Archive for August, 2008

It’s been a while since I’ve done an “Authentically Black” commentary, but today and this week deserve it. It deserves it because of the 45th Anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, not the Democratic National Convention.

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It was said of Jackie Robinson, “Everyone knew Jackie Robinson could hit, but he could never hit back.” As Robinson integrated baseball, there were certain things he simply was not allowed to do. His wife, even now, speaks about the torment Jackie experienced, feeling that he had to do everything perfectly. As he faced death threats and verbal abuse from the dominant culture, Robinson had to commit himself completely to both excellence on the baseball field and non-violence and graciousness off it, regardless of the abuse he took. When he excelled on the field, people said, “Of course, blacks are stupid, but they can do sports,” but when he did not perform well, they said, “Sorry, nigger.”

This was the case for Jackie Robinson and it remains the case for blacks in America.

As I watched the Democratic National Convention last night, I was amazed — and somewhat sickened — by what I heard. According to the pundits, Michelle Obama’s task Monday night was to humanize herself and tell her narrative about growing up poor. And she did. She spoke about her father’s MS and growing up poor on the south side of Chicago. Apparently, it is a problem for some that she and Barack are Columbia, Princeton and Harvard educated. Elections in America now are like some of my old college conversations were we try to “out-poor” one another.

Are you serious?

I’m not telling anyone who to vote for, but we are a nation deserving of ignorant and under-performing government if we want to punish people for excellence or have a president who we would enjoy having a beer with. (By the way, the president is not having a beer with you!)

My father and mother taught me that success was about playing by the rules, working hard, getting the best education you can, serving your fellow man and giving to others. They also told me that whatever the standard was for others, as a black man, I needed to be twice as good. Apparently, my parents were wrong. When black people do what America ask, when they work hard, get a good education, play by the rules and love their neighbor, they are “elitist” and “arrogant” (which is the new way of saying uppity). I was shocked earlier this year when someone told me that because I was college and post-graduate educated, I was an “elite.”

Like Barack and Michelle, I have been accused of being “too black, not black enough, too smart, and arrogant.” I can think of a number of job opportunities in my life that were refused me because people were concerned about whether I could “relate” or I was “too intellectual.” One church told me, as if it were a bad thing, “Your resume is intimidating!” People ask me why I believe in Affirmative Action and the answer is simple: My career is in a field where Affirmative-Action doesn’t exist and I’ve seen how opportunities for qualified (and over qualified) African-Americans don’t exist when they don’t have to.

Like Jackie Robinson, many African-Americans are trapped in a no-win situation. When you under-perform, people ask why you don’t speak properly or call you lazy. When you excel, you’re arrogant, um, excuse me…you’re uppity!

It all makes me wonder: What does America want from African-Americans? This country certainly doesn’t want us to be a permanent underclass. That co$t too much — which is the ONLY concern in some people’s political equation. But apparently, they don’t want us to be successful either.

The text of Donald Miller’s closing benediction from Monday night at the Democratic National Convention.

 

“Father God,

This week, as the world looks on, help the leaders in this room create a civil dialogue about our future.

We need you, God, as individuals and also as a nation.

We need you to protect us from our enemies, but also from ourselves, because we are easily tempted toward apathy.

Give us a passion to advance opportunities for the least of these, for widows and orphans, for single moms and children whose fathers have left.

Give us the eyes to see them, and the ears to hear them, and hands willing to serve them.

Help us serve people, not just causes. And stand up to specific injustices rather than vague notions.

Give those in this room who have power, along with those who will meet next week, the courage to work together to finally provide health care to those who don’t have any, and a living wage so families can thrive rather than struggle.

Help us figure out how to pay teachers what they deserve and give children an equal opportunity to get a college education.

Help us figure out the balance between economic opportunity and corporate gluttony.

We have tried to solve these problems ourselves but they are still there. We need your help.

Father, will you restore our moral standing in the world.

A lot of people don’t like us but that’s because they don’t know the heart of the average American.

Will you give us favor and forgiveness, along with our allies around the world.

Help us be an example of humility and strength once again.

Lastly, father, unify us.

Even in our diversity help us see how much we have in common.

And unify us not just in our ideas and in our sentiments—but in our actions, as we look around and figure out something we can do to help create an America even greater than the one we have come to cherish.

God we know that you are good.

Thank you for blessing us in so many ways as Americans.

I make these requests in the name of your son, Jesus, who gave his own life against the forces of injustice.

Let Him be our example.

Amen.”

