I find myself being more and more comfortable in relatively complete solitude/isolation.
Before, I longed to have friendships and relationships and felt tremendous sadness that I didn’t, but over the course of the past several months I’m finding myself more and more content with just being alone and not having to face other people. The only true interaction I have is going to the various meetings associated with getting certifications and training to obtain alignment for our Business vision, and even then I try to make myself as small and quiet and unnoticeable as possible, and it seems to work for the most part. Friends I used to see and talk to sporadically have completely fallen by the wayside; they still try to reestablish contact every few weeks, but I systematically ignore their attempts.The only people I actually talk to on a semi-regular basis anymore are my Pastor and selective men of God, and they live over an hour away so I hardly ever have to actually see them. And random texting conversations with my brother who is a pastor in Chantilly Virginia over 3200 miles away.
I think I have just become so numb and so tired of having to climb an Everest of anxiety to have a basic interaction with another person that I have simply given up to take the pressure off. I still have bouts of loneliness sometimes but they are fleeting and usually getting on the internet or resting completely in meditation and expectancy of hearing from the spirit of God on how to move and interact with people in general. Going to church since the hand of God has moved us into Lodebar ( a dry place of isolation) has even become impossible to do. My spirit is tired of dogma’s and traditions that aren’t fostering a loving spirit of unity, but of separatism and divisions within the ranks of theologians and demanding people. My wife and I have been set apart in isolation and we are finding the joy and purpose of being prepared by God in this uncertain existence.
I don’t know. Is this a bad thing? Should I be concerned? Am I giving in to social anxiety and slowly becoming a complete shut-in? Will I wake up one day in 20 years completely alone with not a soul in the world who knows me or cares about me and have deep regrets about this? I’m not sure what I should be thinking or doing differently. I have this fantasy that someday soon I will move far, far away and start fresh and leave the anxiety behind and be able to make deep lasting connections with people. I know that’s ridiculous and very unlikely to happen, but the fantasy seems to sustain me day after day, and I kind of cling to it.
This is rambly, I apologize. Just trying to organize my thoughts about this to bring up in therapy and hoping to get some perspectives from people who may have similar issues.
“But nobody ever sees how far the things we shouldn’t feel can take us. I just want to walk along the shore for an hour, watch the waves rearranging whatever they can. I like the way the sea encourages me to think about the past, as if I could leave it where it is: the moon on the water, the stars that gleam and are gone.”
In a time of great rejoicing, when everyone else would have been having a good time; Sarah looked over in the midst of the celebration and saw that Ishmael was making fun of her new son Isaac. Paul tells us in Galatians that he who was born according to the flesh persecuted him who was born of the spirit. Filled with rage that her son was being tormented, she immediately told Abraham to send the woman and her son away. But Abraham was a righteous man, and he was unwilling to comply until God assured him that he would care for Hagar and her son. Filled with that assurance, Abraham acquiesced and gave Hagar a skin full of water and a loaf or so of bread and sent her off into the desert. He did the best he could, but after this moment, Hagar would be all alone. Who knows how long they journeyed in the desert, finally the water was gone, and thirst began to set in. Ishmael now greatly humbled by his thirst walked beside his mother until he could go no further. Finally Hagar sat her son down under a scrub of a bush and walked a short distance away.Her heart was breaking because she knew there was nothing left to do but die. She couldn’t walk far away because she didn’t want her son to die alone, but she dare not stay to close lest she be forced to watch her son die. Now in despair she began to sob. And then God showed up. My friends this story for all it’s familiarity is both touching and powerful. For all it’s harshness, it is full of promise and hope for those who would despair at their last moment. Because whether it’s our lives or someone else’s, life itself is hopeless and painfully unbearable until God shows up. Hagar is for us a model representing single mothers everywhere, and her story displays both the problems and the solutions in God’s program for single mothers. In Hagar especially we see God’s love for those women in our world who have been abused and misused, forgotten and forsaken, the single mothers on welfare, the woman fleeing abuse and living with her children in the family shelter. As God loved and blessed Hagar, God will love and bless each of them. They may be forgotten by the world, but not by God. That’s a significant section of our local population which our church should be poised to meet. The struggles that single mother’s face are enormous, and not every one is as fortunate as May to be surrounded by a family that helps and a church that loves and forgives. Many single mothers, struggle alone to fulfill the jobs of both mother and father, a job they were not designed to fill. When troubles mount and hopelessness rears its ugly head it becomes hard to find God in the midst of the struggle. That’s where we come in. There are people in our community from all sorts of backgrounds languishing in depression and need. They need to be reminded by our works as well as our words that God is a very present help in time of trouble. And God can use us; we here at God’s Restoration Church (May & Aaron) -Second Chance Alliance are His hands and feet to lighten the burden of single mothers and disenfranchised individuals. I’m convinced that we as a church need to be active in our statement of faith. Our God is a living God and He want’s us to be his living hands and feet on this planet. We can make an impact on single mothers and challenged individuals if we accept the restoration of our challenged life and assist those in our community. We can lift them up, and lead them to Jesus; and we can meet their needs in the name of Christ – and in so doing serve Christ Himself.
I want to take Hagar’s name as an acronym to show you what we can do to change a life.If there’s one message we need to bring, it’s this: Through us God will take Care of you.
HOPE – Try to imagine Hagar pushing off into the wilderness, supplies for a day or so at her side, and her son walking beside her. She’s been ousted by the boy’s father – someone she couldn’t even call her husband. Now she’s alone and terrified, wondering what’s she’s going to do when the bread and water give out. Then look at Hagar putting her son under the bush and walking a stone’s throw away to sit and wait hopelessly for her son’s death.
Single mothers often deal with feelings of guilt, real or imagined, combined with tremendous feelings of inadequacy and hopelessness. Single mothers are also dealing with the sudden stark reality that this child is going to take the rest of her life to raise, a life some of them had barely begun to live themselves. It doesn’t matter how they got to be single mothers; Teen pregnancy, Divorce, being widowed, or abandoned. They’re often struggling alone, isolated and scared of the future; they need CONSTANT ENCOURAGEMENT.
Think about the enormous power that hope has to give life where none existed before. Imagine also the overwhelming power of hopelessness to destroy a heart and crush a human being beyond repair. The first thing we can bring to the single mothers in our community is Hope. The Second is Assistance.
