America’s Underwear is Dirty

It is probably safe to say that all of us were told by our mothers when we were little that we should always make sure our underwear was clean. They said the reason was that we never know when or if we might be in an accident. “You don’t want anybody to see that you’ve got on dirty underwear,” my mother would say.

America, it seems, has never changed her underwear.

The entire debacle of ICE agents ripping children from the arms of their mothers, and of putting children in detention centers while concurrently sending their parents to jail is not a new thing. More accurately, America’s power elite have a history of separating children from their families.

When Africans were brought to this country, it was common for those purchasing Africans would buy a mother or father, leaving screaming and terrified children behind. In many cases, those parents never saw their children again.

It is America’s underwear.

What allows anyone to separate families, ignoring the screams of mothers and their children, is the presence of cognitive dissonance, defined as “holding onto contradictory ideas simultaneously,” according to Joy DeGruy, author of Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome.”

            In America, she says, people hold onto the idea of freedom while doing something which is totally in opposition to that ideal. Thus, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who would staunchly defend his belief in democracy and Christianity could and did defend the policy of separating families of people coming to America from Central America.

Mr. Sessions does not, cannot and will not allow himself to…consider that these people are human beings, parents who love their children and who would not even think of leaving a despotic political situation and leave their children behind.

He does not relate to the immigrants as human beings. He has disassociated himself from them and therefore cannot feel their pain and worse, cannot believe that they are capable of feeling the same pain as does he and others whose humanity he respects.

Heather Anderson Williams writes in “Compartmentalizing Slavery” that “most white slaveowners …would have only a limited sense of what enslaved people felt and they did not pause the morality of an institution that deprived humans of their liberty and wantonly destroyed their families.” (http://www.slate.com/articles/life/the_history_of_american_slavery/2015/06/how_white_people_justified_and_struggled_with_separating_slave_families.html)

Likewise, there was no sense of how Native Americans felt when the Europeans came to America, bringing with them diseases to which Native Americans had never been exposed which resulted in over 90 percent of the Native American population at that time dying off. Nor did they consider what Native Americans felt when their land was taken, or how they felt when Europeans ignored their humanity in the quest for power and control of this country.

Martin Luther King said that there is a phenomenon called “thingification.”  In an address to the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in 1967, he said, “A nation that will keep people in slavery for 244 years will thingify them – make them things. Therefore they will exploit them …”

That “thingification” has contributed to the oppression of blacks in this country for 300 years, for the decimation and genocide of Native Americans, for the oppression of women, members of the LGBTQ community,  for Muslims, and now, for the horrific treatment the current administration is meting out to immigrants coming to America seeking asylum.

Those ripping children from their parents have made these people “things” in the classic sense. Though they hear the children screaming for their parents, and the parents screaming back to their children, reaching for them, they have distanced themselves from the human tragedy in which they are engaged. Like the Europeans decimating the Native Americans, and like white people thinking only of ways to use black people to further their economic goals, these people today cannot conceive that the parents and children’s screams they are hearing are genuine.

They have dissociated. These people are not true human beings, capable of feeling as do the law enforcement officers and government working against them.

America’s underwear is dirty. She has never changed that part of her presence which was sullied and soiled from the moment the Europeans landed on these shores.

Sometimes, something is so dirty that it cannot be totally cleaned. There is a gray film over it and no amount of washing or bleaching fixes the problem.

This desire to protect whiteness, which is at the base of most of the oppression in this country, has sullied America’s underwear for hundreds of years. Attacking a group of people, ruining their families and causing a lifetime of hurt and pain, is part of what has stained the ideal of American democracy. It is a stain that was begun from the moment Europeans arrived here, and it continues to spread.

Were America taken to an emergency room, sick and in serious condition, it is a sure thing that those trying to treat her would see her dirty underwear, clearly never changed …and be appalled, judgmental and perhaps unconcerned. America’s poverty of humanity caused by her consistent “thingification” of people is leading her to a bad place, where her myth of being “the greatest nation in the world” will no longer stand up to scrutiny. Her dirty underwear will finally be completely exposed.

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 …

What is an American…Christian, Really?

I am stunned by the rhetoric being spouted against Muslims here in America.

