Tag Archives: President Barack Obama

Liberation & Politics: a racial realist perspective

Uninformed Black Millennial Votes Against His Best Interest

Disclaimer for the audience: This post represents just a small glimpse of my views on politics. It is the first of TWO parts I plan to do; I’ve been a fanboy of electoral politics since I was elementary school age. If you would like to have a conversation about my beliefs or why I supported the candidate I did, I am willing to have a conversation on Twitter or in the comments section, as long as there is no name calling or accusations involved. Thanks!

Growing up, I can’t remember a time when I didn’t affirm women’s equality in the church, and women’s ordination, and that’s growing up in a predominantly black southern Baptist church.  When I was in undergrad, I recall a discussion in the school library with a small group of friends I used to hang out with.  They were evangelical, and strong five point Calvinists with a conservative theological vision of the world, one of hierarchy, law & order. I had been raised a traditional Arminian, free will Baptist, and so our readings of the biblical text were quite different. One day, I tried to explain why I believed in democracy and egalitarianism, and I pointed to the life of Jesus. My early childhood education or secondary education experience did not involve any indoctrination of purist ideology. I had to grow into my faith and into my politics.

        As long as I can remember, I have been anti-war, pro-peace for at least all of my Christian journey. When I look back, I know I have followed politics since First Grade. In high school all throughout I would HAVE to argue every day with a group of acquaintances (I use that term loosely, some would call them bullies)  because they would recite absolute racist garbage from Fox News, and I would have to defend myself and black people, because I HAD to be the representative, right? These aspiring Right wing talking heads just loved to lecture Black people on how terrible black culture was. It was no wonder then that Black voters had a close affinity with Bill and Hillary Clinton for decades. After years of being ignored, dismissed, hunted down like dogs by the Reagan Administration as part of the “War on Drugs,” Blacks finally had A LISTENING ear. We didn’t need a White political savior, we just needed someone to say, “I feel you.” This Politics of being heard, this opening up of difference I think is essential for black political practices. If you notice, its Whites who own and run large organizations such as the American Conservative Union, committed to conservative ideological purity. Don’t get me wrong; ideologies are fine, they are just systems of ideas, but I find it curious why anyone else would go out of their way to police others’ ideas and invest money in doing so. That’s why it’s always bothered me when Whites tell blacks, “you’re doing progressivism wrong” or “Blacks are always looking for a handout,” when we know this is all not true, and in fact this primary election season is evidence of that. Blacks have rejected conservativism because the primarily the racist history of states’ right, and states’ rights today continues to do real damage to communities of color. Each state is a nation unto itself, and power struggles are naturally built into the system, in favor of the majority culture.  At the same time, I for example, have begun to understand the limits of the federal government. The federal government should be there at minimum to protect the rights of citizens from aggressive, discriminatory activity of state authorities. Part of my emerging thought is that cities and municipalities must be free to govern themselves.

It is my belief that People of Color CAN and WILL free themselves from unjust systems, systems that are as of now rigged against their favor. Bernie is right about the corporate driven media, but the media gave the most attention to Trump, even the “progressive” MSNBC. The stats prove that Trump got the most air time of any candidate. The media would cut off Bernie’s or Hillary’s speech, and it’s not fair. But this is because the Media is racist too. The media loves to paste black male faces on the screens for crimes, along with their mug shots, while white mass murders get their pictures from high school yearbooks, and they get called, “a nice, quiet boy.” The electoral system is also rigged, but it’s not rigged against the disorganized, or people who refused to know the rules. The superdelegate system does need to change, BUT Bernie knew the rules. He only joined the Democratic party LAST YEAR. Perhaps if he didn’t have a personality where he abandons his natural allies and had joined the Democrats in 2009, he’d have more friends i.e. superdelegates.  As a person of color, the system IS rigged against us when it comes to lily white caucuses as well. There is no reason for New Hampshire and Iowa to be the first primaries/caucuses every presidential election cycle except white supremacy. The white supremacy in place also has racial gerry mandering in place to deny People of color proper representation, and voter id laws to deny our basic right to vote as citiizens. Yes, all of the system is rigged, and we must continue the struggle vs the racist media, and political system, but also participate to change it. We do not need a lecturer-in-chief who talks as if they are working in our best interest. Only we, as people of color know White Supremacism for the monster it is, and it’s only our job to expose it. It is White People’s job to dismantle institutionalized White racism.

