About racism?

Harlow’s Monkey mentions the problematic aspect of using religious beliefs to discount the impact of race and racism on adopted children:

In the article, “Transracial adoptive parents’ thoughts about the importance of race and culture in parenting” in International Korean Adoption, the numerous parents who opted to not teach about race to their children in favor of Christian teachings makes me again wonder why a Christian home would have to be at the exclusion of teaching about a child’s race and culture and the importance of eliminating racism. Why are these thought to be mutually exclusive? (One parent’s comment was “The most important message regarding race . . . is the fact that God chose her for our family and our family for her.” Another comment from a parent was “Our daughter knows God has a special plan for her life that racial prejudice will pale in comparison to . . . that [plan] will keep her appreciating the privilege of God rather than her focusing or whining over real or imagined racism.”

This strikes me as just another version of “love is enough” or “Well, isn’t it better to have a family than to be in an orphanage?” Which is simply a way of ignoring the issues.

Does the “special plan” in an adoptee’s life include being subjected to racism? Should an adoptee be taught to appreciate her “privilege” rather than “whining” over “real or imagined” racism? (Because you know those adoptees, those people of color, are going to imagine racism everywhere.)

In the end the message seems clear: Gratitude is required, bitching is not permitted. Issues of loss, of pain, of injustice, are pushed to the sidelines.

Part of this is the presumption that the adoptive family is always going to be better for the child than his or her current or even future circumstances. Part of it is the privilege of wealth. But part of it is a demand for gratitude–we have given you this, that makes everything else irrelevant. It seems especially objectionable for the “gift” to be faith.

Harlow’s Monkey asks why Christianity and anti-racism cannot exist in tandem. During my anti-Christianity phase, I would have argued that Christianity was a method of enforcing the status quo. Hence it was directly in support of racism. For example, look at all the people who used the scriptures to justify slavery.

My belief was not particularly challenged by people who would say really racist things but who professed to be devout Christians. And I have any of a number of nasty e-mails from people who signed their vitriol with little fish. Yet when I asked them “What Would Jesus Do?” they did not respond.

But like anything else, these folks represent just one interpretation of a big religion. And I tend to find that it is an interpretation held by people who lack critical thought, who are more likely to be authoritarian personalities and who are more likely to think either/or than shades and shades and shades of grey.

Because there are Christians for whom social justice is a strong driving factor. There are Christians throughout history who did what they felt was right. I remember in particular Christians who risked their lives for Jewish people during World War II. I remember Friends who aided Japanese Americans and who spoke out against the concentration camps.  I remember the Catholic Worker movement, and one particular group of Catholic Workers who created refuge for torture victims.  I remember that in any one group, there are people who will choose to do the moral thing, the ethical thing, the right thing.  Because this is how they interpret their religion.

But when Christianity is used to enforce a viewpoint of privilege and ignore the viewpoint of others, then it is no longer following What Would Jesus Do. And to use Christianity in this way is blasphemy.

2 thoughts on “WWJD?

  1. It’s not–but the problem is that the Christian Right sees social justice as being meted out via individual morality and charity. If we could all be saved, we wouldn’t be mean people anymore, see? And yet, some of the meanest people I have met are hiding inside evangelical right wing Christianity. And when I was with the social justice “types” they tended to buy into colorblind racism. But I don’t think you’ll meet many Christians who would say they are against justice. They just can’t agree on how to get there.

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