On Lynching…

We think we’re post-racial and that lynching is a thing of the past.

But that’s because we don’t understand what lynching is.

Yes, one is “lynched” if and when one is hung by a rope around one’s neck. We all know that.

But lynching is a little more than that. According to definitions, a lynching occurs if one is murdered by mob rule without legal sanction. That murder may be in the form of a hanging, but doesn’t have to be. It can be a shooting, or a stabbing, or a brutal beating. Emmet Till was lynched, being beaten to death and thrown into a river. James Byrd was murdered by three men and dragged along a road by a pick-up truck .  Matthew Shepard was beaten to death …

Those are lynchings. It still goes on, these murders by mob violence, with governments and law enforcement still looking the other way. The death of 17-year old Kendrick Johnson feels like a present-day lynching, which would have gone ignored had it not been for his parents and community who refused to stop trying to find out what really happened to him.  It feels a lynching..

I would say that in this country, while technically lynching does not have legal sanction, one of its horrible identifying marks is that DOES have  and that it has been, in fact,  sanctioned and supported by the law. Had it not been for Ida B Wells Barnett and the people who worked with her, one has to wonder if we would still be seeing bodies hanging from trees.

There were anti-lynching bills introduced to the United States Congress in  the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s, but there was never a law.   Filibusters, primarily by Southern lawmakers, prevented that. The legislature, charged to make laws to protect American citizens, didn’t do its job. Congress apologized for that in 2005.

One might argue that lynching doesn’t happen anymore. Some might naively offer that there is no more mob violence,  But mobs (sometimes only two or three can make up a mob) still produce acts of domestic terrorism on individuals, be they black, gay, or despised for any number of other reasons, and mass incarceration seems like mob violence of the most vile sort, a systemically violent experience again supported by the legislative and judicial branches of government.

When I was in middle school, a fellow student said that one cannot legislate morality. True.  We were talking about lynching and how it was wrong, and this student, a white female, protested that there was nothing that could be done.

On some levels, perhaps she has a point. Laws cannot produce compassionate individuals.

But the murder, demonization and decimation of human beings, American citizens, ought to stir up outrage enough that laws are passed that say this nation believes in the human rights of all people, not just people overseas.  Lynching still happens, and it is unconscionable.

A candid observation …

God is Not a Christian

Desmond Tutu 2007 at the Deutscher Evangelisch...
Desmond Tutu 2007 at the Deutscher Evangelischer Kirchentag in Cologne 2007 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Retired Anglican Bishop Desmond Tutu has written a most fascinating book, God is Not a Christian: And Other Provocations,” which begs any and all who take their religious walk and life seriously to read.

Tutu makes the case for the compassion of God versus the too-often lack of compassion found amongst Christians.  Humans, he says, have “an impatience with anything and anyone that suggests there might be another way of looking at the same thing…There is a nostalgia for the security in the womb of safe sameness, and so we shut out the stranger and the alien.”  Our faith must make us ready, says Tutu, “to take risks, to be venturesome and innovative; yes, to dare to walk where angels might fear to tread.”

Those words are simple; the directive of the Gospel to love God with everything we’ve got, and our neighbors as ourselves is a simple one to understand, and yet, is most difficult to do. What comes to mind immediately is the poor reception a 10-year-old Mexican American boy got when he sang the National Anthem at the opening of  Game 3 of the championship game last week between the San Antonio Spurs and the Miami Heat in San Antonio.

Sebastien De La Cruz sang his little heart out at the opening game…but instead of encouraging and supporting him, some people found the fact of his singing the National Anthem offensive.  (http://www.cnn.com/2013/06/12/us/mexican-american-boy-sings-anthem/index.html) . Cryptic and racist remarks were made, like, “Why do they have a Mexican singing the National Anthem?” or “why are they letting an illegal alien sing the national anthem?” (De La Cruz, by the way, is an American citizen.) Apparently, there were a lot of such remarks made, and I would bet that many of them were made by God-fearing, God-loving Americans.

There is something wrong with a country that applauds globalization from an economic perspective, but which does not understand all of the ways globalization changes and is changing the world. To be global means to be connected with people not like yourself; it means that different music, different names, different foods, different customs …become available for all people. Instead of being a homogeneous society, globalization means that there is a buffet before people, offering the great diversity of this world…which was, remember, all created by God.

globalization means that sometimes, as ethnic and racial groups meet, people will be uncomfortable as they come face to face with that which is different. We grow to love the “safe sameness” that Tutu writes about, and anything that jostles that safety is enough to set some people off, God notwithstanding.

Christians are held to a high standard because Christians claim to follow Jesus the Christ, who preached love, inclusiveness, compassion, mercy and forgiveness. Christians like to boast that “their way” is the “only way” to God.

