“When You Deny Black People Their Humanity, All Things Are Possible”

Story time…

On my father’s side, the family is from Mississippi. (both of my grandparents were born there)  Yet, if asked, my father will tell you that he never set foot in the state of Mississippi until he was 40. Here’s why…
My grandmother had been planning to send her five oldest children to Mississippi to visit the relatives. She had been planning this for months. The plan was that my father and his four siblings would go for the week before school started the day after Labor Day. The trip never happened.
Why, you ask?
Because on August 28, 1955, Emmett Till was lynched in Money, Mississippi; just a couple of days before the Hampton children were supposed to go to Mississippi. As my father recalls it, my grandmother said upon hearing the news and cancelling the trip, “No. If anybody’s going to kill mine, it’s going to be me.” So neither my father nor any of his siblings ever visited Mississippi until they were grown.

Why tell this story?

On August 28,2017 (the 62nd anniversary of Emmett Till’s lynching) an 8-year-old black child was nearly lynched in Claremont, New Hampshire. (please, do not come at me that the child was biracial. while true, the child was not put in a noose and thrown off a table because they had a white parent; it happened because they had a black parent)

Claremont, New Hampshire. Pretty far away from Money, Mississippi. Yet the action was the same. The only difference is in Claremont, the victim is still alive.

I’m tired. I’m so tired.

Tired of writing about situations that should not happen and yet know that they will continue to happen because they happen to black people.

Tired of asking how liberal religion is speaking to the situation on the ground.

Tired of knowing that, for the majority of my co-religionists, things are going just skippy in their world. And they see no need for things to change.

Tired of seeing white tears but no white action.

Tired of being asked, through those same white tears, “What can I do?”, and knowing that I (and many others) have BEEN telling people who want to do the work what to do.

I’m tired.

Yet I do have an ask.

The young man who was nearly lynched in Claremont is going to need YEARS of therapy. Not only that, the family is going to need therapy and support too.

the ask

UUs in northern New England (upper Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Maine) should give money to the GoFundMe account that has been set up to help this child and their family. Give. Give generously. (UUs from other areas can give too, but this is in northern New England’s backyard)

the ask–part 2

Every UU congregation within 50 miles of Claremont should get together and have a rally and a White Supremacy Teach-In for the broader community. It does not have to be in Claremont, but it should be close.

Most of you have probably seen this picture before. It hung outside the NAACP’s national headquarters in New York from 1920 thru 1938. That it still needs to hang 97 years from when it first appeared……

An 8-year-old black child was nearly lynched on August 28.

“When You Deny Black People Their Humanity, All Things Are Possible.”

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The Kids Are Not Alright (Charlottesville #3)

I need you to do some reflection, my white liberal friends.

How many of you, in your heart of hearts, believe that the Civil War was fought over state’s rights?

How many of you, in your heart of hearts, believe that slavery was dying out at the time the Civil War started?

How many of you, in your heart of hearts, believe that slavery was an inefficient economic system?

How many of you, in your heart of hearts, believe that the Civil War could have been avoided?

How many of you, in your heart of hearts, believe that there were Black Confederates?

In all the discussion around Charlottesville and its aftermath, one of the things that comes through crystal clear is that even most white liberals and progressives don’t see a problem with Confederate statues because you believe many of the myths about U.S. chattel slavery.

Don’t believe me?

How many of you complained when you saw that your child’s (those of you who have children) history/social studies book described enslaved people as “workers” or “immigrants”? Or said anything about the absence of any mention of Reconstruction and the reign of terror that was visited upon African Americans after the Civil War?

or explain why Gov. Cuomo is getting congratulated for this…..

and yet nobody seems to be asking why were Robert E Lee and Stonewall Jackson in the CUNY hall of great Americans in the first damn place?

The kids are not alright, my friends. They are getting taught the same white supremacist nonsense that you were taught. And this is why we are STILL debating the validity of CONFEDERATE statues being anywhere.

The kids are not alright, my friends, because you are not alright.

Tiki Torches May Look Funny. This Is No Laughing Matter. (Charlottesville #2)

They surrounded a black church on Friday night, friends.

I know the pictures could cause one to laugh and want to mock them; a group of (mostly) men carrying cheap outdoor accessories. If that’s all they did, that would be one thing.

They surrounded a black church on Friday night, friends.

A group of white people surrounding a black church should send chills down the spine of every person of faith.

Just two years ago, after a white supremacist killed 9 people in Bible study at Mother Emanuel AME in Charleston, there was a string of black church fires across the South. Remember that?

