“The Problem of Our Shame:On the Crisis of Black and Haitian Professionals, Academics, and Intellectuals in Haiti and the Haitian Diaspora”

“The Problem of Our Shame:On the Crisis of Black and Haitian Professionals, Academics, and Intellectuals in Haiti and the Haitian Diaspora”

Black intellectuals both in the United States and Haiti are alienated from the people they claim to represent. They’re unable to relate to the black masses nor do they have the will to power to empathize with their pain and ameliorate the black condition in both societies.

There exists a wide gap between Black and Haitian professionals, academics, and public intellectuals and the Haitian people–the Haitian masses, the Black masses, the common people, the illiterate, those who work low-paying jobs, etc.–who live in the Haitian Diaspora in the United States of America and Haiti, correspondingly.

The wall of alienation is a psychological fence that separates the Haitian intellectual from the rest of the Haitian masses. The Haitian intellectual intentionally alienates himself or herself from the common people by reason, lifestyle, taste, intellectual pedigree, cultural pride, tradition, and other preferences in life. They’re also alienated from each other by class, color, and economic distinctions. Elitism–cultural, intellectual, and ideological– is equally an enduring mark of Haitian intellectualism and professionalism, resulting in a disengaged intellectual culture, disconnected intellectual class, and underrepresented peoples in the Haitian society–both in Haiti and the Haitian Diaspora. This separation and walls of prejudice and increasing alienation grow higher and disastrously affect every sphere of social dynamics and human interactions between the two groups.

There has to be a better or healthy way for Black and Haitian professionals, academics, and public intellectuals to engage the Haitian people and the black masses constructively without promoting a relationship of paternalism and dependence. What’s desperately needed in our society is the cultivation of a relationship that champions mutual reciprocity, respect, and interdependence.

What’s the meaning or use of your influential academic books and dazzling rhetoric, whose primary subject is black people and your Haitian people, if you’re distancing yourself from them and remain unmoved by their dehumanization, suffering, and pain. Such action will foster a politics of alienation and humiliation, and a relationship of superiority and inferiority–between “You” and “Them” (“The Other”).

Regrettably, the life of the black intellectual (i.e.Haitian intellectual) and black professional suffers from three great mischiefs or shortcomings: elitism, alienation, and disengagement.

* On a personal note: I always try to remember where I came from. I’m a son of two Haitian peasants whose parents and grandparents were also peasants. My father did not have a college degree. My mother did not graduate from high school. They worked the land in Haiti and in the U.S.A. all kinds of dirty jobs to put food on the table and send all of their seven children to school and college. I am one of their lucky sons who was the first one in the family to get a PhD. In fact, I graduated with 3 Masters degrees and 2 PhDs.

In 1979, my father came to the United States on a “boat” to seek for a better life for his family. He would spend almost twenty years of his life working two jobs–working as a construction worker, meat cutter at Publix, parking attendant, etc… in order to support and give us a better life than he had in Haiti. He was an honest and disciplined man who believed in the integrity of work and the dignity of every individual. Likewise, my mother is the most incredible person I’ve ever known. She worked her entire life to support us and provide for her children. She treats everyone with kindness, respect, care, and understanding. Both my father and mother never perceive themselves to be higher than their friends, neighbors, the people they meet in their everyday transactions or activities, or even those who were poorer than them.

What I learn from them is that no matter who I have become today, (1) I should always remember that my origins and roots are from the masses and the underclass, and that (2) I need to treat people with kindness, respect, care, and understanding. They have also taught me that (3) to neglect the masses, the poor, underprivileged families, and the least among us is to forget my origins and humble beginnings. (4) I have also learned from them that not to regard myself as a superior individual than anyone else around me– despite my successes and academic credentials. Finally, my parents have taught me that (5) knowledge comes with accountability; opportunity comes with sacrifice; and success leads to a life of giving and service.

The souls and resources of the Haitian people and peasants are not for sale. We would rather die in dignity and honor like our valiant African ancestors who sacrificed their lives, not their dignity, for our freedom and independence. If we must die today, let us die with grace like men and women of value. To be Haitian means to unashamedly proclaim our humanity and dignity in the face of aggressive imperialism, neocolonization, white supremacy,  and all forces of oppression and subjugation in the twenty-first century.

