Posts Tagged ‘white privilege’

Weeping with Rachel

Thursday, September 22nd, 2016

“Thus says YHWH: ‘A voice is heard in Ramah, mourning and bitter weeping. Rachel, weeping for her children, refuses to be comforted, for her children are no more.”  

- Jeremiah 31:15 (The Inclusive Bible)

Beloved MFSA Family,

Our hearts mourn acts of violence committed against black and brown bodies; our prayers join Rachel’s, and we too cry out into the wilderness refusing to be comforted for our children are no more.

In recent days we are once again in anguish but, cannot and will not let ourselves be paralyzed by our fear and feelings of helplessness. This is a time when we are called to listen more, learn more and lead more. We recall and reaffirm our baptismal vows to “accept the freedom and power God gives us to resist evil, injustice and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves.” We must continually live into our commitments and move to make justice ever more real in our own lives, congregations and communities.

Audre Lorde once said: “The master’s tools will never dismantle the master's house.” We need a new narrative and a new structure.  More importantly we need a new set of tools for us to build new houses.  The racism within our houses of worship, our houses of government and even the houses our movements reside within cannot be dismantled with the same tools we’ve used for centuries. It’s time to have a new conversation — a conversation that looks within our own movement first at the ways we continue to perpetuate a racist system. Only then will we be able to build a new house, one where the beloved community can call home.  

“Racism is the combination of the power to dominate by one race over other races and a value system that assumes that the dominant race is innately superior to the others. Racism includes both personal and institutional racism. Personal racism is manifested through the individual expressions, attitudes, and/or behaviors that accept the assumptions of a racist value system and that maintain the benefits of this system. Institutional racism is the established social pattern that supports implicitly or explicitly the racist value system.” (Par 162.A 2012 Book of Discipline)

MFSA calls upon ourselves and our progressive partners, along with local churches, annual conferences, and all denominational bodies, to confess and condemn the sins of systemic and personal racism, and to engage in the hard work of repentance and reconciliation.  To assist in this, we recommend the resources and work of the General Commission on Religion and Race.

As an organization, MFSA will continue to educate our board and member leadership in anti-racism, bias, and white privilege. As we seek to increase racial diversity among decision-makers and prioritize anti-racism in our programs and ministry, we also will call The United Methodist Church, its general boards and agencies, and its leadership to join us in sacred change. In doing so, we hope to embody the beloved community to which Christ calls us.

The work for racial justice must go deeper than statements and endless pastoral letters. James Cone once said: “sympathy does not change the structures of injustice.” We invite you to partner with us in committing to listen more, learn more, and lead more. Linked here are resources to help you and your communities begin and continue to have conversations about race, racial justice, and white privilege as well as organizations committed to racial justice that you might consider partnering with locally.

Seeking Justice,  
Your Staff and Board of Directors
Methodist Federation for Social Action

Behind the safe security of white privilege and stained-glass windows

Thursday, July 30th, 2015

Indictments of killer cops like Ray Tensing who murder black men like Samuel Dubose don’t let the rest of us off the hook.

Last night I attended a discussion and showing of the film Selma at the Dr. Carter G. Woodson African American Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida. Given the recent news of police killing people of color like Dubose, I couldn’t help but draw parallels over the 1965 shooting of Jimmie Lee Jackson.

For years, state trooper James Bonard Fowler claimed Jackson was reaching for his gun and the shooting was done in self-defense, but in 2010, 45 years later, the seventy-seven-year-old confessed to the murder. Historians believe that there would have been no march from Selma to Montgomery and less urgency for the Voting Rights Act had Jackson not been killed. It was the event that precipitated Bloody Sunday that woke white America’s conscience—bringing many to travel to Selma to add their bodies in solidarity against racism and white supremacy.

It made me wonder, what is it going to take today to move Americans, and specifically white people in this country, to take responsibility for what is happening? How many people of color have to be killed to stir us to outrage?

As a white man I know it is easy to compartmentalize oppression happening to others, only caring about it when I choose to. I don’t have to ever fear driving while white. If I do get pulled over, I have never once ever felt I was in danger of being shot. This is not the reality of many people of color in this country.

