Don’t Boo……Move

  Don’t Boo……Move

The election is over.  We have to come to grips with some hard truths and then act accordingly.

This election was not about policy, it was about emotion and fear.  Whites in this country voted for Trump.  53% of white women and 63% of white men.  Why? We can say the economy, but that wouldn’t make sense because 62% of working class and 72% of working white men voted against their economic interests. So there has to be other reasons, and sadly, there is no way to see this outside the context of race. If we remember the birthers, the whites who we overheard in pleasant conversation denounce Obama and Obamacare, the unsuspecting whites who voted republican because that’s just what some do…At the end of the day, this was an anti-urban, anti-intellectual, anti-diversity vote.  The revenge of the birthers.  I spoke with a young woman today who was in tears, mostly because she voted for Trump because her and her family are Republicans. She didn’t pay attention, she just voted (R) now she was in front of me crying because the full weight of the consequences of the election hit her and she realized that Trump doesn’t hold some of the values she does, like promoting diversity, marriage equality and the right to choose.  “But elections have consequences” I told her, “And this one will have some potentially very reactionary ones, that is what you should have thought about before you voted.”  I think there are many who voted for Trump because he simply is a reality t.v. star and they thought it was a goof. Many voted for Trump as a vote against the establishment writ large- there is plenty that is broken about the way we do politics in this country, and at the end, seeing the hypocrisy in the Democratic Party (regardless of how the information was obtained) just tainted Hillary as part of that system. Finally, there are those who are the true racists- quiet and vocal, who saw this as an end to the Obama experiment and damn sure weren’t going to elect a woman.  Not after eight years of a black man (I’m sure they use another word).

Black turnout was lower for Clinton than Obama.  This is for two reasons.  One, black intellectuals who carry much weight in the community…. Cornell West, Tavis Smiley, Eddie Glaude, all important and visible black intellectuals, denounced Hillary.  Cornell West was particularly vicious in his denunciation, but I don’t think the split of intellectuals between supporters for Hillary, Stein and Bernie was public enough to create the 5-7% decline in black votes.

Voter suppression may have stolen the election. Over 800 polling places, most in African American and poor areas were closed in states like Ohio, Texas, Wisconsin and North Carolina.  In North Carolina, early voting was down, in counties affected by suppression laws, where African American turn out was as low as 71% of 2012 numbers, yet in counties that were not ‘encumbered’ 91% of blacks in those counties voted.  In other words, in counties that were most heavily democratic, and or black, only the barest minimum was done to allow early voting—one polling place PER COUNTY.  If you are poor, or cannot afford because of the job to be in line for 3-5 hours, you don’t vote.  So, Obama won the state by 15,000 in 2008, voter suppression is passed and Romney won in 2012 by 150,000 and Trump won the state in 2016 by 177,530.   In Ohio 200,000 people were purged from the electoral rolls through October when a court order ended the purge and demanded the voters disenfranchised receive provisional ballots.  The problem is early voting was cut back and those who vote early are majority democrats and minorities.  Many were either not given a ballot and told they had been purged and therefore need to obtain a new voter registration, or were given ballots which cannot be counted because they need a provisional ballot since they were purged.  In Arizona, polling places were reduced, in Maricopa county (the most populated county in the state) some 70 polling places were closed making it more difficult to vote. In a report authored by Zoltan Hajnal of the University of California San Diego and others, found that voter suppression tactics could depress Latino turnout by 9.3  points, African American turnout by 8.6 and Asian American turnout by 12.5 points. Wisconsin voter ID laws are restrictive against African Americans. Trump wins Wisconsin by 1 point. Ohio Trump wins by 8.6 points, Florida Trump by 1 point; North Carolina Trump by 4 points; Arizona Trump by 4 points.  We have to ask the question: Was this election stolen from the people because of the gutting of the Voting rights Act and the consequent Voter ID and other suppression tactics used to disenfranchise the largest new segment of voters- blacks and browns? It stands to reason that we need researchers to do a full investigation, but I think this is more than coincidence.  By the way, in Pennsylvania Trump won by 2 points.

So what do we do now?

As a Christian, I plan to first of all recognize that I serve God, and remember that the arc of time bends toward justice.  I plan to continue to walk in this world as an embodiment of the love of God. I will fail, but every morning I get new mercies and try again.  And right now more than anything…. Well like the song says, “what the world needs now is love sweet love.”

The world also needs justice, and I will be working with those in my local area to promote justice.  That means, for me, working to bring racial and economic justice through educating- in the classroom, on the street, at Starbucks, wherever.

What I will not do is hate those who voted for Trump. I will not and do not hate Trump.  Unlike those  who never gave Obama any respect and treated him out of their racial hatred, I will not return the favor. I realize that many of you are trapped in a system of racism that you can’t even see most of the time, or recognize and when you do have no understanding of how to free your mind.  We have to break the tide.  We must have a national conversation about race now, because a few years from now may be too late.

We need to have a real discussion about the environment. As a Christian, as a human being, I urge you to read Laudato Si, the Papal Encyclical on caring for our common home. This election could be the moment that tips the scale toward the destruction of the environment.

It is time to move.  Don’t boo……..move

Find an organization that works on your issue- whether it be race, the environment, education, women’s rights etc. and join. Fight like hell for justice and build coalitions so that (as the Democratic, or who knows what party rises out of the ashes of Tuesday- remember, minorities lost, the Democratic party lost and the establishment Republican Party lost in this election,) those who believe in a moral universe where all beings are treated with dignity and respect, who believe exploitation of all sorts must end and that capitalism must be restrained for the good of the planet and all creatures that inhabit it, if you believe there is such a thing as the common good, join us.  We can and must create a new order that is based on true biblical principles, like dignity and respect for ALL, stewardship of the planet to protect it and allow it to flourish, protection of the widow and the orphan- taking care of the poor, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting those in prison (like dismantling the prison industrial complex) recovery of sight to the blind, liberty to the oppressed these are the goals I fight for.

Let’s move!!!!

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Method or Message: Taking a Knee with Colin

Method or Message

 After about eight weeks now, the Colin Kaepernick National Anthem protest has not died, in fact, it has grown and been repeated in demonstrations all over the country, and athletes individually and collectively from the NFL to high schools are taking a knee in protest.  There has also been quite a backlash to the protest.  I want to look at this and then ask the question: what will/can you do to make things better?

Let’s begin here, Colin Kaepernick started this protest as a solitary expression of his own belief that, for him, a way to register his dismay and frustration with the extrajudicial killing of black men by police was to sit while the National Anthem was playing.  He didn’t hold a press conference, he didn’t wear a sign.   He sat down.  A reporter asked him why he was sitting, and Kap answered the question.  Eight weeks later and here we are.  Now let’s take a step back and put this protest in context.  The way police have treated African Americans as part of the justice system of this country has been one tool of oppression for over 200 years.  If we go back and look at the story, we must begin with the understanding that the United States was founded and grew institutionally in a period where it was deeply influenced and shaped by slavery.  One of the key underpinnings of what most call the “American Revolution,” in addition to the usual narrative we hear, which I am not disputing, but adding a layer of complexity to,  was a growing angst among slaveholders in North America that as slave rebellions grew in the Caribbean, and as a nascent abolitionist movement was growing in England along with the protests of the East Africa Company, if abolition came, the colonists would never be compensated for their property (slaves) if lost through the actions of Parliament and therefore a better solution for their civilization and political economy was revolt. This of course raises a question: What is a slave? A slave is a human being who is regarded as property by another.  This country grew under the primary political economy of the period, slavery, and its auspices.  Our Constitution is deeply beholden to the idea that black life is inferior and black lives do not matter as much as white lives.  Why would that be? Because the institution of slavery itself is based on the principle that black life is property and therefore not something to be seen as equal to European lives. It is in that milieu that our Constitution was written.  Let me quote from the document:

Article I section 2

Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons.

