I am at the end of teaching my 8-week course on information literacy. My students’ last major writing assignment is to summarize all their blog entries into one paper. This is my example for them on my topic of racism.
At 6’4”, I’m hard to miss. Add a white shirt, suspenders, bowtie, and a fedora and I’m even harder to miss. I used to get several comments a day about my style. People would smile, nod, and acknowledge my presence. But not anymore. Not since I added a “White Silence Equals White Consent – Black Lives Matter” t-shirt to my daily ensemble. Now most white people avoid eye contact. I have become visibly invisible.
So what changed? I didn’t change. My views didn’t change. The places I go to didn’t change. The only thing that changed was my outfit expressing my own outrage of three more deaths of black men at the hands of white men. Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, and Rayshard Brooks. One murdered by white supremacists, one murdered by the knee of a law enforcement officer, and another shot in the back.
Sadly, white outrage at black and brown death is already passing. BLM rallies with white participation are already slowing down. The next big news story is increases in COVID-19 are back.
White immunity and white privilege have reasserted themselves. White community has already diluted the message of “No Justice! No Peace!” into “Know Justice. Know Peace.” in attempt to maintain the status quo of white dominance. This change of is another example of minimizing racism to assuage white consciousness.
But as for me, I will continue to wear my T-shirt to be a visible witness to closed minds. In fact, I think I will go order several more.
Social media lip-service alone will not solve black and brown oppression. You and I will, at the polls, in 2020. You and I will, by holding those officials we elect accountable. To abate the rise of white rage directed at persons of color and end a culture of fear, you and I must make the difference.
After the posts and protests die down, what will you and I do? After the police departments are restructured (if they are), what will you and I do? What we are seeing today regarding the murder of George Floyd is not a new event. The protests are not a new. Posts with #BlackLivesMatter are not new.
In 2014, protestors of the murder of Michael Brown at the hands of police in Ferguson, Missouri, resulted in riots erupting in fires. There was shock and condemnation by white community that black and brown people would set fire in their own neighborhoods. Why this reaction? Why this response? Dr. Carol Anderson says it best, “We [(Americans)] were so focused in on the flames, that we missed the kindling [emphasis added]” (Anderson & Emory University, 2018, 6:59-7:09).
The kindling was not the murder of Michael Brown, the kindling was (and remains) black and brown oppression by the power culture of white America. The kindling was (and remains), white rage directed at black and brown people. White rage are those subversive, yet legal acts, white people use to keep black and brown people oppressed. In an interview with Dr. Anderson on C-Span (Orgel, 2016), Orgel quotes Dr. Anderson on white rage then Dr. Anderson responds:
Orgel: “White rage,” you write, “is not about visible violence, but rather it works its way through the courts, the legislatures, and a range of government bureaucracies. It wreaks havoc subtly, almost imperceptibly. White rage doesn’t have to wear sheets, burn crosses, or take to the streets. Working the halls of power, it can achieve its end far more effectively, far more destructively … The trigger for white rage, inevitably, is black advancement. It is not the mere presence of black people that is the problem: rather, it is blackness with ambition, with drive, with purpose, with aspirations, and with demands for full and equal citizenship. It is blackness that refuses to accept subjugation, to give up”. Tell us more [Emphasis added].
Anderson: Yes, and so, one of things that we have is a narrative in this society that if only back people would…, right? … If only they would value schools, if only they would work hard, if only they would … fill in the blank. But when you look back historically, African Americans have actually done that, but for aspiring, the response has been a wave of policies to undermine that [advancement].
White rage is white peoples’ fear that full equality in socio-economic rights for black and brown people will result in loss of white money, white property, white power, and white prestige of dominant white culture. White people fear this loss of power and control because at our core, we know that we are responsible for the racists attitudes and actions that continue to suppress and murder black and brown people with impunity. It is also that same fear inducing white rage culture that keeps liberal white people from speaking out against black and brown oppression. Fear that they will be put on the alt-right radar screen and suffer the same oppression in which they are unknowingly and equally culpable.
