America Is Not Safe

I have waited to write anything as I have watched the developments in the story of the horrific shooting in Oregon because I had to think.

I had to think, to wonder, what is going on in America, and what I came up with is that America is not safe anymore.

I had been thinking that for a while. I am no longer comfortable going into movie theaters or any public venues, really. When I drive I am really conscious of using my turn signal and watching my speed — which I always did, but with more intentionality now. I think of Sandra Bland, now dead, after she was arrested for <a href=”; target=”_hplink”>allegedly not using her turn signal</a>. I think of saying things, writing things, to let people know that if I end up dead in someone’s jail cell, that I did not kill myself. I take time to pay attention to the things I warned my son to take note of when he began driving, because I was afraid for him as a black man in America, a young, brilliant, handsome black man in America whose life is never safe here.

America is not safe — not because of international terrorism or ISIS, although ISIS as a force exists. America is not safe — not because of black on black crime. Yes, we in the black community need to be concerned with the destruction of black lives wherever and however it happens, including in our own communities. The one thing GOP presidential candidate Ben Carson said that I agree with is that all black lives matter. There is no doubting that the destruction of black lives occurs in black communities.

But that is not why America is not safe. Black people for the most part do not target and kill white people. Black people, most often go after other black people. Back on black crime is not the reason America is not safe. America is not safe because of white on white crime, because of this tendency of mostly young white men, angry with the world, or angry at their circumstances, and definitely angry at the government, think the way to handle their anger is to go into public spaces and just shoot, or kill masses of people in whatever way they can.

I remember thinking how unsafe America was when Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols bombed the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. I was angry at them for targeting a building with innocent people — including babies — inside. It’s OK to be angry with the government; that is part of being a citizen in a country, but to just bomb a public space, or to just go into a public space and begin randomly shooting, is a punk way to handle the anger. It is a punk way and it is despicable and it is cowardly.

The coverage of the shooting in Oregon has rung hollow for me. Our politicians are more concerned with holding onto an illogical insistence that “common sense gun laws” will keep people from owning guns. Pro-gun advocates insist that more people having guns will reduce gun violence and deaths from gun violence. It is insane and illogical reasoning, borne out of a stubborn resistance to “big government.

The sheriff of Douglas County, John Hanlin, does not believe there should be any kind of gun control and even suggested that in the Sandy Hook situation, where 20 <em>children</em> were left dead, might be a conspiracy. He posted a piece on YouTube after that incident, saying that “there has been a lot of deception surrounding the Sandy Hook shooting.” He suggested that the grieving parents might be “crisis actors.”

This, from a “law enforcement” officer.

There has been much talk about these young men, mostly white, who go into public spaces and gun people down. They are bad people, the experts say. They are mentally ill.

Perhaps. But the point has been made that people who are mentally ill are more likely to kill themselves than others for the most part. And, the case was made by President Obama, that in other modern countries there are just as many young men who are mentally ill, but we don’t hear about them gunning people down like they do here.

Attempts to explain the behavior of the mass shooters have relied as well on profiles, saying they are angry. Lots of people are angry. They don’t mow people down.

No, there’s something else going on. America’s culture is one of violence; the people from the Mayflower came into this new land mowing people down, specifically the Native Americans who were already here. We are a violent society. One of our core American beliefs is that the way to handle anger and to acquire and keep control of others is by and with violence. Cowboys were violent. Those who settled the West were violent. The debate over slavery was handled with a horror called the Civil War.

The answer, actually, to Dr. Martin Luther King’s campaign of non-violence, was violence. White people actually said that his non-violent campaign was inspiring and forcing violence in return.

America, with its core value of violence, is not safe. These young men, staunch supporters of the Second Amendment, are good, wholesome American citizens, with American values.

That’s what’s scary, and it’s at least one reason why America is not safe.

An Uncomfortable Truth

All of us who have followed the scandal of Roman Catholic priests sexually molesting children have been horrified.

We have been horrified at the actual incidences of molestation …but we have also been horrified that the hierarchy of the Church apparently ignored what was going on and kept aberrant priests in the loop – meaning that far too often, these priests were merely transferred from one parish to another once their behavior was discovered or reported.

The late Joe Paterno, the beloved football coach at Penn State, was accused of much the same – ignoring something some say he knew was going on. Jerry Sandusky, who served as an assistant coach to Paterno, was eventually charged and convicted of multiple counts of sexual abuse of children; he was indicted on 52 counts of child molestation and was convicted of 45 counts of sexual abuse. After the scandal broke, the beloved Coach Paterno was fired by the Board of Trustees of the university. It was assumed or believed that he had known what was going on and simply ignored it, allowing Sandusky to not only keep his job but to keep on doing what he was accused of doing.