This is my story. When I think of the nastiness and violent rhetoric of this primary election season, and fellow Anabaptist and Christian thinkers unfriending and unfollowing me because of my politics, I think of the importance of wanting to hear, listening to others’ stories. There’s REAL power in listening, that was part of Jesus’ way. He wasn’t one for always going for the big crowds, shouting, inciting violence, taking advantage of people’s anger (misguided or not). Jesus also hung out with people HE disagreed with, like the Zealot, who probably carried around a dagger. Jesus lived a peaceable lifestyle, but here he is, trying to show a revolutionary another way. Jesus, like YHWH the Divine Parent, prefers acts of persuasion over coercion.  While we are on the subject of Jesus, let me touch on the politics of his followers located in the U.S. real quick. We have on one end of the spectrum, evangelicals committed to institutional conservative politics, whether it is in universities, various media outlets, and conservative conferences. The financial commitment to this ideology, religious conservatism, is a privilege, but it also serves as a COMPETING system against the Church. No doubt many well-meaning conservative Christians would agree that identifying Christ with a political system constitutes a form of idolatry. Evangelicals, statistically have a disdain for the Democratic Party, and much of the Democratic platform, as Alan Noble notes ).

The problem is that conservative evangelicals like Noble is that they presume that the “moral, political, and social fabric of our nation” is raceless.  Take Mitt Romney for example, who is a member of the LDS church, which traditionally was upheld as a heretical sect by evangelicalism; yet, evangelicals voted overwhelmingly for Romney as did Whites. In fact, Romney won the largest margin for White voters in decades.  The difference between what Black Christians consider to be essential to the Republic and what White Christians do is a difference of experiences of racism. In 2000, Christian magazines were noting that White evangelicals were claiming George W. Bush was “God’s man” while Black Christians weren’t so sure, but their votes went to Al Gore.  Conservatism assumes that it must be syncretized with a version of Christendom so that Whiteness can prevail as a nationally prominent social position. The culture wars were never about right versus wrong; they were always about which subset of elite white institutions would determine the direction of the country’s future.   

Lest you mistake that I am arguing that God is a Democrat, there are problems with holier-than-thou religious leftism as well. I would be leery of saying that Jesus would be part of a Brocialist uprising, because that erases Jesus’ particularity in favor of Eurocentrism. Christ is transcendent, and is LORD; he’s not here to be your sockpuppet for Marxism. I think one comes across major problems when one refuses to be honest or reflective about even Democrats/Progressives/Radicals who claim to be the exception to the rules of our purity tests.  We do need to call out the awful foreign policy decisions of establishment Democrat elites, and we also need to criticize the White Supremacy advocated in the name of a nearly all- White revolution. Activists consider themselves so brave when they call Hillary Clinton racist for the 1994 Crime Bill (something she did not vote for, but I digress), but they get up in arms when I talk about Bernie Sanders’ racism. He went from walking with Dr King (his story) to moving to all white Vermont when too many people of color were making their way to Brooklyn. Jane Sanders, Jeff Weaver’s and Bernie’s comments about Southern voters were racist macroaggressions against Black voters and our choices, but radicals go ahead and close your ears. Protestors rallied to decry Hillary Clinton’s foreign policy record (much radical) but they didn’t even bother to disrupt a Bernie rally over his Iraq bombing votes in the 1990s, his vote for military action in Libya, his vote authorizing the War on Terror, or his vote and benefitting from poisoning the community of Sierra Blanca, Texas.  Moreover, it’s rather unhelpful to continue to harp on individuals for their racist views or acts; that form of discourse benefits white supremacy because it limits addressing racism to the realm of the personal.  We need to resist pettiness and name-calling in order to ensure that White Supremacism will be confronted as a  domestic and global system.  We can make all the references to MLK Jr. and being a dreamer all we like, but MLK was a DREAMER AND A DOER. There is a difference between being a dreamer, grounded in reality, and being delusional, and not having an actual plan to back up your empty promises.