And it is easy for me to breathe relief when a bad officer gets indicted for one of these murders. It is good for my white conscience, but the words of Dr. King don’t let me off that easy. He says the killer “did not act alone.”

A state trooper pointed the gun, but he did not act alone.

He was murdered by the brutality of every sheriff who practices lawlessness in the name of law.

He was murdered by the irresponsibility of every politician, from governors on down, who has fed his constituents the stale bread of hatred and the spoiled meat of racism.

He was murdered by the timidity of a federal government that can spend millions of dollars a day to keep troops in South Vietnam and cannot protect the rights of its own citizens seeking the right to vote.

He was murdered by the indifference of every white minister of the gospel who has remained silent behind the safe security of stained-glass windows.

And he was murdered by the cowardice of every person who passively accepts the evils of segregation and stands on the sidelines in the struggle for justice.

- Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at the funeral of Jimmie Lee Jackson, 1965

It’s never a lone wolf. Racism is a system that wraps its tentacles around me and all white people. When we see obvious white supremacy like Tensing or Fowler, I fear it leads more to progressive whites patting ourselves on the back rather than making us get off our ass and choose to place our bodies in solidarity with people of color who are literally targets.

Do you know the arrest and killing by police statistics of your community? Is it disproportionate by race? What are you doing to interrupt that? If we are indifferent, we are part of the problem.

Do you know local politicians whose rhetoric is directly or indirectly feeding racist hatred? What are you doing to interrupt that? If we are indifferent, we are part of the problem.

Do you know federal politicians who decry murder out of one side of their mouth while supporting the same act with drones all over the world? What are you doing to interrupt that? If we are indifferent, we are part of the problem.

Has your pastor or bishop remained silent on the murder of Samuel Debose and other people of color, perhaps behind the excuses of there being people on both sides of this issue in the pews or that we don’t know all the information yet? What are you doing to interrupt that? If we are indifferent, we are part of the problem.

MLK’s words haunt me because they call me to face the truth that these people are being murdered not by lone bigots, but by the cowardice of every person who passively accepts the evils of racism and white supremacy, and stands on the sidelines in the struggle for justice.

When I face this truth, I have no choice but to get off the sidelines. Will you join me and encourages others to do the same?



Rev. Andy Oliver is an elder from the Florida Conference of The United Methodist Church, currently organizing in the Tampa/St. Petersburg area against racism and other forms of injustice. Contact or follow him on social media at

Photo Credit: Murder of Jimmie Lee Jackson by Jonathan Frost

“Come and See”: Taking Responsibility for Racial Biases

Thursday, June 25th, 2015

Like everyone, I am guilty of having biases about people I do not know, but I want to share a story of a time when I was the victim of people having biases against me. At my current place of residence in Washington, DC, there are no sufficient washing and drying units I can use to clean my clothes. One day I decided to leave directly after work and go to a laundromat. I placed my laundry in a duffle bag and I put a book in my book bag for me to read while the clothes washed. Upon arrival to the laundromat the store owner informed me I have to use cash and the nearest ATM is in a CVS down the street.

I quickly found the CVS and as I walk in the cashier calls to me and asked if I need anything. Slightly perplexed, I reply "no" and focus my attention to see which aisle has laundry detergent. She called to me again and asked if I need any help and I once again reply "no". At this time the entire store is focused on our interaction and I started to become a little embarrassed. She then said I would have to leave my bags at the counter if I want to proceed with shopping in the store. At that moment I looked like the epitome of respectability. I am still in my business casual work clothes, a fresh hair cut, and nothing about me was being rude or disrespectful. She comments on my bags again and after noticing that no one else's bags were at the counter I immediately knew I was racially profiled.

I stood there completely humiliated as everyone in the store is focused on me anticipating my next move. I hear a lady in the line mutter in disapproval of how the cashier has insinuated that I came into CVS to steal. I opened my mouth to say something, but all I could do was drop my head and walk out the store.

After much reflection that regarding the situation evening, I knew that it would be best for me to share how this experience is not a random, isolated incident. This is happening in businesses in everyday interactions throughout this world and it needs to end immediately. Biases such as racial profiling are morally reprehensible, and to those who are being profiled there are no words to describe the dehumanization that is felt.

