Slavery

Philip C. Kolin 9-26-2018

On your mother’s side Abyssinian slaves,
grandees from Spain on your father’s.
How could someone dark
as a Dominican’s cappa with a burnt
oak face and a halo of knotted hair
be the patron of holiness?
Barbering and sweeping were not
causes for sainthood.
 

David Potter 7-30-2018

FALSE GOSPEL is interwoven throughout both our national identity and theological imagination. In Reconstructing the Gospel, Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove excavates our common story alongside his own lineage. With thorough historical analysis, Wilson-Hartgrove confronts misguided narratives of “who we are” and illumines our current sociopolitical reality.

Beginning with America’s original sin of slavery, Wilson-Hartgrove moves through the Reconstruction era and subsequent redemption struggle, the Jim Crow South, the civil rights movement, and finally, to the truth of today: Systems of enslavement aren’t gone, they’ve merely evolved into new forms. Along the way, Wilson-Hartgrove highlights those who have baptized the sin of racism—from missionaries on slave ships to slavery-supporting preachers Thornton Stringfellow and George Washington Freeman and to Franklin Graham and the Moral Majority—and outlines the destructive patterns of racial blindness, racial habits, and racial politics.

Wilson-Hartgrove reveals that he is “a child of Klan country,” an heir to the sickness of racism. “A man torn in two,” he writes, divided between what Frederick Douglas described as the Christianity of this land and the Christianity of Christ. Reconstructing the Gospel tells of his own untethering from slaveholder religion.

In perhaps the most compelling chapter, titled “Living in Skin,” Wilson-Hartgrove examines how this tradition affects white folks’ dis-ease with embodied life. He asks, “What evil spirit has left us out of touch with our bodies?” Believing the myth of white supremacy requires relinquishing full humanity. “You can’t shut up compassion in a human heart one minute and then go back to normal the next,” says Wilson-Hartgrove. In the process, white folk lose sight of their bodies and solely elevate the spirit. A disconnected body and spirit results in a “fail[ure] to connect faith and politics in meaningful, consistent ways.”

Charles L. Howard 2-15-2018

Image via Nataly Reinch / Shutterstock.com

It is an awful and awesome time to be Black in America. I hear the voices of those who came before say “it always has been son.” Yet the last few years have been especially psychologically traumatizing and awful. The images of unarmed Black bodies being shot, choked, and killed by police officers looping on television and social media and the lack of justice or accountability around many of those murders have haunted me. The resurgence of (and the unhelpful media attention given to) a racist White nationalism. The introduction of policies and executive orders that seek to dismantle progress that took decades to build. And the ascendance of a bigoted fearful president who rose to political power on lies about our first Black president, lies about other minorities, and by playing to the siege mentality of many White Americans. All of this has been added to the daily micro and macro aggressions we experience and the contorting demanded of us to calm white neighbors, colleagues and classmates. It is exhausting. Maddening. Awful

the Web Editors 11-21-2017

Image via CNN

The footage captured via mobile phone shows young men being auctioned off like merchandise. The auctioneer asks for bids from buyers, with some being sold for the equivalent of $400 and handed over to their "masters."

Courtney Ariel 10-17-2017

1. Let’s start with this — if you are not a person who ethnically identifies as black (truly black — please miss me entirely with any Rachel Dolezal references), you cannot use the N-word. Not in a song. Not ever. I am not going to apologize for this. I am not going to engage in conversations about “rights” as it relates to freedom of speech. You do not have the right to comment on how this word is used by black people within the black community. This word has been bought and paid for through the hundreds of thousands of bodies/lives. I fully recognize that entitlement doesn’t ever want to be told what it can and cannot hold. But entitlement has blood on its hands that it has not yet truly begun to atone for, so I want to say this (and please hear me): This word does not belong to you.

Abby Olcese 10-05-2017

Image via Blade Runner 2049 trailer 

Nearly all of the characters K encounters (human and replicant alike) are white. This is in stark contrast to the globalized aesthetic of the city, carried over from the original movie. It could be argued that in a world where a white man like Leto’s Niander Wallace is the one person creating a sizable chunk of the population, it’s not surprising that the creations themselves lack diversity. However, the reality for the film’s casting decisions is likely less about artistic interpretation, and more just plain laziness.

Sam Codington 7-11-2017

If we have learned anything from the past several decades, healing from a 500-year heritage of slavery will take more than a generation or two. I am humbled when I think of this because I realize that the relentless, demonic agony inflicted for 500 years will not be undone or healed by a single generation. My body will have flitted through the breeze as dust many times over once this 500-year heritage has been unwound and restitched. Healing takes more than just time.

