Friday, May 17, 2013

Let's All Talk About What We're Tired Of (A Response to Tony Jones)

That's Racist, kid, screaming, gif, race, racism, racist
by Lyndsey Graves

Let’s all talk about what we’re tired of.

In the nine months I’ve worked at a church food pantry/Sunday breakfast, I’ve been called a racist on at least three occasions, all three times because someone I’d never met asked for something I was holding in my hand and I didn’t give it to them. It was a slap in the face. I felt powerless.

Another thing I’m tired of being called is White Bitch, which is usually my name when I ignore the catcallers on the street in my neighborhood.

I also don’t like being catcalled generally.

I’m tired of waiting in line for food at the food pantry, waiting for the bus, waiting in line at the DSS, waiting for the food stamp line at the farmer’s market, the dirty looks I get when I pull out my food stamp card, and I don’t even feel the half of it because I choose my thrift store clothes so I don’t look poor.

I’m tired of hearing a Southern accent being used as shorthand to imitate a moron.

I’m tired of letting “Pentecostal” slip and having others laugh nervously, or assume that I and the scholars I learned under at a Pentecostal institution are not “in dialog with the older, more developed theologies of the West”. Are there plenty of Pentecostals with a narrow theological vocabulary or whose practice does not span the global history of Christianity? Sure, that’s true of any Christian tradition. But writing off an entire denomination as being “out of touch” is reckless and irresponsible.

My race, gender, socioeconomic class, regional background, and religion are all aspects of my identity others have used to dismiss me – to disempower me.

But usually, unless I am in physical danger (which I don’t think Mr. Jones is), I try to see these incidents, while upsetting, as opportunities. They’re opportunities for dialog (not diatribes) with people who make such hurtful insults or assumptions – and opportunities to live my life in a way that proves their assumptions wrong.

I think legitimate complaints about being called a racist exist; I think I have legitimate reasons to be hurt and defensive against the accusations of racism I’ve experienced. Even in less clear-cut cases, cases in which the accusation of being racist might be true even if I don’t see the ways in which it is, I find long discussions and accusations and nitpicking complaints about privilege can very quickly become tiresome and counterproductive.

But the point is not whether or not Tony Jones’ grievances are legitimate. What his article makes most abundantly clear to me is that he’s not very used to being tired of anything. The overblown tirade of a blog post and the snarly lashing-out against quite reasonable commenters seem like the almost farcical ravings of a man trying to avoid even a moment of self-reflection.

button, got privilege, white privilege, male privilege, privilegeIt’s the difference between:

So this is what it feels like to be misrepresented, disempowered, shut down, and talked over.


I’m a victim of your over-sensitive vocabulary-policing progressive privilege!


Incidentally, I do think such privilege exists. I don’t think Jones is actually a victim of it. I think both people he refers to made very good, non-hysterical points that warranted a more humble, self-reflective response than “get off my back”.

But, come on, everybody – if that’s how he feels, that’s how he feels.
Welcome to the club, Tony. We’d all love to hear about how you feel marginalized, just as soon as you extend the same consideration to others.

Lyndsey lives and works in Syracuse, NY. She majored in theology at Lee University, which is like eating cake or listening to thunderstorms - too enjoyable to be called work. Also, no one will pay you to do it. You can follow her on Twitter @lyndseygraves and you can find more of her writing at her blog To Be Honest.

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1 comment:

  1. Tony is a good man. But, just as I wrote on his post yesterday, he has a penchant for overreacting to negative criticism (and he does not take criticism well at all). And he once again wrote yet another post talking about himself and his image, rather than offering an objective dialog on an important issue.

    For the better part of last year I was a regular reader and frequent commenter on his blog. That changed abruptly when his responses to comments critical of him or his viewpoints became even more testy and personally defensive than usual (in particular, I stopped participating on his blog after he responded to one of my comments by calling me names, which was strange considering I was almost always supportive of Tony!).

    Tony's brand of "emergence-ology" has now been reduced to nothing more than an exercise in post-modern theological snobbery, wherein its foremost proponents -- such as Tony, and Phyllis Tickle, among others -- exist in a myopic bubble of academic elitism. They created a movement -- and by "movement" I mean the proliferation of books and blogs, with the occasional "conference" thrown in -- that benefited them well. They love to say it's a "conversation." But their failure is that they made the conversation about the conversation (remember that "Emergence Christianity" conference in Memphis a few months ago?) and about themselves -- and nothing else. And certainly not about the marginalized in our midst, with whom Tony cannot possibly identify from his current perch.

    It's what happens when you try too hard to appear relevant, and when the message is trumped by the marketing. That's really what his "I'm tired of being called a racist" post was all about. I mean, my goodness, the very title started with "I".