Is there any hope in addressing biases, prejudices, and stereotypes that oftentimes seems fixed into our society’s social fabric? I believe the encounter of Nathanael and Jesus sheds light on how to deal with such evil.

In the John 1, Jesus calls Philip to be his disciple. Philip informs Nathanael that he has found the one who was written about by the prophets and that the one is Jesus, son of Joseph from Nazareth. Nathanael inquires in a biased way, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” To which Philip replies, “come and see.”

A gem is found in this conversation regarding ways we as a society can confront the issues of biases and prejudices. The first is that we must take responsibility for dealing with the biases we hold. Philip could have easily responded “Of course good things can come from Nazareth; however, he made Nathanael responsible for seeing it for himself. No longer can we hide behind the shroud of ignorance in regards to the assumptions we have about people. It is time for us to go and see that the ways in which we think about those who are different than us is completely wrong. This is a call for the Church to truly be a community of diverse people who struggles through our prejudices and see that we are all created in the image of God. For those of us who have biases, which is everyone, we must heed Philip’s call to “come and see” that we are often times wrong and need to take a responsibility, to not just change our thinking, but develop an entire new way of understanding and loving our neighbor, even if our neighbor comes from Nazareth.

And, it’s not the responsibility for black and brown bodies to have to shape shift and make everyone else comfortable with our presence in certain spaces. It’s the responsibility of the law enforcement, business owners and those who have negative assumptions about black and brown bodies to rid themselves of their negative perceptions.

The Good News is that Nathanael was able to experience change when he was willing to go and see that he was wrong. Where is God calling us as a world to go and see?


Deontez Wimbley is a graduate of Claflin University where he studied sociology. He is pursuing a Masters of Divinity at Boston University School of Theology. He is an Ethnic Young Adult Summer Intern with the General Board of Church and Society for the United Methodist Church. He is placed with the National Council of Churches of Christ (USA), a leading force for ecumenical cooperation among Christians in the United States, and whose 37 member communions from a wide spectrum of Protestant, Anglican, Orthodox, Evangelical, historic African-American and Living Peace churches include 45 million persons in more than 100,000 local congregations in communities across the nation. His home church is Trinity UMC in Orangeburg, SC. 

A Conversation Starter

Tuesday, May 19th, 2015

I remember the day a few months ago when I ran across an advertisement for t-shirts a woman was having made that were simple; black in color with the words #blacklivesmatter on them. 

My involvement in the anti-police brutality movement has been a winding road.  It began when I played basketball as a young man, and made many African-American friends.  I remember we would always get much more 'attention' (clerks would follow us around) when we went to the mall together than if I went with just my older brother.  Through the years, I've become more interested in the Civil Rights movement in that culminated in the 1950's and 60's.  Leading youth on a Civil Rights Bus Tour has helped expand my knowledge on specific events and details that mainstream history often forgets. 

So it was with this backdrop and experience that I stayed glued to my TV night after night as protesters met violent and escalating police in Ferguson.  Soon I took to the streets in Dallas in solidarity with local and national groups to let Ferguson and the world know we cared.  I had to order a t-shirt.         

One of the first places I wore the t-shirt was at church.  I felt if I couldn't wear it at church, as a youth minister, then I really couldn't wear it anywhere.  I got plenty of looks, but the most memorable moment was a gentle encounter I had with a mom of one of the youth.  She came to me and said, "Thanks for wearing that, it means a lot to me."  You see, the church member was white, but both of her children are bi-racial.  Since this time, we have had many conversations about race and what it looks and feels like for her and her family. 

Fast forward a couple months, to a recent visit to Washington DC.  Like always, the Metro was full of folks coming and going.  One African-American gentleman, probably near 40 years old, checked my shirt out and said powerfully "Thanks."  I was touched by this.  As I stood to leave, the man reached his hand out and said "It's just so refreshing to know and see that someone actually gives a shit."  We shared a handshake, and his words and emotion have stayed with me.

Just this week, I ate at a restaurant for lunch and one of the workers (young and African American) inquired where I got the shirt. After talking about the recent events in Ferguson, Baltimore, and even here in the Dallas area, I sat down to eat. I looked for him as I left but couldn't find him. He raced outside after I left, asking if I'd take a picture with him. Of course, I obliged. As I drove away, I was so moved and even perplexed. What an indictment on our society and culture (and the Church!) that someone simply wearing a t-shirt is so compelling!!

