Thursday, November 28, 2013

DVD Review: Dark Girls

Produced and directed by D. Channsin Berry and Bill Duke

       Dark Girls is a brief (just over an hour) documentary consisting primarily of snippets of conversation with various folks about the skin color of women of African descent in general and "colorism", the phenomena of preference for lighter skin that exists in the American black community, in particular. The preference for lighter skin in cultures around the globe is also explored.
It is produced and directed by D. Channsin Berry and Bill Duke and consists of eight chapters. Chapter 1: THE HISTORY, Chapter 2: THE IMPACT, Chapter 3: FAMILY, Chapter 4: MEN: ON WOMEN, Chapter 5: WOMEN ON MEN, Chapter  6: GLOBAL, Chapter 7: THE  MEDIA, Chapter 8:

       The DVD begins with a pretty little dark-skinned black girl being asked what she thinks about being called  a "beautiful black girl", to which she replies "I don't like it". Why? "Because I'm not black'.  We then enter Chapter 1, "The History", wherein we see the background of American slavery promote the master/slave psychological dynamic that promulgated pathological inferiority.

       In Chapter  2,  "The Impact",  actress Viola Davis describes being called  a "black ugly nigger"  in her predominantly white neighborhood, and being called  the same thing by other black  kids when she went  to summer camp for lower-income children. On the other hand, another woman describes being affirmed by white people for her skin- an affirmation she doesn't get  from the black community.
         A tearful account of  a dark-skinned woman's (unidentified, as were others, though the notables- psychologist, actress, therapist- are named) visit with her friend, a new mother, who says to her that she's so glad her baby "didn't come out dark".  A lack of  unity, rather than racism, is named as the cause for the black community's colorism.
       In a heartbreaking scene a very young (dark) black girl is presented with a drawing of five dancing girls, identical except  that their color gradates from very light to very dark.  When asked to point to the smart child, she points to the lightest girl on the  left. "Why is she the smart  child"? "Because she's white." When asked to point to the dumb child, she points to the darkest girl on the right. "Why is she the dumb child?"  "Because she's black." Then she is asked to point to the ugly child. Again, she points to the darkest, and says she's ugly "Because she's black." "Show me the good-looking child." She points to the lightest and says it's "because she's light skinned".  We then see the girl from the preface with her lighter -skinned mother describing the battle she has getting her to think she's beautiful.

       In Chapter 3, "Family", random hurtful things said and attitudes held within families are recounted.

       4, Men: On Women presents  various black men voicing a preference for light-skinned women, some dark. A grandmother tells her grandson to find, in  kindergarten,  "a light-skinned girlfriend". One man at a subway stop says he prefers darker women. Two white men with black wives describe their attitudes to race and fair versus dark.

       Chapter 5, Women on Men:  darker women describe generally frustrating experiences being shunned by men for the fairer skinned. A brief clip of stampeding wildebeest is presented as the narration describes men making a bee-line for light-skinned women. (Graphic interpolations of this sort are sprinkled throughout.)

       Chapter  6, Global, describes through more interviews the world-wide trend of fairer skin being desirable. A Korean-American girl speaks about discrimination in Korea. Skin-lightening ingredients can be found in many products that ostensibly have nothing to do with lightening one's skin.  The pervasive images of western culture that are disseminated throughout the world is seen as the likely culprit, though Tsehaie from Ethiopia says because her country never went through colonization, chocolate is seen as the highest standard of female beauty.

       Segue to Chapter 7, The (aforementioned) Media, and Beyonce is probably getting her skin brightened up by corporates who wish not  to offend. Dr. Cheryl Grills, The president  of the National Association of Black Psychologists qotes her favorite African proverb: "Until the lion has a historian, the  hunter will always be the  hero" , meaning that the stereotypes of the minority will be perpetuated until they have a voice at least as strong as that of the purveyors of the saturating images emanating from the majority fair-skinned west.

       Chapter 8, Healing, finishes with hopes: of forgiveness, enlightenment,  affirmation. We visit Poughkeepsie for some wise words from another unidentified woman (Bill Duke's mom?). It ends with the pretty little chocolate girl from the the prologue saying,  "My mommy and daddy say I'm beautiful." The darker the berry, the sweeter the juice.”

