Vacation Day 3: Date Day

Hyang and I finally got to go out on a date, courtesy of Sarah from church, who was so kind to watch our children for about four hours. We went out for breakfast (it was a little too early for a romantic dinner) and then went and watched The Dark Knight.

The movie was entertaining, and the ending was interesting, especially the theme of hope over truth (something which I think was better done in Secondhand Lions). I honestly wonder about this though. Are we justified in lying to people, just so they can continue to believe in a fictional world they feel more comfortable about, rather than the world as it actually is, and thus take responsibility for its condition? This seems like a very “white” theme, our desire to close our eyes to the truth, and believe the world to be something other than what it is and our part in making it.

For an added bit of irony, they referred to the embodiment of this glorified lie as the “white knight” and it is the “dark knight” who must be sacrificed to in order to perpetuate it. It only becomes more insulting when the dark knight is shown as voluntarily being vilified in order to save whites reputation.

I do agree that people need hope, but hope without truth is only a lie, a pleasant lie for those it comforts, but a lie nonetheless. We will live without true hope, and what is worse, the lie we perpetuate will only harm others, denying them the hope we long for ourselves, thus the lie is ultimately antithetical to hope, the denial of faith ever being realized.

Why was it necessary to have a n*gg*r in the first place?

Nquest wants to know why white America has yet to answer this question posed by James Baldwin. I initially stated that I didn’t feel that I knew enough to even attempt an answer to the question, to which Nquest responded:

As far as you addressing Baldwin’s question… just because you “haven’t studied whiteness or white people nearly enough” is no excuse not to deal with the question. Your lack of study didn’t stop you from making this thread. Instead of saying you hadn’t studied enough then you decided that the subject matter there was something you had to explore.

My approach to the referenced post was self-reflective and questioning, and not really about having an answer. Thus, any attempt at answering Baldwin’s question is going to have to be the same way, because I believe to actually answer his question would require a much more thorough knowledge of white history than I currently hold.

To be quite honest, I have actually never felt a need for the n*gg*r, either as an individual or as a white person (with whatever limited experience I have had at conceiving myself as part of the white collective). I have never felt that attached to either my Americanness or whiteness, and until very recently, my identity has been bound by religious parameters. I grew up in a thoroughly white, rural, conservative, protestant environment. Whiteness was all around me, and outside of the media (which did an excellent job of introducing PoC in a way that left whiteness untouched), so unbroken as to present itself as invisible. Thus, it could not serve as an identity. I never felt the need for an “other” in order to know myself. I was a Christian, and everything I knew or thought about myself revolved around this.

I say this in order to offer some background information, as a way of explaining part of my difficulty with this question. Now to offer my speculation.

Europeans coming to America were not originally united. They weren’t white. They were French, English, German, Dutch, etc., and they fought amongst themselves even as they eliminated the Native American population. But by the time of the American rebellion from British rule, an identity that could be rallied around was obviously needed if there was going to be a single country. This identity was readily available in the Enlightenment concept of the atomized individual, a primarily mental being whose starting point was the “tabula rasa”. This was the identity, but not the reality. The reality is that this idealization was really for the propertied male, for only these were thought to actually have a stake in good governance. Thus there was already a division between “citizens” and the rest (the masses, hoi polloi, basically commoditized labor). But even before the country was created, it needed to be released from English rule, and the question is how to convince the majority to fight for your (the elites) right to free itself from monarchial economic exploitation when you were currently exploiting the very people you now needed to fight for you.

The solution was to win them over, convince them that they had a stake in the fight, but without actually surrendering any of the actual power held. There are two, concurrent and complimentary strategies towards this end. The first is to offer a token stake in the new nation, hence some small, and quite nominal property holdings were offered (with the obvious implication that there was the potential for more and the hope of rising to join the ranks of the elite, the beginnings of the “American Dream” as it were).

The second scheme was to introduce a contrast to this token share with the disenfranchisement of another group, one that would simultaneously obscure the empty nature of the offer being made while at the same time undermining it, thus further strengthening the economic and socio-political position of the elite. In this respect, racism and black slavery perfectly accomplished both of these goals. As history progressed, and the “American Dream” continued to foster the lie it always was, the lower class whites became more and more addicted to the other as a means of maintaining the illusion that they were still somehow stakeholders in the Republic.

