Great read here at Black Perspective on King's voice regarding outrage.
I am speaking to a crowed about Radical Love and what is needed in our current age; I got to hang at the rally with this dope sista, while keeping it real on a mucho cold day with Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein.
There are those standing up for their faith — and truth, and not the idolatry of politics as God. Bishop Curry, who stated that “…. We are Christian leaders bearing moral witness to the teachings of our faith in the public square…. As citizens we want our government to reflect our values. As a Bishop I believe we should follow the teachings of Jesus — who taught us to love God and love our neighbor…. The normalization of lying presents a profound moral danger to the fabric of society. We believe authoritarian political leadership is a theological danger that threatens democracy and the common good — and we will resist it.”
In truth I have recently come to know of him; however, since I have watched him protest in front of the White House demanding justice and advocating for human rights. I am one who hates complacency. I have committed myself to defending the weak: homelessness, marginalized, etc.
Let us dedicate each and everyday to being better humanists.
“Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhuman.”
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
“When we speak, we are afraid our words will not be heard or welcomed. But when we are silent, we are still afraid. So it is better to speak”.
In high school, when I became intellectually conscious of the color line, and the binary conditions that set my family, the have nots, apart from the the haves, I paraded the interracial change agents I admired to anyone who would listen. Pondering the motives that divide people, I found then a home in my ideals of radical love. A frequent reader of W.E.B. Du Bois, who proclaimed “the problem of the 20th century is the color line” to my misguided comprehension of Joseph Conrad’s complex fictional character Jim, and Richard Wright’s Bigger Thomas— I fell in love with the oppressed and the underdog. I suspect that is why we love fictional Rocky Balboa or Shirley Muldowney, the first woman of Drag Car Racing, and not the haves like fictional Ivan Drago, or the mean kids in the movie, Karate Kid.
As humanists, we are inspired by our sense of empathy—wanting to see our better selves in others, as they triumph through struggles. Since high school, I have made it my life’s ambition to remain with the have nots, though I have benefited from the sacrifices and compassion of my working class parents. Both who endured their economic and racial conditions of the deep South, only to marginally usurp the barriers of classism, racism, and the caricatures of Jim Crow America. Much like the miracle on ice narrative, they too triumph.
As humanists, here in the age of the Coronavirus, we are positioned to have compassionate emotions. With crisis comes empathy, particularly when it takes a stand where we are, from within the perspective of our most significant concerns. Rousseau, an 18th century French philosopher, articulated our commonality by expressing how nobles of France lacked compassion for the lower classes because they “count on never being human beings”.[i] His articulated point is often felt by those who lack the human necessity and compassion to see people as human—while we must see each other as nothing less than human, by acknowledging the beauty of our differences: Race, ethnicity, class, gender, and sexual orientation. It is therefore the knife that unknots and allows the most ubiquitous formulation of all: Community.
Community and our sense of it is what makes it truly ubiquitous. As I recently noted in a talk I gave to a large Unitarian Universalist church in Newburyport, both individuals and communities matter. We must let people tell their own stories, and in doing so—we must not interpret their story for them. We must listen for criticism, but also listen to perceive resilience, beauty, faithfulness, dignity and forgiveness. These are the building blocks for any true community.
As humanists, we must further receive the echoes of Audre Lorde. Therefore, we must speak. We must speak using a love language that conveys community—but we must not drown out the silent. By walking alongside our neighbors, regardless of race, class, gender, or sexual orientation, we have moved from talk to the direct action of caring.
Martin Luther King, Jr. invoked his voice by demanding that people see the weak, homeless, oppressed, sick, and vulnerable in society. Humanists cannot exist on an island—nor in isolation. Humanists have the capacity to build communities regardless of the barriers put in place. We hear a great deal about the cruelty of those who name call, promote hate, and target populations because they are “perceived” to be blamed for Coronavirus. As a community of humanists, we are obligated to participate in a reductionist approach to addressing such vice and ills that are often inculcated into the fabric of human societies. Intergroup cooperation and an individual desire to educate him/her/they on multicultural practices is a start.
