Friday, June 18, 2010

Racism, Sexism, and Orthodoxy

I recognize that this is an ambitious title, and this short post could not hope to measure up to it. At the same time, I hope to show you three things and will make a brief comment after it.

First, head over to Ephphatha Poetry here to read a great post called "Imagine if the Tea Party Was Black" (by Tim Wise).

Second, read this article for a new example of what is found in the first.

Third, check out this strange international event with regards to the Presiding Bishop and the Archbishop of Canterbury.

You might find the third reading to be a strange bedfellow with the first two: what does a seemingly small slight to an American bishop have to do with systemic racism, open bigotry, and a venomous political climate? Well, in short, everything.

Inherent to the problems the Tea Parties are obsessed with, Conservative public officials and pundits rail about, and those charging forward with denominational separation of churches preach about is a sense of orthodoxy that is insular and personal to these groups. It isn't simply that they demand their way or the highway, they demand control of the highway as a means of securing their way.

Of course, some is uglier than others. Violence and threats of violence is nothing like a man telling a woman, who is his peer, that she must act differently than the men that preceded her. And yet, there is something identical: the safety of distance in the office. +Rowan can have someone tell +Katherine that she needs to do something, and we go along--it seems so official. For her to comply is her taking the high road, and all of us that express outrage, well, we're just the cretins. Racist pundits and politicians are similarly isolated from this because of their office in the public square, and the virtue of getting the 'home-field advantage' (an important power-differential at the root of racism). And it is all thrown under the auspices of 'orthodoxy'--the traditional understanding of the world. It's too bad that what is exposed in all three of these articles is that what is being called orthodox is nothing of the sort--old bigotry wrapped in brand new acts parading as traditional understanding. The very idea that one does something new invalidates their very terms of the debate.

My plea is the same for those in Tea Parties as it is for the Archbishop: the practice you want others to follow ought to be the one you use. Making a bishop take off her mitre or taking an AK-47 to a rally is unprecedented and makes you the one breaking from orthodoxy. And if orthodoxy is your primary argument, then you'll probably lose the debate.

But being right was never really the intention, was it?