Love Reckons with the Past

An excerpt from Kiese Laymon’s classic 2015 essay “Black Churches Taught Us to Forgive White People. We Learned to Shame Ourselves,” published in the wake of the white supremacist mass murder at Emanuel AME in Charleston, SC

Many of us have made a life of hoping to get chosen for jobs, chosen for awards, chosen for acceptance from people, structures and corporations bred on white supremacy. We’re hoping to get chosen by people who can not see us. Knowing that they hate and terrorize us doesn’t stop us from wanting to get chosen. That’s the crazy thing. Everything about this country told Grandma, a black woman born in Central Mississippi in 1920s, to love, honor and forgive white folks. And this country still tells me, a black boy born in Mississippi in the 1970s, to titillate and tend to the emotional, psychological and spiritual needs of white people in my work.

I told my Grandma that we should have chosen ourselves. I tell her that we should have let us in. We should have held each other, and fallen in healthy love with each other, instead of watching shame make parts of us disappear.

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Collective Memory

From Rev. Jim Bear Jacobs, re-posted from Facebook (9/10/2021).

Before you post that #neverforget sentiment tomorrow, ask yourself; in the last 20 years have I told any Black or Indigenous person that they need to “get over it” “move on” “forgive and forget” when they posted about historical trauma? I know for a fact that some of you have. You no longer get to choose what is preserved as collective memory.

A Public Accounting

Photo credit: Joe Henson

An excerpt from Isabel’s Wilkerson’s Caste: The Origins of our Discontent (2020).

Our era calls for a public accounting of what caste has cost us, a Truth and Reconciliation Commission, so that every American can know the full history of our country, wrenching though it may be. The persistence of caste and race hostility, and the defensiveness about anti-Black sentiment in particular, make it literally unspeakable to many in the dominant caste. You cannot solve anything that you do not admit exists, which could be why some people may not want to talk about it: it might get solved.

Zionism, Christian Zionism and White Supremacy

By Rev. Graylan Scott Hagler, Senior Minister, Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ, Washington, DC

People who are interested in the bible are tempted to read it literally and seek to follow its every word. This has been the conditioning of fundamentalism.  Fundamentalists have taught that every word in the scripture is true and the bible is inerrant. This point of view has permeated believing constituencies and have generally not been challenged as preachers and teachers choose to leave well enough alone; not want to rock the theological boat, or to roil up their followers. 

This means that scriptures are not questioned, and blanks are filled in where there seems to be glaring inconsistencies in the text or where the prophecy is yet unfulfilled. This has resulted in Christians believing that Jews are God’s chosen people, gentiles are grafted into the promise of God, and the land of Israel belongs to the Jews as promised to them by God. Furthermore, it is argued that not only does the land belong to the Jews, but Jews must be repatriated for Jesus to return, and then Jesus will judge the righteous and unrighteous, and Jews must recognize Jesus as the Christ so that the promise of the reign of God can be fulfilled.  In general, this is known as Christian Zionism, and Christian Zionism is a distortion of scripture used for advancing a colonial Zionist state in Palestine.

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Conjuring Freedom

From Johari Jabir’s Conjuring Freedom: Music and Masculinity in the Civil War’s “Gospel Army” (2017).

Conjure is the black cultural practice of summoning spiritual power as an intentional means of transforming reality and involves a belief in an invisible magical power that can be used for healing and/or harm…

…For soldiers in black regiments during the Civil War, freedom was not simply found, it had to be forged. They found themselves forced to conjure freedom out of the materials made available to them as soldiers who had been slaves but were not yet citizens. In much the same way that the coping religion of the slaveocracy became transformed into the enabling religion of the slaves, the forms of soldiering and citizenship made available to former slaves that were designed to assimilate them into a masculinist hierarchical, exploitative, and racist society became something else in practice. These tools of domination became conjured into new forms of masculinity, solidarity, and social membership that promoted democratic and egalitarian change in society at large. Just as conjurers healed the slave body with a mixture of efficacious materials, newly free Africans in America attempted to heal the body politic and cure society’s ills through a tradition of organized protest with musical accompaniment that expressed alternate social visions of democracy.

The State of Black America

A Message from The Movement for Black Lives.

Hello Community,

With the State of Black America coming up soon, we want to preview one of many important topics we’ll address: education and organizing in the pandemic.

You will hear from Black organizers and educators with the Chicago community organization Equity and Transformation (EAT). In a field report from Chicago, we will hear how Black organizers and educators came together to pass the Illinois BREATHE Act that will free up much-needed resources for schools and communities by redirecting funds away from racist, ineffective policing and mass incarceration. We’ll also hear from Dr. Armen Henderson with Dream Defenders and their efforts to expand COVID-19 health access to Black people who are unhoused and other communities in Florida.

RSVP for the State of Black America taking place before the State of the Union on Tuesday, Feb. 23rd at 6-8pm ET. Hear from Black movement leaders across the country. Organizers will discuss education and organizing in the pandemic, as well as climate, jobs, healthcare, public safety, and Black community self-determination.

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Mass Incarceration: The New Caste System

From Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow. #LentenAbolition

It may be helpful, in attempting to understand the basic nature of the new caste system, to think of the criminal justice system—the entire collection of institutions and practices that comprise it—not as an independent system but rather as a gateway into a much larger system of racial stigmatization and permanent marginalization. This larger system, referred to here as mass incarceration, is a system that locks people not only behind actual bars in actual prisons, but also behind virtual bars and virtual walls—walls that are invisible to the naked eye but function nearly as effectively as Jim Crow laws once did at locking people of color into a permanent second-class citizenship. The term mass incarceration refers not only to the criminal justice system but also to the larger web of laws, rules, policies, and customs that control those labeled criminals both in and out of prison. Once released, former prisoners enter a hidden underworld of legalized discrimination and permanent social exclusion. They are members of America’s new undercaste.

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Simply Being Black

From Jesmyn Ward in The Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks about Race (2016)

Though the white liberal imagination likes to feel temporarily bad about black suffering, there really is no mode of empathy that can replicate the daily strain of knowing that as a black person you can be killed for simply being black: no hands in your pockets, no playing music, no sudden movements, no driving your car, no walking at night, no walking in the day, no turning onto this street, no entering this building, no standing your ground, no standing here, no standing there, no talking back, no playing with toy guns, no living while black.