American Politics Immoral and in Opposition to the Will of God

American politics is an immoral endeavor, a reality which uses money to protect the rights and interests of the few over the many. But if ever there was and is a time for “we the people” to speak up and make our voices heard, it is now.

Donald Trump, Mike Huckabee, Ted Cruz …are all saying obnoxious things. Trump’s statement about Mexican immigrants ended up being widely criticized, but didn’t stop his rise in the polls. Mexico, he said, is not sending their best. Said Trump:  “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re sending people that have lots of problems. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists, and some, I assume, are good people.” In spite of offending Mexicans, Trump has refused to apologize.

Mike Huckabee said that President Obama is basically leading Israelis “to the door of the oven,” as he criticized the pending “deal” with Iran. He, like Trump, has refused to apologize to any Jewish people whom he might have offended.

The offensive remarks will continue as the wide field of GOP presidential hopefuls gears up for the fight that will be necessary to win the Republican nomination. That’s politics.

But there are two facts that are infuriating. One, I would bet that not one of these guys will seriously deal with the crisis in America that has been growing in scope since the murder of Trayvon Martin. Across the nation, the Black Lives Matter movement has been loud and vocal, protesting the deaths of black people at the hands of police, mostly white. A huge swath of American people, African-American men, women and youth – have been crying out for justice as the police officers who have killed unarmed black people have done what they’ve done with no accountability. The latest claims by police that Sandra Bland and Kendra Chapman died by hanging themselves by hanging while in police custody have only added fuel to the fire. One more black woman, Ralkina Jones, died while in police custody as well. All three women died while in police custody within the span of a month – and yet not one of these political candidates have addressed the issue. That is a problem.

The second fact that is infuriating is that all of these candidates are spending literally billions of dollars on their campaigns. Billions. There are children in this nation who are homeless and hungry and these guys are spending billions of dollars. There are people who once had jobs and lost them, their homes, their livelihood and their hope …and these guys are spending billions of dollars on …what? Television ads which will spew their negative rhetoric against each other, working to manipulate American citizens and get them to vote for them …while masses of American citizens languish in poverty, despair and injustice.

We will hear a lot in this campaign about the Iran deal, how it’s wrong. We will hear about same-sex marriage and the Affordable Care Act, and how those laws need to be repealed. We will hear about how there will be a wall built between America and Mexico to keep illegal immigrants out.

But I would bet we will hear little to next to nothing about a justice system which is not just, but which appears to be a tool for the system to put African-Americans away. I would bet that we will hear little to next to nothing about how American policies and practices have created the cradle to prison pipeline; we will hear little to next to nothing about police malpractice, and about a system which allows police to do basically what they want with whom they want with no fear of having to answer for it.

We will not hear about how something must be done to stop the slaughter of unarmed black people by police. We will hear nothing about the substandard schools in America’s cities and in its rural areas. We will hear nothing from those who say they are pro-life about how they ignore the issue of life once a fetus becomes a baby with needs. We will hear nothing about how poverty in this, the land of the free and home of the brave causes millions of children to go hungry in the summer when there is no school.

It is disgusting, the way these candidates ignore the cries of “the least of these,” and basically blame them for their plight, and it is troubling that they will not feel obligated to address America’s very real problems which are based on and come from, racism and class differences.

The only way they will address these issues – and they should be made to address them, is if “we the people” force the issue. I heard somewhere that change comes when the masses demand it. We all know that Frederick Douglas said “power concedes nothing without a demand.” Well, if ever there was a time for a demand, it is now. The young people in the Black Lives Matter movement have begun the process, but they cannot do it alone. We are in a time that is every bit as critical as was the time in the 60s when the masses gathered to demand the right to vote and to go to any restaurant or public facility they wanted. This is not the time to be quiet or to sit still.

As society has changed, the cry “We want our country back” has grown louder and louder. What is that country that they cry for? It is a country based on racism, exclusion, sexism, homophobia, militarism and materialism, for starters. It is a country where white people have been in control of everything. The cry is to go back to that America …but we cannot let that be the case. This upcoming presidential election is an opportunity for “we the people” to bust some walls down, to demand to be heard, to make the candidates address the needs, the hearts and the concerns of “the least of these.” Now is not the time to be quiet, still, or complacent.

No person should be president of this nation unless he or she is genuinely concerned about the masses of people. In order to make sure they understand that fact, the masses should demand to be heard. American politics is immoral because it ignores the dictates of the Bible so many politicians claim to love: We are to take care of “the least of these,” according to Jesus the Christ. If we cannot and will not do that, we do not deserve to call ourselves a Christian nation.

A candid observation

Sandra Bland and the Perpetual Absence of Justice for Black People

This morning, I am mourning.