What's funny is I often tell folks I get more 'looks' than comments when I wear this shirt. And let me be clear, there is a definite difference in how individuals of different races respond to this shirt. But for me, the comments give me LIFE and affirm my desire to unashamedly pronounce that #blacklivesmatter.  


Jason Redick hails from Lewisville, Texas. He is the youth minister at Holy Covenant United Methodist Church in Carrollton, Texas and sits on the board of directors for the Center for Theological Activism. 

A Tale of Two Baltimores

Thursday, April 30th, 2015

“I’ve never been on this side of North Avenue before.” –Penny Pingleton, from John Waters’ Hairspray

As I walked along North Avenue in Baltimore yesterday, I became painfully aware of the truth behind this statement. The reality is that Baltimore in 2015 isn’t much different than the Baltimore of the fiction 1960s. On one side of North Avenue, there is a cul-de-sac behind high, wrought iron fences, blossoming trees, lush green lawns, ample parking, and back porches with fine looking barbecue grills. Not more than thirty steps away, on the other side of North Avenue, stands a brutal building with no windows which serves as the Office of Student Records for the Baltimore City Public Schools. Surrounding this building is a housing development with about fifteen apartment buildings. In stark contrast to the homes across the street, these buildings are painted in drab brown, there are no trees, the ground is not well-manicured. In that moment, I recognized there are two Baltimores: the one that people of privilege – not unlike myself -see and experience, and the one that is experienced on a daily basis by the men, women, and children who live the reality of systemic oppression every single day.

Walking further along North Avenue, I realized it was difficult to tell what was boarded up because of looting and what is the norm. In the Sandtown neighborhood, a United Methodist clergy person explained that for years rowhouses where families live are connected to homes that are abandoned and boarded up.

In The New Jim Crow, Michelle Alexander writes, “Poor people of color, like other Americans –indeed like nearly everyone around the world – want safe streets, peaceful communities, healthy families, good jobs, and meaningful opportunities to contribute to society.” This was echoed in the voice of a Lutheran pastor who said, “Just for the record, our children are not thugs or criminals…they are children who are without hope and need our help.”

At Pennsylvania Avenue AME Zion Church, bags of food were being handed out to those who sought assistance after stores were damaged or closed. Sure, it felt good to help out those in need: the elderly, families with young children, those with wheelchairs and walkers. But truth be told, many Baltimore residents needed this before Monday night and they will need this long after the media frenzy dies down. The same system of oppression that turns an eye to police violence is the same system of oppression that keeps poor black people economically marginalized and disenfranchised, while social safety nets disappear and larger budgets for prisons and militarized police forces loom on the horizon.

Baltimore is learning too well about militarized police forces. Outside City Hall there were busses and vans from the Maryland Department of Corrections ready to round up suspected criminals. The National Guard presence around City Hall and in other pockets of the city were a show of automatic weapons and institutional power against a people and a place that have known nothing but poverty and oppression. As Michelle Alexander continues, “Are we willing to demonize a population, declare a war against them, and then stand back and heap shame and contempt upon them for failing to behave like model citizens while under attack?” While Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake seems to misspeak and misstep, the clergy leaders in Baltimore have opened wide the doors of their churches, have walked the streets to talk with the people of their communities, and have literally fed the people. All without a national network media presence. All without an advance team. All without closed meetings. All without the help of the military. clearly, there are two Baltimores.

As a white male with privilege, I needed to see and hear it. My privilege of living in a society created for the prosperity of people who look like me; my privilege of not being called “angry” because of the color of my skin; my privilege of being asked for change and saying “sorry, I don’t have any cash on me” because I have a credit and debit card; my privilege of not having to worry about a police curfew in my own neighborhood – my privilege reminds me that I cannot ever believe I completely understand the experience of being black and poor and living in America (because if you think this is unique to Baltimore, think again). I can only listen and learn and seek greater justice, and be empowered to those tasks by a God who brings hope from despair, love from hate and ambivalence, and life from death.

Chett PritchettChett Pritchett is Executive Director of the Methodist Federation for Social Action. He is a graduate of West Virginia Wesleyan College and Wesley Theological Seminary, and is a member at Dumbarton UMC in Washington, DC.

