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.

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Black People Can Never Be Respectable Enough (White Discomfort with the words ‘White Supremacy’)

(it looks like I might have to do a thread on respectability politics, so this will fit in somewhere)

ok….since some of y’all are determined to stay willfully ignorant, let’s start with the actual definition of ‘white supremacy’:

noun–

the belief, theory, or doctrine that white people are inherently superior to people from all other racial groups, especially black people, and are therefore rightfully the dominant group in any society.                    [Random House Dictionary]

now….before you good white liberals hit my comments section to tell me that it’s only those other white people who believe that (those in the white hoods and so on), explain to me why there are CONFEDERATE statues in northern cities? Schools named after Robert E. Lee in northern cities? Why there was a Calhoun College AT YALE? [I do actually know why]  Confederate flags being flown from  Maine to Minnesota to Washington State and lots of other places in between?

If it’s only those others who believe in white supremacy, then explain all the surveys and polls that show that 25-30% of white liberals believe that blacks are inherently more violent or genetically not as smart as white people. Really, I would love to hear that explanation.

And on the UU front….
Have you heard of Ethelred Brown? And you really want to tell me that white supremacy isn’t in the DNA of the UUA.
Why is it that we can count the number of ministers of color who are solo or lead minister on a couple of hands? Yet people of color have been trying to be a part of the U/U/UU ministry since 1860?

Here are some other questions I have for those of you who are itching to come into my comments with the “not all white people” line…..
-When and where was your congregation founded?
-Has your congregation moved since its founding? If so, when? And to where?
-How close is your congregation to public transportation? (this is a class issue as well as a race issue)
-Did your congregation have discriminatory membership by-laws at any point? (a number of U/U congregations did at the time of merger)

I’ve been around Unitarian Universalists for more than a minute. I also have been involved in the criminal justice/drug law/prison reform-abolition movement since I was a teenager. I can tell you stories about what you good white liberals were saying about these issues when the face of addiction was black/brown. I can also tell you how you same good white liberals are talking about these issues now that the face of addiction is white. But please…tell me how this is not white supremacy.

Tell me how its not white supremacy that public schools are more segregated now than they were in 1954 when Brown v. Board of Education was handed down from the Supreme Court?

Tell me how its not white supremacy when, in case after case, those black/brown slaughtered by police have to be saintly in order to elicit sympathy from the white public. Don’t believe me…just look at how Tamir Rice was treated. There was nothing that could be pinned on him so people went trolling after his parents. Or how people tried to find something in Sandra Bland’s background.

White supremacy means that no matter what we do, black people (and brown and Indigenous people) can never be respectable enough to be deserving of anything resembling compassion or justice in the minds and systems that white people set up.

W.E.B. DuBois is credited with saying, “A system cannot fail those it was never meant to protect.” White supremacy was set up to destroy black/brown/Indigenous bodies.

I’m sorry if black/brown/Indigenous people calling white supremacy “white supremacy” offends your delicate, fragile white sensibilities. Actually, I’m not sorry. Because you good white liberals have made deals with the devil (often members of your family) for time immemorial. Now that you’re being called on your complicity, it hurts. Oh well.

When you good white liberals are the first ones to condemn those who are saying people calling for the removal of confederate statues should be lynched (I’m assuming that you’ve heard about the state Rep. in Mississippi who called for that); when you stand up to your family members and tell them to get a clue because the Civil War was about slavery, then maybe we can move forward. Until then your discomfort and offense at being lumped in with those other white people when you hear the words “white supremacy” is not my concern.

Make Me Wanna Holler, Throw Up Both Of My Hands

Let’s talk about the policing of black bodies, shall we?

Late last night, a Tulsa jury found officer Betty Shelby not guilty of manslaughter in the killing of Terence Crutcher. You can be forgiven if you’ve forgotten the case; so many others have been killed by agents of the state since then. Anyway…according to reports the jury had asked if they could make a statement before giving the verdict and that members of the jury were crying as the verdict was read. I know that is supposed to elicit some kind of emotion out of me, but it doesn’t.