It is the day after Sandra Bland has been buried, and the police department in Hempstead, Texas, and other authorities, have decreed that Sandra killed herself. This 28-year-old black woman, who was about to begin a new life in a new job, has been tossed aside as a reject by the state. Her body, her talent, her very being was not worth saving and is apparently not worth the honor of a just investigation. To say her death was a suicide is easy; it is an “oh, well!” type of response which relieves the police from having to look further, dig deeper and perhaps own responsibility for the result of what happened after this young woman was arrested for something that clearly was not an arrestable offense.

I am in mourning, not just for Sandra, but for all of the other black people who have been likewise thrown away by the system called justice. I say it that way because it has not provided justice for black people in so many instances. I found myself thinking last night about the Constitution and how it is always lifted as the benchmark for all “right” decisions, and yet, the words of the U.S. Constitution, when it has clearly said that people are entitled to a trial with a jury of their peers, have so often been ignored when it has come to black people. So many times, too often, black people, many of them innocent of the crime for which they’ve been accused, have been tried by all-white juries, filled with people who have had disdain for black people and who had no regard for throwing them in prison and whenever possible, giving them the death penalty. Our justice system has allowed white people to kill or maim black people without fear of reprisal, while at the same time, historically, prevented black people from testifying against white people. No justice. No peace. None.

The police have been on the trails of black people since the days of slavery, when people could hunt down escaped black slaved and kill them if they felt like they wanted to. No reprisal. The Fugitive Slave Acts of 1793 and 1850 authorized governments to seize and return escaped slaves and meted out severe punishments for anyone who impeded their capture. (http://www.history.com/topics/black-history/fugitive-slave-acts) Though those laws were repealed, the spirit of those laws never died, and what police do today in their treatment of black people feels like those acts are still hovering over and inside the halls of justice everywhere in this country. Black people are no longer slaves, technically, but they are slaves in terms of how they are treated and regarded by the justice system.

I am in mourning.

I am mourning for the loss of Sandra and John and Trayvon and Jordan and Renisha and Michael and Freddie and so many others. I am mourning because they are gone and there has been no justice and I am mourning because their parents and loved ones have been left to fend for themselves as they manage their pain in light of the lack of justice. Could I handle it, were it one of my children who had been so unjustly dealt with by the justice system? I think not.

When Emmett Till was lynched, his mother gathered strength from somewhere I still cannot grasp in order to make the world deal with what had been done to him. .It is said that the people in Money. Mississippi wanted to just bury young Till’s body quickly in Mississippi but that Mamie said, “Oh, no.” She traveled to Mississippi and it is said that she could smell the stench of her son’s body as it lay in a local funeral home some blocks away as soon as she got off the train. She pulled strength …from somewhere. She marched to that funeral home and made herself look at her son’s mutilated and decomposing body. He was swollen and nearly unrecognizable as the young kid she had sent to see relatives …but she stood there and looked at him and recognized the ring of his dad he had put on before he left Chicago. She took her son back to Chicago and had an open casket and allowed the media to take pictures of her son as he lay there, because she wanted the world to see what “they had done” to her son. When the two men accused of the crime were put on trial, she traveled back to Mississippi and was in the court every day of their trial …and had to pull that strength …from somewhere …when they were acquitted.

No justice. No peace.

Black people are killed and have so often been said to have committed suicide. In working on a project with Ruby Sales of the SpiritHouse Project, I read report after report of black people who ended up dead while in police custody and so many of the reports said the victims had committed suicide. I had to stop periodically and, as my grandmother would say, “gather myself,” because the tears would not stop flowing. They were tears of pain, of anger and of incredulity. The justice system offered these reports as truth, and expected parents and family to just accept their words as truth. How could they? How could they offer such insulting explanations and expect us to just get over it and accept it …and move on?

There’s a reason the chant is “no justice, no peace,” and that’s because for anyone, when there is no justice, there is no peace. Fred Goldman, whose son, Ronald Goldman O.J. Simpson was accused of murdering, had no peace when Simpson was acquitted. The nation had no peace, and has no peace, as the killer of Jon Benet has not been apprehended. No justice. No peace. Had the killer of John Lennon not been apprehended, and convicted, there would have been no peace.

So, why are black people, who so frequently have no arrests, no convictions of the people who kill their loved ones, supposed to have peace in spite of there is so often …no justice?

This nation has a huge swath of people who are in perpetual mourning. Not only are there people in mourning, but there are parents and relatives who are uptight whenever their young ones are out. Black people are not safe here. Black people cannot count on the police or the justice system to protect them and make sure there is justice for them. There is too often no justice; there is no peace.

The parents and family and friends of Sandra Bland are crying this morning not only because Sandra is gone but also because now they have to deal with this system which has the reputation of casting black bodies away and not seeking justice. The families of Michael Brown and John Crawford and Trayvon Martin are left holding their grief in check while justice slides through the sieve into which their loved ones’ cases have been placed.