This need, it seems to me, is inextricable linked to the rise of nationalism in Europe and its influence on the creation of the United States. Nationalism replaced the previous political structure of explicit power, where the extent of the political entity, and its identity, were bound up in the ability of the ruler to impose his will. But with nationalism, a different identity was forged, an ethnic/racial identity, and this identity needs more than just the self-referential in order to overcome the rather arbitrary boundaries that existed (since the political boundaries hadn’t changed that much and the political realities were still based on the ability of the ruling elite to impose their will). What was needed was a contrast, that the people of the newly christened nation were not like those other people across the border (no matter how much the facts on the ground insisted otherwise).

Out of this political context emerged the United States, without a common identity. One needed to be forged, a new racial/ethnic identity had to be created in order to form a common entity, and this is where the needs of the elite (as delineated above) and the needs of the majority coincided, with the creation of the “white” identity. But in order to make this newly constructed identity work, and to mask all of the internal divisions it was supposed to hide, this new American ethnicity needed a strong contrast, and so the n*gg*r was invented, a being who contrasted all of the values imported into whiteness, mental vs physical, rational vs emotional, logical vs intuitive, and the most obvious, free individual whose humanity was intact vs homogenized property whose humanity was at best questionable.

Thus, the answer to the question of why the n*gg*r was necessary is that the American nation (based on a common ethnic/racial identity) could not have been formed within the prevailing European (and America was and is an extension of Europe) political theory without “the other”.

What’s in it for Whites?

I’ve just recently been in a rather intense discussion (intense for me at least) regarding white anti-racists. Nquest in particular was of tremendous help to me in understanding the issues at stake, and in particular a better approach to anti-racism for whites than the typical moralizing often done in the name of anti-racism. One comment of his in particular really crystallized the issue for me, and so I received his permission to reproduce it here along with a Tim Wise video he referenced.

What do Whites feel is at stake for them in anti-racism?

I’m suggesting that Whites need to approach this on their own terms for their own reasons and do it out of their own self-interests, however Whites come to define those interests. So, if the feeling of discomfort motivates someone past shame and guilt into “not in my name” action or whatever then I’m saying that makes much more sense to me and, frankly, it’s preferable from my standpoint as a PoC.

In these race conversations, especially when they include White political conservatives, I’ve come to the conclusion that [White] guilt is a useless emotion. It doesn’t do me, as a PoC, any good. It actually seems like an immobilizing emotion. So if the feeling of discomfort is anything like that then something has to change in the approach/paradigm of Whites who are against racism.

So I am asking a genuine and, I guess, thought-provoking question when I ask what is at stake for White anti-racist. The question has to do with how invested you (i.e. White people are) in fighting racism. As long as racism remains something that’s so distant from Whites… as long as it is perceived as somebody else problem… Then, I guess I will reluctantly have to agree with the point in the “White anti-racist is an oxymoron” piece you posted on your blog.

Also, the point of the Tim Wise video was to highlight how, at least for poor/working class Whites, the economic bottom line, the very economic potential of Whites is impacted. People are saying the U.S. is in decline with the current economic slump the beginning of the roll downhill. America’s racism is implicated in that and the degree to which future generations in a “browning” America will not be as competitive in the global economy as they could be if the country would have invested in the Black, brown and poor (Whites) in America today and yesterday.

The link to Wise’s essay speaks directly about “Understanding Self-Interest.” (BTW, that is the basic way in which I view racism or, instead, WHITE SUPREMACY — as a matter of self-interests, however defined, and not necessarily malice or any of those, perhaps, overly moralized ideas.)

Continue reading “What’s in it for Whites?”

