Posted tagged ‘racism’

The Roseannes At Starbucks

May 30, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                           May 30, 2018

                          

Yes, I frequent Starbucks…like, right now! I can’t say enough about the baristas at the coffee cafe I visit six days a week. I know them by name- Steph, Rhea, Sarah, Chase, Cody, Viv, Kallie, Katherine, and Katie. 

Rhea began taking online classes with Arizona State in January and I edited a couple of English Composition papers for her. Sarah and I share family pictures together. Katie always greets me with a smile, like I’m someone she’s happy to see. Cody would be friendly to a rock. His break times are spent sitting with customers and talking about life.

They are great people who frequently are called upon to serve others who are demanding, obnoxious, judgmental, and entitled. 

The pace is furious. I was trying to share a story with Rhea one day about something that had happened at school and it took me another three days of visits to be able to finish it! 

Starbucks closed 8,000 stores on Tuesday for a four hour employees’ training session on anti-bias. The company’s decision to conduct the training grew out of a situation in a Philadelphia Starbucks where two black men, who were waiting at the store to meet a friend, ended up being arrested. An employee had called the police about the men hanging around the store. The incident quickly gained nationwide attention. 

Racial stereotyping is not something I’m comfortable with. However, I am acutely aware of how I stereotype elderly people who are behind the steering wheel of a car, how I stereotype anyone who drives a BMW, anyone who plays basketball at a certain high school close to us, any guy who is “sagging”, anyone wearing a Michigan Wolverines tee shirt, or anyone who drops “F” bombs as easily as exhaling.

This post is to come alongside my baristas and say that they have to deal the Roseanne Barrs of the world on a daily basis. My barista, Chase, who has several tattoos, told me of a woman who ordered coffee one morning and told him his tattoos were an abomination to God. She was on her way to church. I apologized to Chase for having to be subjected to someone who felt she had to be God’s mouthpiece.

Were we surprised by Roseanne Barr’s tweets? Twenty-five years ago this week she made a mockery of the national anthem that she “kinda’-sung” before a San Diego Padres baseball game. She thought it was funny! Do we think she spent the past twenty-five years getting proper and well-mannered?

Everyday my baristas deal with the Roseannes of our area with patience and hospitable spirits. Perhaps Starbucks should consider another training session, but this time offer it for all those folk on this side of the counter who feel they have a license to kill-verbally, treat the employees like dirt, and don’t think their poop stinks!

Bias Training

April 19, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                      April 19, 2018

                                   

What are we to make of the Philadelphia Starbucks’ racial bias situation? Unfortunately, it is a played-out story that mirrors the racial distrust and, dare I say, hatred in our nation.

Next week the Legacy Museum and National Memorial for Peace and Justice opens in Montgomery, Alabama. A recent 60 minutes edition highlighted this new memorial. The new memorial remembers the thousands and thousands of African-Americans who were tortured and lynched. Some of the pictures from the past elicit tears of sorrow for the brutality and tears of shame for the callous hatred in our past. Some of the lynchings show crowds of people gathered in their Sunday best as if they were going to a community picnic. In the background, however, you see a hanged black man still dangling from the gallows. Lynchings, or the threat of lynchings, were one of the ways that African-Americans “were kept in line.” It didn’t take anything but an accusation to have someone strung up. At the memorial are the stories of so many, and what brought about their being lynched: One man who failed to address a police officer as “Mister; another who had knocked on the door of a house where a white woman lived…the stories bring anger to us about what was

But that is also a part of who we are! The reality of our checkered past still stains our hands in the present.

Back in the 1960’s and 70’s banks would “redline” certain neighborhoods that were where mostly non-whites lived. “Redlining” meant that financial institutions would either avoid offering financial services, like home mortgage loans, or charge higher rates to those who lived in those areas. Often middle-class African-Americans were charged higher rates than lower-class whites.

We could also go back to the 19th century and talk about sinophobia, the broad hostility towards Chinese immigrants. Corporations towards the end of the 19th century had policies prohibiting the employment of anyone Chinese. Newspapers owned by William Randolph Hearst started using the phrase “yellow peril” to indicate the threat of Chinese immigrants to the white laborers.

Bias is a part of who we are. It’s stitched into the fabric of our history! There’s a bit of resemblance in each one of us of Archie Bunker!

