Tag Archives: racism

Read Langston Hughes’ Stories

Justin Taylor recommends we read the short stories of Harlem Renaissance poet Langston Hughes.

“If racism and race-based slavery was America’s original sin,” Taylor says, “Hughes demonstrates that racism and the legacy of slavery were alive and killing us in the middle of the last century.”

But for a winter of heartache, we can still see a spring of hope.

For Hughes, humanity—sheer cussed humanness—is always breaking out and defying the lies of the racialist.”

True Crime Podcasts That Catch Your Ear

I don’t listen to podcasts much, mostly because of technical limitations. My commutes haven’t been long. My iPod probably qualifies as a vintage edition, and I’m not a regular iTunes user. When I listen to podcasts, it’s through a computer, sometimes while washing dishes, usually while doing things that don’t require my full attention. I’ve heard a few episodes of Crime Writers On, which has put me onto two other true crime podcasts.

via GIPHY

Both series talk through a current criminal case, but that’s where their similarity ends. The first series is out of Hawaii. “Offshore,” produced by Honolulu Civil Beat, focuses on 2011 incident in which an off-duty federal officer shot and killed a young Hawaiian man. Here’s the preview.

Many on the island see the case as a tangible symbol of powerful Americans running over native Hawaiians, which some have said it how the island kingdom became a US state in the first place. This abuse of privilege dramatically unfolded in an 80-year-old case remarkably similar to the current one. Reporter Jessica Terrell draws the parallels between the two cases and gives an ear to the hearts of Hawaiians who want justice and respect. Continue reading True Crime Podcasts That Catch Your Ear

The Real Nat Turner

Justin Taylor explores many details in the true story behind the new movie The Birth of a Nation, which one history professor called “a deeply flawed, historically inaccurate movie that exploits and distorts Nat Turner’s story and the history of slavery in America.”

According to his own testimony, Nat Turner appears to have been a strong, intelligent man who could not be subdued by a slave economy. He was gifted and believed he was called by God to lead a righteous war against slave owners. Reading his spiritual account, you could say he was powerfully deceived, but you might also say a brilliant and spiritually sensitive man can be twisted and perverted when shackled by oppression. Not that any motive or character study would justify the murder he and his allies committed, but the slavery in which they lived cannot be justified either. Four times as many slaves were murdered in retribution to Nat Turner’s revolt as whites were murdered by the revolt, which speaks to the war-like nature of the whole affair. This wasn’t a just war nor was it followed by a just condemnation.

Recommended reading ends the post.

History professor Vanessa M. Holden, in the past linked from Taylor’s, says, “Parker’s movie is important. Its independent roots and blockbuster distribution deal are significant in an industry that still grapples with racism. It also draws the public’s attention to a history that has no white saviors or triumphant endings. The character Turner is not long suffering; he springs into violent action as soon as he becomes aware of slavery’s brutality and validates his claim to humanity and freedom, just as the historical Turner did, through a radicalized Christianity. But the license that Parker took in an effort to craft his heroic version of Turner ultimately strips away too much valuable context.”

 

Babel Was Not a Model for Segregation

Segregation Signs

Last month, the Presbyterian Church in America officially repented of its members’ involvement in racial discord in the Civil Rights era and beyond, including “the segregation of worshipers by race; the exclusion of persons from Church membership on the basis of race; the exclusion of churches, or elders, from membership in the Presbyteries on the basis of race; the teaching that the Bible sanctions racial segregation and discourages inter-racial marriage; the participation in and defense of white supremacist organizations; and the failure to live out the gospel imperative that ‘love does no wrong to a neighbor’ (Romans 13:10).”

Jemar Tisby, who is the director of the African American Leadership Initiative and Special Assistant to the Chancellor at Reformed Theological Seminary in Jackson, Mississippi, explains what encourages him about the PCA’s resolution.

The problem with not having an explicit statement repudiating racism, especially during the Civil Rights Movement, as a Southern Presbyterian denomination is that African Americans and other ethnic minorities will always wonder, “Are these folks still cool with racism?” That’s putting it bluntly, but there’s truth to it. As a black person in an overwhelmingly white branch of the church, I have to constantly evaluate whether I’m truly welcome here or not. A strong statement repenting, not just of racism generally, but the more recent lack of vocal support for racial equality during the Civil Rights Movement, is necessary because silence about the matter tacitly communicates either support or indifference.

One charge related to the PCA is the view by some founders and members that racial segregation is a biblical directive.  Continue reading Babel Was Not a Model for Segregation

How Was Slavery in America Abolished?

