As I said below, the other day Liz and I attended the Inauguration of Gary Dorrien as Reinhold Niebuhr Professor of Social Ethics at Union Theological Seminary. Gary Dorrien’s address in the evening was on his current project and was entitled “Social Ethics in the Making: Theory, Method, History, Transformation.” After a review of the history of the field, he concluded by speaking of one of the challenges facing social ethicists, as well as liberal theologians and progressives in general. First he named several other challenges – for example sexism, heterosexism, and the environment – all important and all urgent, but the one he addressed was racism. He spoke of racism as the American original sin and commented that white ethicists, as well as most other white people, need to interrogate their own racism. In this country, white people live in a world of unexamined (and unearned) white privilege.
I might add, just as white people are privileged over people of color, white males are privileged over females, straight people are privileged over LBGTQ people, prosperous people are privileged over poor people, and on and on. All forms of injustice, discrimination and unearned privilege need to be interrogated and resisted, but I agree that racism is the elephant in the room.
The afternoon and evening at Union was interesting to me for reasons beyond the content of programs. First, I saw several acquaintances – including George and Kathy Todd, Marie Wilson, and Doug Knight from Morningside Gardens. Miguel Angel Escobar, who is a seminarian at St. Mary’s, was one of the banner carriers. Of the five PhD candidates who read from the writings of past professors of social ethics at Union, Chloe Breyer is currently at St. Mary’s and Rima Vesely-Flad sometimes attends (as does her husband Ethan who was also there.) Seth Kasten, reference librarian at Union, mentioned that he had been surprised to discover that I had a blog – he found it during a Google search on Binghamton – whereupon Miguel asked me which blogs I visited so I told him. So now I’m outed as a blogger, at least to a small group. Liz and I had a brief conversation with David Callard, current chair of Union’s board. David was active at St. Mary’s years ago.
Juanita Webster, of DSA’s Religion and Socialism Commission, told me that Gary Dorrien would be on a panel at the Left Forum 2007 in March. I just checked the Left Forum website and the panel is to include Norm Farinelli and Harvey Cox also, so I am looking forward to that.
1 week ago