Archives For racism

As part of our home-school English curriculum this year, I decided to tackle Twain’s, ‘The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn‘.

I’ve read a few of the, for and against arguments on the internet, by writers who either have an higher opinion of themselves (than they do of Twain), or they raise Twain to a higher level, just because he’s Twain.

My conclusion is this: forget all the, “I’m offended therefore ban ‘The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn’, because Mark Twain uses offensive language.” Then ditch the flip side which says, “I’m offended, because you’re offended, that Mark Twain didn’t consider your feelings, before he wrote the book”.

What should be deemed offensive is the fact that we’re told our children cannot be taught to discern for themselves; told that they cannot learn the difference between appropriate, and inappropriate language. Especially the term which Mark Twain contextually applies to Huck’s, African-American friend, Jim.

Such an ideological imposition goes against everything that my role as an educator involves. Such as teaching kids how to think for themselves and act responsibly with what they’ve been taught. I’m a facilitator, not a computer programmer; I facilitate the learning process, I don’t insert information into an object, in a certain way, in order to get a specific set of desired results on demand.

Although age and capability are factors for why filtering certain topics is essential to healthy nurturing, I don’t water down facts to appease feelings. With age and capability factors in mind, I present the how, and we discuss the what. Deep learning requires learning the hard stuff and how to digest the hard stuff. We read, learn and act, therefore does not equate to, “we install and stoically obey”.

Learning is a journey, a discipline from which we grow together. This is encapsulated in the whole meaning of reader beware (caveat lector) and it corresponds perfectly with buyer (consumer) beware (caveat emptor).

For example: my students know the difference between Niger (the Latin adjective for black, pronounced Nigh-jer), and the perversion of the adjective used to refer to African-Americans in a derogatory way. Our students understand that the name of the country Nigeria is not pronounced or used with that pejorative in mind.

They are capable of concluding that if a term has an historical significance and was used in such a way to control and abuse others, than that term is not to be used, but is to be left in the historical context where it once was applied. Whitewashing history in order to make it digestible isn’t conducive to education proper.

Take for instance the term ‘wandering jew’’. This is a common name of a pervasive weed in Australia. It pops up everywhere and is hard to get rid of.  But the term raises some important questions: a) is the name of the weed, “wandering jew”, a term of endearment, or is it a pejorative? b)  Can the term be understood differently?  Just because I think the phrase is potentially offensive, doesn’t mean that a Jewish person would agree. c) The plant is strong, hardy and persistent with okay flowers. Instead of disparaging Jewish people, does it stand as a compliment to them?

Instead of banning terms, we educate our children about them. We teach them that the term ‘wandering jew’ can be viewed as a slur on a people group, used in order to dehumanize them. We also take note of the possibility that ‘wandering jew’ could also be viewed as a term of endearment. As a result, while knowing that the phrase is common, we give them reason whether or not to insert weed, where jew once stood or keep it. The consensus has been to use ‘wandering weed’ instead of ‘wandering jew’. If, however, someone used the term ‘wandering jew’, our children would understand its reference, and if someone was offended by it, they would understand why.

We can teach this without demanding that all horticultural books or websites which use the term, “wandering jew” be banned. Just because some Jewish folks might be offended, or use the term, doesn’t mean we have to either ban it, or use it. Likewise, just because the African-American community might (and some do[i]) use the pejorative version of the word ‘Niger (Nigh-Jer)’, doesn’t justify our own use of it (no matter how hypocritical it may seem).

In the case of ‘The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn’, the student is taught to understand what the word means, how and why it was once used, and to whom it was once applied. Instead of having them repeat the word, the pejorative version of ‘niger (nigh-jer)’ is easily replaced by the reader with African-American. We acknowledge the complications, but chose to think for ourselves instead of having a censor do that job for us.

The genius of ‘The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn’ is that, when allowed to speak for itself, Twain confronts us with the harsh reality of how words have been used to dehumanize others.

In order to holistically educate our students about the slave trade and the abuses carried out under the banner of racism, they have to be allowed to be confronted with the truth. The truth and the words associated with it. Thanks to Mark Twain, our students are no longer spectators. They get to participate in, and experience, hard truths through the eyes and ears of Twain’s characters.

