Why Don’t White People Get It?

The other day on CNN, during one of those now-familiar pointless conversations by a so-called “distinguished panel,” one of the speakers, a Trump supporter, blurted out, “Why does race have to be injected into everything?

Because, my dear, white people in power have always made race an issue.

From the writing of the U.S. Constitution to the present day, white people in power have done all they can to keep black people out of power. White lawmakers, many of them, have done all they could do to keep black people from voting; they are doing the same now. White people wanted black people to work this economy and make them money, but these same white people, too many, were clear that they did not want black people to have political and or economic power. They were not equal to whites, these white people said. They were inferior, white supremacist dogma said. Black people were not worth the time of day, these whites felt, unless, of course, they were making money for white people.

Does that sound caustic and cynical?  It can sound no other way. It is the truth.

Blacks having the right to vote has always been an issue. After the Civil War, during Reconstruction, blacks were allowed to vote and enjoyed political power for a time. But with the coming of Jim Crow, the right to vote was one of the first “rights” to be taken from black people. The poll taxes, the literacy tests, the murders of those  – white and black – who tried to register black people to vote – became a part of the fabric which is America.

Donald Trump keeps lifting up the GOP as the party of Lincoln – which it was. At one time the Republican party was the party which believed in the words “all men are created equal” and worked to assure that black people in this country were treated with dignity and respect.

But many Republicans, in addition to  Southern Democrats who had historically and openly fought against equal rights for black people,  were uncomfortable with blacks having more political and economic power. The Civil War was fought because Americans couldn’t agree on what to do with black people. The South thought they should forever be slaves; the North, though they were no less racist than their Southern neighbors, thought slavery should be abolished. In drama no less compelling than what is going on now, the pro and anti-slavery people fought.  Black people, as W.E.B. DuBois said, were a “problem.” The political parties tossed the issue of civil and human rights for black people back and forth like they were a hot football. Frederick Douglass said that, no matter how bad the Republican Party was, however, it was a whole lot better than was the Democratic Party.

Republicans held on as the party which would fight for blacks, even as individuals began to defect. The American political landscape, always changing, endured a significant shift during the Great Depression. Not only were black people marginalized – which they had always been – but now, many white people were marginalized, too. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt had to do something to save the nation, much like Abraham Lincoln had had to do as the country fell deeper and deeper into the Civil War. While Roosevelt saved the nation, he spawned a new level of racism and classism. Many politicians, Republican and Democrat, were upset with his New Deal.The New Deal saved the country and really created a space and way for black people to make a better living than they had previously. But many Americans, especially white powerbrokers, were not happy.

The objection to “big government” began to take front and center in the Conservative political platform. Many believed that too many black people were benefiting from the government programs. Few people would say that, but the racial undertones were there. Black people were wrecking the country, many felt. They were getting too much government assistance. The atmosphere for rebellion on the part of whites was set, and it was in the 60s that white discontent erupted – with race still in the center of it all.  Some in the Republican Party, which had  actually been more supportive of the 1964 Civil Rights Act than had been the Democrats –  were not happy. Just two weeks after the CRA was passed, Sen. Barry Goldwater, a Republican from Arizona, included in the number of Republicans who were angry at the passage of the Civil Rights Act,  began a campaign to “appeal to Southern white voters.” Goldwater ran for president on a platform of racial politics. More Democrats defected to the Republican Party – with race being the primary impetus. The Southern Strategy was a way of  minimizing the power of the black vote. The Party of Lincoln became the Party of Racial Bigotry.

This race thing…isn’t a Republican or Democratic phenomenon, however. It is an American phenomenon. Issues of race eat us up as Americans. We cannot get past it. Even now, Republicans are trying hard to suppress the rights gained by blacks via the Voting Rights Act of 1965. But that fact does not obliterate the fact that many white Democrats are supportive of voter suppression as well.

Many in this country soundly believe that America is and was always meant to be a “white man’s country.” Donald Trump knows this sentiment; he is speaking to people who want to say what I just wrote but don’t dare. Mr. Trump, however, says what they want to say. In an article in The Nation Magazine, the authors noted that the “Republican Party became the party of white backlash, especially in the South.” (https://www.thenation.com/article/when-republicans-really-were-party-lincoln/)

But the white backlash is everywhere. Racism is part of America’s fabric. I just don’t understand why white people …just don’t get it.

A candid observation …

 

The Definition of Patriotism

American-flag-America

I had a Twitter conversation with a Donald Trump supporter that has left me puzzled.

Donald Trump, she said, is a patriot.

I had been complaining that Trump is not civil; civility matters to me. She acknowledged that he was not so civil but that he was a patriot. The country was in tatters and he was going to make things right again.

So, I’m puzzled. Is patriotism the same thing as racism? Is patriotism the same thing as isolationism? Is it synonymous with Islamophobia? I have no doubt that Trump loves America, but it is the flavor of his love that is making me question the definition of patriotism. Is President Obama not a patriot? Are the non-native born American citizens, especially those who have fought for this country, not patriots?

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines patriotism as, simply, love for one’s country.

Trump is, by definition, a patriot. I was combining my idea of patriotism with my idea of civility. They are not synonymous. Trump, to me, is an uncivil patriot.

Patriots do not have to care about how they treat fellow Americans. What they do have to do is be against “the enemy,” wherever and whomever that enemy might be.

