Rev. Graylan Hagler: ‘What Does Mr. Trump Bring to the Public Altar?’

Rev. Graylan Hagler, Washington, D.C.
Rev. Graylan Hagler, Washington, D.C.
Rev. Graylan Hagler has a good response to navigating the waters of the call to “heal.” Worth reading.

“How can one be healed when the rhetoric targeted at one group or another attacked the humanity and very lives of those groups? I would like to be healed but the damage has already been done, and so how is the damage undone? The call for healing right now is as if you still have the disease or infirmity in your body but choose to ignore its presence and the damage that it is doing or has done. We cannot be healed while still being ravished by the destructive elements of the disease. We cannot be healed while the disease is still in the body. I cannot be healed right now because the one who brought the disease, exploited the disease, and advanced the disease has done nothing to eradicate the disease.

In scriptures, when people came with a sin offering, a thanksgiving offering or the first fruits offering it was without blemish and it was significant. It was such a significant offering that is meant something economically and psychologically to the offerer.

I have heard the rhetoric of Trump and I have to believe him at his word, and so since his words threatens me and many of my friends in their personhood and humanity I have to ask what will he bring to the altar of the public arena that there might be healing.”–Rev. Graylan Hagler, America Needs to be Healed!

Joseph Ross: ‘Ferguson, Mo. Looking Like Money, Miss.’

MacyBlackLivesNot sure what to think about the Ferguson grand jury decision? Want to trust the justice system to work? Don’t understand why folks won’t just “let this go”?

Please read Joe Ross’ short excellent essay “Ferguson, Missouri Looking Like Money, Mississippi” excerpted below:

Yes, Ferguson, Missouri is looking a whole lot like Money, Mississippi. In 1955, two white men were charged, tried, and found not guilty in the murder of Emmett Till. Then they bragged about it to national magazines. Nothing could be done. The Mississippi “justice” system was built entirely in their favor. That’s how it’s looking in Ferguson today. The Washington Post reported this morning that Officer Darren Wilson was allowed to drive himself alone from the crime scene, wash blood off his hands at the police station, and enter his own gun into evidence. None of this should happen in a professional police department. But that’s the problem. Ferguson is not a professional police department. Apparently Officer Wilson and none of the other officers and detectives who arrived at the scene thought they were at a crime scene. They assumed. They knew. This is the picture of white privilege. And it’s an ugly picture.

With the report of this unprofessional and unethical behavior, no matter what one thought of the case, the very things we call “evidence” cannot be trusted. …

Read Joseph Ross’ whole essay here.

How To Defend Your Neighbor In Bold Stripe Maxi Dress (With Discussion Questions)

Here’s a 3 minute video for discussion in your church. This incident took place in the posh upper Northwest neighborhood of Foxhall in Washington, D.C., this week.

Discussion Questions

1. What is the power dynamic between the police officers in the car and the officer on the street?
2. What do the physical positions and body language convey about the power dynamics?
3. How is technology being used?
4. How are names used? What does the use of names convey?
5. Is white privilege at play here?
6. Who is the most powerless in this scenario? Who is most powerful?
7. What is the role of an ally? Are an ally’s motives “pure”?
8. If there were bystanders, what would their responsibility be? How did the police handle themselves?
9. As a Christian watching this video, who is Christ in the scenario? Who are the followers of Christ, acting as Christ’s hands and feet?
10. Where are you in this scenario?

Read more about this incident here.

Study Resources
Handout on Power and Empowerment

On Racism and White Privilege

The Color of Christ and The Cross and the Lynching Tree

To Be (Brown) or Not To Be?

My buddy Mari Castellanos’ commentary A Supreme Case for the Court is a good preparation for the Supreme Court hearings on the racist anti-immigrant laws in Arizona.

I call the laws “racist” and “anti-immigrant” because they are. But there are legitimate questions that need to be raised about overhauling our immigration system so that it responds humanely to new needs and the massive migrations that are happening around the world. The current spate of “anti-immigrant” laws are rooted in views of “scarcity of resources” and histories of white supremacy.

How can the church model a way of approaching these issues rooted in human dignity and a love that drives out fear? Read Mari’s whole post, and below is an excerpt:

On Monday April 23rd, the Supreme Court will begin to hear oral arguments in a landmark case, State of Arizona v. United States, which challenges the authority of a state to enact its own immigration enforcement laws instead of following federal regulations. On the surface, this case is about a state usurping a federal power. Underneath the surface it is about a lot more.