Friday, November 22, 2013

When defensiveness devolves into offensiveness

Of late, I've committed to not challenging folks on the internet. First, and most importantly, I'mnot doing it because the human mind is a hard-wired cage. Folks are not gonna change their minds. Even Christians, who really should not be so in love with their opinions and their self-ing (yeah, i just invented that word) seem to forget all the admonitions about loving to debate or esteeming others more than ourselves.

I have a couple friends who are in love with their denominations. I really do take the verse about not being "of apollos or of paul or of Cephas" seriously. St Paul said if folks argue or praise their own little sub-sets they are not truly spiritual. They are still carnal. But these folks not only love their denominations, they get incredibly defensive about it...even when no one has really gone on the offense against them. Basically, they're always in a kind of seige mentality. They often have stuff to post that brings up some issue no one else is even thinking about. They post stuff so often that they just irk folks by putting folks on the defensive.

I have one friend who is childless who writes so many posts about how horrible the christian world is about childlessness that any compassion I have about her plight is fast dwindling. I actually find myself wanting to challenge her because in some weird way she is egging folks on (without quite knowing it) and she is simply causing folks to dislike her POV. On Mother's day, she never once -- NEVER ONCE-- said a thank you post to her own mother. She was so bitter and hurt about what other Christians have said about her childlessness that she spent the entire day saying how blessed she was not to have been a mother. Okay, she does this all the time...but could she not for one day "refrained" and forbare pulling down other folks' joy?

That's where the issue of how am I to respond enters the picture. I seem to feel I was born to respond to people who are totally wrong AND proud AND deluded. It's the trifecta that sounds "attack" to my ears. Apparently I can deal with someone who is wrong by ignoring them but when someone is wrong and proud and deluded about his/her own need to "speak" I am tempted to rebuke. So then, what to do when the person is wrong and proud and deluded and hurt? Ay me! And what to do when the person is wrong and proud and deluded and hurt and hurting my feelings? Ayyyyyyyyyyy me!

Yep, life is a beyotch! And the Christian walk of perservering is a total bitch.

I understand that others are tolerating me. So it's only fair tht I tolerate others.
I understand that defensiveness devolves into offensiveness if the defensive person has so reached a level of pain or supposed pain that they just can't help but spew out their defensive hurtful comments.

Hey, lately, Oprah said something that sounded sooo racist. And all I could think was, "Seriously, woman, when was the last time anyone treated you like a 'poor' Black woman?" But obviously, the pain and the memory is still there.

I wanted to say to the Catholic poster, "Ah puhleze, cut the crap! Do you know how many times Catholics have treated me like crap and said nasty things out of the blue to me because I'm not Catholic? And stop saying you're the first church. And that you were built on St Peter. The first church was Jewish and it was St Paul who was given the anointing to speak to the Gentiles. St Peter was the apostle of the Jews. And the rock the church was built on was the word of God, not a human named Peter. And the second church was Greek Orthodox. And, most importantly, Catholics have done their share of cruelty to other folks...even now." Ah, but I digress. (I didn't challenge her because I really am not good at listening to folks indoctrinated in their supposed pain.)

Okay, so once again am thinking of the whole turning the other cheek thing. The momentum of the original hurt has to stop. Christian physics. The velocity, the momentum, the cycle of defensiveness and offensiveness must be stopped. When someone is totally caught up in their pain and utterly unable to see their own wrong, it might be best to just say nothing. Even if one feels and knows the defensive person is utterly wrong. Because the human mind is hard to convince...especially if it thinks it's hurt. The human ego holds painfully, shamelessly, unerringly to its own opinion.  

I am trying to be loving. I'm trying to have a loving heart. But wow, dealing with defensiveness is hard because I want to defend myself against the hurt their defensiveness causes me. What to do? As a Christian, why should I suck it up...when the other Christian isn't sucking it up at all? What is the fine line between defending the "self" and allowing the "self" to be walked over?