The commission of acts that are harmful to people over whom the alleged offenders have power is bad in and of itself, but the continual ignoring of those acts by superiors of those accused offenders, leaving them free to continue their harmful behavior, is just as disturbing. There can be no healing if the truth of what is going on is not acknowledged and the alleged offenders dealt with. At the least, those who abuse their offices ought to resign or be fired. What they should not be allowed to do is to continue in their positions.

Sexual offenses ought not be ignored, and neither should abuses of power as have been demonstrated by some police officers. Far too many unarmed, innocent black, brown and poor people have been beaten and/or killed by police officers – not just since Trayvon Martin, but, in this country, historically, perhaps heightening after the Civil War and during Reconstruction. Even when it has been obvious that police officers have been in the wrong, they have been either found to have used proper force or, if they have gone to trial, they have been acquitted of wrongdoing or given light sentences and …have been let back on the streets.

While sexual abuse of children is particularly heinous, so is the use of excessive and/or deadly force on innocent civilians. The “Blue Wall of Silence” has long protected police officers who are not in control of their emotions, any more than are sexual offenders in control of theirs. At the least, police officers whose actions have clearly been found to be questionable ought to have to go to some kind of treatment and be kept off the streets. Sometimes, the jobs we love to do are not the jobs we can or should do. That would be the case with priests (or others) who sexually abuse children, and that would be the case with police officers who believe that their badges give them an excuse to commit murders or horrific beatings, and know their behavior is sanctioned by law.

It is uncomfortable to think this way, but there is a truth within it which cannot be denied. It is clear that some officers, certainly not all, have some issues which they have not resolved. There is no reason for some of the excessive force situations which by now we have all seen via video. It is insulting that these officers do what they do and are not too worried, because they know they will be protected by their superiors and peers.

Sort of like the priests have been …supported and protected…by their superiors and their peers.

Lawsuits against people in power who abuse their power are a pithy way to deal with institutions which protect their members and continue to release them or reassign them so that they can be free to repeat their behavior. Survivors yes, get money …but far too often, offenders have been allowed to go free and the offenses never stop.

Something is wrong with that.

A candid observation …

The Reality of Two Gods, One Black, One White

I have long been troubled by the way white and black people interpret the same Bible. There is one Bible, one God, one Jesus …and yet white and black people interpret that book in entirely different ways.

Charles Marsh writes, in his book God’s Long Summer: Stories of Faith and Civil Rights,: “Of the images coming in the civil rights movement, none seems more replete with contradiction than that of white mainline Protestantism. In most cases, the Southern white Protestant adheres to an evangelical belief, the heart of which is the confession of a “personal Lord and Savior,” who has atoned for the sins of humanity. Yet in most cases, the confession remains disconnected from race relations …” (p. 6)  He further writes that “in the final analysis, concern for black suffering has nothing to do with following Jesus.”

The Rev. C.T. Vivian, who was a fixture in the Civil Rights Movement, said outright, “You cannot be racist and be Christian!”, something which I firmly believe. But for white people, that proclamation would draw sharp criticism. Writes Marsh, “If people took seriously their identities as Christians, they had no choice but to also give up the practices of white supremacy – and not only white supremacy, but also class privilege, resentment, the concession to violence, anything that kept one from sacrificing all for the beloved community…”

White people, for the most part, seem uninterested in having, helping form, or living in …a beloved community.

The so-called “attack on Christianity” is coming primarily from white Christians who, while they hate abortion and gay rights, including gay marriage, ignore the reality of racism and white supremacy. They seem incapable of feeling even a modicum of the outrage they feel about aborted violence for the already alive black children living in abject poverty and living on the outskirts of society. They seem disinterested in the fact that already alive children suffer horribly in this nation, from bad schools to inadequate health care. They seem all too willing to blame the children for their lot in life.

And yet they call themselves Christian.

Marsh writes that “white Christian conservatives …(remain) largely indifferent to black suffering, preoccupied instead with evangelism and church growth, and with personal vices like drinking, dancing and heavy petting.” In their religious practice, God, and God’s son Jesus, is all right with their blatant disregard for the plight of people of color.

While Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. relied on the presence of God for his work in the Civil Rights Movement, white supremacists called upon that same God to justify their actions. Sam Bowers, head of the Ku Klux Klan, saw as his godly mission the need to slaughter black people and those whites who worked for civil rights for black people. In his mind, those who worked for freedom and justice for black people had betrayed the Lord Jesus.  He wrote and posted publicly a manifesto that said outright that “if you are a Christian, American Anglo Saxon, who can understand” the practices of trying to purge the religion and the country of black and brown people, Catholics and Jews, then “you belong in the White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan of Mississippi.”  He was dedicated to ridding his beloved America of the impostors who, in his mind, were an affront to God – who, we might assume if we read the scriptures, created us all.

