Trump is a Voice for the Frightened

 

When I was invited to preach at a white Episcopal church in Charles Town, West Virginia, the lead priest of that congregation called me to kind of coach me on how to approach the congregation.

Donald Trump

I was/am an educated African American woman. Her congregation was highly educated as well, but there is an issue of which I needed to be aware.

“They’re very sensitive about being talked down to,” she said, going on to explain that many white Southerners feel marginalized and put down by the “elites.” The elites were those with a lot of education, white people, she said, who they felt were always thinking that Southern white people were inferior, uneducated and, frankly, beneath them.

They were thus sensitive to being talked to in a way by an educated person which spewed that sentiment, and they were equally as sensitive about being called racist. Most of them hotly denied that they were racist, and would react badly if anything in my sermon got to that space of emotional pain that many white people, Southerners and Northerners as well, have carried for decades.

I was grateful for the priest’s “warning,” and worked very hard to make sure what I preached about – even though it was about racism – was not in any way an attack or a put down. Racism, I preached, was an aberration of spirit, something which Americans carry without even thinking about it. I worked very hard to illustrate the connectedness of all human beings, the ways in which we are the same regardless of color, before I got into the meat of the message, describing the damage racism does and has always done. It is America’s disease, I preached – not a new sentiment at all – but one which America has yet to acknowledge. And I tied all of what I was preaching about with the story of little Ruby Bridges, the little black girl who for a year sat in a classroom in New Orleans all by herself because racist people would not let their children be near her. I have a gift as a storyteller and worked the story so that the people could find the commonality of experience, the commonality of pain, the commonality of what it is to be a parent.

I think of that Sunday often. Charles Town is the city where John Brown was hanged for inciting an insurrection. It is rich in Southern history, a history which is rich with the stories and experiences of a culture which is racist but which ignores it in the hope of the reality of racism going away. America wants to keep its dirty little secret – which is not so little at all  and which is definitely not a secret- hidden away in a closet, and believes that if the secret stays in the closet, all will be well.

That belief, however, has always been wrong, and the proof that not talking about racism makes it go away is pushing up in the midst of this presidential election cycle. Donald Trump is feeding those who, like the Episcopal priest told me, are sensitive to being called racist and uneducated. A memo circulated by the Trump campaign vowed to concentrate on that group of people. (http://dailycaller.com/2016/08/06/trump-campaign-memo-primary-strategy-was-to-provide-safe-space-for-voters-called-bigots/) They are the ones who are screaming loudest about the “elite” people, those, they believe, who have been in power for too long. Their voices, beliefs and needs have been marginalized, ignored and cast aside for too long, in the quest of being politically correct, and being politically correct has meant “not talking about” racism and how the government, they believe, has done too much for black, brown and poor people, at the expense of white people.

The belief in white supremacy has driven American culture from its inception. After Reconstruction, whites who believed in their supremacy and resented the perception of blacks that they were equal with whites and therefore were owed the same rights, put Jim Crow into effect, effectively thrashing the gains made by black people, especially their right to vote. They believed then and many still do that America is a “white man’s country.” That doesn’t make them racist, they believe. That just makes them American.

No matter what, they have always been able to rely on their skin color to keep them in the running for the American dream, but globalization, making it possible for more people of color to invade what is supposed to be a white space, has weakened their status. They not only see more people of color coming into their land, they read or have heard the reports that by 2043, white people will be the minority in the United States. (https://mic.com/articles/106252/the-year-white-people-will-become-a-minority-in-america-has-been-declared#.TCKjBGUh9)

Donald Trump is speaking to a group of people who are angry, who have been marginalized by a government they think has been too big and too willing to embrace people of different races and religions, and who are seeing their version of white supremacy get more and more watered down. What they want “back” is the America where their status was secure.

That’s not going to happen.

But their fear is something Donald Trump knows. The group to whom he is speaking is vulnerable to his rhetoric, but the truth of the matter is that whites who are educated and who have gained pieces of the American dream are worried as well. “The marginalized” is not so small a group as many would like to believe. America is changing, and not many white people like it at all. Trump knows that, too – that whites of all classes are worried.