For there was video of this killing. We can see that Terence Crutcher had his hands up the entire time of the interaction. But that didn’t matter because Betty Shelby said she had “never been so scared in her life” as she was with a black man who was moving away from her. As has happened in every high profile killing of an unarmed black man by agents of the state, Terence Crutcher was portrayed as a “big, scary black man”. And, in the American psyche, all black men are threats to white women. So Terence Crutcher is dead because America must protect white women, at all cost.

meanwhile…..

If you follow me on Facebook, you know that I’ve posted stories over the last few days reporting on the disciplining of young black and multiracial girls for having hair styles that “violated” school dress code policy.

I. Can’t. Even.

The fascination with, politics and policing of, black women’s hair deserves someone better than me to write about it as a subject. But I’m going to say a couple of things.

Telling young black and multiracial girls that their natural hair or having their hair put into braids is a violation of a code is a violation of these girls humanity. It is telling them that their natural hair is somehow bad. And, by extension, they are somehow bad.

This also is a symptom of the over-policing of black children in schools. Black girls are the most over-sanctioned demographic in this nation’s schools. And research shows that black children (and brown children too) are punished more harshly for violations of policy than white children.

And there’s news today that a child of color with special needs was handcuffed and tasered in his classroom in Dallas.

I know that the machinations in Washington, D.C. suck up all the air in the room most days. But I think it’s important to point out that the state has been going wild on certain populations for generations.

There’s work to do, friends. There’s work to do.

Godspeed, Jim Key

News came out a little while ago that UUA Moderator Jim Key is resigning his position due to serious health concerns.

I last saw Jim at the UUA Board meeting April 21-22 in Boston. As always, he was deeply engaged, funny, personable, and an active listener. Considering the discussions that were going on, that was a true gift. He will be missed.

My thoughts and prayers are with Jim, his wife Liz, and the rest of his family.

Good luck and Godspeed, Jim.

What You Have Amnesia Towards Does Not Have Amnesia Towards You

So Rev. Peter Morales decided to speak today; the second of two publicized days for the UU White Supremacy Teach-In. And he seems to be practicing some active disremembering.

But what is galling is the man had the NERVE to say, “…the Beloved Community does not throw people under the bus. The Beloved Community does not practice human sacrifice. ”

ok my white liberal friends and people who can pass, let me school you on this…..

the “Beloved Community” of Unitarian Universalism has been throwing people of color under the bus since Rev. William Jackson presented himself at the AUA meeting in 1860.

If you don’t want to believe me, go listen to Mark Morrison-Reed’s Minns Lecture from March 31 and come back to me.

Rev. Morales also says, “I have walked side by side with the Rev. William Barber a number of times at his invitation to protest racist policies”

Rev. Morales didn’t step foot in St. Louis in the aftermath of Ferguson. And we asked him to come.

I guess that we UUs in St.Louis/Ferguson didn’t matter as much as Rev. Barber.

And, yet again, Rev. Morales asks where were the people who assumed good will. So I’ll ask the question I asked early on:

Why should people of color assume “good will and common purpose” when it comes to things UU/UUA?

The amount of historical amnesia and willful ignorance and active disremembering that is going on right now is staggering. If it weren’t for the fact that I have people I love who are UUs and I really do believe in Susan Frederick-Gray, I would be done with Unitarian Universalism as of today.

anyway…..years ago the late Roger Wilkins said in a speech, “What you have amnesia towards does not have amnesia towards you.” That line has stayed with me since I heard it. And it is true. No matter how much official Unitarian Universalism wants to actively disremember, this history is out there for anybody who cares to look for it. It cannot be quashed.

What you have amnesia towards does not have amnesia towards you.

 

I’m With Her…As Long As “Her” Is Susan Frederick-Gray

Susan and I both grew up in the suburbs of St. Louis. This is the shallowest reason that I think Susan should be the next UUA President. And while there are times where I can be both shallow and provincial, this is not one of them.

