Racism

Ryan Stewart 10-27-2015
Screenshot via Heavy

Screenshot via Heavy

On the morning of Oct. 26, a student at Spring Valley High School in South Carolina was flipped out of her desk and tossed across the room by school resource officer Ben Fields.

Fields is already facing an outstanding lawsuit filed against him for "recklessly targeting African-American students with allegations of gang membership." But in 2014, Fields received a "Culture of Excellence" award for being "an exceptional role model to the students he serves and protects."

the Web Editors 10-26-2015
Joseph Sohm / Shutterstock.com

Photo via Joseph Sohm / Shutterstock.com

Campus police officers at the University of Mississippi removed the state flag from its campus this morning, days after resolutions from the student body, staff, and faculty urged such action, according to a press release from the University of Mississippi.

It is the first predominantly white institution of higher education in the state of Mississippi to ban the flag.

The student senate was the first to pass the resolution, after 3 hours of "respectful and impassioned debate" culminating in a 33-15-1 vote in support of removal.

Adam Ericksen 10-23-2015

Screenshot via 'Star Wars'/YouTube

I’ve noticed that when many white liberals are confronted with these numbers, and the racism that undergirds our privilege, we start feeling guilty. We generally have two choices in how we respond to our feelings of guilt: First, we can choose to become defensive. We start concealing our own racism by projecting it onto the overt racists who start Twitter campaigns that boycott Star Wars. In other words, we’d much rather take the easy way out of scapegoating. We’d rather blame the racists out there than do the difficult work of examining the racism that infects in each one of us.

But the more vehemently white liberals deny that we are racists, the more evidence we provide that that’s exactly what we are.

The second choice is to move beyond white fragility, by doing the difficult work of examining the racism within ourselves and our society. We can acknowledge that the racist structures that infect our country also infects us. We can choose to openly acknowledge the benefits we gain from racist societal structures. We can choose to work for political, economic, and educational reform that will lead toward greater racial justice.

Lilly Fowler 10-20-2015

Image via Daniel Schwen / Wikimedia Commons / RNS

A reward of up to $2,000 is being offered for information leading to the arrest of the culprit in a string of fires that have now hit six predominantly African-American churches in and around St. Louis.

Ebenezer Lutheran Church, at 1011 Theobald Street, is the latest church to report damage.

Capt. Garon Mosby, spokesman for the St. Louis Fire Department, said members of the congregation called authorities about 9:25 a.m. Oct. 18 after arriving for a worship service and noticing damage. The fire was already out by the time firefighters arrived, Mosby said.

Although he could not provide additional details, Mosby said that the damage was not extensive. But that the incident was being investigated along with the five other church fires that have happened in the area since Oct. 8.

Patrick Walls 10-14-2015

Image via Brazos Press.

“When Trayvon Martin was shot and killed, I felt - you might call it the lament of a white father. I knew and the whole country knew that my son Luke — six-foot-tall baseball athlete, going to college next year — had been walking and doing the same thing, same time that Trayvon was doing in Sanford, Fla., everyone knows he would've come back. But Trayvon didn't come back, and so it was a parable. Jesus talked about parables. They teach us things. Michael Brown — Ferguson — was a parable. Charleston was a parable. The parable about where we are as a nation — we have to see our original sin and how it still lingers in our criminal justice system.”

10-14-2015

I met with a black friend for lunch about two years ago and discussed my concerns about the status of racial harmony in our community. I had my conscience aroused over the death of young Trayvon Martin and the reaction I received from my white friends in the days following the verdict acquitting George Zimmerman. I related to my black friend that the verdict was greeted by my white friends by offers of high fives and celebration. I was stunned and saddened and did not understand the glee.

David Gushee 10-12-2015

Image via  / Shutterstock

Some of this year’s crop of politicians tell us that illegal or undocumented immigrants pose a deadly threat to our country. I say that anti-immigrant rhetoric is the more dangerous threat. It has been deadly before, here and in other countries. It can easily become deadly again.

You can watch the rhetorical escalation up the ladder — or down the slippery slope, choose your metaphor — toward danger.

Step one: It is perfectly reasonable for those concerned about illegal immigration to express concern about our nation’s ability to secure its borders, especially from those who might pose a real threat. As one who regularly waits in lines to pass through border controls, I get it. In a nation-state world, borders matter. All nations attempt to secure their borders. The United States has a right and a need to secure its borders.

the Web Editors 09-21-2015
YouTube / Fox

Screenshot via YouTube / Fox

Viola Davis became the first black woman to win an Emmy for best actress in a drama at the 67th Emmy Awards on Sunday night.

Davis won the award for her role in How to Get Away with Murder, in which she plays Annalise Keating, a brilliant criminal defense professor.

In her stirring acceptance speech, Davis spoke about the difficulties women of color have often faced getting lead roles. 

Viola Davis became the first black woman to win an Emmy for best actress in a drama at the 67th Emmy Awards on Sunday night.