No justice. No peace.

All we can do is keep on trying, keep on pushing for justice. It ought not be this hard, but it is and has always been. As exhausting as it is to fight, African-Americans have to stay on the battlefield. Power concedes nothing without a demand.

There is a demand. Justice. Without it, no peace.

A candid observation …

Trump, God and White Anger

White people are mad.

A significant swath of white Americans have been angry since Barack Obama won the White House. Winning it once ws bad enough; winning it  second time was a brutal kick in teeth.

The anger of this so-called “silent majority” has been and is consistently honored on Fox News, but politicians in major elections have voiced this anger in different venues. Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachmann drew pretty significant support in their political aspirations largely because they voiced the passion and the pain of white Americans who believed then and still believe that America was created for white people. Rand Paul, running in this 2016 race, said unashamedly as be began the  trek toward the presidency, “We’ve come to take our country back.” His statement drew wild applause. ( http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/post-politics/wp/2015/04/07/rand-paul-set-to-announce-presidential-run/).  He then gave a nice political ditty, outlining all the ways in which he believes America lost her way, but the passion is in the undercurrent, the things nobody really wants to say: many white Americans think too many people of color – beginning with black people and now being compounded by the immigrants coming to America in droves …are in this land compromising and changing not only the character and flavor of the land but in fact its very purpose –  and they are mad.

Donald Trump is gaining in the polls because he is saying publicly what so many white people say in private. The legacy of America – which is not democracy and egalitarianism, but which is, instead, oligarchy and inequality – is being tampered with. The Rev. William Barber, leader of the Moral Majority Movement in North Carolina, says America doesn’t have a Republican or Democrat problem, it doesn’t have a Liberal or Conservative problem…but it has, instead, a “heart problem.” And the heart of America, in spite of those who might argue against it, is one of white supremacy.

Perhaps the depth of this anger – this unspoken, for the most part – is illustrated by the fact that some Evangelicals are speaking support for Trump in spite of the fact that he has said publicly that he has never sought forgiveness  from God. He said when he does something wrong he just tries to do something good or right. ( http://www.cnn.com/2015/07/18/politics/trump-has-never-sought-forgiveness/)  Fair enough, but this nation has made a big deal out of being Christian, and one of the central tenets of Christianity is seeking and giving forgiveness. What does that say about the religion of Conservatives? Have they somehow compromised the requirements of God and Jesus the Christ? Can you trust, theologically and religiously, anyone who blatantly and arrogantly says he purposely ignores the commands of the Christ?

White anger is not new. That anger rose up after Reconstruction when whites fought to undo every gain that was made during that period of time. Whites fought a “new civil war,” determined to win, not with guns, but with government. They pushed blacks out of political office, compromised and/or took away their right to vote, created policies which in effect created ghettos, and kept blacks basically subservient to whites in all the ways they could. They were angry that they lost the war; they were angry that new policies made the ground between blacks and whites more level, and they were not going to have it. The creation of Jim Crow made it virtually impossible for blacks to be treated as equal human beings, but tht wsa the plan. Whites wanted their country back, and that country did not include black people doing what they felt was saved and relegated for whites only.

Donald Trump knows that sentiment; he obviously feels it and it is clear that many, many Americans feel it, too. Whites are angry that Barack Obama won the White House – twice. They are mad that laws have been created to protect the LGBT community, going so far as to allow same sex couples to marry. They are angry that illegal immigrants – many of whom they use to keep their lawns kept up and their houses clean – keep coming into this nation. They are fighting to take America back to the “good old days” when white people operated and protected a land which did not provide “liberty and justice for all,” but instead kept folks under control, using the law and the courts. Their idea of democracy was a land where whites were in control and everyone else was under their thumb.

It feels like Trump and this “silent majority” are acting rather like spoiled children. They cannot get their way as easily as they once could, and they are angry about it. It feels like they will do all they can, in whatever way they can, to get things “back to normal.” When even the Evangelicals are willing to give a presidential a pass when he has said publicly that he ignores the command of God the Father and Jesus the Christ to forgive and to ask for forgiveness, you know that the anger is real.

It is very real. And it is very dangerous…

A candid observation …

Black Fathers, Wailing

 

 

 

We are near the anniversary of the death of Michael Brown, and the image above is one I have not been able to get out of my mind.

Mike Brown was demonized and characterized as a “thug” who deserved what he got by many following that fateful day last August. Even as he was left lying in the street, the powers that be sought to “undo” him and in effect blame him for his tragic death by pulling up incidents that proved “he was no saint.” The police in Ferguson were more concerned, it seemed, with saving their tails than with dealing with this young man and giving him in death the respect they had not given him in life.