ASSISTANCE. Need comes in a hundred different flavors. Sometimes it’s financial, sometimes it’s emotional, or moral, or whatever else we daily rely upon. Just like everyone else, unsaved single mothers need Jesus. Just like any other person, the saved need to be taught solid Christian principles. And just like everyone else single parents need A SUPPORT SYSTEM. God’s design for the family means that at least two people are there to bear the burden of raising a child. But a single mother doesn’t have that luxury. Hagar had no person to turn to, and she despaired. How fortunate that she called out to God for help. And He provided. Do you realize that God’s provision for many single parents is us? James 1:27 says that we should care for widows and orphans. We are God’s hands to take care of those who need God’s help. What that looks like take a thousand different shapes.It might mean some of the men in the church doing maintenance on a car or a home. It might mean the women helping with the children, and giving advice when it’s asked for. Unwanted advice often does more harm than good. And let’s not forget the deep need that every person has to be loved. And though we sometimes think of assistance as monetary, I believe most people prefer the dignity of earning a living to a handout when given the chance. Sometimes we may need to assist someone financially, and I believe that’s God’s use for us from time to time, but more than that we might be able to help with daycare so that mom can get a secure job. Thirdly they need a strong faith in GOD. GOD A STRONG FAITH. Can you imagine the emotional problems Hagar experienced. First she’s an unwilling partner in a pregnancy, then she’s beaten by her mistress, then she’s ousted by her child’s father at Sarah’s demand. Bitterness, anger and resentment are to be expected, As well as despair, and feelings of rejection. Only God is capable of curing the heart, as we take care of picking up the pieces. We can assist single mothers by encouraging them to hear God’s voice. To be in the Bible and to Pray. Just like Hagar, every parent, even single parents, need a strong faith in God to deal with the inner wounds in the heart. No matter what her reasons for being a single mother: divorce, death, or a child out of wedlock; the reason doesn’t change the result – and the need. With a relationship with God in place, next comes the need for:
ACCEPTANCE – Far less today, for good or for ill – single mothers are no longer singled out for ostracism and public humiliation. But often there’s still a secret fear that she won’t be accepted, and sadly that feeling is often strongest in relation to the church. How desperate some of these women are to be loved and accepted, and how vital that the people that extend that hand be Christians who along with a kind heart offer words of forgiveness and acceptance – not just from God, but also from us.
RELIEF. Hope, Assistance, God, Acceptance and finally Relief. Single mother’s need A SAFE PLACE FOR THE CHILDREN. We live in a predatory society. Safety for these children is a top concern. From the church nursery to the homes of some of our members, every mother knows how vital it is that her children are cared for. Hagar put her dying son under a bush so that he could die in what little comfort she could manage, and then she moved to the distance a bit. She didn’t want to see him die, but she couldn’t dare leave him either. If we provide a safe place for a child, we are serving Christ’s most favored people! On top of a safe place for the child, mom herself needs a safe place. John Fuder nails down one of the greatest problems facing Single mothers as ISOLATION. He says, “[single] moms are isolated and alone – living their adolescent years shouldering adult parenting Responsibilities.” Often, there is no-one to help them. They must be both father and mother, provider and caretaker for the child they are barely equipped to handle.
Eventually the stress needs a release valve: TIME ALONE. Every mother needs some time to herself. And single mothers often have no way of achieving this. Again, time alone is fed by having a baby-sitter available whom they can trust. I’m convinced that if we could get a roster of baby-sitters available to put in the hands of single mothers; we would do much – not only for the child, but also for the mother. Jesus said, “whatever you’ve done to the least, you’ve done to me.” How many of you would be willing to baby-sit Jesus? I’ve had fragments of this message in my mind and in my heart for over a year now. Long before We dealt in some measure with this issue in our own body. But I have waited. And now even coming to this section on Hagar many weeks ago, I kept finding other topics to cover on Sunday evening. Not for fear certainly – and not for lack of passion either. God has burdened me with a ministry that I am not equipped to carry – a ministry to single mothers and ex-offenders in our community. Today I’m asking God and you to look into your hearts and to find someone who’s heart stirs with a passion to search out these single mothers in our community. Someone willing to have their own hearts broken in the struggle for another woman’s soul.
I define a blessing as any expression of God’s goodness and love toward us. Answered prayer, miraculous provision, and unexpected favor are some examples. We easily recognize these as God’s gifts. But sometimes He chooses to bless us in different ways. For instance, He grants us strength and joy in the midst of hardship, and He uses our suffering to help us mature spiritually.
When we obey God, we can trust that He will display His goodness and love to us. Those who are wise will watch for His blessings in all their different forms. Life is full of decisions. And, since God’s Word is clear that we reap what we sow, it’s important that we make right decisions.
Psalm 24:1-5 King James Version (KJV)
24 The earth is the Lord‘s, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein.
2 For he hath founded it upon the seas, and established it upon the floods.
3 Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord? or who shall stand in his holy place?
4 He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully.
5 He shall receive the blessing from the Lord, and righteousness from the God of his salvation.
A. Noah’s obedience saved his family from the flood.
B. Abraham’s obedience resulted in his becoming the father of a great nation, God’s chosen people, Israel.
C. Moses led the Israelites out of Egyptian bondage.
D. Joshua won the battle of Jericho by following God’s supernatural strategy.
E. David refused to harm Saul, the anointed king.
F. Jehoshaphat relied on God’s word when the Ammonites attacked Judah.
G. Peter obeyed Jesus’ command to fish in the heat of day.
H. Paul followed God’s will and took the gospel to the Gentiles.
III. Types of Blessing
God’s gifts aren’t always obvious. But when you obey Him, He may bless you with:
A. Peace, joy, and contentment. These internal qualities often result when we step out in faith and obey God.
B. Spiritual growth. We will have more faith to obey the next time God challenges us to do something.
C. Eternal blessings. When we stand before God on judgment day, we will be rewarded for our obedience (see Mark 9:41; Luke 6:21-23).
IV. Suffering Before Blessing
Often, the first effect of obedience is not blessing, but suffering. Sometimes, what God requires of us will initially lead to pain and sadness. We shouldn’t assume that difficulty means we’ve made a mistake or that He has abandoned us. Let’s look at two significant examples of suffering as an initial result of obedience:
A. Moses followed God’s command to lead His people out of Egypt. Not only did the leader experience difficulty in freeing the Israelites from bondage; the people also complained bitterly about life in the dessert once they were released. Despite these and other challenges, Moses is known as the most important leader in the Old Testament.
B. Paul obeyed God by preaching the gospel. As a result, he suffered tremendous persecution, danger, and physical abuse (2 Cor. 11:23-27). However, because he was imprisoned, the apostle had time to write his epistles to the Colossians, Philippians, Ephesians, and Philemon. His obedience resulted in supernatural blessing (see 2 Tim. 4:7).
V. God’s Purposes for Our Suffering
A. To bring us to the end of ourselves. We become most useful to the Lord when we rely on Him completely. If we respond correctly to loss and suffering, we will find blessing through it.