In & Out

Posted: August 22, 2008 in friends, grace, life, Obama, reading, sports, theology

A strange thing happens when you’re not blogging: You keep coming up with blog ideas! When I’m actively blogging I spend traffic time and shaving time thinking about the blog, but when there is no blog to write, there are ideas aplenty.

For instance, here are some blog ideas that nevere turned into blogs because of my short hiatus from blogging.

1. Olympics: (A) Why can male beach volleyball players perform fine in a sleevless t-shirt and long shorts, but the woman have to wear…well, they wear next to nothing? This also bring up the question of why sportsradio callers need to talk about the “hotness” level of professional athletes. (B) Does the Chinese Olympic Committee think we really can’t tell what a 16-year-old is suppossed to look like? (C) How big of a fool does Michael Phelps’ dad feel like now? His son is the greatest Olympian ever, but he left them when Michael was a boy. Smooth move, Ex-Lax. Think about that when your ex-wife is making bank doing Chunky Soup commercials next month.

2. Presidential Politics: Many Christian people I know have taken criticism for supporting Obama from their conservative friends and blog readers. Some wonder: How can you support a candidate who is “pro-abortion” (they use “pro-abortion” as if people are hosting mall kiosk asking poor, unwed mothers-to-be to sign-up)? I believe there is a discussion to be had concerning life issues, but I would ask everyone to sign-up in iTunes for the Catalyst Podcast and listen to the interview with Mike Huckabee (who I so wish had won the Republican nomination).

In essence, Huckabee says – as he will in his forthcoming book in the fall – that some Christians and Christian leaders have sold out some of their beliefs for political access. He challenges Christian to be concerned about “Life” issues which include, but are not limited to, abortion. He talks about race and grace in an interesting way that more Christians need to engage. Of particular interest are his reflections concerning clemency for criminals. He comes across as a gracious man who is actully concerned about life, not just dictating how others live theirs. Plus, Huckabee adds, too many Christian vote on the issue of abortion and “do nothing else” concerning life issues.

3. Canonical Theism. A professor of mine, Dr. Frederick Aquino, was a contributing writer to the book, Canonical Theism: A Proposal for Theology and Church. It is a fascinating read which opens the Bible, Theology and the Church in new and exciting ways. If you read academic theology, pick-up this book!

While I’m Not Blogging, Part 2

Posted: August 21, 2008 in Everything

While I’m still not blogging, I thought you might be interested in ACU’s mLearning initiative’s coverage in the NY Times. The paper mentions Freed-Hardeman, but ACU was the first university in the country to go with iPhones, and I just generally  care less about Freed-Hardeman (not saying they’re bad; I just didn’t go to school there). Read the story here.

While I’m Not Blogging

Posted: August 19, 2008 in Everything

While I’m not blogging, I thought you might be interested in research that shows kids who attend church weekly have better grades. You can find it here.

Hiatus

Posted: August 13, 2008 in Everything

I’m doing something that doesn’t quite make sense: taking a hiatus from blogging. The reason it doesn’t make sense is because this summer, this space has had a record number of readers. For some reason a lot of people have been checking out The Palmer Perspective.

I’m taking a break because I have a few things to work on, and some rest that needs to be taken. No, the blog doesn’t necessarily take much time, but one less thing to think about is needed right now. It’s been a long, hot, worrisome summer for me and my family, and I just need one less thing on my plate for a few weeks.

So, if you haven’t already, put The Palmer Perspective on an RSS Feed so you’ll know when new content is up without having to check out the page everyday.

My prayers are with you and yours. I’m off to check a birthday cake.

— Sean

New Orleans #2

Posted: August 7, 2008 in Everything

We had a full day today. Our team worked in Port Suphur — somewhere south of New Orleans, I think. The folks down there are having an amazingly difficult time recovering. Our group was at two homes, Jake’s and Rose’s. We got some really great video, but some slight computer difficulties are keeping me from posting them. (I’m pretty angry with both my computer and my camera right now.)

We met a man named Pete, who was overseeing things for Jake’s rebuild. He cooked our dinner, a Cajun Boil (shrimp, potatoes, cajun spices, onions, lemons, sausage, crab and a bunch of other stuff). In addition, Pete made barbeque chicken and hot dogs.

Jake’s house was completely destroyed by Katrina. 3 years later he has a foundation. While we were working, a local TV Station came by to film. They were working on a special called “Katrina: Three Years Later.” Believe it or not, and as nice as the picture look on TV, there is much recovery needed here. Apparently, the government has done nearly all they are going to do and churches are tending toward more “glamorous” sights.

Keep our team and New Orleans in your prayers.