Not his father or mother were allowed to touch him as he lay on that hot pavement for hours.

This was their baby. Whatever he had done, he was their baby, their child, and they were not allowed to go near him.

I have to be honest. I cried as I watched this horrific drama unfold. I shook with anger as I listened to the police demonize Mike before they said a word about what happened, and how.

I visited Ferguson, a couple of times. I stood at the makeshift memorial that was constructed on the site where Mike had lain … and it gave me goosebumps.

There were a range of emotions I navigated as I awaited to see this young man finally put to rest. I watched with a mother’s eyes and felt with a mother’s heart as I watched his grief-stricken mother, Lesley McSpadden, enter that church. His father seemed to be holding up…

But he wasn’t. There is something that happens when a child dies; attention is given to the mother and the father is almost completely ignored. I noticed that when as a pastor I saw and attended to women who had lost babies due to miscarriage. The mother was allowed to mourn out loud; the fathers remained stoic.

Michael Brown Sr. looked like he was holding it together on the day his son was buried. I guess I breathed a sigh of relief; my attention then stayed on his mother.

But the tragedy of what this society has done to black men hit me full in the face when I saw this picture of Mike Brown’s father wailing at his grave site.

I realized that this society so marginalizes black men and boys, and is so smug about proclaiming that black fathers are absent, that we do not embrace the humanity of these men who are fathers, who are there for their children …and whose souls are ripped apart when their children are snatched away due to violence – street or police-induced.

Those who wanted to continue the dehumanization and criminalization of Mike Brown continued. They scoffed at the fact that he had gotten through high school and was going to college. They didn’t care. Their only sentiment was that he had brought his death upon himself.  He was no saint, they kept saying.

What college-age young man is?

I wondered then, and more so now, if those who wanted to sit in their smugness even bothered to lift their eyes to see the pain of his parents as they talked about him. His mother said he was “sweet,” but those who had demonized him dismissed that claim, as the videotape showed him pushing the store cashier.

What, sweet kids don’t sometimes do dumb stuff? Sweet kids don’t smoke marijuana? Sweet kids don’t “feel their oats” sometimes and do things that are really out of character for them?

Did people see the pain of both parents …including the pain of Mike’s father? (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xORC3Kfhw0Y)

I can only imagine the pain that Mike’s parents felt the day they buried him…but the picture of Mike’s father wailing as he sat in front of his son’s coffin said more to me than anything I had read back then …or have read to date.

I remember my friend Joshua DuBois, whose wife is expecting the couple’s first child soon, giving an impassioned statement about how black fathers care. He reminded a nearly all-white gathering that it is wrong to continue carrying the belief that black fathers are absent and do not care about their children. Yes, some are absent …and that would indicate that perhaps they do not care, or cannot care at a given time in their lives.

But black fathers, black men …are human …and love their children every bit as much as a white father. They ache for their children, especially for their sons. They walk around knowing they are moving targets for police officers; they know that their children, again most especially their sons, are targets for street crime as well as for police violence against them.

Black fathers do not rest. They know the terrain and the territory on which their children walk.

The fathers of all these slain young black people are wailing … Society may not see them and may refuse to listen to them, but they are wailing.

Just look at the picture of Mike Brown’s father if you are inclined to disagree. That father’s pain …is palatable …and not isolated just to him.

America, will you ever see?

A candid observation …

 

The Heritage of Hatred

Confederate flag

 

I have been watching and listening with interest to the conversation surrounding the Confederate flag. Whites (and some blacks) who want to keep the flag on the grounds of the State Capitol keep talking about the flag representing their heritage, and they say that heritage is about the bravery of the Confederate sons who died defending the Confederacy and what it stood for.

It stood for slavery and for hatred of black people.  The heritage which so many are trying to preserve was based on and infused throughout with, hatred.

The heritage of the Confederate South was based on its refusal to let go of the “right” to own black people. The heritage held that “negroes” were the property of white people, and could thus be treated in any way the master saw fit. The heritage included the need for the white supremacist South to hold onto and to increase its number of slaves so that the economy of the South could continue to flourish. The heritage and the subsequent fight was about the right to own slaves, and about preserving the inequality between white and black people.

The heritage which so many want to preserve and remember included lynching black people for nothing, for crimes of which they were accused but which they had not committed. The heritage was about raping black slave women while putting out the “word” that black men were raping their women. The heritage was about ripping black families apart, ignoring the screams and wails of mothers as their children were ripped from their arms; it was about splitting apart black husbands and wives.

The heritage was about making it illegal for blacks to learn to read and write; it was about allowing black children to go only so far in school, because their owners wanted them in the fields, making them money.  The heritage was about using all-white juries to convict black people of crimes, about keeping silent when a black person was accused of a crime that everyone knew had been committed  by a white person. The heritage was about white law enforcement officers either staying quiet about a lynching, or taking part in the lynching …or both.  The heritage was about a federal government which did little to protect African-Americans, about a United States Supreme Court which did more to squelch the rights of black people than to increase and protect them.

