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Badge of Shame

Slave Patrol Badge (howard_mooreland, 2017).

Even as I look at my white world through my white eyes I see the disparity in treatment between white and black and white and brown by law enforcement. As enlightened as I try to be, my truth of my white self still grapples with categorically judging an entire branch of law enforcement based upon the acts of highly publicized cases. I was taught to respect the police. I was taught they were there for help. I suspect other white people were taught the same and have the same questions.

The fact that the modern police have their roots in the slave patrols of the south [(and I refuse to capitalize south)] (ACLU, 2020), cannot be swept under the carpet of the Era of Reconstruction. In fact, it was the result of federal troops withdrawing from the south ending the Era of Reconstruction that cemented localized white supremacy and guaranteed a protective force that favored white over black. (ACLU, 2020). Herein lies the structural issue of systemic, institutional, and structural racism. And the truth is, that is should not matter if one bad apple police officer, or two, or three, or twelve is responsible for misconduct resulting in the death of an individual.


If the institution is to be trusted, it must first be trustworthy.


Violation of trust, once it occurs, makes it harder to trust the offender. When the same offense has occurred for over 400 years at the hands of the same offenders, it is nearly impossible to earn back. If there is any solution to be found to addressing systemic racism in the institution of blue it will have to be through dialogue, but what should that dialog look like? It is painstakingly clear, with continued death of black and brown men and women by police officers, the current method of conversation isn’t effective.

AUTHORS NOTE REGARDING THE FOLLOWING PARAGRAPH: The study I cite here is a scholarly study on how one model has been used to negotiate peace treaties and accords. My intent in including it is as a model to start the dialogue to bridge the gap between historical police abuse and murder of Black and Brown persons. The term ‘victimhood’ is directly from the article and is not meant to imply that police are the victims. I believe it is Black and Brown community that has been victimized. Please do not get entangled around the use of the term when it is used below.

One proposal is to move the conversation from the perspective of criminal justice and Black versus blue to that of the political and psychological world (Solomon & Martin, 2018).  Solomon & Martin (2018) observe that Blue Lives Matter was a counter movement to the movement of Black Lives Matter. Negotiating from a movement-counter movement perspective does not foster reconciliation or sustained social change. Drawing upon reconciliation models implemented in geopolitical conflicts and a philosophy of competitive victimhood may allow new in-roads to reconciliation. In competitive victimhood, both groups claim moral authority through their own group lens and mediators recognize what each perceive as their truth giving each agency and authority. In essence, it allows both parties to participate without feeling their moral values are being questioned. I find their premise intriguing if only to remind me that we are dealing with structural issues that both Black lives and blue institutions agree need to be addressed.  It may also help white people hold their own competitive victimhood and morality in check long enough to let change begin. Only then, can we finally get the altruistic epithet of all lives matter. That cannot happen until #blacklivesmatter to blue institutions.

References

ACLU [@ACLU]. (2020, June 6). LISTEN NOW: The first example of a modern police department in the United States was a slave patrol. Policing has [Image with link attached] [Tweet]. Twitter. https://twitter.com/aclu/status/1269305046216462337?lang=en

howard_moreland. (2017, January 1). B22 slave patrol 00 [Photograph]. Flickr. (https://www.flickr.com/photos/45803876@N00/31878993162). CC BY 2.0

Solomon, J. & Martin, A. (2018). Competitive victimhood as a lens to reconciliation: An analysis of the black lives matter and blue lives matter movements. Conflict Resolution Quarterly, 2019(37), 7-31. https://doi.org/10.1002/crq.21262

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Health Check – An urgent message for young black men and women

Disparities in health between ethnicities is not a new phenomenon, it is as old as the enslavement of black, brown, and indigenous bodies. What some may not know is white American doctors were just as culpable in performing experiments upon enslaved bodies as the Nazis were upon Jewish bodies (Washington, 2006).  The emerging field of epigenetics suggests the results of the brutalization of black, brown, and indigenous persons throughout history has caused these disparities (Menakem, 2017). This brings me to my main point of this blog: If you are young and black, please monitor your blood pressure.

Kidney Failure spelled out with Scrabble Tiles
Kidney Failure (Davis, 2015). cc BY 2.0.