Emancipation

W.E.B. Du Bois challenged the idea that American slaves were emancipated by outside liberators with the notion of slave insurrection and self-emancipation. He painted a picture of slaves rising up against the Confederacy to undermine it while pressuring the White House to pass anti-slavery legislation. Others have taken up this line of thought to argue that slaves, in fact, started The Civil War in order to free themselves.

Allen C. Guelzo, the Henry R. Luce Professor of the Civil War Era at Gettysburg College, sees many problems with this view and reviews two books for the Claremont Review of Books that demonstrate how Du Bois was wrong. Of the longer of the two, Guelzo writes:

Rael’s book is a comprehensive history of slavery’s end, well-informed, subdued in tone, and in most cases forgiving. He does not believe (as David Waldstreicher, Paul Finkelman, and George van Cleve do) that the founders were unqualified hypocrites who cunningly crafted a pro-slavery Constitution, and he is more willing than most to acknowledge that it was the rise of bourgeois notions of property rights which made property in human beings seem repulsive in an age which had abandoned hierarchy as the governing principle of social life.

Perhaps the self-emancipation idea is an attempt at self-fulfilling prophecy, the idea that if they believe they liberated themselves back then, they will liberate themselves again today. But the fact that Du Bois and others saw the need to argue for a new emancipation is evidence enough that the previous one had not be entirely of their own making. (via Prufrock News)

Rage Against Cops Makes Us Less Safe

Dallas police
“We’re in the midst of the greatest delegitimation of law enforcement in recent memory,” says the scholar behind a new book on policing in America today. “Officers are backing off of proactive policing, and as a result, crime in big cities, above all cities with large Black populations is going up at a very alarming rate.”

Heather Mac Donald is the Thomas W. Smith Fellow at the Manhattan Institute and a contributing editor of City Journal. In her just-released book, The War on Cops: How the New Attack on Law and Order Makes Everyone Less Safe, she says the communities most in need of active policing are receiving less of it in part because of aggressive tactics citizens are taking to hold cops accountable. Officers do need training and support to uphold the law and seek justice, but much of this citizen accountability is an effort to get a cop off the street entirely.

From a piece in City Journal, Mac Donald writes:

The growing mayhem [this year in Chicago] is the result of Chicago police officers’ withdrawal from proactive enforcement, making the city a dramatic example of what I have called the “Ferguson effect.” Since the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, in August 2014, the conceit that American policing is lethally racist has dominated the national airwaves and political discourse, from the White House on down. In response, cops in minority neighborhoods in Chicago and other cities around the country are backing off pedestrian stops and public-order policing; criminals are flourishing in the resulting vacuum. (An early and influential Ferguson-effect denier has now changed his mind: in a June 2016 study for the National Institute of Justice, Richard Rosenfeld of the University of Missouri–St. Louis concedes that the 2015 homicide increase in the nation’s large cities was “real and nearly unprecedented.” “The only explanation that gets the timing right is a version of the Ferguson effect,” he told the Guardian.)

There are many steps on the road to dealing with this problem. I doubt most of the efforts made by our churches will be reported, so let’s not fall into the trap of looking at atrocities and asking where the church is. The small interactions of a community seeking better health are not front page news. We are praying, seeking restoration, counseling, teaching, and loving. There’s plenty more to do. (via Instapundit)

7/13 update: Thomas Sowell reviews The War on Cops, saying, “Such facts would have spoiled the prevailing preconceptions. Many facts reported in The War on Cops spoil many notions that all too many people choose to believe. We need to stop this nonsense, before there is a race war that no one can win.” (via Prufrock News)

Is the Declaration of Independence Racist?

Dr. Thomas Kidd is now blogging at The Gospel Coalition and he responds to a charge made this week that the Declaration of Independence is a systemically racist document.

“The greatest ideal animating the American experiment is here: the notion of equality by creation.” And yet, “if people are equal before God, then how can you justify slavery? Some African Americans like American soldier and evangelical pastor Lemuel Haynes asked this question within weeks of the promulgation of the Declaration.”

Haynes wrote an essay in response to Jefferson, in which he said, “Liberty is equally as precious to a black man, as it is to a white one, and bondage equally as intolerable to the one as it is to the other.”

But is the Declaration fundamentally racist? No, though it does have troubling spots, which only makes it an imperfect document. The key idea still isn’t racist at all, even if it was originally interpreted in a way we would not today. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”

Mississippi, Lower the Confederate Flag

A South-Carolinian professor of history, who has many good reasons to celebrate his Confederate heritage, talks about the problems with the Confederate flag.