We will not be shamed and disrespected. Our glory is our dignity and humanity. Our shame is the refusal to stand in solidarity with the Haitian masses and illiterate peasants and our reluctance to affirm unapologetically our common values and shared history of suffering and humiliation. Our shame is also our cowardness to resist the oppressors of our people and to say no to alienation, elitism, and disengagement.

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Brief Thought 0n Steps toward Racial Unity and Reconciliation in Contemporary American Churches and society

Brief Thought on Steps toward Racial Unity and Reconciliation in Contemporary American Churches and society

A lot of people in the Church want to talk about racial unity and reconciliation in American (Evangelical) Churches, but they do not want to talk about the sins of racism and racial injustice and the historical causes leading to racial disunity and ethnic division in contemporary American churches and society.

How could American Churches and Christians be cured from the racial wound if they avoid the diagnosis and the painful history of race?

How could American Churches and Christians be healed from the great legacy of racial rift if they avoid discussing the historical pain and effects of racism?

Racial unity and reconciliation in contemporary American Churches and Evangelicalism is a critical and urgent project that requires a thorough investigation on how the historical causes and sins of racial injustice have pervaded every aspect of the Christian life and altered social dynamics and human relationships in the American society.

The Christian ministry of racial reconciliation and unity acknowledges how the practice of racism in our churches and society has contributed to human death, suffering, social alienation, dissociation, xenophobia, and the degradation of human dignity and the image of God in man and woman in our society and churches.

Genuine racial reconciliation ministry also looks at how race and racism in America and American churches have impacted the spheres of family, romance, economics, market, education, employment, leadership in society, leadership in the church, pastoral ministry, seminary education, residential zone, friendship, etc.

If contemporary American churches and Christians truly desire racial unity in their midst, they must embody and live the Gospel and should be ready to address these sensitive matters and the most challenging issues of our historical past. The Christian church in America will be healed from the poison of racism if American Christians are willing (1) to confront their own contribution to the problem of race and (2) to acknowledge the pain of the victims of racial oppression and violence, make reparations for historical wrongdoings, repent of their sins, and finally, genuinely seek and practice racial unity and reconciliation in their churches and in society.

 

I, too, am Human!

I, too, am Human!

I have met many PhD holders in conferences, workshops, and other venues. Some of these individuals are very arrogant and boastful about their academic achievements and publications.

While one should be proud of any kind of personal or group achievement, academic achievement should never be the intellectual compass to measure and vindicate one’s humanity. While trophies can boost someone’s self-esteem, they can’t humanize a person. Humanity simply means existence.

Do not define and associate your humanity with success, wealth, power, influence, religion, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, or race.

The mere fact that you are and you exist is what it means to be human–nothing else.

The Work of Racial Justice and Reconciliation is Hard!

The Work of Racial Justice and Reconciliation is Hard!

One of the most depressing activities to be engaged in in the American society is the work of racial justice, and the imperative of racial reconciliation and harmony in Christian churches in America. Sometimes, it seems to be an isolated or lonely journey. (You will lose friends, and people will call you names, stop talking to you or will not interact with your work.) However, racial justice and racial reconciliation are a necessity for human flourishing, to heal America’s “sick soul,” and for the triumph of the Gospel message of grace in our society.

While we must continue fighting together against systemic oppressions that seek to tear us apart as a people, and those that devalue human life and dehumanize the image of God in targeted racial groups and ethnic communities in our culture, we also have an equal responsibility to teach little black, brown, and white boys and girls about the success and triumph of these underrepresented individuals  and communities in our society. Their triumph and success is also ours and ultimately America’s triumph and success.

The little white girl needs to know it is okay to have a black hero.

The little Asian boy needs to know it is fine to have a black heroine.

The little black boy needs to know it is all right to have an Asian role model.

The little white boy needs to know it is acceptable to have a Hispanic/Latino/a role model.

They, too, sing America!

In The Vocation of the Elite, published in 1919, Haitian intellectual Jean Price-Mars discusses the importance of affirming the contributions of other peoples and nations in the process of creating a new humanism and move forward toward a more promising human society. He writes perceptively, “Our task at the moment is to contribute to a national way of thinking indicative of our feelings, our strengths and our weaknesses. We can do so by gleaning ideas generated by ideas contained in the masterpieces which are the pride of humanity’s common heritage. This is the only way in which the study and assimilation of the works of the mind play an indispensable part in the enrichment of our culture.”