The issue and the problem of this “two-God dilemma” of the United States is that it creates a group of people who are as religiously fanatic in their religious and ideological beliefs as are the hated Islamic radicals. They, too, think they are on assignment from God to destroy Americans. If and when God is in the center of a fight, it is hard to stop that fight before it does irreparable harm.

Of course, having God at the center of a fight can bring about good, too. Ironically, the same zeal that fuels hatred in the name of God fuels the desire for justice and mercy …in the name of God. The results of the Civil Rights Movement is testament to that fact.

Donald Trump is feeding into the “white God” group, a group which is adamant about there being an attack on Christianity, even as they attack radical Islam. It feels like a bomb ready to detonate. The white God, they would say, is on their side, while radical Islamists would say Allah is on their side.

The question for me is and has been for some time, “Why doesn’t the one God step in and stop this foolishness? God’s silence and inaction in shutting down forces of evil and hatred have perplexed me for the longest time. The other issue is, though, that the presence in this country of there being “two Gods, one black, one white” means that racism will never end. The religious fervor which uses God to justify racism and white supremacy is not about to wane. The white God is a God of Empire; the black God is a God of liberation …and those two Gods are never going to meet in the middle and merge into one.

That being the case, I don’t exactly know how we as a nation move forward. White Christians turn a deaf ear and a hardened heart toward the masses of black people who suffer because of white supremacy, while they wage war about the plight og unborn fetuses. Black lives do not matter to them, and really, never have.

And that is a troubling reality.

A candid observation …

Black Lives Don’t Matter to GOP

I watched the much-touted GOP presidential debate last evening with bated breath. Would these candidates indicate that they knew about and cared about the war around the value of black lives that is tearing this nation apart? Would they indicate that they care about African-Americans who are literally fighting for dignity and fairness in this land?

They did not. Not one question about the Black Lives Matter movement was asked; not one candidate admitted that what is going on in America is a serious problem.

Kim Davis and her quest for religious freedom was mentioned, and passionately so. Planned Parenthood was mentioned, with everyone seeming absolutely horrified that, according to a video that has surfaced, body parts of fetuses have been sold by Planned Parenthood. Of course, there was much discussion about the hated Iran deal, about what Russia is doing, about the nation’s security in general. That was expected and necessary.

But there was not a word, not a mention about the crisis going on in the streets of America, with innocent and unarmed black people being arrested, harassed, shot, injured, jailed and killed, by police officers. Not a word.

White America (and Dr. Carson) seems not to care about what is going on. White America is caught in its insistence that whatever happens to black people at the hands of police officers is warranted – that, in spite of plenty of videos to date that have indicated otherwise.

How come Rev. Mike Huckabee can be so concerned about what he calls “judicial tyranny” and not care about the domestic tyranny called police brutality? How can he, a Christian minister, ignore the fact that young black people are being treated like chattel, still, suffering at the hands of those who are supposed to protect them? Why is the plight of one Kim Davis more heart-wrenching to him than is the plight of all these African-Americans who are being profiled and attacked by police …with little chance that the offending officers will be held to accountability for their actions?

Dr. Martin Luther King wrote that “the universe is so structured that things do not quite work out rightly if men are not diligent in their concern for others.” (“The Ethical Demands for Integration”) In 1962, he wrote that “it is sad that the moral dimension of integration has not been sounded by the leaders of government and the nation.” White people are adamant about there being “law and order,” and will insist, most of the time, that “the law” be obeyed. In the case of black lives, that means being quiet and acquiescing to the commands of police officers, be they in the right or not. Dr King wrote, in that same essay, “they sounded the note that has become the verse, chorus and refrain of the so-called calm and reasonable moderates: we must obey the law!  He said that the issue of national morality was before the leaders of that time. That same issue of national morality is before us now, but the GOP candidates are ignoring it.

Dr. King further wrote, in “Letter from Birmingham City Jail” that “oppressed people cannot remain oppressed forever. The urge for freedom will eventually come.” That urge is upon us now, GOP candidates. Whether you like the movement and action of the Black Lives Matter activists or not, the move is on to end the oppression which is and has always been wrought by the “justice system” in this land.  Dr. King wrote in that same letter, “The Negro has many pent-up resentments and latent frustrations. He has to get them out.”  That is what you are seeing, yet ignoring. The souls that are marching in the streets and lying down on highways are souls that are sick and tired of the anguish they carry around daily. They are tired of believing that there will be justice when law enforcement acts in criminal ways. Dr. King wrote that it is “immoral to urge an individual to withdraw his efforts to gain basic constitutional rights because the quest precipitates violence. Society must protect the robbed and punish the robber.”