The heritage was about white people doing what they did to black people because they did not consider black people to be fully human. Indeed, Charles Carroll wrote a book which was a favorite back then, The Negro, a Beast.”  The heritage was about using the Bible to justify racist beliefs and practices; the heritage, in effect, used God’s name in vain.

This heritage had no compassion, no conscience, no desire for noble and, dare I say it, Christian behavior for or toward black people.  This heritage was marked by narcissism, seeking to protect the interests of a people called white, who elevated themselves to have dominion over any people they wanted.

This heritage allowed black people to be lynched, allowed white mobs to storm jails and drag blacks accused of crimes out, only to take justice into their own hands. This heritage had no mercy, no love, no human decency.

So, yes, that flag represents heritage …but that heritage is one of hatred and degradation of a people.

That, my dear friends, is what you are talking about when you talk about “heritage.” Your ancestors fought that war and died …to perpetuate inhuman treatment of one people by another.

Tell the story…hold onto your heritage, but do it in a museum. Remember your heritage in private and don’t make those whom your ancestors died to keep enslaved and degraded, have to look at and remember that heritage on a daily basis.

It is only right that the flag come down. Heritage defined, and that heritage notwithstanding.

A candid observation …

Why The Negro Cries

Forgive me for using a long-outdated term to refer to African-Americans, but for some reason, I feel today that it is necessary to say something to make people, black and white, understand the deep pain and damage white supremacy has caused in this country.

When I was a child, I, my siblings and my friends played “pretend.” We’d play “house,” and “school” and “church,” perfectly imitating, it seemed, those whom we had so regularly observed in each of those settings. We knew how to play a strict mother or an energetic preacher. We were children and children “play” and imitate what they see. Undoubtedly, what they see, and how they internalize what they see, helps shape them for the rest of their lives.

Play is what children do, but I never thought about the kind of playing African-American children might have done in years past, during slavery, Reconstruction and Jim Crow. So, I was taken aback when a man, describing slave life in Richmond, Virginia in 1853, reported that he observed slave children playing “auction.” That’s right. They had seen so many people auctioned off to owners that they had gotten the procedure down pat. They knew how to imitate the voice of the auctioneer. They knew how to do the public examination of a slave up for sale, to make sure he or she was worth the money that was being asked for. That meant touching their arms and ankles, looking into their mouths to check the state of their teeth, and probably worse. They practiced dragging a screaming mother away from her child or children as either she or they were sold. They had the process down. There were slave children eager to act as auctioneers, and others who were wiling to be the unfortunate ones sold away.

They replayed the ongoing activity that was breaking the hearts and spirits of human beings, that was ,in fact, breaking their hearts and spirits.

The man doing the reporting was one William Chambers. He was a Scotsman, a publisher in his land,  and he .was in Richmond, Virginia in 1853. While there decided to observe a slave auction. He had heard they were events full of misery and despair and he wanted to see for himself. He noted that there was not much misery, that those being sold were calm and showed little emotion. He surmised that, since “the Negro” was not fully human and was certainly inferior to white people, that they could not feel pain, not even as their children were wrested from their arms and they cried – both the parents and their children.

I listened to the story on National Public Radio’s This American Life, and got stuck. It never occurred to me that slave children practiced through playing their own oppression. They played auction.

It has always been painful to be black-skinned, not only in America but all over the world, but to listen to this story and to realize how deeply embedded in the very souls of black people is the notion of our being unworthy of respect did something to me. When we played “house” or “church” or “school” when I was little, we were aspiring to be good mothers or teachers. We respected the preacher whom we might imitate. We never “played” games that said we were inherently worth nothing.

Langston Hughes wrote, “The Negro Speaks of Rivers,” and one of the lines of that poem reads, “My soul has grown deep like the rivers.” Surely. How can one’s spirit, housed in one’s soul, not descend to depths of despair when one is being treated like an object, with no emotions, no feelings, and no rights? That is a question over which I have pondered for a long time.

But when I hear this story about the slave children “playing auction,” my heart sank. There is all this hoopla today about the Confederate Flag, with lovers of the Confederacy saying that the flag is about their heritage. That is true; it is about their heritage, but it is also about a culture, a society, a land and its policies, which created a situation where little black children would play a game which would contribute to their own demise and further dehumanization.

I am crushed, yet again. This racism knows no bounds…

I think every politician running for public office ought to be required to take some American history. I think they ought to be fed, force-fed if necessary, the history of what racism and white supremacy has done to a huge swath of American citizens. Whomever becomes president of this nation ought to be well-schooled to the reasons this nation is in such a mess when it comes to race. I think every person running for office, federal, state or local, ought to be made to read and understand the reason …the Negro cries.