It is a very unfortunate phenomenon that in American Evangelical circles, the racial factor and sociological ties are stronger than the spiritual bond that should have been the catalyst or the fuel to ignite the inextinguishable flame toward intentional unity and friendship, and a relationship of mutual reciprocity and selflessness. Gospel reconciliation ministry is a doing and a practice. We need to do more of it and write less about it.Although we Americans have never been a “united country” and “united people,” we have to strive together for unity and common understanding. Unity regardless of our race, ethnicity, social class, economic status, gender, sexuality, and religion is what this contemporary American society desperately needs. On the other hand, we understand that  genuine unity and reconciliation will not happen among us until we learn to talk to each other, listen to each other, and bear one another’s burden. We are a society of profound wound. A lot of us are hurting. A lot of us are suffering. It is time for healing. It is time for unity. It is time for repentance. It is time for forgiveness.  It is certainly the time for reconciliation.

Churches that continue to be silent on the problem of race, gender, and ethnicity, and ignore the painful  experience and history of the black and brown christians and other disadvantaged peoples in our culture are not Gospel-transformative and human-senstive communities of faith. These congregations will soon be  declined in the twenty-first century American culture. Their ineffective lies in their consistent refusal to help heal the wound, suffering, and pain of these people.

In a recent article, “Many Americans have no friends of another race: poll” (Reuters, August 8, 2013), it  is observed that “About 40 percent of white Americans and about 25 percent of non-white Americans are surrounded exclusively by friends of their own race, according to an ongoing Reuters/Ipsos poll.” The author of the same article affirms that  “Younger American adults appear to confirm this, according to the poll. About one third of Americans under the age of 30 who have a partner or spouse are in a relationship with someone of a different race, compared to one tenth of Americans over 30. And only one in 10 adults under 30 say no one among their families, friends or coworkers is of a different race, less than half the rate for Americans as a whole.” Evidently, there is not only a crisis of American friendship, there is tremendous problem to be relational in the American culture.

We need to validate each other, rejoice in one another’s accomplishment, and bear one another’s burden. Without being relational, interconnected, and interdependent, we will not move forward as a community of faith and as a nation. We need to cultivate more interracial and interethnic friendship in our churches, communities, workplaces, and neighborhoods. The work of racial justice and reconciliation is hard, but it is very rewarding at the end.

Naomi Shihab Nye On Kindness

Naomi Shihab Nye

“Kindness”

Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.

Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing. 
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.
Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to gaze at bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
It is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you everywhere
like a shadow or a friend.

source:https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poem/kindness

What does it Mean to say Black Lives Matters? A Biblical Perspective

What does it Mean to say Black Lives Matters? A Biblical Perspective

Allow me to reiterate this thesis statement: Violence or retaliation is not the answer to the racial crisis we’re now facing in this country.As Apostle Paul commands us Christians,”Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21).

We have to learn to sit together, listen to each other, and find a solution to heal this national wound and transcend this national crisis.Simutaneously, we should continue praying for peace, understanding, and reconciliation in this country.

While we should sympathize with the people of France and Turkey at the moment, let’s not turn away from this predicament of human life, and the culture of violence and death in our country. If we remain silent, as we have always been and some of us still are, we will lose more lives and ultimately destroy this country. To destroy this country is to bring destruction upon ourselves. We must tackle the root of America’s culture of violence and death before we can have a genuine conversation about the value of (human) life and racial justice in this country.

The Christian Church in America has a tremendous role to play in the transformation of this culture of death and violence that dishonors God’s image in man and the sanctity of life to a culture that values human life and promotes human dignity. In the same line of thought, we need to cultivate a culture of positive values and be virtuous in our practical dealings with each other. Evangelical Christians  must engage the realm of the human intellect and the sphere of human reason to the glorious praise of the Triune and Eternal God. Correspondingly, we must also challenge the disastrous and unhealthy practices of American Evangelical Christianity in both civil and political societies that slander God’s reputation and his glorious name, as well as hinder the public witness of the Gospel.  American Christianity is a bourgeois faith. Bourgois Christianity is a dangerous religion that produces a culture of isolation and alienation. Bourgeois Christianity is selfish, arrogant, and not salvific. Bourgeois Christianity must die and be replaced by the Christianity of the cross and self-giving. Until we learn to foster a robust and consistent theology of life that is sourced in the doctrine of God and God’s majestic holiness and unconditional love for all people, Christian engagement with culture and in the public sphere will be unproductive and futile.