At the heart of the Arizona legislation are some dangerous provisions that we had hoped to be done with in this country—at least legally, if not in practice as many of us know. A key provision requires any law enforcement officer to verify the immigration status of every person stopped or detained, regardless of how trivial the infraction, if the officer has a reasonable suspicion that the person may be in the country illegally (Section 2B). Reasonable suspicion, one can just as reasonably assume, may be triggered by dark skin, short stature, or poor English language skills. If a person fails to yield the right of way, she or he can be assumed to be an illegal alien and arrested, if the person has no identification other than a driver’s license. Under similar circumstances, most people would receive merely a citation. Persons who “look Latina/o” and have no immigration papers will go to jail. It is also a crime, under Arizona law, for people who fail to carry their “alien registration document” (Section 5C). One could be justified in thinking that Arizona has legalized racial profiling. Similar, if not more insidious laws have been enacted by other states, such as Utah, Alabama and South Carolina. ….–Mari Castellanos, United Church of Christ

Read the rest here.

Video: ‘Do I Look Suspicious?’

The Howard University men that are part of the Howard Students For Justice group created the video above that asks viewers to check their biases about black men.

“Contrary to what America has led many to believe all young black males are not suspicious, we don’t deserve to be harassed, murdered, prosecuted or denied the protections of the justice system all because America thinks we are suspicious,” say one Howard alumni as images of other black male students scroll through the screen.

Michelle Alexander: Are You ‘Beyond Race’?

alexander_michelleWhile Stephen “I-Don’t-See-Race” Colbert pointedly jokes about being “colorblind,” Michelle Alexander asks – What in the world do we think we’re doing dragging ugly “Jim Crow” into the Obama Era?

Alexander is the former director of the Racial Justice Project of the ACLU in Northern California. She also clerked for Justice Harry Blackmun on the U.S. Supreme Court. Now she holds a joint appointment with the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity and the Moritz College of Law at Ohio State University.

She’s  just released her first book The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness (The New Press, 2010). It’s a blockbuster! Read an excerpt from her post on Tom’s Dispatch below:

Obama’s mere presence in the Oval Office is offered as proof that “the land of the free” has finally made good on its promise of equality. There’s an implicit yet undeniable message embedded in his appearance on the world stage: this is what freedom looks like; this is what democracy can do for you. If you are poor, marginalized, or relegated to an inferior caste, there is hope for you. Trust us. Trust our rules, laws, customs, and wars. You, too, can get to the promised land.

Perhaps greater lies have been told in the past century, but they can be counted on one hand. Racial caste is alive and well in America.

Most people don’t like it when I say this. It makes them angry. In the “era of colorblindness” there’s a nearly fanatical desire to cling to the myth that we as a nation have “moved beyond” race. Here are a few facts that run counter to that triumphant racial narrative:

*There are more African Americans under correctional control today — in prison or jail, on probation or parole — than were enslaved in 1850, a decade before the Civil War began.

*As of 2004, more African American men were disenfranchised (due to felon disenfranchisement laws) than in 1870, the year the Fifteenth Amendment was ratified, prohibiting laws that explicitly deny the right to vote on the basis of race.

* A black child born today is less likely to be raised by both parents than a black child born during slavery. The recent disintegration of the African American family is due in large part to the mass imprisonment of black fathers.

*If you take into account prisoners, a large majority of African American men in some urban areas have been labeled felons for life. (In the Chicago area, the figure is nearly 80%.) These men are part of a growing undercaste — not class, caste — permanently relegated, by law, to a second-class status. They can be denied the right to vote, automatically excluded from juries, and legally discriminated against in employment, housing, access to education, and public benefits, much as their grandparents and great-grandparents were during the Jim Crow era. …

When we pull back the curtain and take a look at what our “colorblind” society creates without affirmative action, we see a familiar social, political, and economic structure — the structure of racial caste.  The entrance into this new caste system can be found at the prison gate.

This is not Martin Luther King, Jr.’s dream.  This is not the promised land.  The cyclical rebirth of caste in America is a recurring racial nightmare.

You can read her whole article here. Alexander’s incriminating claim reminds me of this haunting poem by Carl Wendell Himes Jr. written about Martin Luther King. We have so far to go to reach the Beloved Community.