Article IV section 2

No Person held to Service or Labour in one State, under the Laws thereof, escaping into another, shall, in Consequence of any Law or Regulation therein, be discharged from such Service or Labour, but shall be delivered up on Claim of the Party to whom such Service or Labour may be due.

In the writing of the document that became the organic law of the land, the question of representational apportionment of the legislature was answered in a way that not only disfranchised blacks, but reconfirmed their inferiority. The African was only 3/5 of a human being.  Then the full weight of the federal government was leveraged to assist slaveholders in retrieving their property in human beings. The first law enforcement function in the document is to catch and return slaves to their masters.

The Constitution, which yes, banned the international importation of slaves- a good thing, did not take the truly radical step of freeing the slave and marking them as fully human, fully part of American life, culture or law. (For those of you who argue the framers were trapped in the pro slavery position, I point you back to the Declaration of Independence, a draft of which, Jefferson wrote in the manumission of the slaves, an opportunity to live up to the document’s ideals, but it was stricken from the document.) From an economic perspective, this was great for Virginia and North Carolina who then engaged in a vigorous internal slave trade to the new areas created in the Southwest territories Act of 1790 that allowed for slavery south of the Ohio River  But truth be told, the mindset that harbored such thoughts was not initiated by the ‘founding fathers.’ It goes back even further. If one takes a moment to gaze at the Psalter map of 1260, one is forced to ask a question: what is the depiction and institutionalization of ‘the other’ mean.

Here is the map, which places Jerusalem at the center of the world and Europe at the ‘top’ of the map as evidenced by the Garden of Eden and being located directly under Jesus. But at the South and East of the map, closer to hell, are the depictions of those who were believed to inhabit what we would call Africa and Asia.

 

 

 

 

 

What arose from this was the idea that those not European were ‘savages’ ‘barbarians’ and therefore not deserving of the dignity or respect of Europeans. Look at the grotesque, cannibalistic images of ‘the other.’ The writing of the time created an ‘Occulus Mundi’ that permeated European thinking.  Thus, with the arrival of Columbus in the Western Hemisphere, and the exploration of Europeans of the non-European world with greater frequency because of the monopoly of ocean going vessels, the establishment of the lie that rests at the center of the last 500 years of history was established: That Europeans are inherently superior to all other peoples by virtue of the color of their skin.   The British institutionalized the lie with their rationalizations about Africans when they jumped into the colonialization game in the mid 16th century.  The British came to sub Saharan African with a word to describe Africans- black.  Now this is critical, because language is a contested institution because words have meaning and that meaning changes over time (for a useful exercise ask yourself what is the first thing that comes into your mind when you think of the word welfare. Then read the Preamble to the Constitution- does you definition jibe with the meaning of the word when the document was written?). For the English, using the Oxford dictionary of 1533 read black as: Of evil intention, dirty, soiled, malignant, of malicious intent. Now this is important, because if the meaning of a word does not fit that which it is ascribed to, guess what? You need another word. So with their 16th century scientific minds, the British went to figure out why the African was so dark, was the word black appropriate? Well their conclusions were that blacks were burned by the sun (soiled, dirty) The theologians argued that the African was black because after Noah’s ark landed, Noah got drunk and two of his sons found him in his nakedness and covered him, but his third son, Ham, saw Noah in his nakedness and did not cover him.  Thus, the Bible tells us there was a curse on Ham.  The theologians reasoned that since the other sons were the root of the Europeans (Shem) and the Near East and Asia (Jeptha) then the curse on Ham had to be his skin color and he then, was the original root of the Africans. Thus Africans were cursed by God. (Of course the corrective needs to be placed here. Ham was the father of Canaan, so when Noah cursed Ham, he cursed Canaan- those who would inhabit the Promised Land, who would be conquered by Joshua and Israel, not sub-Saharan Africans Genesis 9-10).Then, with the proximity of Africans to Apes, and since the African didn’t wear ‘clothes’ and because he worshipped a different god, and because he had fat lips and dark skin and a big nose and ran around with no clothes was an obvious clue to their lascivious behavior, it was also clear that the Africans were mating with the apes (malignant, evil, soiled, dirty). Thus, the word black fit the African and because he was cursed and not fully human (it wasn’t until the mid 1720s that the British recognized the African had a soul) he could be enslaved.  Now project that ideology forward into the institutionalization of the lie. The creation of custom, law, ritual, religious practice and belief that is built on the lie at the center of the modern and you get the 3/5 rule.  You get chattel slavery, you get a country based in white skin privilege. You get Laquan McDonald, Tamire Rice, clear and obvious disparities in how we enforce law and punish those who break the law. You get white flight and gated communities. You get institutional structures based in the simple notion- white over black.

So this brings us to the War of 1812. Who was Francis Scott Key? A man of his times. A Maryland lawyer and slaveholder, the son of a slaveholder, Key was also a picture of the conflicted nature of slavery. Key started owning slaves in 1800 and at some point, freed most of the slaves he inherited from his father, but kept one and paid him wages to be the foreman of a new group of slaves Key purchased after the war.  He defended slaves in court who were freed and wanted to change their names, but he also represented slave owners who sued northerners to retrieve their property- escaped slaves. So this man, deeply rooted in slave culture, and slave civilization and as an owner of slaves, I think it is reasonable to assume that Key was also familiar with the brutality of the peculiar institution. This is the man who wrote our National Anthem. The third stanza reads (yes, there is a third stanza):

And where is the band who so vauntingly swore,

That the havoc of war and the battle’s confusion

A home and a Country should leave us no more?

Their blood has wash’d out their foul footstep’s pollution.

No refuge could save the hireling and slave

From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave

And the Star -spangled banner in triumph doth wave

O’er the land of the free and home of the brave

 

 

This stanza is not one that speaks of the hope of freedom, but rather implores the terror, and torture of slaves who fought in the war for the British for a freedom in reality, not a feared lack of freedom. The verse argues for those slaves who during the conflict ran away to gain freedom to be killed and the flag of the land of the free and the home of the brave flies over their deaths and terror. Funny, the song that is the national anthem of the country is one that celebrates the terror and killing of a substantial minority population within its borders.  What does that say about who we think are the free and whose home is the home of the brave. This alone verifies Kap’s protest, but the song isn’t what he was protesting.  What he was protesting is the continuation of this story.  A story that includes the trajectory of the Civil War, the brutality of the reconstruction period.  The 100 years from 1863 to 1963 that witnessed the national disgrace of segregation, lynching of over 2500 African Americans, the birth of the KKK, the murder of Emmit Till and the hundreds of institutional structures that created what we see today. The rise of the confederate flag in the 1950s as a sign of nullification to policies and laws to promote first class citizenship for all. The ghetto didn’t grow up organically. The police since the dawn of the 20th century were created to protect those outside the ghetto and serve those outside the ghetto.  It was the police that hosed and put dogs on civil rights protesters.   It was police who beat and gassed the marchers in Selma.  It was the police who stood by and allowed for the beating of freedom riders and were involved in the murder of civil rights workers in Mississippi in1964.  Within all of this milieu, we have come to the place of the primacy of the nihilistic threat (see my earlier post, “The Greatest Threat to the United States”).

