Tag Archives: voting

The Umbrella Revolution, #FergusonOctober, & the Social Order

I was revolutionary, before it was cool

I was revolutionary, before it was cool

Over the past couple of months, Ben Meyers at Faith and Theology has written a few provocative posts on Christian perspectives of the moral order and revolution: Apocalyptic and creation: why I changed my mind ; Christianity and Social Vision: once more on creation and the apocalyptic; politics, society, & institutions: a theological outline#FergusonOctober, I thought I would take the opportunity to discuss my own theology of revolution (which , albeit, is still in process).

1. I, for one, respectfully disagree with Meyers (and other Radical Orthodox writers) when they argue things like “The sole rationale for politics is original sin. The principal aim of political order is not to produce justice but to restrain injustice; not to cultivate the spirit of the law but to enforce the rule of law; not to create love but to set limits to self-interest […]” The art of politics in the original sense of the word, working toward the good of the polis, finds its ground and being in the goodness of the Creator. Yes, I assume that humanity and creation are fallen, but sin does not reign, and nor should the dictates of our human pride be considered the sovereigns of the world. If in fact Jesus IS LORD, and if Christ Jesus is the Creator who sustains all systems of the world (Colossians 1), then politics is humanity’s act of co-creating with the Holy Trinity. It is not the eschatological society {THE IDEAL CHURCH OF RADICAL ORTHODOXY, NO DOUBT!} but rather Christ Jesus himself who just as Deborah and Gideon did in the days of Israel’s judges, maintains justice between just and unjust parties.

2. As fallen human beings under the kingship and judgment of Jesus the Messiah, technically we are all in revolt versus the one true King. The only Law that truly matters is The Golden Rule [a summary of the Ten Commandments], given to the Church and the World by God’s Son Himself, the Second Person in the Trinity. Given the fact that Christians recognize One Lawgiver, Christians’ preference should be for freedom as a rule, rather than the Law and Order of Whiteness. For example, let’s take the situation in Ferguson, Missouri. There, an alliance of Christian ministers calling themselves the “Clergy for Peace” were making calls for reconciliation, slow revolution, and pretty much softer versions of Law & Order churchianity. While these slow revolutionaries were acting in the name of a false peace, their neighbors were having tear gas thrown in their eyes, being denied the basic right to worship and assemble, and suffering under the repressive curfews. While Meyers and others might argue, “Civil disobedience is not rebellion against political authority but an act of political responsibility in which some particular law is broken for the sake of another (more basic or more important) law, or for the sake of some widely shared value in a society,” I say with James Cone and others, that there needs to be an upheaval in values. Also, while yes Civil Disobedience can be a responsible political act, it is not a choice of choosing between a “more basic or more important” man-made laws, but between the conflicts of divine law of neighborly love that Christ revealed over and against the tyranny of the status quo.

3. Lastly but NOT LEAST, probably most importantly, the shape of revolution should not look backwards while walking slowly; rather, Revolution as a concept should follow in the hope-filled forward-marching paths set forth by the LORD of Hosts. Revolution as a future-oriented concept will not rely on abstract, celestial visions of a transcendental moral order. Rather, a would-be revolutionary must have a theology of the cross, and that means that in order for there to be a morality, there must be human bodies. God shows God’s goodness in the act of creation, Incarnation, Crucifixion, and Resurrection. If a revolution is oriented towards hope, this means that the revolutionary moment must be tied to the pedagogical moment. Revolutions must exist for the sake of the future, for the sake of future generations. Without such a view, the present realities of oppression are lifted up as the norm, and our responses to those realities remain limited. My friend and fellow KillJoy Prophet Justin Tse has two excellent write ups on Occupy Central: EXAM REVIEW: Hong Kong’s Occupy Central with Love and Peace and Benny Tai As Political Theologian. (side note: check out this post by my friend Valerie on what she’s learned from being in Hong Kong and observing Occupy Central ) One of the important takeaways from his pieces is the fact that Benny Tai, the organizer of Occupy Central, sees the Occupy Central movement as an educational movement. In a similar vein, a number of scholars and activists are using Twitter and the #Ferguson hashtag to educate others about police brutality, the militarization of the police, racial profiling, and the Prison-Industrial Complex. If indeed, knowledge is power, perhaps a more appropriate measurement of how successful a revolution is in how many persons from around the globe find that revolution to be an important learning moment for humanity? Perhaps this a way forward, but it is only a sketch for now.

Until next time, class dismissed.

From Plessy v. Ferguson to #Ferguson, Missouri

Dispelling the myth of equality in the legal system

This is a re-post from the Uprooting Criminology blog.

Two weeks ago I attended a rally in Dallas, Texas to protest police brutality during the death of Michael Brown. There were many impassioned speeches and heart felt rallying cries. One of those chants “No Justice, No Peace; No Racist Police,” caused me to pause and reflect on the statement. I simply could not bring myself to repeat the phrase. Perhaps it was because addressing the individual racist police officer does not address the real issue.

Incidents such as Mike Brown in Ferguson, MO and Eric Garner in New York are symptomatic of the larger issue of institutional racism that permeates the legal system in the United States. The myth of equal treatment in the legal system has endured for centuries. Whether it is through the Supreme Court case Plessy vs. Ferguson in 1896 until the shooting of an unarmed black man in Ferguson Missouri in 2014, rhetoric continues to proclaim fairness and equality in the legal system, when all of the evidence speaks to the contrary.

