Wednesday, March 30, 2011

How Detroit Became One of America's Most Segregated Cities

Photo Credit: Vasenka
To metro Detroiters, the phrase "8 Mile" brings to mind much more than the name of Eminem's 2002 semi-autobiographical film. Eight Mile Road represents the separation of white Detroit from black Detroit.  South of 8 Mile is mostly African American; north of it is mostly white.

Now, with the 2010 census numbers having been released, more and more Detroit residents are leaving the city for the suburbs and other locations. According to recent census numbers, Detroit lost 25% of its residents over this past decade and now claims a population of just over 700,000.

As the population figures of Motown have noticeably shifted, it makes one wonder how Detroit became so segregated in the first place. has done a feature on the most segregated cities in the United States and Detroit came in fourth on the list.  Salon's description of Detroit is both revealing and troubling:
"In the early 20th century, however, the city's real estate was valuable, and jealously guarded by whites. The hundreds of thousands of blacks who migrated to work in the city's booming auto and defense industries found that most jobs and neighborhoods were closed to them.

In the 1920s, '30s and '40s, working-class white ethnics bought homes and began to identify as just "white." And being white meant keeping blacks, suffering from an extreme housing shortage, away from white neighborhoods and jobs. Along with the restrictive covenants that barred the sale of homes to non-whites and discriminatory public and private lending practice, white Detroiters perpetuated widespread harassment, violence and property destruction against blacks who dared move out of the crowded ghetto in the city's Lower East Side. "For most of the 20th century, Detroit was one of the most segregated cities in the United States," says Tom Sugrue, a professor of history at the University of Pennsylvania and the author of "The Origins of the Urban Crisis: Race and Inequality in Postwar Detroit." "The city became a magnet for black migrants -- and whites fiercely defended their turf against black newcomers."

One developer even erected a 6-foot-high cement wall between white and black neighborhoods to make the former actuarially sound.

"In many neighborhoods, whites used violence and intimidation to deter black newcomers. In my book, I document nearly 250 incidents involving mobs, vandalism and violence directed toward the first black families to move into formerly white neighborhoods. Whites also formed hundreds of 'neighborhood improvement associations' that pledged to keep 'undesirables' -- namely blacks -- out. Real estate brokers and mortgage lenders -- backed by federal housing policy -- also played a critical role in creating an unfree housing market for African-Americans."

With the relocation and decline of industry, blacks were stuck in an increasingly jobless and expanding ghetto. Black unemployment rose to 22.5 percent in 1980, doubling in just 20 years. White workers, writes Sugrue, followed industry to the suburbs. Those too poor to stay behind became "angrier and more defensive." In 1972, every majority white ward in the city supported George Wallace in the Democratic presidential primary. The Alabama governor -- who once declared "segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever" -- had a message that resonated.

The new census numbers show large numbers of blacks moving to the suburbs, and increasing integration as a result: Detroit's dissimilarity index fell a dramatic 10 points since 2000, one of the largest decreases nationwide. This good news, however, is only made possible by the broader economic disaster."
What hope does Detroit have for healing and greater cooperation between the city's various ethnic groups? Hopefully, the E.A.C.H. campaign will make a difference. EACH (which stands for Everyone a Chance to Hear) is a collaboration between a number of metro Detroit churches that endeavors to give over 3.5 million people a chance to hear about Jesus Christ and help them take the next steps in their spiritual journey. As Detroit seeks to rebuild itself into a proud city once again, its foundation needs to have a footing of integrity, morality and spirituality.

I'm proud to say that both my home church in Michigan, Colonial Woods Missionary Church, and my wife's home church, Royal Oak Missionary Church, are participating in this great effort.  If you're a metro Detroit resident and would like to get personally involved in EACH, please talk with your pastor and visit the campaign's website here.

(h/t to AOL's Black Voices blog for the link to the Salon feature)

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Is There Evidence For God?