What Colin Kaepernick is protesting is the injustice of racism, which in the last 5 or so years has brought attention to an oppressive institution that only now is being more fully exposed because of cell phone technology: law enforcement and the larger issue of mass incarceration.

However, what most of those opposed to Kap’s protest have done is vilify him for the method.  “He should not have taken a knee during the anthem because it disgraced the flag”.  “He disrespected vets.” “He shouldn’t complain, he’s a rich football player.” “Why didn’t he give a bunch of money to something first?” All of these arguments are designed to keep us from addressing what is fundamental which is not the method, but the message.  I do find it curious that there is supposed to be some authorized, acceptable way to protest injustice- usually that method is something that is done in secret so I the viewer, citizen, doesn’t have to confront the message.  I don’t think the message that Tommie Smith or Juan Carlos did on the medal stand at the 1968 Olympics was welcomed either. In some ways, I think we put sports in the ‘no social issues here’ category so we can just be fans. I get that, but even more so, then, the need to use methods that disrupt us from our lethargy. It’s the message we need to focus on, because no matter what method, as long as it is entered into nonviolently and with a clear rational, when and where and how the demonstration is done should illicit tension, should make us think and for those who get angry and denounce the method, and the message, you have to ask why?

Now I have written all this to show that the protest is legitimate.  The message of the protest is legitimate and connects to a long, rich and complex past that is U.S. history.  The protest makes us have to ask the fundamental question: What should I do? What can I do? How do I address the message Kap is voicing and engage it with an eye to unity?

I would begin with a question: How do you see other people? Can you look inside yourself and honestly answer that regardless of any difference- race, class, religion that you see all people as human beings; unique, unrepeatable, deserving of dignity and respect? Because if you do, you are not mad at Kap, you are applauding him because he is saying we must offer justice and mercy to all, because he sees all as his neighbor.  As a Christian, I cannot be angry at calls for justice because like the good Samaritan I see any and all other people as my neighbor.  If that is true, can I say that an institution like the police when it clearly acts in a way that denies human dignity and respect to other humans should not be brought to accountability? If you are my neighbor, can I condone the behavior of a group of people who as a collective entity as part of a larger system called the criminal justice system is denying my humanity? Can I condone the extra judicial killings of blacks by law enforcement if I believe all people are human being; unique, unrepeatable, deserving of dignity and respect? Jesus says I must see all those who I come into contact as my neighbor with no pre conditions. Look in the mirror, your opposition to Kap or BLM is exposing something in you personally.  An area of racism, an area of sin, if you will, that must be confronted in your heart.  So, first thing, we can do is reflect on the evangelical concept of neighbor and assess just who we do not see as our neighbor and why.

Second, we must stand for justice and against injustice.  When we see injustice in any manifestation in our sphere, we must confront it. Amos 5:4 says “Let justice roll down like a river and righteousness like a mighty stream” I like to echo a great witness for justice and theologian, Cornell West here. “Love is justice in public.” If we care about justice we must see in public that justice is carried out in the name of love, not power, not racism, not classism.  Love in public is the presence of justice, not the absence of tension. Amos was making this prophetic comment because the people had turned from God and His commands, and allowed evil to rule the day. Racism is an evil that rules the day and we must do what Amos was telling the Israelites, stand up!!! Confront injustice and let justice flow like a river and righteousness like a mighty stream, we cannot sit idly by and allow injustice in any form to happen while we self absorb into our shells and let evil run rampant.  That must begin in the church.  If you are in a church that has people who applaud or accept injustice, then you are not acting in accordance with God.  Are there racists in the church? You bet!! We must confront that, we must allow room for repentance and speak the truth in love, so here is something you can do: find a person who doesn’t look, or  believe as you do, and break bread together and have a discussion of what is love in public? What is justice?

Third, pray and repent.  It doesn’t matter what side of the racial divide you are on, we need prayer and repentance.  At the individual level that is to do the self examination and ask God to give you the courage to change, and then to repent.  Change your life- not just your mind.  Change your words, change your mind- your thinking.  Begin to read and analyze from different perspectives and always pray that God keep your heart open to see injustice and to ally with those who are seeking justice.  At the macro level, we need to have this discussion in our churches, in our schools and in our communities.  The model I would recommend is the Truth and Reconciliation Commission erected in South Africa after apartheid. The goal of which was not to punish oppressors or to glorify victimization, but rather, with immunity, allow those from both sides of the divide to speak their stories and to have all listen to those stories.  Kap is inviting us to look at the stories of those killed by police violence.  Why would we be resistant to that? Do we have the courage to look the history of this nation in the eye and admit that there have been and are currently denominational structures and individuals who have over the period of the this county’s existence operated in opposition to civil rights.  In opposition to justice and for the promotion and maintenance of racist, or racialized structures? If we, the church had the courage to do that, in public, on a city wide, or better, national scale and then act in accordance with a heart that has repented, the church could be the countercultural lights up the darkness.

We as human beings, as Christians, as people of faith, can and must confront injustice.  Let us not confront the method and criticize that, let us instead listen with the ear of our hearts the message, the plea for change, the plea for justice and let us, as the followers of Jesus Christ, lead this nation to repentance and change, which brings forgiveness and reconciliation.  Let us join and create true community where we see all other human beings as human beings; unique, unrepeatable, deserving of dignity and respect.

Let us strategize here to make positive change and take those ideas from cyberspace to physical space

Rising Back to Consciousness

This blog is about my analysis. It is also about my journey. Enjoy this non-political post, I hope this encourages you.

Rising Back to Consciousness

I want to share a recent experience that has had a profound impact on me.  A profound yet unrecognized situation was happening to me and I didn’t even know it.  I was falling into sleep.  Into unconsciousness. That state when you are just going through life, going through your day, in a profound state of self deception.  Let me explain a little more. So I didn’t realize it was happening.  I was walking through a very slight sand storm called life. I didn’t think much of it because I was busy- addicted to busy- doing my thing, you dig? And little sand clusters imperceptibly began to attach themselves to me and I kept walking.  Off to the job, home, work, sleep back to work punctuated by drama and diversions- diversions that don’t pull you out of the situation you are in, but diversions that keep you going in the direction of self deceived, self indulgent, conscious ignorance of what is real.

After a while the sand continues to build, and you can’t see where you are going as the sand fills your eyes, but the amazing thing about the sand of sleep, the sand of unconsciousness is you don’t realize the sand has covered your entire body, filled your eyes and ears because you are just moving along under the power of habit.  You see that was where I was.  I was doing what I have always done, but everything I was doing- teaching, being a husband, a father, a follower of Jesus Christ was just unconscious, sleeping self deception.  I wasn’t really living, just going through all the perfunctory things we call life, deluded that I was really living.  I was at high school football games, I was standing in front of my classes giving variations of material I had known for years. I was managing at home, not really in any kind of intimate relationship with my wife,  you know, where schedule keeping substitutes for meaningful dialogue and any attempt at dialogue ends up in conflict. I was moving from day to day with this growing crust encapsulating my soul, my spirit.  I was functioning, but not thriving on the ups and downs of life. Since I suffer from depression, I should have noticed the desire to just do nothing and sleep was a warning. I hadn’t realized however, just how far I had fallen.