16th Street Baptist was bombed. 4 little girls died.

Black churches have always been a magnet to white supremacist terrorists (back to Reconstruction and post-Reconstruction days)

They surrounded a black church on Friday night, friends. And while it’s funny to think about these people using cheap, outdoor accessories as a way to make a point, they surrounded a black church on Friday night, friends. And the point would have been just as jarring had they used Bic lighters or regular candles.

Tiki torches may look funny. This is no laughing matter.

Have you reached out to your local black churches and ministers today?

Charlottesville Is Why White People Need To Read A Book (or, the Violence of “This Is Not Us”)

I was cursed at birth. My birthday is February 12. So that means I share a birthday with Abraham Lincoln and Charles Darwin. So I was destined to be bitten by the history bug.

Charlottesville.

If you were on social media yesterday, or listened to the news, then you heard/saw a common refrain…..”This is not us.”

Let me tell you something, white people…..

THIS IS US.

THIS HAS ALWAYS BEEN US.

And since nobody answered the questions of the quiz I posted a couple of weeks ago, I get to ask them again.

1.  What do I mean when I use the word “redemption”?
(if you think I am talking about the theological term, stop here. You have failed the test.)

2.  Who is Ben Tillman?

3.  What is important about Colfax, Louisiana?

4.  Who are Jefferson P. Long and Robert Smalls?

5.  What did the Civil Rights Cases of 1883 say?

6.  What happened in Memphis May 1-3, 1866?

White people saying “this is not us” is violence. Because this is us. These things have been happening to Black people in this country for time immemorial. Black people have been trying to get white people to understand this for time immemorial.

There were white people surrounding a black church with torches on Friday night.  This is not new.

Clergy were attacked while peacefully standing vigil yesterday. This is not new.

People died yesterday because of the actions of white supremacists. This is not new.

So, white people, I need you to read a book. Start with W.E.B. Du Bois’ “Black Reconstruction in America”. Because you perpetuate violence when you say, “this is not us,” when U.S. history is nothing but this.

more later.

Someday We’ll All Be Free…But That Day Ain’t Today–the Prelude (Ferguson, Unitarian Universalism, and Me)

It’s Anniversary Day.

I was going to try and explain why I’ve been having a crisis of faith in Unitarian Universalism since August, 2014. But I’ve figured out that I can’t really put it into words.

I could talk about how abandoned by institutional Unitarian Universalism we in St. Louis were at the time. But I’ve already done that.

I could talk about the sense of deja vu that has come over me since the NAACP issued their travel advisory for the state of Missouri and faux-woke UUs have started yapping about boycotting GA in K.C. next year. But I just wrote about that.

I probably should write about how we’re quickly approaching the beginning of the 50th anniversary of the Black Empowerment Controversy and wondering if UUs are really ready to reckon with that history. But I have time to get those thoughts into intelligible form.

I can’t do any of those. Because I can’t help thinking about MikeMike. Thinking that he should be 21 and plotting out the rest of his life.

But I’m also thinking about Trayvon. and Tamir. and Sandra. and Rekia. and Aiyanna.

And Eric Garner. John Crawford. Jordan Edwards. Freddie Gray. Walter Scott. Eric Harris. Oscar Grant. Natasha Anderson.

and all the others. too many to name here.

Yet I’m also thinking about Julie. and Sunshine. and Krista. and Barbara. who lived through it all too.

It’s Anniversary Day.

Someday…we’ll all be free. But that day ain’t today.

This Is Just A Little Peyton Place And You’re All Harper Valley Hypocrites

So…UU social media is all aflutter over the NAACP-issued Travel Advisory for the state of Missouri. And, in the way of faux-wokeness with UUs, some are saying that they are thinking about maybe not coming to GA next year in K.C.

[I do find it funny that these faux-woke UUs are talking about avoiding a state that they have been avoiding since Ferguson when we were begging for people to come. But I have come to expect nothing less from UUs.]

ok, let’s start with one fact. The NAACP is NOT (I repeat, NOT) calling for a boycott of the state of Missouri. If they were calling for a boycott, this would be a different issue. This is a travel advisory. And, if you are white, it ain’t about you. It’s about Black people and other people of color.

another fact….the law that the NAACP issued the advisory over is also law in 38 other states. I wish, as a native Missourian, that the NAACP had issued the advisory over the traffic-stop information released by the Attorney General’s office. But that’s neither here nor there.

anyway…back to the faux-woke UUs. Here’s my question:

Did you have any qualms about going to GA in Portland? Or Columbus?