Monday, November 18, 2013

open letter to my atheist friend

To say religious claims have not met their burden of proof is too general a statement. It's better to say religious claims have not met their burden of proof with you. Proof is individualistic because other people have had some burden of proof met. In addition, to define something as a burden of proof it's necessary to have a standard...and your standard being are saying that others are more easily deceived or deluded than you are..

Understandable, but in other matters, your standard of proof have probably not been yourself because in all things, there is some moment when one decides to accept external proof outside of self. Of course one can "study" one's way out of the book but from what is evident in church circles, most Chritians don't understand enough of the book to study their way in it much less out of it. The many people who lost their faith because of higher criticism, for instance, would probably not have lost it if they had read the right books to help them understand the book. Or if they were living in a time after some of the linguistic, archeological challenges of higher criticism were solved. So the basic admission is..God did not prove himself to you specifically, since he has apparently proven himself to other people. And much of accepting one's own view is to consciously decide everytime one is given proof (by someone else's testimony) to declare within one's own mind: "This person giving this testimony is deluded." Whether it's about angels, healing, inner deliverance, there has to be a committment to the believer's supposed delusion. There is a consistent unkindness and lack of esteem in others' opinion that the unbeliever must uphold.

Now what follows is questioning of the notion of validating "proof" and whether A can not see proof, or whether God didn't care to prove himself on A's terms or whether A lacks no insight into a certain kind of "sense." Your definition of an argument from ignorance is how you have subtly described yourself. Ignorance and Agnostic both have the same meaning...there is a not knowing. Which is honest. Except we should also be honest in how we frme the debate.

As for "atheism is not a religion":
A religion is a system of thought that has tenets, professors, teachers, "sainted" believers, books and doctrines. Whether the believer is aware of all the tenets of a particular religion doesn't matter. The tenets are there and one must accept them in order to be an atheist. If you don't think atheism has certain tenets, then you are as woefully uneducated about atheism as you are about Christianity. For the most part, most Christians hold to the same basic tenet. In the same way, most atheists hold much of the similar tenets...all culled together from the writings of their great teachers. Just as most Christians often say the same thing, so do most atheists.

1) the lack of a belief in spirit 2) the belief that life can only be viewed through the rational 3) the belief that people who believe in God are deluded. 4) The belief that people who believe in God are weak and need God for strength. 5The belief in evolution and progressivism, that humans are getting better as science advances 6) The belief that religion has caused most war while incidents of non-religious cruelty such as Stalin's, Mao's and the French Revolution were just flukes because atheism is peaceful 7) The belief that humanity creates God  The belief that the noble savage is an ideal and religion judges unfairly. 9) The belief that religious books are not timeless but are rooted in the superstition of the past whereas the secular philosophies of the past (Greek philosophy etc) are the beginning of wisdom. 10) That the belief in atheism precludes believing in anything else but atheism. There are a few subsets for the most part. 11) That a religion should be evangelical thus the world should be saved from the wrong religion (in this case, the belief in God.) 12) that there is such a thing as an atheist culture just as there is a religious culture 13) that one should meet frequently with others in one's religion to reinforce one's belief so one doesn't fall from the true path.

I could go on but the upshot is that all these tenets were slowly built up by different "saints" of atheism and are believed. So yes, atheism is a religion.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Simplicity: The Freedom of Letting Go by Richard Rohr

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: The Crossroad Publishing Company; Rev Upd Su edition (May 1, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0824521153
  • ISBN-13: 978-0824521158

  • In this gem of a book, Richard Rohr introduces us to the vision of the Franciscan way of living, where joy, not dry theology, helps us build relationships and find peace in ourselves.


    Fr. Richard Rohr is a globally recognized ecumenical teacher bearing witness to the universal awakening within Christian mysticism and the Perennial Tradition. He is a Franciscan priest of the New Mexico Province and founder of the Center for Action and Contemplation ( in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Fr. Richard's teaching is grounded in the Franciscan alternative orthodoxy--practices of contemplation and lived kenosis (self-emptying), expressing itself in radical compassion, particularly for the socially marginalized.

    Fr. Richard is author of numerous books, including Everything Belongs, Adam's Return, The Naked Now, Breathing Under Water, Falling Upward, and Immortal Diamond: The Search for Our True Self.