I close this entry with a video from the Ferguson riots (CNN, 2014). It will look familiar, because it looks like protests in the death of George Floyd. There remains the same senseless murder of a black man at the hands of a white police officer. There are the same signs, albeit different slogans. There are the same black, brown, and white faces, albeit with different names. There are the same outcries on social media as there were with Michael brown (Ray et al., 2017).
And yet, nothing has changed. Nor will anything change until white people vote out of office those white legislators who drive the dominant fear inducing white rage culture. Nothing will change until white people of courage standup, standout, and be counted in the political system and elect official who will develop, implement, and adhere to policies guaranteeing socio-economic and educational equity for black and brown people. Are you willing?
Anderson, C., & Emory University (2018, April 13). White rage: The unspoken truth of our nation’s divide [Video]. YouTube. https://youtu.be/YBYUET24K1c
Ray, R., Brown, M., Fraistat, N., & Summers, E. (2017). Ferguson and the death of Michael Brown on Twitter: #BlackLivesMatter, #TCOT, and the evolution of collective identities. Ethnic and Racial Studies, 40(11), 1797-1813.
*Posted on 6/9, edited on 6/10 to add the CNN, 2014 reference in the paragraph starting with “I close this entry…” and correcting a grammatical error in the same paragraph.
A CONCRETE STEP YOU CAN TAKE NOW THROUGH CIVIC ENGAGEMENT IN A TIME OF CIVIL UNREST.
Like many of you, I condemn the deadly act of force against George Floyd at the hands of law enforcement personnel. During these times, we must exercise every right possible to prevent these acts. As an educator, I wanted to know how law enforcement officers are trained in use of force based upon level of resistance. Research suggests a deficiency in the training of law enforcement personnel across the country that may contribute in the use of force based upon the level of resistance. I am issuing a call to action to our elected Senators and Congressional Representatives to mitigate this issue.
Below is an e-mail I sent to my Senators and Congressional Representative. To send the same message to your elected officials, click the take action now button and you will be taken to a page where you can copy the message directly, find your senators and congressional representatives, and be part of the change.
Less than 10% of the law enforcement agencies in the United States have written policies regarding the level of force used in relation to the amount of resistance encountered that encompass the spectrum of available force options (Terrill & Paoline, 2012). Less than 30% of law enforcement agencies “instruct officers in the form of a progression of force levels via continuum but do not indicate (i.e., link) how such force should be used in response to varying levels of citizen resistance or only semilink force and resistance” (Terrill & Paoline, 2012, p. 52). These findings, derived from data from a Department of Justice funded study under Grant No. 2005-IJ-CX-0055 (Terrill & Paoline, 2012) punctuate the potential for poorly trained and inexperienced law enforcement personnel to commit violations of amendments 4, 5, and 8 of the United States Constitution (Bruder, 1988; Terrill & Paoline, 2012).
I urge you, as my elected representative, to become a part of policy change to develop national guidelines with regard to level of force used based upon amount of resistance encountered to serve as training points for law enforcement agencies across the country. Doing so is not only your constitutional obligation as an elected official, but also has the potential to protect to save both civilian and law enforcement lives.
In light of recent events, such as the death of George Floyd, I am asking you to either form, or be a part of a bipartisan committee to stem the tide of violence and be a part of the solution in ending racism.
Bruder, S. (1988). When police use excessive force Choosing a Constitutional threshold of Liability in Justice V. Dennis. St John’s Law Review, 62(4), 735-750.
Terrill, W., & Paoline, E. A. (2012). Examining less lethal force policy and the force continuum: Results from a national use-of-force study. Police Quarterly, 16(1), 38-65.
I would like to say the above image from 2012 is a hoax and a photo-shopped image. I would like to say it as an image someone crafted to prove a point. But it is not. It was a true event restricted to white’s only. If you want to verify this fact, do a Google search of “Alabama all white pastors conference” and you will find numerous credible sources to see that the conference was real. The mere fact this poster exists, and the conference was held, is indicative of the rise of Christian Nationalism in the United States today.
