The name Rachel Dolezal is probably forever associated with Spokane’s history. The various inter-connected threads of her unfolding story or ending story in Spokane are on overload for most people after this last week. Now that she has come on national tv with an interview on the TODAY Show, I am sure there will be more ripples in the murky pond.
The panel dialogue at that event lodged in my inner-skin like a pestering sliver. The issues brought up and the answers given, frustrated me because of the amount of dissonance with my own experience with racial matters in East Central where I live, work and worship. The complexities surrounding the topic are huge from an academic and sociological angle, add a whole lot of personal experiences and it’s a recipe for deep feelings and thoughts. I work with refugees and resettlement issues in our Jacob’s Well Community Community Resource Center in our neighborhood. Racial issues are not new to our advocacy and service work. We have seen the struggles, ugliness and the shades of systemic injustice of racism on many different fronts in Spokane: employment, housing, justice system, education, health services as well as neighbor to neighbor matters. The list of issues and that have arose in our family, pastoral and church experiences since we moved to this neighborhood would take up a book to write about to give them justice.
With all the revelations coming out and Ms. Dolezal’s jobs/roles ending and the reverberations of this event being heard and read all over the world, I have sought to weigh in through various communication outlets.
I have also had numerous online and offline conversations revolving around the various roots and fruits of this subject. It’s a subject that has hit a raw nerve with many people.
There are two main concerns that have risen to the top through my interaction with this event:
How we handle truth.
How we treat one another.
1.) How We Handle Truth
First of all, I am appalled at how easy it is for some people to embrace a new definition of once agreed upon realities about what it right and wrong. The cultural conversations about objective reality are sliding faster and faster into the subjective world of personal preference and self-identified reality. Personal opinion has become the faith of the the god of postmodernism. The altar of “I” is bloodied with the sacrifices of objective reasoning, moral absolutes and community accountability. People can say whatever, do whatever and when they don’t like how people respond, they sputter, spin, splice and split.
“When justice calls, we turn it away.
Righteousness knows to keep its distance,
For truth stumbles in the public square,
and honesty is not allowed to enter.
There is no truth-telling anymore,
and anyone who tries to do right finds he is the next target.”
“So, why does it matter? Our community was misled. We trusted this voice to speak for those without a voice. We trusted her to teach our students. We stood by her when she said she and her family were targeted and afraid. We rallied alongside Dolezal and her family in front of city hall, with community members carrying signs of support. We’re a trusting community and she broke that trust. At best, our community will continue to support the causes for which Dolezal once advocated. At worst, people will be less likely to trust and support the minority community and believe in the very noble cause of advancing civil rights in the Inland Northwest.”
I hope we don’t move on without moving deeper into the roots of all these fruits. We need to do the hard work of educating our children, youth and community on the core values of integrity, truth and honesty or we will just continues to see these types of charades.
2.) How We Treat One Another
No matter what side of the issues people may be on regrading Rachel Dolezal, I think most good natured people could agree that the level of animosity, hate, shaming, ridicule and vindictiveness that has come out in the community conversation has been shocking.
So many people have forgotten that there is a wrong way to talk about something you are right about. How you communicate is often more important that what you communicate. People treat others with a measure of judgement that they would never want for themselves. We are exposing ourselves to a viral convo contaminate that infects every medium of dialogue. We are losing the value of civility in our culture and the belief that a measure of respect and decency should undergird every debate not matter how much we disagree.
One of the biblical Psalmists wrote about the brutal experience of not only being the object of contention but the escalating and consuming nature of people bent on destroying those they disagree with or consider wrong.
“False witnesses step forward;
they ask me strange questions for which I have no answers.
When I do good to them, they do evil to me,
bringing misery to my soul.
But when I stumbled, they gathered together
and celebrated my fall with joy;
People attacked me when I wasn’t expecting it;
they slandered me with no end.
Like godless mockers at a festival,
their words tore at me.
They speak lying accusations against me;
they say, “Aha! Aha! We know what you’ve been up to.
We’ve seen it with our own eyes!”
Do not allow them to gloat over me,
“Aha, we have won! We got what we wanted!”
Do not allow them to brag,
“We chewed him up and spit him out.”
(Psalm 35:11-12,15-16,21,25 (The Voice Bible)
We are unleashing a culture of accusation and we will end up being slain by the very sword we’ve used. I hope we can learn to value the truth and honor people better after we move through this community car wreck of integrity and civility.
I am Frederick Christian Blauer IV, but I go by Eric, it sounds less like a megalomaniac but still hints at my Scandinavian destiny of coastal conquest and ultimate rule. I have accumulated a fair number of titles: son, brother, husband, father, pastor, writer, artist and a few other more colorful titles by my fanged fans. I am a lover of story be it heard, read or watched in all beauty, gory or glory. I write and speak as an exorcist or poltergeist, splashing holy water, spilling wine and breaking bread between the apocalypse and a sleeping baby. I am possessed by too many words and they get driven out like wild pigs and into the waters of my blog at www.fcb4.tumblr.com. I work as a pastor at Jacob's Well Church (www.jacobswellspokane.com) across the tracks on 'that' side of town. I follow Christ in East Central Spokane among saints, sinners, angels, demons, crime, condoms, chaos, beauty, goodness and powerful weakness. I have more questions than answers, grey hairs than brown, fat than muscle, fire than fireplace and experience more love from my wife, family and friends than a man should be blessed with in one lifetime.
During President Biden’s inaugural address, he said, “and I pledge this to you, I will be a President for all Americans…all Americans. And I promise you, I will fight as hard for those who did not support me as for those who did.”