Last week I went for an evaluation to become a living organ donor to donate my kidney. I disclose this not for altruistic reasons or for accolades but because of what I learned during the process when I asked what causes kidneys to fail and the reason people need kidney transplants. The nurse told me that high blood pressure and diabetes were the main causes. A fact that I confirmed:

“Diabetes and high blood pressure are the most common causes of chronic kidney disease (CKD). Your health care provider will look at your health history and may do tests to find out why you have kidney disease. The cause of your kidney disease may affect the type of treatment you receive” [Emphasis added]. https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/kidney-disease/chronic-kidney-disease-ckd/causes

The nurse continued to educate me that this was more common in Blacks than whites. Another fact I confirmed:

“According to Census Bureau projections, the 2015 life expectancies at birth for blacks are 76.1 years, with 78.9 years for women, and 72.9 years for men. For non-Hispanic whites the projected life expectancies are 79.8 years, with 82.0 years for women, and 77.5 years for men. The death rate for African Americans is generally higher than whites for heart diseases, stroke, cancer, asthma, influenza and pneumonia, diabetes, HIV/AIDS, and homicide”[Emphasis added]. https://www.minorityhealth.hhs.gov/omh/browse.aspx?lvl=3&lvlid=61

I was even more alarmed when the nurse informed me that hypertension was more prevalent in young black men then young white men. Yet, another fact I confirmed:

“However, the racial disparities in hypertension prevalence remained consistent over the time periods. These racial differences are evidence at all ages. Blacks are found to develop hypertension at an earlier age than whites. An assessment of US children aged 8–17 years found systolic blood pressures to be 2.9 mmHg and 1.6 mmHg higher in black boys and girls compared with age-matched white boys and girls. With the consistent racial differences at all ages it is evidence disparities in hypertension represent a lifetime consideration” [Emphasis added]. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4108512/

In fact, the nurse told me one of the best things a young black man can do for his health is to check his blood pressure early, as it may save his life. And yes, he did specifically mention males, but I would suggest it is equally important for young black women to do the same.

References

Davis, S. (2015). Kidney failure [Photograph]. Flickr. (https://www.flickr.com/photos/128573122@N05/17337390301). CC by 2.0

Menakem, R. (2017). My grandmother’s hands: Racialized trauma and the pathways to mending our hearts and bodies. Central Recovery Press.

Washington, H. A. (2006). Medical apartheid: The dark history of medical experimentation on Black Americans from colonial times to the present. Harlem Moon .

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Are you from this country? Microaggressions and racism

Dr. Cook-Snell wearing a kilt (Cook-Snell, 2020).

I was in line at the grocery store this week and chatting with the cashier. She was a young Black female. She asked about my kilt. I told her I wear a kilt so people would ask me exactly that question and it gave me the opportunity to talk about my antiracist work.


“I am an antiracist, too,” she commented, “I’m against racism”.

To which I replied, “I’m trying to educate white people about their own biases and blinders to issues of race and white privilege. I do antiracist education and facilitation”.

She nodded her approval and then added, “I don’t think Trump is the problem, he didn’t cause racism”.

I must admit, this was the first time I had heard a Black person say something non-negative about Trump. I responded, “Well he didn’t cause racism because its been around for years, but he certainly has contributed to bringing the issue to the forefront because of his racist remarks”.

She changed the topic back to my kilt. Jokingly, I said I had the heritage to wear it because I’m primarily Scottish, Irish, and Welsh descended. To which she replied, “Are you from this country?”

This was the first time I’ve ever been asked this question, too. It made me reflect about all the times I’ve asked Black Americans with accents where they were from or Asian Americans with choppy English the same. It is a practice I no longer do and have refrained from doing ever since I started doing antiracist work. But the fact that someone asked me where I was from based upon appearances was extremely was eye opening.


The question appears harmless at face value, but in fact, it is a microaggression. “Racial microaggressions are brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioral, and environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative racial slights and insults to the target person or group” (Sue et al., 2007, p. 273). It is a statement that reflects white privilege by establishing whiteness as the norm, even though, in this case, it was asked by a young Black female. The fact she asked the question may have been due to conversation, age, or many other non-race related issues, but it also reflects how she has been indoctrinated into the system of racist thought that is a product of the imperialism and colonialism of my European descended ancestors. Examples of this microaggression and others along with suggestions on how to ask or not ask a question are presented in an article by Ward and Premack (2020). The link is in the references.