Then one day, I was finished teaching and I wanted to start outlining a bible study I was teaching (week four, in other words, I was barely conscious through the first several weeks of the bible study) so I did what is my habit, I put on the headphones and put some praise music on. When you’re unconscious, you play on the music because it sounds good, not because you are actually worshiping God.

As the music pervaded my mind and soul, it happened.  I could feel a piece of sand, a chunk of sleep fall off me.  I could start to feel. I could begin to open my eyes and see again.  As the music continued to touch my spirit, I began to pray and then I stopped working and let the music wash over me and penetrate the dry hard sand that had encapsulated me in my habits. I got up from my chair, no longer able to contain what was happening and now, two hours in, I decided to walk around the campus and as I did I just sang out to God worshiping Him in Spirit and Truth. With every song more of the crusted on normalcy of life began to fall away.  With every tear the hardened crust around my heart began to break and then it happened- the crust fell from my ears. I could hear “that still small voice” urging me to press through and keep letting the crust fall off. I could feel again.  I could feel the hand of God touching me and letting me know, “I love you.” I was awake.

Funny thing being awake.  It’s only then that you know you were asleep.  All of a sudden I could feel. I went to football practice and I gathered my defense around me and I told them how proud I was of them, how much I loved them and I couldn’t hold back the tears of joy, the tears of love, the tears of a heart that could feel love again!!! I went to Bible Study that night and we had an amazing time of teaching and then we listened to a song, and again, I broke with tears of joy. The moment you realize that praise is manna from heaven, you awake to the fact that as a church goer I was letting manna fall all around me, but because the sand had crusted me in, I just let it rot because I realized I loved God, but I also was moving in a way that basically shut Him out.  I was o.k.  I was o.k. I was in- but not all in.  Then a good friend of mine had a loss in his family.  I have been weeping for his loss for two weeks now.  I can feel his pain when I pray for him. I didn’t cry when my father died.  I didn’t cry when there were some issues going on in my family.  That’s the beauty and curse of being crusted in.  When you don’t feel, you can say all the right words, show the correct response and never actually feel anything.  And when you are asleep that is beautiful simply in the fact that you have insulated yourself from being woken up. You look fine, you look brave, you look like you have it together.

Now, I am awake!!! In some ways I am an emotional basket case right now.  I cry at the drop of a hat. I prayed with our church today for our pastor and I was in tears.  I’m weeping as I write this right now. But they are not tears of pain, they are tears of joy, tears that I am exposed, I am awake to the richness of life. That means feeling the pain and hurt of a friend as he grieves, it means letting the Holy Spirit work through me to lead a prayer and being honest and open and vulnerable to allow His power to work through me and be caught in the passion and love of the moment. It means praying for a friend and knowing it is real, it is honest, it is in faith.  It is having the courage to realize just how long you were asleep and repent.

Sleep is easy. When we dream in our sleep we can accomplish anything. We solve the problems, we live the life we think is the life we need. When we sleep we may look like we are awake, but that is the deception of sleep walking isn’t it? Sleep means we have stimuli that is generated from our own mind. We produce, manage and think the outcome is ours when we sleep. But when we wake, we realize that there is pain out here, that we cannot control one thing- often not even ourselves.  We realize that ending the self deception is to live truly with God and for others.  For many that is a nightmare. Don’t let that be a cliché. When the crust falls off and we are awake again, free again-exposed again, vulnerable again- that is when we begin to truly understand the imperative of God. The challenge of this life- the true measure of reality which is simply this: can you love God, love your fellow human being and do it in the joy of right now? Can you love God and love others and NOT be in control? Can you allow yourself to be exposed with all the emotional danger that comes with that, and know that it’s o.k., because God is running your life- not you.

To be awake is to face reality through God’s eyes- not your own.

Wake-up

 

#Brexit, #Trexit, #No Exit part II: No Exit

#Brexit, #Trexit, #No Exit

No Exit

Last post I spoke from the global.  Let me speak from the personal. Several years ago I went camping in Tennessee. I was a young airborne infantry officer taking leave to meet my then girlfriend. I was winding through the Smokey Mountains and the camp site was not clearly marked and it was late, well after sundown.  I stopped in a convenient store to get directions (yes, men do that). When I walked in, I saw the clerk and a state trooper, I thought, “great, I’ll ask the trooper.” When I stopped and very respectfully said, “sir, I am looking for this location, can you help me?” His face remained stone and expressionless. He was about six foot tall, and he just stood there, looking at me with a look that I took as one of intimidation and superiority.  I waited for an answer, in silence, for about 30 seconds.  Not a peep from the white state trooper.  I walked over to the counter and asked the cashier if he could help me.  The cashier, having witnessed the entire encounter, thankfully gave me directions and I walked outside the store toward my car.  About 15-20 seconds prior, a pickup truck with a bunch of teenagers pulled into the parking lot, and seeing me as I exited, with the only car in the lot, other than the trooper’s, the kids began to throw rocks at me car.  I ran to my car and got in.  Back then there was no conceal and carry, but there was the concept of the “make my day” law. In those days, I was not opposed to personal firearms and had one in the car. I had that split second decision to make.  I can get out of this car, fire a shot in the air and scare these kids off, or just drive away and hope they don’t follow.  As I reached for the gun and turned my head, I saw the state trooper.  He wasn’t stopping this assault on me and my BRAND NEW, Honda Accord LXI hatchback, infantry blue, in blue on blue. In fact, the trooper was watching the entire scene with his arms folded and face still an expressionless rock.  I knew in that moment, if I got out of the car with or without the gun, I was dead.  I floored it and took off.

I am still here.

A few years later, my wife and I were driving home from a family reunion and we stopped just over the Illinois border at about 5 am to get a quick cup of coffee and breakfast.  Our boys, 5 and 10 at the time were asleep in the van.  The two of us walked in and there was the waitress, who sat us at a table, and about two tables away were three guys and three girls, maybe in their mid-twenties, early thirties, eating.  We ordered coffee, I had a side of sausage and my wife ordered a bowl of oatmeal.  As we began to eat we heard from the other table, “nigger, nigger, nigger.  Nigger, nigger nigger. Go back to Africa fucking nigger.” My wife and I were talking and two questions entered the discussion. Question one was, do we say something, or just ignore their racist taunts? The second question was, if we speak up or confront them, what happens to our children in the van? Would we be too injured to help them? Would they be harmed? We decided to eat our meal, ignore, as best we could the taunts, and then leave- and yes we still left a 15% tip.

I am still here.

When I was hired at the university I still work for, I moved into my office and within a week, I overheard two professors talking. “He doesn’t look like an intellectual to me. He’s just an affirmative action hire, he can’t be that smart.”

I am still here

I was stopped in Naperville, Illinois, a wealthy Chicago suburb not far from the university, and when I was pulled over at about 1 am after working on my dissertation, I was a little surprised.  As a black man in America, I know the drill- license plate up to date-check, lights in order- check, plate light good- check. I address these things because as a black man I know that if I give a cop any pretext to stop me, he will and that could mean arrest, or beating, or death.  The policeman pulled me over, and he didn’t tell me I was speeding or any other violation.  His question? “WHY are YOU here?”

