Monday, November 29, 2010

Do They All Really Look the Same?

Photo Credit: + MUSH
There is an inside joke among members of ethnic minority communities that white people cannot tell them apart.  In many ways, this is true.  When white people describe members of our own ethnicity to one another, we usually describe things like eye color ("He's the one with the deep blue eyes"), hair color ("You know, the redhead), height ("Yeah, the really tall girl"), or facial hair ("The dude with the soul patch").

But when referring to those of other ethnicities, we rarely move past skin color ("Um...I'm not sure which one.  I do know he was black").  One of my favorite television shows, The Office, demonstrated this in one episode where the innocent, yet incompetent, Michael Scott had to mark the arm of his Asian date because he could not tell her apart from her friend, another Asian women. 

However, the inability for members of one racial group to distinguish members of other groups is not the exclusive property of us white folk.  TIME Magazine tells the story:
"You've heard the racial epithet: All you people look the same. It's detestable, but a new study shows that the racist observation happens to be true. To members of one race, members of another race are far more difficult to differentiate.

The study, written by a European team led by Luca Vizioli of the University of Glasgow and published in a recent issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, begins by noting that humans are remarkably skilled at facial recognition: we can differentiate family members and friends from strangers in far less than a second. (More on The Authentic Self: How Do You Know If You're 'Really' Racist or Sexist?)

And yet as long ago as 1914, an academic publication called the Journal of Criminal Law and Police Science published an article saying it takes us longer to tell apart members of races other than our own. "To the uninitiated American," the authors wrote, "all Asiatics look alike, while to the Asiatics, all White men look alike."

...The study found that, as expected, both Asian and white observers revealed what is called the "other-race effect": they took longer to recognize members of other races.

The authors controlled for differences in how the faces in the photos looked. It didn't matter whether someone was pretty or ugly, whether they were making a nice face or a rude one: it still took longer to recognize them if they were a member of another race."
I, for one, don't see these findings as surprising at all.  I've spent enough time around other white people to know that most of us do have a difficulty time in distinguishing those of other races.  But I've also spent enough time in African American circles to know that the same is true for black people.

Case in point: I happen to work with an organization primarily made up of African Americans.  I am often one of the few white people around during meetings or gatherings.  At least on initial interaction with new people, I can be known as "the white guy."  There is another gentleman that works with us that is also white.  I have frequently been confused with him, although he is twenty years my senior and, apart from the fact that we both have brown hair and wear glasses, doesn't really resemble me.

So if someone has a difficult time differentiating people of a different ethnicity, I don't necessarily chalk that up to racism.  It may be that they simply haven't spent enough time with people within that racial group in order to quickly identify them in a way that is similar to how they would within those of their own ethnicity.

In order to help with distinguishing those of different races, we need to be able to move beyond skin color and see more of the complete person.  Just as we point out the features that make someone different within our own race (e.g. hair styles, body type, what type of glasses they wear, etc.), we can apply that to those of other ethnicities.

There may be something inherent within us that makes it more challenging to identify those from other ethnic groups but, unlike Michael Scott, we don't want to stay in our ignorance.  By building relationships with those of other ethnicities, we will be begin to see people as individuals and not just as members of another race.  Yes, our ethnicity is part of who we are, but it doesn't say everything about us.  Strive to get to know people as unique individuals and it's amazing how you will begin to see their uniqueness.

(h/t to Racialicious for the link)

Thursday, November 25, 2010

A Christian Perspective on Thanksgiving

Photo Credit: CarbonNYC
The late founder of Campus Crusade for Christ, Bill Bright, used to say that one of the best ways to express our faith is to give thanks in all circumstances. Today is a day in which we remember all that we are thankful for and the One to whom our thanks is directed. Here are some inspiring words from John Fischer on being thankful:
"Thanksgiving is not just one day a year, it is the theme song of the Christian. For a Christian not to be thankful is like a dog not wagging his tail at his owner's approach.

Thankful Christians walk around grateful for every breath, every sunset, every new morning, every color in the color spectrum, and every star in the sky. Like an alcoholic who is clean and sober, noticing beauty and taste for the first time, we are grateful just to be alive because we have been dead for so long.

It's hard to think of one vice that the virtue of thankfulness cannot render useless. One does not need to steal when one is thankful. A man does not covet his neighbor's wife when he is thankful for his own. No one craves more when he is grateful for what he has.

In the same way, a thankful heart cancels out pride and arrogance. No need to judge other people when you are thankful for who you are. No need to measure yourself by and compare yourself to others when you are thankful for what God has done in your life. No need to keep anyone out of the kingdom of God when you know you don't deserve to get in. (God can let in anyone He wants. I am simply glad to be counted among the saved.)

You don't care if you get the important seat at the table when you are overcome with gratitude at simply being invited to the dinner. You don't put heavy weights on other people's shoulders when you are thankful that God has lightened your own load. You are not obsessed with what other people think of you when you are overwhelmed with the fact that God is thinking about you all the time. You don't demand respect when you are thankful for your place. You don't have to hide your own sin when you are already thankful for God's forgiveness. You don't have to protect your image when you are already number one with God.