B. To prevent pride. Suffering reminds us that all good things are gifts from God and not earned by our own efforts.
C. To remove idols from our lives. Worshipping anything other than God is a problem. He causes all things to work together for our good (Rom. 8:28). So if He removes a good thing from our lives, He must have a purpose, even if we can’t see it at the time.
D. To deepen our understanding of His ways. When God does something and we aren’t sure why, we can anticipate learning something new about how He operates.
E. To demonstrate His faithfulness to His children. In suffering, you and I have the opportunity to become living examples of the goodness of God. As others watch how we respond to overwhelming adversity, they recognize His loving care.
If you obey God, can you expect His blessings? Yes. But remember that His choice of blessing may be different from yours. Perhaps He will use suffering to draw you closer to Himself. Or He may use it to remove from your life those things that hinder fruitfulness for Him. No matter what, if you walk in His will, He will bless you in surprising ways.
Whenever prisons or prisoners are portrayed by the media or the entertainment industry or even just discussed by ordinary people often the expression, “doing hard time” is used. I have served many years in just these type of places – like the ADX in Florence, CO – that are sometimes used as examples of “hard time.” And to be honest, I did not and do not think of those years as “hard time” or the rest of them as “easy time.” It was just “doing time…”
When prisoners say, “doing time,” we mean it literally. How we deal with or mitigate the damage of those units of time we are serving, whether it’s years, decades, or forever. Some of us also consider self-improvement and attempting to gain our freedom part of doing time. There s an opposite to that, of course. We refer to it as, “time doing you.” That is when you allow your conditions to define you and fall into negative or self-destructive behaviors like drugs, gangs, or unnecessary violence.
“The coldest, most inhumane time I have done were the years that I spent at the ADX, or Administrative Maximum in Florence, Colorado. Among other labels it has been described as, “The Alcatraz of the Rockies,” and the most secure prison in the world.”
I was taken there right after it opened. I was there with Tim McVeigh, the Unabomber, and some of the first World Trade Center bombers, and various gang and mob leaders. I m often asked what it was like being there and it is a hard question. This is because your circumstances change there over the years. Also, there is no common ground to start from, nothing to compare it to. My standard answer is, “Imagine being locked behind two steel doors into a very small bathroom, and three times a day, large, angry men bring food to you. Five times a week, three of those large, angry men chain you up and escort you with sticks to a slightly larger room for an hour of court-mandated recreation. That s an incomplete answer, but it usually ends the conversation, which is the point. For the purposes of this conversation, I will try and be more detailed. One primary aspect I remember is that in the ADX, for the first time in my life, I was truly alone. Of course, it was solitary confinement, but this is the modern version with soundproofing and baffles in the vents, etc. We did have intermittent contact with a few people on the range in rec periods, but that was a few hours a week.
And he took him aside from the multitude (Mark 7:33).
Paul not only stood the tests in Christian activity, but in the solitude of captivity. You may stand the strain of the most intense labor, coupled with severe suffering, and yet break down utterly when laid aside from all religious activities; when forced into close confinement in some prison house.
That noble bird, soaring the highest above the clouds and enduring the longest flights, sinks into despair when in a cage where it is forced to beat its helpless wings against its prison bars. You have seen the great eagle languish in its narrow cell with bowed head and drooping wings. What a picture of the sorrow of inactivity.
Paul in prison. That was another side of life. Do you want to see how he takes it? I see him looking out over the top of his prison wall and over the heads of his enemies. I see him write a document and sign his name–not the prisoner of Festus, nor of Caesar; not the victim of the Sanhedrin; but the–“prisoner of the Lord.” He saw only the hand of God in it all. To him the prison becomes a palace. Its corridors ring with shouts of triumphant praise and joy.
Restrained from the missionary work he loved so well, he now built a new pulpit–a new witness stand–and from that place of bondage come some of the sweetest and most helpful ministries of Christian liberty. What precious messages of light come from those dark shadows of captivity.
Think of the long train of imprisoned saints who have followed in Paul’s wake. For twelve long years Bunyan’s lips were silenced in Bedford jail. It was there that he did the greatest and best work of his life. There he wrote the book that has been read next to the Bible. He says, “I was at home in prison and I sat me down and wrote, and wrote, for joy did make me write.” The wonderful dream of that long night has lighted the pathway of millions of weary pilgrims.
That sweet-spirited French lady, Madam Guyon, lay long between prison walls. Like some caged birds that sing the sweeter for their confinement, the music of her soul has gone out far beyond the dungeon walls and scattered the desolation of many drooping hearts.
Oh, the heavenly consolation that has poured forth from places of solitude!
Taken aside by Jesus,
To feel the touch of His hand;
To rest for a while in the shadow
Of the Rock in a weary land.
Taken aside by Jesus,
In the loneliness dark and drear,
Where no other comfort may reach me,
Than His voice to my heart so dear.
Taken aside by Jesus,
To be quite alone with Him,
To hear His wonderful tones of love
‘Mid the silence and shadows dim.
Taken aside by Jesus,
Shall I shrink from the desert place;
When I hear as I never heard before,
And see Him ‘face to face’?
We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
In my viewing of the spiritual warfare at hand today I chose to study the word recalcitrant. I was enlighten in several ways of exactly who the recalcitrant individuals are. We have recalcitrant’s within the GOP Congress, Democrats, our policing agencies and citizens. Most people of America are oblivious to the reason all this is occurring because the news is the number one source of information for most Americans today. Our society has become one of anxiety and being in a hurry. Everything is instantaneous and at a rapid pace. It seems that the only ones relaxing at present is our Congress. They have refused to act on several subjects related to our public safety to our national security which makes them recalcitrant public officials. The police force of Ferguson is reluctantly responding with truth and any real information about this police officer who is responsible for the senseless killing of Michael Brown which in turn is being met by many recalcitrant citizens of Ferguson,which by the way are (Black).
I want to unearth the cultural assumptions that underpin hyper-incarceration, beginning with the image of the dangerous black man. This frequently plowed ground is particularly relevant here — from the recalcitrant slave in general to Nat Turner in particular, from lynching to locking up the drug dealer on the corner, the dangerous black man has been a constant in American history. (One could argue, though I will not, that to many Barack Obama is merely its latest incarnation.) Certainly, there is no doubt that the black man is dangerous to the maintenance of the Republican majority. That explains the drive to suppress minority participation in the last election.
I grew up In Washington D. C. and I would Board the X2 bus at Lafayette Square opposite the White House and travel its 5-mile route eastward across Washington and there was a very good chance that more than half the African-American men who were your fellow passengers have been in prison at some point in their lives. The X2 bus, to the extent that white Washingtonians are aware of it, has a reputation as dangerous, prone to passenger fights and occasional shootings. The X2 is a subject perhaps of white curiosity but no real concern, and few white Washingtonians use it. Yet the X2 is a symbol of the white segregation from and blindness to the devastation of hyper-incarceration that my wife and I are trying to explore in our approach to assist ex-offenders in California.