Photo Credit: astrorom
Could there really be evidence for the existence of God or are believers in a supreme being just a bunch of deluded simpletons? A couple of scholars hope to find out. At 7 p.m. (EDT) on Wednesday, March 30th on the campus of North Carolina State University, Dr. Lawrence M. Krauss, who will be arguing that God does not exist, and Dr. William Lane Craig, who will present evidence for God's existence, will engage in a debate on this topic.

Dr. Krauss is an internationally known theoretical physicist and is currently a professor at Arizona State University. Dr. Craig is one of the leading Christian apologists in the world today and is currently a professor at Talbot School of Theology.

Even if you do not live in Raleigh, North Carolina, you can still view the debate online as it will be streamed live on the Internet. To view the debate, please go to  The moderator will be Justice Paul M. Newby, Justice of the Supreme Court of North Carolina.

For more information on whether God's exists or not, please visit here.     

Friday, March 25, 2011

A Short History of Race & Basketball

Photo Credit: GonchoA
Doug Morlino has written the first segment of what I'm sure will be a fascinating series on the history of race and basketball. His post, entitled LeBron James Back to James Naismith: A History of Race and Basketball and published on the Bleacher Report, examines the relationship between black and white players and the role that basketball has played in helping racial progress within the United States. He also touches on the influence that Christianity played in the early origins of the sport.

Morlino traces his youth in Seattle and how his views on race were influenced through his time on the court. He says:
"It also made me question the origins of many of the assumptions I’d held about sports.

Why, I wondered, was the basketball court seen as such an ideal place to mix kids from different backgrounds? Why did I grow up as seeing success on the court as reflecting my own sense of achievement and manhood? And why and how did basketball come to be viewed as a quintessentially "black" sport?

The effort to answer those questions led me back into basketball’s history, which was more complex and fascinating than I’d imagined.

I started to see connections between how early decisions in the game’s development still echo in what we see on the court today, from Blake Griffin’s monster dunks to Phil Jackson’s coaching style. I also found that the history of what’s happened on the basketball court has very closely mirrored that of race relations in the United States, and often preceded changes off of it."
I'm often asked how I came to be so interested in black culture and how my friendships with African Americans developed over the years. Initially, it was due in large part to the time I spent with African Americans on the basketball court during my youth growing up outside of Detroit. I am looking forward to reading more of Morlino's story in the rest of these articles (a planned eight-part series) and how the game of basketball came to be what it is today.

(h/t to AOL Black Voices)

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Generation Y: A Tethered Generation

Photo Credit: llona1
They are often referred to as Generation Y, Millennials, Echo Boomers or GenNext. However we may label them (by the way, they hate labels), individuals born approximately between 1978 and 1998 are changing how we view the workforce.

As one who was born in the middle of Generation X, I have some understanding of Millennials, but there is much I just don't get. I grew up playing video games and remember the excitement of playing basic games like Pong and then Pitfall on Atari. Many belonging to Gen Y have never seen an original Nintendo game and are used to dropping fifty bucks for a single game and spending hundreds of dollars for a system.

I got my first cell phone at the age of 27. Nowadays, it is not at all uncommon for elementary aged kids to have their own phone. And I may have grown up watching MTV, but at least they used to play music videos back then! I do consider myself fairly Internet and computer savvy, but I didn't own my first computer until I was out of college and got my first e-mail account as a fourth year college student. My kids already knew how to play video games, dial a cell phone and use a computer -- all before starting school.

Since I serve, work alongside of and lead mostly those of Generation Y, I am in a continual learning process about their values, work styles and world views. The Tethered Generation, a great article in the May 2007 of HR Magazine, addresses the realities that young people face today and highlight some of the strengths and drawbacks of how they interact with one another and the world. You can read the whole article here, but I've highlighted the Good News and the Bad News of "The Tethered Generation":

Good News... 
Millennials have a lot of skills and enthusiasm to offer companies. Experts say they are:
  • Techno-savvy. “They’re enormous consumers of information and can locate details about anything within seconds,” says Jeanne Achille, CEO of The Devon Group and mother of two millennials. “We employ millennials to help with research because they can find in-depth data through sources we older employees don’t even know exist.” (The flip side is training millennials to adequately vet the research they find on the Internet.)
  • Adept at global and diversity issues. “Millennials’ world is far more expansive than previous generations’ because, through online social networks, they can reach well beyond the confines of geography and establish relationships with others. They’re ideally positioned to support our global workplaces, and HR people should tap their skills accordingly,” says Achille.
  • Team-oriented. With Millennials, “decisions are made in a team environment,” says futurist Jim Taylor. “They measure themselves by their peers. They will form communal tribes and communicate astonishing amounts.”
  • Multitaskers. “For today’s young people, multitasking is as natural as eating,” says Robert Epstein, visiting scholar at the University of California in San Diego, and West Coast editor of Psychology Today.
Bad News...