After the Civil War, the Confederate battle flag took on new meanings on the Southern landscape. It became thoroughly identified with a movement known as the Lost Cause, which sought to memorialize and preserve a collective Southern memory celebrating the Confederacy. However, as African-Americans were entering into civic spaces, running for office and voting in large numbers during Reconstruction and into the 1880s, they began to represent to Southern whites many of the great changes affecting the Southern landscape — chief among them a threat to Southern white political power. The Confederate flag began to be used publicly as a symbol that represented a return to “white rule.” Further, the Mississippi Constitution of 1890 became a legal tool to help whites regain political control through massive disenfranchisement of African-Americans. Through literacy clauses, poll taxes and interpretation clauses, African-Americans were almost entirely removed from the voting process in Mississippi until the mid-1960s. In the midst of this, attacks on African-Americans in the form of lynchings and violent intimidation attempted to keep African-Americans from political activity or challenging a new system of white control.

He recommends the state of Mississippi put this symbol behind them. “Mississippi can be a beacon to the rest of the world that love, selflessness, repentance and reconciliation can reign.”

The Heresy of “Me and Jesus”

I confess that far too often I have fallen into the heretical idea that it’s “me and Jesus,” which leads to the conclusion: If I am faithful, I know His pleasure; if I am unfaithful, I experience His loving but painful discipline. There have been many times in my life, when because of a particular unconfessed sin from which I have not repented, I have experienced with the Psalmist “my bones wast[ing] away . . . [and] groaning all day long. For day and night [the Lord’s] hand was heavy upon me [and] my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer”(Ps. 32.4).

But far too seldom, until of late, have I understood that it isn’t just “me and Jesus.” Only in my old age have I begun – and I have only just begun – to realize that as part of a covenant community the sins of my people are also my sins, and that I am responsible before God to confess these sins, to ask His forgiveness, and to repent both personally and corporately of such sins, to turn from them, and to return once more to the way of the Lord.

Dr. Caines, who has been my pastor for many years, writes about his reluctance to accept responsibility for the negligence of God’s people in defending and uplifting those who suffered various abuses during the civil rights and Jim Crow eras.

While I would assume that some in my church in the 40s, 50s, 60s and 70s spoke out against injustice and prejudice, the overwhelming majority in my church and its leaders seemed more concerned about the possibility of whites and blacks intermarrying than about blatant injustice and mindless prejudice. In fact, some even twisted the Scripture to defend the “ways thing are.”

Part of his thinking comes from the idea that my Christian life is just a matter between me and Jesus, that I come to the garden alone for Jesus to walk strictly with me. Sure, he is walking with others too, but all of us are walking with him individually.

Publisher Pulls Book of Smiling Slaves

For several months, the publisher Scholastic had plans to release a book this year called A Birthday Cake for George Washington in which slaves in the Washington estate scrambled to make a cake after running out of sugar. School Library Journal said the beautifully illustrated book painted a “dangerously rosy impression of the relationship between slaves and slave owners.” Particularly troubling was that the slave were shown to be smiling.

Activists on one side are pleased the book has been pulled, but activists on the other side are saying they’re shocked.

The National Coalition Against Censorship and the PEN American Center argued in a official complaint, “Those who value free speech as an essential human right and a necessary precondition for social change should be alarmed whenever books are removed from circulation because they are controversial.”

I have to wonder what Scholastic was thinking when they edited, reviewed, and produced this book.  Were they of the same mind as the NCAC to publish anything of a certain quality? And what of that mindset; is no topic, view, or depiction of history unpublishable? If Scholastic had rejected this book upon its proposal would that have been the same censorship they are decrying now?

Freedom of speech or expression is a great principle within a sound moral framework where truths and recognized authorities can be appealed to. But secularism and its attending ills have pulled the banner of freedom from its pole and dragged it with them wherever they go, saying freedom is meant to be sullied, torn, and battered because it is a virtue on its own. Liberty in law is bound by the privileges of patriarchy, but freedom means whatever the ___ I want or anyone else wants with the enabling of the rest of us. That’s unsustainable.

Black Lives, In Fact, Matter

HarlemOn Twitter, I have supported #BlackLivesMatter because I saw it in the Ferguson context and felt those who were using the hashtag were making good points. That’s the way hashtags are used. I didn’t think it might have been created for specific purposes. Today, Steven Wedgeworth describes the origins of what was meant to be a cultural movement and asks if Evangelicals should be co-opting the tag or consider themselves co-belligerents with them.

So far [Evangelicals] seem to be doing exactly what BLM asks them not to do. They are denying that BLM applies to a number of specific controversial political issues and are instead saying that it should primarily be understood as a generic affirmation of the defense and respect of Black life. There has been little to no interaction with the profound emphasis BLM places on sexual liberation, and Evangelicals have certainly not credited this ideology as the founding genius of BLM. In other words, you might say that Evangelicals have been stealing Black Queer Women’s work.

