The Myth of Equality: a review


If you’ve been following the writing career of Ken Wytsma, you’ll note that he’s been tackling such lightweight subjects as the pursuit of Justice and the practical nature of paradox. All kidding aside, Wytsma brings a warmth and intelligence to his material that is both accessible and respectable at the same time. Falling down on either side is not good, so this is important. A book that errs on being too accessible often dumbs down research and salient points. A book that errs on respectability can become laborious and too narrow. And this is especially important in his newest book entitled The Myth of Equality.

Immediately, the word ‘equality’ needs to be set in context and in a world super charged with angry tweets and social media rants, a book that tackles subjects like white privilege, equality, racial tension, and power structures must be both accessible and respectable. After all, this is what we all want in adult conversations about serious subjects and let me say from the start that this is the best way to read this book. I don’t think books on justice or equality accomplish much in an era overloaded with blog posts and web based information. My initial comment on Wytsma’s new book is that this should be read with another person or in a small group. In fact, I think it’s hard to grow in this subject area without allowing someone else to ask questions of you in real time and over a period of time

And I am giving away the most impactful undercurrent in Wytsma’s book. He frames it this way in chapter eleven: “Listening isn’t just about content but also about whose voice carries it.” Listening, then, is more than information and involves context and involves language, tone, non-verbal communication, and culture. Later on, Wytsma talks about the “texture to truth that comes from experiencing something directly,” and there is about a three hour coffee shop conversation that could stem from those two ideas alone.

The beginning of the book is an effort to set “white privilege” in a historical context and it’s an overview that references Downton Abbey, aristocracy, and European influence quite a bit. While this is important and to be commended, I felt like this overview in the first few chapters fought against the experiential aspects described in later chapters. For this reason, I feel Wytsma, like his book Pursuing Justice is writing an introduction to a subject that deserves further treatment.

Over the Thanksgiving holiday last year, I read Bryan Stephenson’s powerful book Just Mercy and I was glad to see Wytsma also highly recommend it. Stephenson’s book also gets the point across, but in the experiential, direct, and textured way that seems more focused and fervent.

Let me be clear. I think The Myth of Equality is clear-headed, accessible, respectable, and an important contribution to a discussion that is textured and layered with historical context rich in individual and collective nuances. At twelve chapters, Wytsma’s book is approachable and readable. What happens, though, if Wytsma’s subject gets the narrative voice of Stephenson’s Just Mercy?

In the end, this is an introduction to not only a subject that carries weight and baggage, but also a posture that carries the burden of listening and learning. Shame is the enemy of authentic relationship, so Wytsma is right to tread carefully through this topic. If you’re willing to have an adult discussion, Ken Wytsma could be a helpful guide and the world could use a few more adult conversations about things that matter.

 

 

(Royalties from sales of this book will go to helping leaders of color get published through The VOICES Project. )

Where Power Resides

Washington is broken.

Wait….What?

When that phrase is uttered, what is meant is that the people elected to office have done a poor job leading. The people “elected to office,” have not performed their duties like most people expect. Gridlock. Negative rhetoric. The same men and women in office for years making little progress on issues or policies or problems. That’s what is meant when someone says Washington is broken. Personally, visiting the city is fun and always a bit energizing. Lots going on, good food, and enough to see to stimulate most imaginative people.

The power of Washington, though, at least from how our current government is framed, resides with people from all over the country.

The Power of a Positive God

I was planning out my month the other day and as I looked at the calendar I realized there are a good many hurdles ahead of me. Immediately I felt overwhelmed and had to take a deep breath as anxiety worked hard to steal my confidence. I began doubting my ability to deliver the tasks at hand. My mind was then paralyzed from any constructive thought or action.

Later that morning I met with a friend who began sharing with me some books she had read on positive thinking and lent me one of them. She’s a highly accomplished individual so I quickly began reading, trying to tap into any insights and encouragement I could find. The principles they taught had a great deal of wisdom behind them. I began applying some of them immediately and was amazed to find how much more I was able to accomplish.

This got me thinking about the many arguments I’ve heard in the past that such practices are “new age” and should be avoided.

Drawing near to God Like a Drowning Lifeguard

Have you ever heard someone talk about drawing near to God, probably referencing James 4:8? Sometimes people talk about being far from God, feeling disconnected, separated from Him. We often think about this in terms of getting closer to God or having an intimate personal connection to God. Do we really draw near to God? Are we far from him? Do we need to find Him and move closer to Him? I don’t really think so. I think God is always there, we just need to turn around.

When I was younger (so much younger than today) I was a beach lifeguard in California.  I saved people everyday.  Most of the time they didn't even know I was there until I reached out and pulled them up from the surf.  They always thanked me and I always said - it's my job.

Now I have a six year old daughter and we go to the beach all the time. I take her down to the water and she stands in the surf, calling out each time a wave comes toward us, squealing with a strange mixture of joy and fear. I stand right behind her within arms reach, ready to prop her up, give her strength, give her direction, and pick her up just before she falls into the water. I want her to have the experience of being in front of the waves, feeling the force, getting knocked about; but I don’t want her to be hurt or panicked.

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