Davis won the award for her role in How to Get Away with Murder, in which she plays Annalise Keating, a brilliant criminal defense professor.

In her stirring acceptance speech, Davis spoke about the difficulties women of color have often faced getting lead roles. 

Viola Davis became the first black woman to win an Emmy for best actress in a drama at the 67th Emmy Awards on Sunday night.

Davis won the award for her role in How to Get Away with Murder, in which she plays Annalise Keating, a brilliant criminal defense professor.

In her stirring acceptance speech, Davis spoke about the difficulties women of color have often faced getting lead roles. 

Image via /Shutterstock

Early in the course, probably in the first class, Professor Caldwell dropped a simple yet profound piece of knowledge on us that has stayed in my head ever since: "Racism is gender-specific.”

On a personal level, this statement affirmed what I already knew through life experience but hadn't given much thought: my experience of race and racism in a female body comes with a unique set of reactions and interactions that differs from that of the black men and boys in my life. In a similar way, I had to admit that there were certain expressions and negotiations of black life emanating from male embodiedness that I would never experience.

The hard part came in being able to acknowledge both to be true, intellectually and practically, without feeling like I had to suppress one part of my self in order to embrace another part of my self. On paper, it seems like the right thing to do to honor and respect differences within a group that has much in common. Yet what I have found in over twenty years of working in the social sector and in faith communities is that it is a rare thing when we are able to live this out in the real world.

Rally after the decision not to indict Darren Wilson

Solidarity rally in Minneapolis for Michael Brown in response to the Ferguson grand jury decision, Nov. 25, 2014 by Fibonacci Blue / Flickr.com.

It's a call and response chant started on the streets of Ferguson that has spread across the nation.

"Mike Brown means ..."

"... we got to fight back!"

It rolls off my tongue in a sing-chant cadence, and my hips begin to sway, because I have yelled it as I've marched and rehearsed it in my dreams. It is bitter and sweet. We evoke Mike's name and sway and pledge to fight. I've listened to voices I know and those I don't call and answer in hours of live stream and together in front of court houses and I know, I know in my soul what Mike Brown means.

Mike Brown means ... something more. Something larger than one more young black man shot in his neighborhood.

One year later, Mike Brown means ... something more.

Vincent Intondi 07-29-2015

As we mark the 70th anniversary of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the world waits to see if the Iran deal will come to fruition and thus avoid war. Once again, the debate about nuclear weapons appears at the forefront. At the same time, inside the U.S., the #BlackLivesMatter movement continues to make clear it will no longer be politics as usual as activists organize, protest, and fight every day to destroy institutional racism. However, it is no coincidence that these events are all happening simultaneously as they have always been and continue to be inextricably linked.

Trudy Smith 07-29-2015
Black Lives Matter protest in Washington, D.C.

Protesters march against police shootings and racism during a rally in Washington, D.C., on Dec. 13, 2014, Rena Schild / Shutterstock.com

In the wake of Sandra Bland’s death, I’ve seen comments from other white Christians on social media defending the arresting officer, denying that Sandra Bland was mistreated, blaming her for what happened, and denying that race had anything to do with what happened to her. Their responses were so knee-jerk automatic that I probably could have written them ahead of time before learning anything specific about the events in question. We humans can be quite tribal, and we instinctively tend to identify with the people who are most like us.

Many whites balk at the suggestion that their views and assumptions might be racist because they know themselves to be moral people who live decent lives and maybe even have some black friends. They certainly don’t hate anybody, and they aren’t supporters of the Ku Klux Klan. Because they understand racism on an individual rather than systemic level, it seems impossible to hold together an image of oneself that contains both “good person” and “racist.”

Adam Ericksen 07-28-2015
Screenshot from arrest video

Screenshot of video via Texas Department of Public Safety

Once again we find white people blaming a black victim of violence. She’s to blame because she was “irritated.” She’s to blame because she refused to put out her cigarette. She’s to blame because she’s black.

A white response that blames Sandra Bland is a racist response. White people can get away with being irritated at police. We don’t have to be kind to officers. We can express our anger and not fear arrest.

A black person though? If a black person shows any anger, they will likely be arrested or possibly killed. And it will be construed as their fault.

The purpose of spiritual disciplines is not to earn brownie points but to restore or renew relationships. God seems most concerned to restore relationships that are most broken in society. This means that the outcry for justice from the Black Lives Matter movement provides an opportunity for the renewal of the church. The “Spiritual Practices for Confronting Racial Bias” presented by copastors Rebecca Steele and Larry Watson were these: gather in small groups that are 1) half black and half white, 2) half poor and half not poor, and 3) have a small stewardship team that redistributes tithes and offerings to those in need.

Those are indeed spiritual disciplines. And they were like the spiritual disciplines of the early church whose members not only brought tithes and offerings but they also sold possessions and brought the proceeds for redistribution among those who had financial needs (Acts 2:45). This same church, when one group (Gentiles) complained about discrimination in widows’ support, gave all the distributive power to the discriminated against (Acts 6:1-5).

