Tag Archives: white supremacy

Self-Determination.

Today marks the second day of Kwanzaa. Kwanzaa is a seven day holiday celebrated around the world by people from the African diaspora. Ever since I was a fifth grader, I have been aware of this holiday. At that time, my family and I were attending a predominantly Black Baptist megachurch which celebrated both Christmas and Kwanzaa. As a family, we didn’t really celebrate the holiday but I grew to respect people who chose to. One of the laziest criticisms of Kwanzaa is that it is a “made-up” “fake” holiday. If we are gonna be honest, all of our holy days are socially constructed, or “made up” as they say. I would argue what matters not is the origin stories of holidays, but ultimately the values that they teach.

In his significant work, Black Theology & Black Power, James Cone quotes Kwanzaa founder Maulana Ron Karenga and his criticism of Christianity, and the need to “concern ourselves more with this life which has its own problems. For the next life across Jordan is much further away from the growl of dogs and policemen and the pains of hunger and disease” (page 33). In the era of Black Lives Matter, I find Karenga’s words timely. U.S. Christianity, specifically White evangelicalism, has sneered at visions of black liberation for decades. Rather than join the struggle versus mass incarceration and the pre-school to prison pipeline that subjugates an overwhelming number of young black boys, White Christians would prefer to continue to perpetuate antiBlack narratives and politics for the sake of maintaining their power.

White Supremacist myths that continue to oppress Black people include the slaveability and dependent nature of Black souls. In this mythology, Blacks do not like freedom, Black people are servile, they play the entertainer, the really good athlete, the nice Black soldier, the “welfare queen,” or the uncritical “uninformed” Democratic party voter all at the same time. We see these images in the white supremacist media from good liberals at ESPN to the nice establishment conservatives at the Wall Street Journal. Black intellectuals are never seen as unique thinkers, only the black versions of European greats, like Frantz Fanon as the Black Jean-Paul Satre, for example.

These racist myths exist only to justify the current status quo, and to justify the four hundred year legacy of Black enslavement without any means of reparations, justice, or reconciliation. And yet, today is what celebrants of Kwanzaa call Kujichagulia Day, a day to reflect on SELF-INITIATIVE, SELF-RESPECT, AND SELF-DETERMINATION. If our notions of the human involve racist ideas, then I suggest that unfreedom, oppression would be part of our understanding of personhood. This would explain the preferred viciously antiBlack racist anthropological gaze of the majority population here in the United States. However, if one’s understanding of our humanity is that freedom is an inextricable part of our being, then the desire for self-determination shouldn’t be considered anything to be but natural. Over the years in my experience as an educator in a special education program, I have had to re-learn and learn with teenagers with disabilities about the value of self-determination. When working with various students with disabilities, I have learned that autonomy is going to look a whole lot different from one student to the next. For example, for one student who may be higher functioning with a slight learning disability, independence could look like moving away from study helps like dictionaries to newer reading strategies. Or, for another student who may have a significant intellectual disability and motor impairment, self-initiative could look like learning how to crawl and then walk for the very first time with the help of leg braces and a gait trainer. Self-determination isn’t going to look the same for everyone.

This essay is not only a push for the Black community to being more inclusive of people with disabilities in the practice and idea of Kujichagulia, but also to make it (self-determination), the strive towards freedom more contextual and less hegemonic. Such a move would allow us to also make a break away from essentialism that we sometimes see from defenders of Black culture. What if all Black college football players decided to boycott the NCAA until they, and all other student-athletes were paid? Or imagine a world where Black writers didn’t have to be the only ones left to navel-gaze of the history of white supremacy? Hear me out, but maybe what if Black scholars started doing work independent of White theorists and started appreciating the intellectual history and labor of Black people? What if Black self-initiative looks like not needing the approval of Whites, whether they be conservative or liberal or Marxist? We cannot have any form of racial reconciliation or racial justice without first developing a self-respect for our own work in a world where there exists a preferred hierarchy of values.

 

Photo Description:  Photo is a drawing of the 7 Kwanzaa candles, from left to right, 3 green candles, 1 yellow candle, then 3 burgundy candles.  Photo was taken by Katallna-Marie Kruszewskl. found on flickr.  

The #BlackLivesMatter Creed

The Ferguson Declaration: A Black Lives Matter Creed (Long Version)

If you want to sign the Black Lives Matter Creed, please follow this link: Signing the Black Lives Matter Creed.

An Appeal to Christian Congregations and Christians Worldwide

We, the heirs of Black Churches and their traditions, in the Spirit of the Prophets, the Apostles, and the Early Church

1.1 We believe in God Our Creator and the Father, the Maker of Heaven and Earth, the Source and Fountain of Love (1st John 4: 8) who loves all people from every tribe and nation and who is the same God who appoints seasons of justice and peacemaking (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8).