In a lot of ways, the UUA is like St. Louis. White supremacy is ever-present, seldom talked about or acknowledged, vociferously denied or rationalized when brought up, and has a tendency to historical amnesia or willful ignorance. And it is highly provincial.

St. Louis will never be the same after the killing of Michael Brown and the aftermath of the events in Ferguson, although there are plenty of forces that would love to see it return to the way it was. (just look at the fight and vote over an MLS stadium that happened last month as an example)

Hopefully, the UUA will never be the same after this current crisis. Although, given UUA history, we must fight hard against the forces of inertia.

What does this have to do with me believing that Susan is the President the UUA needs in this time?

In one word: trust. I trust Susan.

Susan gets it in a way that only somebody who grew up in provincial waters can get it. Susan understands the power dynamics of provincialism better than most. (just listen to her talk about her power analysis of UUism in any of the Presidential forums that are online)  There is one place that can rival St. Louis in its provincial-ness, and that place is Boston and the UUA.
Susan knows what it’s like to be in an area that is in the midst of a major upheaval.
Susan knows churches and believes in them.
Susan is not afraid to say the word “theology”. She also understands that liberal theology needs to speak to the world in need of liberation theology through partnership.
Susan has a “make a way out of no way” kind of spirit.

I know all three candidates for President. I respect and like all three. But I believe we have one chance to not repeat the mistakes of the past. For that reason I believe the best person for the job is the one who has the “make a way out of no way” spirit.

I’m with her…as long as “her” is Susan Frederick-Gray.

Where Is Egypt? (or, Thinking about the Holy Innocents)

If you are reading this, I’m going to assume that you’ve heard the news about Jordan Edwards, the 15-year-old black child who was killed by police in the suburbs of Dallas.

I’m all cried out.  (that’s why I didn’t write this yesterday)

If I were going to be in a pulpit on Sunday, I know this is what I would talk about it; this slow, slow genocide.

For those of you who follow the liturgical calendar, you know that Holy Innocents Day is December 28. I’ve always thought it was a real disservice to the story that it happens between Christmas and Epiphany. The story is told to us in Matthew:

Now after they had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, ‘Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.’ Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, ‘Out of Egypt I have called my son.’ When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was infuriated, and he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had learned from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah:
 ‘A voice was heard in Ramah,
wailing and loud lamentation,
Rachel weeping for her children;
she refused to be consoled, because they are no more.’          [Matthew 2:13-18, NRSV]

If I were preaching this Sunday, I would ask the question…for Black families, where is Egypt? Where can they go to protect their children from Herod’s (the state’s) wrath? What happens if/when there is no Egypt? How many more innocents (those from marginalized communities) are going to have to die at the hands of the state before the state’s protected members rise up against Herod?

That’s what I would preach about. What about you?

A Mind Is A Terrible Thing To Waste (Third Question for the UUA Presidential Candidates)

Susan. Alison. Jeanne.

I’ll start this post with two quotes from Mary McLeod Bethune. (we’re good with me assuming you know who she is, right?)

MMB said, “Studying goes deeper than mere reading. There are surface nuggets to be gathered but the best of the gold is underneath, and it takes time and labor to secure it.”  She also said, “Invest in the human soul. Who knows, it might be a diamond in the rough.”

As you know, I have a friend who is a seminary president. So we talk about the state of theological education quite a bit. The past few weeks have seen those conversations go in creative directions.

With the White Supremacy Teach-Ins starting today, and having a co-President who is focused on looking at institutional change, it seems to be a good time to look at those who lead our congregations.

Educating to counter oppressions takes more than a teach-in. It takes sustained investment in those who lead our congregations. First two questions…..

What do you see as the role of our UU seminaries in helping shape religious leadership that can go into congregations and help those congregations on the journey to dismantle white supremacy and counter oppression?

What do you see as the UUA’s role in helping the seminaries in doing this work?

Next question needs a different set-up.

