Your Whiteness Will Not Protect You

Whenever there is social unrest, artists – including writers, poets, essayists, musicians, dancers, spoken word specialists, painters …come out. They come out and express through their talents and gifts the soul of those who does not have that capacity.

Many new songs and written pieces have emerged during this troubling time in America – caused first by the invasion of the coronavirus, and then by the shooting deaths of three black people – Armaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd – whose situations made the news. Arbery was shot in cold blood by white vigilantes, and Taylor and Floyd were killed by police officers.

And though I have wanted to write, I have not been able to. The grief I feel is so deep, unlike any grief I have felt in my life as I have worked to try to expose, explain, and eliminate as much racism as possible by teaching people what is up, why history matters, and that they have the power to change things.

But this grief is different. It is a grief that began when Donald J. Trump became president. From the beginning, I could see that he was bad news for black and brown people. His mere presence, his arrogance, his lying, his disregard for America and America’s constitution, his sexism, his race-baiting, and his tacit encouragement of racial violence, got into my soul early on.

More than that, the number of people following him, lifting him up as some kind of messiah, saying that he either was God or was sent here by God, boggled my spirit, and the silence of white evangelicals bore a hole into a part of me that had made me believe that though their theology was different from mine, they still had – somewhere – some basic Christian principles. They claimed to be Christian, after all.

But since his election, I have seen nothing but the eroding of the gains all kinds of groups and individuals have made. I have seen GOP senators, representatives, mayors, governors, and cabinet members bow at his feet. I have cried out loud as I have watched his attorney general run roughshod over the justice he is supposed to seek. I have watched this president silence those who have sought to report dangerous happenings in the government, and put in place sycophants who are more afraid of him and what he will do than they are concerned with the lives of the people of this country.

I think the breaking point came last week, as that video of the white officer killing George Floyd by keeping his knee on his neck, did it – put my soul in this place of deep grief. The murder itself was horrendous, but it was the smug expression on that officer’s face (I refuse to use his name) that got to me. It told the story of white supremacist thinking and attitudes that have always existed. His face said, “I can do what I want and there’s not a damn thing you can do about it.” His face said, “yeah, I hear this man begging for his life, but I don’t have to listen to him and I will say that his demise was his own fault.” That expression said, “I am a cop and I can do whatever I want,” and his expression said, “Fuck you all.”

I still shudder as I remember how his face got to me. I shudder when I think of how this president has said nothing publicly to comfort that man’s family or the families of the other black people who have essentially been lynched. While he urged the Michigan governor to speak to and negotiate with white men with assault weapons who stood in her capital building, angry because of the “shelter in place” rules, he has called those who are angry because they are tired of black people being dehumanized, criminalized, and eliminated – either by poverty or by law enforcement.

The president is making no bones about wanting to mobilize those who have been craving a war between the races for some time. His militarization, or deeper militarization of law enforcement, is sickening, and the silence of his sycophants is even more sickening. He is working to undo this government and his friends in high places are helping him. His jaunt to St. John’s Episcopal Church after law enforcement forced peaceful protestors out of LaFayette Park with tear gas was gut-wrenching to watch. His bodacious and disrespectful pose in front of the church holding a bible – and the silence of evangelicals about it – is still sickening to think about. His calling peaceful protesters “terrorists” while ignoring the very real and disturbing presence and work of white nationalist and supremacists is not surprising, but troubling.

He is standing on and in his whiteness.

But I have to say this: Your whiteness will not protect you. People who are white are going to suffer just like black and brown people. Your whiteness will not protect you from poverty, illness, and the inability to get health care or necessary medicine. Your whiteness will not exempt your children and loved ones from getting COVID-19, because the virus, unleashed, doesn’t give a damn about one’s race, ethnicity, or political persuasion. Your whiteness will not keep you from suffering because you cannot get unemployment benefits – and ultimately, to the politicians – your whiteness will not protect you from being voted out of office. James Baldwin said that people make a moral decision to be white – meaning, they choose to lie in the comfort of the false construct called white superiority, enabling them to ignore the people around them.

But it will not protect you, because viruses spread. Just as the coronavirus is spreading, so is the virus of racism. The infection may not have reached you yet, but it will, and when it does, I hope you have enough chutzpah to endure it. History says you won’t. You have gotten so comfortable in your whiteness that you have grown weak; you have not had to exercise and strengthen the spiritual muscles the oppressed have had to develop. You will feel the pain you have inflicted on others. What you have put into the universe will not only come back to you, it is on its way now.