According to experts, the millennial generation as a whole lacks the following traits:
  • Discretion. “If you give up your privacy on MySpace about everything from your musical preferences to your sexual hang-ups, it is harder to” understand others’ concern for privacy invasions, says Sherry Turkle, a licensed clinical psychologist and MIT professor. “They get the idea one’s privacy is dispensable.”  Clearly, this lack of confidentiality can have dramatic repercussions in the workplace. “There will be no secrets,” futurist Jim Taylor warns. “A conversation that would normally be judged as a private discussion between a boss and subordinate” will become public.
  • Independence. “Because parents over-scheduled their lives, they don’t know what to do next. They will need more direction” in the workplace, says Jean M. Twenge, associate professor of psychology at San Diego State University and author of Generation Me: Why Today’s Young Americans Are More Confident, Assertive, Entitled—and More Miserable Than Ever Before (Free Press, 2006).  Claire Raines, author of Generations at Work (AMACOM, 2000), says millennials may look to managers to “take on that ‘mom role’ in some ways. We have to show that we really care about the person, know what their goals are and help them with their career paths,” she says.
  • Realistic expectations. Barbara Dwyer, CEO of The Job Journey, a soft-skills training firm, notes this generation believes they can change the world on the first day of work. “The problem is that they don’t have the track record to support these statements. When they’re told their entire lives how wonderful they are, and then they’re challenged in the business environment, they are crushed,” she says.
  • Patience. “They’re used to instant gratification. They tend to be impatient and want things yesterday. From an HR perspective, the advantage is that, in their impatience, they may become more efficient, but the disadvantage is that they may not have the patience to work through a complex problem,” says Twenge.
  • Work ethic. When asked how the work ethic of today’s young professionals compared to that of previous generations, 49 percent of executives polled by Korn/Ferry indicated that it was worse.  “One problem HR professionals are already facing is many young people entering the workforce have unrealistic expectations about what it means to work,” says Robert Epstein, West Coast editor of Psychology Today. “Many are unwilling to work hard or make personal sacrifices to get ahead.”
  • Soft skills and the basics. “Students’ grammar may suffer from an over-reliance on computer programs that correct language errors, which will perpetuate poor written communication skills. E-mail and instant messaging reduces the opportunity for face-to-face interpersonal interaction. The lack of strong interpersonal skills impacts other soft skills, such as conflict resolution,” says Stephen P. Seaward, director of career development for Saint Joseph College in West Hartford, Conn.
I find these finding amazingly accurate. For those of my age and older that lead and supervise those who are Millennials, we are most likely nodding our heads in agreement when reading these comments. I'm curious... Have you found these things to be true? And what of those of you who are members of Generation Y. Do you feel like the characterization of your generation is fair? I'm interested to hear your thoughts.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Five Things You Don't Want to Know

Photo Credit: spo0nman
Taken from the website, If Everyone Knew: 5 facts that everyone should know, here is some disturbing information that most of us would probably rather not be aware of.  Visit here and click on each of the facts for source information.
1. The prison system in the United States is a profit-making industry. Private corporations operate over 200 facilities nationwide and are traded on the New York Stock Exchange.

2. Six corporations control virtually all American media. News Corp. owns over 27 television stations and over 150 newspapers. Time Warner has over 100 subsidaries including CNN, Time Magazine, and The CW.

3. The FBI admits to infiltrating & disrupting peaceful political groups in the United States. The Women’s and Civil Rights movements were among those targeted, with their members being beaten, imprisoned, and assassinated.