Donald Trump is not a patriot merely because he wants to bomb ISIS and make NATO members pay what they’re supposed to pay for. I hope he or someone can get rid of ISIS and all terrorist groups, including the domestic ones like the Ku Klux Klan.  And I hope that if he is elected, he will be able to get member nations of NATO to pay what they are supposed to pay.

Where I get confused is how he, as a patriot, can openly ask Russia, a long-time enemy of the United States, to hack into Hillary Clinton’s emails. If they hack into her emails, can’t they and won’t they hack into other documents that are vital to American security?  All this courting of Russia doesn’t feel patriotic to me. It feels troubling.

So, can one be a patriot and invite the enemy into its most private spaces? Isn’t Russia trying to regain its role as a top world power? Isn’t inviting Russia to hack an American politician’s email account kind of treasonous? Trump seems to trust Russia’s Vladimir Putin quite a bit. What is the basis of and for that trust? What has Putin done to show that Russia is America’s ally?

I am trying to understand. Someone help me. Because I am obviously missing something. What is a patriot? Donald Trump is a patriot because he loves his country, yet he questions the patriotism of President Obama and others whose foreign policy is different from his.

Patriotism seems to be a liquid concept if I go with the love for Trump as a patriot. It’s confusing.

A candid observation …

Trump is a Voice for the Frightened

 

When I was invited to preach at a white Episcopal church in Charles Town, West Virginia, the lead priest of that congregation called me to kind of coach me on how to approach the congregation.

Donald Trump

I was/am an educated African American woman. Her congregation was highly educated as well, but there is an issue of which I needed to be aware.

“They’re very sensitive about being talked down to,” she said, going on to explain that many white Southerners feel marginalized and put down by the “elites.” The elites were those with a lot of education, white people, she said, who they felt were always thinking that Southern white people were inferior, uneducated and, frankly, beneath them.

They were thus sensitive to being talked to in a way by an educated person which spewed that sentiment, and they were equally as sensitive about being called racist. Most of them hotly denied that they were racist, and would react badly if anything in my sermon got to that space of emotional pain that many white people, Southerners and Northerners as well, have carried for decades.

I was grateful for the priest’s “warning,” and worked very hard to make sure what I preached about – even though it was about racism – was not in any way an attack or a put down. Racism, I preached, was an aberration of spirit, something which Americans carry without even thinking about it. I worked very hard to illustrate the connectedness of all human beings, the ways in which we are the same regardless of color, before I got into the meat of the message, describing the damage racism does and has always done. It is America’s disease, I preached – not a new sentiment at all – but one which America has yet to acknowledge. And I tied all of what I was preaching about with the story of little Ruby Bridges, the little black girl who for a year sat in a classroom in New Orleans all by herself because racist people would not let their children be near her. I have a gift as a storyteller and worked the story so that the people could find the commonality of experience, the commonality of pain, the commonality of what it is to be a parent.

I think of that Sunday often. Charles Town is the city where John Brown was hanged for inciting an insurrection. It is rich in Southern history, a history which is rich with the stories and experiences of a culture which is racist but which ignores it in the hope of the reality of racism going away. America wants to keep its dirty little secret – which is not so little at all  and which is definitely not a secret- hidden away in a closet, and believes that if the secret stays in the closet, all will be well.

That belief, however, has always been wrong, and the proof that not talking about racism makes it go away is pushing up in the midst of this presidential election cycle. Donald Trump is feeding those who, like the Episcopal priest told me, are sensitive to being called racist and uneducated. A memo circulated by the Trump campaign vowed to concentrate on that group of people. (http://dailycaller.com/2016/08/06/trump-campaign-memo-primary-strategy-was-to-provide-safe-space-for-voters-called-bigots/) They are the ones who are screaming loudest about the “elite” people, those, they believe, who have been in power for too long. Their voices, beliefs and needs have been marginalized, ignored and cast aside for too long, in the quest of being politically correct, and being politically correct has meant “not talking about” racism and how the government, they believe, has done too much for black, brown and poor people, at the expense of white people.

The belief in white supremacy has driven American culture from its inception. After Reconstruction, whites who believed in their supremacy and resented the perception of blacks that they were equal with whites and therefore were owed the same rights, put Jim Crow into effect, effectively thrashing the gains made by black people, especially their right to vote. They believed then and many still do that America is a “white man’s country.” That doesn’t make them racist, they believe. That just makes them American.

No matter what, they have always been able to rely on their skin color to keep them in the running for the American dream, but globalization, making it possible for more people of color to invade what is supposed to be a white space, has weakened their status. They not only see more people of color coming into their land, they read or have heard the reports that by 2043, white people will be the minority in the United States. (https://mic.com/articles/106252/the-year-white-people-will-become-a-minority-in-america-has-been-declared#.TCKjBGUh9)

Donald Trump is speaking to a group of people who are angry, who have been marginalized by a government they think has been too big and too willing to embrace people of different races and religions, and who are seeing their version of white supremacy get more and more watered down. What they want “back” is the America where their status was secure.

That’s not going to happen.

But their fear is something Donald Trump knows. The group to whom he is speaking is vulnerable to his rhetoric, but the truth of the matter is that whites who are educated and who have gained pieces of the American dream are worried as well. “The marginalized” is not so small a group as many would like to believe. America is changing, and not many white people like it at all. Trump knows that, too – that whites of all classes are worried.

And so he is plowing through this campaign saying whatever he wants, challenging what has “always been,” promising that he alone will change the trajectory of a world which has not stood still, white supremacy notwithstanding.