Rev. Dr. Guy Nave 07-21-2015
Image via lassedesignen/Shutterstock

Image via /Shutterstock

When will we as a nation develop the social, moral, or political resolve to declare a war on racism?

There is a long history in America of campaigns of eradication, identified as "wars" — a "war on crime," a "war on drugs," a "war on poverty," a "war on terrorism," etc.

An interesting commonality of many of these so-called "wars" is that the perceived enemy is often portrayed as people of color.

Why is it that we as a nation do not seek the ending of racism with the same urgency we have sought the eradication of crime, drug use, or terrorism? Is it because the perceived enemy in a "war on racism" is not primarily people of color?

24/7 Wall St. published a special report this month on the ten states with the most hate groups. Using data from the Southern Poverty Law Center, the report states that there are 784 active hate groups nationwide.

LaVonne Neff 07-16-2015

I have an idea for people who value their region's heritage so much that they continue to wave what they think is the Confederate flag (even though it is actually the battle flag of Northern Virginia).

I suggest that they volunteer to be slaves. For life.

Fact: The 19th-century Southern way of life would have been impossible without enslaved people.

Fact: The one thing that could bring back that romantic bygone era would be if, once again, some 39 percent of the population were enslaved (that's the average percentage of enslaved people in the Confederate states). But this time let's recognize that no one values personal liberty as much as Southerners. And let's take their word that the Confederate flag has nothing to do with racism. Let's encourage true Confederate patriots, especially white folks who are not racists, to volunteer to work in the fields from sunrise to sunset. There will be no pay, of course, and no bothersome education; but food, lodging, and two sets of work clothes per year will be provided. And the South will rise again.

Lisa Sharon Harper 07-16-2015
book of genesis

Hand scanning the Book of Genesis. Suzanne Tucker / Shutterstock.com

I didn’t see the film Malcolm X in theaters. I waited to see it on video. Big mistake.

I watched it in my home, just off campus from University of Southern California, late at night when everyone else was sleeping. Another big mistake.

At the time I was living in a house with one other black person and a bunch of white and Asian friends. I was attending a mostly white school and a mostly white church and had attended a mostly white institute for urban transformation that was borne out of my church. Ironically, it was there that I was required to read The Autobiography of Malcolm X. But I never read the whole thing, only sections.

So, I sat in the dark living room, lit only by the television screen, and watched Denzel Washington bring Malcolm X to life … by myself. And there, in the dark, Malcolm’s words about Jesus hit me to the core.

the Web Editors 07-16-2015
Image via zefart/Shutterstock

Image via /Shutterstock

A crowd greeted the president in Oklahoma City, Okla., Wednesday night by waving Confederate flags, POLITICO reports

Confederate flags are a rare sight in Oklahoma, which was not a member of the confederacy. 

According to POLITICO: 

Across the street from [President Obama's] hotel in downtown Oklahoma City, as many as 10 people waved the flags as his motorcade arrived. The group stood among a larger group of demonstrators, many of them there to support the president, who is in town ahead of a visit to a federal prison on Thursday as part of his weeklong push on criminal justice issues.

According to local news organizations, a man named Andrew Duncomb, who calls himself the “black rebel,” organized the Confederate flag demonstration. He also put together a similar protest on Saturday at the Oklahoma State Capitol — just a day after South Carolina removed its contested flag from the State Capitol grounds. His Facebook page features photos from that rally.

The president is scheduled to visit a federal prison today, the first acting president to do so. Read the full story here.

Troy Jackson 07-14-2015
Occupy Wall Street

Occupy Wall Street gathering in 2012, gabriel12 / Shutterstock.com

In the past few years, a new era of civil rights organizing has emerged out of the depths of tragedy and despair. The list of names of young African Americans who have died at the hand of police, out-of-control vigilantes, and hate-filled white terrorists has fostered profound lament and intense anger. The simple phrase, “Black Lives Matter” has galvanized activism, mobilizing, and organizing.

This new civil rights battle includes legislative battles at state houses like South Carolina, leading to the removal of the Confederate flag from the grounds. There is work to do in D.C. as well. Yet the real front of this new era will be on the corporate scene, on Wall Street and with economic power brokers and corporations. It is time to go “over the heads” of politicians and enter into dialogue and debate with corporations over the value and dignity of dark bodies, and how to reconstruct a moral economy that is not profiting off of people of color.

Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, II., at the mass meeting in Winston-Salem. Photo by Phil Fonville.

NC NAACP vs. McCrory is a necessary interruption to the institutionalized racism that is killing black and brown people. For all the talk around “black lives matter,” Rev. Barber warns, we are in danger of only affirming that black death matters if we accept that the martyrs of Charleston deserve nothing more than the removal of a Confederate flag from their state house. Yes, the flags should come down. But if they go away while the unjust laws remain, then it may be even harder for us to see that the root of injustice is in an imbalance of power.

And the fundamental power of citizenship in this country is still the franchise.

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