The Scandal of White Complicity underscores the point that the image of America as a postracial, colorblind society based on meritocracy and individual choice impedes a deeper understanding of the way in which white America is implicated in the systematic deprivation of the African-American community. It is a deprivation that drains that community of the economic and social capital that can break the cycle in which sons of imprisoned men too often meet their fathers behind bars.
Merton wrote “that American society has to change before the race problem can be solved.” Pfeil believes hyper-incarceration by its very nature will not end without a complete societal change. Citing James Baldwin’s warning that “history is literally present in all that we do,”
Mikulich frames white America within the imprisonment prism’s four walls:
White separation and white isolation from African-American society leads to a loss of empathy for the effects of hyper-incarceration;
The illusion of innocence leads to the delusion that whiteness and white neighborhoods are the norm to be desired and that black neighborhoods represent segregation;
This amnesia and its accompanying anesthesia lead to a distortion, if not an outright erasure, of history;
Power and privilege ensure that a “white-dominated legal system effectively protects, indeed renders invisible, unconscious racism on behalf of police, prosecutors and judges as it stigmatizes blacks.” (Not to mention the fact that the formerly incarcerated are often denied the right to vote.)
Rap and hip-hop emerge as the latest manifestation of the dangerous black man, but I find in the early days of this genre a positive attempt to rescue black history on the part of young black men through “perfecting the craft of orality.” What started out as a positive movement morphed into a caricature and merely reinforced the dominant image. My long time mentor Dr. Emmanuel Franks, drawing on the work of Johann Baptist Metz, argues that history is essential to Christian life, beginning with the constant remembrance of Jesus’ suffering and death on the cross. Metz called this a “dangerous memory” because it commands Christians to remember the suffering of others. Returning to the theme of white amnesia, Dr. Emmanuel Franks says that amnesia deprives Christians of the power to act, to change.
Confronted by hyper-incarceration, Pfeil asks how Christians respond. Following Quaker abolitionist John Woolman, Gandhi, Thomas Merton, Dorothy Day and Martin Luther King, Pfeil looks to the message of the Sermon on the Mount to understand the personal and communal relationship to the world of materialism. The beatitudes envision a different world, one that exalts a wealth of spirit over a wealth of things.
Because of our deep immersion in this world in which we consciously or unconsciously benefit from a system of oppression, both historical and contemporary, it is difficult to effect the change that is necessary. Instead of the hapless question what can I do, one should ask what needs to change.
“A great force of suffering accumulated between the basement of heaven and the roof of hell…”
In their quest for absolute political hegemony in the United States, some elements of the Right now dare to claim to share with blacks – if not common cause – common conclusions about the state of race relations in America. In a January 8, 2006 piece weighted with the full freight of centuries of white supremacist delusions, Wall Street Journal columnist James Taranto claimed that BC‘s January 5, 2006 Cover Story, “Katrina Study: Black Consensus, White Dispute,” showed that BC and the WSJ agree that African Americans and whites see the world quite differently. “BlackCommentator.com, which describes itself as a source of ‘commentary, analysis and investigations on issues affecting African Americans’ and has a harshly left-wing outlook has an analysis of a poll on racial attitudes.
The BC story was based on a small slice of an important, soon to be released study by University of Chicago political scientist Michael Dawson. Dr. Dawson’s team’s study shows what every conscious Black person already knows: there is a yawning chasm between white and black perceptions of life, politics and opportunity in 21st Century America.
The United States has created wildly different realities for its black and white citizens. From the unequal availability of prenatal care and early childhood education, through ubiquitous and continuing racially segregated education and racially selective policies of crime control and mass imprisonment, through generations of housing and employment discrimination resulting in huge gaps in the accumulation of wealth between black and white families, to early graves occasioned by differential access to medical care for African Americans, it is clear that for centuries blacks and whites have lived in the same country but in different worlds.
Fiscal responsibility is a code phrase. It means, Don’t spend money on Black folks. There are several code words in white America media that reflect the chasm of social justice and equality.
“Fiscal responsibility is a code word for whites for anti-Black policy,” said Dawson. “Reagan used it, Bush used it, and the people who overthrew Reconstruction used it. It is one of the oldest code words in American politics. It’s right up there with ‘law and order.'”
Republicans’ rhetorical campaign against lawlessness took off in earnest during the 1960s, when Richard Nixon artfully conflated black rioting, student protest, and common crime to warn that the “criminal forces” were gaining the upper hand in America. As an electoral strategy, it was a brilliant success. But as an ideological claim, the argument that America needed more police and prisons was in deep tension with the conservative cause of rolling back state power. The paradox flared up occasionally, as during the National Rifle Association’s long-running feud with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms during the 1990s. But for the most part, conservatives lived with the contradiction for forty years. Why?
For one, it worked political magic by tapping into a key liberal weakness. Urban violent crime was rising sharply during the 1960s and liberals had no persuasive response beyond vague promises that economic uplift and social programs would curb delinquency. The conservatives’ strategy also provided an outlet for racial anxieties that could not be voiced explicitly in the wake of the civil rights movement. Sometimes, the racial appeals were impossible to miss, as when Ronald Reagan warned that “city streets are jungle paths after dark” in his 1966 California gubernatorial campaign. More often, anti-criminal chest-thumping played into the division of society between the earners and the moochers, with subtle racial cues making clear who belonged on which side.
Meanwhile, the more threatened ordinary Americans came to feel, the angrier they became at elites who appeared to side with the criminals, and the more they revered the people designated as society’s protectors. As a result, conservatives came to view law enforcement the same way they had long seen the military: as a distinctive institution whose mission somehow exempted it from the bureaucratic failures and overreach that beset school districts, environmental agencies, and the welfare office. Yet the two surging wings of the conservative movement—libertarians and religious conservatives—have since each found their own reasons to challenge long-standing orthodoxy about crime.
American streets are much safer today than they were thirty years ago, and until recently most conservatives had a simple explanation: more prison beds equal less crime. This argument was a fulcrum of Republican politics for decades, boosting candidates from Richard Nixon to George H. W. Bush and scores more in the states. Once elected, these Republicans (and their Democratic imitators) built prisons on a scale that now exceeds such formidable police states as Russia and Iran, with 3 percent of the American population behind bars or on parole and probation.
Now that crime and the fear of victimization are down, we might expect Republicans to take a victory lap, casting safer streets as a vindication of their hard line. Instead, more and more conservatives are clambering down from the prison ramparts. Take Newt Gingrich, who made a promise of more incarceration an item of his 1994 Contract with America. Seventeen years later, he had changed his tune. “There is an urgent need to address the astronomical growth in the prison population, with its huge costs in dollars and lost human potential,” Gingrich wrote in 2011. “The criminal-justice system is broken, and conservatives must lead the way in fixing it.”