I am still here

My son’s daughter used to live next door to us. One night my son went next door to check on her.  A police officer turned the corner into my neighborhood and put his lights on my son, aggressively pulled into our driveway and began telling my son, “you, get over here.” My wife went outside and explained that this was our home, that was our son and whatever the issue was, we could solve it. The response from the officer, “we don’t need your animalistic behavior, so go back inside.” The officer proceeded to very roughly pin my son against the car and frisk him.  My wife, having not gone inside was now pleading, “what are you doing, stop that!” The officer, once asked for his badge number and made aware that we knew the chief and former chief, let my son go and told us the police were looking for an African American male with dreads and a purple T-shirt in his mid to late 20s.  My son was 20, short cropped hair, wearing a white t-shirt with his mother pleading with the cop, and that was how he was treated by the white officer.

I am still here

My son is still here

I mention these incidents because for me and millions of other African Americans- there is no exit.  We aren’t going anywhere.  And guess what? The majority of whites are not going anywhere either.

I had to make a choice.  And for a time I decided that the answer, for me was first to try and be white.  For a time in my life, the most anti-black person I knew was me.  I figured if I could just get white people to approve of me, accept me, then I could escape the vile, ugly history that I was part of. Guess what? That didn’t work and I realized it when I walked into the middle of a nigger joke in college. Soon after college was over and the military and the racism I saw up to that point in my life, I made another choice.  To read and truly understand the history of the African American experience.  This led to another choice.  I turned from self-hatred, to hating whites. The choice of carrying that chip on my shoulder was because confronted with the history of America, I saw no exit. Hear me- the choice to hate whites was based on personal experience, and a close reading and research into the history of my family and this country. If you take a real look, there is no exit.

The constitution calls me not human, but 3/5 of a human (Article I section 2) and places the full weight of the American government into catching escaped slaves (Article IV section 2). The entire history of the brutality of slavery, from the beating, castration of African American men, and rape of African American women, to the bloody center of the Civil War- slavery to the continuing benefit this country receives from slavery is real.  There is no debate here on these issues there is no exit from the reality of the brutality of slavery, the systematic racism not only of slavery, but also the reconstruction period which saw things like the creation of America’s first terrorist organization, the Christian group known as the KKK. To the post reconstruction era of Jim Crow and segregation.  A period which saw between 1890 and 1925 over 2500 lynchings of African Americans. Many of the gruesome events made into postcards.

Postcards

The Omaha Courthouse Lynching of 1919

Postcards

Postcards,

to write home and tell mom about the birth of your new child.

Postcards.

NO EXIT

I don’t have time to talk about Emmit Till and the thousands of African Americans who lost their lives at the hands of racism.  What I can say, is at some point, if I kept on with my rage, with my hate I would have gone insane. I don’t know this shooter in Dallas personally, but I know when you are full of self-hatred and hatred for a group that you can point to- hear me- point to AS A COLLECTIVE, HISTORICAL GROUP that is responsible for unspeakable brutality for decades; a group that as I am sure, (because I don’t know any black person who has not faced the bludgeoning, spirit crushing blow of racism) he blamed for acts of racism against him personally, when he saw people who looked like him gunned down in the street like dogs, blown away at point blank range, shot and killed in front of their children, after hearing the counterproductive chant “no justice, no peace” he acted. He acted the way someone does when they see no exit.  I don’t condone his acts or his hate, but I am saying that when you think there is no exit, you believe that the only way you can act, the only way to see anything that looks like change- is act with violence.

Fortunately for me, when I had a son, I chose another path. Love. I chose to forgive, I chose to let the chip fall from my shoulder and read even more, work for change, raise my voice for justice in all its forms through non-violence. I chose a new hero and a new path. Martin Luther King Jr and Jesus Christ. But there is still no exit.

There is no exit through denial of the problem.  There is no exit through evasion, obfuscation, blaming black people, or the police or government or the media.

There is no exit. If you want to blame someone for the issues of racism, police brutality, mass incarceration, poverty, poor education and the whole host of social ills that coalesce around the central lie of the modern era- that one race is superior to all others and therefore justified in creating and maintaining systems of oppression and discrimination for its benefit and the denial of humanity to those who are ‘them’ and not the dominant European race,

THERE IS NO EXIT

LOOK IN THE MIRROR

Have YOU educated yourself in any way about the history, epistemology, cultural, political or economic reality of this country in regards to African-Americans?

Have YOU looked deep in your heart and psyche and rooted out EVERY vestige of racism, and hate and prejudice?

Have YOU worked for justice, compassion and love for ALL people?

Did your heart break when the police officers were killed, but not Alton Sterling or Philando Castile? Did your heart break for those two and not the police?

Does your heart break when you look at the criminal justice system in America that incarcerates more people than any other nation on earth? Did you know that?

Does your heart break when you think about the “Savage Inequalities” of public education?

Does your heart break when you see or read about senseless gun violence? Sex trafficking? Addiction? Domestic violence? Abortion? The killing of abortion doctors? Refugees? The homeless?

 

We have a racism problem in this country and there is NO EXIT

We have an indifference problem in this country and there is NO EXIT

We have a lack of love problem in this country and there is NO EXIT

‘They’ are not the problem. I am the problem.

If you want to get off this highway of hate, abuse and death, then look in the mirror, realize YOU are the problem, let your heart break and open yourself to true love. That only requires a heart willing to serve others and see all people as unique, unrepeatable, and deserving of dignity and respect.

Ultimately, as a person of faith, I believe that when followers of Christ finally become broken over ALL the injustices of this nation and pray that they themselves repent and transform into the true image of the one we say we believe, that we will be empowered with the right wisdom to lead the nations out of darkness.

Yes, I place squarely the solution in the hands of the “Church” who need to lament, repent and transform. From this….. there is no exit.

for further reading:

A Selected Bibliography

These are some of the important books on racism and race relations, as well as African-American history that you may find enlightening. They are not in any particular order- including alphabetical, but I hope this rather incomplete list at least provides a starting point for your own reading and study.

 

 

Alexander, Michelle, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in an Age of Colorblindness

Baptist, Edward, The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism

Coates, Ta-Nehisi, Between the World and Me

Jones, Jaqueline, A Dreadful Deceit: The Myth of Race from the Colonial Era to Obama’s America

Walter Rodney, How Europe Underdeveloped Africa

King, Martin Luther Jr. Why We Can’t Wait

_____. Strength to Love

_____. The Autobiography of Martin Luther King Jr. (edited by Clayborne Carson).

_____. Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?

_____. Testament of Hope: The Collected Writings of Martin Luther King Jr.

_____. Stride Toward Freedom: The Montgomery Story

DuBois, W.E.B. John Brown

_____. Dusk of Dawn

_____. Black Reconstruction: 1860-1880

_____. The Souls of Black Folk

West, Cornell, Race Matters

_____. The Cornell West Reader

_____. The Future of American Progressivism

_____. Keeping Faith

Karenga, Maulana, Introduction to Black Studies

Bell, Derrick, And We Are Not Saved: The Elusive Quest for Racial Justice in America

Van Deburg, William, New Day In Babylon: The Black Power Movement And American Culture, 1965-1975

Cruse, Harold, Crisis of the Negro Intellectual

_____. Plural But Equal

Hernton, Calvin, Sex and Racism in America

Forman, James, The Making of a Black Revolutionary

Madhabuti, Haki, Black Men: Single, Dangerous, Obsolete

_____. Claiming Earth: Race, Rape, Ritual, Richness in America and the Search for Enlightened Empowerment

_____. Million Man March/Day of Absence: A Commemorative Anthology

_____. Enemies: The Clash of Races

_____. Why L.A. Happened: Implications of the Los Angeles Rebellion

Genovese, Eugene, The Political Economy of Slavery

_____. Roll Jordan Roll: The World the Slaves Made

Harding, Vincent, There Is a River: The Black Struggle for Freedom in America

Bennet, Larone, The Shaping of Black America

_____. Before the Mayflower: A History of Black America

Berry, Mary Frances, Black Resistance, White Law

Hough, Joseph C. Jr., Black Power and White Protestants: A Christian Response to the New Negro Pluralism