A candid observation.

The Moral Bankruptcy of White Supremacy

One of the lessons taught to me was that “God don’t like ugly.” When we would screw up our faces and frown, or pout, or say mean things to or about each other, she would admonish us, reminding us that God saw and heard everything and that God didn’t like …ugly. Continue reading “The Moral Bankruptcy of White Supremacy”

On “Getting Over” Racism

 There are few things that rankle my spirit like white people saying to and about black people that we should “just get over” slavery.

Their saying that shows a profound ignorance, arrogance, and lack of the capacity and demand to understand what the American white supremacist system has done to so many people and continues to do.

Fox News anchor Tucker Carlson had a guest , Canadian author and columnist Mark Steyn – to make the statement. (https://www.yahoo.com/entertainment/tucker-carlson-tonight-guest-says-african-americans-need-move-slavery-213605922.html?.tsrc=fauxdal&fbclid=IwAR3f-i3x7-lcPBw7–iTP20-aqkg5QEl_ZcATVn6owsJZIIUzfiy01mnlhY) When I posted the article on my Facebook page complaining that this statement is totally insulting, I got the expected push-back from some who think that Steyn was right and from some who castigated me from taking issue with it.

The question I always ask is “do white people ask the Jews to “get over” the Holocaust?” They do not. What happened to the Jewish people in Germany – and to others whom the Germans believe were unfit to live – should never be forgotten.

Why, then, should what this country did – and continues to do – to not only African Americans but to people of color in general be forgotten? If the truth is told, this country has never dealt with what it has done. The power structure works to keep hidden and diminished the horror of racism which is the child of white supremacy. America has worked hard to communicate the false narrative that it is the “land of the free and the home of the brave,” when in truth, this country was never meant to be a place of equal citizenship for all people from the very beginning.

The belief that black people were inferior to white people was built into the DNA of this country and has since prevailed. In his book, The Last Days: A Son’s Story of Sin and Segregation at the Dawn of a New South, author Charles Marsh recalls that the message and ethos of white supremacy was not only politically but religiously supported. His father, a Christian pastor and preacher, would not preach an egalitarian message from his pulpit; he says that his father had “not been convinced by the civil rights brass that God was on their side.” The fact that blacks had no recourse from established institutions – from the church all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court – ought to cause many of the “get over it” advocates some calm.

The American eugenics movement was based upon the belief of white Americans that this country was built by white people for white people. American science in the area was so deep and broad that the Germans borrowed from the research and conclusions reached by American scientists and politicians to set up their own system of the genocide of Jews and “other undesirables.”

If the assault on black people had ended, if it hadn’t persisted in areas including housing, education and economic development, not to mention health, perhaps it would be easier for African Americans to move past our lingering pain, but the racist assaults and attacks have not ended. Bryan Stevenson, the founder, and director of the Equal Justice Initiative says that “slavery never ended. It just evolved.”

That statement is cutting in its truth.

The fact that African Americans have made significant gains not because of but in spite of the American political and religious systems says much about our character and tenacity. From being captured in Africa, to surviving the Middle Passage, slavery, and Jim Crow, we have prevailed. We have fought racism on every front – and we still have to fight. We are disrespected and accused of whining, when in fact we have adopted the words of the Declaration of Independence and of the Christian Bible and have made them work for us, even as this country has thwarted our efforts at every turn.

America will fall because of its refusal to make restitution for its white supremacist ways. Our race law, our policies and practices are known, studied and are recognized by countries all over the world.  James Q. Whitman, who wrote Hitler’s American Model: The United States and the Making of Nazi Race Law said that the tyrannical German ruler “regarded the United States as the obvious leader in developing explicitly racist policies of nationality and immigration.”

In the present day, Russia is exploiting America’s racism to manipulate and engineer specific outcomes in our elections. (https://qz.com/1495383/a-racial-history-of-russian-meddling-in-us-politics/)

So, let’s not talk about “getting over” something that we have never fully acknowledged as being as damaging and toxic as it is and has always been. No person, government or institution can heal from a situation unless and until they admit the problem.

America has done none of that.