So, when I think of all the times I have been condemned or made to feel guilty because I supported and voted for Hillary Clinton, and all the nasty racist and sexist comments myself and others have had to endure, I go back and think about Jesus. Jesus invites the rich and the poor to fellowship with the Triune God. I don’t agree with any one politician on every issue. Practically speaking as a pacifist, outside of Bill Kreml of the Green Party, there is not really a pro-peace presidential candidate. And when we talk about peace, and issues of violence and nonviolence, we must also talk about how forms of violence intersect, like racism, sexism, transphobia, and homophia are enacted into law and do violence to their victims in the everyday. I think of also honesty, and being forth right in our differences of opinions, and our politics. I don’t think it’s appropriate, for example, for persons to claim objectivity while sharing favorable links of violent dominionists like Senator Ted Cruz, but then claim to be “nonpolitical.” That’s not cool, and disingenuous. It’s dishonest to call one candidate “a warmonger” while your preferred candidate was referred to by local peace activists as “a bomber” .  When I think of honesty, I think of political candidates and their supporters owning up and being held accountable to the candidates’ ACTUAL record, rather than giving in to fluffy rhetoric and propaganda. We do have a candidate who had ties to Wall Street, because she represented the state of New York as Senator. Does that mean Hillary is corrupt? Well, in that case, Bernie is corrupt for being bought and paid for by the sugar industry . We could CHOOSE to look at this information cynically, or we could say that all politicians strive to work on behalf of their constituents (the difference between being delusional ala the former and being a realist, the latter). This would be a more honest assessment of politics rather than saying “everything sucks, everything is rigged, everyone is corrupt BUT MY MAN!” That’s just a small-minded worldview IMO.

The problem this particular election season was two-fold: arrogant persons not wanting to hear any of my story or those of others, even though they claimed to be my friend, and then the other is honesty. The solutions are of course, to be willing to listen to the stories of others, and work to be more forthright in telling those stories. We are entitled to owning our own stories, but we are not entitled to our own facts. I’ve pretty much laid down my cards on the table. #‎DealMeIn #‎ImWithHer, oh and lastly, #‎FeelTheMath!!!

I do get a lot of requests for people to share articles making the case for Hillary Clinton for President, so I decided to share some of my favorites.

June 20th, 1969: Introducing Hillary:  “After Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination in 1968, she worked with black students at the college to organize a two-day strike and a drive to recruit more black students and tutors.”

Hillary Clinton in the Civil Rights Era

Let’s Talk About Clinton and Foreign Policy

Why Hillary Clinton Thrills the Hell Out of Me

A Progressive Case For Hillary Clinton

The Case for Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton Was Liberal. Hillary Clinton Is Liberal.  

If You’re Liberal and You Think Hillary Clinton Is Corrupt and Untrustworthy, You’re Rewarding 25 Years of GOP Smears

Black Voters Aren’t Feeling the Bern; Here’s Why

On Becoming Anti-Bernie

 

Description: Featured image is the Hillary Clinton for America logo, an H with an arrow through it. Inside of it is a  black and white picture of Hillary Rodham Clinton in 1969 with a black WoC Wellesley student organizing for a recruiting drive to get more Black students and tutors.

The State of the Union. A response. #SOTU

President Barack Obama’s recent State of the Union Address shed light on various issues that the United States faces today. One of the more controversial ones is immigration reform. President Obama has repeatedly stated the current system is broken and that nothing short of complete reform can fix it. In this vein he has decided to take executive actions amid at helping build a system that allows America to live up to its heritage as a nation founded by immigrants. Regardless of what one thinks about the President’s initiative it is important for each American to understand some of the complexities associated with immigration. Of particular importance is to understand several of the economic aspect that is associated specifically with undocumented workers. Through a better understanding of some of the economic issues associated with undocumented workers it is possible to think through appropriate responses from various perspectives including a theological one.

In developing an analysis of undocumented workers of the United States I have chosen to use true cost economic theory. True cost economics evaluates goods or services while also taking into consideration negative externalities. Negative externalities are the costs of the harmful effects of a good or service on the environment etc. (“True Economic Cost,”The Economic Times, 2015). Taking this into consideration allows one to consider how a good or service can be misused in large quantities without concern for its effect on the environment. As a caveat, any analysis of immigration from an economic perspective has its limitations because human capital although it can function as other forms of capital such as social or economic is inherently different. There is a different set of concerns that one must take into consideration when thinking about undocumented workers. For this reason true cost economics has a twist from a theological perspective as it relates to immigration. As part of the working definition of true cost economic negative externalities should also involve the cost that immigration policies has on moral sensibilities. Negative externalities consider the impact of undocumented workers policies on Christian/ religious values. Ultimately, true cost economics from a theological perspective should involve the moral cost of a good or service. This is especially true when good is used as a generic term to help analyze human relations with respect to economic production.