In his Minns Lecture, Mark Morrison-Reed details the efforts of the Joseph Jordans to raise funds (somewhere in the neighborhood of $5,000) from the Unitarians and the Universalists in order to establish a seminary that would train Black ministers who would then go out and establish churches in Black communities. That effort did not go well, to put it nicely. If I am remembering correctly, the amount that the Jordans received was somewhere around $1,000. All of this was happening while the U-s and U-s were spending around $10,000 A YEAR on misadventures in Japan.

Now…I am not asking for us to consider opening a new seminary. (although I do think we need to reckon with what might have been in the light of what did happen) Here’s the question…..

What do you see as the UUA’s role in establishing (or re-establishing, as the case may be) relationships with seminaries that serve traditionally marginalized communites; seminaries such as Howard, Interdenominational Theological, Samuel DeWitt Proctor, Payne Theological, Hood Theological,  or Shaw?

There are so many more questions I have, but these three were the biggest in my mind. And yes, I know, I actually asked more than three questions.

I’m happy to talk to you about any of these questions anytime.

 

Why I’m Not At the MidAmerica Region Annual Assembly

I love Chicago.  I have family there that I’m normally always looking for a way to be with. And I have friends that I don’t see nearly enough. So when I first saw that Regional Assembly was going to be in Chicagoland, my first thought was how I could work my schedule out so that I would be in Chicago this weekend. Then I started to really think about it.

Regional Assembly is in Oak Brook, a higher brow suburb. Got a great mall, but I never feel comfortable there. So I was less inclined to change my schedule around.

Then the last seven weeks happened. And I’ve learned that my patience is mostly gone. The reason this is a problem is I’m well-known enough in the region that I would have been ambushed by well-meaning white people. It would have been unintentional, but it still would have been an ambush. And it’s been a really hard seven weeks for UUs of color. Hence, I made the decision to not go to the Regional Assembly.

And it seems as if this was the right decision. A dear friend sends me a message from the UU Multiracial Unity Caucus saying that things were going well until somebody called BLUU “separatists” and another person said that DRUUMM was causing harm. It would not have been good for anybody for me to be in that room when those words were said.

In a couple hours, I will be back in my bed in St. Louis. It will be good to be back there. Maybe after a nice sleep I’ll write about the separatist remark, but then again, maybe I won’t. Everything does not deserve a response

The Hagar-Sarah Conundrum (Yet Another Question for the UUA Presidential Candidates)

Susan. Alison. Jeanne.

I’ve been trying to find a way to ask this question and not sound like an angry black woman. I have figured out in the process that I can’t. But my set-up is going to be fabulous.

The story of Abraham, Sarah, Hagar, Ishmael, and Isaac is the story that I go to the most when trying to understand America. It just fits.

As we all know, Sarah “gives” Hagar to Abraham so that Abraham may have offspring. Once Hagar is with child, scripture says that Sarah treated Hagar “harshly” and that Hagar runs away. When the angel finds Hagar, it tells her to go back to Sarah and to “put up with” Sarah’s harsh treatment and that God had seen her plight. [ah, the exegesis I can do on this story, but won’t]  So Hagar goes back and puts up with Sarah’s harsh treatment and gives birth to Ishmael.

But, lo and behold, a few years later, Sarah gives birth to Isaac. oh happy day. This poses a problem; Ishmael is first-born and, because of how he was conceived, should be granted the greater portion of Abraham’s estate. This cannot happen in Sarah’s mind. So she goes to Abraham and tells him to banish Hagar and Ishmael. Abraham, coward that he is, doesn’t stand up to Sarah. But God comes into the story again, this time to  tell Abraham to do what Sarah wants, because his descendants will be traced through Isaac. [oh, how I so want to ask God about this] So Abraham does what Sarah asked him to do, and he puts out Hagar and Ishmael.     [I know there’s more to the story, but this is the part that matters]

well…there really is no easy/polite way to say this…..white women have been using and betraying people of color (especially women of color) and then asking for us to be cast out into the desert/wilderness for time immemorial.

All three of you have said that you are down for the cause and that you, if President, won’t see the promised 5 million to BLUU as a threat to general Annual Program Fund fundraising. So…here’s the question…..

Why should people of color in the UUA trust you?