A candid observation …

 

 

 

 

White Supremacy Robs Country of Moral Agency

This week I was listening again to an interview of author Adam Cohen by Terri Gross of NPR’s “Here and Now” and was reminded again of how white supremacy has robbed the world of the capacity it had to honor God’s command that we “love our neighbors as ourselves.” (https://www.npr.org/2017/03/24/521360544/the-supreme-court-ruling-that-led-to-70-000-forced-sterilizations)

Cohen is the author of Imbeciles: The Supreme Court, American Eugenics and the Sterilization of Carrie Buck. The book is a fascinating account of how this nation is white supremacist at its core – having a mindset that upholds that white people – more specifically white men – are superior to all people who do not meet their standards of excellence. The affected targets of white supremacist policies and practices are black and brown people, for sure, but also women, Muslims, and Jews, members of the LGBTQIA community, the disabled …the list is actually quite extensive.

We already know that wealthy, Protestant, white male superiority was written into the Constitution; we know that Thomas Jefferson never intended for people to believe that all people were created equal. Our founding document was meant to clear a way for wealthy, white, male landowners to make America white and to keep it white.

That statement is not hyperbole but is supported by America’s own documents and statements of and from American folk heroes. United States Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, a key character in Cohen’s book, was a supporter of eugenics – the discipline which worked to create and maintain a “master race,” which, it decided, included only “Nordic” people.  Holmes, says Cohen, “had suggested years earlier that the best route to societal reform lay in “taking in hand life and trying to build a race.’” (p. 9) In ruling for the constitutionality of the government’s practice of sterilizing people whose existence they thought threatened the goal of creating a master race, words of Holmes showed how the poison of white supremacy permeates even the institution charged with meting out justice when all else fails  when he said, “Three generations of imbeciles are enough.”

Belief in the supremacy of white people (who were white enough, not “swarthy, as Ben Franklin once complained about the German people)  led people and continues to lead people to believe that some people, because they are “better” than others, are worthy of better treatment, better opportunity and better lives in general. In the 1920s, the eugenics movement was hugely popular. Eugenicists believed that “the unfit,” whom they defined, “threatened to bring down not only the nation but the whole human race.” (p. 2) John D. Rockefeller Jr. and  Alexander Graham Bell were supporters of white supremacist thinking. Members of Congress relied on and celebrated their whiteness; Sen. Ellison DuRant Smith writes Cohen, said: “Thank God we have in America perhaps the largest percentage of any country in the world of the pure, unadulterated Anglo-Saxon stock.” (p. 5)

Books were written describing the peril of the existence of white people, including The Rising Tide of Color Against White World-Supremacy, and The Passing of the Great Race. Those books are probably on the bookshelves of many of our politicians who still find it difficult to treat people of color with dignity and respect.

Seen in this light, it is not or should not be surprising that the president of this country is fixated on trying to “fix” America’s “browning” problem by building a wall on our southern border, spouting off all kinds of unkind descriptions of who these people are in his opinion – rapists, drug addicts and criminals in general. Those words gaslight the racist beliefs held by so many people who ascribe to white supremacist doctrine. This country has been fighting against allowing people in this nation who are not white almost since its existence. The Immigration Act of 1924 encouraged people from northern Europe to enter this country while closing or widely limiting the numbers of people allowed to enter who hailed from southern and eastern Europe (they were not “Nordic” enough.) States in this country made laws which allowed the sterilization of people judged to be inferior which resulted in untold numbers of women who they believed fit into the “inferior” category to be segregated – i.e., kept away from men for as long as they were of child-bearing age, or to be forcibly sterilized if they remained integrated into the general society.

The work involved in the American eugenics movement was so renown in establishing white supremacy as the will for the world that the Germans borrowed many of America’s findings, based on faulty science, for the establishment of Nazi policy which resulted in the extermination of at least 6 million Jews. In the language of eugenics, Jewish people were inferior. Their presence was not necessary for the good of the world.

The rampant and rancid expression of racism we see today, spawned and nurtured by the principles of white supremacy, is not new; they are part of the very legacy of America. This president and his cabinet apparently have deep roots in white supremacy. More and more we see brazen expressions of their arrogance based on their race, and we see other white people remaining silent.

This is America.