And in his quest to speak to the hearts and concerns of those who feel abandoned and ignored, he is winning.

A candid observation …

 

 

What is a Joke?

At the height of the Democratic National Convention, Donald Trump, our Republican nominee for president, called a press conference, and during that press conference, he invited the Russian government to hack into Hillary Clinton’s email account.

He said that if the Russian government could find 30,000 missing emails, emails that Hillary Clinton said she erased, that the American press would probably “mightily reward” them. (http://www.nytimes.com/2016/07/29/world/europe/russia-trump-clinton-email-hacking.html)

His statement was shocking and troubling, and the press, as well as American government and security personnel, jumped all over it. Pundits tried to play it down; it was just “The Donald” being “The Donald,” practicing his craft of manipulating the press, as he so skillfully does. Any press, even bad press, is good, he believes. What better way to keep the spotlight on him, in light of what some might say is a fairly successful Democratic National Convention, than for him to say something outrageous?

But as the press and people who know government spoke out, Trump backtracked some, and said he was merely being sarcastic. And his friend Newt Gingrich, said that Trump had only been “joking.” (https://www.bostonglobe.com/news/politics/2016/07/27/newt-gingrich-says-donald-trump-was-joking-about-hillary-clinton-mails/vx5Ml4OXKJmfIcFMaDv6BK/story.html)

I’m confused. I thought a “joke” was or is supposed to be funny. Granted, the perception, understanding and interpretation of what is “funny” is left to the beholder, but there ought to be some thread of commonality, regardless of who is doing the interpreting, right?

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary says that a joke is “something said or done to cause laughter. : a brief story with a surprising and funny ending. : someone or something that is not worth taking seriously.” Good comedians are rare; they are capable of taking what we experience every day and making it funny. Their jokes make us laugh at ourselves, laugh at our habits and idiosyncrasies, laugh at our situations or even how we think. The best jokes, it seems, don’t make us look at someone who has a problem and laugh at them; at best, good jokes make us look at how we look at different people at laugh at ourselves.

But it seems that far too often in our world in general, and in our American world specifically, people say things that insult or put others down and when their words are found to offend, the immediate response is, “It was just a joke,” or “you can’t take a joke.”

Seriously?

When the mayor of a small town in Washington State called Michelle Obama a “gorilla face” and President Obama a “monkey man,” he said that it was just “playful back and forth banter.” (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/washington-mayor-racist_us_55a71677e4b04740a3defd84)

Amy Schumer has been called on the carpet for saying disparaging things about Mexicans. She calls them “jokes.” Mexicans call her words hurtful, racist and offensive. (https://www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2015/07/06/dont-believe-her-defenders-amy-schumers-jokes-are-racist/)

I personally hate the “n” word, but when an African-American is telling a story about some experience he or she has had with friends or family and uses the word, sharing an experience with which we as African Americans are all familiar, it is funny. But when a white person begins to use the word, not becoming immersed in a common, comical cultural experience but instead is standing outside looking in, the words sound judgmental, racist, and, frankly, inappropriate. A white person using the “n” word is never funny, and black people need to drop it, too. But there is a noticeable difference when black people are using it to describe black life, black experiences, black emotions and black pain.

But back to Donald Trump and his invitation to Russia to hack Hillary Clinton’s emails – where  is the humor? Where is the joke? What are we supposed to find amusing about a presidential candidate inviting a known enemy of this nation to commit espionage?

Am I missing something here?

It is a cop-out to say one was only “joking”  when his or her words have backfired. If President Obama gave a presentation and called Donald Trump some disparaging term that has obvious racist overtones, the airwaves would burn. When people have said things about Trump, say, for instance, about his hair, they haven’t had to back up and say they were joking. They weren’t.

And neither was Trump. He was speaking from his heart, just as too many people do who say things that offend other people, especially along racial, ethnic and sexual lines. Calling someone a name, like too many have done, is not funny. Inviting an enemy to compromise your own nation’s security…is not funny, either.

Donald Trump was not joking and you were not being sarcastic. That’s what makes what he said so troubling, and even more troubling is the fact that his hard core followers do not care.

But many more do care, Mr. Trump. Many more do.

A candid observation …

 

When Black People Don’t Vote

The other day, I was going into a library and as I approached the door, a young man with a clipboard approached me, asking if my voter registration was up to date. As I assured him it was, my ears perked up when the other gentleman with a clipboard asked an African-American woman the same question I had been asked, and she snapped, “Yeah. Naw. I don’t vote!” And at that, she stormed into the library. I followed her and she grumbled to a child who was with her, who may have been her grandchild, “how dare them ask me if my registration is up to date! They don’t question me! If I want to vote, I’ll vote.”

I didn’t know if that meant she had a voter registration card and was just miffed that someone asked her if her information was up to date, or if she really planned not to vote. I don’t have the answer to my own question, but this I do know: it does something to me when I hear black people say they are going to vote.

Last year, I visited Selma. I walked across the Edmund Pettus Bridge. As I walked, I remembered reading what happened on that bridge, how black and white people were beaten back by white police officers who beat them, injuring many, including Congressman John Lewis, who was a young man at the time.

As we walked across that bridge, I remembered thinking how chaotic and scary that day or that project had to have been. The bridge is not large; it is not long and it is not wide, and yet, thousands of people, tired of having to take literacy tests given, many times, by people who could not read themselves. I thought about how those people kept hitting against the Evil called white supremacy, being beaten, imprisoned, having their houses burned down by white people, many of who were law enforcement officers…I thought about how people stayed the course and risked their lives and much more, just to get black people the right to vote.