4. In 1977 it was revealed that random American citizens were abducted & tortured for research by the CIA. Project MK Ultra was the code name for a series of covert activities in the early 1950’s.

5. A plan to attack American cities to justify war with Cuba was approved by the Joint Chiefs of Staff in 1962. Rejected by President Kennedy, Operation Northwoods remained classified for 35 years.
A good reminder that things are not always what they appear to be.

(h/t to Neil Cole via Keith Giles)

Saturday, March 19, 2011

How God Is Described In The Bible

Photo Credit: keibr
Taken from the song "He Is", written by Jeoffrey Benward & Jeff Silvey:
"In Genesis, He's the breath of life
In Exodus, the Passover Lamb
In Leviticus, He's our High Priest
Numbers, The fire by night
Deuteronomy, He's Moses' voice

In Joshua, He is salvation's choice
Judges, law giver
In Ruth, the kinsmen-redeemer
First and second Samuel, our trusted prophet
In Kings and Chronicles, He's sovereign

Ezra, true and faithful scribe
Nehemiah, He's the rebuilder of broken walls and lives
In Esther, He's Mordecai's courage
In Job, the timeless redeemer
In Psalms, He is our morning song

In Proverbs, wisdom's cry
Ecclesiastes, the time and season
In the Song of Solomon, He is the lover's dream

In Isaiah, He's Prince of Peace
Jeremiah, the weeping prophet
In Lamentations, the cry for Israel
Ezekiel, He's the call from sin
In Daniel, the stranger in the fire

In Hosea, He is forever faithful
In Joel, He's the Spirits power
In Amos, the arms that carry us
In Obadiah, He's the Lord our Savior
In Jonah, He's the great missionary

In Micah, the promise of peace
In Nahum, He is our strength and our shield
In Habakkuk and Zephaniah, He's pleading for revival
In Haggai, He restores a lost heritage
In Zechariah, our fountain
In Malachi, He is the son of righteousness rising with healing in His wings

In Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, He is God, Man, Messiah
In the book of Acts, He is fire from heaven
In Romans, He's the grace of God
In Corinthians, the power of love
In Galatians, He is freedom from the curse of sin

Ephesians, our glorious treasure
Philippians, the servants heart
In Colossians, He's the Godhead Trinity
Thessalonians, our coming King
In Timothy, Titus, Philemon He's our mediator and our faithful Pastor

In Hebrews, the everlasting covenant
In James, the one who heals the sick.
In First and Second Peter, he is our Shepherd
In John and in Jude, He is the lover coming for His bride
In the Revelation, He is King of Kings and Lord of Lords

The prince of peace
The Son of man
The Lamb of God
The great I AM

He's the Alpha and Omega
Our God and our Savior
He is Jesus Christ the Lord
and when time is no more
He is, HE IS!"

Friday, March 18, 2011

The Fab Five, Duke & A Crisis of Identity

Photo Credit: pursuethepassion
The 1991-1992 college basketball season saw Michigan's "Fab Five" freshmen capture the nation's interest and the Duke program cement its legacy as one of the greatest squads ever with its second consecutive championship. But now, almost twenty years later, these two teams, both from institutions boasting reputations for academic and athletic excellence, are making news once again.

This past weekend saw the premiere of ESPN's newest documentary, featuring Michigan's Fab Five. The film, which garnered record ratings for ESPN, has continued to be discussed days after its initial showing due to some comments made by Jalen Rose, one of the Fab Five and the executive producer of the documentary. In explaining how he felt about Duke's African American players during that time, Rose described them as "Uncle Toms." 

This term, used in a pejorative manner towards African Americans considered to live in deference to white people, is a loaded term that carries with it strong connotations.  One African American member of Duke's teams during that era, Grant Hill, felt strongly enough to respond by penning an op-ed piece for the New York Times

Rose has reiterated that the description that he used for the Duke players was how he felt when he was in college and that he doesn't share the same feelings today but his comments have evoked a dialogue that addresses issues much deeper than basketball.  Adena Spingarn has written a thoughtful response to the matter in the and offers this nugget:
"As a kid from a single-parent household who had to bundle up in layers of clothing to keep warm at night, Rose resented Hill's privilege, both material and familial. But this wasn't generic class resentment. In the United States, there was and is a difference between being poor and white and being poor and black. That's what Rose was talking about.

