Watching what is going on in this country is as terrifying as it is troubling.
The United States has touted as one of its core values its belief in “law and order:” We have always been taught that this is a “nation of laws,” and most of us have not questioned it. We have bought into the idea that justice in America is and has been somehow different and better than justice practiced in other countries, and to be honest, it was a comfortable myth to which to attach ourselves.
But what is going on now in this country is mind-boggling. I believe there has always been corruption in our government, but I have also believed that when blatant wrongdoing has been revealed, there have been enough people in government – from both political parties – to call out the person or persons accused, forcing them to step out of their elected offices and prohibited from seeking office again.
That is not happening. From the former president to his aides and his attorneys and his friends and advisors, what I see is people with a lot of money getting away with a lot of bad behavior, and the more I see it happening, the angrier I become.
Corruption in our government is not new; people have done all kinds of things in our history in order to attain and hold onto their power. The Christian nationalism we are seeing, along with nativism, is not new. Unfortunately, the mistreatment of non-white, non-male, non-Christian people has been as much of the American political tradition as it has been a component of Christianity. For many, to be American and Christian, one must be white. In my work, I really did not understand that like I do now. I was puzzled at how any Christian – regardless of race – could be sexist or racist or xenophobic or bigoted in any way – based on the story of Jesus the Christ in the Bible every white nationalist professes to love. But I really did not know that for many white people, you are only American and Christian if you are white.
That mindset helped many white religious people treat non-white people as objects, unworthy of respect or rights and fair treatment. Non-white people have been dehumanized, criminalized, and compromised, and the white religious world seemingly condones it. Evangelical Christians have long had an uncanny ability to, as Dr. Anthea Butler says in White Evangelical Racism: The Politics of Morality in America, “merge the mob’s symbolic act of vengeance with the divine justice enacted in the evangelical church.” This group of people sees nothing wrong with the way they treat Black and other non-white, non-Christian people. In fact, they believe they are mandated by God to do so.
I cringe when I hear some of them talk about being “woke,” because I know they do not have a clue as to what they are saying. To be “woke” is to see the injustice that is meted out to people, and to care about it. To be woke is to understand that every race of people has a history that is worthy to learn and to respect. To be woke is to see how unfair the socio-political-religious landscape is for so many people, and to do something to help level the playing field.
Perhaps some of that sensitivity could be realized if money were not involved. People in this country fought the civil war because the practice of enslaving people allowed people to become wealthy off the backs and labors of people who were not viewed as people, but, rather, as beasts, deserving of being worked too often to death, while never receiving working wages so that they could survive and live quality lives.
Because they were not considered to be human, they could not be considered to be worthy of American citizenship and the rights that citizenship afforded. Not even fighting in America’s wars was enough for white Christians to treat the veterans with respect. The statistics of how many Black war veterans – many still in uniform – were killed after returning home are staggering and sobering. (https://www.zinnedproject.org/collection/black-veterans/) (https://eji.org/news/remembering-black-veterans-targeted-for-racial-violence-in-the-us/)
Dehumanization did not and does not just affect non-white adults. Non-white children are targets as well. Elected officials do not care one iota about the schools that Black children attend – often dilapidated buildings in sore need of repair, but never being considered a big enough problem to address and correct. Author and activist Jonathon Kozol, who has written extensively about public education in America, wrote in his book The Shame of the Nation that black children who live in America’s cities are more isolated now than they were before the historic Brown v Board of Education decision in 1954. Separate but equal was OK with many who said they love Jesus, but the schools were not even close to being equal. White parents, after the ruling, behaved abominably after that decision, attacking Black students who were integrating white schools, and gradually pulling their children out of public schools as they formed segregated “Christian” schools, for which they asked for and received, for a time, federal funds.
None of what this country has done as concerns people of color has been right or fair, save for the instances policies were put in place to level the playing field for everyone, but the truth is, the masses of Americans seem not to care. The term “law and order” is thrown around like a football, even as we see wealthy, white people being allowed to stay in office and even be assigned to important committees, in spite of there being a fair amount of evidence that they have worked to overthrow this government. No other racial group would be able to do what these people in office have done and get away with it – historically and in the present day. “Caucasianism” (yes, I created a word) has been allowed to run free in this country, with proponents of it teaching not only this country but the entire world how to treat people of African or other non-European descent.
The tyrants in office – and running corporations and the media – are there because Americans have put them there and/or kept them there. They do not worry, it seems, about being held accountable. Law enforcement is actually not respected by the Far Right, it seems, judging by how some of those involved in the January 6 insurrection were more than ready to attack and kill officers. They spout rhetoric about being “for the blue,” but we have seen that they are only for those in blue who help them spread their ideological and political goals. Had the attack on the US Capitol been carried out by non-white “protesters,” they would not have been called patriotic but, rather, thugs, and their annihilation by law enforcement would have been seen as justified. What we see instead is a group of people who belong to a race and class of people who have always been able to skirt and avoid “the law.” Their whiteness has spoiled them and threatens the life of this country.
Hearing and reading about injustice is one thing; seeing it is quite another. I am not sure how we will turn this corner, and if/when we do, what the country’s landscape will be like. I am sure we cannot go “back,” as the far right wants to do, to a time when non-white, non-Christian, women, men, and children were openly castigated – and white women, too. America’s tradition of practicing blatant injustice has cut into the already rotted soul of America. We can all see it, even those who want to deny it. America should have been taken to the woodshed a long time ago to address the divide between what she professes to be and what she actually is.
Not doing so in the past has had a bad effect on our people and on our institutions. Though they call out and claim the name of Jesus, Jesus is nowhere in what they do. It remains to be seen if this nation, called an “experiment,” will get enough courage to stare its commitment to injustice based on race, class, and religion and decide to do something about it, to work to be “better.” We have struggled with this same behemoth before. It is high time that the beast is slaughtered in order to make room for a new nation to arise.
A candid observation …