As y’all know, I’ve thought a lot about the Brown Bag debate. In truth, there are still some things I don’t get. I don’t have a dog in the whole “ministers publically criticizing each other” debate. After all, I’m a paralegal. Were I to call the competence of another paralegal into question on the internet citing subjective reasons, that would be frowned upon, to put my getting sued in the gentlest possible terms. Paralegals just don’t do that kinds of thing.
But that’s a ministerial politics thing that I don’t have to understand. I like people on both sides of that one, so I will let y’all argue it out.
That issue aside, I have to say that I think any of the snarky people, if approached by a guest speaker at their own church who said “Hey listen, since brown bags were used to exclude people from events at one point in history, I think calling my event a ‘brown bag lunch’ implies that people could be excluded on the basis of their skin color. I know you wouldn’t actually do that, but could we change the name of the meeting?”
Would ultimately go along with it. They might quietly think it’s a little much, but I think they would.
But I can’t imagine that they would stand up in front of their church and make a declaration that the term is racist, with no explanation, the way the SKSM folks did and then breeze on, assuming that everyone would simply accept a decree that if someone thinks something is racist, they must be right.
Several people, me included, have said that Mummert’s fear of speaking up was the real issue for them. It still is.
I address these questions to both sides.
1. What effect should it have when one person or a few people find a term offensive?*
2. What is an acceptable response when someone is offended by something and their offense seems unreasonable to you? (Let’s presume that you’ve asked for an explanation and the explanation still doesn’t make sense.)
3. Does our faith tradition of refining belief through reason have a place in anti-racism work? What is it?
4. What response should we have to people of color and others who feel that this sensitivity toward language actually does more harm than good? (I've been known to make this argument about gender-neutral language.)
5. Why is everybody so angry? Is there a reason our disagreements with one another have to be phrased the way some of the posts in this argument were? Is there a reason that so many UUs have stories of having been accused of racism for spurious-sounding reasons?
Answers to any or all questions would be appreciated.
*And indeed, judging by the numbers of brown bag lunches on the TOPIC of racism one can find in a quick Google, criticism of the term on these grounds is not particularly widespread.