The Slave Bible: The Unfortunate Reality of Competing Theologies

             As a “person of faith,” I have long struggled with trying to understand why racism persists and why God, whom I call “good,” allows it. I am angry at those who adhere to, believe in and practice white supremacy. I find myself angry when I walk around and see white people who don’t have to worry about their safety just because of their color; I envy the white mothers who do not have to worry about their sons being shot by police officers who shoot first and ask questions later. I am angry that white supremacy includes discrimination not only against blacks, but for all people of color, women, and people of different sexualities. I am angry that the outrage from this president was very subdued following the mass murder at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, and that he said nothing at all about the two black people, one man, one woman, shot and killed by a crazed white man, who had such disregard for black people that he thought nothing of killing the man in front of his 12-year-old grandson. I am angry that so many white people don’t have a clue as to what people of color have to think about on a daily basis.

In my anger, I still struggle. I think it shows the insensitivity of white people when they say things that are offensive to black people and immediately scoff at the notion that they might be racist, and call their statements a “joke.” What they say is not funny, and worse, they know exactly what they are doing and saying. (https://www.nbcnews.com/video/hyde-smith-defends-public-hanging-comment-in-mississippi-senate-debate-1376441923880?v=raila&) I am offended that the Brian Kemp, the newly-elected governor of Georgia, won through a calculated strategy of voter suppression, and I am angry that not only is he not repentant about it but that few members of the GOP spoke against what he was doing. He says he’s “moving on,” which can’t be hard to do in that he accomplished his goal of basically manipulating the governorship from Stacey Abrams by using his power as the Georgia Secretary of State.

I am angry that African American people continue to bear the brunt of unequal treatment; I am angry that the bulk of people in prison are African American, largely because of the “war on drugs,” and I am angry that so many white people are “afraid” of who they believe to be “bad” people while concurrently are supportive of whites who now have permission to sell marijuana, the “crime” for which so many African Americans wound up in prison.

There’s more …but my point is that I have struggled with trying to find God in all of this. I wonder why God allows evil to exist, yes, but I especially wonder why God has allowed white supremacy to linger as a force in this world. I wonder why God does not and has not shut this ideology down, which is a travesty to the cause of the “beloved community.” Oppressed people all over the world wonder about God and suffering; I remember a little girl who, when Pope Francis visited her country, cried as she asked the pope why God allowed children to suffer? (http://www.catholicdigest.com/from-the-magazine/ask-father/201611-07why-does-god-permit-innocent-children-to-suffer/)

I struggle because there is a Bible which supposedly we all use – but I learned last week that in the 1800s, white slaveowners developed what they called “The Slave Bible.” (https://www1.cbn.com/cbnnews/us/2018/february/freedom-in-christ-how-this-bible-was-used-to-manipulate) It was brought to the attention of a group of us sitting in a session of a conference on poverty, led by Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis, the co-chair of The Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call to Moral Revival. It was she who pointed out that this Bible, on display at the National Bible Museum in Washington, D.C., was carefully constructed by whites who wanted enslaved blacks to remain “in their place.” This bible omits the story of the Exodus. It eliminates many of the prophets and in the book of Revelation, it has no mention of freedom or a “new heaven and new earth.” Their object, said Theoharis, was to make sure black people didn’t get the notion that God was on their side, that God was a supporter of freedom for all.

There were a couple of issues for me. First, I felt betrayed for some reason. The Bible, I was taught, was a holy book. I have often said that it would never happen that the Bible could be re-written, because of its holiness – but clearly, that was not the case. White supremacists, for all of their twisted beliefs in what God allows, are very insecure and will do (and have done) all they could to maintain their power. But to learn that they changed the Bible to support their ideology was a shock, and I don’t really know why.

This new nugget of knowledge made me disrespect even more the white evangelical subset of this society. As they have ostensible ignored their so-called commitment to “family values” in supporting a president who lies, who disrespects women and the Constitution of this country, I have been bothered and troubled. I have long wondered how they and anyone who oppresses others can justify their actions in that we (I thought) have one Bible with one set of rules and laws for us all. But that has not historically been the case, and those who were taught from the Slave Bible learned “scriptures” in a different way than I could ever have imagined. The bible of the slaveowners was meant for enslaved Africans, but clearly, it was familiar to white people and used by them as well. Enslaved Africans, it should be noted, rejected what this bible taught them as they 1) heard sermons delivered by abolitionists who preached that God was good, that he believed in freedom for all, and that slavery was wrong, and 2) enslaved Africans learned to read, and they were able to learn themselves what was in the untampered “holy book.”