And yet, some people say they will not vote.

I have heard young people say voting doesn’t matter, or, more specifically, that their vote does not matter. I have heard other people blame God, or give God credit, for their not voting. One woman, when I was registering people before the 2008 election, said God told her not to vote, that the only One she had to answer to, was God. No, she said, she would not be voting.

Her statement confused me and bothered me, just as this woman the other day at the library confused and bothered me, and, frankly, made me angry.

I remember growing up, when we kids would do something wrong that made us look like the selfish kids we were, my mother saying, “I’ve done (and she could list the things she had worked and sacrificed for) for you …and this is the thanks I get?

Those words gripped me as I grappled with this woman’s reaction to the question about being up to date with her voter registration information, and her declaration that, “no,” she would not be voting.

How can anyone of African American descent say that?

For many, there is disappointment that Hillary Clinton is the presumptive nominee. They are disappointed because they feel her message was supported by the media, though they feel that her message and candidacy was supported at the expense of Bernie Sanders. Others are angry at her because she supported policies of her husband, former President Bill Clinton, that were responsible for many black people being in prison today for either petty crimes, or crimes they did not commit.

To be honest, I am not wild about Hillary being in the White House, either. I don’t think she is any worse than any other candidate, but I am just not inspired by her campaign promises and rhetoric.

But though I am unimpressed by what she is saying, I cannot choose to skip this election and my by absence, give more votes to Donald Trump. Trump and the Republicans represent the racism, overt racism, that our ancestors fought to be rid of. Trump is a bully,and a narcissistic racist who is appealing to the guy wrenching fear and anger of a group of people who want him to “make America great again.”  I don’t think we as black people understand fully about how being present in the political arena and exercising our right to vote is about the best way to make sure white supremacy is held at bay.

I am hoping black people who are planning not to vote will rethink their plans. Black people don’t win by withholding, or rejecting  their privilege to vote. We have got to be present, in the middle of the cocktail party, so to speak, to make our voices heard and to not let the poison of white supremacy spread across these United States like a toppled jar of non-washable ink. Our ancestors, I keep thinking, must be weeping in their divine sleep, screaming screams that cannot be heard, saying, “No!”

We have come too far, but the powers that be are working to undo those changes, slowly, persistently, and financially. If we don’t vote, we contribute to Trump’s victory. But listen up: We needed the right to vote.  Even if you hate Hillary Clinton, there is or will be more chances to perhaps get people in high places so that the gains we’ve made will not be completely eroded by a group of people who “want their country back.” I don’t know what all that means, but it feels like something that will be designed to break our backs. They are gearing up for the victory of a man who thinks of no one but himself; if we let him in, we suffer; the gains we’ve made will be done away with.

And our ancestors will weep again.

A candid observation..

 

When the Women Rise Up

In light of the tragedy of the past week, one thing is standing out.

It’s the women. Women, aching, crying, concerned and committed, are standing up and speaking up and speaking out.

Diamond Reynolds, the girlfriend of Philando Castile, had the presence of mind to record the interaction between herself and a gun-holding police officer, doing a “live” recording that people could see immediately. It was phenomenal to watch. That she had the presence of mind to do that spoke volumes about her strength. As her boyfriend lay dying, as her four-year-old daughter sat in the back seat of the car, terrified, at times crying, and finally trying to comfort her mother, Diamond forged ahead, through her pain and terror, to tell a story she knew needed to be told.

Then there is the African American female cop who lives in Warrensville, Ohio who watched the video of Alton Sterling, a video in which she saw Sterling shot multiple times at point blank range, and this woman, a police officer, a woman, a mother …and an African American, spoke out. (http://www.ajc.com/news/news/national/how-dare-you-ohio-police-officer-nakia-jones-voice/nrtMG/)

Watching them, my mind went back to when Emmet Till was murdered – lynched – in Money, Mississippi after he  allegedly flirted with a white woman. He was visiting relatives and didn’t know …and was young and arrogant enough to disregard …the “Southern” way of life, which included the prohibition of a black man to pay attention or to “disrespect” a white woman. What that “disrespect” was was left entirely up to the white people, primarily white men, who made the call.

Emmett, only 14 years old at the time, was dragged from his uncle’s house in the middle of the night by relatives of the white woman who made the accusation against Till. His murderers beat him nearly to death; they gouged out one of his eyes, shot him in the head, and then used barb wire to tie his body to a cotton gin fan and threw his body into a river.

It was a horrific death, but those kinds of murders of black people were common in the South, and hardly anyone ever went to jail or prison – or even got charged, for that matter. It was the intent of the good ol’ boys that the narrative be that Emmet had just disappeared. But three days after his murder, his body washed up and was discovered. The authorities reportedly just wanted to hurriedly bury Emmet, but his mother, Mamie Till, who by now had been contacted about the disappearance and now the death of her son, refused to let them bury him. She headed from Chicago to Money, Mississippi, Emmet’s body lying in a funeral home waiting to be identified. He had decomposed so much that it was difficult to identify him, and the stench from his decaying body was so bad that Mamie could smell him when she got off of the train. But she went to that funeral home and demanded to see her son. She was able to positively identify him by a ring he had on his finger. She decided she would take her boy home, as expected, but what people didn’t expect was for her to insist that his coffin remain open so that the “world could see what they had done to her boy.”

