The Incompetent Historical Understanding of White Supremacists

Recently someone wrote elsewhere that white privilege is a myth, and that as a white male he was certainly not privileged in his lifestyle.

He wrote this before the events in Ferguson which occurred after the grand jury failed to indict Officer Wilson, but recent events apparently have not changed his mind.

I do not know what kind of history is taught at the University of Virginia, but it is an incompetent one if it fails to teach a history of America that includes the experiences of black Americans, specifically the experience of capture, chattel slavery, Jim Crow, and even the continuing de facto segregation of black Americans from full, equal and non-confrontational participation in all of American life.

One of the key things a school should do, in my opinion, is not merely expose students to new facts—a school’s curriculum should also expose students to the way other people think, feel, and live. A well-rounded educational experience should include more than just a longer list of memorized facts to support an already confirmed position. A school – especially one that claims to be a world-class university – should help students open their minds to the larger world around them.

It is simply impossible to get an education in a modern American university and still believe that white privilege does not exist. It is simply ignorance, and it is ignorance that is deliberately chosen by the student.

While it can be difficult for white Americans to include friendships and relationships with people of color, it can be done – and it should be possible at a university, especially one such as the University of Virginia, to not only be exposed to the presence of people of color, but also to build relationships and come to an understanding of the lives of these mysterious people around white people that some white students apparently know nothing about.

Can We Listen to Imperfect People?

I wish there were a perfect victim of violence done by the hand of the state, one who did not have a checkered past. I wish there was a perfect spokesman to make the case for better stronger laws to reign in violence done in the name of the state. But we do not have that.

We have flawed people being shot and beaten and killed. We have flawed people speaking out. We have flawed protesters. We have flawed events and marches and actions, flawed and misleading reporting, flawed responses made in bad faith, flawed attempts to hijack voices of protest for personal and political advancement.

Wave that all away. It’s noise. It’s theatre. Focus on this: there are consistent, urgent voices telling us something.

We need to listen with our heads and our hearts. Not with what others are telling us to hear.

Our fellow humans, our fellow Americans, our brothers and sisters are telling us something hugely important.

Stop waving it away. Stop being distracted.

Listen.

When Black Lives Matter

Some people are telling me that if black people just obeyed the police they wouldn’t be harrassed, beaten, and arrested so much. Here are the stories police officers tell–of being harrassed, beaten, and arrested by their fellow officers–because they are black.

The stories you are hearing, the protests you are seeing, are coming from somewhere: they are coming from the very real lives of people in America who are treated as suspects, as thugs, as criminals simply because they are black. When we say “‪#‎BlackLivesMatter‬” it is because it is a hope, not yet a reality.

The way to fix the problem isn’t to tell the protesters to stop protesting. The way to fix it is to get at the root: to make it a reality that #BlackLivesMatter.

Bad Cops, Bad Victims

Bad cops killing unarmed civilians do not invalidate all police officers or even the necessity of a police force. We hope they are not common, and we hope that the good cops would speak up about bad cops and work to eject those bad cops from the police force.

A deranged man who tried to kill his girlfriend, killed two cops, and then killed himself is no more representative of all men everywhere than bad cops are of all cops.

The difference seems to be that the vast, vast majority of people who are protesting bad cops are also vehemently denouncing anyone killing cops. We’d still like to see the good cops speak up about the bad cops who kill unarmed civilians and escape justice as meted by our courts of law.

We Do Because We Can

We ‪#‎tortured‬ people who did not crash planes into the Twin Towers or the Pentagon. We tortured people who were later declared innocent. We tortured people who died from the torture. We tortured people who were our allies and working for us. We tortured people who had no charges filed. We tortured people with the made-up reason of “we might get information.”

We tortured people because we were angry, and fearful, and needed to lash out to punish someone, anyone, everyone who looked guilty–and a lot of people looked guilty to us. They had strange names. They had a strange religion. They had strange skin and strange tongues and strange lifestyles.

We went against our laws and customs. We broke our word. We abandoned our Constitution.

Nothing was accomplished through torture. We lost our soul. We lost our hearts. We lost the understanding of who we are as Americans.

We are now arguing–something I never thought I’d hear in my lifetime–that the death of innocent people is worth it if we think we might catch a guilty man, the far, far opposite of what we were taught in olden days about better a hundred guilty go free than one innocent man be punished.

The hell of it is that we didn’t do this all at once. There wasn’t a moment where one day we were a righteous, moral nation under the rule of law, and then suddenly we were amoral and atavistic.

But in this case, the line was crossed. The wall was breached.

We tortured because we _could_. And we did. Because we knew that we can do whatever the hell we want because we are the world’s superpower. No one can judge us because no one can withstand us. We have a military budget costing more than the next twenty-five nations combined–and we are at war with none of them.

And still, with all this power, all this might, all this military hardware, all this authority and obeisance–we still need to torture people. We don’t have a reason for it.

We just can, so we do.

Guest Post: What Now?

Posting this (slightly edited version) on behalf of someone who cannot post due to the circumstances of their life.

I guess the question is, what now, after the Eric Garner verdict?

  1. The cops used an illegal choke-hold, one that they had been directed not to use.
  2. The coroner ruled Garner’s death a homicide.
  3. The police claimed they were arresting Garner for selling illegal cigarettes, none were found on him.
  4. The cop in question had prior police brutality charges that the city had to pay out for.

All this was caught on tape, yet the Grand Jury decided not to indict. Ta-Nehisi Coates once wrote something to the effect that this country is not for black people. If there ever was proof of that it’s been the steady drip drip of  ‘screw black people’ decisions, this one is certainly the latest.