    CAC is home to the Rohr Institute where Fr. Richard is Academic Dean of the Living School for Action and Contemplation. Drawing upon Christianity's place within the Perennial Tradition, the mission of the Rohr Institute is to produce compassionate and powerfully learned individuals who will work for positive change in the world based on awareness of our common union with God and all beings. Learn more at

    Thursday, November 14, 2013

    All that pesky societal meaningfulness and religious preachiness

    If you're a minority or a Christian fiction writer or BOTH, you have to be aware of the need to show minorityness or Christianness in your fiction.

    Some Christians say they want to write Christian fiction.

    Some Christians say they just want to write what they write and they don't need to bring Christ or some Christian doctrine into every story. They want to be free and different and unique. Trouble is when they write like other people, they really "write like other people." Seriously, a lot of writing by Christians "not writing as Christians" is as bland as any other non-specific fiction. This just makes me wonder what so many evngelical American Christians are reading that they are writing such stuff. I'm totally convinced that the types of movies you watch and the types of books you read contribute to the kind of stories one writes and the way one writes it.

    It's as if one is carving an axe and the axe one is carving is modelled after the axe one is using. <--not a="" about="" an="" ancient="" and="" are="" because="" being="" but="" chinese="" christian="" creativity="" don="" fictions="" from="" generalizations="" generalizing.="" generally="" have="" hey....i="" i="" it="" kind="" long="" m="" many="" metaphor="" my="" of="" on="" p="" poem="" read="" s="" some="" t="" that="" they="" thing.="" think="" true.="" unfair="" very="" writers="" yes="">
    Now about minority and Black writers.

    Black writers also kinda have the same issues...

    Some say they are just writers and they don't want folks to think of them as "Black writers."
    Others want to show the Black experience, even if we're outta space. Above all, there is that conscious desire to share one's heart. This often leads to stories that feel preachy and teacherly.

    So what's the problem?

    I think the problem is first
    1) the reading of the same general stuff. Christian folks who have read too many Christian books and are influenced by them, and Black fiction written by folks who have read way too much Black fiction.

    2) The consciousness of sharing one's experience. The consciousness of the idea to be shared is the problem. Somehow we have to let go of that consciousness. If we can do that, the story will feel more multicultural and less aimed at Black readers or white readers who are into Black sociology.

     I so want a Christian book that is truly totally deeply Christian and yet which doesn't feel normal and generic to me. But whether being totally Christian or being "I'm a Christian but that doesn't mean I'm a Christian writer" Christian fiction always feels so generic to me. Because of what Christians allow themselves to read and watch I think. The same American concerns, the same American fictional patterns, formulas, and ideas

    Not that I want Christian writers to go off the deep end and watch porn or atheist movies or flicks but I don't like reading a book which feels as if the author has seen only ten indie flicks in her life -- and those ten are the indie films everyone sees. And I don't want Black writers to stop reading Black fiction...I just want more multiculturalism and less ya know..."societal" meaning...and less fictional discussion of black oppression.

    Another favorite poem to reassess

    A few years ago I wrote a blog about the power of certain songs and poems to affect the soul. I think I wrote it on the song "I am a rock" and how because I wasn't careful, I made the song (and others like it) my inner vow.  Yes, songs like "I stand alone."

    These songs have power to affect the soul and certainly affected my life. So we really have to be careful about the songs/poems that healed us or our childhood selves.

    So today...I thought of one of my favorite Emily Dickinson poems.

    The soul selects her own society,
    Then shuts the door;
    On her divine majority
    Obtrude no more.
    Unmoved, she notes the chariot's pausing
    At her low gate;
    Unmoved, an emperor is kneeling
    Upon her mat.
    I've known her from an ample nation
    Choose one;
    Then close the valves of her attention
    Like stone.

    I realized to my deep grief and sorrow that the power described in this poem is not one I want to indulge in anymore. As a kid and a teen and as an adult in some churches I was rejected. Mostly racial issues. Or folks who thought I was just plain too uneducated or poor for them to befriend.

