Is the Church Failing?

I had a conversation this morning with a friend who is a Conservative and who takes issue whenever I talk about race, on any level; this morning she and I were talking about race and the church.

I mentioned that some 40 Catholic leaders had written a letter asking Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum to back off using racial stereotypes as they talk about poverty, and I said that the church has too long been silent, not holding politicians to a moral and ethical standard, even during political campaigns.

I said that the church has allowed racism to simmer, all in the name of Jesus, for far too long.  And I’m not talking just churches in the South. “The Church,” north, south, east and west, Conservative and Liberal, has been culpable.

Well, my friend hit the roof.

It wasn’t so, she said.

I countered; the church, I said, has used the Bible to justify racism and slavery from the time this country got its feet firmly established in American soil.  She charged that that was my opinion …and on and on…

But after we talked, I thought about it. The Church really is and has been too silent when it has come to allowing politicians to do and say what they want, especially as it pertains to race. Hooray for the brave Catholics who wrote the letter asking Gingrich and Santorum to pull back on the heinous language they are using…but where are the other religious leaders, the so-called moral and ethical leaders of this great nation?

Someone said that Gingrich stood to lose the Evangelical vote as details of his first marriage were revealed by his ex-wife. Surely that would have been the case, or should be the case, if the Evangelicals were as bound to Godly morals as they claim, but alas, the Evangelicals, the trumpeters of morality and family values, have been silent…Why? Because the Evangelicals want Barack Obama out of office, so it doesn’t matter, Newt’s marital, or apparent marital, indiscretions.

The Church, the established Church, has been failing in so many ways – saying one thing but doing another. The Church has been responsible for leading too many people away from the Christ instead of toward Him. The Church seems to have a very selective range of issues on which to comment and be vocal about – but racism isn’t one of them!

It’s too bad. One of the reasons racism has flourished in this country for as long as it has is because the Church has failed; it has been silent when it should have been clanging the cymbals proclaiming injustice and vowing to fight it!

Newt Gingrich will probably win the South Carolina primary, because he pandered to a group of people in that state who are still raw with racial resentment. Nobody quite cares about anything else other than their belief that a great wrong was done when America elected an African-American to be president and that it is their civic duty to get him out of the White House.

Church leaders have been largely silent on Newt’s (and Rick Santorum’s) racially coded language. It is not surprising, but it is disappointing.

A candid observation…

Newt Gingrich Owes African Americans an Apology

Sign for "colored" waiting room at a...
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Newt Gingrich owes African-Americans an apology.

He absolutely knows what he is doing.

His constant calling President Obama “the food stamp president” is nothing more than racial politics, no less reprehensible or excusable than when Lee Atwater and the GOP used the image of Willie Horton to take down Michael Dukakis in 1988.

Gingrich has settled into the language that “liberals” or “elite liberals” are the only ones who “despise making money.” That is incorrect, but it isn’t a morally and ethically reprehensible statement or behavior.

But going to South Carolina and using language that feeds into the racial fears and misconceptions that come up in conversations with far too many white people, is a moral and ethical outrage.

Can you not get the votes, Mr. Gingrich, without putting black people down and feeding into the misconceptions of way too many white people?

Statistics released by the United States Department of Agriculture show that 35 percent of all food stamp recipients are white, compared to 22 percent black, and 10 percent Hispanic. If  you, Mr. Gingrich, would say that, or something to that effect, the insult you have heaped upon the descendants of African slaves who built this country would be non-existent.

I wonder if Gingrich, or any candidate, has the chutzpah to tell people part of the reason that the unemployment rate amongst black men, especially young black men, is that too many white employers still refuse to hire them? I wonder if Gingrich, a historian, has the courage to talk about the fact that black people have lived through an era where at one time, there were blatant signs put up, “Black (or Colored) people need not apply,” as African-Americans sought to find work?

The signs are gone, but the emotions, feelings and beliefs that made people feel justified in putting such signs up are far from being gone.