If you didn’t, you are a Harper Valley hypocrite.

UUs of color ALWAYS have to wonder about how we are going to move around in whatever city GA is in. Hell, we have to wonder how FELLOW UUs are going to treat us at GA. This is nothing new for us. And your faux-woke concern over the Travel Advisory is not helpful.

Here’s the next question:

Have you talked to any K.C. organizers (or anybody in Missouri, really)?

If you haven’t, you are a Harper Valley hypocrite.

To express your faux-concern about the Travel Advisory but not have had a conversation with anybody connected to the organizing efforts in K.C. or other places in Missouri shows that your concern is just to make yourself feel better.

So look…if you don’t want to come to GA in K.C., fine. Nobody’s making you come.

But if you are using the NAACP Travel Advisory as your excuse to not come to K.C. but had no problems going to Portland or Columbus, you are nothing but a faux-woke Harper Valley UU Hypocrite.

 

Mercy Mercy Me, Things Ain’t What They Used To Be pt.2

ok…quiz time (and we’re going on the honor system that you aren’t Googling the answers)

1.  What do I mean when I use the word “redemption”?
(if you think I am talking about the theological term, stop here. You have failed the test.)

2.  Who is Ben Tillman?

3.  What is important about Colfax, Louisiana?

4.  Who are Jefferson P. Long and Robert Smalls?

5.  What did the Civil Rights Cases of 1883 say?

6.  What happened in Memphis May 1-3, 1866?

So…HBO has green-lit “Confederate”, a show from the Executive Producers of “Game of Thrones”. The press release about it says the show takes place “in an alternate timeline, where the southern states have successfully seceded from the Union, giving rise to a nation in which slavery remains legal and has evolved into a modern institution.” This concerns me.

1.  Chattel slavery in the U.S. was never not modern. All one has to do is read Edward Baptist’s “The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism” to understand how modern chattel slavery was.

2.  This is a fundamental misunderstanding of the 13th Amendment. Slavery is still legal in the United States.

3.  There is no “United States” if the Confederates won/were allowed to secede. There would be two different countries; the Confederate States of America and whatever the North would have become.

But that’s not all.

In the first interview that the creative team behind the series did (with Vulture), Malcolm Spellman said the following:

This is not a world in which the entire country is enslaved. Slavery is in one half of the country. And the North is the North. As Nichelle was saying, the imagery should be no whips and no plantations.

oh sweet Creole Jesus! There is so much wrong with this statement.

First…it misunderstands the antebellum North. There was slavery in the North until the end of 1865. (as a native of a Border state, slavery didn’t “end” here until December of that year) So if the South is allowed to secede, what becomes of the Border states?

Second…if “the North is the North,” then the North is on the brink of collapse. Because, let’s be very clear about this, THERE IS NO NORTH WITHOUT SLAVERY. American capitalism is built on the backs of black bodies. New York City does not exist without slavery. Harvard and Yale and Brown and all those other colleges that people aspire to send their children to only exist because of the money that slavery brought in–mostly in the form of endowments (and, in the case of Georgetown, the direct sale of slaves owned by the Jesuits). At the time of the beginning of the Civil War, slaves were worth more than every industry in America put together; the only thing more valuable than slaves was the land being worked by slaves.

Third…there will be “no whips and no plantations”? ok…Angola prison in Louisiana is on the land that used to be known as…wait for it…ANGOLA PLANTATION. How are they going to get around that? And as far as “no whips”…whips were not the only method of inflicting punishment/asserting control. Rape was a big thing on plantations (no matter the size); so if there’s going to be no whips, is rape still going to be used? If neither of these are going to be in play, then what methods of non-lethal violence are going to be inflicted on people? It’s going to have to be something whip-like because “we” must keep the property stable enough to work and reproduce. (that is the nature of chattel slavery after all)

Far too many people in the U.S. don’t know the actual history of what happened in the aftermath of the Civil War for this “alternate history” to be anything other than slavery fanfic. It’s obvious that none of the people involved in this project have read any books that deal with slavery/the Civil War/Reconstruction/post-Reconstruction. And, as in most things, ignorance is dangerous.

If HBO had wanted to show something about how slavery is still affecting the U.S., they could have picked up recently-cancelled WGN show “Underground”, which was about the Underground Railroad. Or they could have done special showings of Ava DuVernay’s FABULOUS documentary “13th”; the subject being what the 13th amendment actually says and how it plays out today. They could have funded a documentary about the school-to-prison pipeline. Or made a documentary using Richard Rothstein’s book “The Color of Law,” talking about how policy set up housing segregation. HBO could have done anything but what they did.