Christian Nationalism views the United States as God’s chosen place and the Christian’s in the United States as God’s chosen people. Before you think we can identify these alleged extremists by their white sheets, shaved heads, or swastika tattoos, think again. Today’s nationalists look more like me – a white man in his 50’s, or you – if you’re white and vote. Christian Nationalists played a major role in getting Donald Trump elected as the 45th president of the United States of America in 2016 (Whitehead, 2018). It is that fact alone that scares me the most as we draw near to the 2020 presidential elections.
Christian Nationalism is closely tied to Islamophobia, xenophobia, and anti-black prejudice
For a better understanding of the power of Christian nationalism, I refer you to the video below from the American Sociological Associations Facebook page (2020).
While I truly did not want to get into the politics of racism, at some point, it becomes inevitable. Racism is a social construct and inherently political. Like it or not, money, power, prestige, and property perpetuate overt and covert Christian Nationalism, and thus racism.
I do not mean to imply that all voters (Christian and non-Christian alike) who supported Donald Trump in 2016 are racist. However, because of Christian Nationalists’ ties to Islamophobia, xenophobia, and anti-black prejudice (Whitehead, 2018), and because of the role Christian Nationalists played in successfully electing Donald Trump in 2016, a vote for Trump is inherently and subversively racist. If there is any concrete action you and I can take to fight racism, it is in the polling place in this year’s 2020 election.
Whitehead, A. L., Perry, S. L., Baker, J. O. (2018). Make America Christian Again. Christian nationalism and voting for Donald Trump in the 2016 Presidential election. Sociology of Religion: A quarterly Review 70(2), 147-171. https:/doi.org/10.193/socrel/srx070
I am sickened, distressed, saddened, and dismayed by how our society continues to defend Stand Your Ground culture as a defense for murder. Two semesters ago, I read a book that opened my eyes to how good-intentioned white people still unknowingly perpetuate racism while vehemently declaring they/we/I are not/am not racist(s). I talk about that briefly in Why this Blog and Why this Topic.
The book deconstructed my own social constructs about racism and left me wanting to be part of the change. I began blogging about that read in Fall 2020. Part of that blogging effort was also to provide examples of assignments for my students to use in completing their research efforts on any topic of their choice. A process I now do every semester on the same topic.
In Spring 2020 , I enrolled in a year long facilitator training through my church denomination’s program, Sacred Conversations to End Racism (United Church of Christ, 2020). As I blogged about that during Spring 2020, part of the information I learned is that race is not a biological construct, but a social one, that all humanity has its roots in Africa, that a 23 and Me DNA test shows my own African heritage of 1.3% Angolan and Congolese, and the role of the Christian church in perpetuating racism, slavery, murder of indigenous Native American’s, and Eurocentric perspective within which it is embedded supports tacit racism whether we/they know it or not.
Because I remain committed to the topic, I will continue my blogging efforts for my Summer classes as I teach (a Maymester 3-week class and a Summer Session 1 8-week class). In my last entry for my Spring 2020 semester, I revised my research question to, “How may I work towards restorative racial justice within the Christian Church?”.
And that question stands. It stands because it is relevant. It stands because restorative justice does not just include education, it includes action. It stands because of Ahmaud Arbery. It stands because of Trayvon Martin, Onesimo Marcelino Lopez-Ramosand, Ziad Abu Naim, and Jordan Davis (Grimes, 2019). And it stands because of all the black and brown people murdered under the auspices the capital “C” Church’s Doctrine of Discovery in the 15th century that has evolved into today’s Stand Your Ground culture that allows this murder to continue.
It is now the end of Spring semester, COVID-19 has changed our world, probably forever, and my students are writing their concluding blog for the semester. My entry here, is an example for them to follow. It is by no means is it the end of my own blogging.
I have peppered this post with images from the 2015 Norman Rockwell Exhibit, We the People and his Golden Rule painting (Rockwell, 1894-1978a). I have come to believe the historical Christian Church has failed at Matthew 7:12, “In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets” (The Peoples Bible, 2009). I ask you before you read this summary of my previous entries for the semester, to look at Rockwell’s Golden Rule to the right. Notice the rainbow of black to brown to white and remember my post, The Myth of Race.