There is no reason to ban ‘The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn’. Any ban would teach students to steer around being confronted with the horror and tragedy of that era (especially white folks[ii]). It denies them empathy and understanding, and as a consequence, fails to recognise that one of the essential building blocks of effective reconciliation and responsible freedom, is education free of emotional bias and ideological interference.

Banning a book because of a word that it uses, is asinine and ignorant – the very basis of Hannah Arendt’s ‘’banality of evil’’; a phenomenon that leads to the mass tolerance and participation in totalitarianism by people who are blinded by an uncritical trust in the blind bureaucrats who lead them[iii]. Not only would a blanket ban on ‘The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn’ disallow children access to an experience of the past, but such a blanket ban would have to be applied to many African-American rappers, and movies where the pejorative use of ‘niger (nigh-ger)’ is applied regularly; the quintessential example being, N.W.A.

When reading the text, Twain’s consistent use of the pejorative derivation of the Latin word for black, “niger (nigh-ger)”, is easy enough to switch with African-American. Children can clearly see that black slaves are the category which such a pejorative has been applied.

Why all calls for a ban on ‘The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn’ ultimately fail is that they are based on fear. If we give in to this, we let the past determine the future; repeating the past. Fear underlines racial hatred as much as excessive ethnic pride does. It restricts us from seeing our neighbor, and having our neighbor see, us.

In addition, we shouldn’t fear words, we should continue the age of old quest of learning how, when, why and where to apply and respond to them.

Parents and educators need to push back against any technological society which tries to program our kids as if they were computers. Conveyor belt education as part of an industrialised education complex has been an attempt to produce a certain type of human; if not a certain type of voter.  Androids are programmed, humans aren’t. Yes, humans can be influenced by conditions, but humans can also learn to overcome those conditions. We adapt because the gift of reason, empowered by God’s grace, hope, faith and love, allows us to overcome. We read, learn and act, therefore does not equate to, “we install and stoically obey”.

What is, and should be deemed offensive, are attempts, through the media, to tell us all what to think. The education industrial complex, for example, tells us that it needs to create “safe spaces”. Sinless spheres which are empty of any opportunity to develop reason, faith and resilience.

The subliminal message is that today’s men and women can’t be trusted to process or understand the power of the words that encounters humanity on a daily basis; words that come to us as either comfort, confrontation, conviction or a combination of the three. In a nutshell, “experts” take the false view that the humanity cannot be trusted with the God-given permission to speak freely, therefore thought, conscience and speech needs to be controlled. The fact that actions cannot be justified by their consequences is ignored.

Free speech is vital to our humanity. We need it in order to exist, first, in order to be free for God, second, to be free for others. We encode – decode – then reciprocate responsibly. Without that freedom we fail, as Karl Barth astutely put it, to see our neighbour, and having our neighbour see, us:

‘Humanity as encounter is looking each other in the eye […] Humanity as encounter must become the event of speech. And speech means comprehensively reciprocal expression and its reciprocal reception, and its reciprocal address and its reciprocal reception. All these four elements are vital.’
(Karl Barth, The Basic Form of Humanity, CD 3:2:251)

 

Banning ‘The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn‘ denies humanity by exalting the inhumanity Twain’s adventure story ultimately, so brilliantly decries.


References:

[i] This is so pervasive; I don’t really see a need to highlight any specific examples. However, for the sake of thoroughness, see the movie, ‘New Jack City’, a good portion of Ice Tea’s albums and the rappers N.W.A. (the abbreviation goes without spelling it out).

[ii] If I was to unpack this further I would say that, should the concept of “white privilege” actually exist, banning Twain’s book would only be feeding “white privilege”, not answering it, or having white people repent of it. If anything calls to ban the book, proves that “white privilege” is a myth.

[iii] Karl Barth (CD.3:2:252) : “Bureaucracy is the encounter of the blind with those whom they treat as blind.”

[iv] Barth, K. 1960. CD. 3:2, The Doctrine of Creation, The Basic Form of Humanity. Hendrickson Publishers

A lot of people leave out the Christian part when it comes to Martin Luther King Jnr because they either don’t know, or don’t really wanna know. Like all, especially those who move from the position of spectator, to being on the field, he wasn’t without sin, but he was a man who knew that ALL sin is answered first and foremost by God, in and through Jesus Christ.