When 175,000 Starbucks employees take racial bias training on May 29th perhaps the rest of us could be invited to it as well. Bias is in each one of us just as much as the blood that runs through our veins. I recognize that I have my biases. They may or may not be towards a certain race of people and my perception of that person that I’m looking at. I may also have biases towards people from certain organizations, churches, high schools, hair color and/or style, clothing attire, accent, or age group.

The stain of our fallen creation continues with us in our confusion and blurring of what is wise judgment and what is unjust bias. Unfortunately, none of us get it right all the time. That’s not an excuse, it’s a challenge!

The Loudness of Stupidity

August 13, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                    August 13, 2017

                                 

While visiting my dad in Ohio recently I drove him one morning to a doctor’s appointment across the river in Huntington, West Virginia. The waiting room for the physician was “intimate”, meaning that there were about eight chairs positioned in a way so that you could see everyone else, whether you liked it or not!

Two men unfortunately became part of this setting soon after we arrived. They were loud! Now, my six year old granddaughter is also loud, but she’s six! We remind her to use her inside voice! These two men, however, were loud and…stupid! They trumpeted their stupidity to let everyone know that they were “life stupid!”

I know, I know…you’re thinking that I’m being very judgmental here. I guess I am. Yesterday morning when I sat down to eat some scrambled eggs that had been sitting on the counter for a few minutes I made the judgment on the first bite that they were cold. Sometimes judging a situation is easier than deciding on a score at an Olympic diving competition. In this situation the two waiting room individuals made it known to everyone in the same zip code that one of them was about to enter into his eighth marriage, while the other hadn’t followed simple pre-visit instructions that were going to result in his sharing his life wisdom for the others around him for the next four hours. A woman who was evidently related to them kept referring to them as “Dumb and Dumber.” They seemed to take it as a compliment. These two did nothing to change the stereotypes that people have about West Virginians!

The problem in our society is that some forms of stupidity are disguised as how things should be. People don’t see their prejudices and bad behavior as ignorance. They think that’s how the world should be.

And so racism gets portrayed as natural, and white supremacists LOUDLY proclaim that their warped view of the world is normal. Last week someone or someones who were committed to being stupid in life defaced the outside of a Jewish synagogue in Colorado Springs. Stupidity doesn’t just happen east of the Mississippi or in a Huntington physician’s waiting room, or at a Charlottesville, Virginia rally. People do stupid all over the place loudly!

We could go to the bottom line of the Christian faith that says that all people have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, but, quite frankly, that often gets used as an excuse  for deep-seeded evil and deliberate cruelty.

Stupidity finds a comfortable home in a number of people, snuggles into their decision making, and reveals itself with a blow horn!  There is nothing rational or reasonable about it, and yet multitudes seem to follow it’s enchanting call.

In the midst of our culture’s shouts of lunacy I keep repeating to myself the words of the prophet Amos, “…but let justice roll on like a river, righteous like a never-failing stream.” (Amos 5:24, NIV) In reading those words I envision the thundering sound of a rushing river drowning out the loudness of ignorance!

That is my prayer more and more these days!

Jesus Coffee: Part 5

July 15, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                       July 15, 2016

                                

I waited for an explanation. Jesus looked at me and then he said, “Everyone is wrong at one time or another. There is a difference between being wrong about a decision, or even an action, and being wrongly evil.”

“Explain a little bit more for me.”

“When you said those words to your wife that were insensitive and hurtful you knew that at the core of your being that you were wrong. If you lied to someone that is a wrong that can be righted through confession and repentance.”

“I sense a ‘but’ coming.”

“However-“

“Okay, cross me up with a however!”

“However…there is an evil that needs to be identified for what it is. There is a wrong that needs to be called for what it is…pure evil.”

“Like?”

“Racism is pure evil.”
“So a racist is someone who is pure evil.”

“No…a racist who is COMPLETELY close-minded is pure evil. Someone who is a racist but can be brought to a point where he or she recognizes the wrong of their position is different.”

“And when you encounter that what do you do? Throw some holy water on the person, hold the cross in front of you and say “Be gone, Satan!”?

“You recognize evil for what it is, and the wrongness that it brings to the world. There are some people who have sold out to the Deceiver. I wish there was a nice way to put it, but there isn’t.”

“Here’s a hard question then. If I have a longing to be loved at the core of my being what’s to keep me from yielding to the wrongly evil in order to be loved?”