Now That He Is Safely Dead
by Carl Wendell Himes Jr.

Now that he is safely dead,
Let us Praise him.
Now that he is safely dead,
Let us Praise him.
Build monuments to his glory.
Sing Hosannas to his name.

Dead men make such convenient Heroes.
They cannot rise to challenge the images
We would fashion from their Lives.
It is easier to build monuments
Than to make a better world.

So now that he is safely dead,
We, with eased consciences, will
Teach our children that he was a great man,
Knowing that the cause for which he
Lived is still a cause
And the dream for which he died
Is still a dream.

“Now That He Is Safely Dead,” by Carl Wendell Hines Jr. in “Beyond Amnesia: Martin Luther King and the Future of America,” by Vincent G. Harding, Journal of American History, 74 (September 1987, p. 468).

‘We Will Continue to Sing’: Civil Rights Leader Ruby Sales on the Life of Ted Kennedy

ruby-salesIn 2002, I interviewed civil rights leader Ruby Sales for Sojourners magazine (see Long Train Runnin’.) Ruby is one of my heroes in the faith. She’s a courageous, funny, generous, fiercely committed sister in the struggle for justice. She now directs the SpiritHouse Project in Columbus, Georgia.

I was very touched by her reflection on the life of Ted Kennedy, set in the historical context of the fight for justice. She asks: What is it about a White upper class senator’s life that touches me as a Southern Black woman who grew up during segregation and economic exploitation …? Read her answer below. Ruby Sales is My Kinda Christian.

A Generational Narrative by a Black Woman on the Life and Legacy of Senator Edward Kennedy–by Ruby Nell Sales

This morning I awakened to the sound of news reporters telling the world that Ted Kennedy died just as the night turned into morning.  As I heard Senator Edward Kennedy’s voice booming from the television the words “For those whose cares have been our concern… The Hope Still Lives, The Dream Shall Never Die…” when he lost his bid for president in 1980 – my eyes filled with tears that carried with them the hopes and dreams of a generation and community of people of all colors who imagined a new day in America and worked hard to achieve it.   As I thought about this man who lived a life committed to “making a better world,” it touched the grief and celebration that run throughout the lives of my generation who rode and still rides a long train towards justice. In many ways, his life reflects the hills and valleys of our lives… our “victories and our defeats.”

my-kinda-christian-logo

This morning in a very special way, I remembered my young brothers and sisters in the Student Non Violent Coordinating Committee and local communities throughout the South who worked unrelentingly to advance democracy during the heat and violence of White supremacy without thinking of money or benefits. We lived and worked from freedom houses that lacked hot water, inside bathrooms and sturdy foundations to protect us from the violence and terror of White night riders. Most of us were young.  We were idealistic.   We were Black, White and Brown. We were determined.  Despite generations of America’s broken promises of democracy, we still passionately believed in the dreams of our mothers and fathers: that America was large enough for everyone regardless of race, sex, class, color or creed.

Believing this, we put our youth on the line to make real their dream.   We were wounded at the core of our young selves under the weight of White lies, White racism and White violence.  America’s bad faith, violence and oppression fractured us into tiny unclaimed bits which lay on the road from Mississippi to Alabama to Washington to New York to Los Angeles.  Yet, like Ted Kennedy, many of us did not die or lose our will to struggle. We kept on believing, working, and struggling despite hearts that were broken by White men who killed our relatives and murdered our friends.  I admit that sometimes we did not always carry our grief well or wisely.  However unlike the Trumpet blowers of White Supremacy and injustice, we harmed ourselves more often than we did others.  Unlike them, love rather than hate stirred our passions and ignited our imaginations.  Even as we watched right wing communities vigorously and intentionally roll back the gains of the Southern Freedom /Civil Rights Movement, like Senator Edward Kennedy, we “kept the faith” and found it over and over again despite the hopeless despair that the right wing communities spread throughout America like a dirty blanket. Because their language and ideals lacked hope, moral authority and meaning, they stole our freedom language. They called death squads in Nicaragua freedom fighters. Even in the midst of this grand theft, we knew like Senator Edward Kennedy that they might steal our language and images, but they could not kill this dream that still burns in us. Continue reading “‘We Will Continue to Sing’: Civil Rights Leader Ruby Sales on the Life of Ted Kennedy”