After posting this illustration from Vince Conard to Facebook, a friend pointed out that given the tone, aggression and disunity of our day, mention of Martin’s faith, is anathema on some circles within the West. The fact that he was named after a German theologian and reformer, in 1934, of all years, presents a challenge to those who rail against the West in the name of a mostly concocted cause, in ways far from King’s own.

Martin Luther King’s legacy is first of all a Christian witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the overcoming of sin. All sin, not just the bits and pieces some people choose to focus on over others, including the sin of treating others, who are created in the image of God, differently because of the colour of their skin.

Martin Luther King’s legacy is a Christian witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the liberation of humanity from its primal atheism. This is a liberation from humanity’s rejection of grace, its self-displacement, subsequent displacement of others and self-destruction.

Karl Barth spoke consistently about his view that the “no” of God heard in Jesus Christ has nothing on the great “yes” of God, spoken at the same time. This humiliation of God is the exaltation of humanity. This is something He chose and in exercising His freedom God hands to us freedom.

Freedom consecrated by response, responsibility, partnership with God, prophesy, ministry, healing and teaching. Freedom made real by His choice and His suffering at the hands of whip, condemnation, betrayal, spear, and death on a Roman cross. Freedom vindicated by the empty tomb and the resurrected Jesus, who is not another myth like that of the half-god/half-man Hercules, but is Himself very God and very man.

What grounded Martin Luther King from the start was faith in Jesus Christ. It’s well documented that when things weighed MLK down, he would lean on the gifts of Mahalia Jackson, who would minister to him through word and song. It’s his defiant Christian faith that should inspire us and point us to the goal of liberation as he saw it, liberation from ALL sin, in the name, word and deeds of Jesus the Christ.

“God is neither hard-hearted or soft minded. He is tough-minded enough to transcend the world; He is tender-hearted enough to live in it. He does not leave us to our agonies and struggles. He seeks for us in dark places and suffers with us, and for us in our tragic prodigality.” (A Tough Mind & a Tender Heart, Gift of Love, p.9)

The faith of Martin Luther King Jnr is not to be confused with optimism. It’s not the “faith” of optimists and psychologists who preach from the pages of positive psychology. The clever term they use in order to justify reducing the Christian faith to principles that can be lived without any need for a relationship with the One who authored that faith; the One who anchors humanity to the living hope this defiant faith testifies to.

To segregate Martin Luther King Jnr from this defiant Christian faith, is to fail to hear what it is that he had to say, what he set in motion, and what he hoped to see achieved.  This segregating of King from his faith and theology may serve the secular political aims of modern liberals and their quest for total power by any means necessary, but it ultimately enslaves King to the servitude of ideology-as-master and the reactionary political groups it controls. Groups and agendas, he, in all likelihood would never have signed on to because they persist in denying their own sin, and yet, are loud and proud in their condemnation of the sin of others.

Paraphrasing Thomas F. Torrance from his book Atonement: ‘all self-justification is a lie’.

Beware the auctioneers.


References:

Artist: Vince Conard, https://www.instagram.com/vince_conard/  (Used with permission)

King, Jnr. M.L. A Tough Mind & a Tender Heart, Gift of Love (p.9)

Torrance, T.F. 2009 Atonement: The Person & Work of Jesus Christ InterVarsity Press

Here’s an important Heritage foundation panel discussion held in the United States a couple of days ago. The panel contributors include Ryan Bomberger who I have a growing admiration for, because his work through the Radiance Foundation.

The group discusses how anti-discrimination laws are being used as a sword, rather than a shield to impose an ideology and punish those who stand opposed to it.

The panel also addresses the false equivalency that is made between the abhorrent Jim Crow laws, and someone declining to serve/make/create based on a conscientious objection to gay marriage.

I’m in agreement with them.

I especially liked the reasons for a defence of traditional marriage, and the response to government involvement given by Heritage Foundation’s William E. Simon senior research fellow, Ryan T. Anderson, at the close of the discussion [see 46:25 – 47:18].

