i’d like to teach the world to sing (and give us lots of money)


Don’t expect anything profound here, but I wanted to make a very quick observation about the recent Coke commercial controversy. If you didn’t look at social media in the last couple days, you may have missed it. Coke did an advertisement during the Superbowl in which ‘America the Beautiful’ is sung in various languages. This caused some kind of uproar among certain true-blooded Americans. No, not native Americans, Americans whose ancestors immigrated from European counties. Many of which I presume didn’t speak “American”. Thank goodness the internet exists so that these good folk will have a way to vent the racist remarks that they have had to repress for so long. I don’t have anything to add to that conversation that would be enlightening. I’m not sure anyone does.

However, one version of the patriotic rant went something along the lines of…

“When our ancestors immigrated from the their country of origin, no one catered to them and made their life easier in America by making allowances for them to keep speaking their mother tongue. They were forced to learn English if they wanted to make their way in this new world. There was no ‘press 1’ to hear it in their own language.”

My observation doesn’t have anything to do with the truthfulness of this statement or even if it is a right thing to do or not. I simply want to register that the ‘press 1’ accommodation has absolutely nothing to do with welcoming the foreigner into our midst. It has everything to do with capitalism. People who don’t speak English are a definable target market. If ‘pressing 1’ helps a company to sell stuff to them, then you can bet that corporations will ‘welcome’ and ‘accommodate’ all day long. And in the event you were thinking that Coca-Cola was trying to create a beautiful expression of modern multi-cultural America with their insanely expensive Superbowl ad, think again. It’s all about the dolla bills y’all.

take ten: on education reform

Recently, I was having a conversation with somebody about education reform in our state. For whatever reason, it is actually a conversation that I find myself in pretty regularly. In these conversations, I repeatedly reference a talk given by Roland Fryer that I heard several months ago. It was at one of those leadership conference things where you hear something like eight speakers in as many hours, and his was the only presentation that I remember at all.

Fryer is a Harvard economics professor, who has taken a keen interest in education reform. The presentation he gave was fascinating, and I’ve repeatedly tried to track down the talk with no success. However, there is plenty of other stuff out there by him, and it might be worth thirty minutes of your time to figure out what he’s all about.

The thing that I remember most from his presentation was this one thought…

We know what steps to take to reform education in America, but for the most part policy-makers simply aren’t interested in change.

My guess is that this applies to a whole lot more than education.

Poem for Friday

Over the past couple days, I had the opportunity to attend a summit on “Racial Healing and Equity in the American South” hosted by the Clinton School‘s Center on Community Philanthropy. While there is much that could be shared from my experience there, I’m simply including a poem that I heard for the first time today. I’m sure it comes as no surprise that poetry isn’t on my short list of things that I tend to appreciate, but something about this one struck a chord.

“Poem for the Young White Man Who Asked Me How I, an Intelligent, Well-Read Person Could Believe in the War Between Races” by Lorna Dee Cervantes

In my land there are no distinctions.
The barbed wire politics of oppression
have been torn down long ago. The only reminder
of past battles, lost or won, is a slight
rutting in the fertile fields.

In my land
people write poems about love,
full of nothing but contented childlike syllables.
Everyone reads Russian short stories and weeps.
There are no boundaries.
There is no hunger, no
complicated famine or greed.

I am not a revolutionary.
I don’t even like political poems.
Do you think I can believe in a war between races?
I can deny it. I can forget about it
when I’m safe,
living on my own continent of harmony
and home, but I am not

I believe in revolution
because everywhere the crosses are burning,
sharp-shooting goose-steppers round every corner,
there are snipers in the schools…
(I know you don’t believe this.
You think this is nothing
but faddish exaggeration. But they
are not shooting at you.)

I’m marked by the color of my skin.
The bullets are discrete and designed to kill slowly.
They are aiming at my children.
These are facts.

Let me show you my wounds: my stumbling mind, my
“excuse me” tongue, and this
nagging preoccupation
with the feeling of not being good enough.

