mornings, before most people are awake, I run along streets that at times seem to be haunted by ghosts, especially the ghosts of my ancestors and of the great African-American abolitionist and women’s rights activist, Sojourner Truth. Ms. Truth was born into slavery not too far from Kingston, NY where I serve Redeemer Lutheran Church. As I run through Port Ewen, just south of Kingston, I pass a 5-foot-6 bronze statue of Sojourner Truth, immortalized as the young Isabella Baumfree, the name she held as a slave. She is carrying two heavy jugs, one of liquor and one of molasses, back from the Rondout Creek area where she would have purchased them for her owner who ran the local Jug Tavern. The statue is beautiful, but it is not pretty. Her clothing is a rag of a dress, her feet bare, her back showing the scars of beatings, and in the predawn light I can almost see the determination in her eyes set toward freedom.


Bust_of_Sojourner_TruthAs my long run turns back north toward home, I snake my way through the streets of Kingston and its historical buildings. I pause at the Ulster County Courthouse in Uptown Kingston, where in 1828 she successfully sued and won her son Peter’s freedom after he was illegally sold to an owner in Alabama. There is a small plaque commemorating this historic event with the adult face of Ms. Truth on it. As I run in the predawn light, visit parishioners, walk the streets of Kingston, drink tea in coffee shops, and even participate in a public procession during an ecumenical Stations of the Cross on Good Friday, I am oddly aware of something that I was not aware of before I moved out east in 2007.


It was not until I moved out east after graduating from Wartburg Theological Seminary (Dubuque, IA) that I realized how important the history of the communities I have served are to me. While serving St. Mark Lutheran Church in Norwich, CT from 2007-2010 my father and sister back home in Minnesota started genealogy work and learned that our ancestors had lived in the communities that I have served (Norwich, CT and Kingston, NY). In Norwich, I lived down the street from the burial site of Uncas Sachem of the Mohegan people. A few miles away were the grave sites of the first white settlers of Norwich, one of whom was an ancestor of mine and a key person in the purchase of the land from Uncas. When I moved to Kingston, NY my father and I drove down the street where the Ulster County Courthouse and Old Dutch Church sit on opposite sides, and he told me that some of my ancestors had been married in that church. My ancestors walked to church on the same street that Ms. Truth walked as a slave and later would walk to win her son’s freedom.


The longer I have lived out east the more I have realized that my life both past and present has been informed by the events that have shaped the communities in which I live and serve. In other words, I am indebted to these communities and its peoples for my very life. Whether I acknowledge it or not, my life and my ministry is intimately intertwined with the long history of these places and their people. And as my predawn runs and ministry take me along these historic and ancestral streets alive with ghosts, I cannot help but wonder occasionally how my life would have turned out if my ancestors had been Mohegan instead of white settlers or slaves instead of free.


I say occasionally because as a white, male, cisgender person I have the privilege to be able to not think about such things because who I am as considered the norm for our society. And not thinking or speaking about these things is the preferred societal, "normal" thing to do. When I talk about my white privilege in my predominately white privileged world, I get pushback from others. As I try to make sense of who I am, I have noticed that my whiteness and privilege have hidden from me my own culture, my own ancestry, my own familial history, both good and bad, and my desire to make sense of it all is not what white people are supposed to do. (We won’t get into my family’s questionable connection to Frank James, the older brother of Jesse James, Confederate soldier, guerrilla, outlaw, bank robber, and member of the infamous James-Younger Gang. My first name is James, of course.)


As a member of the Anti-Racism Task Force, I am learning that I need to make sense of my culture, ancestry, familial history, and privilege. I am learning that I need to weather the pushback and discomfort it causes in myself and others so that I may play a part in creating the "Beloved Community" that Dr. King spoke so passionately about. I do this not because I am perfect, but precisely because I am an imperfect person and pastor whose imperfections have been covered over by my whiteness. And as I listen to the stories that my colleagues, friends, and parishioners of color share with me about their experiences as under privileged people in this country, I realize that if I do nothing, if I keep running down those streets without addressing the haunting ghosts both past and present, then I am giving in to the indifference that is one privilege of my whiteness.