The White Anti-Racist is an Oxymoron

The White Anti-Racist is an Oxymoron

I didn’t want to reproduce the entire article by Tamara K. Nopper here (it is a little long for this format), but I did want to bring attention to it because it says what I was trying to say in “White and Anti-racist” but without all of my whiteness getting in the way. I’ll quote below just some of the things I found really interesting, but a read of the entire article is highly recommended if you haven’t already:

Whiteness is a social and political construct rooted in white supremacy. White supremacy is a structure and system of beliefs rooted in European and US imperialism in which certain racialized bodies (non-white) are selected for premature negation whether through cultural, physical, psychological genocide, containment or other forms of social death. White supremacy is at the heart of the US social system and civil society. In short, white supremacy is not just a series of practices or privilege, but a larger social structure and system of domination that overly-values and rewards those who are racialized as white.

[T]his does not mean that white people who go around saying dumb things such as “I am not white! I am a human being!” or, “I left whiteness and joined the human race,” or my favorite, “I hate white people! They’re stupid” are not structurally white. Remember, whiteness is a structure of domination embedded in our social relations, institutions, discourses, and practices. Don’t tell me you’re not white but then when we go out in the street and the police don’t bother you or people don’t ask you if you’re a prostitute, or if people don’t follow you and touch you at will, act like that does not make a difference in our lives. Basically, you can’t talk, or merely “unlearn” whiteness, as all of these annoying trainings for white people to “unlearn” racism will have you think.

Rather, white people need to be willing to have their very social position, their very relationship of domination, their very authority, their very being…let go, perhaps even destroyed. I know this might sound scary, but that is really not my concern. I am not interested in making white people, even those so-called good-hearted anti-racist whites, comfortable about their position in struggles that shape my life in ways that it will never shape theirs…whites cannot talk or just think through whiteness and structures of white supremacy. They must be committed to either picking up arms for other people (and only firing when the people tell them so), dying for other people, or just getting out of the way. In short, they must be willing to do what the people most affected and marginalized by a situation tell them to do.

It was this last part in particular that I believe I was trying to get at in my previous post. I believe it also highlights perhaps the most glaring deficiency in my post, which was a lack of humility, a blindness to the need to subordinate myself to those who are actually invested in the success of the anti-racist movement (I may have an interest in seeing anti-racism succeed, but it is on a much more esoteric level than people of color, whose whole life is harmed by racism, not just their hypothetical sense of justice).

The difficulties of doing this because of how whiteness has poisoned the participation of white people in anti-racism are well articulated in the article. The pitfalls are numerous and right path is a walk down our own deconstruction, a critical reevaluation of our person and self-identity that is guaranteed to leave anyone conducting it psychologically discomforted, at least until a new, non-racist identity can be formed. Even then we haven’t escaped whiteness, not until systematic whiteness itself ceases to be a factor informing the social connections formed around us (and this can’t be done merely by changing how we think of those connections). We will not escape whiteness until whiteness is eliminated from the culture at large.

White and Anti-Racist

Macon at Stuff White People Do posted a poem by Andrea Gibson. The poem was particularly striking and I responded to it on an emotional level, rather than intellectual, stating that “This is why people say you are self-hating whites…[b]ecause there is a lot to hate about being white” (here). Like I said, this wasn’t a thought out position as much as a visceral reaction to the poem.

However, a participant was disturbed by the implications of the poem (which speaks of communicating the rather unvarnished truths of white supremacy to a child) and thought that the authors approach to race history was problematic. Here was my response:

But what part of that account isn’t true?

The author says, “I don’t believe we’re hateful”, but how can anyone, including the child she speaks of, come to any other conclusion when reading through the litany of sin committed in the name of white supremacy?

How many times can you kill and maim and render people destitute and without hope before the excuse “Sorry, we were looking the other way” becomes not just insufficient, as the poet suggests, but an out and out lie.

The only sane response, that I can think of, would be autogenocide, to actively work against the interests and prosperity of the white race, because it is increasingly apparent that these interests and this prosperity is both the direct result of these crimes, and its perpetuation is merely a continuation of those crimes until present day.

It is in the interest of whiteness to continue the “normative” oppression of others, and so the interest of whites must be opposed if one is at all concerned with the wrongs the author mentioned. She has more than a duty to tell the child, she should be dismantling the white world that nurtures and privileges him.

