The New York Times recently published the diary entry of one Yale Professor Extraordinaire, Dr. Claudia Rankine. The title: “I Wanted to Know What White Men Thought About Their Privilege. So I Asked.”
Read it for yourself (if you’ve enough free articles remaining) here.
Or, if you’re short on time, and, like me, really don’t care what other people of any community think (I mean ‘ambivalence’ in the most noble way, of course), here’s the summary: Through many displays of academic prowess and charming intellectual honesty, Professor Rankine adroitly conveys earnestness. She really is curious. (Mind you, her judgement–and sentence–have already been pronounced.) But she really, really wants to learn. And so, what does she learn? She learns that White Men are aloof about their White Privilege.
Most of you know that I was an officer and pilot in the United States Air Force. As my uncle, himself a retired sailor, opined regarding my desire to join the Air Force as a pilot, “You will walk on water.” He was right. We pilots walked on water. (Incidentally, I’ve been tightening-up my understanding of the sky, and there is one very concrete sense in which we pilots do tread on water.)
That is to say, I believe this Jesus-like trait of mine is evidence that Professor Rankine would happily include me in her research sample.
Why did I read her piece if I really didn’t care what she thought? Well, I like to be a good communicator. I like to make people laugh. I like to be approachable. Mostly, I like to talk.
So I reasoned that maybe there are other “Claudia’s” living in fear of big, bad Pete. Maybe they are snooping around, cowering just out-of-sight. Maybe they are just waiting to pick up some cue that I won’t mind chatting about my not-just-internal narrative of White Privilege. I thought that maybe I could learn that if I wear the right clothing, or have the right glasses, or smile, or don’t smile, or stare, or never make eye-contact, or tap her on the shoulder as I cut in line, or have the right book out, maybe, just maybe, she’ll become courageous and chat me up.
But then, no. That’s not how fear works. Fear breathes; but it inhales only the decayed air of windowless rooms. Fear sees; but it is blinded by light. Fear feeds; but it consumes only lies. Fear is curious; but it never learns.
And so, sad as it may seem, I will be left unmolested. Because I am not afraid. But you, Professor Doctor, are.
(But you shouldn’t be! Just talk to me.)
(But watch out!)
Metallica broke attendance records in both Wichita and Kansas City last week. As most of you know, H- and I were at the Kansas City show.
During the concert, as usual, James took a moment to thank the audience. He then said something like, “I want you know that I don’t care who you are, what god you worship, or what is between your legs. I do not give a shit.” For the uninitiated, this is about as political or current-eventee as Metallica ever gets. (Thank you, Jesus.) It’s about the music, people.
Last week also was a big week for the United Methodist Church as their conference had voted to essentially fire Ministers if any of them subsequently ordained LGBTQ folks or performed marriages between anyone but one man and one woman.
Reverend Adam Hamilton, pastor of the largest UMC congregation–located in KC–in America, voted against this change and spent many hours last week explaining his reasons to his congregation. For our purposes, it is enough to say that he has declared that the LGBTQ community is still welcome at his church while the UMC figures itself out.
Why the comparison between Mr. Hetfield and Rev. Hamilton?
I recently told one friend that I am uncomfortable at almost every group setting I attend. I am uncomfortable at my church (it’s a black church–I am as white-bread as it gets). I am uncomfortable at most of the other churches I have visited (I prefer African churches, even if they’re in another language, but I usually visit churches from different cultures if I skip my service as I nearly reject my culture outright–I am as white-bread as it gets). I am uncomfortable at work (I work with what other white-breaders call ‘low-skilled immigrants’ and if my co-workers aren’t immigrants they are usually addicts, ex-cons, uneducated, or family members of one of the above).
My friend then queried, “Where are you comfortable?”
After a long pause I answered, “Ha. Truth be told? Metallica concerts. That’s when I feel like I can simply let go and be me.”
Rockstar James Hetfield would probably enjoy hearing this fact. And Reverend Adam Hamilton would probably be thrilled for the chance to compare notes with James and see what he could learn from him about creating a welcoming environment.
The trouble, of course, is there is one big difference between the Christian church and Metallica concerts. Can you name it? I’ll help. The one are entertainment. The other believes this world is going to burn. The one are fun. The other believes the shedding of Jesus’ blood altered the course of history. The one are going to end in less than fifty years. The other, with or without you, is never going to end. (Hallelujah.)
Can we tell the truth? It goes like this, “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.”
Are LGBTQ folks welcome in the Christian church? Before I could ever answer, I’d need to hear what their intentions are.
But if you’re looking for comfort, I’d try to catch the next Metallica concert.