People keep saying that what we are seeing and hearing is “not who we are” as a country. Megan McCain, the daughter of the late Senator John McCain, said being called “racist” is the worst name anyone can be called. The fact is, however, is that the proponents of white supremacy are standing on the shoulders of people before them who pushed white supremacy as the will of God for this country. White supremacists have long overridden even the concept of the sovereignty of God by deciding that not all of whom God created were worthy of being created.

A friend of mine said recently, “My work is to wipe racism out of this world.” It’s a noble dream, but it appears that white supremacy is a tree with roots far too deep to ever be completely unrooted. White supremacy has robbed our country and this world of being moral when it comes to racism, sexism, and discrimination against others in general. We are bound to know its history and to create strategies which will expose it for what it is while establishing and creating justice for those who white supremacists believe are inferior.

This president and his friends in office are merely following the script put in place by those who came before them.

A candid observation …

 

On the Real “Bad Hombres”

             As the president of this nation pushes the narrative that this country needs a wall on its southern border because people from Mexico and Central America are “bad hombres” who “bring their rapists, their drugs” and other “bad things,” the fact that once again, people of color are being made out to be the “bad” ones does not ring true. (https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2017/06/16/theyre-rapists-presidents-trump-campaign-launch-speech-two-years-later-annotated/?utm_term=.8ad954839e89)

While there are likely to be some people who seek to live in this country who have questionable motives, it is clear that the majority of them are seeking a better and safer life. They are not criminals, any more than were people who have historically entered this country from other countries throughout history. (https://www.loc.gov/teachers/classroommaterials/presentationsandactivities/presentations/immigration/italian3.html) People have flocked here looking for work; the opportunities here that they heard about drew them here in mass numbers.

This president has made it an art form to label the people coming across the southern border as “bad” people, and he keeps lifting up his belief (or maybe his political talking point) that these people are bringing drugs, causing the opioid epidemic that is killing people here every day. There is no mention of the role that big pharmaceutical companies has played in marketing, selling and promoting the use of fentanyl, which is reportedly 100 times more potent than is heroin. “Big pharma,” driven by greed, has been intent on making as much money as possible by pushing this dangerous drug. (https://www.motherjones.com/politics/2018/05/insys-subsys-whistleblower-lawsuits/)

At the same time, as so many people of color are languishing in prisons because they possessed a small amount of marijuana, the former Speaker of the House is encouraging people to come to seminars to learn how to become wealthy by selling marijuana. (https://www.forbes.com/sites/irisdorbian/2018/10/19/looking-to-make-millions-from-cannabis-ex-house-speaker-boehner-will-tell-you-how/#15a8e26d7c52)

Who are the “bad hombres,” really, if the definition of the same is those who bring drugs?

Then there is the question of rapists coming over our southern border as if we do not have a real problem with men keeping their genitals inside of their pants. White supremacy, I am finally understanding, is as much sexual as it is racial; men believe they are superior to women and they have been given power by our patriarchal society. The slew of men who have been accused of and/or convicted of sexual impropriety is only growing. In this country, rapists are in the White House, heading major television networks, making films, starring in movies, sitting in Congress, pastoring churches and giving communion to children.

Americans, in other words, have no platform for touting moral superiority. Bad hombres in our country, permeating every aspect of life, are everywhere, even here.

What is particularly distasteful is that our media really does bring out the fact that a false equivalency is being raised by the White House to push its racist agenda. America has always struggled with immigration and has a history of wanting to keep people of color out.  Even though Chinese immigrants were responsible for building much of America’s railroads, the Chinese Exclusion Acts were passed by Congress to keep them out. (https://history.state.gov/milestones/1866-1898/chinese-immigration) Benjamin Franklin didn’t think Germans looked white enough and wanted to keep them and others who had “swarthy complexions” out of the fledgling country. (https://qz.com/904933/a-history-of-american-anti-immigrant-bias-starting-with-benjamin-franklins-hatred-of-the-germans/)

The point is that the White House’s claim that “bad hombres” are who are coming over the southern border is a dog whistle for its racist desire to keep people of color out of the United States. There are bad hombres in this administration who, though they wear three-piece suits are engaged in shady financial situations, who are rapists, who use drugs and who are now lining up to sell them legally.

The “bad hombres” label is as disingenuous as it is wrong. America needs to see herself for what she is, bad hombres and all.

A candid observation …