Dr._Martin_Luther_King_-_1957As I have worked with the Anti-Racism Task Force I have realized that there is great wisdom in the words of Martin Luther’s "Lectures on Galatians" that helped me understand my calling as a pastor and as a child of God when I was discerning a call to pastoral ministry in 2003. Brother Martin writes, "if there is anything in us, it is not our own; it is a gift of God. But if it is a gift of God, then it is entirely a debt one owes to love, that is, to the law of Christ. And if it is a debt owed to love, then I must serve others with it, not myself. Thus my learning is not my own; it belongs to the unlearned and is the debt I own them… My wisdom belongs to the foolish, my power to the oppressed. Thus my wealth belongs to the poor, my righteousness to the sinners." And, I would add, my privilege belongs to the under privileged. I have seen in the eyes of the people on the task force the same determination I see in the eyes of the young Ms. Truth in the predawn light: We are better than our current condition, we will work to make this church and our communities better for all, and one day we will all be free of this harmful privilege.



Unmasking Racism/Desenmascarando al Racismo

Apr 18, 2016

Immigration Reform in the U.S.

By Roberto Lara


Recent anti-immigrant rhetoric from certain U.S. Presidential candidates has unearthed the profound racism still engrained in much of American society. This can easily be seen in the polarization of views when speaking about a healthy and inclusive immigration reform in this country. According to the RAE (Royal Spanish Academy), racism is an ideology or doctrine that often leads to the discrimination or persecution of a group of people, based on their race. Still, these discriminatory actions, categorized as racism within American society, can go far beyond the color of skin but can also be based on culture, language and even spoken accent.


Calpulli Mexican Dance Company dancing during the bilingual service of Saint Peter's Church and Sion Iglesia Luterana
Calpulli Mexican dance Company bailando durante el servicio bilingüe de Saint Peter's Church y Sion Iglesia Luterana


Over 150 million people around the world are temporarily or indefinitely living outside of their home country. According to U.S. census data, there are nearly 40 million foreign-born residents, which represents close to 13% of the total population. Despite this staggering number, racism towards immigrants and their cultural origins is often time fully masked by the use of terms widely believed to be justifiable, and even unrelated to racism.


This is most evident in the plain and simple term, "American." America is a continent made up of 35 countries, in which the residents of these countries are all American. However, some residents of the U.S. have taken over this demonym of the continent in daily rhetoric to the exclusion of the inhabitants of the remaining 34 counties that make up America. Just think, how can you "make America great again" by building a wall across part of America to protect if from what? Other Americans? How would our discourse on immigration be transformed if instead of using the word "American" to mean us and not them, we used it to unify an entire continent of people?


According to many legal experts, "undocumented" is now the preferred term for immigrants formerly known as "illegal". However, even when we are careful with our terms and phrases that allow for a more peaceful and inclusive conversation around immigration reform, it is surprising how public dialogue with regard to immigrants and their incorporation into US society can reveal the same feelings of hate and disdain that were prevalent during the period of segregation in the United States. Then, instead of walls and borders to keep Americans separate, we had lunch counters, bathrooms & water fountains to keep us separate but somehow "equal".


Furthermore, laws or police actions that seek to determine who undocumented immigrants are based on physical appearance (or the appearance of belonging to a particular ethnic group), to the prohibition of certain ethnic studies in some high schools and colleges by state law, together are a demonstration of how immigration has become a way of deciding who belongs, and who does not deserve to belong, in the fabric of US society. This has created an environment in which racism toward groups of immigrants is tolerated, and possibly even indirectly supported by, our own systems of government, definitely separate and definitely not equal.


Presently, in preparation for the impending presidential elections, the topic of immigration reform has completely polarized the population and become a central element in political campaigns. Until an immigration reform exists that takes into consideration the needs of immigrants pass the perceived threat to other US racial groups, we will never reach a balance in society that will allow for greater opportunities for all minority groups. On the contrary, we will only support the current social and economic structures that overshadow not only immigrants, but all underrepresented groups in this country.


At the end of the day, it is our responsibility – not only as a religious community, but as residents of this country – to understand that the foundation of this nation is rooted in and was built around mass migrations of various groups of people throughout it's short history. We cannot create an environment of progressive and unity if we do not carefully consider "new" waves of immigrants, and to do so, it is vital to remain aware of even the smallest daily acts that have led to the epidemic of racism still pervasive in our American "United Statian" society.




Reforma Migratoria en los EE.UU.