Selma: Yesterday and Today

Tuesday, January 13th, 2015

Exactly 50 years ago this month, a voting rights campaign began in Selma, AL resulting in a non-violent, peaceful, 54 mile march from Selma to Montgomery, to the steps of the state capital building on March 25, where Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke to a crowd estimated at 25,000 or more.  This event built on previous gatherings: an earlier march attempt that would become known as “Bloody Sunday”, where many were attacked and many severely beaten, even run down by state police and sheriff officers on horseback. An even earlier march, in nearby Marion, AL, had resulted in the police shooting death of Jimmie Lee Jackson, as he tried to protect his mother from a policeman’s nightstick.  The new movie, Selma”, depicting these historical events opens with four little girls walking down the steps of a church when a sudden, horrific, screen-filling explosion blows away those four innocent little girls, once again giving those who lived through that period the emotionally gut-wrenching, tear producing awfulness that we experienced then.  That bombing happened in Birmingham, AL in Sept. 1964, only two months after President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 into law.  That bombing would serve as a deeply motivating tragedy for the civil rights movement, and certainly was on the minds of the people gathered in Selma.  We too easily see such heinous bombings as mere historical facts, thinking that such god-awfulness happened “way back then” but surely not now as we have made so much progress in race relations, even electing an African-American president—not once, but twice.

But just last week a bombing occurred outside the NAACP office building in Colorado Springs, CO.  While local news reported the event, national media almost completely ignored it until it went viral on Twitter, and some other social media.  The employees had just returned from a holiday period, and it was known they would be returning that day.  The bomb did very little damage, even though the FBI is now calling it an “improvised explosive device” (IED), and is investigating the incident, with a white male seen by some witnesses being sought for questioning.  But damage is not the issue, since the very fact that this can happen 50 years after a bombing caused horrifically tragic deaths, should alert us all to the reality that some people in our country want to reopen the violence of the past to intimidate and/or injure, perhaps even kill, others simply because of the color of their skin.  Any who doubt this should simply read, though no one should ever have to read such vitriolic awfulness, the comments posted on the TV stations’ comment lines (like KKTV), blaming the NAACP for the bombing, and/or saying they deserved it (all under the cover of anonymity, of course).    

When that “Bloody Sunday” happened Martin Luther King, Jr. appealed to religious leaders all across the nation to join them in their peaceful, non-violent march for freedom.  The response brought many such leaders and lay-people from across the nation, so that black and white marched together.  Two whites who responded, Unitarian pastor James Reeb, and Michigan housewife, Viola Liuzzo, were killed—he by local whites who beat him so severely one night that he died two days later; she shot to death by four KKK members as she drove marchers back to Selma after the conclusion of the march (three of those four from the KKK were later prosecuted, though only for conspiring to violate her civil rights).  Such a response is now needed from religious leaders and lay people, as well as anyone else of good ethical and moral thought and motivation, in Colorado Springs, and anywhere else such attempts at intimidation or injury are taking place.  That NAACP will have its annual All Peoples Breakfast on Martin Luther King Day, Jan. 19, and as many as can possibly make it most certainly should, to show solidarity with our human brothers and sisters in this organization—and anywhere else in the nation that such a gathering is scheduled.  Or we should join the NAACP to show our support, or any other means that might demonstrate that we will not stand idly by while human beings and fellow citizens are being attacked and/or threatened.      

It is popular among some commentators to state often that every generation must win essential freedoms once again.  That such a basic political right as voting in this democracy, and the basic human right of living without being judged by the color of your skin, have to be won again and again is sadly pathetic.  Yet giving the realities that actually exist, it seems true that this is so.  Yet it is essential that this be done not just by certain people of color, but by all people of all colors.  As Martin Luther King, Jr. taught us all:  racism is as damaging and destructive to the racist as it is to the people against whom the racism is pursued.  He also stated that, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”  And it is precisely such injustice we must stand united against, so as to establish real justice for us all.

