Snapshots in honor of Dr. King

by Bo Sanders

Race shows up in some very interesting places, and sometimes in some all too predictable places.

Last week a study was released that concluded “ Minorities gain more access to the Internet but a technology gap remains”. You can read it here [link].

“Some see a new “digital divide” emerging — with Hispanics and blacks being challenged by more, not less, access to technology. It’s tough to fill out a job application on a cell phone, for example. Researchers have noticed signs of segregation online that perpetuate divisions in the physical world. And blacks and Latinos may be using their increased Web access more for entertainment than empowerment.

– A report of earned doctorates last year was released.   I have not able to wade through the data for 2010, but this came to my attention because someone was able to wade through the 2008 numbers.  Here is the report: In 2008, earned PhDs (not incl. education) racial breakdown: 7% African American, 6% Latino/a, 0.4% Native American. You can read the study here [link].

-I was sitting in a waiting room the other day and on the magazine table was a copy of Biblical Archeology. I have not seen or read the magazine in years but it looked so odd sitting with Cosmopolitan, People, and Popular Mechanics. So I picked it up out of sheer curiosity.

As I flipped through magazine I was struck by something really odd. There were probably 100 pictures of people’s faces – some were headshots of an article’s author, others were group photos of digs in the Middle East. What really struck my was the complete absence of black, brown, red or yellow faces. It was white from cover to cover – just white faces page after Caucasian page. *

This really hit me because A) the digs were all in areas of the world that are not primarily Caucasian. B) The Bible is a global book, so I figure that people all over the globe would be equally as interested in a subject like Biblical archaeology.

Here I am, sitting in a waiting room in one of the most ethnically diverse cities in North America (Los Angeles) looking at this international magazine about a study of global interest and … there was not just a racial disparity, there was a racial vacuum in its pages.

I was intrigued by the multiple advertisements for digs this next summer. For roughly $3,000 (not including airfare) you can come and dig in the Biblical dirt for a couple of weeks next summer.  I questioned if the homogenous appearances in the magazine were indicative of the field of archeology and if they were, what was behind them? Is this a financial thing – like the widening gap in technology?  Was this a cultural thing – like the earned Doctorates?  Was this a unique glitch to the field of archeology that was some kind of left over from its origins and the Colonial obsession with the preservation and cataloguing of cultural artifacts?

– I just found out that next month’s edition of Sojourners magazine has as its cover story: “Cruel and Unequal” a story about out ‘justice’ system.

“Blacks and whites use drugs at about the same rate, yet African Americans are 10 times more likely to be imprisoned for drug offenses. This is the unbalanced and inhumane effect of America’s “war on drugs” — a dirty secret that nobody wants to talk about. The discriminatory treatment of minority drug users has been virtually ignored by the media, politicians, and the rest of us.”

If you want to listen to an interesting take on the racial breakdown of both the “war on drugs” and the growth of the big business prison industry, here [link] is an interview with Law professor Michelle Alexander and her groundbreaking book The New Jim Crow.

From Iphones to PhDs, from Biblical Archeology to America’s prisons – we have a lot to think about this MLK holiday weekend.

The reason that this is all on my mind is because of a letter that Dr. King wrote to the ministers of Birmingham. The letter was written from a Jail cell in 1963 and when I first read it hit me hard. There is section toward the end where he says this :

The teachings of Christ take time to come to earth.” Such an attitude stems from a tragic misconception of time, from the strangely irrational notion that there is something in the very flow of time that will inevitably cure all ills. Actually, time itself is neutral; it can be used either destructively or constructively. More and more I feel that the people of ill will have used time much more effectively than have the people of good will.

We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people. Human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability; it comes through the tireless efforts of men willing to be co workers with God, and without this hard work, time itself becomes an ally of the forces of social stagnation.

In calling out the white ministers who were conspicuously silent (of which it is my shame to admit that I would likely have been on of them) he said:

“Actually, we who engage in nonviolent direct action are not the creators of tension. We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive. We bring it out in the open, where it can be seen and dealt with. Like a boil that can never be cured so long as it is covered up but must be opened with all its ugliness to the natural medicines of air and light, injustice must be exposed, with all the tension its exposure creates, to the light of human conscience and the air of national opinion before it can be cured.

The part that got me the most, however, was this:

First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.” Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.

I join with the country and those around the world who will thank God for Dr. King this weekend. I am so glad that we pause on this holiday to remember him and his message. We need to hear it again. I need to be reminded of it frequently.

*obviously I did not have the ability to inquire with each person as to their ethnic heritage and origin – just making a surface evaluation from the pictures on the glossy pages of a magazine.

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3 Responses to Snapshots in honor of Dr. King

  1. Pingback: Race and Dr. King « LeadFromTheFringe

  2. Jimmy says:

    It seems that the education gap could get worse. More and more job positions are demanding a Master’s degree, which of course requires more money. Also, with a tiered internet possibly on the horizon where information is available only to those who pay for it, the gap could continue to grow. To say that this will only be a gap between the “rich and the poor” is missing a few important steps. It will be a gap between white people…and almost everyone else. We whites may be the minority in the future, but that doesn’t mean that the scales won’t still tip in our favor. Unless more people of our background are willing to step off the scale and cry foul and repent and humbly work towards true equality…well, I don’t know.

  3. Cara says:

    This is indeed still a relevant and essential eye-opening topic. I find it very useful to also be reflective on the language we use when interacting with others that are different from us. Until the linguistic connotation of the word ‘white’ loses it’s glamor and power, no matter how far we’ve progressed in our practices of equality, everyone will continue to be aware of the power of the ‘whites’. What else shall we call ourselves to make us just a normal race and not a race above all others? I don’t know. Cream? lol. But seriously..

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