Whomever becomes president of the United States will need to look squarely in the face of Justice and know that she will require the soul of America to answer for its injustice to so many of her citizens. Just as society dared, really, President Obama to speak up too much for the case and causes of black people,  the Black Lives Matter movement will dare the new president ti ignore the cries of people who are tired of justice …being unjust.

It was insulting, last evening, to hear those candidates completely ignore the cries of people who are alive and fighting for freedom while they spoke for the lives of babies not yet born.

They showed that black lives don’t matter to the GOP.

A candid observation …

Trump and America

What is America, really?

I mean, we have held ourselves up as a nation that is benevolent and righteous and Christian and just. We have defended our “exceptionalism” with a fury.

And yet, it seems that a large core of Americans are anything but ..benevolent, righteous, Christian (in practice) and just. Donald Trump, who has sounded and acted like a 21st century George Wallace, has gotten up in front of Americans and been racist, sexist, arrogant and disingenuous …and Americans love him.

OK. So it’s not all Americans. But it is a lot of Americans, and his lead, according to the polls, is increasing.

He insults, bullies, and cuts people down when they try to question him. He has made the most outrageous claims of what he will do if he’s president – all of which feels like he thinks he’ll be able to act independently of the Congress  – and Americans love it. I have heard people say he sounds “strong.” No monkey business with this guy. Under his “regime,” world leaders will cower and give into him as he makes America “great again.”

It seems that some of his Republican colleagues have just hidden under a bush. He has said things that none of them would have gotten away with, and they have been unwilling, for the most part, to challenge him.

He says he “adores” women, but from his mouth come the most foul, distasteful comments about women that seem to indicate otherwise. His “adoration” includes putting women down for what they wear, what they look like and how they ask questions. Yet, if he is challenged, he changes the story, blames the media for taking his words out of context, and generally moves to the point where the issue becomes moot.

He is “The Donald,” after all. And in spite of his disparaging comments about women, polls show that American women are flocking to his camp.

Does anyone understand any of this?

When I think of Trump’s arrogance and his hot-headedness, I shudder. What would happen if he were elected and Kim Jong-un said something to offend him or challenged him, and what if Trump responded like he shows he responds: hurling insults, getting on Twitter to further the reach of those insults, and totally bullied the young North Korean leader? Does anyone but me think that it would be a recipe for disaster, that Kim Jong-un would not hesitate to pull a machismo and press a button to annihilate America? Doesn’t Trump know that much of the world does not like America and is probably itching for an excuse to go after us?

Americans are tired of politics. They are tired of the lack of jobs and of having to struggle. They are tired of a Congress which has been impotent and of a president whom many are still not sure is a “real” American. When Trump says “we’re going to make this country great again” it makes their chests swell. The attitude is “do what you want, in whatever way you want to do it.”

Isn’t that the way dictators are born? Are tired Americans so tired that they cannot see what danger a Trump presidency would be to the world?

Someone said to me, “it’s not that they are tired, not like that. They are tired of “the coloreds” having too much power and presence, too much “say” in things.

“What they want is to get the coloreds out,” she said.


But whatever these Trump Americans want, it is a scary thought.

Trump might be a good businessman, but a world leader, he is not. He seems no better than the lives of dictators who have gotten into office in other countries and wreaked havoc.

America is in trouble.

A candid observation…

Desecration of Black Lives is Not a New Phenomenon

I read a piece in the New York Times where some white politicians offered stern rebuke for the Black Lives Matter movement, saying that “Dr. King would be appalled” at the fact that the color of people being disproportionately shot and killed by police officers is being lifted. (

Their remarks show their arrogance, ignorance and complete lack of understanding about what this fight is about.

Black lives have never mattered to white America. From the time of slavery, black bodies were merely property, valuable only in their ability to make money for the ruling class, the landowners who needed them to plant, plow and harvest their fields.

The Civil War was about slavery; white people (in the North and the South) did not care about black people as human beings; in fact, the going belief was that black people were not fully human. Though some who need to hide from history say that the War Between the States was about states’ rights, the “right” that states were fighting for was the “right” to own and use black people as they needed and wanted.

The lack of respect for black lives was shown not only in the fact of slavery, but also in the fact that black slave women were raped at will by white men (though they lynched black men with abandon because they said it was black men raping white women that was the most serious social issue of the day.) Black lives mattered so little that whites made it a crime for blacks to learn to read and write; the most minimal time was allowed for black children to attend school. Black lives mattered so little that the schools they did have were substandard,with few to no books, or with old books, the worst teachers, and the fewest supplies any child needs to have a positive school experience.

Black lives mattered so little that black people were lynched by whites for even the hint of a supposed crime; black people were never tried by “juries of their peers,” but most often by white men. Black lives mattered so little that black people were beaten and/or killed for even trying to register to vote. Law enforcement didn’t protect black lives; law enforcement officers either ignored, participated in, or initiated much of the violence meted out to innocent black people.