The encounter in Ferguson that ended with a police officer fatally shooting unarmed teenager Michael Brown has spurred police departments in the St. Louis area to do some deep soul-searching. Many hope to avoid the uncertainty of chaotic events by having video to investigate officers’ interactions with civilians.
Video recordings would allow judges and juries to see events unfold, helping to shed light through the often-conflicting or hazy recollections of eyewitnesses.
Nowhere is that more needed than in Ferguson, the north St. Louis County suburb at the epicenter of a racial crisis. The city is now seeking money to outfit its officers with wearable cameras that can be pinned to a uniform or attached to a pair of sunglasses.
The city of Ellisville in west St. Louis County quickly approved a $7,500 expenditure last week to do the same.
“It was an emergency item on our agenda to get officers wearing those cameras immediately,” said Ellisville Mayor Adam Paul, noting that all of the city’s police officers will wear them. “Nobody knows how the grand jury is going to play out. Our officers could respond to calls for service down in Ferguson.”
Just as important as the Ferguson police feel these cameras are to policing and telling the true story, We feel it’s equally important to get funded to assist our human life in Riverside California, There are 6,322 ex-offenders hitting the streets and more than half of them half no support system. Take a look at our interest to assist human being that are in need of a Alternative sentencing/re-entry program to help reduce the rate of recidivism.
If we accept and acquiesce in the face of discrimination, we accept the responsibility ourselves and allow those responsible to salve their conscience by believing that they have our acceptance and concurrence. We should, therefore, protest openly everything . . . that smacks of discrimination or slander.
Mary McLeod Bethune (1875-1955)
“Certain Unalienable Rights,” What the Negro Wants, edited by Rayford W. Logan (1944)
The Rev. Al Sharpton lashed out at authorities, accusing law enforcement agencies of overreacting to the protests in Ferguson. He said protesters demonstrated peacefully “and you put snipers on the roof and pointed guns at them.” He also lambasted police for releasing a video they claimed showed Brown leaving a convenience store they said was robbed the same day Brown was shot.
“How do you think we look when the world sees you can’t produce a police report but you can find a video?” he asked to applause.
He said police that are wrong “need to be dealt with just like people in our community who are wrong need to be dealt with.”
Sharpton said Brown doesn’t want to be remembered “for riots.”
“He wanted to be the one who made America deal with how we are going to police the United States,” Sharpton said.
Brown’s funeral “is not about you,” he said about the protesters. “This is about justice. This is about sadness and America is going to have to come to terms with there’s something wrong that we have money to give military equipment to police forces but we don’t have money for training and money for public education and money to train our children.”
Sharpton also had harsh words for those in the black community who refer to themselves as the N-word and call women derogatory names.
“You’ve lost where you’ve come from,” he said. “We have to clean up our community so we can clean up the United States of America.”
“Michael Brown’s blood is crying from the ground, crying for vengeance, crying for justice,” said the Rev. Charles Ewing, Brown’s great-uncle. Ewing said, “There is a cry being made from the ground,” not just for his nephew but also for Trayvon Martin, the unarmed black teen who was gunned down in 2012; for the elementary school students at Sandy Hook in December 2012; and for victims of black-on-black crime.
Cal Brown, Mike Brown’s stepmother, remembered him as a “dynamic young man.” She told the crowd that at Mike’s recent high school graduation, he said that one day the world would know his name.
“He’s not a lost soul,” Cal Brown said. “His death was not in vain.”
Another relative described Mike Brown as “a big guy, but he was a kind, gentle soul,” and also spoke about how Brown said he would be remembered.
“He did not know that he was offering up a divine prophecy at that time,” the relative said. “He did not know his name would be remembered, but today we were remembering the name of Mike Brown.”
I am yelling at the top of my voice within this post to stop killing our own soldiers-(Black Men). We need one another and we are coming to the end of this on-slaughter of our race, we need to understand how important unity is. We need to stop falling for the designed practices of the evil ones of this world who intend to have us murder each other. They design programs that seem positive, like turn your arms in amnesty. This program is truly designed to disarm Americans. We saw through out the protest what the police abroad have planned for getting their point across to anyone who op-posses their hidden agenda’s to continue to oppress and position us of color to be slaughtered by our own devise or theirs. I am fueled with a indignation to really make my voice heard in any sect or burrow I come in contact with. I am moving out of the buildings of Orthodox Christianity and moving with His spirit as He leads me. I am not going to be slave to any traps or ideologies of tradition any longer. I am going deep into my cultural roots and educating myself with the laws of this evil land and I will lead all those I can reach. The second half of my life is going to make a difference on this planet for myself, my family and my people.
To be considered black in the United States not even half of one’s ancestry must be African black. But will one-fourth do, or one-eighth, or less? The nation’s answer to the question ‘Who is black?” has long been that a black is any person with any known African black ancestry. This definition reflects the long experience with slavery and later with Jim Crow segregation. In the South it became known as the “one-drop rule,” meaning that a single drop of “black blood” makes a person a black. It is also known as the “one black ancestor rule,” some courts have called it the “traceable amount rule,” and anthropologists call it the “hypo-descent rule,” meaning that racially mixed persons are assigned the status of the subordinate group. This definition emerged from the American South to become the nation’s definition, generally accepted by whites and blacks. Blacks had no other choice. As we shall see, this American cultural definition of blacks is taken for granted as readily by judges, affirmative action officers, and black protesters as it is by Ku Klux Klansmen.
Let us not he confused by terminology. At present the usual statement of the one-drop rule is in terms of “black blood” or black ancestry, while not so long ago it referred to “Negro blood” or ancestry. The term “black” rapidly replaced “Negro” in general usage in the United States as the black power movement peaked at the end of the 1960s, but the black and Negro populations are the same. The term “black” is used in this post for persons with any black African lineage, not just for unmixed members of populations from sub-Saharan Africa. The term “Negro,” which is used in certain historical contexts, means the same thing. Terms such as “African black,” “unmixed Negro,” and “all black” are used here to refer to unmixed blacks descended from African populations.