I wonder if Gingrich has the courage to stand up and say, since he is wanting to be president of ALL of the people of this nation, that the undercurrent racism of this country will be met with and dealt with in his administration if he is elected president, so that the course of this nation will be turned, finally, away from post-Civil War and Reconstruction white resentment of black people which has never died, to a 21st century, Christian endeavor to deal with our racism honestly, for the good of the nation.

Many, too many, white people say, and believe, that “this is a white man’s country.” In her book Rising Sun, author Sharon Davies gives an account of a young white girl who is appearing before a grand jury because she has converted to Catholicism, against the wishes of her parents. In the 1920s, the Ku Klux Klan was not only against black people and Jewish people, but it also hated Catholics. This young girl’s parents were amongst the Catholic-haters, and, enraged that his daughter had married a Catholic boy in secret, her father had shot and killed the priest who married them.

In her testimony before the Grand Jury, the young girl was asked if her husband was a white man (he was from Puerto Rico and was allowed, by Alabama state law, to say he was “white.”) When the girl said he was a Spaniard, the Grand Jury members scoffed, and one juror said, just remember, “this is a white man’s country…always has been and always will be.”

A young Hugo Black, who would become a member of the United States Supreme Court, was one of the girl’s defense attorneys …and he was also a member of the Klan, as were many of the jurors.

That feeling has not gone away and Newt knows it, and he thus knows that saying President Obama is “the food stamp president” feeds right into that belief and the sentiment that there is a need to “take the country” back. The charge is that Mr. Obama is the most liberal president in history. Say that. True or not, it’s fair. It is fair political rhetoric.

Say that it is true that more people are on food stamps than at any other time in our history, but that  statistics say  that more white than black people are on those food stamps, and they needed to do it because the economic mess that Mr. Obama inherited from the GOP was so horrible that had he not made a way for more people to get food stamps, a lot of Americans, black, white and brown, would have not been able to eat!

Make the argument against President Obama openly about economics, and not sneakily about race.

Americans who have found themselves not only using but needing food stamps for the first time in their lives are ashamed for having to use them, but at the same time are grateful that this president did what he thought would best help them.

It is true that some people, black and white, who receive government assistance, are abusing the system. Say that, Mr. Gingrich, and nobody will be able to accuse you of playing the race card or indulging in racial politics. When you say that President Obama is “the food stamp president,” say that his policies have resulted in more  black and white and brown people getting food stamps than ever before. Then your statement will not be racially charged and racially polarizing.

I know that politics, or the game of politics, is not supposed to be fair, but it is high time that racial politics stop being the trump card for politicians reaching for the White House. African-Americans, and indeed all Americans, deserve better.

African-Americans have provided the labor upon which the economy of this nation was built. It is high time white politicians say that out loud, and stop the craziness and stop using words that only make the decay in our nation caused by racism worse.

You, Mr. Gingrich, owe African-Americans an apology. It is NOT all right to insult us, even if you are trying to kick Mitt Romney out of contention for the presidency. What you are saying and are now defending, is morally and ethically wrong. We deserve better.

A candid observation …

Enough

English: Former Speaker of the House at CPAC in .
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This weekend I saw a segment on a news program about the late Lee Atwater, the Republican boy wonder who orchestrated the campaign and subsequent victory for George H.W. Bush in 1988. Atwater was but one of more recent members of the GOP who made racial politics a staple of their strategy. Ronald Reagan,  the GOP beloved, was also helped along by Atwater, and was the candidate who coined the phrase ” welfare queen,” making voters latch onto their belief that black people and their undying love for entitlements, are what’s wrong with America. Along comes Lee Atwater, who helped George H.W. Bush decimate Michael Dukakis in the 1988 election by flashing the image of convicted murderer Willie Horton into American homes via television during the campaign, reminding voters that Dukakis was in favor of furloughs for some horrible people…Willie Horton’s face was the reminder that in the minds of white Americans, “horrible people” equaled “black people,” and there was no way one sympathetic to such people should be elected President of the United States.

