In Wakanda, Stephon Clark Would Still Be Alive

I’ve been trying to come up with the words to express how I feel about the most recent state-agent killing of a Black person; Stephon Clark was killed by Sacramento police this week in his own backyard.

What I keep coming back to is…Stephon would be alive if Wakanda were real.

I know many of you are probably tired of hearing/reading me talk about Wakanda. But it is so lovely there. And it highlights how far from it we are in the “real world.”

Stephon Clark is dead because police mistook him for a man who was vandalising cars. Let me repeat that…..

Stephon Clark is dead because police mistook him for a man who was vandalising cars.

Sit with that.

A black man is DEAD over an alleged minor property crime.  (one that he was not committing, by the way)

Let’s look at the other major issue…..

Stephon Clark was shot in HIS OWN BACKYARD.

And another issue…..

Police interviewed Stephon’s grandmother BEFORE they told her that her grandson was dead.

Next issue…..

Police lied about the entire situation and only told the truth after video was released.

This is the real world.

Wakanda would be different.

Stephon Clark would be alive if Wakanda were real.

In Wakanda were real…..

Mike Brown would be alive.

Tamir Rice would be alive.

Eric Garner would be alive.

Sandra Bland would be alive.

Rekia Boyd would be alive.

Aiyanna Stanley-Jones would be alive.

In Wakanda, all the people would be alive because in Wakanda…black lives matter.

#WakandaForever

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Black Panther and the War on Black Children

Pay attention to the part where the mother (with her son) is talking about what Black Panther really means. Yes, it makes me cry.

It was reported yesterday in the New York Times and other places about a study done by the “Equality of Opportunity Project” that Black male children (and Indigenous male children too) of rich families have a greater chance of being in poverty as adults than white or Asian male children. The executive summary states it this way:

Growing up in a high-income family provides no insulation from these disparities. American Indian and black children have much higher rates of downward mobility than other groups. Black children born to parents in the top income quintile are almost as likely to fall to the bottom quintile as they are to remain in the top quintile. By contrast, white children born in the top quintile are nearly five times as likely to stay there as they are to fall to the bottom.
Two things…..first, this study is specifically about Black (and Indigenous) boys. Second, this is specific about income; there is a difference between income and wealth. And the difference between income and wealth can, in large measure, explain why there looks to be such inequality between Black/Indigenous boys and white boys while at the same time not showing this type of inequality between Black girls and white girls.
What this study shows is how important, culturally, Black Panther really is.
Wakanda is not real. Unfortunately.
If Wakanda were real, then Black children wouldn’t be under constant assault from the society around them.
If Wakanda were real, then Black children would be seen as children and valued as such.
If Wakanda were real, then Black parents wouldn’t have to worry about what’s going to happen to their child in the outside world when that child grows up.
If Wakanda were real…..
What really gets me about the video above is not just the mother and what she says. What brings the tears to my eyes is the son’s total awe at being in the presence of Chadwick Boseman. Representation matters my friends. That boy’s wonder and awe matters.
#WakandaForever

The Exodus Should Not Be Quiet…Whether It’s Out of White Evangelicalism or Unitarian Universalism

I will write more about this after next week, but wanted to give some initial thoughts here.

In today’s New York Times there is an in-depth article exploring the exodus of African Americans from heavily white, but integrated, evangelical churches.

Since in the subtitle of the article mentions the word exodus, it’s got me thinking about the Exodus story.

For those of you familiar with the story, you know  Moses gave Pharaoh a number of chances to change the situation. Moses warned Pharaoh about what would happen if things didn’t change. The situation did not change.

African Americans–like Moses, whether in predominately white evangelical churches or liberal/progressive churches, have been giving Pharaoh a number of chances to change how their religious institutions work. African Americans–like Moses–have been telling Pharaoh what would happen if things didn’t change in these religious institutions.

The question is will Pharaoh be any different this time than the last time?

“Don’t tell me what’s possible. Tell me the truth.”…One Thing Wakanda Has To Tell Unitarian Universalism

There are so many things that Wakanda could tell Unitarian Universalism. This post will talk about one.

For those of you who’ve seen “Black Panther”, you will know that the title of this post comes from a conversation between T’Challa and Zuri. “Don’t tell me what’s possible. Tell me the truth.”

I’ve been thinking about denial in Unitarian Universalism lately; both active denial and passive denial.

Since the latest iteration of the racial justice problems in Unitarian Universalism became public almost a year ago, many UUs of color have been telling their stories of how white supremacy shows itself in UU congregations and other UU institutions. Yet, when presented with these stories, many white UUs have flatly denied or tried to rationalize what UUs of color experience.

UU religious professionals of color are STILL being pushed out of jobs and white parishioners are covering their eyes and saying that they “need to speak with one voice”.

