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Let’s see. It was way back in April when I first told you about the new online magazine/blog that I’ve been working on for the past year. It’s called UrbanFaith.com, and it finally went live this afternoon in a very, very beta version. We’ve still got plenty of glitches to work out, so please be patient with us. But just wanted you to know, “It’s alive!”

Please visit UrbanFaith a lot, leave lots of comments, and tell lots of friends. Most of all, please pray that God will use it as a worthwhile forum for insight, inspiration, and understanding.

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Lots of energetic conversations happening across the blogosphere. I’m too busy to blog about them with any manner of cogency, but allow me to throw out a few items that I would expound on if I had the time.

The Obama vs. Dobson Bible Controversy. My friend Josh Canada has an informative post about this over at his Introspections & Ideas of a Black WASP blog, and Scot McKnight has started a fascinating conversation at Jesus Creed. I’d encourage you to head over and join in the discussion at those respective blogs. Finally, Christianity Today posted a thought-provoking piece by Collin Hansen on the subject. I’m not sure what the intended takeaway is, but it is definitely generating some vigorous discussion. 

Obama and the Evangelicals. I was also intrigued by this brief news article from the Christian Century regarding Barack Obama’s recent meeting with several evangelical leaders. In addition, Arloa Sutter just posted on Obama’s plans to expand President Bush’s Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, if he’s elected. As with his two-year-old speech that set off Dr. Dobson, Obama engages religion in a way few other presidential candidates have dared. Whether or not you agree with all of his positions on the issues, you must admit he’s a politician who is not afraid to wade into the grayness of religion in American life.

Coded Prejudice in America. This article from the Chicago Tribune explores the new, more covert expressions of prejudice and racism in today’s society, whether it be in the workplace or the media. “Federal officials say they have seen an increase in harassment complaints involving coded words and images in the workplace,” writes reporter Dahleen Glanton. She also explores how Barack Obama’s candidacy for president has given rise to a more strategic use of these veiled expressions of prejudice. Regarding the media, Glanton quotes Steve Rendall, a senior analyst at the liberal watchdog group Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR): 

“We hear code words all the time in talk radio. It’s a constant drumbeat,” said Rendall, who also co-hosts FAIR’s national radio show, CounterSpin. “Code word bigotry is a secret code, a secret handshake between the listening audience and the host.”

Have you observed this “code word bigotry” in action? What challenges does this present for the work of reconciliation today? And if Obama is elected president, do you think it will get better or worse? 

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I’ve Been Hit!

My friend Caryn Rivadeneira, who’s currently the managing editor for Christianity Today’s GiftedforLeadership.com, recently tagged me. I usually try to avoid the whole meme thing, but Caryn is such a nice person—and she was memed/tagged (see, I don’t even know what to call it) by another great guy, Al Hsu from over at IVP—so I’ll give this one a shot. 🙂

Sooo, here are the rules:

  • Link to your tagger and post these rules on your blog.
  • Share 7 facts about yourself on your blog, some random, some weird.
  • Tag 7 people at the end of your post by leaving their names as well as links to their blogs.
  • Let them know they are tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.

Okay, here are my random and weird facts. I’ll make it quick:

  1. God spoke to me about getting serious with him as I stood in the front row at a David Lee Roth concert in 1986.
  2. I went through a Jheri curl phase around that same time. I think God also spoke to me about getting rid of it.
  3. I am not a twin.
  4. I won a Project Author young writers award when I was in fourth grade; first thing I ever really won. (Oh, the name of the book was The Knights of the Star Table—part Star Wars, part King Arthur’s Tales.)
  5. Growing up in the late seventies, I used to love a soft drink called Rondo—“the Thirst Crusher.” Anyone remember Rondo?
  6. My first automobile purchase was a used, Green 1974 AMC Hornet. Ah, good memories with that car. Bought it for $450.
  7. Thanks to my kids, I can sing most of the songs from Disney’s High School Musical. My favorites: “Stick to the Status Quo” and “Breaking Free.”

There you go. Now I’m obligated to nag, er, tag seven other folks. Sorry about this, friends:

Judy Bright

Stan Guthrie

A Musing Mom

Joshua Canada

Wendy Murray

Margaret Feinberg

Jason Oliver

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As you’ve probably noticed, I haven’t been blogging that much lately—too busy! And I probably shouldn’t be blogging now, but I wanted to call your attention to a few items of interest I’ve run across recently. Some of them are slightly aged but still worthwhile.