Racism and white supremacy were like daggers, dug into the hearts, souls and wills of black people, without regret. The belief was that black people were not human, could not feel…and so it did not matter.

But it did matter, and it does matter. There are children of those slain in Charleston, South Carolina almost two weeks ago who are crying; there are widows and husbands who are mourning and trying to find a way to carry on. It’s not just these most recent atrocious killings which makes their journey difficult; it is the fact that for years, they, as members of the African-American community, have been fighting the forces which would kill their spirits, and carrying on, moving forward, in a land which clearly still has little regard for them as human beings.

Whenever a person is traumatized, it takes time to heal. African-Americans have been continually traumatized and hae put their shattered souls and spirits to the side because they had to, we had to, in order to keep going. We have pushed against the system which has no regard for us, and we have for the most part prevailed.

But the Negro cries. We cry as we move forward. We have to move forward, but we cannot stop the tears, and so we do both.

Any politician who cannot or will not acknowledge that this country is a mess because of white supremacy, any politician who is more concerned with the Southern base, or the white base, but is not concerned with the programs and policies which may have our children playing games that are in place to ensure their own demise …is a coward. I don’t want any more cowards in office. We have had too many.

The children played auction.

I am sick …

A candid observation …

 

Story about Chambers was heard on National Public Radio (NPR)’s This American Life

 

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On Forgiveness

It seemed that those covering the horrific murders of nine innocent people last week in Charleston, South Carolina, breathed a collective sigh of relief when surviving members of the families of the slain said, “I forgive” the man responsible for their pain.

It was noble for them to say that, but I don’t for a moment believe it.

It’s too soon. They are in the throes of the deepest pain ever. They are aching and are in shock. The reality and the full implications of how their lives have been forever changed because of this tragedy has not yet set in.

Whenever a person dies, there is a period where the survivors just get into work mode: they have to work to deal with the funeral home and the funeral/memorial service. They have to pick out caskets and decide what their loved one will wear. Some have to scuffle to find money to bury their loved ones. The time immediately after the loss of a loved one is probably the easiest, because those left behind are just too busy to deal with their pain.

But after everyone goes home, after there are no more donations of food, after the arrangements have been done and the funeral and burial are done, the real work of grief begins.

It is not easy.

And forgiveness, if it is to come, does not come immediately.

Forgiveness is a process. Sometimes it takes years for people to get to the place where it “kicks in.” Before that moment, though, the emotional pain pushes against even the thought of forgiveness. Christians are confounded (some of them) and pressured by the commandment of Jesus that we should forgive “not seven times, but seventy times seven.”  It seems dastardly and grossly unfair that the survivors of extreme circumstances that resulted in the death of their loved ones are supposed to forgive, and Christians struggle with that. We are reminded that Jesus said, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” We reject Jesus’ own words and the theology Jesus gives us. We are angry and hurt and resentful and we hurt. Some of us simply do not win the struggle.

Black people have struggled with having to forgive white people for all the atrocities that have been done over the years. I daresay that there has been some forgiveness or else black people as a cultural group in this nation would not have survived to the present day. It was slavery, yes, but it has also been Jim Crow and lynching and injustice via the justice system and discrimination in education and housing and employment. In spite of it, black people have not been eradicated, either physically or spiritually. Forgiveness has to be credited with the survival of black people because forgiveness is for the one who forgives, not for the one being forgiven.

But it has been and continues to be a struggle. Forgiveness is a process.

Only time will tell how and if the survivors of those slain in Charleston will be able to forgive Dylann Roof; only time will tell if the African-American community will be able to forgive yet one more assault on our collective presence in this nation.

But this much is a sure thing: forgiveness for these horrific murders has not come to be yet. We need all be in prayer for those who are working to put their Christian faith into action. The words and commands of Jesus are not easy. Those confronted with this kind of pain know that all too well.

A candid observation …

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The Cost of Escapism

So many people like to characterize black people as lazy, criminal, manipulative, ignorant, ….and so much more …but I doubt any other ethnic group in this nation could have endured what black people have endured.

While Americans are up in arms about terrorism, those same Americans have never really acknowledged that America has practiced terrorism against black people for literally hundreds of years. Just yesterday I was reading about how white people in the South resented black men who came home from war. They came home empowered; the war made them realize they didn’t have to take racism and its resultant discrimination. One soldier (and there are many stories about how black soldiers were treated when they got finished with their tours of duty) was Isaac Woodard. He was a sergeant, and was on a Greyhound Bus, traveling from Georgia to North Carolina. He had to go to the bathroom and asked the driver, who was white, if he would make a stop for the same. The driver got angry and I don’t think he stopped. What he DID do, however, was notify his “boys.” At the next stop, the bud was met by a group of whites, including the Chief of Police, Linwood Shull. The angry white men dragged Woodard off the bus and beat him nearly to death. In the midst of the fight one of his eyes was gouged out by a nightstick of one of the officers who was participating. Woodward was then taken to jail. He was blind for the rest of his life. (http://www.blackpast.org/aah/woodard-isaac-1919-1992).