I wonder how my cashier friend would have responded if I told her my full heritage of not only Irish, Welsh, and Scottish, but also German and African … funny, but you don’t look Black.

References

Cook-Snell, B. (2020). Dr. Cook-Snell wearing a kilt [Photograph] [Previously unpublished].

Sue, D. W., Capodilupo, C. M., Torino, G. C., Bucceri, J. M., Holder, A. M. B., Nadal, K. L., & Esquilin, M. (2007). American Psychologist, 62(4), 271-286. https://doi.org/10.1037/0003-066X.62.4.271

Ward, M., & Premack, R. (2020, July 24). What is a microaggression? 14 things people think are fine to say at work – but are actually racist, sexist, or offensive. Business Insider. https://www.businessinsider.com/microaggression-unconscious-bias-at-work-2018-6#where-are-you-actually-from-6

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Researching Antiracist Instructional Strategies

Dr. Brett Cook-Snell standing out to stand up at Old Dominion University in his kilt, black lives matter mask, and white silence equals white consent t-shirt. (Cook-Snell, 2020).

It’s been a while since I blogged, only because I take a break between semesters. The semester has started, and I am back to blogging. But this time with a twist.

This semester, a black female colleague and I are working on a research project for a book chapter. The research question for the study and that I will be using in an information literacy course I teach is:


How can antiracist instructional design strategies be incorporated into an existing white instructor’s course to push both the professor and the students to critically examine the impact of racism and its systemic nature on our own personal racial biases”?


I am that white instructor. My colleague will document my journey as the qualitative portion of the study. She will use homework examples I provide to students on antiracism and systemic racism. She will also have access to my personal journal as I work through Me and white supremacy: Combat racism, change the world, and become a good ancestor (Saad, 2020). Saad (2020) includes a journal writing process asking pointed questions on white racial awareness. I have made the conscious decision to publish my personal journal on my public blog. The process requires me to be blatantly honest about the discomfort I feel in my own white fragility, white supremacy, and white privilege. My blog also includes those examples of research writing I provide my students. I have been publicly posting these entries for the past year as my commitment to fight systemic racism.

For the quantitative portion of the study, my colleague will recruit students from my information literacy courses to participate and then randomly assign them to control and treatment groups. Control group students will receive homework examples using the topic of accessible instruction and treatment group students will receive homework examples on systemic racism.  Instruction will be the same across groups. I will not know who is participating nor to which group they belong. Two surveys will be administered at the beginning and end of the semester to measure any changes in racial self-awareness and systemic racism based upon group membership (control or treatment).  It is not without credentialing that I approach this investigation. With a PhD in Education concentrated in instructional design, the literature suggests exposure to homework examples may promote vicarious learning (Gholson & Craig, 2006).

I’m hoping by chronicling my journey, forthrightly, and honestly, and providing research based and supported facts with regard to racism, white privilege, white fragility and white supremacy, my students who read my homework examples I provide them, and my readers who follow my public blog, will be challenged to examine their own racial awareness within the greater picture of system racism and work towards changing the status quo.

References

Cook-Snell, B. (2020). Dr. Brett Cook-Snell standing out to stand up in his kilt, black lives matter mask, and white silence equals white consent t-shirt [Photograph].

Gholson, B., & Craig, S. D. (2006). Promoting constructive activities that support vicarious learning during computer-based instruction. Educational Psychology Review, (18)2, 119-139. https://psycnet.apa.org/doi/10.1007/s10648-006-9006-3

Saad, L. F. (2020). Me and white supremacy: Combat racism, change the world, become a good ancestor. Sourcebooks.

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Four More Years

No, I am not talking about four more years of the 45th President of the United States, please God, no (and that is a prayer!).

I’m talking about the United Nations International Decade for People of African Descent,  2015-2024 (United Nations, 2020). Why am I just now hearing about this now, especially when there is also a joint initiative of my church, The United Church of Christ, with The United Church of Canada (see the video), in promoting awareness of this decade?

(United Church of Christ, 2020).

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.