As debates ensue on the particularities of reforming immigration policies it becomes more important to understand some of its many complexities. Typically when evaluating an issue from an economic stand point a cost-benefit is used. Such an analysis can be helpful here when trying to understand some of the intricacies of undocumented workers. First, it is important to dispel some of the misconception of undocumented workers. Perhaps one of the biggest myths is that no one benefits from the use of undocumented workers. Many have stated that undocumented workers are exploiting the American economy and reaping all of the benefits from hard working tax paying United States citizens. Law Professor Francine Lipman has stated that undocumented workers have actually bolstered the U.S. economy in several ways. They invest in the economy through their purchasing of goods and services and the consumption of various products has actually created more jobs in some respect. Also, contrary to popular belief they do in fact contribute to social security, Medicaid and unemployment programs without being able to fully reap their benefits (Francine J. Lipman, “Taxing Undocumented Immigrants: Separate, Unequal and Without Representation,”Harvard Latino Law Review,Spring 2006).

These immigrants pay social security pay roll taxes without being eligible for the benefits of social security. What many do not know is that each year the United States reserves around seven billion dollars in social security earing in what is called “earnings suspense file.” This money is reserved for W-2 files that cannot be connected to a social security number. This money is usually attributed to illegal worker who never see any of this money (Robert Mcnatt and Frank Benassi, “Econ 101 on illegal immigrants,” BloombergBuisnessweek, April 6, 2006). Another common myth about undocumented workers is that immigrants are taking all of the American jobs and subsequently hurting the economy. These immigrants do indeed consume a large portion of low-skilled labor jobs. However, many American benefit from their consumption of low-skilled and low paying jobs. The cost for food in most restaurants, agricultural products, and various goods has decreased as a result of employer’s ability to pay illegal immigrant far less than American workers. In fact, the negative impact of undocumented workers on the economy is far less than the impact of automated machinery with respect to job displacement. Another benefit of undocumented workers is the de facto effect it has on the American wage labor system. The income of undocumented workers is spent relatively quickly because in many instances banking systems and other services customary to most Americans is not a viable option. This means that the income of undocumented workers does not factor into the earning potential of American workers. In fact employers have the ability to raise the minimum wage of the average worker because of the money they save from paying undocumented workers substantially less .It is estimated that approximately eight million jobs are dependent on the employment of undocumented worker labor (Bureau of Labor Statistic in the United States Department of Labor, News Release, January 16, 2015). This serves as brief overview of some of the economic benefits from of undocumented workers.

Equally important to this analysis is an overview of some of the economic costs of undocumented workers. It has already been established that the majority of Americans would not notice the economic cost of undocumented workers. Various researchers have noted that those without a college education would be the only group that would be dramatically affected by a reduction of undocumented workers with respect to employment. It has been noted by the Center for Immigration Studies that in the year 2000 the influx of undocumented workers had reduced the wages of American workers without a high school diploma by almost eight percent (George Borjas, “Increasing the Supply of Labor Through Immigration: Measuring the Impact on Native-born Workers,” Center for Immigration Studies, April 2004). Another aspect of undocumented workers that is often discussed is its impact on the education system. According to the Congressional budget office as late as 2008 undocumented workers made up approximately four percent of the students in the public education system. It is also a fact that many of these students require ESL classes and extra assistance in other course work to be successful. This causes an added economic burden on the public education system. There are also various studies that explain how costly it can be to detain undocumented workers. The issue of undocumented workers and health care has also become a critical issue for many. According to recent studies less than one percent of Medicaid spending has went to undocumented workers. Although these immigrants typically are not eligible for the benefits of Medicaid they do receive emergency medical care via Medicaid (Will Dunham, “Medicaid spends 1 pct on illegal immigrants: study,” Reuters, March 13, 2007 ). This means that undocumented workers do place a financial burden on the health care system albeit a relatively light one.