Her decision was bold. It was courageous …and it was an action that stirred the complacency of people – white especially, but black as well – to sit up and notice an evil that was so much a part of American life that it was nearly taken for granted. There was some personal risk, one might assume, for Mamie, but danger to her was not her concern. She was tired. She had had enough. She hated racism and white supremacy. She had raised a good boy in a difficult time …and now, racists had killed her boy and wanted to cover it up and act like it was no big thing.

It wasn’t going to happen.

Her spirit was one of fire. Her spirit, like the spirits of Fannie Lou Hamer and Ella Coleman and Mary McLeod Bethune, and Rosa Parks …and so many women we usually mention but don’t give enough credit to, became a driving force in the continuing effort to take the covers off the shenanigans practiced by racist people who took stock and had confidence in their ability to mess over black people and get away with it. In these last few years of horrific police violence against black people, it has been women who have stood up and spoken up, saying, in essence, “no!” Sabrina Fulton, mother of Trayon Martin,  stood up. Lucia McBath, mother of Jordan Davis, stood up. The mother of Henry Green in Columbus, Ohio, Adrienne Hood, is standing up. There are more, and their impact cannot be underrated.

Mamie said, “no.” She said no, as did the women named here and so many others. Men in African American culture have done some amazing things, but it is the women who are standing out for me. And now, it is women, again, who are standing up. Nakia Jones, a police officer, could lose her job for standing up and saying that police who have race issues should not be cops. She said it and she said it with passion. She said that what she saw in the shooting of Alton Sterling was wrong,  and she said it boldly.  Diamond Reynolds said …no. If her boyfriend was going to die, she was determined that the world would know how it happened.  They said no and because of their courage, the world is having to look at things they have tried to run and hide from for decades.

I think there should be an award, a “Mamie Till Award” given to women who stand up and speak up with little regard to the risk to their own comfort.  While few people have any confidence at all that the police officers who killed Sterling and Castile, there is one thing most people have to admit: that because of the courage of women,  this world is a little bit more aware today than it was at the beginning of the week.

A candid observation …

 

http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/the-death-of-emmett-till

 

 

 

Defining Racism

 

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, racism is “a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race.”

GOP House Speaker Paul Ryan must have been thinking about that definition when he said this week that Donald Trump’s comments about the capacity of U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel to be fair in the case involving Donald Trump’s Trump University. Trump, in an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper, said as much when he said that Curiel “is a Mexican. I’m building a wall.” (<a href=”http://www.cnn.com/videos/politics/2016/06/03/donald-trump-hillary-clinton-judge-jake-tapper-full-interview-lead.cnn&#8221; target=”_hplink”>http://www.cnn.com/videos/politics/2016/06/03/donald-trump-hillary-clinton-judge-jake-tapper-full-interview-lead.cnn</a&gt;)

There was an immediate backlash from Republicans and Democrats alike. Speaker Ryan said, “Claiming a person can’t do their job because of their race is sort of like a textbook definition of a racist comment.” (<a href=”http://www.cnn.com/2016/06/07/politics/paul-ryan-donald-trump-racist-comment/&#8221; target=”_hplink”>http://www.cnn.com/2016/06/07/politics/paul-ryan-donald-trump-racist-comment/</a&gt;)

But New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and Trump surrogate Jeffrey Lord, a Trump supporter, protested the claim that Trump is a racist. Both men…and many of the television Trump-supporting pundits, insist that Trump is not a racist. Lord went so far as to say that Ryan’s comments were racist. “Speaker Ryan has apparently switched positions and is not supporting identity politics, which is racist,” Lord said.(<a href=”http://www.cnn.com/videos/politics/2016/06/08/donald-trump-judge-mexican-van-jones-jeffrey-lord-sot-ac.cnn&#8221; target=”_hplink”>http://www.cnn.com/videos/politics/2016/06/08/donald-trump-judge-mexican-van-jones-jeffrey-lord-sot-ac.cnn</a&gt;

All the pushback against being called a “racist” has always amazed me …and it leads me to wonder aloud, “<em>Do the masses of white people understand what racism is? Do they understand how what they think about people who are not white colors every single decision and belief they have about non-white people?”</em>

The Eugenics Movement was all about racism, about establishing the “master race.” In his book. <em>War Against the Weak: Eugenics and America’s Campaign to Create a Master Race</em>,” author Edwin Black explains how it was America’s study of race. The goal of eugenecists was to create a master race – which was thought to be blonde and blue-eyed. The idea of a Nordic master race was created right here in the United States. The eugenics movement created the belief that it was necessary to get rid of anyone who didn’t fit the Nordic stereotype. Anyone who was not this Nordic prototype was deemed to be inferior.

The “unfit” were not only people who did not have Nordic features; people who were ill or who had different physical maladies were deemed to be unfit as well – and worthy of extinction. The Nazis got their ideas about “the Master race” and about exterminating the Jewish people, who clearly did not have the desired features, from the United States. The concept of the superior Nordic race was a reality decades before Hitler came to power.