I am stunned that major GOP candidates are leading the pack and I am stunned that American …Christians …are buying into it all.

What is an American Christian, really? I grew up thinking, having been taught, that Americans were the best; we had the best morals, the best values, the best ideas, the best government. I grew up believing, erroneously, it turns out, that America’s very founding documents touted the belief that “all men were created equal.”

I grew up completely immersed in the statement made by our Statue of Liberty, and her words, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free…” I thought it was glorious to have such representations of human rights in my country.

I coupled that with the version of Christianity I was taught: that Jesus was love, that Jesus reached out to “the least of these” and rejected nobody. I cherished this religion which seemed to embrace the notion of a loving God, who was, in the end, non-judgmental, all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-good.

So, my world, my created, fantasy world, was shaken once I began to read about the discrimination, hatred and violence carried out in this country by …American Christians. Where was the belief in the Constitution? What about the words spoken by Jesus in the Bible? It began to seem to be all a sham. White American Christians, too many of them, were too ready to either practice racial hatred against blacks and Jews and whomever else was to be targeted at a given time, and the notion of “all men being created equal,” I read, meant only white men. I read that the ships on which white people brought Africans to the Americas had religious names, including Brotherhood, Integrity, Gift of God, Liberty, and Jesus. (From There is a River, by Vincent Harding, p. 3)

It seemed that even whites who thought such thinking was against Christian principles as stated by Jesus were reluctant to say anything, and so they remained quiet. Racial hatred was OK; God, they suggested, was a white man who wanted America to be a “white man’s country.” Therefore there was no problem, no disconnect, between the way white American Christians treated people of color.

So, the Islamophobic rhetoric we are hearing today ought not be disturbing. American Christians, led in the GOP bid for the presidential nomination, are accepting and embracing the horrid words and suggestions being offered by Presbyterian Donald Trump and Seventh Day Adventist Ben Carson, who says he loves the Bible.

Which Bible?

Because of what happened in Paris, Trump, the Presbyterian is suggesting actions that are reminiscent of Nazi Germany, South Africa …and Palestine. Separate people; brand some as bad, inhuman, unworthy of respect. Do it to protect others.

It is a heinous thought and scary. How many people, innocent people, will suffer from civilized, non-violent terrorism, which is all that Trump is suggesting? This feels like a sort of McCarthyism, all over again. And the supporters of Trump, Carson, Rubio, Christie and Cruz are on board.

When Barack Obama was elected, people said America was “post-racial,” but that was far from being true, and the fact that this anti Islamic rhetoric is rising by the day is evidence of it.

Did God make a mistake? Did God mean for the world to be just white people?  I don’t believe that, but it seems that a vast number of American Christians, white American Christians, believe that. They find no disconnect at all between discriminating against and oppressing people of color, and the dictates set forth by the American Constitution and the Holy Bible.

So, someone tell me. What is an American …Christian, really?  It’s time to stop wading in idealism, and look at our country and its touted religion squarely in the face. Because it seems that what I was taught about both democracy and Christianity …are sorely mistaken.

A candid observation …

 

 

 

The Obamas and Race

It seems that many white people believe that if we don’t talk about race, things are OK. Their mantra is that whenever anyone talks about race, he or she is “playing the race card.” Their solution to all things racial is that we should just be quiet, and it’ll go away eventually. Talking about it, they say, “stirs people up” and drives a wedge between people. What they seem to want is for things to remain the same, which in reality means that white people remain in power and black people remain subservient, and that black people ignore the daily reminders that racism is alive. They want black people to be quiet and not talk about the inequities, the injustice and the indignities suffered and endured on a daily basis.

President Obama has been reluctant to talk about race because the few times he has, there has been a backlash. People, white people, have been  horrified and angered  that he would bring “it” up, and have immediately accused him of playing “the card.” When he made the observation that if he had a son, he would look like Trayvon, following Trayvon’s murder, and the critics went up in smoke. When Harvard professor and scholar Robert Louis Gates was arrested in his own home, President Obama reacted, saying, “On July 22, President Barack Obama said about the incident, “I don’t know, not having been there and not seeing all the facts, what role race played in that. But I think it’s fair to say, number one, any of us would be pretty angry; number two, that the Cambridge police acted stupidly in arresting somebody when there was already proof that they were in their own home, and, number three, what I think we know separate and apart from this incident is that there’s a long history in this country of African-Americans and Latinos being stopped by law enforcement disproportionately.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_Louis_Gates_arrest_controversy) Again, the criticism was swift and hard, and the president ended up having a beer summit at the White House for the arresting officer, himself and Professor Gates.