UUs of color are getting told they are “too confrontational” when reading a piece of a work written by a person of color during a worship service.
******

White UUs want badly to believe certain things about their congregations. They want to believe in the “what’s possible.”

UUs of color are telling the truth of what is actually going on in UU congregations.

When the Commission on Institutional Change issues a more detailed report, how are white UUs going to handle it? Are they going to keep being in denial (the “what’s possible”)? Or will they listen to the truth?

I may write more on what I think Wakanda has to tell Unitarian Universalism, but I need to see it again before I make up my mind.

#WakandaForever

R-E-S-P-E-C-T (-ability politics)

I’ve been a fat girl all my life. So I know what it’s like to feel the need to prove that you are worthy [of love, respect, attention, friendship, common decency–take your pick]. I spent a lot of years trying to prove exactly that.

Since the news of “shithole countries” has come out, I have watched Haitian Americans, African immigrants, El Salvadoreans, and Africans still on the continent trying to prove that their countries are not “shitholes” or that they (and their families) are worthy of being in the United States (or not being looked down on by the United States). And it has made me so heartbroken. Knowing that their pleading is all for nothing. Because the one thing I know from my time going through this is that, if you are a member of a minority (or any out- group), there is nothing you can say, nothing you can do, no amount of education you can have, no way to present yourself, etc. etc. to make you respectable enough to the majority (or the in- group).

Welcome to the world of respectability politics. Where people on the outside of the circle try to prove they are worthy of something that should, by any and all measure, be their birthright. Where people are losing their lives because it can never be proven; the drawers of the circle will always change the boundaries to make it so.

If you want to understand why I talk about white supremacy the way I do; this is why. I don’t want anybody else to have to feel like I did as a fat, black girl; unworthy of the things that are necessary to living a full human life.

Respectability politics puts the onus on those who are oppressed to show that they are worthy of things that are human birthrights. Respectability politics saps the energy for the things that give life. In short, respectability politics are evil. And evil needs to be called out. Always.

that’s it.

Black Theology Saved The World Once, And It Can Do It Again

Yes, I’m being a little facetious, but not much.

All the talk of authoritarianism has me thinking about Bonhoeffer.

Most people who know something about Bonhoeffer know that he spent time in New York as a student at Union Theological Seminary. Many may even know that he attended Abyssinian Baptist Church–pastored at the time by Adam Clayton Powell, Sr.

I’m guessing far fewer know that Bonhoeffer taught Sunday School there.

There’s something to this, I think.

Black theology (or any theology of the oppressed, really) strikes a balance between the personal and the systemic sin in a way that liberal theology doesn’t (and Bonhoeffer had real critiques of liberal theology). Bonfoeffer took what he learned at Abyssinian and built the underground seminary that shaped the religious dissenters of the Nazis.

So…with all the talk about authoritarianism, maybe it would do the so-called resistance good to do what Bonhoeffer did; spend some time steeping themselves in the theology (and pedagogy, to borrow from Freire) of the oppressed.

Black theology saved the world once, and it can do it again. If the resistance pays attention.

What Doesn’t Break You, Breaks You…..All The Holy Innocents, pt. 3

I’m starting this year the way I finished last year; thinking about Erica Garner and her baby.

In reading about the hows-and-whys of her death, I read that Erica had a heart attack not long after giving birth. This is not the heart attack that killed her, but another one. So when I say that Erica’s death should be counted in the Black maternal mortality statistics, I mean it.

Remember the old cliche “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”? Research shows that this is not true, especially for Black people–and Black women in particular.

What doesn’t break us outwardly, breaks us inwardly. In short…white supremacy/racism kills.

I’m out of words for now.

All The Holy Innocents pt.2

Erica Garner died earlier today. She was 27. And she leaves behind a 3-month-old baby boy named after her father, Eric.

I am so done.

Erica’s death should be counted in the Black maternal mortality statistics; but it won’t be.

Erica had an asthma attack that caused her to have a heart attack.  But we won’t talk about how African Americans are more likely to have asthma and die from it…
According to the CDC’s 2015 summary of the most recent asthma mortality data, black Americans have a higher asthma death rate -at 23.9 deaths per million persons- than non-Hispanic whites (8.4 deaths per million persons), Hispanics (7.3 deaths per million persons), and other non-Hispanics (10.0 deaths per million persons).

Erica’s foster mother was with her when she died, and Erica’s child is probably going to have to go into the system (at least for a little while); but we’re not going to talk about Black children and the foster care system. [really, I’m not. because it upsets me]

Erica had been fighting for justice for her father since the day he was killed by the NYPD…so much so that the NYPD messed with her family at the hospital. But we’re not going to talk about the policing of Black bodies. [again…really, I’m not. because it upsets me]

I am so done.

If I ever get to preach on Holy Innocents Day, I would use the traditional passage from Matthew, I would also use this, from Jeremiah…..