Back to Selma”: The movie is exceptionally well done, even though it takes some slight liberties with actual historic events for appropriate and good dramatic effect.  It is well worth every penny to see it, most especially in this current era of racially charged realities, because it demonstrates visually and graphically the kinds of realities we have already lived through as people in this nation, and what we need to remember as we seek to go forward being better in our race relationships as people living in this nation.  It is exceptionally well acted and well written, even including the “new” speeches (though the movie is not speech heavy) since, for whatever reasons, the King family did not sign-off on his speeches being used for the movie, though the ending of the speech on the steps of the capital building in Montgomery does end virtually the same as the actual speech, in which he said: 

The only normalcy that we will settle for is the normalcy that recognizes the dignity and worth of all of God’s children.  The only normalcy that we will settle for is the normalcy that allows judgment to run down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream.  The only normalcy that we will settle for is the normalcy of brotherhood, the normalcy of true peace, the normalcy of justice.”  Then later added, “And so I plead with you this afternoon as we go ahead:  remain committed to nonviolence.  Our aim must never be to defeat or humiliate the white man, but to win his friendship and understanding.  We must come to see that the end we seek is a society at peace with itself, a society that can live with its conscience.  And that will be a day not of the white man, not of the black man.  That will be the day of man as man.”   Then he finished with a stirring quoting of lines from “The Battle Hymn of the Republic”:  “Our God is marching on.  Glory hallelujah!  Glory hallelujah!  Glory hallelujah!  Glory hallelujah!  His truth is marching on!” 

Martin Luther King, Jr., at another time and place, also said the following:  “I am convinced that love is the most durable power in the world.  It is not an expression of impractical idealism, but of practical realism.  Far from being the pious injunction of a Utopian dreamer, love is an absolute necessity for the survival of our civilization.  To return hate for hate does nothing but intensify the existence of evil in the universe.  Someone must have sense enough and religion enough to cut off the chain of hate and evil, and this can only be done through love.”  Hate is the reality of those who bomb churches within which walk little girls.  Hate is the reality of those who put bombs outside the offices of the NAACP.  Hate is destructive and too often deadly—and hate cannot be allowed to be the final word!  It wasn’t 50 years ago, and it cannot be today, 50 years later!  It is love that had the final word then and must have the final word now!  Let’s make it so!  Amen and Amen!


Rodney Noel Saunders is a United Methodist clergyperson living in Alberquerque, NM where he serves as the Wesley Foundation Director at the University of New Mexico.

Not Waiting This Advent

Monday, December 8th, 2014

Anger. Frustration. Fear. Discomfort. Apprehension.

All of these emotions have coursed through my veins this past week and a half. From Ferguson to Staten Island to the streets of DC and beyond, never in my short 37 years have I witnessed blatant racism and rampant white privilege.

My understanding of white privilege started when I was 15 years old. I was getting off the bus from summer camp – the same summer camp where I recognized my sexuality – and was given a big hug by Tangela, an African-American camper with whom I became friends that week. The look on my father's face said it all – I'd be better off bringing a white man home to meet my parents than a black woman. That moment taught me a lot, and still I wrestle with how it shaped my understandings of race, racism, and sexuality.

This week I've seen gay, white men take to social media with incendiary statements like "Why should we care? Black pastors are all anti-gay," and subtle privilege: "Section 8 family moving next door. Time to move?" It's as if members of the LGBTQ community have forgotten our history of oppression and resistance.

Last Thursday, as I marched through downtown Washington, DC, I couldn't help but be reminded of the concepts of ubuntu and unhu. Simply put, "a person is only a person through other people." Or to put it in Pauline words, "if one part of the body suffers, all parts suffer with it (1 Cor 12:26)." As we meandered through the streets of DC, there were passionate activists and inquiring allies; there were Black, White, Filipino/a, Latino/a people of many hues; folks of varying sexual orientations and physical abilities were present  – all of us were clear: "If you can't breathe, I can't breathe."

I hope – no, I expect – that you'll be part of this movement for justice. Because black lives matter. Because mass incarceration matters. Because militarized policing matters. Because recognizing privilege matters. Because following the Gospel matters.


Chett Pritchett is Executive Director of the Methodist Federation for Social Action. He is a graduate of West Virginia Wesleyan College and Wesley Theological Seminary, and is a member at Dumbarton UMC in Washington, DC.


**This essay was originally published in the MFSA e-News on Friday, December 5 and can be found here.

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