And he was a member of the beloved military; he had gone to defend his country. Normally, that gives you iconic status …but only if you were white.

When you read and study the treatment of blacks in this country, it is nothing short of remarkable that blacks have continued to stand, to push through, and to succeed. The War on Drugs has its own political history and purposes; one of its goals was to continue to control black people and it has by resulting in so many blacks being incarcerated for non-violent drug crimes that America can now boast of incarcerating more people than any other modern industrial country in the world, but not even mass incarceration has stopped black people from pushing against this Goliath called racism, while protestors stand on the sidelines and say that those who talk about racism and what it does is a fantasy, unreal, and no longer an issue.

I doubt, again, that any other ethnic group could have withstood the discrimination, the hatred, the terrorism, that America has practiced against black people. I doubt that any other ethnic group could even hold together the scores of mothers and fathers whose children have been murdered by whites, many under the rubric and with the participation of law enforcement, and stayed sane. America’s racism has helped people dehumanize black people to the point that it seems they cannot imagine that a black mother’s pain is just as deep as is that of a white mother. Does anyone grieve for the mothers, fathers and family members of Michael Brown? Trayvon Martin? Rekia Boyd? Jordan Davis? Did anyone grieve a mother’s grief when, during slavery, babies were snatched from their mothers’ arms as the mothers were taken off to work for a white person?  Does anyone think about how the accumulation of grieving mothers and family has ultimately affected this country? Are the parents of slain black children as worthy of support and care as are the parents of slain white children? Black people have endured all of that …and the fact that in this country, there is and has not been, justice for black people.  I doubt that any other ethnic group could hold people together who have lived with the realization that not even the “justice system” was there to protect them; in fact, the justice system seemed to be just one of the tools used to oppress them.

Don’t…talk about how African-Americans have a scarcity of moral fiber when in fact those fibers have been pulled to the breaking point consistently, seemingly wanting to force a break. Don’t …talk about black people being lazy when it is documented that white employers have historically discriminated against blacks as they have sought work, even saying, during the Great Depression and after the Dust Bowl (and probably other times) that “niggers ought not apply for work until every white man has a job.” Don’t …talk about how little black kids cannot read and blame it on a lack of intellect when it has been a strategy to create ghettos to keep blacks separated and then a tendency to ignore the schools in those ghettos, forcing little black children into dilapidated buildings, some with no air and/or inadequate heat, used books, and the worst teachers…

Don’t.

Black families have been teaching their children how to survive in this, our land, which is at the same time, a strange land. This land we built, giving hours of back-breaking labor, made to work from “can’t see to can’t see,” doesn’t want us and doesn’t know what to do with us. This country will not own its racist history and therefore will not and cannot see the harm that racism has done. America has immersed itself in a sea of escapism and denial, and because of that, our racism, our peculiar disease, is worse than it ever was. There is no post-racial America. The claim is ridiculous. One cannot be “post” anything unless and until an initial action has taken place. One is only “post-surgery” after the initial, needed surgery has been performed. There has been no surgery to excise America’s racist tumor; it has metastasized and is killing our country, bit by bit.

If ever there was a place that needs peace and reconciliation hearings and subsequent healing actions, it is the United States.

Too much to write today. But it will come. It will come.

A candid observation …

At the Hands of Persons Unknown: The Verdict in the Michael Brelo Case

candidobservation:

An insightful piece …

Originally posted on formations. // living at the intersections of self, social, spirit.:

I cannot turn away or close my eyes to what I beheld on Saturday as I watched the verdict in the Michael Brelo case being rendered by Judge P. O’Donnell in Cleveland. The nearly hour-long justification for exonerating Officer Brelo on all counts was bone chilling to behold. In every respect, it amounted to a judicial justification for state-sanctioned lynching.

I don’t use the word “lynching” metaphorically. I use it because so many characteristics of historical lynching are replicated in this case.

Lynching can be defined as an extrajudicial killing by a group of people who seek to punish an alleged transgressor and/or intimidate a minority group. Between 1877 and 1950, nearly 4,000 men and women were lynched by white people in America and the vast majority of the victims were black. The alleged crimes often proved to be unfounded and the ‘punishments’ inflicted in these acts of racial terror…

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Racism is a Sin

It has always been puzzling to me how any person could be a Christian and be racist. Actually, my puzzlement has extended as I have watched Christians be not only racist but sexist, homophobic and antagonistic toward the poor.