Thus says the Lord:
A voice is heard in Ramah,
   lamentation and bitter weeping.
Rachel is weeping for her children;
   she refuses to be comforted for her children,
   because they are no more.
Thus says the Lord:
Keep your voice from weeping,
   and your eyes from tears;
for there is a reward for your work,
says the Lord:
   they shall come back from the land of the enemy;
there is hope for your future,
says the Lord:
   your children shall come back to their own country.     [Jeremiah 31:15-17]

Erica is not coming back, so we should weep for her. But Eric III is alive. And if America saw him as a Holy Innocent instead of a potential threat, there would truly be hope for the future.

All The Holy Innocents

Today is Holy Innocents Day on the liturgical calendar.  It’s the day I consider most on the calendar. Especially this year.

If you haven’t heard, Erica Garner is lying near death at a New York City hospital. Four months after giving birth. You remember Erica, don’t you? The daughter of Eric Garner; the man whose death at the hands of the NYPD was captured on video. The man who gasped “I can’t breathe.” Erica is 27 and had a heart attack (brought on by an asthma attack).

There has been a raft of articles/stories/studies that have come out in the last few months focusing on the Black mother and infant mortality rate. The numbers are heart-rending…Black babies are three times more likely not to make it to their first birthday. Black mothers are three times more likely to die in the first days after giving birth. Black babies are more likely to be born premature and, regardless of length of gestation, weigh less at time of birth. Black women with college education have worse birth outcomes than white women with high school or less education; so socioeconomic status does not enhance health outcomes. This does not even get into the issues of infertility and crisis in pregnancy.

Racism kills. From the womb to the tomb.

On the day after Christmas the following appeared in an op-ed,
“A recent study asked pregnant women what was their biggest fear during pregnancy….. Caucasian women said gaining weight and having a healthy child. Do you know how African-American women responded? Fear of bringing their child into this world. Fear that their son may be killed because of the color of his skin. When I shared this with obstetricians, they were shocked. How many are screening for that type of chronic stress during the visit? What are the effects of that type of chronic stress during the entire pregnancy?”

Sit with that for a while.

Like I said at the beginning of this post, it’s Holy Innocents Day. While the biblical story is about the slaughter (by the State) of all Jewish male babies under the age of 2, I’ve always thought that it was about more than just the babies.

As we are learning, generational trauma affects all aspects of life (and DNA, as research is showing). What if we understood Erica and her baby as part of those Holy Innocents whom Herod called to be slaughtered? How would it looked if the church started paying attention to those who are left behind after the slaughter? (this, of course, assumes that the slaughter ends) What would it be like if the church understood that one of its missions was to work with the communities most affected by trauma (along with calling out what Herod is doing)?

If I ever get to preach on Holy Innocents Day, these are the questions are what I would be asking. And calling for the church to remember Erica and her baby are some of those Holy Innocents.

more later.

The Life (and Soul) You Save May Be Your Own…..(the Alabama Vote and Unitarian Universalism)

I’ve been trying to find the right words to describe this moment and I’m not sure these are right. But I shall try anyway.

A few months ago I wrote about how, often, Black women are placed in the role of Mammie; taking care of and protecting white people (white women in particular). Or “saving” them. This is certainly playing out in discussions of the Alabama Senate vote.

Quick recap of the facts…98% of Black women and 93% of Black men voted for Doug Jones. 63% of white women and 72% of white men voted for Roy Moore. If this had been any other special election, Roy Moore would be Senator-elect. This time was different. Because Black turnout increased while white turnout was slightly depressed. And Doug Jones won.

A common refrain as the news came out about the vote and who voted was that Black people “saved” [blank]. That blank could be democracy/Alabama/America/etc. This concerns me. And the reason it concerns me is that this centers white people. That’s not what the Alabama vote was about.

Black people did save with their vote. The people they saved were THEMSELVES. The fact that white people got saved in the process is secondary.

Roy Moore was patently unfit for office BEFORE news of his sexual predilections for teenaged girls became national news. Still….Moore almost won because white supremacy is……….

Black people in Alabama turned out in larger than expected numbers because they knew they would be the hardest hit if that man won. The man said that America was “great” when we had slavery, after all.

One last time…Doug Jones won because Black people voted to save themselves.

Now…..what does this have to do with Unitarian Universalism?

All the work that BLUU is doing is about Black people saving their own souls. If, in the process, Unitarian Universalism grows into the religious movement it claims it wants to be, then that’s a bonus.

Along with that…while y’all are in a thankful mood, listen to Black women. Pay Black women. Let Black women lead.

Yes…this is a little self-serving. But it’s really not. I’ve seen Black women in this movement who have been trying to get Unitarian Universalists to understand the stakes of not confronting white supremacy for years. I’ve seen how they have been treated. It has not been pretty. Maybe now, after the turmoil of the spring, that will change.

I have more thoughts, but they’re not fully formed yet. So more later.