My focus this semester was looking at the question, “How may I work towards social justice in the fight against racism with my brothers and sisters in Christ?” (See The Journey Continues). My greatest movement towards answering that question was committing to a year-long facilitator training program with the United Church of Christ Sacred Conversations to End Racism (UCC SC2ER, 2020) (See Jesus didn’t Speak in Red letters.)
Participation in that process and reflecting upon what I have learned has already led me to change the name of my blog from Let’s talk about racism: You say you’re not a racist to Deconstructing racism: Moving beyond what we see. Here are some of the things that I learned and that are supported in social, anthropological, and genetic research.
I learned that we all have our origins in Africa and at some genetic level, we are all persons of color. I lay my case for that in my entry Across the Great Divide. I supporting that in facts through my own genetic testing results indicating my African ancestry of 1.3% Angolan and Congolese. Race, as a biological construct does not exist.
I learned that while there is no basis for race, racism, as a social construct is alive and well in the 21st century. A fact I talk about in my entry I was Black until 1967.
And I learned race, as we use the term today, is a direct result of a Papal Bull allowing Christians to seize the lands of other people and to enslave them and which future Protestants would use to continue the same. A fact I talk about in The WASP’s Nest.
I know I have not begun to address my question, but I have laid the foundation for it. But based on what I have learned, I feel the Church has more of a role in atonement than I thought. I feel the Church mut not only be socially just and live the Golden Rule, but must be restorative and atone for the sins of its past. My question shifts from society to Church and “How may I work towards restorative racial justice within the Christian Church?”.
We’re Americans, and as such, we can’t remember shit. Perhaps that’s why, as we write this, the massive, orchestrated effort by the current administration to revise history even as it occurs is experiencing almost total success. Events are being reduced to sound bites; sound bites are becoming mantras. The truth—if you edit carefully enough, omit artfully enough, distort brazenly enough—becomes lies. And lies, if repeated relentlessly, become truth. Especially if they are wedged immovably between the covers of the kind of history text that bored you to tears in high school.
(Cooper, 2006, p. 11)
My husband I have a wasp flying around our house. It flew in several days ago when we were letting the dogs out. Because I hate to kill things, I am keeping an eye on it to try and shew it out of the house when it gets near the door. But I’m concerned about the dogs discovering it and getting stung. Thus far, wasp and dogs, have kept their distance. If that changes, I suspect I will have to take a swatter to the wasp in order to protect our dogs because wasps don’t die when they sting (The Manitoba Housing and Renewal Corporation, n.d.).
Speaking of discovering things, did you know the word discover, comes from its Latin and French roots, and as used in Middle English originally meant to “make known” (Lexico, 2020).
So how do lies, wasps, and the word discover relate to racism? They are the very foundation upon which our White Anglo-Saxon Protestant (WASP) society rests, and within which a culture of racism and racists history has been so thickly veiled and embedded into society, that we cannot see it’s role in how we continue to perpetuate subtle racist ideology today. If racism is to be deconstructed, then the Christian Church must recognize, and atone for, its culpability in the issue.
Let us go make known how this happened …
On June 18, 1452, Pope Nicholas V issued the papal bull, Dum Diversas. The first set of documents that would compose the Doctrine of Discovery. The Doctrine of Discovery (i.e., making known) would allow for European Monarchs, with authorization from the Christian Church –
“to invade, search out, capture, vanquish, and subdue all Saracens (Muslims) and pagans whatsoever, and other enemies of Christ wheresoever placed, and the kingdoms, dukedoms, principalities, dominions, possessions, and all movable and immovable goods whatsoever held and possessed by them and to reduce their persons to perpetual slavery, and to apply and appropriate to himself and his successors the kingdoms, dukedoms, counties, principalities, dominions, possessions, and goods, and to convert them to his and their use and profit (Emphasis Added)” (as quoted in Charles & Rah, 2019, p. 15).