We are all products of our upbringing and whites who believe in white supremacy were raised to believe that way. They have not disappeared and will not any time soon, but wouldn’t it be great if God would just put a holy hand on the earth and push this horrendous ideology out of existence?

Competing theologies have contributed to the national and international disgrace called white supremacy. The people who believe in and practice white supremacy believe they are right and they believe that God ordains and sanctions their actions. Apparently, the Slave Bible helped them get to where they are, and that is troubling.

A candid observation …

The Continuing Saga of the Angry White Man

The debacle this nation and the world saw last week in the special-called session of confirmation hearings for Brett Kavanaugh was troubling on many levels, not least of which was the once-again uncovering of the deep anger of white men.

 

Those we saw last week were privileged – meaning, men of some financial worth – but the ever-reappearance of white male anger is puzzling to me. White men rule the world. What, then, are they so angry about?

They are members of the White Supremacy Club – a moniker I’ve given them – which includes not only racism but deeply virulent sexism as well. The Founding Fathers of this nation were all privileged white men who intended this country to be created by white people – or more specifically, by white men – for white people, with white men in control. They have taught their brand of sexism to men of all races in this country, but their racism is uniquely their own.

When these men do not get their way, they lose perspective and the ability to contain their anger. I imagine that they grow up being taught that they are better than anyone else and that they are entitled to more than anyone else. I would assume that they are taught that others do not have what they have because others are inferior to them. That being said, I am assuming that they are taught to not be concerned or to feel bad about how they may be perceived. This world is theirs and they are charged to keep it that way.

I make those stark assumptions because all parents teach their children that they have worth. African American parents teach their children that in spite of what the world – defined by white supremacist ideology – that they are just as worthy and intelligent and beautiful and capable as anyone else – meaning the white society which will tell them differently. It’s not surprising that privileged white parents would teach their children to live into that privilege and to realize their unique value as white people – and specifically as white men.

Whenever we think we are “somebody,” and someone else does not treat us in the manner to which we have grown accustomed, we tend to become a bit surly. We are insulted that the person in front of us “does not know who we are.” People who are “somebody,” and/or who believe they are “somebody” become used to being treated differently than the commoners, for lack of a better term. They expect others to know who they are and to treat them accordingly.

So…privileged white men have been having their way for a long time and they are worried, say some, that with all of the undesirables coming into the country, effectively “browning” America, their status as “privileged” is threatened. They are fighting back with everything they’ve got – from passing laws that make life miserable for black, brown and poor people, to working the suppress the vote for black, brown and poor people, to gerrymandering voting districts so that they can remain in power, to separating immigrant parents from their children and throwing those children in what only be called detention camps.

The administration is working to get federal judges on benches all over the country who will preserve the “white way of life,” which is what “Make America Great Again” is really all about. As laws and policies have passed which have made the lives of black, brown and poor people easier, the privileged have become petulant and pissed off.

The white supremacist way of thinking has cooked their brains and foiled their capacity to feel compassion for anyone other than themselves and their interests. They are acting like spoiled children, pouting and having temper tantrums when the world dares to challenge them on things they want to do and which they think they are entitled to do.

When Judge Brett Kavanaugh lost his cool during the hearing on Thursday where he had to answer to charges of sexual impropriety brought by Dr. Christine Ford, I was disappointed but not surprised. It seemed that he had been well-coached by the pouter-in-chief, but his outburst to me seemed to be one of indignation, not that he was being asked certain questions, but that certain people felt they had the right to challenge and question him. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) seemed to fit that description as well. These were grown men, spoiled by a society which supports and practices white supremacy – and they were insulted that anyone had the gall to challenge them on how they chose to live their lives.

The South has been the bane of everything “socially just” concerning race since it lost the Civil War.; its position on the place of the woman hasn’t been much better. Someone said that after the war ended, it would go on without a weapon being fired and we have seen that reality played out for years. The South has resented black people making gains – at, they believe, their expense. They have worked and are still working to make things “right” again. Their “good ol’ boy” mentality has never been so challenged and they are fit to be tied. But they are determined to hold onto their power and their privilege. They will continue to pout …but also to plot how they can keep what they believe is their divine right to have – superior treatment and opportunity based on their race and their gender. They are determined to correct what they believe was a travesty of justice when the South lost the war. They are determined to retrieve the “Lost Cause” and put this country on what they believe is its intended course again.