She must destroy the illusion that he has somehow attained his position in the world through natural means, or by some virtue of his own. The privilege he lives with must be turned sour in his mouth so that he can no longer accept it, that his mind will revolt at every instance of it. He must be forced to confront the truth and make a moral decision about how he is going to live in a world where he prospers because others suffer.

Continue reading “White and Anti-Racist”

Happy Birthday Amerika!

I realize that most understand the Fourth of July to be a time of patriotic celebration, when we rejoice in the freedoms and strength of our republic, and certainly not a time to talk about its faults. Actually though, it seems that this kind of mindset is in place most days of the year, especially for the white majority, who don’t have to face a legacy of discrimination or worse. So, in celebration of America and its ideals, I thought I would republish an article by someone who has a very good eye for the truth about America and its “greatness” (special thanks to Macon D and Katie at Called to Speak for bringing it to my attention)

Of National Lies and Racial Amnesia:
Jeremiah Wright, Barack Obama, and the Audacity of Truth

By Tim Wise

March 18, 2008

For most white folks, indignation just doesn’t wear well. Once affected or conjured up, it reminds one of a pudgy man, wearing a tie that may well have fit him when he was fifty pounds lighter, but which now cuts off somewhere above his navel and makes him look like an idiot.

Indignation doesn’t work for most whites, because having remained sanguine about, silent during, indeed often supportive of so much injustice over the years in this country–the theft of native land and genocide of indigenous persons, and the enslavement of Africans being only two of the best examples–we are just a bit late to get into the game of moral rectitude. And once we enter it, our efforts at righteousness tend to fail the test of sincerity.

But here we are, in 2008, fuming at the words of Pastor Jeremiah Wright, of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago–occasionally Barack Obama’s pastor, and the man whom Obama credits with having brought him to Christianity–for merely reminding us of those evils about which we have remained so quiet, so dismissive, so unconcerned. It is not the crime that bothers us, but the remembrance of it, the unwillingness to let it go–these last words being the first ones uttered by most whites it seems whenever anyone, least of all an “angry black man” like Jeremiah Wright, foists upon us the bill of particulars for several centuries of white supremacy.

But our collective indignation, no matter how loudly we announce it, cannot drown out the truth. And as much as white America may not be able to hear it (and as much as politics may require Obama to condemn it) let us be clear, Jeremiah Wright fundamentally told the truth.

Oh I know that for some such a comment will seem shocking. After all, didn’t he say that America “got what it deserved” on 9/11? And didn’t he say that black people should be singing “God Damn America” because of its treatment of the African American community throughout the years?

Well actually, no he didn’t.

Wright said not that the attacks of September 11th were justified, but that they were, in effect, predictable. Deploying the imagery of chickens coming home to roost is not to give thanks for the return of the poultry or to endorse such feathered homecoming as a positive good; rather, it is merely to note two things: first, that what goes around, indeed, comes around–a notion with longstanding theological grounding–and secondly, that the U.S. has indeed engaged in more than enough violence against innocent people to make it just a tad bit hypocritical for us to then evince shock and outrage about an attack on ourselves, as if the latter were unprecedented.

He noted that we killed far more people, far more innocent civilians in Hiroshima and Nagasaki than were killed on 9/11 and “never batted an eye.” That this statement is true is inarguable, at least amongst sane people. He is correct on the math, he is correct on the innocence of the dead (neither city was a military target), and he is most definitely correct on the lack of remorse or even self-doubt about the act: sixty-plus years later most Americans still believe those attacks were justified, that they were needed to end the war and “save American lives.”

But not only does such a calculus suggest that American lives are inherently worth more than the lives of Japanese civilians (or, one supposes, Vietnamese, Iraqi or Afghan civilians too), but it also ignores the long-declassified documents, and President Truman’s own war diaries, all of which indicate clearly that Japan had already signaled its desire to end the war, and that we knew they were going to surrender, even without the dropping of atomic weapons. The conclusion to which these truths then attest is simple, both in its basic veracity and it monstrousness: namely, that in those places we committed premeditated and deliberate mass murder, with no justification whatsoever; and yet for saying that I will receive more hate mail, more hostility, more dismissive and contemptuous responses than will those who suggest that no body count is too high when we’re the ones doing the killing. Jeremiah Wright becomes a pariah, because, you see, we much prefer the logic of George Bush the First, who once said that as President he would “never apologize for the United States of America. I don’t care what the facts are.”

