Can White Supremacy Be Cured?

The disease called white supremacy is as deadly to the soul and spirits of those afflicted as is a stage four cancer with metastasis.

Unlike cancer, however, white supremacy is contagious and affects everyone it touches. It is without rationality or compassion; it is willfully blind to the reality that those who claim intellectual superiority are simply wrong. It causes people to compromise the conception of God who presumably made everything and everyone intentionally, and it allows people to distance themselves from the putrid and toxic exudate which comes from the hearts and mouths of those who live by it.

James Baldwin

White supremacists do not see people of color as human beings with emotions, needs and the right to dignity; they instead view people as objects. Their dehumanization of human beings is not reserved for only black people, but for brown people, for Jews, for Catholics, for women, and for the poor (whatever race the poor might be.

That’s just for starters.

White supremacy is a mindset which is most notably practiced by wealthy white men, but which is also supported by white people in general. It is a receptacle for racist thought, but also for sexist and Xenophobic and anti-Semitic thinking as well.  It is a way of life based on power and fear of losing that power. It spawns and provokes violence as a means of maintaining its power because the white supremacist believes that violence is proof of being strong.

White supremacists have lied to themselves for so long that they believe the lies. They feel completely justified in oppressing people who do not fit the mold of what they expect. White supremacy is about power, just as is rape.

Author and essayist James Baldwin bemoaned the seemingly hopeless plight of white supremacists. In an interview with David Frost in 1970, Baldwin pondered out loud if this country was on the verge of a civil war. The Civil Rights Movement had been all but decimated, and the gains made by black, brown and poor people were slowing being reversed. It was an act of abject hatred, a quality which white supremacists inhale and digest, presumably because doing so is the only way they can continue their oppression of others.

The Civil Rights Movement, observed Baldwin, “always contained within itself something self-defeating.” Black people, led by Dr. King, believed “at the beginning” of the movement that “there was a way of reaching the conscience of the people of this country.”

“We did everything in our power to make the American people realize that the myths they were living with were not so much destroying black people as whites,” he said.

White people, he said, “are much more victimized” than was he or black people in general, he said, adding, “it is terrible to watch a nation lose itself.” The country was not on the edge of a racial war, he said, but on the edge of a civil war.

Nothing much has changed.

Spurred by fear of losing their power, white supremacists, led by the current president, are on the prowl, joyfully grateful that the president is “on their side.” If, as Rev. Dr. William Barber says that the opposite of hatred is fear, then what we are seeing is fear unleashed, not caring who might be mowed down in the process of making America “great” again.

This nation was conceived in white supremacy. The Native Americans on whose land the whites from England descended had to “destroy the indigenous people in order to become a nation,” said Baldwin. We are still trying to become a nation and if the truth be told, we are not so interested in being “one nation under God.” In fact, our very diversity and pluralism have been major factors in stoking the fear of the white supremacists.

White supremacists will not admit it, but their wealth and power depend on – and have always depended on – the condition of the people whom they regularly oppress. Mass incarceration, voter suppression, poverty, the attack on social programs – are all tools white supremacists use to maintain their power. They are deathly afraid that their power is in jeopardy; hence, the rise from the underground of their hateful rhetoric and violent behavior – even as they criticize violence which comes from people trying to defend themselves from the attacks of white supremacists.

Baldwin said in 1970 that “for the first time the people legally white and the people legally black are beginning to understand that if they do not come together, they’re going to end up in the same gas oven.” White supremacy has taken root in the soul of America and it cannot be cured; it has gone untreated for too long,

The gas ovens stand ready to receive us – oppressed, yes, but oppressors even more. This sickness is only getting worse, and the outcome of white supremacists being driven by their hatred and fear is not going to be good for them. What goes around certainly comes around, and be sure, their behavior is “coming around.”

A candid observation …

No Place of Justice for the Masses

As an American who absorbed the civic lessons about the government – its three branches which were put in place by the framers of the Constitution to insure that our government would be a democracy of the highest order – I grew up thinking that when all failed for people who were looking for justice, there would always be the United States Supreme Court. I grew up believing that the Federal Bureau of Investigation was a place where anyone in trouble could find justice. Even the titles of these federal agencies brought a sense of comfort. When all else failed , there would always be something in our government which would protect the poor, the innocent and the forgotten.

But as I have grown older, I have been disappointed, over and over again, as I have watched the Court, for the most part, protect the interests of the government. In spite of the banter about the justices not being partisan, they have seemingly too often been aligned with the government and particular political parties.  I was stunned when I read that U.S. Chief Justice Roger Taney wrote, in the Dred Scott decision that there “were no rights of a black man that a white man is bound to respect.” I was stunned and hurt to learn that in the Buck v. Bell case, where a attorneys were fighting the right of an institution to forcibly sterilize people whom powers that be thought to be “feebleminded” that a former president of the United States, William Howard Taft, served as chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled in favor of the constitutionality of states carrying out the procedures. In that case, Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, considered by some to be this nation’s finest legal mind, aligned himself with his opinion that eugenics was a right thing in order to create a perfect race of people, and he wrote against Buck and her case. Buck was poor and a victim of the heinous belief system of eugenicists, which was popular in the 1920s, and Holmes wrote, “Three generations of imbeciles are enough.”