“Man-made law should recognise the natural law, which looks to human nature and what marriage is. That marriage is based on three secular truths.
First, anthropological truth, that man and woman are distinct and complimentary. Second, the biological fact that reproduction requires a man and a woman; and finally a social reality that children deserve a mum and a dad.
You put those three pieces together and you going to have a basic understanding of what marriage is and our man-made laws should reflect that.
Apart from that it’s not clear to me why the government is consenting ratification of romance business. Once we get away from the man-woman, husband and wife, mother/father understanding of what marriage is, I don’t see what role the state has in regulating consenting adults sexual or romantic relationships.”

In September, I contributed four articles to the Same-sex marriage debate in Australia. All graciously republished by the up and coming conservative/libertarian platform for free speech, edgy, online news magazine XYZ.net.au

1. Nein: Why I will be voting “No” To Same-Sex Marriage 

2. Still Nein: A Response To Janet Albrecthsen’s Libertarian Conservative “Yes” To SSM

3. Biology Is Not a Social Construct: Why “p” Cannot Equal “q” Without Perpetual Revolution

4. A “No” To SSM, is a “Yes” to Freedom, Not a Denial of it

It’s okay to vote “no”.

‘Accidental Courtesy’ is a recent release documentary featuring African-American musician, speaker and activist, Daryl Davis.

Davis explores the possibility of change through dialogue and relationship. In the documentary we see and hear about how he actively sought out members of the Klu-Klux-Klan in order to ask them one on one, why, because of the colour of his skin, he was hated so much. Especially since they didn’t know him nor had they ever met him. Throughout the process, documented over a series of years, Davis presents the outcome.

Here is the promised part two of our reviews of, and responses to, this phenomenal story. Part one can be located here.

Accidental Courtesy

In his documentary called ‘Accidental Courtesy’ Daryl Davis, who is an African American, talks about racism. He knows what it’s like to be oppressed and set apart by others. He has befriended members of the Ku Klux Klan and even though they have different opinions, they respect each other. The KKK is an American post-Civil War secret society who wants white people to have “supreme authority”; its members claim to be Christians, and are known for burning crosses on the front of black people’s houses

Merriam-Webster defines Racism as the ideological belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and the racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race. This is something that should not be encouraged. Racism bullies others because of their skin colour. This is similar to the bullying of kids at school. Racism, like a bully, picks on people who are different. It makes them feel powerful and strong.

When members of the KKK met and talked with Daryl Davis, their views of African Americans changed significantly. For example, some of the members have resigned from the KKK and have given him the cloaks and hoods they wore. Daryl has a few dozen of these. He also has badges and accessories. Daryl didn’t intend to help change their hearts and minds, but he’s criticized for interacting with them.

Some African Americans don’t like Daryl Davis for doing this. He met with representatives of the Black Lives Matter movement and they refused to shake his hand or to listen to what he had to say. They stated their opinion to him but chose not to listen to what he had to say.

Daryl Davis also is a musician and lecturer. He plays the keyboard and piano very well. He also goes to colleges and talks about how two people with different views have a conversation. According to him, two people might be yelling, screaming and banging their fists on the table, but “as long as they’re talking, they’re not fighting.”(-Daryl Davis) If both people can discuss their views and opinions with each other then there is a kind of respect between them; Daryl and the people he met from the KKK did this well.

In conclusion, I think that Daryl Davis’ documentary is good. It shows how racism works and how it can be countered. His being open to talk with members of the Ku Klux Klan was a decision he made. I believe that God used Daryl Davis like a messenger to help those members from the KKK to realise that harassing African Americans wasn’t God’s way. I learnt what racism looks like and it isn’t something to be proud of. People should respect each other even if they look different. Everyone should be treated equally and be shown respect. From different ethnicities and cultural backgrounds, God made all humans, no matter what race or colour, unique. We shouldn’t resent that, we should accept and embrace it.

Whether a person’s skin is black or white, it doesn’t matter because we’re all created in God’s image. To say otherwise is to create God in our image.

(A.Lampard, Yr 9 23rd March 2017)


Sources:

‘Racism’ Encyclopaedia Britannica

Davis, D. 2016 Accidental Courtesy

Disclaimer: We received no payment of any kind for our response to, or our review of this material.  

‘Accidental Courtesy’ is a recent release documentary featuring African-American musician, speaker and activist, Daryl Davis.

