Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Episcopal Re-education Camps

One of the most infamous parts of any totalitarian regime is the provision for "re-education" camps. Those are the places where people who do not have the appropriate language mastered are sent to learn to "right" ways to address issues. They have some common characteristics. First, they are not designed to solve a problem as much as to eliminate dissent. Second, they often use methods which are odd at best and more likely oppressive to alternative points of view.

When we were in church last Sunday we learned that the 2009 convention of the Episcopal Church mandated that “That all dioceses and provinces receive anti-racism training if they have not already done so or renew training that has been previously taken.” The intent of the resolution was that leaders take anti-racism training "periodically" - so evidently understanding race for these leaders of the church is not something one can master.

I had to go back to Wikipedia to understand what racism is - which is usually defined as "views, practices and actions reflecting the belief that humanity is divided into distinct biological groups called races and that members of a certain race share certain attributes which make that group as a whole less desirable, more desirable, inferior, or superior."

One participant in the Episcopal re-education described her participation in one of the "training" (read indoctrination) sessions. We " listened deeply to the stories we had to share about growing up in a society that is racist, as people who are racist."  I think it is not only wrong but wrong headed to describe this nation as racist.

Do not get me wrong, I believe very deeply that America continue to make progress on establishing the standard that Dr. King espoused "a color blind society."   But I am doubtful that anti-racism training will actually accomplish that goal.   The topic became even more important as a result of the verdict in the Zimmerman case.

On July 21st. scholar Shelby Steele, pointed out the hollowness of the the current leadership of the civil rights establishment. He said in part "The purpose of today's civil-rights establishment is not to seek justice, but to seek power for blacks in American life based on the presumption that they are still, in a thousand subtle ways, victimized by white racism. This idea of victimization is an example of what I call a "poetic truth." Like poetic license, it bends the actual truth in order to put forward a larger and more essential truth—one that, of course, serves one's cause. Poetic truths succeed by casting themselves as perfectly obvious: "America is a racist nation"; "the immigration debate is driven by racism"; "Zimmerman racially stereotyped Trayvon." And we say, "Yes, of course," lest we seem to be racist. Poetic truths work by moral intimidation, not reason.

In the Zimmerman/Martin case the civil-rights establishment is fighting for the poetic truth that white animus toward blacks is still such that a black teenager—Skittles and ice tea in hand—can be shot dead simply for walking home. But actually this establishment is fighting to maintain its authority to wield poetic truth—the authority to tell the larger society how it must think about blacks, how it must respond to them, what it owes them and, then, to brook no argument."  He went on to conclude "Today's civil-rights leaders swat at mosquitoes like Zimmerman when they have gorillas on their back. Seventy-three percent of all black children are born without fathers married to their mothers. And you want to bring the nation to a standstill over George Zimmerman?"

The harder work that Steele describes,which is to alter public policies which have created the positions he describes or to reduce the uncertainty between Black Americans and others, takes a lot more than indoctrination, it takes a conscientious commitment to social engagement.   But like the current civil rights establishment it is much easier for the Episcopal leadership  to engage in politically correct nonsense like anti-racism training.

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