1.2 We believe in Jesus of Nazareth – conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary – to be the risen Son of God who Ministered and Healed the Sick, Liberated the Oppressed and suffered under the occupation of the Roman Empire where he was persecuted, brutalized, and executed on Calgary. We celebrate the power of God bringing life into that which we thought was dead, represented by the resurrection of Jesus, giving us victory over sin and death (Colossians 2:14-15).

1.3 We believe in the Holy Spirit, Our Comforter and Guide throughout every dispensation who continues to prepare the World for the Good News that the Church Universal is called to proclaim and embody. The Spirit blows where God wills (John 3:9), breathing life in every generation (Ecclesiastes 7:10), making a better tomorrow possible until Christ’s return.

1.4 We believe Black Lives Matter. Scripture speaks of the infinite worth of ALL of humanity (Genesis 1:26-27; Genesis 9:6), and the Triune God distinctly created us with intentionality and purpose. God loves us in our DIFFERENCES and reveals that the Body will only find true unity in this midst of seeking the purpose of our divinely composed diversity (Revelation 5:9; Revelation 14:6). The holy writ portrays a sovereign God as caught up in the scandal of particularity moving through the lives of the powerless from the election of Abraham, Moses, and the Hebrews out of Egypt to their Gentile neighbors in ancient Syria, Ethiopia, Persia, Egypt, and Palestine (Amos 9:7). In each of these circumstances we are able to testify to God affirming our differences and addressing unique plights throughout human history.. In the Gospels, we see that Jesus heard the cry of the Syrophoenician woman and healed her daughter (Mark 7:25-30). By sitting and listening to someone who was a cultural minority and recognizing her unique plight, Christ worked to set her and her daughter free from their captivity. The authors and signatories of The Ferguson Declaration: A Black Lives Matter Creed, express solidarity in word and deed with the movement begotten by Alicia Garza, Patrisse Collors, and Opal Tometi. This solidarity also includes but is not limited to, all other resistance movements such as #SayHerName, #AMillionHoodies, and #JusticeForFlint committed to nonviolent resistance as opposition to racism for the sake of the Common Good.

1.5 We believe the Scriptures reflect God’s Preferential Option of the Poor from Genesis to Revelation (James 1:27, Psalm 68:5, Exodus 22:21, Proverbs 17:5). The Prophets of old taught that God loved and provided for all people, and yet widows, orphans, and migrants found favor with God. God requires justice for the poor and judges each government accordingly (Micah 4:3-4, Daniel 4:25-26). Jesus Christ the Son taught Divine Providence, and before he sent out his disciples, he assured them that God’s loving-kindness reached even the smallest of birds, the sparrow (Matthew 10: 26-31). God’s will is for the lowly of society to receive justice so that all persons in the human community can be made whole.

1.6 We believe in the Sanctity of all of life and that the Church should work with society to look after the general welfare of all persons from womb to tomb (John 10:10). We affirm that humanity was meant to live in liberty rather than chains, and that God has bestowed upon women and men the capacity to choose goodness and love. Worship of the Resurrected Savior should lead us to stride towards freedom and a Culture of Life (Romans 5:17).

Given this commitment to life and humanity’s sacred worth, we are troubled throughout this planet, as our brothers and sisters of African descent continue to live under the weight of oppression:

2.1 “Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace; And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh. For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father. Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God” (Ephesians 2:11-22) We receive the Word through the Apostle Paul that the LORD Jesus was sent to bring peace (Isaiah 9:6-7, Luke 2:14) to the nations. Our goal is for a social and spiritual renewal of our cities, our towns, our states, our country, and our planet, and the Gospel stories tell us that such restoration requires a confession of our sins. We reject the false doctrine as though Racial Reconciliation could happen apart from collective Repentance of White Supremacy (Acts 17:30, Luke 19:8-10).

2.2 “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” and “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. If ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also: and from henceforth ye know him, and have seen him.” (John 8:32;John 14:6-7) We reject the false doctrine that love of country means avoiding
telling the Truth about our history. Neighborly love mandates that the Black church speaks truth to power, in love, so that the Church Universal and the World can see where Christ is (Ephesians 4:15): in the lives of the oppressed (Matthew 25).