When Dr. King arrived in Memphis for the last time he would speak, he went in support of black men who were sanitation workers and who were treated …as subhuman, not making enough money to live, and being subjected to all kinds of horrific treatment as they tried to do their work. Remember, they carried signs that said, “I am a man!”  They carried those signs with those words because they knew their lives were not important, nor were their needs or concerns. The black men, picking up the garbage for Memphis’ citizens, were treated horribly and wanted to unionize. The city balked. Taylor Branch wrote, in At Canaan’s Edge that things were bad. The situation came to a head when two men were crushed in a compressor truck. The horrific deaths of Echol Cole and Robert Walker was the straw that broke the camel’s back. It seemed that their deaths brought home the reality that black lives really did not matter. Branch wrote that city policy “left the families of unclassified workers with no death or survivors’ benefits.” (p. 685) Thus, the families of these men, who had worked for pittance, were left with little to next to nothing after they died …working for the city. The mayor gave each family $500. That was it. The men got fed up, tired of hosting and supporting their own discrimination, and took to the streets. They had to stand up for themselves, and say that they were men, human beings …and that their lives mattered.

It is this historical maltreatment of black people that the Black Lives Matter movement is about. It is disingenuous and dishonest, in addition to being arrogant and ignorant, for these politicians to call on the name of Dr. King, who died as he marched in solidarity with the garbage workers in Memphis to say, “black lives matter” as justification for their disdain for the ongoing struggle for dignity and justice for white black people must still fight.

No, Gov. Huckabee, Gov. Barbour, Rand Paul, Republican Party …Dr. King would not be appalled. He fought for the cause of black lives …and the fight continues.

Don’t insult the work. Don’t continue the insult to black people who have suffered immeasurably at the hands of white people who do not think black lives matter.  Don’t speak of that about which you know so little, and seemingly, care so little.

Dr. King might be appalled at your lack of understanding of what this movement is all about.

A candid observation …


Before Michael Brown, there were others.

Trayvon Martin, Roger Owensby. Timothy Thomas. Emmett Till. There were so many others.

The black community has been under assault by “law enforcement” for decades, and law enforcement has historically gotten away with it.

The Rev. C.T. Vivian, of whom I am writing an authorized biography, when I asked him how black people are to cope, not just with the murders of unarmed black people, but the lack of justice, and therefore of respect and dignity, said that we have to realize our strength, and realize that white people know that what we as a people suffer is brutal. (my word, “brutal,” not his.) He said, “Most white people realize that they could not live as black people do. They realize they would not be able to handle it.”

I relate to what is going on, and to what has always gone on with sanction in this nation, as a mother of a son. I have a daughter, too, but it is my son that I worry about, just because he is a black male. He does not do drugs. He does not have a criminal record. He knows “how to act” if stopped by police.

But none of that matters.

And that’s what scares me. Black people do not have to have a criminal record or be doing something wrong in order to be gunned down with abandon …by police. White officers and black officers have the same obsession with power, it looks like. They do not like to be challenged or questioned…and they know they have the upper hand. They too often shoot first and ask questions (or make up a story) later. No matter how compelling is the evidence that they are in the wrong, they get off.

That is scary.

The nation, this nation, cannot be “exceptional” so long as such barbarity within the ranks of law enforcement exists, because the actions of those who are supposed to serve and protect are causing a huge swath of parents and loved ones to suffer emotional pain that is ignored and minimized.

Black people have lived on the hope, the faith, that God will make a way …out of this madness caused by the dehumanization of them and their children. But God has been slow. Black parents stand weeping on the banks of “Red Seas,” holding out a metaphorical “rod,” waiting for the sea of injustice to part, but the parting has not happened yet, not after all these years.

The parents and loved ones of all of these unarmed black people are standing on the shore of that sea, waiting for God.

But God has been slow. It feels like God has been absent, actually.

It is horrible that police officers have been randomly killed, but here’s the difference between slain police officers and slain black people. Whomever has killed a police officer will be brought to justice. Most police officers who kill unarmed and many times, innocent black people, even if charged with a crime, will go free. There will be no justice.

That reality is the fuel of the Black Lives Matter movement. The lack of justice speaks to the core belief of this nation that black people do not matter, and never have. The lack of justice undermines the words of the United States Constitution, which black people and those concerned with justice latch onto, “All men are created equal.”

Not so. It wasn’t the case when the Constitution was drafted and it isn’t the case now.

I wonder if any of people who are so quick to blame black people for our lot in life ever stop to think about the effects of being dehumanized. I wonder if they feel it when black mothers cry, when little black kids are put in handcuffs for doing things little kids of all races have always done …because they’re little. I wonder if white mothers feel the pain of the mothers of Trayvon and Michael and Jordan and Roger and TImothy and Renisha and Sandra and Freddie and Sam…and so many. So many…

Please understand. Parents and loved ones feel the pain when black lives are taken by other black people…but the difference is that black people who kill other black people are usually brought to justice and end up in prison. It is small consolation but at least it represents justice.