Davis explores the possibility of change through dialogue and relationship. In the documentary we see and hear about how he actively sought out members of the Klu-Klux-Klan in order to ask them one on one, why, because of the colour of his skin, he was hated so much. Especially since they didn’t know him nor had they ever met him. Throughout the process, documented over a series of years, Davis presents the outcome.

He found himself becoming friends with some members of the Klu-Klux-Klan. Developing an understanding about the reasons for why a person might hold a racist view in light of the civil rights gains for African-Americans that have been made since the 1950’s.

This relationship, first formed by mutual respect resulted in a turnaround for those he’d made an effort to get to know. Whilst there is obvious evidence of this radical change, Davis is not afraid to highlight the fact that many remain ardently affected by the ideology they serve.

On the other side of the issues, Davis includes an exchange between himself and Black Lives Matter representatives, who despite the evidence and without allowing him to respond, passionately oppose his approach, claiming that no one can change, especially not a white racist.

After watching Davis’ documentary, I looked at my wife and immediately said to her that we need to add this to our watch list. I’ve since packed it into our resources for the key learning area we Aussies call, HSIE: Human Society and Its Environment, and last week I walked our homeschoolers through the issues presented by Davis.

I should also add, that our homeschoolers were already very aware of the importance of Martin Luther King Jnr. and the civil rights movement. The documentary helped to educate them on areas, such as the existence of the Klu-Klux-Klan, and the claims, reasons and issues surrounding the Black Lives Matter movement.

As part of bolstering the learning outcomes associated with ‘Accidental Courtesy‘, I have had two of my three high schoolers write a review and response. Daryl is also receiving flak for his outreach, by posting these reviews I hope to suggest to his critics that this documentary goes further in inspiring and educating than might be thought otherwise. The following review is the first of these two reviews:

 .

Accidental courtesy

Daryl Davis is a musician and a lecturer. In “Accidental Courtesy” he talks about racism and how Martin Luther King Jr. wanted the blacks and whites to live together instead of separating the people by the colour of their skin, which helps different groups to put each other down and beat each other up.

Daryl Davis talked about racism in America. Some police officers there have been abusing their power and are beating up black people because of their colour. For example: an African-American teenage boy was arrested and the police ignored his requests for an ambulance. The teenager died, in jail, the day after he was arrested.

In America there are groups of people called the Klu Klux Klan (KKK), that hate black people. They are known for burning crosses on black people’s lawns and throwing rocks at their windows which sometimes have hateful messages tied on them. Some Klans make out that God wants white people to rule and own America for themselves.

Daryl Davis is amazing; he has talked to many members of the KKK. Some of them, after they have talked to him, left the Klan. He has around 25-26 Klan member uniforms from the people who left. He also went to talk with a couple of African-American members from the Black Lives Matter group. One of them didn’t like where the conversation was going so he got up to leave and wouldn’t shake Daryl’s hand, then soon the other one left. He tried to talk to another man, but the man just swore at Davis and left. I think after that he felt very discouraged because they didn’t even give him a chance to talk at all about what he’s learned.

In conclusion, I think Daryl Davis is doing a good thing for America. It’s sad to know that people can’t get along, because someone’s skin is different to theirs. Martin Luther King Jr. would most likely have agreed to what Daryl Davis was doing to help America because Martin Luther King believed in removing the distinction between black and white. Those Klans are wrong!!! God wants us to love one another and get along with each other no matter what our skin colour, or disabilities. God made all of us and we are all the same on the inside no matter what the colour of our skin is. We need to learn to love people who look different to us, because everyone has a life that needs to be loved.To me there is no difference between black or white people.

(C.Lampard, Yr 7 20th March 2017)

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Davis, D. 2016 ‘Accidental Courtesy’ 

Disclaimer: We received no payment of any kind for this review.  

wedge-taled-eagle-aus-flagThe birth date for Australia as a nation is officially Federation Day, where on January 1st, 1901, the states and territories came together as one.

The 26th, “Australia Day”, marks the landing in Botany Bay of the first fleet, which arrived in 1788, filled with British convicts, their wardens and a few settlers. Worth noting, this was one year before the French Revolution. 14 years after the American war of independence.