2.3 “Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins” and “And when [Jesus] had opened the book, he found the place where it was written, The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised” (Colossians 1:12-4; Luke 4:17-18) We reject the false doctrine that State-sanctioned Wrath is superior to God’s way of Forgiveness and Freedom. Black Churches proclaim the Lordship of Christ, who is the head of the Church Universal as well as all other institutions (Philippians 2:11, 1st Timothy 6:15) We believe that free societies operate in their healthiest states when models the example set by Jesus. Forgiveness, accountability, and restoration should be a community’s priorities when it comes to non-violent offenders of the law. Black Churches call for an end to the War on Drugs, militarized police, the School-to-Prison pipeline, and the closure of the privatized prisons. We support the on-the-ground grassroots efforts of the people of Ferguson as well as #CampaignZero .` Lastly, due to the fact that we value the sacred worth of all persons, and respect those in authority, we must all work together for background checks and gun control to ensure the safety of police officers and civilians alike.

·2.4 “And the work of righteousness shall be peace; and the effect of righteousness quietness and assurance for ever. And my people shall dwell in a peaceable habitation, and in sure dwellings, and in quiet resting places” and “For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost” (Isaiah 32:17-18; Romans 14:17). We reject the false doctrine that Peace should be separate from Justice. Christian justice must include economic equality and opportunity for all (Jeremiah 22:13). Just as swords will be turned into plowshares, so must jailhouses be transformed into schoolhouses. Just as no one should be profiled or harassed because of the color of their skin, no one should be discriminated by employers on the basis of race, gender, religion or, creed (Galatians 3:28, Colossians 3:11). Human dignity is intrinsic to all human persons and therefore all work is valuable in God’s sight. Education and moral formation are the keys to delivering communities from racial oppression.

2.5 “Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world.” (John 18:36) We reject the false doctrine, as though the work of the Nation-State should be confused with the Peaceable Kingdom of God. No government official or arm of the State sits on Heaven’s throne, for only Christ reigns supreme. The Black Church calls on all religious bodies, governments and corporations here and abroad to practice the utmost humility in the quest for a Beloved Community.

Amen.

The authors and signatories of The Ferguson Declaration: A Black Lives Matter Creed declare the revealed truth that God is a God of the Oppressed for the salvation of the entire World. Black Churches and Christians worldwide affirm the statement that #BlackLivesMatter. We invite all who are working peaceably for justice to participate in the Black Lives Matter movement and other likeminded organizations.

For the latest updates on The Ferguson Declaration: A Black Lives Matter Creed, follow us on Twitter at @BLMCreed

The Nine Inch Knife

“It was, as I saw it, a case of ‘the chickens coming home to roost.’ I said that the hate in white men had not stopped with the killing of defenseless black people, but that hate, allowed to spread unchecked, had finally struck down this country’s Chief Magistrate.”
Malcolm X, trying to explain his infamous “chickens” quote
In The Autobiography of Malcolm X: As Told to Alex Haley (1964)

During the 1960’s Malcolm X was perhaps the most controversial voice for Black America during the Civil Rights Movement. His “Chickens coming home to roost” was arguably one of his most controversial statement. This quote earned him censorship from Elijah Muhammad and the Nation of Islam, as well as the ire of many Americans. However, Malcolm X did not back down from his words. Many interpreted his words as condoning the assassination of President Kennedy. This however was a mistake. His words were much deeper than a seemingly unsympathetic remark about an American tragedy. It was a brutally honest assessment of a problem that continues to plague America today. Malcolm X described the grotesque violence that is created by the all-consuming nature of institutionalized racism. Institutionalized racism creates a socio-political, economic, and cultural system predicated on violence that is perpetuated throughout all of society. In such an environment not even the President of the United States is safe.

Malcolm X’s words inform my own reflection on the series of recent tragedies in Dallas, St. Paul, and Baton Rouge. Recently, I have zoned in and out of various media coverage of all these incidents. I can’t help but notice that despite all of the different issues that have been analyzed I have been very dissatisfied with the socio-historical analysis of the events. Personally, I believe that the five officers murdered in Dallas, Philando Castile, and Alton Sterling are all victims of systemic or institutionalized racism. More accurately, their deaths are the result of a society that refuses to acknowledge its racial history and the ongoing systems of inequality that continue to create a racialized caste system.