And so he is plowing through this campaign saying whatever he wants, challenging what has “always been,” promising that he alone will change the trajectory of a world which has not stood still, white supremacy notwithstanding.

And in his quest to speak to the hearts and concerns of those who feel abandoned and ignored, he is winning.

A candid observation …

 

 

Black Lives Don’t Matter to GOP

I watched the much-touted GOP presidential debate last evening with bated breath. Would these candidates indicate that they knew about and cared about the war around the value of black lives that is tearing this nation apart? Would they indicate that they care about African-Americans who are literally fighting for dignity and fairness in this land?

They did not. Not one question about the Black Lives Matter movement was asked; not one candidate admitted that what is going on in America is a serious problem.

Kim Davis and her quest for religious freedom was mentioned, and passionately so. Planned Parenthood was mentioned, with everyone seeming absolutely horrified that, according to a video that has surfaced, body parts of fetuses have been sold by Planned Parenthood. Of course, there was much discussion about the hated Iran deal, about what Russia is doing, about the nation’s security in general. That was expected and necessary.

But there was not a word, not a mention about the crisis going on in the streets of America, with innocent and unarmed black people being arrested, harassed, shot, injured, jailed and killed, by police officers. Not a word.

White America (and Dr. Carson) seems not to care about what is going on. White America is caught in its insistence that whatever happens to black people at the hands of police officers is warranted – that, in spite of plenty of videos to date that have indicated otherwise.

How come Rev. Mike Huckabee can be so concerned about what he calls “judicial tyranny” and not care about the domestic tyranny called police brutality? How can he, a Christian minister, ignore the fact that young black people are being treated like chattel, still, suffering at the hands of those who are supposed to protect them? Why is the plight of one Kim Davis more heart-wrenching to him than is the plight of all these African-Americans who are being profiled and attacked by police …with little chance that the offending officers will be held to accountability for their actions?

Dr. Martin Luther King wrote that “the universe is so structured that things do not quite work out rightly if men are not diligent in their concern for others.” (“The Ethical Demands for Integration”) In 1962, he wrote that “it is sad that the moral dimension of integration has not been sounded by the leaders of government and the nation.” White people are adamant about there being “law and order,” and will insist, most of the time, that “the law” be obeyed. In the case of black lives, that means being quiet and acquiescing to the commands of police officers, be they in the right or not. Dr King wrote, in that same essay, “they sounded the note that has become the verse, chorus and refrain of the so-called calm and reasonable moderates: we must obey the law!  He said that the issue of national morality was before the leaders of that time. That same issue of national morality is before us now, but the GOP candidates are ignoring it.

Dr. King further wrote, in “Letter from Birmingham City Jail” that “oppressed people cannot remain oppressed forever. The urge for freedom will eventually come.” That urge is upon us now, GOP candidates. Whether you like the movement and action of the Black Lives Matter activists or not, the move is on to end the oppression which is and has always been wrought by the “justice system” in this land.  Dr. King wrote in that same letter, “The Negro has many pent-up resentments and latent frustrations. He has to get them out.”  That is what you are seeing, yet ignoring. The souls that are marching in the streets and lying down on highways are souls that are sick and tired of the anguish they carry around daily. They are tired of believing that there will be justice when law enforcement acts in criminal ways. Dr. King wrote that it is “immoral to urge an individual to withdraw his efforts to gain basic constitutional rights because the quest precipitates violence. Society must protect the robbed and punish the robber.”

Whomever becomes president of the United States will need to look squarely in the face of Justice and know that she will require the soul of America to answer for its injustice to so many of her citizens. Just as society dared, really, President Obama to speak up too much for the case and causes of black people,  the Black Lives Matter movement will dare the new president ti ignore the cries of people who are tired of justice …being unjust.

It was insulting, last evening, to hear those candidates completely ignore the cries of people who are alive and fighting for freedom while they spoke for the lives of babies not yet born.

They showed that black lives don’t matter to the GOP.

A candid observation …