Por Roberto Lara


Recientes comentarios anti-migratorios manifestados por ciertos candidatos a la presidencia de los EE.UU., han dejado al descubierto el profundo racismo aún encarnado en la sociedad de este país, el cual es fácilmente visible cuando se polarizan las opiniones al iniciar cualquier conversación referente a una sana e inclusiva reforma migratoria. De acuerdo a la RAE (Real Academia de la Lengua Española), el racismo es una ideología o doctrina que suele motivar la discriminación o la persecución de un grupo, basado en su raza. Sin embargo, las acciones discriminatorias llamadas racismo dentro de la sociedad estadounidense van mucho más allá del color de la piel –trascienden a aspectos de cultura, lengua y hasta acentos.


Hay más de 150 millones de personas en el mundo que están viviendo permanente o temporalmente fuera de sus países de origen. De acuerdo al Censo de los EE.UU., este país cuenta con cerca de 40 millones de residentes nacidos fuera de su territorio, lo que representa casi el 13% de su población total. A pesar de esto, el racismo hacia los inmigrantes y sus orígenes culturales está plenamente enmascarado con el uso de términos "suaves" que sueles creerse no solamente justificados, sino ajenos al racismo.


Esto puede observarse con la simple y sencilla palabra "americano". América es un continente constituido por 35 países*, los residentes de todos estos países son americanos; sin embargo, los habitantes de los EE.UU. se han apoderado del gentilicio del continente, excluyendo así en cualquier conversación cotidiana, a todos los pobladores de los 34 países restantes. Analizando algunas de las frases que más escuchamos en estos días como "let's make America great again" (hagamos a América grandiosa de nuevo) nos podemos dar cuenta fácilmente que esto no podría suceder construyendo una barrera en la frontera, ¿para qué serviría dicha acción? La justifican en nombre de la protección, pero, ¿protección contra quién?, ¿protección contra inmigrantes?, ¿contra los americanos del sur del continente?


De acuerdo a algunos especialistas de la materia legal, "indocumentado" es ahora la forma apropiada de llamar a los inmigrantes anteriormente conocidos como "ilegales". Aún al tratar de usar los términos apropiados para crear un ambiente más pacífico durante las conversaciones sobre migración, es sorprendente el cómo dichas pláticas públicas pueden desatar los mismos sentimientos de odio o repulsión que desataba el racismo en la época de la segregación. En dicha época, en lugar de separar gente por medio de una barda en la frontera, se les separaba mediante el uso de baños y bebederos, separados pero "igualitarios".


Acciones que van desde leyes o acciones policiacas que buscan determinar inmigrantes indocumentados basándose en la forma en como ellos lucen físicamente (o si aparentan ser parte de una comunidad en particular); hasta la prohibición de ciertos estudios étnicos en algunas escuelas preparatorias y centros universitarios por legislaciones estatales; son en conjunto una manifestación que demuestra como el tema de la inmigración se ha convertido en una forma de decidir quien pertenece y quien no merece pertenecer a la sociedad estadounidense. Esto ha creado un ambiente en el cual, el racismo hacia grupos de inmigrantes ha sido tolerado y, posiblemente, apoyado indirectamente por los sistemas propios del gobierno.


Memorial fúnebre a base de ataúdes en la frontera de la ciudad de Tijuana, México; en conmemoración por los inmigrantes caídos en su intento por cruzar a los EE.UU.

Memorial coffins on the US-Mexico barrier for those killed crossing the border fence in Tijuana, México


En los tiempos actuales, al prepararnos para las próximas elecciones presidenciales, el tema de la reforma migratoria ha polarizado completamente a la población, y ha sido un elemento central para campañas políticas enteras. Mientras no exista una reforma migratoria que tome en cuenta las necesidades de los inmigrantes más allá que los deseos de otros grupos raciales "estadounidenses", no lograremos balancear a la sociedad actual para así crear más oportunidades para las minorías; por el contrario, daremos más fuerza a la estructura social y económica actual que domina no solo a los inmigrantes, sino a todas las minorías del país.


Al final del día, es nuestra responsabilidad –no solo como religiosos sino como personas residentes de los EE.UU.– el entender que el origen de esta nación se dio gracias a varias migraciones masivas; no podremos crear un ambiente de progreso y unión si no tomamos en cuenta a las "nuevas" generaciones de inmigrantes, y para ello es importante hacernos consientes de las pequeñas acciones cotidianas que son resultado del racismo aún existente en nuestra sociedad estadounidense.





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