We must also pay attention to the terms “mulatto” and “colored.” The term “mulatto” was originally used to mean the offspring of a “pure African Negro” and a “pure white.” Although the root meaning of mulatto, in Spanish, is “hybrid,” “mulatto” came to include the children of unions between whites and so-called “mixed Negroes.” For example, Booker T. Washington and Frederick Douglass, with slave mothers and white fathers, were referred to as mulattoes. To whatever extent their mothers were part white, these men were more than half white. Douglass was evidently part Indian as well, and he looked it. Washington had reddish hair and gray eyes. At the time of the American Revolution, many of the founding fathers had some very light slaves, including some who appeared to be white. The term “colored” seemed for a time to refer only to mulattoes, especially lighter ones, but later it became a euphemism for darker Negroes, even including unmixed blacks. With widespread racial mixture, “Negro” came to mean any slave or descendant of a slave, no matter how much mixed. Eventually in the United States, the terms mulatto, colored, Negro, black, and African American all came to mean people with any known black African ancestry. Mulattoes are racially mixed, to whatever degree, while the terms black, Negro, African American, and colored include both mulattoes and unmixed blacks. As we shall see, these terms have quite different meanings in other countries.
Whites in the United States need some help envisioning the American black experience with ancestral fractions. At the beginning of miscegenation between two populations presumed to be racially pure, quadroons appear in the second generation of continuing mixing with whites, and octoroons in the third. A quadroon is one-fourth African black and thus easily classed as black in the United States, yet three of this person’s four grandparents are white. An octoroon has seven white great-grandparents out of eight and usually looks white or almost so. Most parents of black American children in recent decades have themselves been racially mixed, but often the fractions get complicated because the earlier details of the mixing were obscured generations ago. Like so many white Americans, black people are forced to speculate about some of the fractions– one-eighth this, three-sixteenths that, and so on….
Not only does the one-drop rule apply to no other group than American blacks, but apparently the rule is unique in that it is found only in the United States and not in any other nation in the world. In fact, definitions of who is black vary quite sharply from country to country, and for this reason people in other countries often express consternation about our definition. James Baldwin relates a revealing incident that occurred in 1956 at the Conference of Negro-African Writers and Artists held in Paris. The head of the delegation of writers and artists from the United States was John Davis. The French chairperson introduced Davis and then asked him why he considered himself Negro, since he certainly did not look like one. Baldwin wrote, “He is a Negro, of course, from the remarkable legal point of view which obtains in the United States, but more importantly, as he tried to make clear to his interlocutor, he was a Negro by choice and by depth of involvement–by experience, in fact.”
The phenomenon known as “passing as white” is difficult to explain in other countries or to foreign students. Typical questions are: “Shouldn’t Americans say that a person who is passing as white is white, or nearly all white, and has previously been passing as black?” or “To be consistent, shouldn’t you say that someone who is one-eighth white is passing as black?” or “Why is there so much concern, since the so-called blacks who pass take so little negroid ancestry with them?” Those who ask such questions need to realize that “passing” is much more a social phenomenon than a biological one, reflecting the nation’s unique definition of what makes a person black. The concept of “passing” rests on the one-drop rule and on folk beliefs about race and miscegenation, not on biological or historical fact.
The black experience with passing as white in the United States contrasts with the experience of other ethnic minorities that have features that are clearly non-caucasoid. The concept of passing applies only to blacks–consistent with the nation’s unique definition of the group. A person who is one-fourth or less American Indian or Korean or Filipino is not regarded as passing if he or she intermarries and joins fully the life of the dominant community, so the minority ancestry need not be hidden. It is often suggested that the key reason for this is that the physical differences between these other groups and whites are less pronounced than the physical differences between African blacks and whites, and therefore are less threatening to whites. However, keep in mind that the one-drop rule and anxiety about passing originated during slavery and later received powerful reinforcement under the Jim Crow system.
For the physically visible groups other than blacks, miscegenation promotes assimilation, despite barriers of prejudice and discrimination during two or more generations of racial mixing. As noted above, when ancestry in one of these racial minority groups does not exceed one-fourth, a person is not defined solely as a member of that group. Masses of white European immigrants have climbed the class ladder not only through education but also with the help of close personal relationships in the dominant community, intermarriage, and ultimately full cultural and social assimilation. Young people tend to marry people they meet in the same informal social circles. For visibly non-caucasoid minorities other than blacks in the United States, this entire route to full assimilation is slow but possible.
For all persons of any known black lineage, however, assimilation is blocked and is not promoted by miscegenation. Barriers to full opportunity and participation for blacks are still formidable, and a fractionally black person cannot escape these obstacles without passing as white and cutting off all ties to the black family and community. The pain of this separation, and condemnation by the black family and community, are major reasons why many or most of those who could pass as white choose not to. Loss of security within the minority community, and fear and distrust of the white world are also factors.
It should now be apparent that the definition of a black person as one with any trace at all of black African ancestry is inextricably woven into the history of the United States. It incorporates beliefs once used to justify slavery and later used to buttress the castelike Jim Crow system of segregation. Developed in the South, the definition of “Negro” (now black) spread and became the nation’s social and legal definition. Because blacks are defined according to the one-drop rule, they are a socially constructed category in which there is wide variation in racial traits and therefore not a race group in the scientific sense. However, because that category has a definite status position in the society it has become a self-conscious social group with an ethnic identity.
The one-drop rule has long been taken for granted throughout the United States by whites and blacks alike, and the federal courts have taken “judicial notice” of it as being a matter of common knowledge. State courts have generally upheld the one-drop rule, but some have limited the definition to one thirty-second or one-sixteenth or one-eighth black ancestry, or made other limited exceptions for persons with both Indian and black ancestry. Most Americans seem unaware that this definition of blacks is extremely unusual in other countries, perhaps even unique to the United States, and that Americans define no other minority group in a similar way. . . .
We must first distinguish racial traits from cultural traits, since they are so often confused with each other. As defined in physical anthropology and biology, races are categories of human beings based on average differences in physical traits that are transmitted by the genes not by blood. Culture is a shared pattern of behavior and beliefs that are learned and transmitted through social communication. An ethnic group is a group with a sense of cultural identity, such as Czech or Jewish Americans, but it may also be a racially distinctive group. A group that is racially distinctive in society may be an ethnic group as well, but not necessarily. Although racially mixed, most blacks in the United States are physically distinguishable from whites, but they are also an ethnic group because of the distinctive culture they have developed within the general American framework.
As I reflect, I think about what a brave soul Dr. King was to transform his fight for “Negro” equality with White America and one that was based on Civil Rights, to a fight that was global in scope and based on Human Rights.
Like others have, I often ask myself what would Dr. King think about today’s America and the world as a whole? Would he feel as though all of his efforts achieved their end goal? Would he support the various Occupy and other social movements taking place the world over? The answers I keep coming up with are NO and YES respectively.
Given the continued disparities across every major aspect of life in America for Black Americans, I could not imagine Dr. King would be pleased with our progress. Yes, we have a Black President and we certainly have achieved great success in many areas of the business, sports, entertainment, the arts and the social world. However, we do not live in a “Post-racial” society. As a collective group, the majority of Black Americans have not benefited from the accomplishments of a few.
