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 …

Understanding America

I do not understand this country I thought I knew.

American-flag-America

 

Yes, there is and has always been racism, and sexism and in fact, all kinds of oppression meted out to a lot of people and groups. The history of racial and sexual oppression of people in this country is not pretty. People want to deny it, or ignore it, but it is there.

Even though I read this history and am knowing it better and better, even though I knew the history of domestic terrorism which white mobs have engaged in, most times with the help and support of law enforcement, I always thought that deep down, underneath the racial hatred,  there was the possibility of hatred passing away or at least diminishing so that all God’s children could live together.

I believed that.

I do not believe that all white people are bad, nor do I believe that all white people are racist.

But this election has shown me that too many white people are racist and are unable to rise above their racism for the common good.

During the presidential election, I truly thought that the masses of Americans, white and black, would be disappointed, angered and repulsed by the hateful rhetoric spewed by the incoming president. I thought they would reject hatred, reject racism and sexism and all the other “isms” that we heard over the past year and a half.

But the masses didn’t care. The incoming president tapped into something in them – an anger based on economic woes, for sure, but also based on something else more sinister. They did not care what he said, who he said it about, how true or false it was, how crass it was, or whose feelings it would hurt.

He was going to “make America great again,” which seemed, in the end, to mean that he was going to give a lot of Americans permission to openly …hate …again.

I was sure the masses of Americans would be dismayed that he used people from Breitbart News as close advisors. I was wrong. I was sure people who called themselves patriotic would be appalled at this would-be president delegitimizing the heroism of Sen. John McCain. He was speaking to a certain group of people – mostly white – and he was clear about it.

I was sure the masses of Americans would reject that. I thought we had come further than that.

I was sure Americans would be disgusted by this man making fun of journalist who had a disability. He said he didn’t do that; his surrogates say he didn’t, either. No, it was the “dishonest media” that spread that story. He completely ignored the fact that people saw him, saw what he did and said.

His supporters were ready for a change; how it came about didn’t matter. They loved it that he was “not a politician” and that he “said it like it was.”

But “like it was” for whom?

Time will tell what this man’s policies will be. It is not my opinion of his shortcomings which is the big deal here. The big deal is that the masses of Americans supported his hateful rhetoric. They applauded and ignored his name-calling and bullying people They ignored his obviously thin skin and his lack of impulse control. Even now, they do not care that he is buddying up to Vladimir Putin.

It is troubling to me because I thought I knew America, fundamentally. I thought there were more people who despised racial hatred than there were people who still live in it.

I was wrong.

A candid observation…

 

 

Growing Up Christian

Whenever someone says to me, “I am a Christian,” or when I hear that “there is a war against Christians,” I shiver.

In spite of having Jesus as the master teacher and role model, giving people instructions on how to live as God would want, Christians, unfortunately, have too often fallen short, and they do not seem to care.

I have been stunned as I have read how Christians kept black people out of their churches, how white churches adopted “whites only” membership policies, and how so many Christians meted out horrific violence against black people in this country. Christian pastors have endorsed and sanctioned racism and sexism, pointing to the Bible as justification, a sacred text which has been manipulated for literally centuries to fit certain political ideologies.

I have been hurt and bothered as I have seen Christians treat people with HIV/AIDS like pariahs, keeping them out of their churches, away from a place that is supposed to be a place of healing, warmth and love.

Christians have engaged in shaping and adopting the most vile and discriminatory public policies that make life miserable and unfair for the masses. Christians have blamed horrific storms that devastate the lives of innocent people on the LGBTQ community.

While touting the God of love, Christians have openly and unabashedly hated others who are different – different races, different ethnicities, or who have different views.

In the current political race, Christians on both the right and the left have engaged in name-calling of those with whom they disagree.

I remember when the HIV/AIDS crisis really hit, and visiting a young man in the congregation I served who had full blown AIDS. Nobody from the church had been to visit him. He was terrified of dying because he was afraid he was going to hell. He was gay…

When I went to the hospital to visit him, he seemed genuinely terrified. He had been visited by Christians already. They had told him he was wrong and bad, and that his condition was the result of his “sin.” He was dying thinking he was part of the very scum of the earth. When I touched him, he drew back. When I told him God loved him, tears welled up in his eyes. Nobody had told him that. Christians had told him God was punishing him.