The story of the eugenics movement, and the attitude of superiority it afforded white people here and around the world is too much for this article, but it is singularly amazing that apparently intelligent people like Gov. Christie and Jeffrey Lord – can say, with straight faces, that Trump is not a racist. He is spewing the racist rhetoric spawned by the eugenics movement, and know this: he and many others think that way. Historically and in real time, many white people have thought, believed in and practiced racist rhetoric and practices. From telling prima ballerina Misty Copeland early on that she didn’t have the right features to be a classical ballerina, to keeping talented African Americans from being quarterbacks because they were thought not to be intelligent enough, to not allocating money enough to urban public schools so that little brown and black children can get a fair and decent education, the belief that blacks (and browns, and anyone who is not white) are inferior white supremacy – aka racism – has been a mainstay of American culture.

Just because one doesn’t don a white hood and set fire to crosses does not mean one is not a racist. The racism is in the souls of people all over the world, because it has been taught and reinforced by governments, churches, organizations and other institutions.

If people would just admit that they are racist, that they do believe in the innate inferiority of anyone who is not white, perhaps this nation, and ultimately, the world, could move past the racism which has destroyed the lives of so many people. Too many white people, though, will not own it. It’s rather like a person who is addicted to prescription medicines not admitting that he or she is an addict. Whether the drug of choice be Percocet or crack cocaine, addiction is addiction; an addict is an addict…

And just like an addict cannot shake the addiction until he or she admits there’s a problem, so will the slew of Americans who are racist remain stuck in that sick state of mind and being unless and until they admit it.

Mr. Trump is a racist. His attitude and his statements have been, as Speaker Paul Ryan said, “classic textbook.” But here’s the thing: many of our legislators think just like Trump; they just haven’t said it out loud.

Perhaps in the midst of Donald Trump’s sickening presence there can be a blessing. Perhaps more people will look at themselves, and realize that what he is saying, they have always felt.

A candid observation…

Floating Like a Butterfly

“The Greatest” went home yesterday.

Muhammad Ali went to a spiritual space not dominated and controlled by one particular religion, sex, ethnicity, or cult, but to a space open to all people, a space which is not only a community but, as Dr. King said we must work to create globally, a neighborhood.

Ali, truly “The Greatest,” understood what so few people understand, and sadly, so few religious people understand, and that is, that all people count.

He made himself count to a world and to an American society which thought nothing of stashing people like him to the back rooms of second class-ness, to be pulled out when needed or wanted. He rejected and spit out what he called his “slave name,” Cassius Clay, and took a name he wanted. He rejected Christianity, which has done way too little to thwart the evil called white supremacy, and became a member of the Nation of Islam.

He let the world, and the powers that run this world, that at the end of the day, it wasn’t their world to decide who was worthy of respect and who was not. He shouted out loud that he was “The Greatest,” and he made the world deal with it.

He refused to go to the Vietnam War, pointing out the hypocrisy of a Christian nation that thought nothing of sending hundreds of thousands of men (only men at that time) to the front lines of a foreign country to kill innocent people. There was no need to be there on any level, and Ali knew that, but even if the United States decided that there was a reason, he was free to reject that reason and the nation’s desire to use him to further what he considered be immoral gain.

So, the black man who changed his name and rejected America’s dominant religion, planted his feet and said, in essence, “I ain’t going.”  He said, “I ain’t got no quarrel with those Vietcong!” The power structure was aghast; how dare this black man defy them? They had a political and social temper tantrum; they convicted him of draft evasion, fined him $10,000, stripped him of his heavyweight title and banned him from boxing for three years.

He did not care. He was willing to go to prison for his principles, which were both moral and religious. His Muslim religion prohibited him from engaging in that war, he said, and was going to choose the will of God over the will of man. Period.

He was “the greatest.”

It is ironic that Ali died the week the remake of ROOTS was shown, the story of how one particular African American family came to be in this country…but the center of the story was one Kunta Kinte …who, like Ali, refused to be subsumed by a culture which wanted only to control him. Kunta Kinte was told by his father and the elders of his village that his name was his spirit and his shield. Kinte Kinte held onto his name in spite of being beaten nearly to death by an overseer who demanded that Kinte say the name, own the name, that white people had given him. He did not …and he never did. Even when those around him called him “Toby,” in his spirit, he was clear…and that clarity gave him strength. His name was Kunta Kinte, and nobody was ever going to take that away from him. Though he was brutally oppressed by the system of chattel slavery, he never descended to a pit of despair. Holding onto his name gave him the strength to “float like a butterfly and sting like a bee,” as Muhammad Ali said, staying ahead and on top of white supremacy. He had chains around his wrists and feet at different times, but this mind and spirit here were never  chained.

Muhammad Ali, the African American Muslim, rejected his slave name, took on a name that he wanted, and never looked back. He taught Muslim principles – the same principles by which he lived – to his children and to people who looked up to him. He continued to look for deeper meaning in his spiritual life. He never let go of his strong tie and relationship with Allah and he just kept boxing the racism that he hated so much.

Ali was deeply rooted in his faith, and it kept him grounded in spite of the storms of his life, including his diagnosis of Parkinson’s Disease. When GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump announced his plan to ban Muslims from entering the United States, Ali, flying like a butterfly, said, ““Speaking as someone who has never been accused of political correctness, I believe that our political leaders should use their position to bring understanding about the religion of Islam and clarify that these misguided murderers have perverted people’s views on what Islam really is.”

