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Posts Tagged ‘NPR’

Did anyone else catch this report by NPR’s Steve Inskeep on diversity and gentrification in Houston? Lots of important issues coverered here. Listen for Texas State Rep. Garnet Coleman. His insights may be helpful to consider as we continue to wrestle with the matter of  perception vs. reality in our discussions about race and racism in our nation today.

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Pullman_Porter_Helping_WomanOver the years, I’d always heard about the importance of the Pullman Porters in the development of America’s black middle class. So, I was glad to hear this excellent history piece on NPR this morning. It reminded me that I had a white fourth-grade teacher (whom I adored) who used to call me “George.” Back then, I had no clue why.

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Did anyone else hear the NPR story this morning about how heroin and opium addiction are destroying Afghan families? Sadly, even mothers and their young children are being lured into the grip of these drugs. An excerpt from the report:

“When I smoke this, I don’t experience any unhappiness. My nerves calm down. If I don’t do this I go crazy,” says Karima, an addict who is the mother of six children. She shares her home with her addicted parents and other relatives in a poor hillside neighborhood in Kabul. 

Her young children suffer ill effects of being bathed by opium and heroin smoke since birth. They do not attend school. The oldest is Fahima. At 12, she is the size of a child half her age. She has big brown eyes and bald spots on her head from malnutrition.

Fahima is the one her mother sends out to buy drugs to stoke her habit. “My mom nags me to go get hashish and opium so she can be happy. If she doesn’t use it, she gets angry and hits us all,” Fahima says.

The soaring rates of drug abuse are driven in part by Afghanistan’s widespread unemployment and social upheaval under the Taliban and the U.S.-led war, begun in 2001. Another factor is the flood of returning Afghan refugees from Iran, many of whom became heroin addicts there.

And fueling it all is an overabundance of opium and heroin in Afghanistan, the world’s largest cultivator of poppies in the world.

The addicts say that heroin is a cheap way to forget their miserable existence.

My wife and I were both quiet after listening to this report. We were particulary saddened by the reporter’s final description of the 12-year-old Fahima. 

Please join me in praying for the situation in Afghanistan, especially for the innocent lives that are being devastated by the side effects of war and oppression.

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Today marked the conclusion of NPR’s series of broadcasts on how Obama’s election is affecting issues of race relations in many European nations. Specifically, the series focuses on Germany, Italy, and France. Here’s an overview from NPR.org:

Most Europeans were thrilled when Democrat Barack Obama was elected president of the United States, because he promised to sweep away policies that Europeans found odious. More than that, he represented hope, renewal and proof that the barriers of age, class and race could be transcended.

But Obama’s victory also prompted soul-searching in Europe: Could his success be replicated there? Could a person of color ever become the leader of Germany? Italy? France?

Very revealing stories here. In at least a couple cases, I ignorantly assumed that Europe was more enlightened than the U.S. in some of their views on race. (Of course, this may be a reflection of that fact that I’ve never had a chance to visit Europe.) Turns out that Europe is struggling with many of the same racial dysfunctions as we are — or have — here in the U.S. Makes sense, I guess. After all, human depravity is an international phenomenon.

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It’s Thanksgiving week, and I’m grateful for so many things—a wonderful wife and kids, in-laws who actually like me, a place to live, a job to commute to every day, and a community of friends (through church, work, school, and the blogosphere) that is a tremendous source of encouragement and support.

I’m also thankful, most days, to attend a church whose members are a lot different from me in various ways. This occurred to me a few weeks back when I first read Philip Yancey’s latest column in Christianity Today about the signs of a healthy church. I was particularly moved by this extended passage:

As I read accounts of the New Testament church, no characteristic stands out more sharply than this one. Beginning with Pentecost, the Christian church dismantled the barriers of gender, race, and social class that had marked Jewish congregations. Paul, who as a rabbi had given thanks daily that he was not born a woman, slave, or Gentile, marveled over the radical change: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

One modern Indian pastor told me, “Most of what happens in Christian churches, including even the miracles, can be duplicated in Hindu and Muslim congregations. But in my area only Christians strive, however ineptly, to mix men and women of different castes, races, and social groups. That’s the real miracle.”