    I realized that in my fantasies (sexual or otherwise) there is a cruel power lingering, one I no longer which to have. I liked the idea of saying, "This is my friend and I will treat him/her gently and sweetly. But you are not my friend and so I will be impatient and cruel to you." I do this with a lot of people online and in the real world. It is a formof iniquity, i think. Because I will forgive my friends anything, ANYTHING, ANYTHING. But I will not easily forgive a non-friend even the smallest slight. It's an interesting kind of power to play the childhood kindergarten game of "He's my friend but you're not." But I want to grow in love and I don't want Holy Spirit to leaveme. It will mean risking being disliked by folks but I think I would rather not upset the Holy Spirit by having an unloving defensive heart that likes knowing it can be cruel to some people and not cruel to others.

    So there...another favorite poem has been analyzed and cast off with the old man that produced it.
    With Jesus helping me, I can do it. Thank you, Holy Spirit

    Saturday, November 09, 2013

    Beginner's Luck-- yet another phrase from the pit of hell

    Yes, now I'm on the rampage against "beginnger's luck" and "lucky in cards, unlucky in love."

    And once again it's about this:

    My son, attend to my words; incline thine ear unto my sayings.
    Let them not depart from thine eyes; keep them in the midst of thine heart.
    For they are life unto those that find them, and health to all their flesh.
    Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life. Proverbs 4:20-23

    Proverbs, dichus, etc all have the power to affect us and to create mental and spiritual strongholds. 
    So what does the concept of "Beginner's Luck" do?

    Well, let's say you've decided to do sweepstakesing. Let's say you win some wonderful stuff. Yep, this happened to me so I'm speaking from experience. When I first began sweepstakesing, I won $10K for a friend's wedding. (I'd entered his nme several times.) I won a box of 12 broderbund educational software one week and the next week won another box of educational software from another company. In a letter from one of the sponsors, i was told there were 600,000 entries. So, assuming both software contests had about the same amount of entries, I had won 2 out of 1,200,000 entries. I won other things as well, including roller blades for my son from E! Entertainment channel.

    Then someone says to you: "Oh, you're so lucky! it's beginner's luck." Suddenly I stopped winning. Your mind incorporates this idea -- very subtly, without you being aware of it-- and you start thinking there is a cut-off mark for luck. I'm telling you this really happens and it's an example of how strongholds affect our ability to receive from God or to be blessed by the spiritual laws of the universe. I used to be weirdly lucky when it came to knowing which horse would win in  race. It was just uncanny. Then someone said to me, "Lucky in cards, unlucky in love." And I suppose some part of me believed that, and because I didn't want to be unlucky inlove....voila, the ability left.

    I had not guarded my heart against that particular proverb. The world brainwashes us. That's why we have to keep in God's word to have our minds washed and cleaned up by God's view of reality. 

    But it also reaches past the idea of luck. It also has to do with our ability to receive answers to prayers. We develop this quota mindset and start thinking we have received "enough good" and maybe heaven's gonna shut down on us.  Without realizing it, we develop this subconcious belief in a God who has limits. The word of God only works in a heart that is ready for it. We have to break up our fallow ground. Folks who have finally managed to get past the false truth of "earning" God's kindness, but who still are believing that God's kindness have a quota, are not able to receive, wish or imagine certain blessings.

    When my husband's sister was dying, his father prayed this prayer to God: "God, you know I've never asked you for anything unimportant. But I'm asking you now. And if you hear this prayer I will never ask again."

    Now, whether she would have been healed or not, there really is something very unBiblical and very wordly about tht prayer. We are all taught that God the big CEO in the sky helps only those who helps themselves and only cares for important things. Yet the Bible says, "Cast all your cares upon Him for He careth for you." The Scripture doesn't say, "Cast all your important care, cast all your care after you have carried them appropriately long enough, cast all your tried and true valid care after you have tried to help yourself."

    I remember once i was sooo soo thirsty. I'd gone for a long walk without drinking any water. So I sid to God, "I'm so thirsty. I want some coconut water.But i have no money. Could you drop  dollar for me on the road so i can go to the deli two blocks down the road to buy some?" After I sked this, i felt a joy and a total assurance that i would get the dollar. I felt i should walk a block out of my way along a certain road. I went down that road and kept looking on the ground. Bingo: a dollar bill was on the ground. Someone had dropped it. I giggled wildly and went to get the coconut water.