Statistically, we are breaking records in all the wrong categories of life:
We are #1 in Incarceration rates proportionate to the overall American population
We are #1 in Healthcare disparities
We are #1 in Education disparities
We are #1 in HIV/AIDS contraction rates
We are #1 in Quality of living disparities
We are #1 in Divorce and Households lead by single mothers
We are #1 in Sperm donors who happen to be males not being fathers
We are #1 in just about any other negative thing you can think of as it relates to simply living
It is not my intention to bring anyone down or paint such a dismal picture of life for the majority of Black Americans, but this is not my subjective truth. This is the reality of too many of our people. The bottom line, Dr. King’s goals have not been achieved.
We do not live in a “Post-Racial” America and we need to WAKE UP!!!
Kemet is the first civilization in the world. Kemet is the African name of the land we now call Egypt. This more modern term – Egypt – resulted from Greek and later conquerors of the land applying their own names in their own language. Kemet means “black land” or “black earth.” And, Kemet may well be the first complex civilization in the world. It is certainly the longest civilization to still be located in the same place. If you define a civilization by its ability to make war, Sumer in Mesopotamia may be older. But, if you define a civilization by its peace and stability, then Kemet again is the oldest. And, despite modern political assertions that Egypt is in the Middle East, Kemet is in Africa.
Egypt (Kemet) bordered by deserts is absolutely the “gift of the Nile.” But African civilization is the gift of Kemet. Eminent African scholar Cheik Anta Diop has said that: “Egypt is to Africa as Greece is to Europe.” In other words, Kemet should be considered the jewel at the heart of African civilization from which much culture, arts, sciences and technologies radiate. Much the way Western Civilization traces its key origins to ancient Greece; other African civilizations owe a debt to Kemet.
In the past, there has been a spurious controversy over whether or not the ancient people of Kemet were Black people. This is a racist argument on either side. The people of ancient Kemet – or Egypt, if you like – were African. Regardless of our modern preoccupations with race as evidenced by skin color, the people of Kemet were African. And, just like today, Africans come in many shades (as, by the way, do Europeans). Any detailed examination of artistic representations show Kemetic peoples skin tones to range from dark Black to light tan and everything in between. The argument that they were Caucasians is based on the racist mythos that only Europeans could create advanced societies. It was an ugly idea based on European ethnocentrism. And it served well to perpetuate relatively modern color-based racism that has evolved since the start of European colonization. The argument that all ancient Kemetic peoples had to be Black in the modern sense of the word simply reinforces skin color based distinctions that are contemporary and have very little utility to understanding the peoples in themselves. It is putting our 21st century concepts of race in the way of understanding how the people of Kemet saw race.
We will leave the discourse of Egyptian “Blackness” with some tales that show both the connectedness of Kemet with the rest of ancient Africa, and that race as we know it did not apply.
This poisonous master-class mentality did not die with the abolition of slavery—it continued, in new forms. In particular, each wave of immigrants that came over from Europe had to “fit itself into” the dominant relations of American society—they had to find an “economic niche” (usually toward the bottom rungs of the working class, at least at first) and they had to work out a relation to the dominant political and cultural superstructure of society. In doing so, these white immigrants often tried to distinguish themselves from Black people—and this often exploded into the open antagonism of white mobs rampaging against Black people and even lynching them—yes, in the northern cities as well as the South, as these immigrant communities defined themselves as “full-blooded” white Americans in violent opposition to Black people. This system reinforced the master-class mentality among northern whites with petty, but not insignificant, privileges in jobs and housing. And this became a major double-barreled shotgun for the capitalist ruling class: it blinded these white people and immigrants to their most fundamental interests as members of the proletariat, turning their anger away from the system that actually exploited and oppressed them, and turning it against the most oppressed and exploited people in society. And it gave them an “identity” as white Americans, with a set of expectations and entitlements to go with it—and to defend. A minority of whites opposed this madness, and took up revolutionary or radical or even just decently humane positions; but while very important—and we’ll return to its significance later—this sort of stand was far too uncommon. (A secondary, but important, effect of this master-class mentality among whites of all classes was to partly obscure the class character of the oppression of the masses of Black people—their position and role as viciously exploited proletarians, within the overall working class of the U.S.—and the many and close links between this class exploitation of large numbers of Black people, as part of the proletariat, and thenational oppression of Black people as a people.)
To return again to the period of slavery, it is important to be clear on an essential truth: the slaves fiercely resisted this. In the U.S. alone there were over 200 slave revolts, and the slaves of Haiti stunned the world when they successfully waged a 15-year revolution against first their colonial masters, then the British, and finally Napoleon’s armies. Even with these heroic revolts, it was only with the Civil War that the resistance finally bore fruit in the U.S., and the emancipation of Black people from outright slavery was achieved. Here too the masses of Black people—both runaway slaves and “freedmen”—played a crucial role. When finally allowed to join the Union Army, they died at twice the rate of white soldiers (while being paid lower wages for most of the Civil War)!
Sure it can be disputed what black/African American culture is. I personally don’t believe blacks have much of a culture in America anymore, thanks to assimilation. When I hear blacks referring to every and anything as ghetto, ratchet, bad, and hood,…I assume this is the Negro people culture if anything. *Never knowing nothing about themselves, but what they’ve been told by the media and brainwashed blacks.
Most people’s concept of Race relies on an artificial construct of relatively recent invention. Since the human race originated in Africa (ca. 150 – 250 thousand years ago) there have been several sub-species of human. The last was called Neanderthal. They became extinct about 30,000 years ago. Since then, there has been only one race: the human race. We are all biologically identical and interchangeable, yet culturally and ethnically diverse and distinct. This cultural and ethnic diversity has been institutionalized during European global colonization from about the 14th century on as categories of Race.
In the colonies that were to become the United States of America, these racial categories came to be institutionalized on the basis of skin color. People were placed in different groups based on skin color (among other differences such as religion). This was a political arrangement made mostly for economic reasons. Indian land had value. African labor produced value, and so on. Therefore these groups became (racial) social classes. Social Class refers to a person’s economic access and opportunity within a social system.
Since society is made interlocking institutions (systems) that control people’s lives, race and class distinctions have concrete consequences for all involved. For some the color based race system would mean rewards – for others it would mean degradation. To be defined as White (and male) resulted in unachieved preference and power. To be institutionally identified as non-White resulted in degrees of disenfranchisement and unrewarded labor. It is a social history of a racist culture.