Diversity complicates rather than simplifies life. Perhaps for this reason we tend to surround ourselves with people of similar age, economic class, and opinion. Church offers a place where infants and grandparents, unemployed and executives, immigrants and blue bloods can come together. Just yesterday I sat sandwiched between an elderly man hooked up to a puffing oxygen tank and a breastfeeding baby who grunted loudly and contentedly throughout the sermon. Where else can we go to find that mixture?

When I walk into a new church, the more its members resemble each other—and resemble me—the more uncomfortable I feel.

Reading that made me wonder, do I feel comfort or discomfort in my current church setting, and why? Have I settled in so much that I’ve grown deaf to the call for “unity amid diversity” that should challenge every Christian congregation in one way or the other? These are, I believe, important questions to ponder from time to time. In fact, I ponder them most Sunday mornings.

Unlike Yancey, I find that my discomfort grows not out of being in a congregation that resembles me, because mine most certainly doesn’t. Rather, my discomfort stems from the nagging feeling that I’ve simply settled for the status quo. When you are the diversity of a place (at least in a racial sense), it’s sometimes easy to grow complacent and feel that you’ve already done your part. But that isn’t necessarily so. I probably could be doing a lot more to make my church a more diverse place—whether it be reaching out to other people of color more often and inviting them to church, or speaking up about the continued lack of racial diversity in our congregation, even though we’re located in a very diverse community. I need to be prayerfully figuring out how to take my discomfort and turn it into something positive and redemptive. I need to get better at opening my mouth and sharing my perspective (which, I guess, I do here a lot) and not just accepting that “things will never change.” Yet, I need wisdom to know when to speak and when to “go with the flow.” Lord, grant me that wisdom.

I’ve also been moved this Thanksgiving week by a series of broadcasts on (suprise! surprise!) NPR that explore what it means to be an American from the immigrant perspective. So far, the series has featured insightful interviews with authors Junot Diaz and Jhumpa Lahiri. Both writers speak poignantly of the struggle of finding acceptance in a country that both embraces and resists diversity, and of having loyalties to two very different cultures. You can hear in their stories both the pain and pride of “becoming American.” [Update: An interview with half-Irish, half-Turkish author Joseph O’Neill ran on Wednesday morning.]

As I listened, I was reminded again of Yancey’s words: “Diversity complicates rather than simplifies life.” Yet it’s what makes us stronger. It’s what makes us better. Without it, we cannot fully display the power of Christ’s gospel. 

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Yesterday, NPR aired the final two installments in its excellent conversations on race and the presidential election with a group of diverse voters from York, Pennsylvania. I know we’re all tired of talking about the election by now, but this was a very worthwhile and revealing series on issues that likely will generate even more intense discussion in the coming years. Check out the fifth and sixth broadcasts, and go here for a roundup of the entire series.

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National Public Radio’s fascinating roundtable on race and the presidential election continued today with a segment on Morning Edition and another on All Things Considered. This is a reconvening of the diverse panel of black, Latino, Asian, and white voters from York, Pennsylvania. Their candid discussion is worth your time.

A few questions occurred to me as I listened to this morning’s segment that I’d love to hear you interact on:

  • What does the McCain/Palin slogan “Country First” suggest to you?
  • Who is Joe Six-Pack?
  • When Sarah Palin says things like, “[Obama] is not a man who sees America as you and I see America. We see America as a force for good in this world,” what does she mean by “we”?
  • Does Barack Obama include pictures of his white grandparents in his political ads as a way to reassure white voters?
  • Would an African American with darker skin have gotten as far as Obama has in a presidential race?
  • What does it really mean to be patriotic?
  • Do you think there will be any type of post-election violence motivated by anger and tension from either side of the race line? 

Those are just a few of the questions that spring to mind. You may have others. I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

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