But one has to wonder, as we watch Christians behave abominably, what God is saying. Could it be that God is displeased with our racism and sexism and homophobia and xenophobia?  Could it be that God is shaking at His/Her very foundations, yelling and screaming, “No!!! That’s not what I sent Jesus for!” as He/She watches us shun people, put them out of our “safe sameness” and as far away from us as possible?

Tutu’s statement, “God is not a Christian” is provocative, and yet, it seems to true. God, in the Hebrew scriptures, railed at the Israelites because they didn’t “get it,” the message of love and mercy and hospitality that God wanted them to have. The Israelites consistently broke covenant with God and it caused God, finally, to have to send Jesus to make humans at one with (atoned) God.  Christians are supposed to “get it,” are supposed to understand what the ministry of Jesus was all about, and yet, historically, as it concerns different groups of people – blacks, women, members of the LGBT community …and even people with AIDS (remember Ryan White?) Christian behavior has too often been sorely lacking

Did God waste the sacrifice of his Son? Was Jesus’ suffering and death done for nothing?

Young De La Cruz didn’t let the racist remarks stop him, and, to the credit of the Spurs organization, they invited him back to sing the National Anthem the next evening. “For those that said something bad about me, I understand it’s your opinion,” said Sebastien to CNN. “I’m a proud American and live in a free country. It’s not hurting me. It’s just your opinion.”

It may not be hurting De La Cruz, but one wonders if it hurts God.

The days are over when America looks one way, with two major ethnic groups facing off. The fabric of America is multi-colored, with different hues and shades that will only increase. One day there may well be a Muslim in a hajib singing the National Anthem.  Globalization, as far as the business community is concerned, is a good thing in that it increases the capacity for huge profits based on expanding markets. But globalization at its core might more importantly be about bringing the diversity of this world together, so that we must come out of “safe sameness” and get to know our neighbors better. It will be much harder to war against people we have grown to know and love.

A candid observation…

Racism: Ingrained Ignorance

Cover of "War Against the Weak: Eugenics ...
Cover via Amazon

You’d think after a while that  disparaging things said  about people  of African descent, will let up, but it never ends.

At what should have been the pinnacle of her career, Greek triple jumper Voula Papachristou was banished from the Olympic Games on Wednesday after making racist comments and expressing right-wing sentiments on Twitter.

“With so many Africans in Greece, at least the West Nile mosquitoes will have homemade food,” she wrote. (http://sports.yahoo.com/news/olympics–greek-triple-jumper-removed-from-olympic-team-after-making-racist-comments-on-twitter.html)

And, interestingly, even with all of the “marriage is between one man and one woman” drivel, a white church in Mississippi refused to allow a marriage between an African-American couple – one man and one woman – to be performed in the church, a church which, by the way, the couple had been attending for some time, but had not joined.

The unfortunate couple was informed the day before their wedding was to take place that it would not and could not happen, and the pastor of the church, also white, was warned that if he performed the ceremony in the church he would be fired. (http://www.cnn.com/video/?hpt=hp_t2#/video/us/2012/07/27/church-bans-black-couple-wedding.wlbt)
I sometimes wonder what God was thinking when He was creating people. Actually, I wonder what brain patterns God created that makes and has historically made people think and believe that only  people of either Nordic or Germanic descent are “worthy” races.

It’s like racism is part of the DNA of some people. In his book, War Against the Weak: Eugenics and America’s campaign to Create a Master Race,” author Edwin Black describes how the “science” of eugenics was brought to life not by a redneck hillbilly, but by Harvard and Ivy League-bred intellectuals, including Charles Davenport, and was supported by some of the most prestigious names in American history, including Andrew Carnegie.

Interestingly, according to the work funded by the Carnegie Institute, not even the Greek athlete would have been considered a person of “worthy” race; people from the Mediterranean region, from Asia as well as from Africa were considered inferior.

Early proponents of a “master race” theory were adamant about the “taint” being in the blood of non-white, non-Germanic people. Robert Fletcher, who was the president of the Anthropological Society of Washington wrote in 1891 that “germ plasm” ruled, that one criminal would breed another, that the “taint was in the blood,” and that the only way to handle the problem of inferior races amongst the superior was to quarantine them.

American eugenicists hoped to craft a super race, a master race, and so known and respected that, Black writes, Hitler and the Nazis referred to the work of the Americans in their quest to exterminate Jews.

The question that comes to me, over and over again, is “did the tendency of people all over the world to put down, to denigrate, people of African descent originate with American racism and its theories of white supremacy? Would not only America but the world be less racist had not America taken the reins of racism and pushed a theory of the validity of white supremacy?

Because the roots of racism are so deep, it is not surprising that the negative remarks, the negative opinions and misconceptions, and the outright racist slurs that people so blithely utter and throw around is not surprising, but it sure gets boring and bothersome to keep on having to face that kind of music, just because of where one’s ancestors came from.