Garrow, David, Bearing the Cross: Martin Luther King Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference

Stewart, Jeffrey, 1001 Things Everyone Should Know About African American History

 Bogle, Donald, Blacks in American Films and Television

Carson, Clayborne, In Struggle: SNCC and the Black Awakening of the 1960s

X, Malcolm, The Autobiography of Malcolm X

_____. Speeches at Harvard

Brooks, Roy, Rethinking The American Race Problem

Oaks, James, The Ruling Race

Woodson, Carter G., The Miseducation of the Negro

Wilson, Amos, Black-On-Black Violence: The Psychodynamics of Black Self-Annihilation in Service of White Domination

Staples, Robert, The Urban Plantation: Racism and Colonialism in the Post Civil Rights Era

Pinkney, Alphonso, The Myth Of Black Progress

Kivel, Paul, Uprooting Racism: How White People Can Work for Racial Justice

Nkrumah, Kwame, Africa Must Unite

Rothenberg, Paula, Race, Class, and Gender in the United States: An Integrated Study

Raboteau, Albert, Slave Religion: The Invisible Institution in the Antebellum South

D’Angelo, Raymond, The Civil Rights Movement: Readings and Interpretations

Carmichael, Stokely and Charles Hamilton, Black Power

Cose, Ellis, The Rage of a Privileged Class

Dyson, Michael Eric, Making Malcolm: The Myth and Meaning of Malcolm X

_____. I May Not Get There With You: The True Martin Luther King Jr.

_____. Race Rules: Navigating the Color Line

_____. Holler if You Hear Me: Searching for Tupac Shakur

_____. Come Hell or High Water: Hurricane Katrina the Color of Disaster

Massy, Douglas and Mary Denton, American Apartheid: Segregation and the Making of the Underclass

Mills, Nicholas, Debating Affirmative Action: Race, Gender, Ethnicity, and the politics of Inclusion

Lipsitz, George, The Possessive Investment in Whiteness: How White People Profit from Identity Politics

Myrdal, Gunnar, An American Dilemma: The Negro Problem and Modern Democracy

Patterson, Orlando, The Ordeal of Integration: Progress and Resentment in America’s “Racial” Crisis

_____. Slavery and Social Death

Wilson, William J. The Truly Disadvantaged: The Inner City, the Underclass, and Public Policy

_____. When Work Dissapears

_____. The Declining Significance of Race

Griffen, John, Black Like Me

Baldwin, James, The Fire Next Time

Ellison, Ralph, Invisible Man

Achebe, Chinua, Things Fall Apart

Akbar, Na’im, Chains and Images of Psychological Slavery

Diop, Cheikh Anta, The African Origin of Civilization

_____. Civilization or Barbarism

Fanon, Frantz, Wretched of the Earth

_____. A Dying Colonialism

Jordan, June, Civil Wars

Manning, Marable, How Capitalism Underdeveloped Black America

Morrison, Toni, Beloved

Walker, Alice, The Color Purple

Washington, Booker T., Up From Slavery

Domhoff, William, Who Owns America Now?

Fredrickson, George, White Supremacy

Kozol, Jonathan, Savage Inequalities: Education in America

_____. Death at an Early Age

_____. Illiterate America

Anderson, Claud, Black Labor, White Wealth: A Search for Power and Economic Justice

McWhorter, Diane, Carry Me Home: Birmingham Alabama: The Climactic Battle of the Civil Rights Revolution.

Branch, Taylor, Parting the Waters: America in the King Years

__________, Pillar of Fire: America in the King Years, 1963-1965

_______, At Canaan’s Edge: America in the King Years, 1965-1968

Omi, Michael, Racial Formation in the United States

Bonilla-Silva, Eduardo, Racism without Racists: Color-Blind Racism and the Persistence of Racial Inequality in America

 Alexander, Michelle, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in an Age of Colorblindness

Wise, Tim, White Like Me: Reflections on Race from a Privileged Son  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

#Brexit, #Trexit, #No Exit part 1

Brexit, Trexit, No Exit pt 1

OK, I want to try and wrap my head around the last month on a couple of levels from global to personal, so please bear with me.  Let’s begin with the global. Back on the 21st of June, we in the U.S. woke to the news that Britain had just voted to leave the EU.  Panic set in as economic uncertainty gripped the markets.  Yet within two days, the market stabilized and the two year window to solve the trade issues looks like enough time to get markets prepared for an orderly transition.  Brexit really was not about economics.  The analysis by Fareed Zakaria as well as the New York Times, and several British intellectuals hint to something much larger, and in many ways more ominous for the future.  Brexit shows the resurgence of a fury of nationalism we haven’t seen in over a hundred years.  The vote in Britain, the angst in France, Germany and the rest of Europe, and the fears here on our own borders are a reflection of a new and potentially dangerous moment.  Culturally, the immigration issue, which for the last decade has been primarily sub Saharan Africans coming into Europe, now combined with the refugee crisis from Middle East, and a broad new question is on the table: Who are we? How do we define nationality, ‘tribe’ if you will, in a moment of tremendous diversity and a continuous inflow of those who are not native born to ‘our’ country?  Right wing nationalist groups are leading the charge in advocating that the issue of free markets, which brought with it the free movement of people, particularly in Europe, was a disaster for the nation and want economic movement across borders, but not the flow of people.

This new nationalism, one that sees its definition in terms of skin color, language and birthplace is raising a new question across Europe. The issue is not one of left or right, as Fareed Zakaria argued, “but who is in and who is out.” This nationalistic streak, not defined by having a necessarily traditional political position is a new issue for policy makers.  Labor sees its fortunes diminished by the off shoring of manufacturing, and the influx of migrants who are increasingly moving into the service sector.  Thus, even though the establishment, or elite of the Labor Party in Britain have a vested economic interest in staying in the EU, most, especially older, members of the Labor movement, if not the party, voted to leave the EU, expressing their fear and desire to retrench into an insular Britain, which of course we haven’t seen since, well, the mid 1400’s? There are lots of possibilities, but let’s just say this, since 1946 the movement of Britain, led initially by Winston Churchill, was to create an integrated Europe where the free flow of goods and people would create the largest economy in the world and bring peace and stability to Europe.   That came to reality in 1972 with the vote by the British to join the EU.  One of the world’s largest economies, anchored by the British and the Germans, the EU along with NATO became one of the most significant relationships between nations in the 20th century.  Seventy years of peace in Europe. It was working. The Tories wanted to stay too.  British Prime Minister Cameron was, many argued, pressured by the far right in England to have the referendum. Most didn’t consider it a realistic possibility that the vote would go the way it did, thus ending the Cameron government and pulling Britain into the new nationalism.