In conclusion, each member of a community must always seek to answer the following questions:
[i] Martha C. Nussbaum, Hiding from Humanity: Disgust, Shame, and the Law, (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2004), pg. 51.
[ii] Caprice Hollins and Ilsa Govan, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion: Strategies for Facilitating Conversations on Race, (New York: Rowman & Littlefield Press, 2015), pg. 56.
Pictured here in the first week of March, I am joined by my student diversity coordinator and our Gender Sexuality Alliance leaders, as well as Alex Myers, whom I invited to campus to give an all campus talk on American Masculinity. This was followed by a full day of workshops he delivered on LGBTQ+ topics. Alex is a transgender male, a leading transgender activist, and faculty member at Phillips Exeter Academy.
Black thought and Black Studies ponder the realities of modern colonial aims. In my readings of CLR, Du Bois, Hall, hooks, Collins, and so on — I too am forced to glance and consider my identity and the identities of others. In the end, this is what academics do as we contemplate 21st century realities. Often such are predicated by past actions. My reflection here is nothing new, nor is it revolutionary. But, it is a baseline for conversations. Can Black people be Black in a world seen through the lens of the white gaze? Must Black people code switch to allow white comfort? What about women and their day-to-day reality in this patriarchal world? Women of color face the greatest threat as they are faced with challenging multiple systems. Such systems (the aggressor) aim to frame women — but particularly women of color in a powerless state.
The notion of domination has been in constant operation and on my mind. That sense of abject reality for me as a Black man who will always be dominated by whiteness. My intersectional privileges allows for some fortitude (I am male), but the other half of me — my Black self — has and will continue to be imprisoned by the power structure of race (I am Black). This white gaze that decides my fate is the constant narrative of a ubiquitous force that pits Black people against Black people. Hence — Black intra-racial alliance is a myth. Black folk suffocate because of fear. Often this is due to domination and insecurity. Black ally ship might not wholly exist. The intra-racial dissonance is drafted by white domination (jobs, promotion, health care, debt, retirement, where you live, wealth, relationships, etc). I have experienced this. Many of us have. You know that feeling when a Black person rips your heart apart due to their complicity with domination. This knot in my stomach reminds me of the need for interracial solidarity and working class unity. But it also serves as a reminder regarding who makes decisions. Who holds power? And often, how the power brokers do not always listen. A have no power. I lack the wealth to take care of my Black parents. They lacked the wealth to take care of me. King faced this. Du Bois faced this: A feeing of years of betrayal by Black complicity and silence.
Being a Black atheist in America can be challenging; being a Black atheist within the Black community can be seen as criminal. Black folks have long used religion to discover answers for their historical suffering within white America. And though there are Black folks who live a life of contradictions vis-a-vis scriptural rules, there is no place for being a nonbeliever. It was God who rescued the American Negro from bondage. Centuries of lynching and years of Jim Crow created a universal sense of “togetherness” as it relates to the Black church. There are members who do attend church for its spiritual collectiveness and a haven for congregating. However, things have shifted in terms of Black religiosity. Though many within the black community continue to showcase their religious conservatism, others have slowly drifted away. And not just from the Black church — but from religion in general. With the educational attainment of Blacks increasing — more and more are asking the question: Do I believe in God? Or, can I afford to believe in God? Black attainment in terms of education brings about greater financial gains. The bourgeois life opened up a secular window defined by tangible substance, which has long been acceptable for white Americans. Their plight and need for God and religion are different from that of Blacks. Still, for blacks to admit atheism is a misnomer.
“To posture oneself alongside the #AllLivesMatter movement is to erase the true oppression of our Black population….Similar to “separate BUT equal” you have “ALL LIVES matter” as seemingly espousing that all lives do, and should, matter. Yet, white folks did not create this hashtag on their own; its a reaction, similar to how one would view segregation. Segregation is not the normal state of things, its an active decision. One would not need to say “BUT EQUAL” if something were inherently equal. Similarly one would not need to defend that “ALL LIVES” matter in response to “BLACK LIVES” mattering, if there were not something inherent underlying their assertion — namely, racism.”