“Great question! You must remember who the Lover of your soul is. The Deceiver is the lust-er of your soul. Your Father God is the Lover of your soul. Intimacy with the Lover of your soul is the greatest protection against the lust-er of your soul. Distance from the Lover raises your vulnerability to being swayed by the lust-er.”

“That sounds like a delicate balance.”

“It can be if you allow it.”

Our time was ending. The temperature of my second cup of coffee had dropped to lukewarm.

“You need to go, Bill?” Jesus asked.

“Yes, it’s time to get on with the business of the day. There’s that word again…business…busyness.”

“Be safe. Let me know when you want to share a cup of Joe together again. You know I’m always available.”

“Yes, Lord!” I got up from my seat and said to him, “You know I love you, don’t you?”

“Yes! I know…and I will always love you even when…you forget!”

The Determination of Whacked People

June 20, 2015

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                     June 19, 2015

                                      

The sadness of nine people murdered in the midst of a church bible study gathering! Different people put different spins on the why and how. I guess these few words may very well be another opinion.

For me it comes down to a lot of different things, and yet just one standout observance. People who are whacked often are determined to do whatever it is that has invaded their hearts and minds. If it is to go into an African-American church and start shooting because of white supremacist beliefs…and he can’t see past the hatred, there isn’t much that can be done to unconvinced him.

Whacked people are imbalanced and irrational. They come in all age groups and nationalities. How they arrived at such a state of weirdo-ism is on unexplainable. Dylann Roof didn’t just wake up in the morning and decide to kill nine people. He sent time allowing the seeds of racism to grow in his mind and soul. He was influenced by people who could use rhetoric to distort reality while motivating. He let an illusion what a hero is to infect his judgment. At some point he had made up his mind, but that point was after he had crossed the line of common sense and “whacked status.”

Unfortunately, we are getting used to the whacked doing news-numbing things. As the number of different ideologies increases the number of whacked jobs will increase as well. People become passionate for the right reasons…but also for the wrong reasons! A person who is passionate for the wrong reasons is often terrifying to the rest of us.

The tragedy is that there will be another person who is whacked sometime in the next few days, weeks, or months who determines to do something unthinkable…and despite our best efforts won’t be able to prevent it.

I’ve been on a college campus today and I’ve noticed the concrete posts in front of various buildings meant to hinder any vehicle that tries to get close. The college security is trying to the best of its abilities to deter a tragedy from happening, but sometimes determined whacked people keep looking until they find a way.

God help us!

The Hushing of Honesty

May 30, 2014

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                          May 31, 2014

 

                                       

 

The media was all over the Donald Sterling story. I’m not saying that they shouldn’t have been, but Rome wasn’t built in a day…and an eighty year old man’s racism wasn’t created in a secretly recorded comment.

The whole situation is sad. Sterling’s interview with Anderson Cooper left me shaking my head. For once Sterling didn’t need to hire someone to dig a hole. He was doing it deeper all by himself.

What disturbed me was actually the criticism that was leveled towards Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks, for comments he made that were honest and heart-felt. Cuban who gets as much camera time during games as Jerry Jones does for the Dallas Cowboys, shared how he felt. Unlike some people, I don’t think that Cuban “is all that”, as they say, but in this situation I appreciated his honest sharing. His choice of images might not have been the greatest, but he was admitting that he prejudges certain people by their appearance, or by their appearance in certain situations.

The media was all over his comments like sweat on foreheads of a July afternoon in Georgia. In blasting Cuban’s comments honesty dug a deep hole and disappeared for a while.

In essence, what the situation had taught us is that it is dangerous to be honest. It is easier to be shallow and unrevealing. If I keep my true feelings and thoughts hidden life will be easy, uncomplicated, and…meaningless!

I take this situation into the church, where it is easy…oh so easy…to not be honest! In a place where we talk about the priority of grace and forgiveness it seems that honesty is threatening.

Honesty reveals the deep darknesses of our heart, and we are incredibly uncomfortable with that.

And so we take communion with the saints while we harbor bitterness towards the one who is passing the tray; and we struggle with prejudices while we preach love and acceptance. We shy away from honesty about our struggles because we fear other people of the faith will hold our inner battles against us.

Sadly, it is more convenient for the fellowship of believers to hush the honesty and focus on the irrelevant, to ignore the elephant in the room because there’s a fly on the screen of the window.