I was angry and hurt for this young man. I was angry at Christians.

The hateful rhetoric that comes too often from Christians doesn’t quit; the tendency to resort to that kind of hateful language does not abate or decrease with the passage of time. Franklin Graham, the son of the Rev. Billy Graham, is a case in point. Nowhere in his language do I see the presence or the evidence of Jesus the Christ. He pushes hatred and intolerance, following a long line of Christian clerics who have done the same. http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2015/07/franklin-grahams-turn-toward-intolerance/398924/.

Christians in leadership positions in churches everywhere initiate and perpetuate horrible “messes” in church, spreading lies and discontent because they want their way. So many Christian pastors end up walking away from their pulpits because they cannot take it. Too many commit suicide. (https://www.onfaith.co/onfaith/2014/06/25/why-half-of-all-pastors-want-to-quit-their-jobs/32683)

What Sunday School lessons are we being taught? Clearly there is a disconnect between what Jesus says to do and what our Sunday School teachers teach us. And it’s not enough to be a “missionary,” going to lands which white supremacists have labeled “barbaric” to minister to the “savages.” That doesn’t cut the reality of the hate-filled Christians here in the United States.

What would Jesus say, really?

In this political season, Evangelical Christians, those who purport to be closest to Jesus have embraced a man who seems as far away from the Christian ideal as humanly possible. They seem not to care that their candidate comes off as racist, misogynistic, Xenophobic and sexist. Even fellow Evangelicals are confused by the enormous support Evangelicals are giving the GOP nominee for president. (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/philip-yancey-donald-trump_us_57e95557e4b08d73b8328566)

Growing up Christian should produce a crop of people who understand the difficulty, yet the power, of being Christian, of paying the cost of discipleship and risking whatever must be risked in order to be within what the Christian Bible says is the will of God.

That isn’t the case, though. Growing up Christian seems more to have produced a crop of self-righteous people who see nothing wrong with being racist, sexist, hateful, people, causing more angst than comfort amongst “the least of these,” who are many. It was that group of people, the masses, that Jesus the Christ admonished us to care for, and you can’t care for people you hate and/or disrespect.

What would happen if Christians rose up, as a group, against the economic, political, racial and sexual injustice in this country? Would America look different?

I think so, but I don’t think we’ll see it, because growing up Christian has not resulted in the creation (in general) of kind and compassionate “soldiers” for justice and righteousness. We Christians are sorely deficient in the ways of God – as taught and outlined in the Christian Bible.

A candid observation …

Trump, Wright, the Media and Hatred

When Barack Obama was running for president in 2008, the media played, over and over, two sound bites of the candidate’s pastor, Jeremiah Wright. In one he said, in the context of the sermon which he was preaching, “God bless America? No, no, no, God damn America…”, using the Biblical text from Deuteronomy. Deuteronomy is a book of laws.  In it, there are a slew of laws and the expectation that God’s people will be obedient. Throughout the book, the writers list requirements of God’s people, and infractions that will get people and nations in trouble. They, the people and/or their nation, will be “cursed” if they do not obey the Lord. The word “cursed” comes from the Latin “damnare” which means “to inflict a loss,” or “to condemn.” To be so damned, or cursed, usually means that a person or nation is a sinner, guilty of being disobedient. Those who are disobedient stand the possibility of being condemned by God; in the New Testament, that would mean some people get to heaven, others don’t. Jesus’ statement that “not everybody who says “Lord, Lord will enter the kingdom of heaven” seems to point to the reality that some of us are “condemned” or “damned” because we are not doing God’s will.