There have been times, for sure, when the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled on behalf of a marginalized group of people. Brown v. Board of Education is probably the best known, when the Court ruled that “separate but equal” was unconstitutional, and the ever controversial Roe v. Wade ruled on behalf of women who declared that they, not the state, have a right to choose what they do with their bodies, but for too many cases, there has been no legal protection for the marginalized, not in local and state courts, and certainly not in federal courts.

If it is true that the Constitution was and is a magnificent document – and it really was – it is also true that too often, the tenets of that document have been woefully ignored. Among those tenets is the principle that all Americans were entitled to have speedy trials tried by a “jury of their peers.” And yet, in case after case, American courts have tried African Americans in trials which have had all-white juries, where black people have been deliberately excluded – and that is, if they have had a trial at all. Far too often, black people have only had to have been accused of a crime and a lynch mob has come and dragged them out of jail cells before a trial was ever held, killing them on the lawns of court houses or sometimes, in the deep woods – and none of these people have ever been arrested or held accountable.

It is a scary and real thought that there is no place where you might find justice in this land which some say is a “nation of laws.” It would be better to say that it is a nation of laws for those who can afford to pay for justice. Adam Cohen, in his book Imbeciles: The Supreme Court,American Eugenics and the Sterilization of Carrie Buck, notes that the justice system in many cases has failed to adhere to the principle contained in the Hammurabi Code, which teaches that “the purpose of law is tonsure that the strong do not harm the weak.” That has not been the case, not in this country or elsewhere. Those who apply the law have been in too many cases totally biased and blind to the justice desired by “the least of these.” As Bryan Stevenson, executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative, said that it is true that life is better for an individual if he is “rich and guilty” than “poor and innocent.”

That fact leaves little room to believe in the justice system. In fact, that fact belies the reality that the ideal and the real too often do not intersect, and that despite the lofty words contained in our written documents, justice for many is simply not going to a reality. The poor, the left out and the left behind are just out of luck in this “land of the free and home of the brave.”

A candid observation …

 

The Definition of Strength

It has always seemed to me that the common definition of strength is not what it really is.

Many Americans this morning are celebrating that force is being used in the war-torn Middle East. The missiles fired on Syria were supposedly dropped because the administration, specifically, the president, were horrified by images of people who had been hit with a deadly gas.

Then, the Mother Of All Bombs (MOAB) was dropped in Afghanistan, killing a some members of ISIS.

Many Americans are rejoicing. They are saying that the moves made by the administration show “strength.” People are saying, “we are back in the game again.”

The game? What …game? Is it really a game that we seem to be on the brink of a deadly war?

Diplomacy, I guess, is a punk technique. In the presence of ISIS, the only way to handle this is to “bomb the —- out of them.” The way of the Empire is to engage in war, to force change by killing innocent people and destroying other countries.

People have been absolutely incensed with former President Obama for not engaging in war. It made him and the United States look weak, they say.

But this new president – this is the Popeye against the Brutus called terrorism. He really believes he can destroy ISIS with bombs.

Meanwhile, he is hurting his own people by proposing budget cuts that affect programs that help the poor, the elderly, and children.

It doesn’t matter, though. He does not see the irony of him and his administration being outraged about Syrians treated badly by their government while his own government is treating his own people badly, under the sanction of the law.

All that matters is that he is showing “strength” in a conflict which seemingly has no end. Americans will run to participate in a war against an idea, and in a war which has such deep roots that not even the strongest nuclear weapon would be effective.

Is it arrogance or hubris that makes a nation “strong?” That seems to be the message. In a world in which so many people profess to believe in Christianity, which touts the formation and preservation of community, the basic Christian message seems to be disposable.

Refraining from force is perceived as being weak. The strong do all they can to maintain power, a mindset which inevitably causes the less fortunate (or “weak”) to be trampled upon. The deployment of force is held more dear than is the exercise of compassion and restraint.

So, this American president is standing on a platform, beating his chest, bragging about his strength. He is Popeye; his “spinach” is the belief that using force means or defines that very strength.

Meanwhile, the huddled masses, here and around the world, will be trounced upon, and nobody seems to care.

So much for strength.

A candid observation …

When Despair Wins

There is a community of young, black activists in Columbus, Ohio, which is mourning today.

They are mourning and they are in shock because one of their foot-soldiers, MarShawn McCarrel, apparently killed himself yesterday. The report say that he killed himself on the steps of the Ohio State House, a location from which many marches have begun.

MarShawn was a poet and an activist, who was fierce about fighting for the dignity of black people. Up close, he was shy and unassuming, polite and well-mannered. To think that he is gone is almost too much to bear.

As I listen to GOP politicians talk about Americans being angry, I am angered because in their dialogues about anger, they do not consider the anger and frustration and sense of despair of black people. Many older black people have learned to manage their hopelessness, but the young people, those in the streets and in the malls and in the courthouses demanding dignity and justice…have not.

