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?

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.

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.

These Things Wouldn’t Happen If You Just Listened To Black Women

I’ve gotten to talk to the bestest friend a couple of times over the past few days. And since bestest friend is also a UU of color, part of our conversation was about the Atlanta survey.

In all the go-around involving the survey, what’s been forgotten/lost is that this wouldn’t have become a UU social media topic if the woman of color (a member of UUCA) who originally pointed this out had been listened to in the first place.

So many issues, both in the UUA/its member congregations and outside of it, would be looked at differently if the general society just listened to Black women and other women of color.

Intersectionality is real. And things will not change–in the UUA/its member congregations and in the outside world–until those who are at the intersections are fully heard and acknowledged.

All I Have To Do Is Stay Black And Die (or…The Road To Hell Is Paved With Good Intent)

So…over the Facebook wires yesterday came this…..

The UU Congregation of Atlanta is moving. And in their information gathering, a survey was created. This was the first question. What was your first thought when you saw that question just now?  Mine was, “Did somebody not proofread this?”

In the discussion of this survey question yesterday on social media, those of us who said that the question was problematic were told that we didn’t understand the context of the question; what this question was intended to gauge reactions to possible gentrification. And, because a person of color was involved in writing the survey, we should assume the good intentions of all involved.

ok my white liberal friends, here’s something you need to know; there are only two things  in life I have to do…..stay black and die.

Why are people of color always asked to assume the good intentions of white people (or their agents, whether they are white or a person of color)? Asking people of color to assume good intention from white people is asking them to ignore the whole of American history. And it is asking people of color to do something that, let’s be honest, most whites don’t do; assume the good intent of people of color regarding anything.

W.E.B. DuBois said in ‘The Souls of Black Folk’:
Between me and the other world there is ever an unasked question: unasked by some through feelings of delicacy; by others through the difficulty of rightly framing it. All, nevertheless, flutter round it. They approach me in a half- hesitant sort of way, eye me curiously or compassionately, and then, instead of saying directly, How does it feel to be a problem? they say, I know an excellent colored man in my town; or, I fought at Mechanicsville; or, Do not these Southern outrages make your blood boil? At these I smile, or am interested, or reduce the boiling to a simmer, as the occasion may require. To the real question, How does it feel to be a problem? I answer seldom a word.

No matter the intent of the writer of the question, let’s be clear what this question assumed. This question assumed that people of color (and the neighborhoods they live in) are problems. No amount of assuming good intent will change the definition of the word “undesireable”. No amount of assuming good intent will change the fact that Atlanta has the history that it has.

The road to hell truly is paved with good intentions. Assuming the good intentions of white people has done nothing but get people of color killed.

So please…stop telling people of color to assume good intent.

If You Just Change The Key, It’s Still The Same Old Song

If you’ve listened to Mark Morrison-Reed’s Minns Lecture, or read “Black Pioneers in a White Denomination”, then you know about the survey (questions were asked about various aspects of worship and spiritual life) that was done in 1989 for the Commission on Appraisal. There are some striking differences in the responses.

When asked what they saw as the very important aspects of worship, white UUs chose “intellectual stimulation” and “fellowship” as their top two (at 74% and 65%, respectively). African American UUs, however, chose “celebrating common values” and “hope” as their top 2 (at 69% and 60%, respectively). Now, “fellowship”  is the third highest aspect for African American survey respondents (at 56%), and “celebrating common values” is the third highest for white survey respondents (at 60%), but if one looks at the entirety of the results, there is a noticeable difference.

The rest of the top five very important aspects for white UUs were “personal reflection” (53%) and “group experience of participation” (44%). The rest of the top five very important aspects for African American UUs were “music” (50%) and “intellectual stimulation” (47%).

When I was first thinking about this post, I thought it would be another one in my maybe-series about worship. While I will probably write about worship specifically later (the ten percentage point differences in the “music” and “personal reflection” answers deserves a post of their own), the survey  answers to the worship question point to a much larger thought.

We go to church for different reasons.

Let’s sit with that for a moment.

If white UUs are looking for intellectual stimulation and fellowship primarily when looking for a congregation, yet African Americans are looking for a celebration of common values and a place that gives hope when looking for a congregation; what does that mean when creating a space/place that is inviting to all?

So here are the questions…..

Why do you go to church? [and, by extension, why did you choose the congregation you chose]

What does the “beloved community” look like when what we are seeking are different things when we gather?

 

*the survey in 1989 only broke the answers down by white and black respondents. if the survey were being done now, I’m certain that the racial/ethnic breakdown would be more expansive.

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

Marcus Garvey said, “A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots.”

After a number of conversations I’ve had over the past week, here’s my conclusion…..

Unitarian Universalism is a rootless tree.

Too many Unitarian Universalists are running around having no clue; not just of Unitarian/Universalist/Unitarian Universalist history, but of American history in general. And in doing the work of dismantling white supremacy, historical ignorance is definitely not bliss. It is dangerous. And wounding.

I cannot tell you about the number of blank stares and utter confusion that is expressed when, either in my writing or in a sermon, I drop some bit of black history. [ask me about the word “nadir” sometime]

But, as Bro. Jimmy tells us:
History, as nearly no one seems to know, is not merely something to be read. And it does not refer merely, or even principally, to the past. On the contrary, the great force of history comes from the fact that we carry it within us, are unconsciously controlled by it in many ways, scarcely be otherwise, since it is to history that we owe our frames of references, our identities, and our aspirations. And it is with great pain and terror that one begins to realize this. In great pain and terror one begins to assess the history which has placed one where one is, and formed one’s point of view. In great pain and terror because, thereafter, one enters into battle with that historical creation, oneself, and attempts to recreate oneself according to a principle more human and more liberating: one begins the attempt to achieve a level of personal maturity and freedom which robs history of its tyrannical power, and also changes history.