A candid observation …

The Impotency of Silence, White Supremacy and Lessons from My Mother

One of the best and most powerful lessons my mother taught me was the lesson of “guilt by association.”

“If you’re with someone who’s doing something wrong and the police come, you’re going to get arrested too, even if you haven’t done anything.”

She told all five us that at a very early age, and it stuck to me, on me and in me like white on rice. So when, for example, I was in Berkeley, California one summer and was out shopping with someone I considered a friend – and she urged me to put a swimsuit I liked into my bag, I panicked. She had lifted several swimsuits and wanted me to “join the fun.”

My mother’s words stung me like a swarm of angry bees; I pretended to go along with her, saying I was going to go back in the fitting room and try on a couple more and would meet her in a few minutes outside.

I did nothing of the sort. I went into the dressing room and stayed long enough to see her going away from where we had been and I made a beeline to another door out of the store, got on a bus and headed back to my aunt’s home.

That was in the middle ages; there were no cell phones back then, nor the internet. She called my aunt’s home several times but I never talked with her again. I didn’t tell on her, but I just stayed away.

I thought about that lesson as I was thinking about the rabid racial hatred that is swirling around us in the present time, and I was thinking about the silence of so many white people in light of all that is going on, making them as guilty of racist behavior as the most vocal racist.

Audre Lord, an African American, Lesbian, feminist writer and poet, wrote, “My silences had not protected me. Your silence will not protect you.” She also said, “The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.”

Silence is a tool appreciated and exploited by the system of white supremacy; the thought seems to be on the part of many “progressive” whites that if racism isn’t talked about, then it doesn’t exist. The use of silence also seems to be an insurance policy for some whites who appear to think that if they are silent they cannot be condemned for being a participant in an evil system which knows no boundaries to its quest to control, manipulate and destroy the lives of black people.

At the heart of white supremacist thought is the innate belief that black people are inferior. “The white race” as a construct cannot figure out why black people even exist; in the 19thcentury, some scientists and white theologians posited that there could not be one god, but there were, in fact, many gods, a slap in the face of the principle of monotheism.  Black people had been created by another god, and, that being the case, it was OK to subjugate, oppress and discriminate against them. Their white god didn’t see anything wrong with and would not condemn those who were full of racist hatred and who participated in and sometimes initiated acts of violence against blacks. They could easily lynch someone on a Saturday night and go to church the next morning to sing hymns, hear a stirring sermon and maybe even receive or pass out Holy Communion.

There have been a fair number of whites who say they hate racism, but they do not say much about it. They rest in the comfort of whiteness, protected by their silence; their whiteness is like a tree which provides shade on the hottest of days. They get offended if called a racist and are annoyed when the word “racism” is used in relation to some of the oppression which goes on, but internally, they know that the talk about racism and the harm it causes  is not superfluous, but is damaging many, many lives.

The fear of speaking out is understandable. In our history, those whites who spoke against racism were called “n”-lovers. They were ostracized and suffered in ways that ought not to have been the case. Silence was easier. But silence is complicity. Those who have shied away from actively helping to end racism are like friends of a person who is shoplifting. They are equally as guilty.

The current administration is bold with its belief in and practice of racism; the code words and phrases used have endeared the president to white supremacists, whose desire to “make America great again” is really a push to “make America white again.” Blacks, they believe, must know their place and stay there, and those whites who disagree dare not say too much for fear of the fallout.

People in this country have bowed to the petulant South, which has never gotten over its defeat in the Civil War, but the defeat did not mean the end of the war; it just meant that the war would be fought in a different way. The tools would be Jim Crow, lynching and other violent acts (which is none less than domestic terrorism), voter suppression, discrimination in housing, employment and finances. The war goes on; the troops of the South ever increase, while the metaphorical “Union,” i.e., progressive whites, have laid their weapons down and have basically let those who believe in racism have their way.

But the silence of progressive whites is toxic and, in the end,, will not save them. Even as the policies and practices of white people in power continue to compromise the lives of black people and other non-white, non-Christian people, the wounds caused by this metastatic condition will not heal. The poison which is the foundation of white supremacy will continue to seep out and infect everyone.  As long as white supremacy is alive and well, nobody is safe.