The cry that some are trying to vilify and call representative of hate is a cry that is filled with anguish about being used, exploited, and then being discarded. American society uses black people (and poor people) for cheap labor, exploits the, unwilling to give them decent wages so they can take care of their families, and then discarding them when they cry out for help as their loved ones are mowed down by state-sanctioned actions of law enforcement officers.

Law enforcement doesn’t care about black lives. The education system doesn’t care about black lives (schools for black children are the worst of all schools). America doesn’t care …about black lives.

Before Michael Brown there were others, so many others…

And we live in a nation that just does not care.

A candid observation

American Democracy has not been Democratic

Is there anything that will make the masses of white people own up to the fact that there is such a thing as white supremacy in these United States, that it has existed for years, and that it has produced “side effects” which continue to affect African-Americans today?

I listened to Bill O’Reilly go toe to toe with Dr. Cornel West, and in their discussion, O’Reilly said he did not believe there is such a thing as white privilege. ( O’Reilly is an historian of sorts. He knows what the history of this nation has been as concerns black people. So when he said that, I just sat back, frustrated.

Nowhere do we hear from this nation’s white “leaders” except, maybe, from former President Jimmy Carter, that America has a sordid past as concerns its treatment of black people for which there needs to be atonement. While America blasts ISIS for brutal behavior, her leaders keep her brutality under wraps. The lynching of black people, a huge reality, is something we just don’t talk about. We, Americans, burned black people for being accused, not necessarily convicted of, crimes. We denied people “fair” trials by juries “of their peers.” White people, claiming to be Christian, led by their pastors, treated black people like rabid animals, not human beings with needs, feelings and emotions. White slave traders broke up black families as they looked for the best “deals” to wield the greatest profits for America’s growing economy, and now they complain about the broken black family which too often has no father figure present. White politicians ignored the right of all children to get a good education, denying funds to schools in black rural and urban areas for those schools to provide solid educations for black children. White systems made it impossible for black people who fought in America’s wars to get loans for homes and for education, once they returned home from serving their country. White law enforcement officers often participated in violence against black people; white presidents turned deaf ears and blind eyes to the needs of black people.

I read about the lynching of Sam Hose (, accused of killing his boss, and I wept. The going reason for lynching black people was that black men were raping white women. Facts show, however, that it was white men who were raping black women – without ever having to pay for it. Black women were pieces of meat, owned by white men. They were desecrated and humiliated, and were impregnated at the same time. I am sure some black men raped white women, but in many cases, the sex between black men and white women was consensual. White women would lie and say they were raped in order not to be killed by their husbands. Why won’t white people talk about how they are not so “holy,” not so “blameless?”

White people have no idea about how their racism has impacted black people, making masses of black people live in fear. The Great Migration, brilliantly written about in The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson, happened in large part because white people terrorized black people in the South, behavior sanctioned by and participated in by politicians and law enforcement officers.

Surely, Mr. O’Reilly knows this and more, and surely, he recognizes that emotional trauma like this – which has not stopped – yields side-effects. Surely too he knows that mass incarceration, on top of black people having limited access to employment, has resulted in disintegration of the African-American community. Surely …

White people seem oblivious to their history. They seem, for the most part, to want to keep their heads in the sand; many refuse to admit that the Civil War was about slavery (states’ rights meant states wanted the right to own slaves). They refuse to admit that Jim Crow worked to dehumanize black people, even as it worked to undo the freedoms black people enjoyed for a short time. They will not own that their participation in job and housing discrimination was something they could do because they were and are white – that their whiteness gave them the privilege of participating in a system which was bullying black people further and further into second class status.

All this happened as white Christians abdicated the dictates of Christianity to live in and with agape love for all people.

America’s democracy has not been democratic, not for black people, and white people will not own it.

A candid observation

God, Black People, and Katrina

It has been 10 years since Hurricane Katrina ravaged New Orleans, and parts of Mississippi. Katrina was vicious, surely, an unwanted and uninvited visitor to an area of the country used to unwanted guests, but she was much more rude and imposing. Her winds and her rain devastated parts of Mississippi, and her power caused storm surges and broke levees in New Orleans, in effect murdering innocent people caught in the firestorm.

One could not look at the images on television of people, mostly black and poor, standing on roofs for days, waiting to be rescued. It was hard to shut out the images of people walking in the hot, blazing New Orleans sun, across the Danzinger Bridge, looking to get away from the flood waters that were swallowing their homes. My heart was broken as I saw pictures of dead people on that bridge, waiting to be picked up. The one picture that sticks in my mind is that of an old woman, in a wheelchair on the bridge, dead.