Now the question moving forward is one of what does it mean to be British? Can you be an immigrant and “be British” can you be a Muslim and “be British?” This is the new nationalism.  The struggling to understand what is the identity of the nation state culturally when the free flow of people is allowed.  Who is in? Who is out? The Brexit vote was a vote for cultural isolationism. A vote for exclusion, not inclusion and other countries are also feeling the political pressure to follow suit. As African migration and Middle Eastern refugees continue to move into Europe, the nationalists are mounting their political muscle to reorient countries, not just to the right, but to a new position- cultural tribalism.   Now when I say that, I mean it in the Jonathan Glover way.  Please read Glover’s “Humanity: A Moral History of the 20th Century.” The tribalism I speak of is the nationalistic idea or cultural idea about what makes us-us. Language, birth place, race, religious affiliation. Once these questions are answered, the tribe only accepts ‘us’ and cruelly keeps ‘us’, us by opposing, often violently whoever is now ‘them.’  The movement isn’t just in Europe.

This brings me to Trexit. Trump exit.  Trump embodies and is speaking for a politics based on a nihilistic, xenophobic nationalism.  Mexicans by and large are not hard working people looking for a better life for their family.  “They are murderers, they are rapists, and I suppose, some are good people.”  Trump began his political career, let’s remember, as the primary supporter and backer of the ‘birther’ movement, a lightly camouflaged, racist attack on Barak Obama. The ‘movement’ made Trump a Tea Party darling. The root of the argument, of course that Obama was a Muslim (which apparently disqualifies you from being an American) and born in Africa with a mission to support terrorists in the downfall of America.  The Tea Party ‘we want our country back’ refrain speaks to this ethno nationalist ideology.  In the primaries, Trump ran with it.  Yes, he received 14 million votes.  The question is, do people see Trump as a rational policy maker, or as the leader who can culturally redefine who is ‘us’ and who ‘them.’ is Trump is a representative, an archetype of the ideology that won the Brexit vote.  The question Trump is asking and clearly understands by his discussion of the Brexit vote which he was in favor of, because it showed the British “took their country back.”  So here we are with those who want to build a wall, ban Muslim immigration, and clearly are not interested in all in lessening mass incarceration.  In other words, 2016 is on one level a referendum on the Obama presidency, but it is also a vote on if the US believes that it is somehow existentially threatened by immigration and the color of those immigrants.  A win for Trump is a win for ethnic nationalism, a victory for xenophobia and cultural isolation.  Of course that raises several important questions in and of itself, some of which we have been asking since 1619. What is the place of the black man in this society? What becomes of those who are deemed “them” even though they are Americans?

Guess what? No exit. No exit for African Americans, Latinos, and others who would be classified as them in the ethno nationalist America with white supremacy on an unprecedented upswing.  With the murder of Alton Sterling and the many other cases of police brutality, the now unbridled racism that is now seen as ‘speaking one’s mind’ where will the future take this country? If Trump wins, it takes us down a road that, although unknown, certainly looks dark and one that will be defined by the imposition of an understanding that ‘we’ in America does not mean the inclusive, integrated striving for equality that has defined the country since 1954, but the retrenchment of tribalism and in the darkest glimpse into the mirror, a future Carl Rowan wrote of in his book “The Coming Race War in America.”

On the other hand, if America is the truly exceptional nation we claim, perhaps faced with the reality that there is no exit, those of good will those who want to see a more inclusive America, one that moves us still forward toward equality and justice will raise their voices and defeat the fear of the ethno nationalists, the greed of the corporatists and the hate of the racists.  This is the America I fight for.  This is the America worth fighting for.

“Heed Their Voice and Make Them a King”

….Heed Their Voice and Make Them a King

With all of the vitriol, the pointed, hateful comments I have heard from folks as we approach this election, and I have to say it, most of that hate coming from the right, this situation with Trump and the GOP reminds me of a Bible story.  You see the Jews had entered a time that they wanted to look like all the other nations, they wanted a king to give them security, to give them the morality they thought they sought. The people were insistent, “Give us a king!” the elders shouted. The prophet Samuel took this to God, who said, “Samuel, this is not a rejection of you, it is a rejection of me.  Heed their voice and make them a king.” Samuel went to the elders and told them that if they were to get what they wanted, that king would destroy the economy, take their best land, best vineyards, take the labor and put it to his use, etc. But the people rejected Samuel’s warning, “We want a king!!” they demanded.  Finally, God gave them the worst King in the history of Israel, Saul.

Now in some ways you could understand the people’s demand. Israel was emerging as a state and now with all the tribes united, the people looked around at all the other nations around them, the Assyrians, the Babylonians and others, and they noticed something important.  They all had a king.  Israel didn’t, so they clamored to be like the others, they wanted a king.  Of course, what the people had that these other ‘kingdoms’ did not have was the Almighty God as their God.  Why have a king when the King of the universe is your leader? The only way to have success, the only way to make Israel Great was to heed the voices of the fearful, the hateful and demand a man to guide them, a man to determine their destiny, their policy, their moral and economic futures and that is exactly what they got.  Initially, Saul when he takes power is obedient to the Lord and is a competent military leader, but we see signs from the beginning, and particularly after his military victory over the Amalekites, that Saul was not out for God, he wasn’t out to love the people, he was out for himself.   His pride, his ego eventually overcame the desire to be a servant leader and his kingdom was taken away from him as he descended into madness.

Donald Trump is like Saul in some ways.  Certainly the Republican Party, led by the Tea Party, have rallied around him and declared “we want him as the king.” The way corporate media fails to give adequate analysis to any issue, we have 24 hour Trump on MSNBC, CNN, and Fox News.  The people who oppose him in the streets have been labelled disgraceful, that somehow the protesters at Trump rallies are the problem, not the policy positions of the candidate himself. The country has started its clamor for their king.  In the long run, the best thing to happen to Israel was that David eventually became king.  So, hey, with all the hate in the air, all the anti-intellectualism, the disregard for facts and the narrative that we are not a great country and need to be made ‘Great Again,’ it got me thinking, what if the people got what they wanted? Trump as president, Ryan as Speaker, and McConnell running the senate? Let’s look at just a couple of the issues at stake.

Now when it comes to Trump, we can’t be too sure of anything he says in terms of a commitment to policy, but clearly his number one agenda item is to build a wall- let’s say 200 feet high and it would need to be 50-100 feet deep along the southern U.S. border.  This policy is accompanied by the forceful deportation of 11 million human beings.  Let’s meditate on this. Trump has identified all those who come over the Mexican/U.S. border as Mexicans.  This is the first part of the failure of this policy. Of course we know what Trump does not, namely that immigrants from the south, if they want a land passage to the U.S., must come through Mexico.  Guatemalans, Ecuadorians, Nicaraguans, Peruvians, El Salvadorians, any one from any of the 19 countries that make up Central and South America and the one North American country in question, Mexico.  Trump may think all Latin Americans are the same, but they are not, but what if they were as offended at this issue of building the wall as apparently Mexico is? What if the countries of Latin America decided they would look inward, to support industrial growth, outward to Europe and China for increased trade partnerships and boycott the U.S.? According to the Census, the U.S. exported $153 billion in goods and imported $115 billion. Could Latin America make up that $40 billion in trade with other partners, like China or the EU? It’s possible.  That would not work well for the U.S. Just how do you forcibly round up and deport 11 million people? Do you make random stops on the streets or canvass neighborhoods, schools and hospitals and line everyone up and check for proper papers, and if their papers are not in order they are sent to a detention facility and deported? Do you make citizens wear a badge, and anyone not wearing a badge is illegal?  How much would such a massive expansion of police power cost? Where would we deport them to? Open the ‘big gold door in the middle of the wall’ shove them out and close it? What about those who resist? Kill orders? A worst case scenario, but should we not be thinking about what is the worst that could happen?