Wedgeworth suggests Christians advocate for the value of the black community and individual dignity in Christian terms and avoid draw unnecessary criticism to themselves by using other people’s banners.

Also in this vein, Jason Riley reviews Black Silent Majority: The Rockefeller Drug Laws and the Politics of Punishment, by Michael Javen Fortner.

The book’s broader point—and Fortner makes it in a clear, fluid prose style that rarely lapses into academic jargon—is that a black silent majority at the time “was much more alarmed about drug addiction and violent crime than its white analogue” and ultimately motivated to take action. It was blacks who instigated the crackdown on black criminality, often over the opposition of white liberals and black political elites.

Black families, particularly in New York City, were suffering from drug-related crime in the 60s and 70s, so they pressed for tough penalties for drug-related offenses, which incarcerated far more blacks than whites because of the criminal culture of the day. Now this racial disparity is criticized as racism within the law. Riley quotes Fortner, saying, “While the literature on mass incarceration has correctly highlighted racial discrimination within the criminal justice system, it has unnecessarily discounted the hurt and terror of those who clutch their billfolds as they sleep, of those who exit their apartments and leave their buildings with trepidation, and of those who have had to bury a son or daughter because of gang activity, the drug trade, or random violence.”

UPDATE: Ed Stetzer offers this brief perspective on the matter with his tag #HellenistWidowsMatter.

Do We Still Harbor Racism in the Church?

Jarvis Williams asks a few questions in an attempt to shed light on what may be intellectual racism in the evangelical movement. He asks, among other things, “In certain cases, why are black and brown intellectuals not taken seriously by evangelicals unless some prominent white evangelical voice grants his stamp of approval on them?” In this particular situation, I wonder if the trappings of celebrity are more involved in who is popularly accepted. I don’t quite know what being taken seriously means, but if it means that scholars and writers are ignored, couldn’t it be that established scholars and writers have already gained our interest and more likely to draw attention than one of many unknown authors? I’m sure Dr. Williams recognizes this possibility, which is why he is asking questions, not making accusations.

The same rationale would not apply to another of his questions, “Why is black and brown scholarship often ignored in many evangelical colleges and seminaries?” For this question, I have to ask what scholarship on non-racial issues is recognized as being black and brown. Is there a particularly good study that hasn’t gained the attention among evangelicals that we might think it should? Is there a seminary of black and brown scholars producing good work without adequate recognition from other seminaries? From where I sit, there are a handful of ways one seminary or individual may be dismissed by another: declared denomination, professed theological perspective, suspected theological perspective, and guilt by association with disrespected scholars. The essence of it all is simply a lack of trust. They don’t know the scholars they are ignoring and will not be challenged by or interested in scholars they don’t trust.

Green Book for Jim-Crow Era Travelers

There was a time when black businessmen and their families could not travel freely throughout the states. There were sundown towns, where blacks needed to leave before sunset to avoid trouble. There were hotels and restaurants which would not serve them. So a New York City mailman produced a green book to help them travel comfortably.

With the introduction of this travel guide in 1936, it has been our idea to give the Negro traveler information that will keep him from running into difficulties, embarrassments and to make his trips more enjoyable. The Jewish press has long published information about places that are restricted and there are numerous publications that give the gentile whites all kinds of information. But during these long years of discrimination, before 1936 other guides have been published for the Negro, some are still published, but the majority have gone out of business for various reasons. In 1936 the Green Book was only a local publication for Metropolitan New York, the response for copies was so great it was turned into a national issue in 1937 to cover the United States.

Graham Auto Supply, Esso sign, Coca-Cola sign

ESSO stations were particularly hospitable and distributed the green books to all who asked. The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, in its 90th year, has digitized its Green Book collection.

Distinguishing Between Real and Fancied Injury

In Anthony Daniels’ review of Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates, he says:

Baldwin writes, with commendable honesty:

In a society that is entirely hostile, and, by its nature, seems determined to cut you down . . . it begins to be almost impossible to distinguish real from fancied injury. One can very quickly cease to attempt this distinction, and, what is worse, one usually ceases to attempt it without realizing that one has done so.

The distinction between real and fancied injury is a crucial one, of course, for fighting chimeras is not merely a waste of time and effort but positively destructive of all that is valuable in life. Just as paranoia eliminates that important distinction, so the incentives to emotional entrepreneurialism blur the distinction between real and simulated emotion, and veil the distinction from the phoney himself. Anger is not its own justification—there is no Cartesian syllogism in moral philosophy, “I’m angry, therefore I’m right”—and any honest person will admit that there is a seductive pleasure in anger. I have mistrusted my own rage ever since, as a student of physiology, I saw a cat stimulated to insensate rage by the discharge of electrodes in its amygdala.