References

United Church of Christ. (2020). United Nations International Decade for People of African Descent, 2015-2024 [Video]. https://www.ucc.org/un_international_decade_for_people_of_african_descent_2015_2024

United Nations. (2020). United Nations International Decade for People of African Descent, 2015-2024. https://www.un.org/en/observances/decade-people-african-descent

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Take Action Now

A CONCRETE STEP YOU CAN TAKE NOW THROUGH CIVIC ENGAGEMENT IN A TIME OF CIVIL UNREST.

Background concept word cloud illustration of power glowing light. Image purchased for used by licensing through Shutterstock.com

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.

To my elected officials in my district,

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.

References

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.

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A RACE TO THE POLLS

Carpenter (2012). CC BY-SA-NC
Retrieved from Microsoft Word Online Image Library.

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

(Whitehead, 2018).

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).

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.

References

American Sociological Association. (2020, April 8). An embrace of Christian nationalism [Video]. American Sociological Association. https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=2885967914851299

Carpenter, L. (2012, July 5). The face of fundamental Christianity [Photograph of conference poster for all white Christians]. Copyright CC BY-SA-NC. Retrieved May 7, 2020 from Microsoft Images Online and http://rationalnationusa.blogspot.com/2012/07/face-of-fundamental-christianity-in.html

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

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Dead Wrong

Ahmaud Arbery
Ahmaud Arbery [Photograph in the public domain] (Andone et al., 2020).

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.

References

Andone, D., Barajas, A., & Morris, J. (2020, May 9). Ahmaud Arbery [Photograph in the public domain]. Retrieved March 13, 2020 from https://www.cnn.com/2020/05/08/us/ahmaud-arbery-mcmichael-arrests-friday/index.html

Grimes, J. N. (2019). Hate, conflict, and public space: Stand your ground laws and potential immunity for hate crimes. Journal of Hate Studies, 15(1), 83-104. http://doi.org/10.33972/jhs.163

United Church of Christ. (2020). Sacred conversations to end racism (SC2ER). Retrieved March 13, 2020 from https://www.ucc.org/sacred_conversations_to_end_racism

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The Golden Rule

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.

Golden Rule (Rockwell, 1894-1978a). ©SEPS: Curtis Licensing, Indianapolis, IN

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.)

Reference photo  1 (Rockwell, 1894-1978b)

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.

Reference photo 2 (Rockwell, 1894-1978c)

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?”.

United Nations Golden Drawing (Rockwell, 1894-1978d)

References

Rockwell, N. (1894-1978a), Golden Rule, 1961 [Oil on canvas, 44 1/2” x 39 1/2”. Story illustration for The Saturday Evening Post, April 1, 1961]. Norman Rockwell Museum Collections. ©SEPS: Curtis Licensing, Indianapolis, IN. https://www.nrm.org/2016/06/peoples-norman-rockwells-united-nations-2/#exhibition

Rockwell, N. (1894-1978b), Reference photo 1 Rockwell used for his Golden Rule [Photograph]. Norman Rockwell Museum Collections. https://www.nrm.org/2016/06/peoples-norman-rockwells-united-nations-2/#exhibition

Rockwell, N. (1894-1978c), Reference photo 2 Rockwell used for his Golden Rule [Photograph]. Norman Rockwell Museum Collections. https://www.nrm.org/2016/06/peoples-norman-rockwells-united-nations-2/#exhibition

Rockwell, N. (1894-1978d), United Nations [Drawing]. Norman Rockwell Museum Collections. https://www.nrm.org/2016/06/peoples-norman-rockwells-united-nations-2/#exhibition

The Peoples Bible: New Revised Standard Version with the Apocrypha. (2009). Fortress Press.

United Church of Christ Sacred Conversations to End Racism (2020). Retrieved April 17, 2020 from https://www.ucc.org/sacred_conversations_to_end_racism

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Across the Great Divide

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:

The Queen of Sheba. From the manuscript “Bellifortis”
by Conrad Kyeser, ca. 1402-05. Staats- und
Universitätsbibliothek Göttingen, 2 Cod. Ms. Philos. 63,
Cim., fol. 122r. This photo was retrieved from
MicroSoft Word and indicated as Creative Commons
and for use in the public domain as follows:

This Photo by Unknown Author is
licensed under CC BY-SA.

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?

References

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).