And no, your silence will not protect you.

That day in the store, once I realized my “friend” was shoplifting, I ran. I may have saved myself from being arrested but I often wonder if I should have “squealed” on my friend. I wonder sometimes if she kept doing that. But it didn’t matter; what I realized was that I had my own demons that I hadn’t corrected and being silent about them has not healed me or saved me. I, too, have found myself in situations where I chose to be silent rather than to speak up.

We cannot successfully run from evil; we have to face it and it is in the facing that we begin to weaken it. Too many of us are afraid to publicly come out against racism; the cost, we fear, is too great.

I would posit a different thought: that not confronting racism, calling it out, cutting it off at its knees, will result in chaos that will rage out of control. Our silence is not helping us; it is leading this country to a bad, bad place.

A candid observation …

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 …

Is White Supremacy a Disease?

As I have watched and listened to the GOP fight to “repeal and replace”  Obamacare, the ACA (Affordable Care Act), and have listened to the president say he is undoing policies put into place by President Obama, I have found myself wondering if what we are seeing thus far is nothing more than a serious backlash against the former president, instead of a desire to govern our country.

The current president seems to be competing with Obama, even now; he seems obsessed, actually. It began on Inauguration Day, with the president worrying about his numbers. He clearly wanted to be able to say that he had drawn more people than had his predecessor, though the pictures of his crowds, as compared to Obama’s, clearly showed that he had not.

He and the GOP have been intent on repealing and replacing the ACA because “we made a promise to the American people.” They did. When the ACA rolled out, there was stiff and virulent opposition to it. The Tea Party was able to organize around its opposition to the law, but now, even Trump supporters realize that the ACA, though not perfect, has enabled them to have health care …and they want the law to stay in place.  The town halls being held not just in Democratic strongholds, but also in places where the president is loved and supported, are showing that people want the ACA. They don’t want it repealed. They want lawmakers to fix it and then leave their healthcare alone.

In other words, the people do not care about the GOP keeping that particular promise. They like what they are getting, flaws and all.

That being the case, why isn’t the GOP hearing “the American people?”  If they want to get rid of the bill so that they can give the wealthy a tax break, and give advantages again to the insurance companies, they should say that. That’s an OK goal, meaning, it’s in line with what seems to be Republican ideology. “The American people” don’t want that, but the GOP and the president ought to at least be honest in why they want to repeal the ACA.

But the ACA was attacked as soon as it was passed, even attacked as it was being formed. The anger was real; the Republicans felt like the bill had been “rammed down their throats,” an ironic complaint since the Republicans really tried to do in three weeks what the Obama administration took over a year to get into place.

What the GOP and the president seem to be intent upon, however, is undoing Obama’s signature piece of legislation.  That would be an apt slap in the face for the black man who dared be president of these United States. The president seems hell bent on erasing Obama’s legacy and it is proving to be harder to do than he thought it would be.

I can’t help but go back to the fact that on Obama’s first inauguration day, there were GOP leaders meeting to decide how to make him a one-term president. Before he had done a single day’s work as president, the Republican leadership was working to destroy him. Mitch McConnell said in October, 2010 that his party’s primary goal was to make Obama a one-term president.

The Republicans obstructed Obama at every turn. in January, 2016,  he had a budget which called for $4.15 trillion in spending – and the Republicans refused to seriously consider it. The president is busy undoing policies Obama put in place to protect the environment, to protect immigrants and children of immigrants…It feels like “anything Obama” has to go, according to the GOP mindset.

And it feels like nothing more than racial resentment, boiling over.

Rev. William Barber, the creator of the Moral Mondays movement, talks about this being a time of the Third Reconstruction. The first rReconstruction happened after the gains made by blacks after the Civil War. Whites did not like it, and after the federal government took troops out of the South to protect black, all hell broke loose. Whites put laws and policies into place that not only undid all of the gains made by black people, but also to prevent any more progress from being made.

Whites wanted to “make America white,” and therefore, “right” again, in their eyes.

It feels like that is what is happening now. The operative mindset – that of white supremacy, believing that America was made by white people for white people …is running wild. People of color will be put in their place, if these lawmakers have their way. White supremacy as a way of life corrodes the capacity for compassion and care, and makes people blind with a false notion of white superiority.

It is hard to watch. It is even harder to manage the feelings of resentment that the diseased lawmakers are stoking.

A candid observation …