Those who have held contempt for the president being…the president …have been teething at the bit, it seems, waiting for the president to seem “too black.” He is, they have said, the president of all Americans. That is true …but what they decided that being president of all Americans meant he had better not speak up about racial injustice, which is alive and rampant in this nation.

So, it is not surprising that the critics have been quick to criticize First Lady Michelle Obama after her graduation speech at Tuskegee University this past weekend. In her remarks, she noted that the racism and racist acts and comments thrown at her and President Obama have bothered her. Her remarks, delivered at a historically back college and university (HBCU) were appropriate and on the mark; black people graduating from colleges do not get to escape the ugliness of racism. Anyone graduating had better know that, and the First Lady’s comments were meant to drive that truth home. (see complete speech here: https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2015/05/09/remarks-first-lady-tuskegee-university-commencement-address)

Some white people, too many in my opinion, just do not and will not get it. They do not understand that the every day struggles black people go through – still – are emotionally, psychologically and spiritually draining. They do not or will not understand that black people – men, boys, girls and women – are still “at risk” just for being black. They do not or will not understand that black parents still have to have “the talk” with their sons to alert them that police officers are not necessarily their friends and that they should act in a way that will assure they will not be arrested, beaten, and/or killed. Young black people are not shamming or making things up when they say “black lives matter.” They say this in a nation where black lives really do not matter except to help make a profit. Our founding documents assured that black lives did not matter and sought to make it so that they would never matter. While white people complain about the mention of slavery, it was slavery and its aftermath, including Jim Crow laws, that made us know that we did not matter. According to the United States Constitution, our lives were never to matter.

America was founded because people were tired of being oppressed by the British. The American Revolution is an event we Americans celebrate and honor …yet as black people have rebelled over the years, seeking dignity and the full rights of citizenship, there has been nothing but criticism.

Black people are not seen as people or human beings (one cannot be 3/5 of a person and be fully human), but rather as objects. People have no attachment, no emotional attachment, to objects. To far too many people, black people are objects, dehumanized, criminalized and marginalized. It is partly because of that that police officers can shoot black people so quickly …and it is because of that that too many of us black people shoot and kill each other. American racism and white supremacy has convinced black people that their truth is the truth and far too many black people see themselves as objects as well.

In spite of that, black people have continued to push through the walls of racism and hatred and bigotry, and people need to understand: we get to talk about it. We need to talk about it. It is clear that black people have not let white supremacy and racism hold us back; we have moved forward and upward, not because of white supremacy but in spite of white supremacy. It is a tribute to the strength of the human spirit, that that has been and is the case.

Nevertheless, it is painful to be black in America. The myth of “black badness” has been spread all over the world; foreigners come here believing that black people are bad and lazy. not worthy of being free. That narrative began after Reconstruction, when the myth of the Negro criminal was being constructed so that black people could be and were arrested for the slightest offense and made to work for white people until their sentences were worked off. For far too many, the sentence was never worked off, and the result was that black people remained enslaved in spite of the Emancipation Proclamation.

No person who is black in America can sidestep the reality of being black here. To talk about it really could be a good thing; if people (white and black) who say they don’t want to hear about racism would in fact listen and decide to learn what black people have endured here, perhaps they would see the reasons why the young people shout, “black lives matter” and “no justice, no peace.” Many view the latter phrase as a threat of violence; it is more a plea to be heard and for justice to finally be meted out to black people as it is for whites.

The critics today have said the Obamas talk too much about race. I must disagree. I wish they had been able to talk about it more…Poet Audre Lorde wrote, “your silence will not protect you.”  It will not, white America. The history of white supremacy, white violence, white discrimination and white injustice is real. We should all know it, not run from it and pretend it does not exist. It does, and it is ugly.

A candid observation …