What makes it doubly infuriating is that I want to post this publicly, but I know that some people (some of whom I respected and loved) will come tell me I’m overreacting, will drag out the canard of black-on-black crime, will tell me that the system works and this is an aberration. If you role a dice and come up with the same number 100 times in a row, something is wrong with the frickin’ dice. Sometimes you just need to step away from the table and acknowledge the game was rigged, is rigged and will continue being rigged.

  • Oscar Grant’s death was not an aberration (shot in the back while lying down and handcuffed)
  • Jonathan Ferrell’s death was not an aberration (shot while seeking help).
  • Darrien Hunt’s death was not an aberration (shot in the back while cos-playing).
  • John Crawford’s death was not an aberration (shot while holding a toy gun in an Open Carry state).
  • Tamir Rice’s death was not an aberration (shot within 2 seconds for holding a toy gun, subsequently denied first aid for 4.5 minutes).
  • Michael Brown’s death was not an aberration (stopped for jaywalking, shot multiple times, some in the back and while he had his hands up).
  • Aiyana Stanley-Jones was not an aberration (7 years old, shot in the head while he was sleeping by cops who raided the wrong apartment and were showboating for a TV crew).
  • Eric Garner’s death was not an aberration (choked to death on suspicion of selling untaxed cigarettes).

And those are just a few of the black men, women and children shot by police in questionable circumstances, some of them caught on tape (not that it made much difference in seeking justice). Not to mention those killed by white people who just could not fathom that black people had a right to be someplace, to exist, to expect the same things that non-white Americans take for granted (Trayvon Martin, Renisha McBride, Jordan Davis). I keep on coming back to the Dredd Scott decision

“The black man has…no rights which the white man was bound to respect.”

Life Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. At this point I’d settle just for the first one, crawl before running etc. & etc.

What now?

What Can I Do to Help in Ferguson?

I am having a series of conversations with people who ask me (as if I’m an expert!) of what they can do to help with the situation in Ferguson.

I’m always going to approach this from my grid as a Christian believer. So some of my answers come from my own faith in a powerful, merciful, and just God. But some of them are ordinary things anyone can do.

First, if you’re a believer, you can pray. You can pray that God moves on the people of Ferguson, of St. Louis, of Missouri, of the entire United States. There are seriously wrong things going on, and as believers we must ask God to be the director and enabler of healing. Prayer is a requisite.

After that, there are more tangible things to do. People in Ferguson and elsewhere are raw, angry, mad, frightened, and reacting in fear. An awful lot of terrible things are being said by people who are lashing out at other people for events that make no sense.

So, you can offer support to those people who are being attacked or frightened or shouted down. Support them by directly contacting them, when possible, with your words of empathy. Try to listen to them, and try to understand what their lives are like, and what they are like.

I have to say, there is an awful lot of truly vile things being said by people about the people of Ferguson. I am so ashamed as a follower of Christ to hear what my fellow believers are saying, in public, in postings on the internet, in their interviews on TV. The people on the receiving end of those attacks are doubly hurt, first by the events going on in their community, and now with the attacks upon them. So reach out to them in love, compassion, and empathy. Not with sympathy or pity. With an understanding that they are like you—trying to live a godly life, trying to do the right thing.

And, you can offer tangible support as well. For example, the church where Mike Brown’s family attends was burned and destroyed by arson. What with the fire, water, and smoke damage, their church is ruined. They will go on, but they have no home. Millions of American Christians are assured that their church will be there when they wake up on a Sunday morning, but this Sunday the members of Flood Christian Church in St. Louis, Missouri will have no place to go.

If you want to support the people of this church, you can do so quickly and easily by donating what they need most, outside of prayer and verbal support. You can send them a donation to help rebuild their church.

Now, I cannot speak for the church. I don’t know them, don’t know their pastor, don’t live in the area. But these people are our brothers and sisters in Christ. These people are our fellow Americans. These people should have the same right to worship freely as anyone does in America, free to worship as they will and free to worship in their own building without the fear of it being burned to the ground.

There will be other things that arise that will need our support, and there will be plenty more discussions about what we can do to understand the problems in America. But in this one thing—the people and churches of Ferguson—we can offer real, connective, tangible support.

If you seriously want to do something, I’ve provided some ways.

To contact Flood Christian Church, you can use one of these links:

The church website: http://www.thefloodchurch.org/

The church Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/TheFloodChristianChurch

The church donation page: http://www.gofundme.com/huw1h0

Again, I’m not connected with them. Except I am, as a Christian believer. And this is something that frankly we should do as believers.

More thoughts on the Christian response to Ferguson

See. here’s the thing, Christians: we have an opportunity to speak out about injustice to our fellow humans, our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, and we are largely silent or even supporting the whitewash in #Ferguson.

We were so righteously angry over same-sex marriage and Chik-Fil-A. We were so righteously angry over a baker and a wedding photographer being told to obey the law. How dare people ask us to violate our consciences!

But here we have yet another clear example of people here in these United States who do not have the assurance of their civil rights being protected, and do not have the assurance that they will not be killed randomly in the name of the law, and we are either silent or, even more shockingly, publicly praising this breakdown in justice.

These are actual people being gunned down, here in the United States, and they are nearly always without the protection of the law, of society, and, sadly, the church.

We wonder why we have no witness in America, why we have no power in our preaching, why our churches are emptying and why our children and grandchildren are leaving the faith.

It is because they see this, the silence on obvious oppression and wrong, and an unholy emphasis on the unnecessary. We do not have the power of the cross in our preaching and in our lives, and we have nothing to offer except the theology of the trivial.