They arrived not to fight an organised army or take siege of cities. When they arrived, they saw bushland that went on as far as the horizon. To this enlightenment age people, this land, although sparsely occupied by clans of indigenous Australians, was mostly empty.  Hostility fuelled by misunderstandings and racism, between Europeans and indigenous people came much later on and with it a history that is not as black and white as white vs. black.

There has been an official “sorry” given for wrongs committed towards indigenous Australians, plus a TON of aid and support in both education and other social programs to empower awareness and positive change within indigenous communities.

Today, Australia Day represents the ownership of those wrongs and the long effort to factually acknowledge and correct them. Australia Day also represents the celebration of freedom, God’s blessings, our rich heritage, the land, new citizenship for immigrants and the importance of  indigenous Australians to our nation’s future.img_0948

It’s also a day that reminds us, we are a people still in need of redemption.

For reconciliation to mature beyond words and gestures, forgiveness must follow that official apology. This won’t happen, though, for as long as Leftist elites and their sycophantic allies are allowed to control a skewed narrative and direct the hearts of people through their often biased politics.

Yes, Australia Day does remind us of the negative side to our nation’s history. However, that’s not something to run from. It’s something to be acknowledged; something that leads to Australia Day bringing not just patriotism, but humility; something that should rightly move us towards a solidarity of suffering, of respect, and reconciliation.

We as a nation are not beyond being mature enough, to hold the right and the wrong in both hands, being able to learn from both, being humbled by its mistakes and using them to empower our future.

To move the Australia Day to, May, or make it ”Wattle Day” is to jettison all the benefits that can come from redeeming the past for the present and the future. Effectively taking the negative aspects of this nation’s history and burying it does nothing for progress, unity or reconciliation.

Moving the date or renaming the day will only unnecessarily divide us, ripping from our hands and hearts, the potential to fuse together, and be fused together by a solidarity that Australia Day, as an event, brings and can bring.

We aren’t beyond redeeming the day or the date, because we still stand under the God who redeems, has redeemed, and will redeem. The land down under, is a land of liberty under God.

If you think the day is offensive, don’t reject it. Give it a fair go. Seek instead to redeem it.

 ‘…Transgression. Redemption. One island’ – Midnight Oil, One Country.

Happy Australia Day.


References:

Artwork credit: Artist TBC, otherwise unknown.

Image: Australian Governor-General, Sir Peter Cosgrove, Australia Day, 2017: “A great privilege to be welcomed as part of a traditional smoking ceremony at the National Flag Raising and Citizenship Ceremony” (source: Official FB page)

800px-WEB_DuBois_1918The solidarity of suffering is a field of mutuality that lies unexplored. It’s all to easily drowned out by the noise and antipathy of protest. The online activity of the masses, from anonymous activist to celebrity conformist, misses the opportunity to untie the tangled pathos that cements individuals into collectives, and brands them as possessions of “party-lines.”

Not all human suffering is equal, but all human suffering is equally painful. To exist as if another person has no idea about what suffering is, is to dismiss suffering.

Take for example, a family with a history filled with conflict and abuse. One family member decides to function as though they are the only ones to have suffered. This person persists, painting themselves into a narrative of victimisation.

The suffering of other innocent family members is ignored, the family member who has taken control of the narrative, then easily inserts others into a story of oppression, oppressor, sabotage and villainy. The victim becomes the villain.

Sympathetic listeners are won over. Without a thought to how deep the actual story goes, one side is exalted. The other is demonized. The truth itself becomes a victim. As the self-serving deception expands the one who controls the narrative, signs on more and more supporters. Attempts to counter this with the truth, are quickly neutralised because of the villain’s consolidation of power through his or her control of the narrative.

Other victims are denied a voice. Dismissed and labelled as liars. Backed into a corner these victims may try to respond, but their self-defence is treated with suspicion, and is used against them to support the prevailing narrative of victimisation. A narrative now so water tight that, in order to keep the spotlight away from the truth,  new dramas have to be orchestrated. Conflict is either manufactured or manipulated in order to serve the self-interests of those who control the narrative.

This victim, turned villian’s, broken throne, is secured by the continuation of suffering. Thus, the cycle of abuse continues. Same shite. Different day. Different year. Different person. In this situation, ethnicity, skin colour and creed are all irrelevant. The family described above could be anyone’s.