Institutional racism is defined simply as the way that various practices in social and political institutions are embedded with racist ideologies that create inequality. These ideologies are reiterated through various avenues such as; the criminal justice system, employment opportunities, housing, health care, political power, education. Institutional racism can be both implicit as well and explicit. It can often go unnoticed and can be reinforced through the status quo. Institutional racism originates through everyday opportunities and operates through the politics of respectability. It is easy to recognize or call out a racist individual but institutional racism is far more complicated. Institutional racism is by no mean a recent phenomenon. African Americans have fought against institutional racism for about as long as they have fought for equal right and protection under the law. Whether it was through the race riots in Detroit, Los Angeles and other metropolitan areas during the Civil Rights Movement Era, the rise and fall of the Black Panther Party, Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow Coalition, protest over Rodney King, and the contemporary iteration of Black Lives Matter Movement; the struggle against institutional racism continues. Finally, institutional racism evokes both passive and active violence. Economic disparities, lack of educational opportunities, political disenfranchisement, and environmental racism are acts of passive violence that are created by institutional racism. It should come as no surprise that these conditions create an environment where active violence becomes a normalized behavior. This behavior becomes a staple for every stakeholder in the system of institutionalized racism.

If institutional racism is indeed the problem what exactly is its scope today? This particular problem exists at all levels. To begin with it is exists at all levels of the education system. Yes, this includes preschool. Black children make up a large portion of the preschoolers who are suspended according to a recent study. They compose relatively 1/6 of the preschool population, yet they represent over 50 percent of all out-of-school suspensions. In general, black children are far more likely to face stricter punishments compared to white students in grades K through twelve. They make up forty percent of all school expulsions and over sixty percent of the students referred to the police from schools are minorities according to the department of education. Scholars call this phenomenon the school to prison pipeline.

Institutional racism also affects employment opportunities and housing arrangements. Black graduates are more than twice as likely to be unemployed compared to white college graduates. It is no secret about the ongoing disparities between mean income for African American families compared to white families. Recent research has also indicated racial biases in hiring practices. Applicants with black sounding names have found great difficulty in finding employment despite have similar or a better resume compared to other applicants. Studies also show that as the pay scale for a particular job increases using increments of 10,000 dollars, the likelihood of an African American applicant receiving that job decreases by seven percent. In the housing market, almost 80 percent of whites own homes compared to less than 50 percent of African Americans. Perhaps most staggering are recent figures that suggest that the median net worth of white families is approximately 250,000 dollars compared to nearly 30,000 dollars for black families.

The greatest indicator of institutional racism continues to be the criminal justice system. Unfortunately, racial inequality is pervasive at every step of the criminal justice process. Black juveniles are 18 times as likely to be sentenced as adults compared to white juveniles. They also compose the vast majority of both the juveniles in prison as well as the one’s tried as adults in the court system. African Americans are more than three times as likely to be searched during a routine traffic stop by a police officer and more than six times as likely to be arrested. According to the Sentencing Project found that this statistic is not merely a coincidence stating that there is “an implicit racial association of black Americans with dangerous or aggressive behavior.” Furthermore, systematic inequality continues to exist in the court system as well. A black person who kills a white person is twice as likely to receive the death penalty as a white person who kills a black person. Even jury selection suffers from racial discrimination. Black jurors who are equally as qualified as white jurors have been illegally turned away from the courtroom in some places as often as ⅘ times. The end result of this process is that in many death penalty cases, particularly one’s involving African Americans, predominantly white juries determine guilt or innocence. Sadly, this is just the beginning of institutional racism in the court system. Noticeably absent from this picture are any stats about stop and frisk policies from the FBI’s investigation, disparities created by mandatory minimums, truth in sentencing laws, and the impact of the War on Drugs.

If any of the above facts are hard to believe then take the recommendation of the United Nations on the current status of race relations in the United States. In a recent news article Ricardo Sunga III, chair of the UN expert panel on people of African descent that the United States has a high level of institutional and structural racism. He also noted that excessive form seems to be the norm for police when dealing with African Americans, who are more than twice as likes to be shot by officers compared to whites. Sunga stated: “It is time, now for the US Government to strongly assert that Black lives matter and prevent any further killings as a matter of national priority.”

To conclude I will return to Malcolm X’s (in)famous words about a “chicken coming home to roost.” In his first interview after being censured by the Nation of Islam Malcolm X did not shy away from his original comments. He also described American racial progress using the analogy of a 9-inch knife in someone’s back. I think this is an appropriate analogy to describe the current impact and attitude towards institutional racism in American society. Institutional racism is like a 9-inch knife that has been placed in the back of Black America. It creates crippling conditions that make it a struggle for black people to move on a daily basis. Since the Classic Era of the Civil Right Movement some people have said that the knife is only three inches and others have said the knife has been removed. Either way according to Malcolm X it does not matter whether the knife is still there or completely removed. True progress only happens once the wounds that the knife has created begins to heal. However, for Malcolm X and many other black Americans most people in the United States refuse to even admit that there is a knife in the back. No matter what one’s perspective is, one thing remains clear. American society is not even close to healing any of the wounds created by institutional racism.