They didn’t. And that says something.

When You Can’t Call For Help

I’m housesitting for some friends not too far from my house. No big deal.

Except that it is.

If something goes wrong, I can’t prove that I have cause to be in the house. So I can’t call for help.

Lest you think I’m being overly paranoid, just sit and think about the fact that two women have died at the hands of police after calling them for help in the past month; Charleena Lyles in Seattle and Justine Damon in Minneapolis.

At the end of GA, after word of two UUA staff members being attacked had spread, a group of us were talking about what had happened. When I said that if something happened to me, I wouldn’t call 9-1-1 because I couldn’t be sure that I would actually get help, one friend didn’t want to believe me. I kept giving examples of why I wouldn’t call for help yet by the end of the conversation, this one friend still didn’t want to believe me. Maybe they’ll believe me now.

I don’t expect anything to go wrong while I’m housesitting. But if something does, I’ll call my friends who live not far from where I’m staying, not 9-1-1. Because, frankly, I want to live.

 

 

The Care and Feeding of Black Children’s Souls pt. 3

A lot of my UU friends happen to be religious educators. So when I read articles or studies about black children and education, I think about them.

It so happens that just as GA was ending, Georgetown University Law School released a study called “Girlhood Interrupted: The Erasure of Black Girls’ Childhood”, which shows that starting at age five (that’s right, 5) black girls are viewed as less innocent and more adult than other girls. The press release from Georgetown says the following:

The new report reveals that adults think:
-Black girls seem older than white girls of the same age.
-Black girls need less nurturing than white girls.
-Black girls need less protection than white girls.
-Black girls need to be supported less than white girls.
-Black girls need to be comforted less than white girls.
-Black girls are more independent than white girls.
-Black girls know more about adult topics than white girls.
-Black girls know more about sex than white girls.

Sit with those results for a minute.

In conjunction with the results of the study done by Dr. Philip Atiba Goff released in 2014 about views of black boys which had similar findings (the big difference is the Georgetown study shows the loss of innocence starting for girls at age 5, Dr. Goff’s research shows the loss of innocence for boys starting at age 10), a disturbing picture presents itself.

What does this mean for UU RE programs?

I know the hard work that RE Directors/Ministers/Administrators put in to setting up their programs. Are they working at a disadvantage* though? If the people who volunteer to work in the RE program have a certain set of assumptions about black children (and I could probably extend that to all children of color), can that be overcome?

How can UU RE programs nurture the souls of children many see as needing less nurturing, comforting, protection, or support?

What support can UU churches give to adults who have had to live with this their entire lives?

How can UU churches educate to counter oppression?

more later.

No, Virginia…..All Black People Don’t Look Alike (GA Reflection #1)

Well…GA is over. I’m actually kinda sad about that.  anyway…..

Situation #1– After the Service of the Living Tradition on Thursday night, while talking to a friend, a woman comes up to me and says, “I just loved what you said during the Chalice Lighting.” If you watched the SLT, you will know that I didn’t do the Chalice Lighting; Elizabeth Terry did. The only thing that remotely is alike between Elizabeth and me is that we were both wearing black hats at the SLT. And we are both Black women.

Situation #2– Some time after plenary on Friday, a woman comes up to me while I’m on my way into the Exhibit Hall and says, “You have such a wonderful singing voice.” Now, I do sing. But I don’t sing at GA because I’m too busy doing other things. I didn’t have a chance to correct the woman as she went on about her way, but I couldn’t figure out what, or who, she was really talking about. I found out later this woman was thinking that I was Amanda Thomas, the wonderful music director at Second Unitarian-Chicago and a fabulous singer. The only thing remotely similar between Amanda and me is our height. And we are both Black women.

Those are just the incidents that happened to me. I know for sure that people mistakenly thought that Rev. Rosemary Bray McNatt preached the SLT. (she didn’t; that was Rev. Cheryl M. Walker) Other UU women of color have reported similar stories.

There are a number of beautiful Black women in the UU-universe. (If I looked one-tenth as good as these women, I would be doing alright.) GA is not a meeting of the National Baptist Convention or the AMEs, it is a meeting of Unitarian Universalists; so while there are more UUs of color in one place than most UUs are used to seeing, there is no reason that any of us should be confused with each other. [the exception being Janice Marie and Hope Johnson]

What does this mean?

I don’t really know. It does make me wonder how much progress we will make as long as all the UU women of color are interchangeable in the minds of most white UUs.

No, Virginia…all Black people don’t look alike.