The history of black folks in America is full of adversity -- and, yes, achievement too. But for better or for worse, the enduring marks of our adversity -- the single-parent households, the poverty, the street culture -- have become ingrained in the way many African Americans define themselves and their histories.

Certainly, as Hill points out in his Times essay, black people who grew up with two parents and financial security are no less black than those who struggled the way Rose did. But Rose, defending his choice of words to ESPN's Bayless, emphasized that backgrounds like Hill's are "the minority. I was speaking for the majority." As a recruited player, he said, "I looked at it as, [the Duke players] are who the world accepts, and we are who the world hates."

What Rose meant by calling black Duke players "Uncle Toms" was not that they had actively betrayed the race by growing up in secure middle-class families but that, by virtue of their backgrounds, they occupied an enviable cultural space that seemed intensely unreachable to a young Rose. The differences between the Fab Five and the Duke team of the '90s may have largely disappeared -- today both Rose and Hill enjoy successful careers and greater financial security than either of them grew up with -- but there remains a deep division within the African-American community between those who are accepted by the nation at large and those who are not."
This topic has clearly touched a nerve and it goes beyond the world of collegiate athletics and race. It extends to issues like socio-economic status, power, class and privilege. In an extremely insightful and passionate viewpoint on the matter, ESPN basketball analyst Chris Broussard addresses this situation in a way that strikes at the heart of the matter. You can view the video below or click here if the video player does not show up.

For the record, I am a fan of both Jalen Rose and Grant Hill. They've both turned successful NBA careers into pathways for giving back to their communities and I admire both of them for their maturity and wisdom. But I don't think that this is fundamentally a Grant vs. Jalen thing. Nor do I even think it's about Duke and Michigan. As Chris Broussard said, this discussion demonstrates an identity crisis that exists for many young black men.

How "blackness" is defined and who gets to define it is a question that has been around for centuries and it won't be going away anytime soon. Will African Americans that seek the best educational opportunities they can find be considered "sell outs" and will those that get those opportunities continue to give back to the communities that gave them birth? For the multitude of African American youth that don't have a jump shot and won't be playing ball at either Duke or Michigan, the concern remains about whether they'll be afforded the same academic opportunities that a Grant Hill or Jalen Rose received. Those issues will continue to be prevalent until the educational and economic disparities that exist between our nation's cities and the suburbs is addressed.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Are Professional Athletes Modern-Day Slaves?

Photo Credit: xoque
Adrian Peterson, star running back for the NFL's Minnesota Vikings, ignited a firestorm of debate this week with his description of pro athletes as being involved in "modern-day slavery."  In an interview with Yahoo! Sports, Peterson had this to say:
"It's modern-day slavery, you know? People kind of laugh at that, but there are people working at regular jobs who get treated the same way, too. With all the money … the owners are trying to get a different percentage, and bring in more money. I understand that; these are business-minded people. Of course this is what they are going to want to do. I understand that; it's how they got to where they are now. But as players, we have to stand our ground and say, 'Hey — without us, there's no football.' There are so many different perspectives from different players, and obviously we're not all on the same page — I don't know. I don't really see this going to where we'll be without football for a long time; there's too much money lost for the owners. Eventually, I feel that we'll get something done."
To give Peterson the benefit of the doubt, I assume that what he was trying to say was that the players are being treated unfairly. And that would be a reasonable comment. But to say that pro athletes of 2011 are like those in slavery shows a remarkable degree of naivete. NFL football players get paid a lot of money to do what they want to do; slaves get paid nothing to do what they don't want to do.

My friend, Tobin, has written an intelligent post on this topic and shares some telling realities about a little discussed topic, actual modern-day slavery. You can read his post here.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Are You A Leader Or A Manager?