And Wright didn’t say blacks should be singing “God Damn America.” He was suggesting that blacks owe little moral allegiance to a nation that has treated so many of them for so long as animals, as persons undeserving of dignity and respect, and which even now locks up hundreds of thousands of non-violent offenders (especially for drug possession), even while whites who do the same crimes (and according to the data, when it comes to drugs, more often in fact), are walking around free. His reference to God in that sermon was more about what God will do to such a nation, than it was about what should or shouldn’t happen. It was a comment derived from, and fully in keeping with, the black prophetic tradition, and although one can surely disagree with the theology (I do, actually, and don’t believe that any God either blesses or condemns nation states for their actions), the statement itself was no call for blacks to turn on America. If anything, it was a demand that America earn the respect of black people, something the evidence and history suggests it has yet to do.

Finally, although one can certainly disagree with Wright about his suggestion that the government created AIDS to get rid of black folks–and I do, for instance–it is worth pointing out that Wright isn’t the only one who has said this. In fact, none other than Bill Cosby (oh yes, that Bill Cosby, the one white folks love because of his recent moral crusade against the black poor) proffered his belief in the very same thing back in the early ’90s in an interview on CNN, when he said that AIDS may well have been created to get rid of people whom the government deemed “undesirable” including gays and racial minorities.

So that’s the truth of the matter: Wright made one comment that is highly arguable, but which has also been voiced by white America’s favorite black man, another that was horribly misinterpreted and stripped of all context, and then another that was demonstrably accurate. And for this, he is pilloried and made into a virtual enemy of the state; for this, Barack Obama may lose the support of just enough white folks to cost him the Democratic nomination, and/or the Presidency; all of it, because Jeremiah Wright, unlike most preachers opted for truth. If he had been one of those “prosperity ministers” who says Jesus wants nothing so much as for you to be rich, like Joel Osteen, that would have been fine. Had he been a retread bigot like Falwell was, or Pat Robertson is, he might have been criticized, but he would have remained in good standing and surely not have damaged a Presidential candidate in this way. But unlike Osteen, and Falwell, and Robertson, Jeremiah Wright refused to feed his parishioners lies.

What Jeremiah Wright knows, and told his flock–though make no mistake, they already knew it–is that 9/11 was neither the first, nor worst act of terrorism on American soil. The history of this nation for folks of color, was for generations, nothing less than an intergenerational hate crime, one in which 9/11s were woven into the fabric of everyday life: hundreds of thousands of the enslaved who died from the conditions of their bondage; thousands more who were lynched (as many as 10,000 in the first few years after the Civil War, according to testimony in the Congressional Record at the time); millions of indigenous persons wiped off the face of the Earth. No, to some, the horror of 9/11 was not new. To some it was not on that day that “everything changed.” To some, everything changed four hundred years ago, when that first ship landed at what would become Jamestown. To some, everything changed when their ancestors were forced into the hulls of slave ships at Goree Island and brought to a strange land as chattel. To some, everything changed when they were run out of Northern Mexico, only to watch it become the Southwest United States, thanks to a war of annihilation initiated by the U.S. government. To some, being on the receiving end of terrorism has been a way of life. Until recently it was absolutely normal in fact.

But white folks have a hard time hearing these simple truths. We find it almost impossible to listen to an alternative version of reality. Indeed, what seems to bother white people more than anything, whether in the recent episode, or at any other time, is being confronted with the recognition that black people do not, by and large, see the world like we do; that black people, by and large, do not view America as white people view it. We are, in fact, shocked that this should be so, having come to believe, apparently, that the falsehoods to which we cling like a kidney patient clings to a dialysis machine, are equally shared by our darker-skinned compatriots.

This is what James Baldwin was talking about in his classic 1972 work, No Name in the Street, wherein he noted:

White children, in the main, and whether they are rich or poor, grow up with a grasp of reality so feeble that they can very accurately be described as deluded–about themselves and the world they live in. White people have managed to get through their entire lifetimes in this euphoric state, but black people have not been so lucky: a black man who sees the world the way John Wayne, for example, sees it would not be an eccentric patriot, but a raving maniac.

