To read about F's and my London trip, start here and click "newer post" to continue the story.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

I've been considering writing about the sermon I heard last Sunday. LaShawn Barber has an interesting post entitled "Has 'White Guilt' Run Its Course?" (no) and it and some of the comments have inspired me to go on and do it.

The sermon was given by one of the associate ministers, who happens to be the son of our senior minister. The title was "Why Diversity Matters" (and let me say parenthetically that I long for sermon titles like "Behaving Like a God-Fearing Person" and I may do something about that before long.) He started out by saying that Memphis is a segregated city and we need to stop being that way. Okay, well, from what I read Memphis is actually more integrated than most cities, but I made a conscious decision to keep an open mind and listen to what he had to say.

What he had to say was a resume of his own experiences. All of his schooling, K-12, was at private schools here that are mostly white, so he was surrounded, as he said, with "people like him". College, ditto. He never was around black people much, apparently, until he went to seminary in New Jersey and got a job at a church where, for the first time in his life, he was a racial minority. Apparently he got some kind of epiphany and has come back to get us all straightened out. Okay, maybe it's ugly of me to put it that way. I have PMS. Shoot me.

Here's the deal: My daughter went to a parochial school K-6. The school was about 50/50 black and white. I remember one year they had an overabundance of boys in her grade for some reason, and there were 4 black and 3 white girls in her class. Public magnet schools for 7-12, and these teetered on the 50/50 mark the whole time; by the time she graduated from high school, white kids were a slight minority at that school. Our neighborhood is probably roughly 50/50. A white family moves out and a black family moves in. A black family moves out and a white family moves in. F played with the black kid next door - they set up a space ship in the back yard, I remember. As for me, the overwhelming majority of the last 24 or so years I have worked at places where white people were in the minority.

And then there's F's friend, also a member of that church, who went to Central High School here in Memphis, and was part of the 13% of the student population that was white.

We don't need anybody lecturing us about how segregated we are, especially someone with the - I don't want to say "privileged" because, even though it was more expensive, it wasn't necessarily any better than my daughter's. But "elitist"? Is that what I mean? background that he stood up there and told us he had. I think he was projecting his experiences onto the rest of us white folks without stopping to ask himself whether his assumptions were valid. That's partly a sign of immaturity, but also there's this:

One of the commenters on LaShawn's post said that she thought liberal guilt was a sign of laziness. "It is so much less effort to make a big display of self-flagellation, and throw some money (other people’s money) around than to really engage with people. It is so much less effort than to follow Christ, in whom there is no Jew or Greek, no black or white, no free of slave." Is it laziness that this minister hasn't gotten to know the portion of the congregation that isn't "like him"? People who can't afford expensive clothes and ski trips and attend or send their kids to public schools? And ironically, now I am going to talk about the virtue of diversity: If you spend time at work or at school with people who are not "like you" then it becomes easier to leave your comfort zone and connect with those people; or maybe your comfort zone just becomes a lot larger.

3 comments:

HarpO'Fly said...

Maybe this guy has not figured out that Memphis is majority Black, 63% I believe, most of the elected officials are Black, king willie--lucky us--most of the government workers are Black, and there is more and more upward mobility among Blacks, lawyers, doctors and other professionals, as well as Black gangs and attitudes which keep them separate by their choice.
The man is an idiot.

Laura(southernxyl) said...

It's hard to believe someone grew up here and is that clueless about the city. Or if you realize you've been segregated, shut up until you've experienced a few things. Dang. I'm still irritated.

briton32 said...

I went to Raleigh_Egypt High school there in Memphis myself and at the time I graduated in 91 it was approx.60/40 black to white..I remember still to this day my senior year there..This black boy and white boy got into a fight in the hallway.Well somehow during the fight the black guy ended up hitting one of the teachers..Well he got suspended from school and the white guy didnt(It was said by 4 or so witnesses that the black guy had started the whole thing).Anyways within 36hrs of this happening we literally had people chaining themselves to the school doors in protest of this kid being suspended..Maybe he was expelled because it was assault on a teacher..I dont remember exactly.I just remember it got bad there for awhile..Bad enough that my dad who is a detective on the sherriffs department there in shelby county made sure he was there to pick my up from school everyday despite the fact he lived across town and worked day shift.I usually walked home before then.I dont live in Memphis anymore..I chose to move to northwest Tn when my daughter was a baby because I knew I didnt want her to have to deal with the stuff I did in school and I knew unless I could get a job making enough money to send her to private school that she would have too.Personally and I think this may make some people upset but I think that there are just as many racist black people as there are white..There in memphis I have noticed a great prejudice towards white people..Take the Black family reunion..That would be just fine and dandy if they were talking about the "Black"family as a last name but NO they were talking about black people..I wonder how quick the counsel members and mayors office would put a stop to a county wide "White" family reunion or a carcasion(sp?) college fund?..Sorry I didnt mean to get on a rant...Nice to meet another mid southerner on here and I look forward to reading your blog again sometime...
Briton32
**I got the link to your journal off of cf's...