He said, in that same statement, ““I am a Muslim and there is nothing Islamic about killing innocent people in Paris, San Bernardino, or anywhere else in the world…  True Muslims know that the ruthless violence of so called Islamic jihadists goes against the very tenets of our religion.” (https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2015/dec/09/muhammad-ali-responds-to-trumps-muslim-ban-plan)

Now the world, so much of which  has denigrated and castigated Muslims, wants to give homage to this man, which he richly deserves, but the homage is tainted by a veil of religious bigotry which has caused so many to suffer unnecessarily.

Would that Ali’s life and death, and his words and actions, would be used to wipe out the racism and bigotry that is swallowing this nation and this world.

Only those who have the courage to “float like a butterfly and sting like a bee” will be able transcend the spiritual illnesses of this world, which Ali refused to let knock him out.

A candid observation.

Best Friends, Gone

Three weeks ago, I did the funeral for my best friend. She had been ill for a while; she had checked out of life twice in the past three years and had been revived.  Though she had been sick, I thought she’d beat this last bout of a stubborn heart, wanting to give up and give out. She did not beat it this time, and Death claimed her.

I was angry about it. Anger is a part of grief that we don’t talk about much. It’s almost as though it’s a sin to be angry at someone who died. Their death was enough; their death is a ticket to grieve, but in an acceptable way. Sadness. Tears. A feeling of loss…

I felt all of that, but in addition, I felt anger. The anger started the moment I got to her hospital room literally a minute after she died. I hit my leg in anger and stomped my foot. She couldn’t be gone, I thought. But of course, she was. I stood next to her lifeless body, still warm, talking to her because I was sure she could still hear. I told her I was going to miss her, that I was missing her already.

I didn’t tell her I was angry that she had left me. Yes, she had left others, too, but honestly, all I could deal with at that moment was my reality. As a clergy person, you’re supposed to know how to handle death, and you’re supposed to handle your own emotions. I get that and I do that pretty well. But for a moment, before the “pastor” thing kicked in, I was just her best friend, left behind, and I was mad.

That anger was enough, but then, yesterday, I had to put my beloved dog down. She was 17 years old and could not walk, could not get up or stay up after being hoisted. She was still clear-minded and still had the amazing sparkle in her eyes that she’d always had, but she could not stand up, get up, or stay up. She was incontinent. She ate, but had gotten to the point where she had to eat while lying down, and when she was lying down, she twisted her body into a shape which I called “the question mark.”

I watched her and ached for her and for me. She was a proud, beautiful dog, a Siberian Husky. All her life she had been spirited and stubborn, and those parts of her personality had not been decreased or affected by age. But she was sick. I remember thinking that she was in a place where I as a human would not want to be; if I were so sick that my life had been maintained by machines, and I could not function, I would want to die.

Surely, a dog not being able to get up, stand up or stay up…must be analogous to being on life support.

She was my other best friend. She stuck with me no matter what. She laid by my bed for all those years; she actually slept on my bed when she had been able to jump onto it. She was the gentlest soul, and she was always there for me, but now, she was sick.

She fought to live, but I knew it wasn’t good for her so, I decided I had to put her down. It was what was right for her. I gave her the “death-prep” pill my veterinarian prescribed for her; I was to give it to her two hours before “the procedure.” I gave her the pill and then gave her a rib bone. It was her final treat. I normally didn’t give her bones because bones are bad for dogs’ teeth, I’d been told. But on this day, it didn’t matter anymore. She ate that bone with the excitement with which she had always eaten “treats,” and then she put her head on the grass still moist with dew, and went to sleep.

I went to get her a couple of hours later. Her body was completely limp, because of the pre-procedure pill. I took her to the car, already crying, and laid her on the blanket I had put on the back seat for her. My other dog jumped in and gave her a sniff and sat watch at the car window which her sleeping sister had always taken…

We got to the veterinarian’s office and were led to a room. I cradled my “other best friend” in my arms, on my lap, while my other dog pranced nervously about, sensing that something was terribly wrong, or at least different, and then the doctor came in.

She was crying, too. This dog was so lovable; she was kind and patient …and pliant, yet on the other side, she was equally as stubborn and strong.  As we put my limp dog on the table, it was hard to figure out who was crying more, me or the doctor.

The procedure went quickly, me holding my dog until she was gone. It only took minutes, and as life left her, I buried my head in her fur which would have made her, had she not been dead, give me one of her long, slow dog kisses. She was gone.

And I was mad.

I am still mad. My two best friends are gone and I am quite at a loss as to how to handle it. I know death is a part of life; God knows I have preached that truth enough.

But it doesn’t help, knowing death is part of life. Right now, it feels like death slapped me twice in three weeks. And it hurts. There is no easy way to meet grief and to get through grief,  whether it comes because you’ve lost a human friend or a furry friend.

Grief is grief.

A candid observation …

The Cost of Self-Hatred

One of the most tragic consequences in America of racism and sexism is that they have resulted in a huge swath of people – women of all colors and black and to a lesser extent, brown people – who hate themselves.

There is an obsession with Eurocentrism in this world; anything white or Nordic-looking is deemed to be better and superior, and the world bought into it generations ago. Hitler, in his racist craziness, was looking to create a “master race,” but the concept of that master race being white, blue-eyed and blonde didn’t originate with Hitler. It came right from these United States.

Racism was written into the Constitution with black people being relegated to being on 3/5 of a person. The framers of the United States Constitution made it clear that this nation’s foundational document meant fully to exclude slaves, women, Indians and even white indentured servants. White men were written up and held up as “the fittest,” and in later years, the Eugenics movement in this country sought to wipe away individuals who were designated as being “inferior.” The only people the Eugenics movement sought to perverse, according to Edwin Black, author of War Against the Weak, were those who confirmed to Nordic stereotypes.