Lisa Sharon Harper 3-20-2017

Photos by JP Keenan / Sojourners

Here’s how: We have been living according to different stories of America’s past. As a result, we interpret the present differently. In turn, we dream a different future.

the Web Editors 1-12-2017

Screenshot via black-ish/Facebook

“You don’t think I care about this country?” asks Dre, an African American character played by Anthony Anderson, on the television show black-ish, in the Jan. 11 episode “Lemons.”

“I love this country, even though at times it doesn’t love me back.”

Abby Olcese 10-06-2016

Image via 'The Birth of a Nation'/Facebook

An early scene in Nate Parker’s The Birth of a Nation depicts the wedding of two slaves. As the bride and groom dance joyfully with each other in the midst of a circle of their fellow slaves, the group around them sings: “You got a right, you got a right, you got a right to the tree of life.”

Several scenes later, Nina Simone’s Strange Fruit plays as the camera pans out slowly to show a massive live oak tree full of lynched black bodies. It’s a nauseating image, and the two scenes draw a heartbreaking connection: In this world, oppressed people claiming their right to the tree of life can be a death sentence.

Juliet Vedral 10-05-2016

Image via "Birth of a Nation"/Facebook

James Baldwin, the American author wrote about this white inertia:

“Northerners proffer their indignation about the South as a kind of badge, as proof of good intentions; never suspecting that they thus increase, in the heart of the Negro they are speaking to, a kind of helpless pain and rage -- and pity. Negroes know how little most white people are prepared to implement their words with deeds, how little, when the chips are down, they are prepared to risk. And this long history of moral evasion has had an unhealthy effect on the total life of the country, and has eroded whatever respect Negroes may once have felt for white people.” (The Price of the Ticket, p. 266)

I came away from the film asking the question: Knowing that I have white privilege, what am I willing to risk to further the cause of racial justice?

Peter Armstrong 9-02-2016

Image via /Shutterstock.com

The continued use of the language of reconciliation around this news obfuscates the need for real, full-fledged atonement.

At a moment like this, while the nation watches Georgetown takes this opportunity to correct the sins of its past, white Americans must not demand reconciliation. We must take the work of atonement upon our own shoulders. To do otherwise is to live as if Jesus’ life were not a gift, but something God owed to us from the beginning.

Lisa Sharon Harper 6-30-2016

THE NATION'S FIRST blockbuster television miniseries, Roots, shocked the nation when it started airing on Jan. 23, 1977. Based on Alex Haley’s research on his own family’s story and adapted for television from Haley’s novel, Roots offered the world its first cinematic depiction of Africa and Africans unfiltered through the conduit of Hollywood’s racialized imagination. White Tarzan and Jane were nowhere to be found in Juffure, Gambia. Kunta Kinte was the leading man. Fanta was his ingénue—black ... and beautiful.

For eight nights the Kinte family unfolded from generation to generation, focused on individual family members’ struggles against generations of evil white slave masters.

But the 2016 “reimagined” version of Roots places the snatched descendants of Omoro and Binta Kinte squarely within the unyielding machine of the international slave trade—an economic system that, fundamentally, sought the well-being of European nations at the expense of the rest of the world.

In 380 B.C.E., Plato articulated a grand idea in his treatise The Republic. There is this thing called “race,” he posited. Race is determined by the kind of metal a person is made of, he said: silver, gold, iron, or copper. A person’s race determines how that person serves society.

The transatlantic slave trade took Plato’s notion and expanded the “republic” to encompass the world. Guided by Western philosophers’ notions of human hierarchy, Western popes and monarchs declared the right of Europeans to enslave “uncivilized” peoples for the benefit of the crown. It didn’t take long for Plato’s copper and gold to morph into Virginia judicial law that delineated between slaves and servants based on skin color. Colonial “races” became white, black, and red.

Image via STX Entertainment / RNS

It’s a long way from Hollywood, yet a swampy corner of southeast Mississippi has given the film world its latest hero — or maybe antihero.

His name is Newton Knight, born 180 years ago and played by Matthew McConaughey in the The Free State of Jones, which opened around the country on June 24.

the Web Editors 2-25-2016

Mississippi state capitol. Image via /Shutterstock.com

In his fathomless wisdom, the governor of Mississippi has declared April to be “Confederate Heritage Month,” though the proclamation was curiously missing from the State of Mississippi website, reports the Jackson Free Press.