In these chapters of Deuteronomy, the writer says that people will be cursed for some very specific things: people who lead blind people astray, people who dishonor their parents,and people who engage in sexual improprieties are “cursed,”  but as mentioned,  God, Yahweh, wants all of the laws followed. Among the things that God apparently detests:

If a slave has taken refuge with you, do not hand him over to his master. Let him live among you wherever he likes and whatever town he chooses. Do not oppress him. (Deut. 23:15)

Do not charge your brother interest, whether on money or food or anything else that may earn interests. You may charge a foreigner interest but not a brother Israelite… (Deut. 23:19)

At the end of every seven years, you must cancel debts. (Deut. 15:1)

There should be no poor among you, for in the land the Lord your God is giving you to possess as your inheritance, he will richly bless you if only you fully obey the Lord your God and are careful to follow all these commands I am giving you today. (Deut. 15:4) (italics mine). Citing the ways in which the United States has oppressed people here and all over the world, Wright took to the Bible to remind us that we will be cursed for not doing God’s will.

Wright was referring to a very specific directive which came straight from the Hebrew scriptures; his  was a Biblical argument, not a hateful barrage of words.

Trump, however, who says, by the way, that he is a Christian, has been nothing but hateful in his rhetoric – speaking against Mexicans, Muslims, women, and anyone who dares cross him, and the media has been sluggish in highlighting that he is spewing hatred; this same media which skewered Wright is not playing the Donald Trump diatribes repeatedly over their airwaves.

What is that about?

The media is, instead, giving Trump more and more air time. It seems not to mettle them at all that Trump’s words are rousing the racists from their dens.Most of what Trump does is verbally attack people who dare say anything he feels like is an attack on him – and any time one says anything in opposition to Trump, he says it is an attack. Trump comes back with insults and put-downs. He gives very little specific policies that he would implement if elected president.

Isn’t that hate? Isn’t Trump a bully, perhaps hiding his insecurities with this hateful, racist bravado?

What Wright did was let people know that a nation which calls itself Christian but which is not doing God’s will, is in trouble. With its history of oppressing others, Wright preached, America is in trouble. It stands to be “cursed” by a God who demands justice and righteousness.

But Wright was “damned” by the media and much of America, while Trump gets a free pass.  This man who is so rich has spent barely a penny of his own money in getting his message out. The media seems to giggle when he issues yet another one of his hateful statements.

So, “hatred” is OK if a rich white man is the perpetrator? It really doesn’t matter that Trump has put down Mexicans, immigrants and women? (Interestingly, he has said very little publicly about black people.) White nationalist David Duke says that Trump speaks “a lot more radically than I do.” (http://www.rawstory.com/2015/12/white-nationalist-leader-david-duke-trump-sounds-even-more-radical-than-i-do/)

The ex-KKK leader also said that Trump understands “the real sentiment of America.” This, coming from a man whose personal and public positions on who is worthy of dignity and freedom and who is not, is troubling. The KKK’s history of hatred needs no help here. (http://www.rawstory.com/2015/08/ex-kkk-leader-david-duke-backs-donald-trump-he-understands-the-real-sentiment-of-america/)

Does anyone see the difference? Trump is getting a free pass to incite racists who have long been lying dormant, ready to strike. Trump’s words are giving them permission to rise up and be bold in their hatred of so much … And the media seems more than willing to be complicit in the plan.

Wright, on the other hand, pleaded for people of God who knew God’s word to stand up and fight for justice, to remind this nation of God’s blessings for obedience …and curses (damnation) for disobedience.

I hate to put Wright’s name in the same essay that has the names of Donald Trump and David Duke, but the difference in the way Trump and Wright have been treated by the media is stark. The media sought to destroy Barack Obama by playing soundbites that it knew would feed into the dormant racists and others. The sound of an “angry black man” was threatening.  Political strategists knew it and used it. It’s called politics.

But that same media is letting Trump say truly hateful things and continue to give him free air time to spread is hatred. The media is being masterful in manipulating a particular demographic. The media is playing the race card, the white supremacist card, and the fear card… They are not trying to destroy Trump. They like him. Wright bothered them and so he had to go.

I don’t like hockey much but I have heard from hockey junkies that the game is OK but the fights are exciting. I have heard them say that they go to see the fights because they are fun to watch.

It seems like, feels like, Trump and his base are a hockey team, fighting with anyone who dares cross him and them, not on policy issues but on personal, hateful, racist, sexist, and religious issues.

A candid observation …