And now, here we are again, 2012, and racial politics is being played again. Oh, the GOP candidates won’t say things outright; far be it for them to be said to be playing “the race card,” but play that card they do, surreptitiously, repeatedly and continuously, playing right into the same nerves and veins as did Atwater and Reagan.

Newt Gingrich‘s recent comments, saying that black people do not have a work ethic, and saying that the “only the elites despise making money” help him bolster his argument that President Barack Obama is the “food stamp president.” He claims that more Americans under President Obama are receiving or have received food stamps than under any other president in history.

Stop, Mr. Gingrich. Have you forgotten that more Americans are out of work, or have been out of work, during this presidency than in any other time in history?  Unlike the presidency of FDR, where the eruption of war helped address the huge unemployment problem that had been wrought by the Great Depression, this country was steeped in two wars which were not making money for America but were in fact draining its coffers. Jobs that had been available were being outsourced overseas, helping people over there get on their feet and make people like Gingrich and Romney more wealthy while ignoring the people here who had fallen.

Have you not heard, Mr. Gingrich, that one 1 out of every 2 Americans is now classified as “poor,” and that the “new poor” are those who used to be middle class? Have you not visited neighborhoods which hardly “look” poor, but where the “used to be” middle class are now scuffling to make ends meet? Have you not driven past a church in a fairly well to do area where the sign says “free lunch,” catering not to people whom you would say have no work ethic, but to people, white people, thank you, who are working and who need help? Have you not visited food pantries where the food is flying off shelves faster than it can be replaced, because people of all races, whites especially, have no money to feed their families?

Enough.

Racial politics is disingenuous at best, but wrong and manipulative at its worst. Instead of addressing the real problem in America- that of corporate greed – which is responsible for the mess our nation is in. Gingrich and others rely instead on cheap shots and easy prey in order to lure their base, happily ignorant of what’s really going on, into their lairs. Gingrich and Romney and others will resort to “playing the race card” without saying the word “race” outright; they will use phrases like “the food stamp president” as a euphemism for what they are really saying – that black people are the reason America is in a bad way, and we need to get this black person out of the White House because he is pandering to a group that doesn’t appreciate America, the free enterprise system, or democracy. GOP opponents are just suggesting, thank you, that this “most liberal president in the history of America” is making black people more dependent than they already are.

Please.

There are a couple of things I wish Gingrich would address. First of all, I’d like for him to admit that statistics say that more white people than black receive food stamps. I don’t think I have ever heard a white candidate for anything admit this truth. If you’re going to try to be president, it would be nice to see that you have the capacity to “fess up” when you need to.

Secondly, I wish that Gingrich would go into an urban area and meet with some of the people he talks about so blithely and carelessly. Yes, there are people who do not work because they want to receive benefits, but there are more who do not work because they cannot find work. There are those who are living in deep depression because they tried to find work but nobody would hire them. Let Mr. Gingrich address the racism of America that keeps black and brown people disproportionately unemployed…Let him talk to men who have tried and tried and tried some more to get work, only to be turned down. Let him talk to men who are broken because, though they are American, they cannot get hold of “the American dream.”

Thirdly, I wish that Mr. Gingrich, Mr. Romney or whoever gets the nomination show that he has the chutzpah to stand up and speak out against the economic injustice that has plagued black people from the beginning of time. Let Mr. Gingrich, an historian who certainly knows the antics of white people to keep black people unemployed, underemployed, and/or in debt that have gone on since Reconstruction.

Were Mr. Gingrich to show his mastery of history in that way, and show himself to be a genuine human being and not simply a politician,  there might be a change in this country.

He wouldn’t be elected president, but he would get the attention of someone who has never bothered to hear the truth before.

Enough!  The GOP candidates need to stop their destructive campaign tactics. This racial politics is a poison to our country, a country already weakened by the economic disparity which has made the gulf between rich and poor greater than it has ever been.  Surely Mr. Gingrich knows that.

Yes, he knows …but he doesn’t care.

A candid observation …