As we have mentioned in our previous writings, Christianity has the adequate resources to help heal the national wound, improve conversations on race relations and racial injustice,  and contribute to a more promising and constructive American life and humanism in this society. The Christianity we need in America is a transformative evangelical faith that is not afraid to affirm its past sins, its contribution to human suffering and pain, and the destruction of many individuals and families, in our culture. Evangelical Christianity must produce a new kind of species and a transformed community of faith that is  capable of sympathizing with the pain and wound of the victims of racism, racial injustice and inequality, and any type of human-inflicted oppression. Toward the process of racial reconciliation and harmony, American Evangelicals must be intentional in their doings and be ready to mourn and lament, and turn toward God for repentance and cultural renewal.

We have to allow the Word of God penetrate our hearts and pierce through our deepest cultural prejudices , our hidden sins, and human insensibilities–toward a holistic transformation of our hearts and minds, and daily living. It is only through the power of the Gospel of grace that produces sustaining life and hope we can have a change of conscience that honors Christ in our practical living and everday dealing with people.One of the greatest sins of American Evangelicalism today is that many of us know God with our hearts and not with our minds. God wants to be known both with the heart and the mind, and has willed that our knowledge of him should inform our Christian living and relationship with people.

Postcript

In the opening words of a recent sermon entitled, ” A Biblical Response to Race,” Pastor Tony Evans explains why abortion is wrong and correspondingly why racial injustice is unbiblical. His thesis is grounded on the doctrine of God and the doctrine of creation.  Here’s one of the most balanced, powerful, and articulate statements that I have ever heard on the justification of the sanctify of life, and the thesis that all life matters and therefore, black lives matter, rooted in a deep biblical theology that all people are created in the Image of God:

“All life is created in the image of God; therefore, all lives matter. however, underneath the banner that God is created all people in his image, there are equities that must be addressed. For example, the life of the unborn matters; and so, there’s the emphasis on injustice in the womb. But that injustice in the womb must be under the umbrella that is life and because all lives matter that life matters. Black lives matter as a subset of all lives matter, so any injustices to a particular group must be addressed specific to that group but under the banner that all life is created in the image of God.” Pastor Tony Evans

How Now Shall We Live Together and Gently? A Biblical Perspective

How Now Shall We  Live Together and Gently? A Biblical Perspective

The American Political Constitution is a masterpiece and should be praised for its democratic and cosmopolitan language. It is one of a kind. However, the relationship between Americans of different racial and ethnic background and the attitude they express toward one another and the foreigner among them is disheartening and betrays the American democratic ideals.

How shall we then proceed to heal our national wound?

How shall we then move forward to learn to live together, accept one another, and love another as Americans?

These are the questions we should be asking ourselves and each other in this moment of pain, trial, and seemingly great despair.

If I may appeal to Paul’s letter to the Galatians, in the sixth chapter,  please allow me to share a few ideas with you.  Although I make a sharp distinction between Christianity and American Nationalism, I would like to offer a Christian perspective on these national issues I noted above. The Christian identity counters the American identity. Nonetheless, I do believe  and maintain that Christians are called by God to actively engage their culture with the message of Christ and be active citizens who must use the Wisdom of God and biblical principles to transform their neighborhood, community, city, and their country–toward peace, love, justice, truth, equality, etc. for the common good–to the glorious praise of the Triune God . Consequently, toward these goals, in this brief post, I would like to bring your attention to three underlying propositions: listening with care and love, doing good to all, and live gently, which may strengthen human relationship, bring collective peace, national healing, and foster racial reconciliation and ethnic harmony. Ultimately, I’m interested in highlighting some basic biblical principles on how to do life together and live gently in these tragic times in the modern world.

 “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?“–Micah 6:8

  1. Listening with care and love

In such a national predicament and collective crisis we’re presently undergoing as a people, it is critical for each one of us to listen to each other and try to understand the other individual’s perspective. You will not understand somebody’s hurt and moments of troubles-both in the past and the present–  until you learn to cultivate an attitude to listen and sympathize with that person. You will ruin the possibility to move  forward toward collective progress, goal, and unity should you undermine one’s suffering and point of view.  Do not interrupt! Listen!!!

Listen with care! Listen with patience! Listen responsibly! Listen with understanding! Listen with love! Moments of forgiveness, healing, and reconciliation come at the time when we offer ourselves up to each other for the sake of love and unity. As Paul encourages the Christians at Galatians, “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” (6:2). The imperative for social transformation, communal shalom, national healing,  social justice, and radical spiritual renewal is to be relational to all people and to bear one another’s burden.