Not a single GOP candidate has bothered to mention that the despair of black people is valid. It is a despair with which we have lived for generations. Not Trump, not Rubio, not Cruz, not Christie…none of them seem to give a horse’s ass about what black people go through because of white supremacy.

Not a one of them (of the ones I mentioned) have voiced concern and/or outrage over the lead-filled water given to people in Flint, Michigan, but I would bet that all of them will, in the future, be on some bandwagon to do something with black kids who have behavior problems – forgetting that lead affects people in horrific ways for years. Lead poisoning affects everything from IQ to the ability to have a healthy body. Not a one of these candidates, and too many white people – care about that. They say that they are pro-life, but they only want life for unborn fetuses and for white people.

They want their country back, a country marked by racism, sexism, homophobia and an economy which puts way too many people on the bottom, without thought of what poverty does to people.

They don’t think about what black and brown kids feel when they go into schools that are shoddy and broken, where heat doesn’t work in the winter and air conditioning doesn’t work in the summer. They don’t think about or care about what it must feel like for little black children to see their white counterparts with fine, fancy schools and they are given the worst facilities imaginable.

They don’t care that in many urban schools, the toilets don’t work, the windows are broken, and the books are old. They don’t think that these little children have feelings, and grow up believing they are inferior because they are treated as though they are inferior, like they do not matter.

The kids, the young people, who have taken to the streets, are tired and angry. They are tired of being ignored. Tired of being marginalized. Tired of being shot down or shot at. Tired of being labeled. Tired of getting second best. But none of the GOP candidates talk about that anger. It is only the anger of white people who feel like perhaps they are losing control of their grip on America that seems to matter.

My heart is breaking today because this young man is said to have committed suicide. He fought until he couldn’t fight any longer. His anger turned inward, where it morphed into depression and finally into despair. He went to the place where unjust laws are made, and he killed himself.

Those running for president should care about the despair about all people, not just their base. White anger is no more sacred than is black anger. And black anger in America has a history grounded in the policies and practices meted out because of white supremacy.

In the Bible it says that God will turn our mourning into dancing. I guess God didn’t get to MarShawn soon enough.

A candid observation…

 

 

What Tamir’s Denigration Means

What does a people say when a nation, its own nation, continually denigrates them and lets them know that their lives really do not matter?

There has been a grave travesty of justice – yet again – in the decision of the Grand Jury in Cuyahoga County to not indict the police officers who shot and killed 12-year-old Tamir Rice within two seconds of driving up on him as he played with a pellet gun.

How can any intelligent group of people not agree, not see, that those officers murdered a child?

People always want justice when they have been aggrieved; it is human to seek it. The parents and loved ones of the four people killed Ethan Couch,  a wealthy teen who was driving drunk, were outraged when he was given probation instead of jail time. Any parent would be so outraged.

Think of how you would feel if such injustice, such a decision to not demand accountability for awful crimes, were your norm.

It is the norm for black people in this nation.

It is not the norm when black people kill other black people; those criminals go to jail. But the criminals wearing badges get a free pass. They are almost never held accountable.

It is the norm for black people in this nation.

How can a people, masses of white people, not be incensed at America’s continued violation of the human and civil rights of black people? How can a people who say they are pro-life not care about the families which are being devastated by a justice system which is anything but just?

How can parents not feel the anguish of parents of killed loved ones, their children, who will never see justice rendered against the murderers of their children, because the system …protects…their murderers?

How can a nation not be incensed that officers who have a history of using excessive force, especially against black people, are allowed to stay on the streets? Aren’t they at least as despicable as priests who molest young children and who are allowed to stay in their parishes?

How can any person calling him or herself Christian not be pained to the core of his or her spirit, because the Scriptures, which demand justice and righteousness, are being ignored?

Do not say that we, black people, should trust the system. The system has never protected us, never had our best interests at heart.

We cannot trust the prosecutors, the judges or the juries. They are bedfellows with a largely white police force which knows it can get away with murder. Prosecutors need the support of police unions, so they do what the unions say do. Prosecutors, elected officials, also need to satisfy their base, which is largely white and Conservative, and no friends to black people.

Judges need support from powerful union interests as well. They are too often not interested in justice, but, instead, with satisfying those who pay their salaries and help them stay in office.

The result is a justice system which still lynches black people.

What was done by the Grand Jury in Tamir Rice’s case …was immoral, unjust, but typical of how American justice works for black people.

He was a kid, 12-years old, and he was shot to death within seconds of being driven up on by rabid police officers with no self control.

He was allowed to lay on the ground for a number of minutes, dying, while the police officers wrestled and handcuffed his 14-year old sister.

How can so many (not all) white people not be enraged? What if it had been your son? What would you feel? What does a people say when their own nation continually denigrates them and lets them know that their lives really do not matter?

Has America’s racism, its white supremacy, eroded your very souls, your capacity to feel?

It would seem so.

A candid observation …