In 1896 the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the doctrine of “separate but equal.” It effectively ensured legalized segregation. Under this doctrine, the government was allowed to require that services, facilities, public accommodations, housing, medical care, education, employment, and transportation be separate provided that the quality of each group’s public facilities was equal. This ruling was overturned by the Supreme Court case Brown vs. Board of Education (1956).

The court ruled in this case that segregation was inherently unfair and that policies that separate race denote inferiority among those races. Problems of inequality persist in the criminal justice system today to an even greater extent than what was outlined by the doctrine of “Separate but Equal.” Through various ways minorities are treated separately and unequally. The dilemma arises because many fail to acknowledge this separate treatment and even worse the disproportionate effects on minority communities. So the first step is to finally acknowledge some of the factors that have led to the unequal treatment of minorities in the United States.

Institutional inequality is in part due to the make-up of the law makers. Law makers are disproportionately white (over 85%), male (over 80%), and are usually more than 20 years older than the average American. More important than demographic information however, is the way crime is constructed in the legal system. This construction of crime has had a direct effect on urban cities like Ferguson, MO; which has a populous dominated by people of color.

Crime is not labeled based on the degree of harm it causes but rather the illusion that street crime is the most dangerous form of crime. This emphasis causes a disproportionate focus on crime based on urban areas, particularly ones with minorities as the overwhelming demographic. If police are heavily focused on street crime and disproportionately located in urban areas, it is inevitable that there will be disparities in stop and arrest rates between whites and people of color. It is also certain that force will be more likely to be used against people of color than against whites.

This is verified by statistics that show blacks and Hispanics are far more likely to report run-ins or harassment by officers. They are 3-4 more likely to be arrested and have force (including lethal force) used against them (Bureau of Justice Statistics 2007). The shooting death of Mike Brown fits well into these statistics.

So beyond dispelling the myth of inequality in the legal system what else can be done to address the unequal treatment of minorities? Much research has been conducted to find empirical data to quantify to some extent the effects of institutional racism in our legal system. The Baldus Study and research from the Kirwan Institute on implicit bias to name a few. However, further research combined with legislative change offers a more effective solution. In any case, John Powell in a recent interview said it best, “We still have not come to full recognition of blacks and other people as full citizens, as full people. And one way we can demonstrate that is that when we see another human being, our brain is actually wired so that part of the brain lights up, just from recognition of another human being.” When our policy making finally reflects this sentiment we will have a more equitable legal system.

The New Apartheids: Race, Gender, and Violence #RenishaMcBride #Justice4Renisha

SoB apartheid

“No woman should ever have to suffer at the hands of man.”- Canary, Arrow

I figured it was somewhat appropriate that I start a conversation about the Renisha McBride incident by talking about some of things going on this season of Arrow, just as I did with the 1 year anniversary of Trayvon Martin’s murder: Heroes Wear Hoodies:Trayvon Martin, Vigilantism, and CW’s Arrow. Travel back with me, towards the conclusion of season 1, The Undertaking. Malcolm Merlyn,

John Barrowman as The Dark Archer/Malcolm Merlyn

Image from TV Guide

the primary antagonist for the season has a plot that was revealed: to destroy the economically down-trodden, racially diverse part of Starling City, The Glades. The Glades is the Other side of town, where all the bad things happen, and Merlyn fell victim with the loss of his wife. His revenge leads to chaos and the loss of over 500 lives. And this season 2, whereas no one really cared for the Glades in S1, now politicians and business people are working like crazy to “bring the Glades back.” In the back of my mind, all I could think about was how racist Merlyn’s plan was, and how disproportionately the poor would be devastated compared to the wealthier parts of the city.

If there is one thing I love about Arrow, it has to be its realism, and unfortunately, there are a number of communities out there just like the Glades being destroyed by the policies of aldermen and corporations. Studies are showing for examples that racism costs the United States about $12 billion a year. The United Nations reported recently that racist policies are still leading to oppressed populations world-wide living in poverty. Anti-black racism is behind the recent court decision in the Dominican Republic to deny black Haitians citizenship, people who have lived in DR for generations. As patriot Edward Snowden has helped us to realize, racist policies drive neo-liberal neo-colonial empire, and vice versa.

Renisha McBride was only 19 years old when she went looking for a Good Samaritan in the suburbs of Dearborn Heights. What she received however was a shotgun bullet to the face by one Ted Wafer. Wafer’s lawyer has told observers not to jump to conclusions, to not use prejudice when looking at this case. See, that’s the funny thing about white supremacy as a system of death. It’s immensely hypocritical: enraged concerned citizens who just happen to be Black aren’t supposed to use bias, but his client was allowed to use prejudice when he decided to take a life. Aside from that, Wafer’s name was not given out to the media until today, in order to protect him. Because black people are armed and dangerous, they are the criminals that seek vengeance (but that’s not what history tells us, but white supremacy doesn’t give a damn about facts, though).

Economic violence and racial violence are interrelated. If blacks are held captive in cycles of poverty, they are viewed as both moral deviants and the constant dependents. Their dependency becomes something of a joke, and asking for help while black become a matter of life or death. “But since it has yet again become clear that black people are deemed unworthy to be helped, I am left to wonder how in the world we will be able to help ourselves?”- Brittney Cooper, PhD. The Neo-Apartheid/Jane & Jim Crow 2.0 exist on white supremacist foundations that darker skinned people are inherently criminal, and those with white skin are morally superior from birth.

The New Apartheids still mean that when People of Color go looking for a Good Samaritan, they will only find murderous thieves.

I can’t bring myself to write anymore for now, so I leave you with this video by Dream Hampton:

Link to Dream Hampton’s youtube video/documentary

“Who then is my neighbor?”