  • “Racial Shift in a Progressive City Spurs Talks.” A case study of the pros and cons of diversity in Portland, Oregon. City leaders are encouraging black and white residents to talk about gentrification and race.
  • Chicago Sun-Times Coverage of Father Pfleger. Religion columnist Cathleen Falsani, the journalist with the most access to Father Michael Pfleger, has written a revealing collection of pieces on the Chicago priest’s latest controversy. (This is the latest story, but check out the “Complete Coverage” list left of the article for several others.) Falsani has also posted all of her articles on her blog; here’s the first one.
  • Archbishop Tutu Weighs in on U.S. Presidential Race. My friend Linda Leigh Hargrove posted a great clip about South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s comments during a recent trip to Chicago. The link to the Tribune article in Linda’s post seems to have expired, but you should be able to get it here. Tutu offered some provocative thoughts about Barack Obama, Jeremiah Wright, and America’s need for reconciliation.
  • Things Not to Say. My friend and colleague LaTonya Taylor passed this one along to me. It’s a collection of articles from DiversityInc magazine listing insensitive remarks one should avoid saying to members of various racial and cultural groups in the workplace. For example, never say to a Native American coworker: “How Indian are you?” Or try to steer clear of saying this to a white coworker: “There’s no way you, as a white person, could understand.” It might be risky to post about this one, but I’m curious to hear your reactions. Is this just more PC babble, or actually a helpful tool for navigating differences in society? 

 

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Anyone watch the NBC reality show Last Comic Standing? I don’t, but I was checking out the blog Racialicious yesterday and ran across this post about a Chicago comedian named Esther Ku who recently appeared on the show. The post’s headline suggests that Ku is the Korean-American Sarah Silverman. (Silverman, for those who don’t know, is a white comedian who traffics in an offensive brand of humor that tries to squeeze irony out of common racial, ethnic, gender, and religious stereotypes. Her jokes come across as more cruel than insightful, and I think she likes it that way.)

Like Silverman, Ku’s comedy usually causes audiences to squirm in discomfort: Did she really say that? Is it okay to laugh? Is this social commentary, or is she making fun of Asian people? It’s a risky style of satire, for sure.

In addition to a YouTube video of Ku, the Racialicious post excerpts a telling passage from a Boston Globe article about her act:

The Korean-American comedian started with the words, “I don’t really like being Asian, but I’m kind of stuck with it.” That, at least, received a few titters. But when she continues, “The only good thing about being Asian, really, is it helps you get into college,” the crowd stays silent. It goes downhill from there as she mines the subject of Caucasians adopting Asian babies.

“Nigerian babies cost like 25 cents a day,” says Ku. “Asian babies cost a lot more because they pay off.”

As the crowd erupts in pained groans and a smattering of uncomfortable laughs, Ku innocently asks, “Did I go too far?”

Later on, the Globe article allows the comedian to explain what she’s attempting to do with her humor:

The underlying message of the [Nigerian vs. Asian babies] joke is a cultural commentary about white people who adopt Asian babies, says Ku. “How unfair it is that people purchase Asian babies like it’s an investment. I don’t mean to degrade Nigerian babies.”

But, as the article observes, Ku’s audiences often miss her point. And many leave her shows feeling she’s a self-hating racist.

The Racialicious post on Ku reminded me of the discussion we were having here a few weeks ago about the blog Stuff White People Like. The questions posed then arise once again:

  • How far should we go in joking about race and ethnicity?
  • Does it do more harm than good?
  • Is there a place in the work of reconciliation for biting social satire that indirectly challenges us to examine our stereotypes and prejudices?

Ku’s comedy offers yet another angle for considering these issues.

 

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In the comments to a previous post, Tyson Aschliman reminded me about Christine Scheller’s suggestion that I check out the new blog Stuff White People Like. I meant to reply to her on that awhile back but got distracted. I’m sorry, Christine.

I had heard about Stuff White People Like (SWPL) earlier this year through TheRoot.com and another interesting blog called Racialicious. At the time, I wondered whether or not I should blog about SWPL. I decided not to because, while I found it funny, I wasn’t sure whether I was laughing with my white brothers and sisters or at them. Also, I realized that I like many of the same things that are supposedly the primary domain of white folk (e.g., #44 Public Radio, #40 Apple Products, #64 Recycling). Does this make me “too white” or “not black enough”? 🙂 

I may be overreacting about all of this, but I wonder what your thoughts are. Is SWPL a harmless site that’s good for a few laughs? A subversively instructive site that uses satire to help further our understanding of racial and cultural differences? Or, like that Root.com essay suggests, is it just the latest humor-clad gimmick exploiting our differences for one individual’s selfish gain (the guy got a nifty book deal out of this thing)? More importantly, does it help or hurt the cause of true racial reconciliation?

I don’t want to come across as a spoilsport. Frankly, I think many of the SWPL entries are hilarious.  And I believe it’s helpful to use humor in our discussion of racial issues. (Heck, I attempted to do that in my book.) But is there enough that’s redemptive in the SWPL approach to make it something that’s healthy and productive, and not just a slow-acting poison for the mind and heart that will ultimately make us more cynical?

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Ten and Some Change

Here’s the deal: Sister Erika Haub over at The Margins tagged me the other day. It’s an honor to be included on her list of “excellent or subversive” blogs—though I’m not sure which category I fall under. I usually run the other way on stuff like this, but I decided this could be an excuse to give a shout-out to some of the truly excellent/subversive blogs out there. So below is my list of ten, in no particular order. (Disclaimer: I could’ve listed a lot more than ten, but I’m trying to stick to the rules; check my list of “Friends & Links” on the right for a more comprehensive blog roll.)

Okay, I realize my math is funny. I won’t say anything if you won’t.

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