Saturday, July 09, 2005


Crash can only be described as a raw look at race dynamics in our nation's urban centers. In LA where the movie is based, it shows how 'in your face' interaction with people of other races can be. It also shows the great divides that exist in understanding between cultures and classes while at the same time, how our lives are so intertwined and mestizofied.

Crash reveals how non of us are exempt from stereotyping others, as well as from rising above even our own expectations to show real care and compassion towards others that are different than ourselves.

I went to see the movie with a friend who is African-American. On the way, we stopped at Wendy's to grab a bite, and as we stood in line together to order, the cashier woman assumed we were not together...Why would a Latino and an African-American be hanging out?

Living in a city where languages and cultures and races crash and clash on a regular basis, it is hard for me not to think about mestizaje. Can we crash and continue working through our misunderstandings and assumptions to ever experience real friendship and community, even in the church?

I have just started reading Nicholas Vaca's book, Presumed Alliance (recommended by Dr. Harold Recinos) that describes the assumed unity that Latinos and African-American supposedly should have in this country, being that we are both ethnic minorities that suffer similar injustices often because of the color of our skin. Vaca seeks to unmask that assumption, and to get real, or raw about the tension that exists as these two cultures seek to live through the shifting demographic tsunami that is occurring before our very eyes--the browning of America.

Like in the movie Crash, relating to others of a different race, religion, or class brings many unexpected twists and turns. Only this week, I have experienced a few real life examples that make the movie look tame by comparison. Also like the movie, I am hopeful that not every situation will end in tragedy. Crash was painful to watch, because it confirmed just how far we have to go in the church and in society from being united even while embracing our diversity.

Watching Crash was not necessarily fun, but it was emotionally and spiritually jolting, like you would expect a crash to be. (Not appropriate for children.)

Friday, July 08, 2005

Mulatto America

I am reading a very interesting book on the history and dynamics of Black/White relationships over the centuries called, Mulato America. A mulatto is someone mixed with Black blood, even as a Mestizo is someone mixed with Indian blood.

In chapter one the author deals with the history of White slaves that existed alongside African slaves (most as a result of White slave owners taking African women who continued to become more light skinned, but others who were Caucasian, but were sold into slavery).

The author, Stephan Talty contends that one of the factors that finally moved Whites to oppose slavery, was seeing and being repulsed by the sight of White slaves. He also writes about a book written by a White author, who tells the tale of a White slaves life, as if it were a historical autobiography.

Here is an excerpt from this book:
"Instead of his fresh and rosy Color, a livid Paleness overspead his Cheeks--his eyes lost [a] great part of their former Luster, and were continually cast down--his Sprightliness was converted into a kind of dead Sloth--a melancholy which is not to be express'd hung upon his heart...He knew what he ought to be, and to think he never could be what he ought...was a Dagger to his Soul, which gave wounds too severe for anything in the Power of those he was among to heal."

When I read this, it tore my heart apart. Here is this White slave lamenting that although he was White, he would never be allowed to live up to his potential as a White man, being that he was a slave. So many mestizos in our country feel this same regret. Although we know what we ought to be (fully created in the image of God to leave a mark in this world) think many Mestizos will never be what we ought. And, this does feel like a dagger in our souls, with many of us longing to believe that in Christ and in the Church, His redeemed community, we may finally find that healing that has left us wounded.

The strategy that the abolitionists used, says the author, was to try and move Northern Whites into feeling the pain and suffering and condition of Black slaves. Empathy, that would lead to understanding, that would lead to conversion, that would lead to justice. Many paid a great price for working to change the status quo--many lost their own lives. But, once they had seen and felt the despair of their fellow human brother and sister, everything changed.

One of the deepest works of mestizaje is to push us all to enter into one another's pain and suffering. Finally, anything that strips human beings of the hope of becoming who they were created to be, must be opposed with all of our might!

Monday, July 04, 2005

The Rocket's Red Glare

As I write this tonight, there are hundreds of fireworks going off in La Villita. I would love to think it was all about patriotism, but like in many urban communities, it is also about letting go of some steam and taking advantage of an opportunity to something dramatic (we really don't need to go downtown to see the fireworks, as it is amazing right here in the barrio).

Besides eating and watching fireworks today, I have been reflecting on the fact that I was born in this country for a purpose. Compared to many nations, we have so much. I am grateful for the freedom I have to practice my faith. I am grateful that I can provide for my family, that I can travel, that I can study, and that we live in a land that is relatively free from violence.

While I count all of my personal blessings, I am also moved to pray for the million of people around our globe who don't have it so good. Many are persecuted for their faith, many don't have enough to eat (while I've cooked out twice today), many are in constant danger because of war and civil unrest (and the rockets blowing up outside their homes are not entertainment like they are here).