2. Doing good to all

Secondly, to work toward the common good and human flourishing in our society, it is crucial that we do good to all–with no exception. Doing good to everyone one meets means to be inclusive in one’s generous outreach efforts and activism; it also means that to deliberately extend acts of kindness, compassion, and love to those who cannot give back or do not have the means to return your favor. The ethical aspect of this biblical command and notion of goodness compels us all to forgive and love even those who refuse to love and forgive in return. Doing good to all is an act of justice and a form of loving activism and participation in the life of people or individuals in crisis. It provides a terrific opportunity to the Christian community to condemn social sins and human oppression–the antithesis of good–and to stand in solidarity with those to whom we have called to perform acts of goodness. According to James, the failure to do good and condemn what is unjust (or “not good”) contradicts the Christian ethic and the Jesus Creed: “So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin” (James 4:17).  The Christian community is also called to be exemplary models of goodness: “Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works” (Titus 2:7-9). For  Prophet Micah, goodness includes both social responsibility and spiritual development. The prophet associates good with justice, kindness, and humility.  Doing good is also interpreted as a divine imperative, that is what God requires of his people and the community of faith. Social justice is integral to the spiritual life of God’s people and the Church in the modern age.  When we dissociate Christian discipleship and (or from) the call to justice, it will ultimately lead to a life of obedience and a life that dishonors God.

 “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”–Micah 6:8

Moreover, in Galatians 6, Paul implies that acts of goodness should not be premised on a spirit of  aggressiveness and comparison, but rather should be framed within a  spirit of humility and gratitude. Paul characterizes the Christian life not only as relational living but as a life that pursues the best interest and welfare of others, and the common good. Christian discipleship or the Christian life for Paul is not (and should not be) measured by an attitude of competition and comparison: “But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor” (6:4); rather, it is/should be characterized by an attitude of selflessness, sacrificial doing, and  an attitude of  deliberate service and sustaining good : “Let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up” (6:9).  Even in the midst of unwarranted criticism, Christians in contemporary society should not be weary of doing and defending what is just, righteous, loving, and good.  Such attitude toward life and other individuals is a pivotal marker  of an exemplary and Christ-like discipleship.

“So then, we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith” (6:10).

3. Living Gently

Thirdly, the call to do life together and live  gently in this chaotic world and in this  life of uncertainty is not a free pass  nor is it the absence of weakness. This is a high calling for the Christian to engage the world and culture meaningfully, relationally,  and graciously.  In other for the Christian to foster such an attitude toward culture, life, and the world, his/her life must radically be refined by the Spirit of God and shaped by the wisdom of the community of faith  in Christ Jesus. Paul comforts us Christians that we should not be despair nor lose hope in these tragic times; for Apostle Paul, the Christian life that produces genuine spiritual transformation and growth is reciprocal, interconnected, and interdependent upon the community’s active collaboration and sustaining support: “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted” (6:1). The christian life is lived in community and with the community of faith. This life of relations is in active solidarity with the community of Christ’s disciples–what we call ekklesia, “the church.” It is also a life in active solidarity with the oppressed, the disinherited, and underprivileged individuals and families. Genuine Christian discipleship means  the courage to follow Jesus Christ, the courage to love, the courage to forgive, and the courage to take upon oneself the suffering and trials of another individual. The cross of discipleship is not only a call to bear the cross of Christ continually; it is also an imperative to bear the cross of both the weak and the strong among us.

Paul’s articulation of these radical ethical principles of the new  community of grace in Christ and in the Spirit of love has tremendous implications for constructing a life characterized by the ethics and art of listening with care and love, doing good to all, and living gently. It is God’s desire for us to do life together, accept one another, and love another. It is only through the moral vision of the Kingdom of God that Christians and the Christian church in the American society and elsewhere could contribute meaningfully and constructively to a life of optimism, collective participation, a spirit of democratic communitarianism and humanitarianism, and a life of  collective solidarity and racial reconciliation and ethnic harmony.

To be generous and kind to everyone is a cosmopolitan attitude and human virtue to be praised and coveted; xenophobia or the fear of the “other” or even the immigrant is the antithesis of human kindness, generosity, and hospitality.

“So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith” (James 6:10).

 

May we become the Gospel we proclaim!