I am not sorry Voula Papachristou doesn’t get to compete in the games she worked to get to her whole life. Her skin color did not give her license to write such an insensitive thing on Twitter. Some will scoff and say, “get over it. It was a joke.”

To her, maybe, and her friends. But the people who make disparaging comments about people of African descent, who draw lewd cartoons and write and disseminate crude racially charged emails are not comedians.  They are victims of a sick way of thinking…spawned, perhaps, by ancestors who were determined to create a master race.

Those same ancestors spawned people who will say that marriage is between one man and one woman, with a “gentleman’s agreement” that that holds ONLY if the man and woman are white. Their being the progeny of brain sick ancestors, fused with religious dribble, makes them think the way they think is the way God thinks.

Isn’t that …interesting? They are not harbingers of truth or of exciting scientific discovery.

They are the victims of ingrained ignorance.

A candid observation …




Such Thing as Racially Coded Language?

I got into a rather lively debate with a (former) Twitter follower of mine.

She had seen the title of my post entitled “Newt Gingrich Owes African-Americans an Apology” and had taken issue. Her response to the tweet announcing the blog post was “no he doesn’t.” She said I was playing “the race card” and that “it doesn’t work.”

Later in the evening, she and I started an exchange. I said that Newt had played the race card by referring to President Obama as “the food stamp president.” Though statistics show that more whites than blacks receive food stamps, what many “hear” when they hear “food stamps” is “black people are getting food stamps” because they are lazy and do not want to work. It’s an underlying thought in this country, and, I argued, Newt knows that very well.

I said that Newt was playing to his base. I also, erroneously, said that he had earlier said that “poor black children” don’t have a work ethic,” and my friend quickly corrected me and said he had only said “poor children.” She was right and I admitted it as such.

But she was angry. She said I was racist and that I was calling HER racist for saying that Newt Gingrich was playing to his base. And she said that people like me are the ones who keep the races divided. She “unfollowed” me.

She is not the only one who would agree with me, and clearly, not every African-American would agree with me. Just this morning, CNN’s Soledad O’Brien and Roland Martin were talking about this very same thing with former GOP presidential hopeful Herman Cain, who vehemently rejects the idea that there is such a thing as racially coded language.

But that’s all right. Back to my little encounter with my Twitter friend, I was sorry that she “unfollowed”  me because I enjoyed tweeting with her. She and I obviously have different ways of seeing things, but that’s good; one learns from talking with people who are different.

But what bothers me is that she really thinks that there is no such thing as racially coded language. She accused me of  “race baiting,” and if bringing up that Newt was playing the race card to appeal to his mostly white, South Carolina audience, then that’s what I was doing.

But it seems a bit naive to really believe that there is no such thing as racially coded language. It has always been done. President Reagan, the GOP iconic hero, did it when he used the phrase “welfare queen.” I am quite sure that the image that most people had, black and white, was that of a black woman with too many kids who refused to work but who kept having children so she could get more money from the government.

It is a despicable image, and an inaccurate one. Yes, there are people of all races who abuse the system, and yes, it is true that if one keeps getting hand-outs, he or she might be less inclined to look for work, but that doesn’t apply to everyone or even to the vast number of people who are on public assistance.

Rick Santorum, at least, was forthright in his comments which were not all that complimentary toward black people.  He said, outright, that he didn’t want to make black people’s lives better by giving them somebody else’s money. I want to give them the opportunity to go out and make their own money…” (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/01/03/rick-santorum-entitlements-black-people_n_1181212.html)

It was a straight up statement; you didn’t have to guess about what he meant. He later tried to back out of it and said he didn’t say “black” people, but he did. He was standing on the long-held stated and believed myth, again, that “black people” are lazy, that “black people” are the ones who are using and abusing the welfare system. It was insulting, but the language was not racially coded.

Gingrich, on the other hand, did use coded language when he said that President Obama is the “food stamp president.” He was more honest when he said that the “African American community should demand pay checks and not food stamps.” It is still insulting; it is still a statement that upholds and supports a myth that black people are the ones driving the growth of “big government,” and that is just not true. You can read what Gingrich said at (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/01/05/newt-gingrich-paychecks-food-stamps_n_1188193.html).

I will probably never re-connect with my former Twitter friend – she won’t have it – but I cannot let this discussion slip into nothingness. She called me a racist for saying that Newt was and is playing the race card and for sticking to my guns. That’s rather like one who has been beaten being blamed for the beating. African-Americans, and many whites, have “been in the storm too long” not to recognize when they are being targeted for someone else’s gain.

Newt Gingrich is a master politician and a very smart man. Trust and  believe that he knew what he was doing when he said President Obama is the “food stamp president” to that roomful of white people in South Carolina. If saying that makes me a racist, then so be it. The truth is the truth.

A candid observation…