"This isn't Racist, but..."

"This isn't Racist, but..."

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“It’s [going to] be like slavery when that note is due. Right?” shouts Former Alaskan Governor, Sarah Palin, at a conservative fundraiser in Iowa a couple of weeks ago. The note to which the 2008 VP candidate was referring is the debt the United States annually accumulates when borrowing money from other countries, China in particular. She goes on to say, “We are going to be beholden to a foreign master because there is no plan to stop the incurrence of debt” out of Washington, DC policy makers.

As an American of African descent, there were a few phrases that I took offense in Palin’s speech, “not racist”, “like slavery”, and “foreign master”. She selected these incendiary words knowing they were “red meat” to the conservative audience attending the “Faith and Freedom Rally”. Being a megalomaniac, Palin knew what words would electrify her audience. When interviewed days later by CNN correspondent, Jake Tapper, Sarah insisted her understanding of the definition for slavery was correct. She further insisted some African Americans would be offended only if they/we/I “choose to misinterpret what it is that [she] is saying.”

Pitifully, she is WRONG. I am offended because she arrogantly chose to invoke a term which embodies the horrific, dehumanizing, and race based North American institution of chattel slavery to make her point when she could have easily selected another. When offered the opportunity to select a different word, she said, “NO!” She then proceeded to blame the descendants of those who were enslaved for misinterpreting her. What could she be thinking? Only a person with “white privilege” would dare make such an ignorant statement.

Scholar and author, Peggy McIntosh, White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack, wrote in her ground breaking work, “Whites are carefully taught not to recognize white privilege, as males are taught not to recognize male privilege. So I have begun in an untutored way to ask what it is like to have white privilege. I have come to see white privilege as an invisible package of unearned assets that I can count on cashing in each day, but about which I was "meant" to remain oblivious.” This is Palin’s offense, an unacknowledged, unexamined, sense of entitlement.

Because Sarah’s fifteen minutes are long gone, she desired to a way back into the spotlight. Most egomaniacs and carnival barkers look for attention grabbing tactics. She found one. Unfortunately, like others before her, Palin chose to reenter the public square while riding the backs of the victims’ of institutional slavery and their descendants as if she were a queen to be revered and worshipped. Such an act is highly offensive, dishonorable, and shameful.

Governor Palin, instead of merely penning my displeasure, I offer a suggestion. Google McIntosh’s piece, read it, and then attempt to work through some of the steps provided so that you may begin to remove your knapsack. The United Church of Christ has worked for decades to help people with white privilege begin a journey toward liberation. They have additional tools online to assist you further if needed. www.ucc.org/justice/racism.

For future reference, if you begin a sentence with a disclaimer “this isn’t racist, but…” Trust me, it is.

The United Church of Christ has more than 5,154 churches throughout the United States.  Rooted in the Christian traditions of congregational governance and covenantal relationships, each UCC setting speaks only for itself and not on behalf of every UCC congregation.  UCC members and churches are free to differ on important social issues, even as the UCC remains principally committed to unity in the midst of our diversity.

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Bentley de Bardelaben
Executive for Administration and Communications Justice & Witness Ministries
700 Prospect Ave.
Cleveland, OH 44115

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Annie Congress
Administrative Assistant, Justice & Witness Ministries
700 Prospect Ave.
Cleveland, OH 44115