If one considers the Doctrine of Sin, and consider that the most commonly used word for sin is “hamartia,” which means “missing the mark,” and juxtaposes that definition against the “Great Commandment,” which is, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul and all your mind,” it is clear there is a disconnect in what we say believe and how we act. As Jesus gives the first and greatest commandment, he adds  on yet another piece of what is required of us:  ” …Love your neighbor as yourself”  If we consider these commands, and as Christians consider that we are bound to obey them, it becomes clear that racism, spawned by white supremacy, is a sin.

The existence of racism amongst Christians is puzzling to me because there is but one Bible, and one set of words and directions that Jesus gave, unless there is a secret text that I have not seen. When I was a child and saw what white people were doing to black people in Alabama, my mother quickly told me that no matter what I felt about what was going on, that I was to love “even the bad people.” (I said that the white people who were setting dogs on black people were bad.) My mother was adamant: to be a Christian meant you had to be willing to do the hard work of being a Christian, and loving “the bad people” was one of those tasks.

Yet, it has seemed that many white Christians have had no problem in hating black people – for no other reason than they (we) are black. And, while Jesus forthrightly commanded us to take care of “the least of these,” many white Christians seem to turn as far away from the poor and dispossessed as possible; they have no umbrage in charging them more money for lesser quality goods; they are pro-life except that their definition of :”life” seems to end once a fetus is born; the despair of poor children, especially those who are black and brown, is not an issue for them. They seem comfortable and indeed appear self-righteous as they put down African-Americans with abandon. Some of the most rabid racists in our nation have been devout Christians.

I am confused – about how people can be like that.

But I am not confused about my belief that racism is a sin because those who adhere to it are clearly “missing the mark” that God gives in the Hebrew scriptures, and then Jesus repeats in the New Testament: we who call ourselves Christian are to love God with everything we’ve got …and we are to love our neighbors as ourselves.

It is not happening.

In a nation which calls itself “Christian,” it is not happening.

In addition to the formal doctrine of sin quoted above, I also learned that sin is anything that separates us from God. Surely, the mistreatment of human beings, all of whom God created, does that. We are not only separated from God, but we are rebelling against the way we were created. All of God’s people were created, are wired, to love and to have compassion. I know that because when catastrophes happen, that part which is in all of us kicks in and we move to help people in despair. We are wired to take care of each other. But we rebel against our natural inclinations and the result is that we have the audacity to hate and to oppress those whom God created.

To add insult to injury, those whom God made human …we dehumanize. It helps us stay in our sin. Too many white people have dehumanized black people. The dehumanization was written into our founding documents, and we have built on that. The only reason, the only way a police officer could jump out of a car and within seconds shoot a 12-year-old boy with a toy gun down is because that officer – or officers – did not see that child as a human being. He was just a black object, and in our society, white supremacy teaches us that black objects have no value.

Some would say, “Wait! I’m not racist!” But racism is a part of the American normal. Racism is deeper than mere bigotry and/or prejudice. Racism carries with it the power to oppress people and control them, and that power rests, most often, in economics. It is racism, not bigotry, which is keeping black and brown people in economic servitude and forcing them to live in despair. White supremacists have the money and the position to keep people where they want them. They want black people in prison; it is a form of social control. That is at least one of the reasons that so many black people are in prison for non-violent drug offenses, while white people who have done the same or worse than those incarcerated continue to run free.

The arrogance with which racists move, act and think has to be a barrier between them and God. If there is but one God, and that God demands that we love each other…and racists/white supremacists refuse to do so …then there is between them and God a barrier …which means they are separated from God …which means they are in sin.

If racism is a sin, which I believe it is, then America is living in a state of sin. America’s racism exists on the mainland but has been one of the components of American exceptionalism as well, making white Americans think they have the right to oppress and overtake people of other races in other countries as well. Racism is a sin and it is a disease which spreads; American racism has left spores of contamination all over the world.

If we as Christians believe that Jesus is coming back, that there will be a rapture, and that some of us will be “left behind” while others are allowed into heaven, what kind of “Second Coming” should we expect? Will God forgive the racists, the homophobes, the sexists? Do white racists rejoice on Resurrection Sunday because they are happy Jesus died to save us and that even those who practice the most horrific racism …will ultimately be saved?

Rev. C.T. Vivian, one of the icons of the Civil Rights Movement, said in an interview I had with him (I am writing his biography) that the ministers of the Southern Christian Leadership Council (SCLC) worked to “redeem America’s soul.” It was a powerful statement that still gives me pause.

I don’t think America’s soul is yet saved. Racism is still too potent, too much front and center, carried on by Christians.

Something is very wrong with this picture.

A candid observation ….

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