Gov. Phil Bryant's proclamation — first posted on the website of the Sons of Confederate Veterans — states that “it is important for all Americans to reflect upon our nation’s past.” And what better time? After all, April 25 “is set aside as Confederate Memorial Day to honor those who served in the Confederacy” — why not give them an entire month?

ISIS flag hangs in Palestinian refugee camp. Image via REUTERS/Ali Hashisho/RNS

The wife of a now-deceased Islamic State leader has been charged for her alleged role in last year’s death of American aid worker Kayla Jean Mueller. Nisreen Assad Ibrahim Bahar, 25, the widow of former ISIS leader Abu Sayyaf, allegedly conspired to provide support to the terrorist group, often forcibly holding Mueller in the couple’s homes where she was subjected to repeated sexual abuse by ISIS chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Mueller died in February 2015.

Jim Wallis 12-17-2015

Bryan Stevenson, the nation’s premier lawyer on mass incarceration and the death penalty, says slavery never ended. It just evolved.

I just spent two days with 50 other faith leaders at Stevenson’s Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Ala., where Bryan emphasized four basic essentials for criminal justice reform in America: 1) Proximity to those most impacted, 2) Changing the narrative, 3) Hope replacing hopelessness, and 4) Committing ourselves to uncomfortable things, because injustice is never overcome by just doing comfortable things.

Jesse James DeConto 11-10-2015

Image via Jennifer Harvey / RNS

A white scholar touring churches across the nation is trying to convince Christians that racial reconciliation is not enough — it’s time to start talking about reparations for descendants of slaves.

And among mostly white, mainline Protestants this controversial — some would say unrealistic — notion is getting a hearing.

What divides the races in America, says Drake University ethicist Jennifer Harvey, is not the failure to embrace differences but the failure of white Americans to repent and repair the sins of the past.

Marcia Fingal 8-31-2015

Screenshot of Chibok Girls: 500 Days in Captivity/YouTube/Odyssey Networks

Five hundred days in captivity is a long time for anyone, let alone teen girls. But this is exactly the case for 219 students kidnapped and still missing. Under the cover of darkness on April 14, 2014, the terrorist group Boko Haram, dressed as military soldiers, abducted 276 female students from the Government Secondary School in Chibok, Nigeria. They plundered and burned the school to the ground and forced the young girls into large trucks. A total of 57 girls escaped on their own, but 219 grieving families still await news of their daughters' fate. Based on the reports of other Boko Haram abductees, it's believed the Chibok girls have been sold as child brides, forced into sexual slavery, turned into unwilling weapons of terrorism. Shocking revelations ... as this story has virtually disappeared from the headlines.

What if this had happened in the United States or Europe?

Five hundred days in captivity is a long time for anyone, let alone teen girls. But this is exactly the case for 219 students kidnapped and still missing. Under the cover of darkness on April 14, 2014, the terrorist group Boko Haram, dressed as military soldiers, abducted 276 female students from the Government Secondary School in Chibok, Nigeria. They plundered and burned the school to the ground and forced the young girls into large trucks. A total of 57 girls escaped on their own, but 219 grieving families still await news of their daughters' fate. Based on the reports of other Boko Haram abductees, it's believed the Chibok girls have been sold as child brides, forced into sexual slavery, turned into unwilling weapons of terrorism. Shocking revelations ... as this story has virtually disappeared from the headlines.

What if this had happened in the United States or Europe?

John Wagner 8-26-2015

Image via /Shutterstock

Recently, several human rights groups noted that the U.S. State Department has upgraded the status of some countries, notably Malaysia and Cuba, regarding human trafficking in order to improve diplomatic relations with those countries. Human trafficking, which is modern day slavery, is the illegal buying and selling of people, typically for forced labor or forced prostitution. 

As a human rights worker, I know it is vitally important to tell the truth about human rights and to not falsify official reports about human rights in order to achieve diplomatic goals.

Human rights workers are rarely “purists.” They fight a lonely battle, often knowing there is little they can do in the offending country and knowing that “good” countries such as the US often will choose to elevate diplomatic goals over human rights goals. That is a fact of life. But when we make such choices, we must do so knowingly, with our eyes open, and not falsify reports or documents in order to sanitize our decisions.

Our official reports must have credibility. The whole point of preparing Trafficking In Persons (TIP) reports — or, for that matter, any human rights reports — is to provide a solid basis for analyzing the problem and identifying the countries involved. Once the U.S. is known to “cook the books” on the TIP reports, it loses its moral authority.

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