I have also thought today at the amazing opportunity that we have in this country, as individual citizens, to raise our voices and participate in the democracy of our nation. If we don not like how things are going, we have a right and a duty to let let our opinions be known-regardless if others disagree!

With so many Latinos in our nation, both democrates and republicans are fully aware of the potential importance of our voice and vote. We must not let our leverage and opportunity be wasted by staying on the sidelines and not getting involved. If we can embrace a Mestizo vision of the future, where patriotism is not automatically seen as uniformity, where every citizen of our great nation has to think and look alike on every issue, and where as followers of Christ, we can hold up a banner of justice that hold's our nation's leaders accountable to lead with compassion, justice and morality, concerned not only about Latinos, but leading by being concerned for the welfare of all, then we too will do our part to ensure that we can be proud of our nation for generations to come.

Lord, have mercy on our nation. Help us to be champions of justice here at home and throughout the world.

A Revolution of Justice

Yesterday Marianne and I attended Willow Creek and had the opportunity to hear the leader of their AXIS ministry to gen-xers give a message entitled, 'Where is the love?.' Darren Whitehead shared how he recently went an an trip called the 'justice journey' that was organized by a long time friend, Alvin Bibbs, who is the Extension Ministries director at Willow.

This journey took 25 leaders from Willow and 25 leaders from Salem Baptist Church on Chicago's South side (an African-American church of 20,000 members) through an experience designed to educate and move folks regarding the Civil Right's struggle in the South and throughout our nation. Dr. John Perkins of CCDA was one of the key speakers, along with Larry Lloyd, President of Creighton College in Memphis that made a huge impact on Darren on this trip.

The main part of his message was the insight he had gained that while in the Old Testament, 'righteousness' and 'justice' were almost always used together, he had never seen the connection between the two. As Evangelicals, it is almost always righteousness that get's emphasized while justice is rarely talked about as an essential concern for God. Here is the main text that he used.

Psalm 97:1-2
The LORD reigns, let the earth be glad; let the distant shores rejoice.
Clouds and thick darkness surround him; righteousness and justice
are the foundation of his throne.

Darren went on to talk about his experience on the justice journey, especially as it relates to racial justice, and confessed that this was not on his radar screen much before this trip. As he was talking, I was amazed at how closely this ties with the stirrings that so many young leaders are yearning for today: A faith that is radically committed to putting our faith in action, not just in a personal consumption way (being blessed) but sacrificially putting our lives on the line for our Lord, Jesus the Christ.

Just last week I posted the 'Justice Revolution' logo to deal with that stirring in my heart that I have to be about justice with my life. I feel strongly that the 'We Still have a Dream' campaign to advocate for the DREAM Act needs to be a part of this larger movement amongst Christian young people. Also, this past week, I proposed to Larry at UYWI that this 'Justice Revolution' workshop be part of the Youth Track for the coming year's RELOAD Tour. Our thinking is that it may be through engaging youth in doing justice that they will have their hearts transformed by the unconditional love of God that is even able to move them to take action on behalf of the poor.

So, it was was with utter amazement that I listened to this guy end his teaching talking about starting a revolution of justice! I am certain that the Lord is up to something big in the hearts of people of faith all across our nation and world. My job is to discern how this whole justice / mestizaje thing is going to shape my future.

Right State, Wrong City

This past Friday, I boarded a plane eager to visit Bible School of the Americas in San Antonio, TX. Dr. Albert Reyes is a rising leader in the Baptist world, and I was very excited to get some time with him.

I made it to San Antonio with no problem, and when I arrived at baggage claim, I knew I was to to catch a short taxi ride to this resort in Grapevine, TX. I figured it was right outside of San Antonio but when I asked a cab driver if he could take me there, he said, "Sure, but it's a three hundred mile drive!"

I immediately pulled out my email from Gabriel, Albert's assistant to see what had gone wrong, and sure enough, at the end of the email it said, in what seemed to be small print, "make your flight into DFW airport." DFW is Dallas, not San Antonio. I quickly called to let Gabriel know where I was, and they scrambled to come up with plan B in case I would not make it by 4 pm to speak. It was 1 pm and I now had to find a way to Dallas (other than by taxi).

To make matters worse, there was bad weather in Dallas and all flights were being delayed. I overheard one person say no flight would get there until at least 5 pm- I was so angry for making this mistake. Fortunately, I got onto a flight that departed at 2:30 pm (weather passed) and I arrived at DFW by 3:30 pm ready to head to my speaking engagement.

Once there, I had a chance to address a group of Latino Baptist leaders and expose them to the philosophy of CCDA, and also address the need for the Latino church to engage in doing justice, especially as it relates to the need for immigration reform in our nation.

At this amazing resort, they had replicas of the Space Center in Houston, the Alamo and the Riverwalk in San Antonio, all under a huge atrium that had the feel of a small enclosed city. If I had known I was going to see the Alamo in Dallas, I never would have flown to San Antonio in the first place.