And so we were shocked in 1987, when Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall declined to celebrate the bicentennial of the Constitution, because, as he noted, most of that history had been one of overt racism and injustice, and to his way of thinking, the only history worth celebrating had been that of the past three or four decades.
We were shocked to learn that black people actually believed that a white cop who was a documented racist might frame a black man; and we’re shocked to learn that lots of black folks still perceive the U.S. as a racist nation–we’re literally stunned that people who say they experience discrimination regularly (and who have the social science research to back them up) actually think that those experiences and that data might actually say something about the nation in which they reside. Imagine.

Whites are easily shocked by what we see and hear from Pastor Wright and Trinity Church, because what we see and hear so thoroughly challenges our understanding of who we are as a nation. But black people have never, for the most part, believed in the imagery of the “shining city on a hill,” for they have never had the option of looking at their nation and ignoring the mountain-sized warts still dotting its face when it comes to race. Black people do not, in the main, get misty eyed at the sight of the flag the way white people do–and this is true even for millions of black veterans–for they understand that the nation for whom that flag waves is still not fully committed to their own equality. They have a harder time singing those tunes that white people seem so eager to belt out, like “God Bless America,” for they know that whites sang those words loudly and proudly even as they were enforcing Jim Crow segregation, rioting against blacks who dared move into previously white neighborhoods, throwing rocks at Dr. King and then cheering, as so many did, when they heard the news that he had been assassinated.

Whites refuse to remember (or perhaps have never learned) that which black folks cannot afford to forget. I’ve seen white people stunned to the point of paralysis when they learn the truth about lynchings in this country–when they discover that such events were not just a couple of good old boys with a truck and a rope hauling some black guy out to the tree, hanging him, and letting him swing there. They were never told the truth: that lynchings were often community events, advertised in papers as “Negro Barbecues,” involving hundreds or even thousands of whites, who would join in the fun, eat chicken salad and drink sweet tea, all while the black victims of their depravity were being hung, then shot, then burned, and then having their body parts cut off, to be handed out to onlookers. They are stunned to learn that postcards of the events were traded as souvenirs, and that very few whites, including members of their own families did or said anything to stop it.

Rather than knowing about and confronting the ugliness of our past, whites take steps to excise the less flattering aspects of our history so that we need not be bothered with them. So, in Tulsa, Oklahoma, for example, site of an orgy of violence against the black community in 1921, city officials literally went into the town library and removed all reference to the mass killings in the Greenwood district from the papers with a razor blade–an excising of truth and an assault on memory that would remain unchanged for over seventy years.

Most white people desire, or perhaps even require the propagation of lies when it comes to our history. Surely we prefer the lies to anything resembling, even remotely, the truth. Our version of history, of our national past, simply cannot allow for the intrusion of fact into a worldview so thoroughly identified with fiction. But that white version of America is not only extraordinarily incomplete, in that it so favors the white experience to the exclusion of others; it is more than that; it is actually a slap in the face to people of color, a re-injury, a reminder that they are essentially irrelevant, their concerns trivial, their lives unworthy of being taken seriously. In that sense, and what few if any white Americans appear capable of grasping at present, is that “Leave it to Beaver” and “Father Knows Best,” portray an America so divorced from the reality of the times in which they were produced, as to raise serious questions about the sanity of those who found them so moving, so accurate, so real. These iconographic representations of life in the U.S. are worse than selective, worse than false, they are assaults to the humanity and memory of black people, who were being savagely oppressed even as June Cleaver did housework in heels and laughed about the hilarious hijinks of Beaver and Larry Mondello.

These portraits of America are certifiable evidence of how disconnected white folks were–and to the extent we still love them and view them as representations of the “good old days” to which we wish we could return, still are–from those men and women of color with whom we have long shared a nation. Just two months before “Leave it to Beaver” debuted, proposed civil rights legislation was killed thanks to Strom Thurmond’s 24-hour filibuster speech on the floor of the U.S. Senate. One month prior, Arkansas Governor Orville Faubus called out the National Guard to block black students from entering Little Rock Central High; and nine days before America was introduced to the Cleavers, and the comforting image of national life they represented, those black students were finally allowed to enter, amid the screams of enraged, unhinged, viciously bigoted white people, who saw nothing wrong with calling children niggers in front of cameras. That was America of the 1950s: not the sanitized version into which so many escape thanks to the miracle of syndication, which merely allows white people to relive a lie, year after year after year.