What I have come to conclude is that most white Unitarian Universalists don’t want to confront our history because, if they do, they can no longer go around acting as if what they do–no matter how well they intended it–doesn’t have a disparate impact.

I used to give white UUs the benefit of the doubt when it came to their historical ignorance. I don’t do that anymore. The future of Unitarian Universalism is at stake. And, after spending these past weeks trying to comfort UUs of color who have been spiritually wounded by their congregations, I can’t stress enough how dangerous this ignorance is. And it impedes our justice work.

A rootless tree will not survive for long. The question, for me, is, how long will Unitarian Universalism survive disconnected from its roots.

Thinking About A #BlackLivesMatter Mother’s Day Worship Service

In these waning minutes on Sunday, I’m going to take a few of those minutes to write out something that has come to me in the last week or so.

Mother’s Day is a hard Sunday for many preachers (UU or otherwise). Now a lot of that is because many people don’t understand the origins of the day, but also because one never knows the minefields one might be stepping into.

So…how about, instead of either avoiding the day or turning oneself inside-out to hit every possibility, may I suggest that you consider doing a Black Lives Matter Mother’s Day worship service.

The readings could be words from women like Sybrina Fulton (Trayvon Martin’s mother) or Lezley McSpadden (Michael Brown’s mother); both of whom have books you can read.
Or you could use the poem like “We Real Cool” by Gwendolyn Brooks.
I’m sure there are some words from Alice Walker or Audre Lorde or Jacqueline Woodson or Claudia Rankine or Toni Morrison or Sonia Sanchez that might speak to those sitting in your pews.

Or you could use this poem that I came across just today:
Black mothers
don’t
raise their children
to be murderers,
nor
to be murdered.
-from a young poet in New Orleans (I’m trying to find out who)

For those of you who are comfortable with Scripture, there are many stories of mothers losing their children (or living under the threat of lost their child). I seem to remember that Jesus had a mother. And of course there’s Hagar (or maybe that’s just me. I can make Hagar work for just about anything). Moses had a mother last I looked.

If you wanted to go a little further with it, read “The Essence of Innocence: Consequences of Dehumanizing Black Children.” Here’s a summary of what the paper says:

Black boys as young as 10 may not be viewed in the same light of childhood innocence as their white peers, but are instead more likely to be mistaken as older, be perceived as guilty and face police violence if accused of a crime, according to new research published by the American Psychological Association.

“Children in most societies are considered to be in a distinct group with characteristics such as innocence and the need for protection. Our research found that black boys can be seen as responsible for their actions at an age when white boys still benefit from the assumption that children are essentially innocent,” said author Phillip Atiba Goff, PhD, of the University of California, Los Angeles. The study was published online in APA’s Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

Researchers tested 176 police officers, mostly white males, average age 37, in large urban areas, to determine their levels of two distinct types of bias—prejudice and unconscious dehumanization of black people by comparing them to apes. To test for prejudice, researchers had officers complete a widely used psychological questionnaire with statements such as “It is likely that blacks will bring violence to neighborhoods when they move in.” To determine officers’ dehumanization of blacks, the researchers gave them a psychological task in which they paired blacks and whites with large cats, such as lions, or with apes. Researchers reviewed police officers’ personnel records to determine use of force while on duty and found that those who dehumanized blacks were more likely to have used force against a black child in custody than officers who did not dehumanize blacks. The study described use of force as takedown or wrist lock; kicking or punching; striking with a blunt object; using a police dog, restraints or hobbling; or using tear gas, electric shock, or killing. Only dehumanization and not police officers’ prejudice against blacks—conscious or not—was linked to violent encounters with black children in custody, according to the study.

The authors noted that police officers’ unconscious dehumanization of black could have been the result of negative interactions with black children, rather than the cause of using force with black children. “We found evidence that overestimating age and culpability based on racial difference was a link to dehumanizing stereotypes, but future research should try to clarify the relationship between dehumanization and racial disparities in police use of force,” Goff said.

The study also involved 264 mostly white, female undergraduate students from large public U.S. Universities. In one experiment, students rated the innocence of people ranging from infants to 25-year-olds who were black, white or an unidentified race. The students judged children up to 9-years-old as equally innocent regardless of race, but considered black children significantly less innocent than other children in every age group beginning at age 10, the researchers found.

The students were also shown photographs alongside descriptions of various crimes and asked to assess the age and innocence of white, black, or Latino boys ages 10 to 17. The students overestimated the age of blacks by an average of 4.5 years and found them more culpable than whites or Latinos, particularly when the boys were matched with serious crimes, the study found. Researchers used questionnaires to assess the participants’ prejudice and dehumanization of blacks. They found that participants who implicitly associated black with apes thought the black children were older and less innocent.

In another experiment, students first viewed either a photo of an ape or a large cat and then rated black and white youngsters in terms of perceived innocence and need for protection as children. Those who looked at the ape photo gave black children lower ratings and estimated that black children were significantly older than their actual ages, particularly if the child had been accused of a felony rather than a misdemeanor.

The evidence shows that perceptions of the essential nature of children can be affected by race, and for black children, this can mean they lose the protection afforded by assumed childhood innocence well before they become adults,” said co-author Matthew Jackson, PhD, also of UCLA. “With the average age overestimation for black boys exceeding four-and-a-half years, in some cases, black children may be viewed as adults when they are just 13 years old.”

Trust me when I tell you “that’ll preach”.

So…there you have it…my suggestion for those of you who may be struggling with how to preach Mother’s Day. You don’t have to do the sappy, Hallmark holiday. And, for those of you UU preachers out there, it is a good way to tie-in what your congregation talked about during the White Supremacy Teach-In.