The Society of Christian Ethics (SCE) held its annual meeting in Washington, D.C., last week, and I was happy to be able to attend it again, as I did last year in New Orleans.
One of the enjoyable things about going to academic meetings such as the SCE is seeing old friends and acquaintances, even though since I spent most of my career in Japan I don’t know very many of the people at such gatherings here in the U.S.
Two of the people I did enjoy seeing again this year were graduate school friends and colleagues of my daughter Karen. Miguel De La Torre and Stacey Floyd-Thomas were in the Ph.D. program with her at Temple University, and both of them were speakers in the same session I attended last Friday.
|Miguel De La Torre|
Miguel is a Cuban-American, and he talked at some length about the prejudice and mistreatment of Cubans-Americans (and Latinos/as in general) in the U.S. Stacey is African-American, and she talked, also at some length, about the prejudice and mistreatment of African-Americans in general and especially of African-American women. But in spite of the odds against them, Miguel and Stacey have become two of the most prominent members of the SCE.
Those who attended the SCE meeting this year, as every year, were perhaps close to 80% white American males. But Miguel, who is a professor at Illif Theological Seminary, was elected president of the SCE for the coming year. And Stacey, a professor of Vanderbilt Divinity School, is currently serving as the Executive Director of the SCE.
In spite of their minority status Miguel and Stacey are in positions that by far most of the “privileged” white males will never find themselves in. And they are certainly deserving of the positions they hold in the SCE, for they are outstanding scholars—and outstanding human beings.
Thus, it is obvious that some people can and do rise above the discriminatory structures of society. Miguel and Stacey are prime examples of that. Miguel shared some about the struggles of his mother, an illiterate Cuban woman, in this country. But he has become a widely respected scholar and ethicist, attested to by the fact that he is now the SCE president.
I certainly agree, though, with Miguel and Stacey in what they say about the entrenched prejudice against people of color, against people of recent immigrant families, and against women. And I appreciate the work they are doing to combat that prejudice.
In spite of people such as Miguel and Stacey, why are a disproportionate number of the homeless, unemployed, and financially struggling people in this country people who in race, gender, and ethnicity are the same as these outstanding scholars? The lingering deep-seated prejudice toward Blacks, Hispanics, and women is, no doubt, one of the foremost reasons.
Can only a very select few, people with outstanding intellect and character traits such as are evident in Miguel and Stacey, overcome the odds against them? Perhaps. That is why we need to join them and other like-minded people in continuing to work against the entrenched racism and sexism in a society that continues to be characterized by white (and male) privilege.