Photo Credit: DeaPeaJay
Leadership and management are not the same thing. Managers simply try to maintain the status quo and not lose any ground; leaders proactively lead others into a desired future. When the essence of leadership and management gets confused, then companies, organizations and teams become complacent and lose ground.

Seth Godin casts a compelling vision between the differences between management and leadership in this video from the Chick-Fil-A Leadercast.

Exclusive interview with Seth Godin from GiANT Impact on Vimeo.

(h/t to Michael Hyatt)

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Rob Bell & the Uneasy Topic of Hell

Photo Credit: s. alt
Up until a couple of weeks ago, Rob Bell was probably not that well-known outside of a certain subset of evangelical Christianity. Although Bell, pastor of Mars Hills Church in Grand Rapids, had gained a following through his books (like Velvet Elvis and Sex God) and his series of video vignettes (called NOOMA), many Christians had likely not heard of him.

But that all changed near the end of February.  It was then that Bell, who is known for his masterful art of storytelling and unconventional methods of teachings, began the promotion of his new book, Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived.  A promotional video and description from the publisher of the book, which has not even been released yet, set off a firestorm of discussion across the Internet as conservative bloggers voiced concern for Bell's apparent universalism and progressive bloggers applauded his addressing a difficult issue.

Since I have not read the book (which is slated to be released later this month), I will not attempt to comment directly on Rob Bell's views.  But I do think that his decision to tackle the topic of hell has certainly struck a nerve.  In the days immediately following the initial promotion of the book, Rob Bell was a trending topic on Twitter.  If you're not familiar with Twitter or trending topics, what that means is that at one point, of all the things being "tweeted" about across the country, Rob Bell was in the top ten.  That is extremely rare for a Christian figure to be that discussed, even if it is just for a day.  What that tells me is that hell is obviously a subject of interest to a lot of people and it is quite apparent that not all Christians have the same perspective on the matter.

Scot McKnight, a favorite writer of mine, addresses the Bell controversy with wisdom and grace here and here.  Some highlights:
"The pressing issue today is both to comprehend the absolute seriousness of the Christian claim, to realize that the ground has shifted in that many who are associated with evangelicalism simply don’t believe the traditional view and have embraced some kind of universalism, and we need also to understand the options so we can all, one more time, go back to the Bible, to our church traditions, and study all over again – as if for the first time – what to believe...

My contention is this: the approach to this generation is not to denounce their questions, which often enough are rooted in a heightened sensitivity to divine justice and compassion, but to probe their questions from the inside and to probe thoughtful and biblically-responsible resolutions. We need to show that their questions about justice and God’s gracious love are not bad questions but good questions that deserve to be explored."
For the record, I do believe that each of us will be accountable before God as sinners and that God is both a God of love and of justice. His love is demonstrated through the offer of forgiveness through His son, Jesus Christ, and His justice is displayed through Christ's death on our behalf.  I believe that Jesus is the only way for our sin to be forgiven and, without Him, we are without hope.

But I also know, as McKnight contends, that there is a generation of young evangelicals that are uneasy talking about (or even thinking about) the hard issue of hell.  We rarely hear talk of hell, even though it is a subject that most of us have some sort of view on.  It is important to remember that if heaven exists and hell is real (which I believe are both true), then there is no more important issue for us to consider than where we will spend eternity.

I am wholeheartedly convinced that some of us will spend eternity with God and some of us won't and it is Jesus that makes the difference.  In the promotional video for the book, Bell says, "What we believe about heaven and hell is extremely important."  I agree with him on that.  But I'll wait until I read the book to see what else we see eye-to-eye on.

Friday, March 04, 2011

Seth Godin on Problems and Opportunity

Photo Credit: Stitch
Seth Godin on how our problems can turn into great opportunities:

"The worst moments are your best opportunity. That's how we judge you and how we remember you.

You are presumed to be showing us your real self when you are on deadline, have a headache, are facing a customer service meltdown, haven't had a good night's sleep, are facing an ethical dilemma, are momentarily in power, are caught doing something when you thought no one else was looking, are irritable, have the opportunity to extract revenge, are losing a competition or are truly overwhelmed.

What a great opportunity to tell the story you'd like us to hear about you."