It was President Lydon B. Johnson that instituted affirmative action legislation via an Executive Order to cut back on discrimination. Much of this policy was aimed to provide opportunities for both women and minority populations. It should not come as a surprise that those who oppose affirmative action the most… are those that will power. And hence, seek to protect such power. Liberal defenders of affirmative action have long noted that white heterosexual males are the greatest critics of affirmative action programs. Many, who are self-described conservative Republicans, find that any type of programs engineered by the federal government, works against the will of the people. That will, of course, notes that state and local governments should make such decisions; yet, it was in part implemented to limit the degree of discrimination at the state level. Conservative Christians operate off a notion of color-blindness. Some will tell you that Jesus Christ does not see race, thus nor should American society. But in the end, it seems almost racist to deny that different races exist, and that one’s race can and does depict his/her/their plight. Christ, of course, often noted the plight of both Jews and Gentiles.
While various different groups argue that affirmative action is reverse discrimination, liberal advocates believe that it promotes a more egalitarian society. Mike Tomlin (my favorite coach) is a great example. The National Football League, for a long period of time, had been the target of racists arguments (i.e., being accused). Organizations such as the NAACP pointed to the fact that Black players were a dominant reason for the success of the NFL, but Blacks could not be found in key front office positions or as head coaches. Dan Rooney, owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers and chair of the NFL’s diversity committee, enacted the Rooney Rule. This rule states that all NLF teams must interview at least one minority candidate when a vacancy is available. Unfortunately, many teams do not adhere to this policy. Dan Rooney clearly made a great call with Tomlin. Maybe other institutions will follow the Steelers in actively seeking to promote diversity. It would be nice to see all institutions operate this way. In the end, maybe many institutions would reflect what the world looks like. We still see too many schools and boards that do not reflect the world.
In reading the New Testament book of Matthew today on the birth of Jesus Christ, many Christians proclaim a desire to live a life of Christ. In reading Matthew, here in the Christmas season, it is clear that Jesus was seeking refuge from King Herod, in regions that made him an undocumented brown person. I just read a study on the number of evangelical Christians who favor Trump because he will keep folks out and deport others. Ephesians 2:14, “For He Himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has torn down the dividing wall of hostility”. Would you deport Jesus? Preachers — be radical this Christmas and take your church to the next level and aim to bring radicals to the pew. Be like Christ here. The 21st century church must disavow its complacency and promulgate equality through radical preachers with radical members who love people more than capitalism and party idolatry, and who will subscribe to what Psalm 82: 3-4 notes: “Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.” Churches must be diverse and inclusive—as well as radical in how they love the marginalized.
In the Gospel according to Mary Brown and her child Joshua, who represents one of W.E.B. Du Bois’s Black biblical characters, he found comfort among those who were societal outcasts. He, who was [the Black] Jesus Christ, marched with the poor, with sinners, and communists; however, whites did not embrace this Christ. Better yet, the white South lynched this Christ because they could not accept a Christ who accepted all people (Blacks, undocumented, gay, transgender, poor in need, etc). Because of this, the very people who awaited him – the Christian South, killed Joshua. His message of radical love was too much for them to embrace. Thus, many navigated their days professing to love a process and not a mission.
Jesus—a radical who sought to destroy white supremacy— tore down the rules of Jim Crow that existed in his age, and in 20th century Jim Crow, and today—but who is one who continues to be used as a symbol by white supremacists who dismiss his message of radical love.
Christmas is only as great as people who can love their Black and brown brothas and sistas. Who love their trans neighbors, and those willing to denounce the bigots of systems that operate in churches and institutions throughout.
It is my wish that the 21st century church will love to love as Christ loved—in a radical capacity.