Another key theme in the Trump repertoire is how China is a terrible partner and fleecing the U.S. What is the solution? A trade war with China? Raising import duties to prohibitive levels? What if such a policy provoked a retaliation from China? Just anecdotally, what would your life look like with no goods from China?  In 2015, the U.S according to the census, exported $116 billion in goods.  The U.S. imported $481 billion in goods.  Imagine a trade war in which China made up the exports with their growing footprint in Africa, and made new deals with India and thawed relationships with their old ally Russia.  Meanwhile, how would America function? This would be like Jefferson calling the embargo against England in 1807. The U.S. was dependent on English trade, the embargo immediately crushed the economy of the young United States.  Could we wind up in a trade war with China and Latin America?

Another of Trump’s more recent ‘policy’ declarations is to lower U.S. commitment or abandon completely NATO.  (Is it just a coincidence ‘Psycho Killer’ is playing in my headphones right now???) So if we reduce our role, and certainly if we abandon NATO, you can forget any responsible check to Russian territorial desires, any cooperative European military efforts in the Middle East, and absolutely you destroy the credible stick in the Iran agreement. (This scenario doesn’t include, but could, Trump consolidating the Cruz wing of the party by renouncing the Iran nuclear deal, which even with the progress made so far, would put Iran back on the clock and counting down perhaps 5 years to a bomb).

“Heed Their Voice and Make Them a King.”

What about the Congress? The king would certainly allow Ryan and McConnell to get their top legislative items done.  First on the list, congressional repeal of the Affordable Carte Act with what the Republicans have offered- the pre 2008 status quo ante. From 2008 to the present, the US has lowered the numbers of uninsured from 49 million in 2005 to 32 million today and the trend is moving downward.  At a minimum we could expect those numbers to reverse themselves. Of course with repeal come questions like, does that mean the pre-existing condition clause that mandates you cannot be dropped for a preexisting condition is removed? Or the no lifetime cap on coverage? Do we go back to bake sales for cancer patients because the insurance company has said you reached you limit?

Of course the primary targets of the Ryan budget offered during the 2012 presidential campaign, promised block grants for Medicare and Medicaid with significant budget cuts to both and raised testing for coverage.  If this became law, how many seniors and others would lose coverage, let’s be modest and say 30%, which would be 16 million from Medicare and 19.5 million from Medicaid dropped, which, with the repeal of ACA and a return to, let’s say 38million uninsured in the immediate end of ACA, this would take that number to over 73 million uninsured Americans.

I am not even going to discuss the outrageous tax cut plans and increased military spending and the gutting of AFDC. I’m not going to mention the gutting of subsidies for alternative energy and Trump’s call to back out of the Paris agreement on climate change, or the inevitable increase of subsides for oil, coal and gas, the shredding of the EPA, while opening federal land with less oversight, inviting ecological devastation I can’t even put into words right now. I am not going to discuss the open race hatred that would embolden the white nationalists who have flocked to the Trump camp.

Is this the ‘great America’ Trump supporters want?

“Heed Their Voice and Make Them a King”

Long Live the King

The Limits of Language: Why Reconciliation is not the Word to Move Forward on Race.

Discussions about race are always difficult.  The emotional history involved, the present realities of the way racism and racialization happen are complex and do not lend themselves to easy analysis.  As a Christian, I would agree with Jim Wallis that for whites this is an issue of repentance. Repentance, however is based on a recognition of the wrong.  We must begin there. We have much discussion about race, but I don’t see a recognition of the wrong. Some say, “my father didn’t own slaves, I don’t own slaves so why do I need to acknowledge anything or any wrong?” This and other responses such as “well I am not a racist, I have black friends” and an entire laundry list of explanations deny the most basic recognition of our situation. America’s refusal to recognize the legacy of racism in this country is the root of the decay that plagues our civilization.  The hate, the institutional discrimination, perpetuate the system of white skin privilege and most importantly today, hide the realities of racism from most folks who, let’s face it, are too wrapped up in themselves to see the issue.  Racialization, the embedding of systems of discrimination, allows for the plea of ignorance.  The way states use property taxes to segregate education is a good example. The way we police and incarcerate people of color in this country is another. Without an acknowledgement that there is, as Michelle Alexander argues, “a racial caste system” still in place in America, repentance is impossible. How do you turn from a wrong if you do not acknowledge it as such?

Repentance also requires restitution. If I am truly going to right the wrong, then I must restore what I have taken.  There is absolutely no discussion about reparations that will be heard in any way in America, even though the evidence of the legacy of slavery and Jim Crow can be seen in corporate structures, the profits of the prison industrial complex and the corporations and vendors who profit from the social service sector. Aetna insurance, for example, sold policies insuring slave owners for their slaves in the 1850’s. J.P. Morgan Chase, which was a conglomeration of banks brought under one umbrella had two predecessor banks that owned up to 13,000 slaves, received as collateral for defaulted loans. Over 30% of New York Life’s first 1,000 policies were written on slaves.  Today, Corrections Corporation of America the leading private prison company had $1.7 billion in revenues in 2015. When roughly half of those incarcerated are African Americans, a significant part of CCA’s profits and those of the other corporations involved in the Prison Industrial Complex benefit from the racialization of crime and punishment in this country.  Reparations is an important part of coming to a place of reconciliation which then completes repentance.

Reconciliation is the ultimate reason there is no repentance, restitution or recognition of how truly deep the issue of racism goes in this country. The idea of reconciliation, or some may say restoration, is the language itself.  The prefix ‘re’ implies going back, or returning to a previous state.  Thus reconciliation means returning to some point in the past where blacks and whites- Africans and Europeans, had a mutually beneficial relationship based in cooperation and respect. When was that?  Take your time…… Exactly. We need a new language about race in this country.  We need a language that constructs a future of cooperation and abandonment of both white skin privilege and the nihilism it breeds in the black community.  The language we have now does not allow for the creation of a new vision of race in America, it reaches back for a time that never was.  Because of that, recognition, restitution, and repentance cannot happen, thus something that looks like reconciliation or restoration cannot exist.

In South Africa the attempt to build that new language is slowly advancing twenty years after the dismantling of apartheid.  The Truth and Reconciliation Commission sought to recognize the wounds of racism through dialogue with all members of the community.  That was possible because there was also the understanding that those who told their stories would not face retribution.  The TRC, as it was known, conducted meetings throughout the country and people, both black and white, came forward to share publically their role in apartheid- as victim, victimizer, bystander and activist.  When I visited South Africa in 2004, the language of the future had not been found, but the recognition by all South African’s of the horrors of apartheid opened the door to honest dialogue about where the nation could and should head. Many white South Africans were open and willing to dialogue about race and supported the initial reforms in the country.

Recognition happened during the TRC.  The ugliness and pain of racism was ripped open like a bandage covering a wound. Policy and the election, first of Mandela and then other ANC presidents, initiated programs of employment etc. that have attempted to create a more prosperous black middle class. Did South Africa defeat its race problem all of a sudden? Of course not.  But because of the TRC and the ensuing policies, the relationships between blacks and whites are more open and productive.  I had more significant discussion with whites about race in one day in South Africa, than I had, had in the US in 40 years.

 

If we want to end racism.  If we want to create Beloved Community, we need a new language to speak about race.  A way forward that allows us to honestly discuss the issue across racial lines and do so with an expectation of building a language of hope and true equality.