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 …

Disregard of Laws Not a New Thing

1870 celebration of the Fifteenth Amendment as...
1870 celebration of the Fifteenth Amendment as a guarantee of African American voting rights (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The news this week is that the attorneys general and governors of several states are saying they will not respect the Affordable Care Act.

That is not surprising, nor is it particularly troubling. Over the course of American history, there have been several controversial laws either passed by Congress or upheld by the United States Supreme Court that states have ignored.

When Brown vs. Board of Education decided that there was no such thing as “separate but equal,” schools in some states closed rather than comply with the requirement to integrate. In Virginia, Mississippi and other states, there was open resistance to the High Court’s ruling.  On the site, http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/brown/brown-aftermath.html, we find written: “The “deliberate speed” called for in the Supreme Court’s Brown decision was quickly overshadowed by events outside the nation’s courtrooms. In Montgomery, Alabama, a grassroots revolt against segregated public transportation inspired a multitude of similar protests and boycotts. A number of school districts in the Southern and border states desegregated peacefully. Elsewhere, white resistance to school desegregation resulted in open defiance and violent confrontations, requiring the use of federal troops in Little Rock, Arkansas, in 1957. Efforts to end segregation in Southern colleges were also marred by obstinate refusals to welcome African-Americans into previously all-white student bodies.”

When the 15th Amendment was passed after the Civil War, again, states rebelled and refused to comply with the law. Writes Marian Wright Edelman, president and founder of the Children’s Defense Fund,  “How is it possible that African-Americans after slavery can have the vote in hand and then 100 years later from 1865 to 1965 are still fighting for the vote? We have to understand that American history is not linear or upward progress. American history is about peaks and valleys.” After the brief peak of Black elected officials during Reconstruction right after the Civil War ended, the next valley began when Mississippi called a constitutional convention to look for ways around the 15th Amendment. The result was decades of new voting laws across the South requiring literacy tests, “grandfather” clauses that prohibited anyone from voting if their grandfather hadn’t, and other “colorblind” policies whose main purpose was actually to keep people of one color from participating in our democracy.

Now, we have the Affordable Care Act, and states again are participating in civil disobedience. That is the right of being an American, a right that people in other countries with different governments apparently cannot do. But it is troubling that so many of the laws that have inspired such open rebellion and repudiation have been concerned with the rights of the disenfranchised, the poor, those for whom “the American dream” is elusive.

The fact that at least 46 million more people will have health care thanks to the Affordable Care Act is comforting to me; the fact that America is so deeply in debt is troubling, and so I can understand the protest against the cost of this massive bill. But at the end of the day, I still submit that a nation cannot be called “great” if it has such a large underclass that is exploited by those in power. The laws cited in this piece, concerning education, voting rights and now, health care, are designed to help those who have been so long ignored.

The debt that America carries is not solely because of the”entitlements” that so many are against. The fact that many working Americans cannot afford health care is not their fault. The fact that America has a culture that has supported disenfranchisement of a large number of her citizens is regrettable …but the fact that there have been put in place laws that protect this nation’s most vulnerable says that the ideal called democracy can work.

I shudder to think what America, the “land of the free and home of the brave” would look like had not these and other protective laws been passed. Although Reaganomics says that if there is a wealthy upper class, the wealth will “trickle down” to everyone else, that theory has not been shown to have merit. Neither is it apparently true that humans can be expected to take care of “the least of these” in America without laws, although America is willing to seek and to take care of “the least of these” in other countries.

It will be interesting to see how the fight against the Affordable Care Act will shake out, just as it will be interesting to see how the efforts at voter suppression will affect this nation. After all the struggle America has gone through, it seems that our problems are still the same. As “the preacher” said in the Book of Ecclesiastes, “there is nothing new under the sun.”

A candid observation …

How We Romanticize War!

Mushroom clouds over Hiroshima (left) and Naga...
Image via Wikipedia

I listen to and read a lot of history; it is fascinating to me, but it also helps me see the world with a little clearer lens.

And one of the things I am seeing more clearly is the horror of war. Veterans come home with memories burned into their souls, as one veteran said, and they never go away.

What shook me was a documentary on the Civil War I was watching.  Yes, we know that there was a bad war and people died, but the depth of the horror, and the breadth, eludes us. When I heard the narrator describe how it was bad for people in the Civil War to be killed, but even worse for them to be taken to a hospital, I shuddered.

There was no sterile technique. There was no anesthesia, or if there was, it was highly ineffective. Doctors didn’t wash their hands between taking care of different patients. Men were as likely to die from painful infection as they were from actually being shot.

Bodies of dead soldiers were left in the fields in the Civil War; even in the World Wars, dead bodies and horses often lay in fields, rotting in the sun. In World War I, I read that soldiers often stood for days in the trenches in water, so long that their skin began to come off their feet. In World War II, men often wore shoes that did not fit. In the Civil War, African-American soldiers often had no shoes at all.

The more I read about war, the more I shudder. We so romanticize it. What did Hiroshima and Nagasaki look like after the atomic bombs were dropped? A witness who was there said that the people were screaming, little children wailing, saying, “It’s hot! It’s hot!” Some of the people were so badly burned that this witness, a reporter and photographer, said he could not tell who was male and who was female. One account I read contained this description:

“A huge fireball formed in the sky. Directly beneath it is Matsuyama township. Together with the flash came the heat rays and blast, which instantly destroyed everything on earth, and those in the area fell unconscious and were crushed to death. Then they were blown up in the air and hurled back to the ground. The roaring flames burned those caught under the structures who were crying or groaning for help. When the fire burnt itself out, there appeared a completely changed, vast, colorless world that made you think it was the end of life on earth. In a heap of ashes lay the debris of the disaster and charred trees, presenting a gruesome scene. The whole city became extinct. Citizens who were in Matsuyama township, the hypocenter, were all killed instantly, excepting a child who was in an air-raid shelter.”  (http://www.gensuikin.org/english/photo.html)

We are quick to talk about the “bravery” of the men and women who fight in these wars, but we at home really have no idea.  We hear wonderful, patriotic music; we see men and women in uniform and say we are proud of them…but what they have seen, we cannot even begin to imagine. It is easier to see a returning soldier hug and kiss his girlfriend than it is to take the time to read about and study what war does.

As war rages in Syria and in other places in the world, I shudder. I shudder to think that there are people, in quest of power, who want a war; they think, I suppose, that war is a sign of strength, but all it is is an exercise in human cruelty. GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich criticized President Barack Obama because he apologized for the fact that Korans were burned in Afghanistan. Better an apology, a sign of respect for other people, than an arrogance which only feeds those hungry for war. The leaders of Pakistan and Iran seem to be hungry for war. It’s a scary thought.

The more I read, the more I want and need to read. It makes me wonder what this nation, this world, would be like if there had never been wars. It would seem that, given the horror of war, we in this country and in the world have a lot of men and women who are mentally ill, stressed beyond repair from the ravages of war and the horror they have seen. Post-traumatic stress syndrome might be causing post-war problems in ways we cannot even begin to imagine. We don’t come close to honoring and taking care of these men and women, our veterans, who have seen what no human eyes ought to see.

That cannot be a good thing. War is not something to be romanticized. War is to be hated and avoided.

A candid observation …