So, when Columbus “made known” the America’s to an Imperialist European Monarchy, the establishment of the slave trade began. When the frontier men and women “made known” to President Andrew Jackson the wild, wild west was prime territory, the genocide of Native American’s was sanctioned (in Adelman, 2003, DVD Scene 8). Not only was it sanctioned by the Government, it was sanctioned by the Christian Church as our God-given, puritanical, white Anglo-Saxon Protestant historical narrative. And these WASPs have not lost their sting.
The Doctrine of Discovery continues to sting Native Americans through the government’s environmental policy towards Native American lands and the Dakota pipeline (Aune, 2019). It is still an issue of relevance in the United Nations (Pineda, 2017). And the Doctrine of Discovery is the king pin of our stand your ground culture that allows the WASPs to sting with complicity and near impunity in the murder of innocent black and brown persons (Douglas, 2015).
All of this was “made known” to me in my UCC SC2ER facilitator training this week. I am sickened and saddened not only by the Christian Church’s historical role, some of which was taught in our whitewashed history of the Christian Crusades, but not it’s long lasting and continued effects into the 21st century. It is time for the Christian Church to rend the temple veil of history behind which American Exceptionalism lies and begin to make ethical, moral, and financial reparations for its actions. A topic I hope to broach in my next entry.
Pineda, B. (2017). Indigenous Pan-Americanism: Contesting settler colonialism and the doctrine of discovery at the UN permanent forum on indigenous issues. American Quarterly, 69(4), 823-832. http://doi.org/10.1353/aq.2017.0068
I continue to be saddened at the extinct to which the construct of race has contributed to a culture of racism that is systemic to our American society today. As part of my UCC SC2ER facilitator training this week I’ve had some heady assignments that I am still processing.
One assignment was to watch episode 1 of the PBS series, Race – The power of an illusion (Adelman, 2003). Episode 1 discusses the fallacy of race from the perspective of biology and genetics. Describing the development of the construct of race through the lens of science and history as the overarching narrative, the video followed a group of high school students conducting tests with their own DNA. The students were surprised to discover that they were more likely to more genetically similar to those outside our race-culture construct then those within their race-culture construct. The same would hold true for you and I.
Any variations in skin color is due to the melanin we all possess and that has adapted over time based upon geography. This does not equate to a biological basis for race.
Just as there is no single gene to control for athleticism, musicality, or intelligence, there is no single gene that controls for race. Evolutionary biologist Joseph Graves describes it best. If we were to travel from the tropics to Norway we would see a gradual change in skin color, “… at no point along that trip would we be able to say, ‘Oh, this is the place in which we go from the dark race to the light race’” (in Adelman, 2003, DVD Scene 8). This is punctuated by our common ancestral African roots from which all humanity as descended.
Logically this makes sense, culturally it is hard to grapple with, and scientifically, it is yet to be settled how best to divorce variations in skin color as a biological basis for the construct of race (Yudell, Desalle, & Tishkoff, 2016). Race, as we know it, is a myth rooted in power structures, not biology.
Historically, this biological myth of race has led to some of the darkest times in American history, American present, and I predict, American future, of which I will talk about in my next entry. But as Hammond observes, ““Race is a human invention. … We made it, we can unmake it” (in Adelman, 2003, DVD Scene 17).
I was walking into work this morning. Behind me to my left were two white men, mid 40’s or 50’s. One rolling a suitcase with his overnight bag resting on top. The other walking beside him carrying nothing. Their conversation went something like this:
Suitcase guy: “My wife and I had driven to a conference to see a part of the country we hadn’t seen before, Southeastern Ohio and West Virginia. I had to wonder how those women that worked in those gas stations that have the booth, how their lives looked like.”
Empty-handed guy: <Sound of acknowledgment>
Suitcase guy: “I guess they’re happy, but they were obviously lower middle class. Most of them weren’t white either. they were mostly black or Hispanic women and some black men”.