It didn’t help to hear the stories of people in the convention center, even though Katrina’s wind and rain had caused a hole in the center’s roof. The people were there, sitting in seats normally inhabited by people enjoying entertainment of some sort. Now, those seats were filled with desperate people, in a facility where there was reportedly no air conditioning, no electricity, no running water …The images even now haunt me.

I sat in Columbus, Ohio, a pastor of a church wanting to do “what Jesus said.” I have always wanted that. The people down South were suffering. We had to do something. So, we organized a campaign to collect needed items to take to the people. Health supplies. Bleach. Diapers, Food for babies and adults. Water. Clothing …you name it, we collected it. People from all over the city and outlying suburbs came over to Advent United Church of Christ, bringing supplies and by extension, love, for the people who were suffering. We were able to get an 18-wheel truck and we filled it  …and we drove to New Orleans. The truck with supplies, and us in our cars, with the determination to help “the least of these.”

In my mind, “the least of these” were primarily the black people. Those were the people whom I saw on roofs, crying for help. Those were the people who were on that bridge and in the convention center. They were the ones who had been, in large part, unable to get out of New Orleans before the levee broke, causing that dastardly flood. I considered them to be “the least of these.” We were going down there to help my people.

But God.

I have to admit, I am angry at God a lot, because I blame God for allowing racism to flourish. I blame God for not changing the hearts of white people who are filled with hatred and a sense of superiority and entitlement. I truly believe white Christianity, for the most part, has failed when it comes to racism. The white Church has allowed racism to flourish; it has advocated for segregation in its congregations; it has turned a blind eye and deaf ear to the cries of African-Americans who have been deemed to be the scourge of not only the United States but, it seems, the world. The god of white people has not insisted on agape love, not insisted on justice for “the least of these,” and has not pushed for mercy.

The god of the black church has been different, created out of what I call a “crazy faith” that has been the fuel for hope in spite of the injustice meted out by the government and the church. Author James Baldwin called the faith and subsequent hope of black people in America an “ironic tenacity.” Black people had to develop and embrace a faith that said trouble would not always be. Ida B. Wells, who fought against lynching in this nation, talked about her faith that was defined in large part, said James Cone in his book, The Cross and the Lynching Tree,  to “black cultural resistance to white supremacy.”

As we traveled to New Orleans 10 years ago, I fully expected to be able to get to the suffering black people.

But God.

We were stopped in Mississippi before we were able to get to New Orleans. I think the reason why was that there were so many people traveling there to help. We looked around; the place where we were stopped was completely devastated. We were in Pass Christian. There was nothing …We drove through deserted streets and saw homes and business flattened. There was no electricity. The houses that remained had marks on them to indicate that dead people had been found inside. On one street, there was a lonely dog walking, looking lost and forgotten. We fed him and I wondered how long it would be before he was rescued.

Anyway …we had this truck, full of supplies, and in our meandering, we came upon a church. There was life there; we could see people. We were excited and we drove as close to the door as we could. We were there! We were going to help “the least of these.”

There was one problem. All of the people …were white.

Damn. I wanted to leave. I had wanted to help the black people, and here we were, in this deserted, God-forsaken place called Mississippi, where I was sure many of my ancestors had been lynched and discriminated against. Mississippi???? God! Are You kidding me?

We began unloading stuff, things that these people needed. After a while, one of the people from Columbus came to me and asked, “When are we going to help the black people?” I just muttered and said, “soon.” In our group, we had black and white people, Jewish people as well as Christian, but for me, this wasn’t their trip, not as far as the ultimate goal was concerned. I wanted to help black people, and here we were, stuck in Mississippi, helping white people whose ancestors, at least, had surely caused misery for the very people we wanted to help and who were still in misery because of Katrina.

After we had unloaded much of what these people needed, I was jumping down from the truck, and this little old white lady, with white, fuzzy hair, came up to me, with giant, crocodile tears in her eyes. She hugged me. And then she just said, “Thank you. Thank you.”

I have never forgotten that day. I still have feelings about how that day worked out, how we ended up helping people whom I no intention of helping. I have grown too cynical to believe that our stop in Pass Christian that day made a difference in the hearts of white supremacists in that group. I blame God, like I said, for not doing a sweep of hatred in the hearts of people.

But the one thing I know is that God taught me a lesson that day, about what God and religion are supposed to be about. I am not sure I appreciate the lesson, but in spite of myself, I did learn.

Who can understand the ways of God? Surely, not me.

Emmett, Trayvon and Michael

It is a notable fact that in our country, major racial strife and a subsequent movement followed the lynching of young, black men.