You don't have to condemn other people's blindness when it's only the grace of God that has allowed you to see. You don't have to try for the highest place when you are already grateful for whatever place you were given. You don't have to make a show of spirituality when you are thankful for having received the Spirit. You don't have to clothe yourself in holy robes when you have been already clothed in righteousness. (Or as a friend of mine used to say, "Why be cute when you're already beautiful?") You don't have to be full of yourself when you are thankful that God has filled you up with Himself.

Not only do we have a lot to be thankful for, our thankfulness can accomplish much."
I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving with your family and friends. God bless.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Michigan/Ohio State Jokes

Photo Credit: @photogoofer
In honor of Rivalry Week leading up to "The Game", I have posted some Michigan/Ohio State humor the past several years.

I've collected all of the jokes I have into a greatest hits collection below. Click on the link and it'll take you to the full joke.

I fully realize that the titles of these jokes sound like the names of Seinfeld episodes, but it's the best I could do. Enjoy!
Here's to a fun week and a great game. Go Blue!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Pakistan, Islam and Blasphemy

Photo Credit: Joe Gratz
Blasphemy means to show disrespect or to speak against revered religious figures, beliefs and customs.  Although those of us that have deeply held religious beliefs can easily get offended when our faith is mocked or disregarded, few of us believe that others should lose their lives over the words they speak against our beliefs.

For example, the name of Jesus is commonly used as a swear word within our culture and, though highly offensive to Christians, I have never heard a call from conservative believers within the United States that those that take the Lord's name in vain should be executed for doing so.  Apparently, the laws in Pakistan are much different.

A Christian woman who is accused of insulting the Islamic faith and its prophet, Muhammad, is facing the death penalty for her words, which some consider blasphemous. shares the story:
"In this village in Pakistan's Punjab province a tearful 12-year-old girl ponders if the Pakistani government will soon hang her mother.

"Whenever I see her picture I cry," Isham Masih told CNN. "I want my mother back. That's what I'm praying for."

This month a Pakistani court sentenced Isham's mother, 45-year-old Asia Bibi, to death, not because she killed, injured or stole, but simply because she said something.

Prosecutors say Bibi, who is a Christian, broke Pakistan's strict blasphemy law by insulting Islam and the prophet Muhammad, a crime punishable by death or life imprisonment according to Pakistan's penal code.

The alleged incident happened in June 2009 when Bibi, a field worker, was picking fruit in a village two hours west of Lahore. Prosecutors say when Bibi dipped her cup into a bucket of drinking water during a lunch break, her co-workers complained the water had been contaminated by a non-Muslim."
You can read the rest of the story here.

Even though it grieves me deeply when I see or hear others making injurious comments towards my Savior, Jesus Christ, I'm glad that I live in country where I'm not looking for my government to kill those I disagree with.

A few years ago when a Danish cartoonist drew some cartoons of Muhammad, there was an uproar as some Muslims called for violence towards those involved.  Note, not all Muslims called for the violence.  And it wasn't even most.  Just some.  Shortly thereafter, John Piper offered a challenging perspective on how Christians should respond when our Christ is insulted.  As Piper noted,
"The work of Muhammad is based on being honored and the work of Christ is based on being insulted. This produces two very different reactions to mockery."
To read more of Piper's thoughts on the matter click here.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Why We Should Vote on November 2nd

Photo Credit: Theresa Thompson
Tomorrow, tens of millions of United States citizens will enter the voting booth to choose the women and men that they feel will do the best job of leading our cities, counties, states and country. Unfortunately, a significant number of voters will choose to stay home. Many are turned off by the negative tones of political campaigns or feel like their single vote doesn't make a difference.

Think your vote doesn't matter? Look at what Seth Godin has to say about why it's important for us to vote:
"If you don't vote because you're trying to teach politicians a lesson, you're tragically misguided in your strategy. The very politicians you're trying to send a message to don't want you to vote. Since 1960, voting turnouts in mid-term elections are down significantly, and there's one reason: because of TV advertising.

Political TV advertising is designed to do only one thing: suppress the turnout of the opponent's supporters. If the TV ads can turn you off enough not to vote ("they're all bums") then their strategy has succeeded.

The astonishing thing is that voters haven't figured this out. As the scumminess and nastiness of campaigning and governing has escalated and the flakiness of candidates appears to have escalated as well, we've largely abdicated the high ground and permitted selfish partisans on both sides to hijack the system.

Voting is free. It's fairly fast. It doesn't make you responsible for the outcome, but it sure has an impact on what we have to live with going forward. The only thing that would make it better is free snacks.

Even if you're disgusted, vote. Vote for your least unfavorite choice. But go vote."
Over the course of our nation's history, there have many brave individuals that have sacrificially given of themselves (some have even given their lives) so that you and I could exercise this very basic privilege of freedom. Your vote does matter and, collectively, we make a difference. Take the time and vote.