That belief undergirded national policies, including segregation and forced sterilization. Black says that upwards of 60,000 Americans were forcibly sterilized. Major corporations, including the Carnegie Institution and the Rockefeller Foundation, funded the work of the “scientists” who did work to “prove” the superiority of Nordic-looking Caucasians, and some of this country’s most elite universities, including Yale, Harvard and Princeton, produced scientists who offered their intellect and time to prove that the Nordic race was, in fact, superior.

The history of all of that is too much to go into here, but the result of the spreading of the lie that Europeans, specifically Nordic whites, were superior, has had a devastating effect on black and brown people, and on women, too. Black people have been so demoralized by being designated as ugly and intellectually inferior that many have tried to get as far away from their heritage as possible. White people as well, who did not fit the Nordic prototype, have struggled with feeling inferior; when I was in high school and college, I saw many white women ironing their hair and dyeing it blonde, in order to fit into the accepted definition of beauty.

The disregard of anything and anyone which does not fit the Nordic model is part of the pathology which undergirds the treatment of black people by whites, and specifically the treatment of blacks by white police officers and by other blacks. We tend to see ourselves through the lenses of other people; the lens of white America sees or portrays black people as being brutish and and criminal. That lens despises black skin, black hair and black body types. A black person, then, is a thing, the personification of the 3/5 designation given by the United States Constitution, and is to be feared rather than protected.

Both white and black people look through the same lens. White people hate black people, but too many black people hate themselves and therefore each other. White people objectify black people, but black people objectify each other as well. In spite of great gains made that have made the African American population accept itself more than it has historically, there is still a great gulf between self-love and self-acceptance and the bigoted image and prejudiced view which has been the American reality.

White people are still hyper-critical of how black people look. Consider the horrid things which whites have said about Michelle Obama, who is a beauty in her own right. It is a tribute to her inner strength that she has endured the racist criticisms and put-downs that have come her way, but many African Americans, especially young girls, do not have that strength and they struggle with who they are and how they look – still, in this, the 21st century – wanting desperately to be anything other than black.

Black people still talk about “good” and “bad” hair, bad being, of course, their hair. Relaxers made to straighten out the kinky locks of black women have in fact done so much damage to black hair that it will take years to reverse. What is sad is that there are still too many black mothers who put these toxic and dangerous relaxers on their hair of their little girls, whose hair is way too delicate to handle the chemicals. Too many black people are still concerned with the fullness of their lips, even as white women get injections to make their lips bigger. In essence, what this means is that while many young African American women have a much more healthy self-image than did even their mothers, there are still too many little black girls and young black women wanting to be white.

There are a lot of consequences of not liking oneself, but one of the biggest is that when one is consumed with self hatred, he or she cannot bloom in his or her own fullness. The refusal of legislators to allocate money for schools in urban areas, themselves filled with contempt for black people,  is depriving this nation of incredible intellect and talent sitting in those schools, cultural and societal barriers to the same notwithstanding. It would help if advertisers could get away from their own biases, still holding up the Nordic look as the standard of beauty. Little black girls see white women with long, blonde flowing hair, and they want to be like that. The media does the most damage to the possibility for the image of beauty to move away from being lily white, but the media also helps keep little black girls captive to a standard of beauty which keeps them bound and incapable of realizing their highest potential, a fact which ultimately weakens this nation.

It’s not just the way the media portrays the standard of beauty which is problematic; it is its refusal to correct the misconceptions about how black people function in this world. The media still portrays “the bad people” as being primarily black. Black on black crime is held up as proof that black people are not viable, valuable American citizens. We hear little about the very real phenomenon of white on white crime – which doesexist. According to the US Department of Justice statistics, 84 percent of white people killed every year are killed by other whites. In an article which appeared in the Huffington Post, the author pointed out that in 2011, “there were more cases of whites killed whites than there were of blacks killing blacks.” That same article said that from 1980 to 2008, “a majority (53.3 percent) of gang-related murders were committed by white people. (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/kerry-coddett/white-on-white-crime-an-u_b_6771878.html)

The tragedy is that the media doesn’t pick up and carry those stories but stays instead in the place of myth, pushing the myth that only black people kill black people, not whites, and that that “fact” again proves that black people are not good people, good citizens. White people get a pass while black people struggle to love and respect themselves even as the society goads whites here and all over the world, to hate and despise them.

Black people have climbed over the lies and deliberate attempts to vilify and denigrate them, their looks and their intellectual capacity, for generations. That climbing reveals an inner strength that blacks too seldom celebrate. The curse of racism is a perpetual cloud which hangs over everything in this country, and that cloud, which contains the condensation of racial hatred that is bred and cultivated on American soil, has traveled all over the world.

We, as black people in this nation, have got to look at phenomenon of self-hatred square the face and renounce it, and the white people in this nation who rest arrogantly in the false image of white supremacy need to understand that the supremacy is a myth.As the myth is continuously revealed, with all of its holes and weaknesses, those who have hidden under it will be sorely affected, but that affectation must come.

It is time for the foolishness, wrongness and  amorality of white supremacy to end, and it is past time for African Americans and people of African descent all over the world to stop living in a desire to be something they will never be. It is time for African Americans to walk forward and proudly, no matter their hair or body type.

In fact, it is past time.

A candid observation …

 

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