That is not to say that black women have not been lynched. In fact, black women’s bodies have been brutalized by whites in this country in a way nobody likes to talk about. It is a great irony that while white men were lynching black men to protect their women from “the black beast,” which they considered black men to be, they were in fact raping black women with abandon. Because white people did not consider black people to be human, what white men did to black women was discarded and considered as a right they had in doing what they wanted to their property.

That’s another piece altogether.

But in thinking about what is going on now in this nation’s Black Lives Matter movement, it is clear that it has been the brutalization, the lynching, of young black men which has periodically set the country on fire. Not only have the murders of the black men been a catalyst for social upheaval, but also the lack of justice in their murders has stoked the fires of resentment and pain carried by black people in this country.

The protest today is centered around the police killings of young black men, but in the cases of Emmett Till and Trayvon Martin, it has been white vigilantes who have done the killing. In both cases, the murderers were tried and acquitted of wrongdoing. Their lives did not matter; the pain of their parents and loved ones did not matter, either. Emmett Till was killed on August 28, 1955 in Money, Mississippi, yanked from his uncle’s house in Mississippi as he slept because he allegedly winked at a white woman. He was beaten beyond recognition and his body was thrown into the Tallahatchie River. Emmett’s murderers had a trial but were acquitted after only an hour’s deliberation by the all-white, all-male jury.

We all remember that George Zimmerman was acquitted of killing Trayvon Martin and Officer Darren Wilson was not even bound over for trial in the killing of Michael Brown.

What struck me as I thought about these three young men was that they were all lynched. No, not in the classic “rope hanging from a tree” sense, but in the sense that their killings were done by white people who believe it is their duty, almost, to rid the world of those whom they deem to be unworthy of living. While Emmett was thrown into the Tallahatchie River, Michael Brown was allowed to lie on the hot pavement of a city street while officers in Ferguson built a case around his not being “a saint.” The murderers of Till tried to hide his body; the murderers of Brown left his body exposed so that the world could see what happened to people who messed with police.  Trayvon was not hidden or left lying exposed like Emmett or Michael, but his body did lie in a morgue for three days, listed as a “John Doe,” though he was killed feet from his father’s residence in a gated community in Florida. Tracy Martin, his father, had been looking for his son since the night he was killed; the morning after he didn’t come home, Martin called the police, looking for Trayvon. It was only then that he found out that his son had lain in the morgue for three days.

Three young men, one 14 years old, one 17 years old and another, 18 years old, were killed because they were black; being black made them “suspect,” and worthy of being brutalized.

None of these young men were treated …like they matter. From being stalked and “looking suspicious” as was the case with Trayvon, to engaging in a youthful flirt with a white woman in the case of Emmett, to refusing to treat a police officer, Darren Wilson, with appropriate deference, these young men lost their lives.

And too few people in the white community care about it.

If it had been my son, gunned down and then left in the street for hours, I would be furious now, just as I would be furious had my son been gunned down because he “looked suspicious.” I would be even more furious, deeply hurt, and probably inconsolable if my son’s killers were acquitted of any crime.

This nation has a plethora of mothers (and fathers) who are carrying the deepest of hurts and grief …and measured fury. The parents and loved ones of Jordan Davis, John Crawford, Tamir Rice, and literally hundreds more black people …are carrying hurt, grief …and fury. Their sadness is part of the fabric of this nation; it is an ever-deepening undercurrent of America.

The presidential candidates have, so far, all but ignored the Black Lives Matter movement. The participants in the movement are being cast off as “troublemakers.” They are. There needs to be trouble when injustice keeps on happening. If there is no trouble, nobody will listen.

Mamie Till started this wave of trouble-making when she would not permit the white people who killed her son to keep his death a secret. They thought it was over when they threw him in the river, but Mamie made them look for her son. They thought it was over when they said they would bury her son in Mississippi, but Mamie refused to let them. She took her son home to Chicago and had his horribly destroyed body photographed so that the whole world would see what the white people had done to her son.

Sybrina Martin, Trayvon’s mother, and Lesley McSpadden and Michael Brown Sr, the parents of Michael, sought justice for their sons and were deeply disappointed as the justice system refused them. Not only did the lives of their sons not matter, but neither did their lives matter, apparently, as parents seeking justice.

These three young men, robbed of life, clearly did not matter to the men who shot and killed them; they are mentioned here only because their parents  refused to remain silent.  The parents of others robbed of life in this way …are refusing to remain silent. The young people who are marching and chanting and demanding to be heard are marching because they know their own lives are in danger. They know they do not matter much, either. They also know that the only way anyone will listen …is for them to be “troublemakers.”

I think Emmett, Trayvon and Michael …and all of the others who have been gunned down largely because they were black people in America …would like that. I think their deaths ..deserve that. Their lives, and the lives of all the others …mattered.

A candid observation …


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