“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?

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.

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.

American Denialism pt. 1

Happy Black History Month!

Normally I write during BHM, but this has been the strangest BHM I’ve ever lived through so I’m not feeling steady in my thoughts. And much of my thoughts are just expletives. anyway….

Yesterday was W.E.B. DuBois’ birthday. And I continue to be amazed at how few white people have ever read DuBois, even though he is the father of American sociology and wrote on many subjects. Part 2 will be more about DuBois specifically, but since this thought is inspired by DuBois, it is good to keep the same title for them. (if these posts were going in a different direction, I would talk about double consciousness and canons, but that’s for another time)

As some of you may know, I am fascinated about how people are talking about–and looking at–this historical moment.

Why is most of the comparison to another historical moment that of Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy?

Why are most people looking to Europe to make the comparison and not to our own history?

So…here’s a one question quiz…

What do the following time periods in American history have in common?

1877-1929      [I could have made this a longer period of time, but cut it off here]

1968-2000

2016-?

If you can figure out the big commonality, you will understand why I think looking to and comparing Trump to Hitler is misguided. Because I think it is really misguided. Don’t mis-hear me; I think there are some interesting parallels between the two, but I think there are some characters in American history that Trump is the direct descendant of.

I have no idea when I will post part 2. but part 2 is coming and there are some other things I want to write about. Thank you for your patience.