These bullets bury deeper than logic.
Racism is not intellectual.
I cannot reason these scars away.
Outside my door
there is a real enemy
who hates me.

I am a poet
who yearns to dance on rooftops,
to whisper delicate lines about joy
and the blessings of human understanding.

I try. I go to my land, my tower of words and
bolt the door, but the typewriter doesn’t fade out
the sounds of blasting and muffled outrage.
My own days bring me slaps on the face.

Every day I am deluged with reminders
that this is not
my land
and this is my land.

I do not believe in the war between races
but in this country
there is war.

not alone

Both of you who regularly read my blog know that the church I attend is actively engaged in working towards a Gospel-centered vision of racial reconciliation and unity. This has been a long, challenging, but deeply rewarding process for us. We are far from having it “right,” but slowly we are seeing good things happen.

One of the difficulties in this journey comes when we look around and see so few like-minded travelers. So it can be refreshing to come across a story that reminds me that we are not alone.

It was the Fall of ‘93, deep in the buckle of the Bible Belt. I was a high school student in Junction City, Arkansas. An evangelist had come to our church and encouraged us to invite as many students as possible to come hear the gospel. Although I suspected that it might cause trouble, I invited the entire football team. We arrived at the church only to be met by a couple of deacons banning the African American students from entering the sanctuary. Soon the pastor came to our aid and insisted that my friends were indeed (ahem) “welcome.” In response, one deacon ran to his truck but yelled that he was coming right back—with a shotgun.

This is the first paragraph of a longer reflection entitled “Grace Over Race.” The blog belongs to Eternity Bible College, but the story belongs to Joey Dodson (an Arkansan, no less).

all of God’s children?

In the South, the conversation around race is almost exclusively framed in terms of Blacks and Whites. Given the history here, it is understandable why that might be the case. In no way would I ever want to minimize the discrimination that African-Americans have endured (and continue to endure) here in the Deep South. Little Rock in particular has an ugly history of which most of the country is probably aware.

Yet there is another ugly episode in United States (and Arkansas) history that often gets overlooked in conversations centered on racism. From 1942 to 1946, Japanese Relocation Centers (Internment Camps) were used to “house” over 100,000 Japanese-Americans, most of whom were American citizens. These internment camps were located in various states west of the Mississippi.

Two such Relocation Centers, Jerome and Rohwer, were located in southeast Arkansas.

The war-time status is sometimes cited as justification for the necessity of the internment. However, as always seems to be the case with racism, the underlying issues of power and money were just below the surface. An investigation as recent as 2011, uncovered suppressed evidence that would have helped repudiate the idea that Japanese-Americans were a threat to national security. Something most everyone already knew to be untrue.

It wasn’t until 1988, during the Reagan administration, that a formal apology was issued by the United States government.

I’m sort of a novice when it comes to understanding the reasons why Asian-American discrimination isn’t as widely recognized in our country. My guess is it has something to do with the perceived “success” of Asian-Americans living here. More likely it has something to do with Asians being viewed as a lesser threat to the majority way of life. If and when the majority group does feel threatened, then predictable racist responses can be expected.

Regardless of how well-intentioned our efforts are, as long as the conversation about racial inequality centers exclusively on the white-black divide, then other races are marginalized. It is sad to think that even in our attempts to address racial inequality, we can unknowingly perpetuate it.

Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quick sands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children.


My church has become increasing committed to the gospel vision of a racially unified family of believers. Every now and then something will happen in my ministry or life (there is quite a bit of overlap between those two things, but they aren’t entirely one and the same) that reminds me how far we still have to go. Today has been such a day.

Providentially, I saw this video trailer for a book (or maybe it is a trailer for a longer video) that John Piper has written on race, the Cross, and the Christian. It is called Bloodlines and I can’t wait to read it. Not everyone loves Piper, and there are times when he misses it. But there are times when he is gloriously right. I expect this book to fall in the latter category.

(HT: JT)