No, it is not the pastor who distorts history; Nick at Nite and your teenager’s textbooks do that. It is not he who casts aspersions upon “this great country” as Barack Obama put it in his public denunciations of him; it is the historic leadership of the nation that has cast aspersions upon it; it is they who have cheapened it, who have made gaudy and vile the promise of American democracy by defiling it with lies. They engage in a patriotism that is pathological in its implications, that asks of those who adhere to it not merely a love of country but the turning of one’s nation into an idol to be worshipped, if not literally, then at least in terms of consequence.

It is they–the flag-lapel-pin wearing leaders of this land–who bring shame to the country with their nonsensical suggestions that we are always noble in warfare, always well-intended, and although we occasionally make mistakes, we are never the ones to blame for anything. Nothing that happens to us has anything to do with us at all. It is always about them. They are evil, crazy, fanatical, hate our freedoms, and are jealous of our prosperity. When individuals prattle on in this manner we diagnose them as narcissistic, as deluded. When nations do it–when our nation does–we celebrate it as though it were the very model of rational and informed citizenship.

So what can we say about a nation that values lies more than it loves truth? A place where adherence to sincerely believed and internalized fictions allows one to rise to the highest offices in the land, and to earn the respect of millions, while a willingness to challenge those fictions and offer a more accurate counter-narrative earns one nothing but contempt, derision, indeed outright hatred? What we can say is that such a place is signing its own death warrant. What we can say is that such a place is missing the only and last opportunity it may ever have to make things right, to live up to its professed ideals. What we can say is that such a place can never move forward, because we have yet to fully address and come to terms with that which lay behind.

What can we say about a nation where white preachers can lie every week from their pulpits without so much as having to worry that their lies might be noticed by the shiny white faces in their pews, while black preachers who tell one after another essential truth are demonized, not only for the stridency of their tone–which needless to say scares white folks, who have long preferred a style of praise and worship resembling nothing so much as a coma–but for merely calling bullshit on those whose lies are swallowed whole?

And oh yes, I said it: white preachers lie. In fact, they lie with a skill, fluidity, and precision unparalleled in the history of either preaching or lying, both of which histories stretch back a ways and have often overlapped. They lie every Sunday, as they talk about a Savior they have chosen to represent dishonestly as a white man, in every picture to be found of him in their tabernacles, every children’s story book in their Sunday Schools, every Christmas card they’ll send to relatives and friends this December. But to lie about Jesus, about the one they consider God–to bear false witness as to who this man was and what he looked like–is no cause for concern.
Continue reading “Happy Birthday Amerika!”


I’ve just discovered that once you start thinking about racial oppression and privilege, it isn’t hard to discover that this kind of elitism is just as present and pervasive in other aspects of society, in my case, I’m noticing things that I hadn’t thought about before between male and female interactions, the historic imbalance of power between them, and the need for correction here as well as in race relations. I’ve even found myself getting into arguments in defense of feminism (here and here), which I never would have done before (I would have been much more inclined to criticism feminism than support it).

It is a very strange transformation for me, both in its suddenness and in the degree of change. I’m sort of at a loss to even fully explain it to myself, but I know that speaking up for feminism and people of color is the right thing to do, especially considering the heretofore unknown benefits I have accrued being a white heterosexual male. I can’t undo what societal benefits I have received. There is no way to give it back, but at least I can use them to try and correct these cultural biases around me.

I’m still learning, and I am sure I have a lot of tendencies that need to be unlearned, but this disconcerting light that has so suddenly been shown upon the dark recesses of my privilege has forced me to begin the process of rethinking the world around me, and given me a new set of glasses with which to look at my surroundings. Forgive me, but I still feel rather clumsy as I try to navigate the newness of all this.