    The next day i also forgot to drink some water and was walking again. But try as i could I kept thinking, "God won't let me find money again. Not again. He thinks I should know better than to repeat the same mistake again. And even if he isn't mad at me for making the same mistake again, He doesn't do miracles twice in a row." Of course none of this is Biblicl. But my objections are stuff one picks up in the air, crappy seeds put in the ground that stand up as strongholds in our mind against God's extreme kindness and goodness.  

    So hubby and i were lying in bed pondering and discussing the many proverbs, sayings, platitudes that we have allowed to affect our hearts...and thus affect the spiritual ground God's seed is planted in. 

    Leaving you with this:

    Hear ye therefore the parable of the sower. When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart. This is he which received seed by the way side. But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it; Yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended. He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful. But he that received seed into the good ground is he that heareth the word, and understandeth it; which also beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. Matthew 13: 18-23

    Tuesday, November 05, 2013

    Pondering: Fantasy, daydreaming, hope

    Hope imagines. But it imagines things it believes is good for itself. Based on one's knowledge of Scripture or one's own ethics, one's hope can be morally questionable -- but even so it's daydreams are geared toward some wished-for situation.

    Despair imagines. But it imagines and meditates on what it fears. Based on one's knowledge and trust (or distrust) of Scripture, the images one meditates on in one's despair is either seen as the only possible future one could dream of (when one finds one's self in a bad situation.)

    There is imagining impossibilities that may happen, and imagining improbabilities, and imagining miracles.

    Both imagining impossibilities and imagining improbabilities have to do with attempts to heal. But imagining impossibilites involve back-tracking -- daydreaming about the past, woulda-coulda-shoulda-ing. In those daydreams, we often are attempting to heal our past soul wounds and so it's vain imaginings.  We are often not our own age, and yet we somehow are in the current era/year...which is always a bad sign. So daydreaming of being our twenty year old selves in 2013 with some famous young hottie.....nah, not gonna happen.

    Imagining improbabilities is a step higher toward true hope. We are at least in the present, we are our own age, we are doing wonderful things or engaging with wonderful people. But the things, the people are slightly improbable...and again there is a need to heal our wounded soul. Thus we may daydream about being our real age but we put ourselves in such improbable situations. If our souls and spirits are being healed by imagining ourselves with some rich,powerful, famous person....well chances are this is not a true hope.

    Imagining miracles. Well, this is true hope. It is setting the mind on the thing desired, imagining a good outcome based on a promise of God. This is the hardest daydream to enter because we have to know Scripture, we have to imagine Jesus or some holy Biblical person doing the miracle, and then we have to imagine God in us (the hope of glory) or some other Christian doing the miracle. Or we can just imagine a sovereign move of God without any human agency.

    This kind of daydreaming is also difficult because when we reach a point in life where we need a miracle, our minds have often already become washed with negative images. So we're battling the vain negtive images the doctors, memory, time or habit have put in our minds and hearts...while at the same time trying to trust God's word and the images the Scripture wants to put into our minds. Plus, our daydreaming habits have usually not been creative or hopeful. So it's difficult to picture good things happening.

    True hope is not vain or depressing or impossible imaginations; it is hope of salvation. I'm not saying our thoughts create our reality. Because God is able to give us more than we are able to ask or wish. I'm saying that we should at least keep tabs on our wishing. We should at least put as much conscious effort into imagining what life will be like when (not what life might be like if) our prayers come true. We should at least consciously imagine the looked-for end with the same gusto that we put into a sexual fantasy. We should walk around in our future hope knowing every nook and corner of it.

    So there I was...realizing I am age 54. This means ...many of the daydreams and fantasies I have been indulging in for the past 34 years must now be put to rest. There is really no way that many of these fantasies will come true. Rich Korean young hottie will not arrive and bring my younger self or my current self happiness. But really, these daydreams are my second homes. What to do with them? Make stories out of them. I know those worlds so well. And in letting go of them and training my mind to lose past them...I can have my cake and eat it too. My mind will let them go but they will forever be engraved in story form.

    Will see how it works. Sad...but some dreams have to be let go. 

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