Empty-handed guy: <Another sound of acknowledgment followed by some statement that I didn’t quite get about the statement Suitcase guy just made>
Suitcase guy: “I haven’t given it that much thought since it’s different in Michigan”, was the last thing I heard before our paths diverged.
As far as I’m concerned, the only difference between Michigan and Ohio, who share a common border, are their football teams (Buckeyes rule … I know because I went to The Ohio State University many years ago). The people are pretty much the same across the state line … if you discount things like color, money, politics, factories, farming, drinkable water … (rolling my eyes as I type).
As I prepare for my UCC SC2ER training tonight, I think about the beginning of civilization and our common African ancestry. I think about the riches of Biblical Kush (today’s Ethiopia), which could have encompassed “the modern territory of the [entire] continent of Africa” (Adamo, 2001, p. 34), and their Greco-Roman neighbors across the Mediterranean. And I wonder what if? What if this much larger Africa had been able to retain its gold, copper, timber and other tangible it possessed pre-Colonialism (Miller, 1885)? What if, instead of European Colonialism, the United States had African Colonization? How would that same conversation play out?
Suitcase guy: “Oh, I haven’t given it that much thought, since they were only white people”.
You and I could have easily been the enslaved field workers forced from our land, beaten, sold, abused, murdered, raped, tortured and still falsely accused and falsely imprisoned today. We could have been treated like we have treated others.
So how does it look to you now … across the great divide?
Adamo, D. T. (2001). Africa and the Africans in the Old Testament. Wipf and Stock Publishers.
Miller, D. (1995). 2000 years of indigenous mining and metallurgy in southern Africa – A review. South African Journal of Geology, 98(2).
The title refers to the fact that many translations of Christian Scripture put the words of Jesus in red.
I recently started reading several books for my United Church of Christ (UCC) Scared Conversations to End Racism (SC2ER) facilitator training, one of which is The Africana Bible: Reading Israel’s Scriptures from Africa and the African diaspora (Page, 2010a). One of the first things that gave me pause to consider is the movement away from Old Testament and New Testament terminology to that of First Testament and Second Testament. While the terminology is not specific to this book alone, in my mind it drives home that I have a still speaking God, one of the foundational beliefs of the UCC (UCC.org, 2018), and that my ears need to be equally open to new interpretations.
Never place a period where God places a comma
While not too far into the reading as of yet, the book makes use of a historical and cultural centered perspective of reading, interpreting and understanding of Christian Scripture. When I was in seminary, before God dragged me into education kicking and screaming, the focus was less on the cultural and more on the historical. Textbooks we read were largely rooted in tomes written by foundational authors from a European Christianity perspective (James, 2010). Commentaries on the Scriptures were also by white authors, leading rise to my second point to ponder, “Given the importance of commentaries to those who read the Bible, it is surprising that biblical scholars receive little formal training in how to write them [(commentaries)]” (Page, 2010b, p. 6). A fact to which I can attest. And I, a somewhat trained reader, have to admit that while I have read from white culture, sometimes Israeli culture, and sometimes Greek culture perspectives, I have never read the Bible from a black or brown perspective or considered the large role Africa played during the First and Second Testament periods.
I look forward to hear how God is still speaking as I read this book and others during my journey as facilitator in training for the UCC SC2ER. Until then, I shamelessly plug the UCC.
And if you’re ever in my “neck of the woods”, come visit me and my church family at Warwick United Church of Christ, 10 Matoaka Lane, Newport News, VA 23606 or like us on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/WarwickUCC/).
James, L. R. (2010). The African diaspora as construct and lived experience. In H. R. Page, Jr. (Ed.),The Africana Bible: Reading Israel’s Scriptures from Africa and the African diaspora (pp. 11-18). Fortress Press.
Page, Jr., H. R. (Ed). (2010a). The Africana Bible: Reading Israel’s Scriptures from Africa and the African diaspora. Fortress Press.
Page, Jr., H. R. (2010b). The Africana Bible: A rationale. In H. R. Page, Jr (Ed.),The Africana Bible: Reading Israel’s Scriptures from Africa and the African diaspora (pp. 3-10). Fortress Press.