Tag Archive: Ku Klux Klan


Micro-Aggressions

On my way to the north woods of Wisconsin for a much needed spring break, I heard a new term on the radio: micro-aggressions. The term refers to the many little ways that people, in particular white people, most often privileged white men, continue the legacy of racism with snide side comments and little asides thrown out carelessly, denigrating African-Americans and their accomplishments. It’s almost as though these insecure people seek to cement a privileged position and are afraid, on some level, that giving another race equal treatment under the law will somehow take away from their rights.

There’s that famous cigarette ad saying from Virginia Slims: “You’ve come a long way, baby,” and when it comes to civil rights we have indeed come a long way in the last fifty years, but that doesn’t mean we still don’t have much work to do. Racism is no longer socially acceptable so I find people making derogatory remarks under their breath, usually among peers who don’t dare confront them or disagree.

At the same time, we have the dilemma of the well-meaning heterosexual white man who has inherited a position of privilege, and may indeed feel guilty about having certain birth rights, but doesn’t know how to start or continue a conversation about race and racism. I’m thinking in particular about a friend named James, Gentle James of a previous post, who doesn’t feel comfortable making much of any comment on race and racism for fear of speaking out of turn, or God forbid, not being forward-thinking enough.

Howard Schultz, CEO of Starbucks, recently tried something radical in having his baristas, also known as partners, write on random coffee cups the term, “Race together.” I think theoretically it’s a great idea to try and start a national conversation on race relations, and indeed the coffee community would seem like a great place to start, but I’m not certain that the average Starbucks customer wants to have any kind of meaningful interaction at 7am while waiting for that first cup of coffee. Perhaps if Starbucks had framed the conversation, saying that on Sunday afternoons, baristas will be approaching people to talk about racism, the whole project might have had better parameters. The way it played out, as I was driving out of town, one of the Starbucks employees who is a casual friend of mine named Dominique, waved at me through the drive-thru and asked about my weekend plans, while another employee, a black man named Marquise who I really don’t know all that well, rushed to the window, seemingly in the effort to raise the profile of the African-American community. Is it really fair to put the onus on all the minority employees to insure that they are noticed and appreciated? How does Howard Schultz contend that his employees respond to someone who might very well react in a racist fashion? Is it enough to say, “We don’t need the business of close-minded people?” So I guess my point is, I give Starbucks an A for effort in its attempt to redress the wrongs of recent racist flare-ups, but only a B minus for the way the company has executed its “race together” campaign.

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Equally Blessed?

Around the mid-1980’s a Chicago priest named Rev. Pat Lee started ministering to those impacted by AIDS or HIV.  At that point it was unclear what caused the virus.  Some believed the virus had mutated from being an opportunistic infection into being a virus like the common cold, spread through the air, and there was much fear about how to deal with the disease so priests who went ahead and were inclusive to the gay community were heros in their time.

Recently, however, a new issue has sparked debate.  The gay pride parade was slated to go past Mount Carmel Catholic church in Chicago, but the priest of that church protested, saying that people were not going to be able to go to church that Sunday.  A compromise was reached so that the church would not be affected.  What was not mentioned is that the Chicago marathon was allowed to go by that very church on a Sunday, and no mention was made as to the inconvenience to Mount Carmel.  In the midst of negotiations to move or reschedule the parade, Cardinal Francis George blatantly displayed his prejudice against the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community, saying, “You don’t want the gay liberation movement to morph into something like the Ku Klux Klan.”  I didn’t realize that the cardinal even knew such a hip word, morph, especially when his views of the LGBT community are so dated.  Cardinal George continued, “The rhetoric of the Ku Klux Klan and the rhetoric of some of the gay liberation movement people–who is the enemy?  The Catholic church.”

The message is clear:  sit down, sit down, sit down you’re rocking the boat.  Such inflammatory words are blatantly exclusive, not inclusive.  I have heard many times that God doesn’t make mistakes, even when it comes to gay individuals so I am confused by the cardinal’s comments.  I have heard that the official opinion of the Catholic church is that gay people must be treated with respect, compassion, and dignity.  Something is radically off here.

I myself did my undergrad degree in English at St. John’s University, a Catholic, Benedictine university.  Cardinal George makes me want to quit the Catholic church altogether.