In his 1903 book, ‘The Souls Of Black Folk’, William Edward Burghardt Du Bois, who later became a Communist, reflected on the African-American position, in post Proclamation of Emancipation America.  One of the statements he made resonates:

‘It is a peculiar sensation, always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others […] being measured by amused contempt and pity.’[i]

Although spoken in the context of slavery in America, these words speak for a good portion of the population. They almost perfectly describe the feelings of people who’ve become victims of the narrative of victimization.

From the bullied youth, to the oppressed members of a family, there is a resonance that moves from the suffering of African-Americans out to all the down-trodden. From this resonance comes a basic solidarity of suffering. It’s from here that we arrive at a point, where understanding the pain of others, helps us move beyond our own.

In recent months we’ve seen the rise of #blacklivesmatter. A cause not without justification, but its presence has always coincided with the caveat from those who’ve read history and heed it. It’s a cause that must have as its inevitable conclusion, #humanlivesmatter.

If it doesn’t, the movement slides into a kind of reverse racism. It fails to mature beyond protest to justice to reconciliation. If this happens, “black lives matter” will inevitably morph into “only black lives matter,” and the positive aspects of the movement’s cause will be lost.

Bitterness, manipulation of the truth and an irresponsible self-defence binds us to toxic power brokers.

That the world knows a more about the kneeling protest of American NFL star, Colin Kaepernick, than they do about his cause for kneeling, raises lots of questions about Colin Kaepernick, and any who would choose to follow his example.

When a social cause is over shadowed by the fame of the person at the centre of it, that social cause is lost.

Asian, Latino, Indigenous, Black, White; as the Biblical witness tells us, human equality before God is this: “all have fallen short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23). Rich, poor or otherwise inclined, we are all on an equal footing, saved not by works, but by God’s work, who calls us to respond with: “1. Love God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength. 2. Love your neighbour as you love yourself.” (Mark 12:28-34).

This allows us to stop and recognise each other’s suffering. To recognise that most of us have experienced some degree of suffering on one level or another. This also allows us to identify a real oppressor from an imagined one. It disarms any and all attempts to outbid each other, in a never-ending bidding war, about who has suffered the most. It stands as a reminder that when a real oppression presents itself,  we can be ready to meet that oppression with a strong, well-reasoned, and just opposition.

The solidarity of suffering counters racism and replaces it with empathy. It empowers a reasoned turn towards justice, and steers us towards the goal of total racial reconciliation through a dialogue of differences mediated by a recognition of the common ground that is created by shared experiences.

From what I’ve read of Du Bois’ early work so far, I think he’d agree.

How do we obtain this? For the Christian it means putting Jesus Christ at the head and centre; freedom in Christ alone. For others, it’s an invitation to participate in liberation made up of authentic love, reconciliation and forgiveness; ‘authentic humanism; without the need for recourse to ideological systems in order to love, defend and collaborate in the liberation of man.’ [ii]

Whereby ‘we cry out once more: Respect man! For man [and woman with him] is the image of God.’ [iii]

That Biblical witness tells us that His suffering was carried by Him for humanity, in exchange for the liberation of humanity. The solidarity found in His suffering saves us from ourselves, and connects us to each other.

‘In song and exhortation swelled one refrain—Liberty; in his tears and curses, the God he implored had Freedom in his right hand.’[iv]

What can I learn from this?

My past does not define me. Understand your past, but don’t let it define you, even if others try to keep you living in it.

‘..his own soul rose before him, and he saw himself,[…]to attain his place in the world, he must be himself, and not another.’[v]

References:

[i] Du Bois, W.E.B, 1903 ‘The Souls Of Black Folk’ Coterie Classics, Dover Publications

[ii] Wojtyla, K. (Pope John Paul II), 1979 Address to the Third General Conference of The Latin American Episcopate

[iii] Wojytyla, ibid. 1979

[iv] Du Bios, 1903

[v] Du Bios, 1903

Image: wikipedia

1.Thessalonians 5: ‘Since we belong to the day, let us be sober…encourage one another, build one another up, be @ peace among yourselves…pray without ceasing…test everything; hold fast what is good.’ (Paul)