Thanks for reopening the thread. Its appropriate because we are contemplating race. I wanted to explain some of how I have been processing on this.
As some people know, my father recently died. It was sudden and unexpected. I’ve become acquainted the work of grief, and part of this work was very public. The week my father died, I did three Veritas Forums.
The thing about funerals and grief is that they are public, and they invite us into the truth of something that is ultimately unfixable. We do not grieve as if the work of grief will undo death. There is something irrevocable and final about death, from our human point of view. Our only hope in it is that Jesus has power to overcome it and promises the same. Still, even with this hope, we grieve the loss of that person’s presence among us.
The fact that we cannot fix death, is all the more reason to enter into grief. The effort to remember and honor the person who died is humanizing. The fact, also, that we will see them again, does not mitigate the loss. Grief is an honest and humanzing response to death. It also changes us, reordering our world and integrating into our identity.
The goal of grief is not get through it as quickly as possible, but to enter into it fully. To live with it as new reality. It is not always sadness, but it a truthfulness and engagement with the reality of loss.
Death is something that thrusts us unwillingly into grief. Injustice, especially racial injustice, might invite us to willingly choose to enter into grief. Yes, we can and should do what we can to mitigate and understand and reverse it. However, there are things that have been lost that cannot be recovered.
An honest account of our moment, it seems, requires us to willing enter the truth of grief. The fact that this crooked reality cannot be made straight is all the more reason to grieve. This is not the world as it is mean to be. The fact that we do not know how to fix it, and we are too late to have fixed it for past generations, is all the more reason to grieve.
So, as I have been engaging this issue, and talking to students, two patterns have emerged, I wanted to put out there.
First, It seems that scientifically talented african american students often face a decision between pursuing a career in medicine or science. That is a major siphon point, where a very large percentage chose to enter medicine. To be clear, black students are underrepresented in medicine. However, the situation is much worse in science because choose medicine over science. Why? They reported a high responsibility to serve directly their communities of origin. There is sense of responsibility; and a recognition of that they do not go back to medically serve the black community, maybe no one will.
I grieve this as an unfair burden placed upon black students in science, which is direct consequence of ongoing segregation. It is an injurious burden, which prevents them from entering the cathedral, because they know that very few non-black physicians will choose to serve the black community. The black community, after all, is not their family.
Second, many mention the anti-religious ethos of science, alongside the absence of role models. Elaine Ecklund has published on this, and did not detect a statistically significant effect for blacks, but did for hispanics (I wonder if that could just be because of low numbers). However, at least some report that there is discomfort in being a double minority: a believer in an anti-belief context, on top of being a ethnic minority. There is much less effort to engage black students on their scientific/theology integration questions too (and they are often similar, and they are often different). So many of their struggles are not as much a culture war (as is in say AIG), but a lonely journey without places or communities or books to process many of the questions that arise.
For me, I think one response is to grieve the neglect we have had for their journey. When ASA and BioLogos (and myself in the past) have discussed engaging the Church on science, we usually imagine some version of white fundamentalism/evangelicalism as the Church. This is just not tenable for me any more. I am ashamed that so thoroughly ignored a large portion of the Church that they became invisible to me. As for me, I had forgotten that they were my family too.
One Response I Request
For those of us in ASA or in BioLogos or any other group like this, I do think that there is something we should do. I am sure there is no easy solution. However, I think we should be unsettled by the neglect of those outside white fundamentalism/evangelicalism. I would that our discontent would grow.
I would hope that we would grieve this publicly, and ask these groups to consider the concerns fo the black church too, to invite them to the table, to hear their stories, and to answer their questions too.
It is legal to integrate. This world, in this sense is desegregated, however we need to engage the more difficult task of integration now. To live as one family, instead of believing that their concerns are not ours. I know, also, that this is not always a product of direct racism. In a way, this is just the world we inherited, from the same generation that assassinated MLK 50 years ago. They created a world shaped by injustice, but so effective from insulating us from seeing the depths of our fall well.
I hope that we could enter into a truthful grief, and find a better way.