Sunday, July 12, 2009

White People

Our church is trying to have a Euro-American appreciation month. We have always celebrated the other "months" because we are attempting to create a church that appreciates all cultures. In fact, one of the pillars of our church is reconciliation. We wouldn't necessarily say that it's "racial reconciliation" but it is, more or less. In that I mean that we, as a church, acknowledge areas that need reconciling such as male and female relationships and all of our relationships to God, but we definitely realize, given our history as well as our current urban conditions, that various ethnicities need to be reconcilied to each other and to God in order for God's kingdom to have come. Thus, we celebrate the "heritage" months. African-American month, Asian-Pacific American heritage month, Hispanic Heritage month, etc.
But, in order to really dive into the conversation, we decided to institute Euro-American appreciation month in July. The problem is that we're afraid. The other problem is that we're somewhat ignorant. Some of us realize that there is a white priviledge and power issue that must be acknowledged before moving on. But I guess there are still some people out there that don't realize that. And there is the rub. Those of us who realize that white people have done terrible things have acknowledged that and will readily acknowledge that. And after much soul searching and repentance we're ready to acknowledge that we have done wrong but are also created by God, and forgiven by God, and can move forward in the knowledge that we need humility as well as thankfulness (since no on can be proud in God's family) for what He has done through us....as a culture.

I guess I just feel like we're struggling. We joke about white culture, we google "stuffwhitepeoplelike.com" and we chuckle over the fact that our cultural cuisine consists of meatloaf, hamburger helper, and jello salads, but is it okay to be proud of anything that's "white" anymore? I mean, can we celebrate Euro-American month or do we just have to talk about how we have failed and how stupid we are, (including our love for Vespas, unpaid internships, Bob Marley, hummus, facebook, the Onion, girls with bangs....hahaha....., appearing empathetic with personal anecdotes of "poverty", etc)?

I realize there is a line to be walked. We all need to chuckle at the humor that comes from the
stereotypes that our culture consists of. We also need to be humble enough to acknowledge where our culture/ethnicity has failed as human beings in the sight of God. But I think my church is struggling in the balance. We are only mature enough to mock ourselves as "white people" so far. We know we need to show our humility since we are in the position of being the dominant culture. So, we laugh at ourselves. We make fun of ourselves. We refuse to say where we are proud of ourselves to appear "humble". But are we really being humble? Or are we being proud by acting as if we can't say what we have done well without putting down another culture. If we say that we're "hard working" does that mean that other cultures aren't? If we say that our moms taught us the value of money are we saying that other moms didn't teach there children the same?

Are we really mature enough yet to celebrate Euro-American heritage month, or are we celebrating it with sarcasm and wit....another favorite of white people? And by doing so, are we acting like we can't be proud of our ethnicity or we might be putting down another ethnicity? I don't think that by saying that my parents taught me such-and-such that we are saying that black or Asian or hispanic moms didn't teach their kids the same thing. But it sounds like it doesn't it? Because maybe....just maybe...we're saying that your momma didn't teach you that. Is that what we're saying when we celebrate Euro-American heritage month in such a way?

I don't think we know yet. We're still babies. We're trying to work it out. But we're struggling. And you know what? I was invited to be on the committee of "white folk" that got together to figure out how to celebrate "our" month, and I chickened out. I couldn't imagine the pressure that would be on the individuals within that committee to appear such a perfect amount of humble and sorry and groveling, so I opted out. And I'm glad I did. Because I spent the whole night at small group complaining about how Euro-American heritage month was presented. And now I'm blogging about it. And I'm pretty sure that if I took the time to look through the 120 or so things that white people like from the sight [www. stuffwhitepeoplelike.com], I'm sure I'd find "bitching about things on a blog" somewhere. So maybe I don't have any room to talk. But still. But still. I just want to make sure that in appearing humble, we aren't appearing falsely humble and, in doing so, really offending other cultures. That's all I'm saying. Really. *

*pictures from the list of stuffwhitepeoplelike.com, which, honestly, is pretty darn funny.

1 comment:

Kate said...

This is really interesting! I'm looking forward to seeing how it plays out. Sometimes we label all judgment "bad" when they simply true. I think what we're really doing in that is labeling difference as bad.
Being overseas I have learned that sometimes, nobody's mamma taught them ___ (fill in the blank) and I'm appalled. But then I learn that they don't do or have or say the things I think are the "right things" because their culture simply does not value it. I'm actually the odd one out... Really can't wait to hear more of your thoughts on this!