What can we derive from this brief cost-benefit analysis of undocumented workers, for this a return back to true economic cost theory is necessary. It definitely appears that there are certain economic benefits for our current undocumented workers policies. It could even be argued that the benefits outweigh the cost of undocumented workers. It also appears that some of the associated costs have been exaggerated by public perception. However, both these cost and benefits must be weighed against some of the negative externalities. Another observation that can be made from this brief analysis is regardless of the cost and benefits undocumented workers the group that suffers the most are the immigrants themselves. The benefits from undocumented workers can at best be described as exploitative of the immigrant labor force. Simultaneously, although the cost of undocumented workers has a somewhat negative impact on the economy it is the immigrants that suffer the greatest harm from its negative effects. This occurs in the form of lower educational attainment, fewer employment opportunities, and few health benefits. In essence fewer opportunities in what has been historically described as the land of opportunities. The exploitative nature of current immigration policies qualifies as negative externality and has implications from a theological perspective.
So what can Christian religious values teach us about how to deal with undocumented workers policies in relation to a cost-benefit analysis? Truthfully this depends on who you ask. While the specifics of an adequate policy will not be discussed here it can start by asking the right question about how to limit the effects of negative externalities. For this a turn to Luke 10: 25-37 is helpful here. This particular passage is the infamous parable of the Good Samaritan. Jesus is asked “who is the neighbor,” at which point Jesus tells the parable to explicate what precisely a neighbor is. Perhaps this is the question that Christian should ask themselves first as they evaluate the issue of undocumented workers and its policy implications. Through asking this question first it is possible to put the negative externalities at the forefront of an analysis of undocumented workers
.

dreams not drones #MLKDay2014

“It’s ideas that change people over times.”- Melissa Harris-Perry

If there is one thing that I can’t stand more than anything in January, it’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day on social media. I’ve grown tired and sick of being tired of people who normally STAN for white supremacist practices, dole out quotes by MLK Jr. to make themselves feel better.  When I was in seminary, one of the bitter experiences that will always stick with me was a chapel service where then-Senator Obama was praised as the culmination and fulfillment of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.‘s work.  In fact, I do recall a friend was wearing a shirt that suggested just that!

 

In a recent lecture and subsequent q & a session with students at the University of Rochester, political studies professor and MSNBC analyst Melissa Harris-Perry talked about how a more human, less divinized, messier approach to King Jr.’s legacy should be the key to winning a more progressive future. Ideas are what matters, they are what last and change the world.

MLK Jr. wasn’t shot down for his beliefs. MLK Jr.’s and the women, the other adult men, and children who marched with him, their bodies were not tortured because of their abstract notions of equality, their patriotic love for the U.S. Constitution, or their religious fervor. Bodily encounters are what change the world through praxis. Liberating Praxis changes things. Battles of ideas are waged through the mediation of human anatomy.

We should stop looking at how Martin Luther King Jr. changed the world; let us ponder what changes he fought for, and how this world has remained stubbornly the same. What we should do, on this day, and maybe every day, is look at the values he embodied, and the places where he placed his body. Why was he joining janitors in Tennessee for a protest in his last days? Why did the White Supremacist media in the days of old (I’m looking at you, New York Times), condemn MLK Jr. for opposing the Vietnam War? You see, the Civil Rights movement was and still is a peace movement. One cannot separate the white supremacist logic behind domestic policies and neatly divide them from the Military-Industrial-Complex. War means an evaluation of which bodies matter, which bodies are to be valued over all others. Any military policy that kills indiscriminately, and disproportionately against one people group, is racist. This is why I don’t divorce my anti-racism from my pacifism, I never have, and I never will.

Harris Perry and other black academic elites have supported President Obama’s drone policy uncritically, and I think it is time for them to reassess their values. Reverend Jeremiah Wright is right, MLK Jr. had a dream, Nobel Peace Prize winner President Obama has a drone. I am under no illusions about how imperfect MLK Jr. was, but I do have a good grasp on what he stood for, and no matter how murky you try to make his figure, a tool for militaristic neoliberalism he certainly was not.

Now, more than ever, the Church, and the United States do not really even need MLK Jr.’s ideas (ahem, uncritical commitment to the state via the Constitution is problematic); what we need is his model of practices for peacemaking.

You might also like:

Cornel West on the legacy of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

and

How Lupe Fiasco Honors MLK’s Legacy and HOw President Obama Doesn’t

Enhanced by Zemanta