Mind you, I would like to blame my church denomination for not informing me. I would also like to blame my church home, for not informing the congregation. Truth is, they might have, and if they did, I probably dismissed it. Racism was not on my radar in 2015.
After all, I wasn’t a racist.
Just like I didn’t become white until 1967, and I didn’t see color until 2019, I am only now beginning to understand my whiteness. I am only now beginning to understand how white America has perpetuated and continues to perpetuate systemic racism. I am only now beginning to understand that if change is to happen, it must happen in the pews and at the altars as well as at polls and in the police stations.
White America needs to begin making amends and reparations to reconcile our sins against our African descended black and brown people. Even if that reparation only begins with an inner change in thought and word, as long as that thought and word, lead to action. If we fail to act, the four more years we have left in the United Nations International Decade for People of African Descent, will also turn into four more years of “Number 45” and his legacy of white supremacy.
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?”.
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).