Culture is – in part – is the set of assumptions and beliefs about the way the world should work. These assumptions and associations govern individual behavior. As I have said, these peoples coming to the lands that would be called the United States were culturally and ethnically distinct. Sometimes – often, actually – the cultural expectations of a people are in conflict with one or more of the institutions of society. They had differing interpretations of how the world should work. It is just that one of the color-coded racial groups would have the (unearned) power to enforce its vision of exclusivity. If one institutionally confirmed group expected the world should work one way – let’s say enslavement – and yet other groups expected the world should work differently – let’s say freedom – then out of that cultural and institutional conflict emerges the incidents of history. It is the interaction between these three – race, class and culture – that we will use to define Black American history. This interaction drives historical events.
And, all too often, the history of African Americans is taught as if bound in the fetters of enslavement – as if the sole identity of Black Americans is one of tragedy. Instead, this text substitutes the triumph of an enslaved people – a people who – though racialized and marginalized – yet continue to challenge the nature of American Justice.
First, what is an African? Second, what is America? And, also, what do I mean by Black? To be Black and American is an international experience. To overlook that fact diminishes both Africans and Americans. After all, more Africans ended up in other parts of the Americas than the small area we now call the United States. To use the words: Black American – to be Black and American – acknowledges a social and cultural dislocation from both Africa and America. Both Africa and America are continents. Each is made of many nations, cultural traditions and societies. Almost all Americans came from elsewhere – decimating and absorbing the indigenous Americans in the process. Each immigrating group retained an identity associated with their place of origin. Only the African diaspora required the purposeful destruction of national, social and cultural identities. Only the forced relocation of Africans required a people to re-invent themselves – and – in the process of this reinvention – American culture has been reinvented. The politics and economics of the African American experience have transformed America. And, it has transformed Africans into Blacks.
Black Americans are not just African any more than other Americans are just American. But, the cultural genocide of American institutions of enslavement stripped Blacks of this self awareness. “Black” may well be an ironic metaphor for this blank spot in what could have been a truly African American identity. Other Americans can proudly self-assert themselves as Dutch-American, or English-American, from Cornwall, or Jicarilla Apache. African Americans must affiliate with an entire continent. This presents certain unusual problems in understanding African American history and identity. No matter how strongly some Black Americans may wish otherwise – contemporary African Americans may well be the most “American” of us all. The African American search for a useful past upon which to build a present full of possibilities – the Black yearning for freedom and self determination – has defined just what it can mean to be American. And, it will be the future of Black Americans that will define the future of the American Dream.
Structurally, technologically and culturally speaking, there is no “music industry” any more. There is also no “movie industry” any more. Those two things have been consolidated into a more generic and all encompassing, “entertainment industry.” But that’s not even the kicker. The kicker is that technically, the entertainment industry is now a sub-division of a much larger and more insidious industry known as the “telecommunications industry.” This is the delivery system under which all media and cultural distribution is being consolidated. Some entities to look out for in this telecommunications act generated morass: Google, Apple, and Access One. This shift presents both new challenges and new opportunities. Those engaged in cultural struggle as well as those engaged in labor struggle are currently smack dap up against that.
Firstly: all of you reading this are Africans. To be human is to be African. It is where all contemporary human life originated. Current American culture views African as synonymous with skin color. We do not know whether ancient Africans were Black in the modern concept of Race (capital “B” and “R”), but they were African.
Africa is where most of what it means to be human originated also. The family, language, astronomy, technology, religion, domestication of plant and animal species (and, perhaps, beer): all African. In brief, the biological, social, and cultural source of all human beings is Africa. Therefore, we are all Africans in some more recent or more distant context.
Exhaustive DNA studies have replicated the biologic origin of humanity as being African. Some of the best evidence places the origin of all modern humans in the womb of a single mitochondrial “Eve” in East Africa around 200,000 years ago (Ehrlich: 94-109). It is from her that we are all descended. She was the mother of all humanity. And, she was African.
Our best current scientific data show Homo sapiens – modern humans – first migrated from their African origins into other parts of the world about 100,000 years ago (Fernandez-Armesto: 13). Already, the primary elements of the civilizations we all know and share were part of the human toolkit. Cultural understanding and complex social organization are well documented in many archaeological sites in and near the continent of Africa (Ehrlich: 205-09).
The next step in the human adventure on this planet is called “Civilization.” It, too, is of African origin. Along African rivers such as the Nile, the Congo, or the Niger, Black people would develop all aspects of complex and sophisticated societies. The well known ancient architectural marvel of the pyramids is the only one of humanities Seven Ancient Wonders to survive. But other less well known African civilizations contributed the bulk of peoples that would one day be called African Americans.
Beyond the physical biology, the size of our brains or the types of tools we make, the things that make us all human – that gives us our humanity – are culture and social relationships. These too are of African origin. Language, religion, and abstract thought, are all elemental to the human being. Families, bands, tribes, city-states, and nations are African firsts. The use and control of fire, organized scavenging, hunting, and gathering, the domestication of plants and animals are all part of our African heritage.
The diverse environment represented in Africa also laid foundations for the diversity of human approaches to survival and prosperity. Twa and !Kung hunter-gatherers share the African continent with Bantu agriculturalists and Maasai pastoralists. These modern examples of our collective African heritage stem from an ancient population that generated far more than we see now. Probably the most ancient and certainly the most original human society and culture of all time is African. Even though some interesting modern interpretations assert that it is in the Middle East or that its people were “White,” or that it was a Mediterranean empire, and even though we know it by the Greek name, Egypt was (and is) African.
The USA arose on the foundation of the genocidal theft of Native American (Indian) lands, and the enslavement of African people. Since that time, the oppression of Black people has been essential to the functioning of this system, changing as that system has changed, but always deeply woven into the very fabric of society. White supremacy and capitalism have proven to be so closely intertwined that, even when millions have risen up, time and again, to fight the oppression of African-American people, the system has in the end responded by re-entrenching and reinforcing, even if modifying the forms of, that oppression. Today’s situation is extreme and dire; and any solution that leaves capitalism intact is no solution at all and, indeed, a damaging dead end.
“The young man was shot 41 times while reaching for his wallet”…“the 13-year-old was shot dead in mid-afternoon when police mistook his toy gun for a pistol”… “the unarmed young man, shot by police 50 times, died on the morning of his wedding day”… “the young woman, unconscious from having suffered a seizure, was shot 12 times by police standing around her locked car”… “the victim, arrested for disorderly conduct, was tortured and raped with a stick in the back of the station-house by the arresting officers.”Michael Brown, an unarmed black teen was shot and killed by a police officer in a St. Louis, Missouri, suburb.
In South L.A. neighborhood of Ezell Ford, the young, mentally ill, unarmed black man who was shot and killed by police two days after the killing of Mike Brown.
Moments later, steps from the spot where Ezell Ford was killed, a Los Angeles Police Department patrol car raced down the street, chasing down a black suspect. Two white officers seized the man, who grabbed a fistful of an officer’s shirt. They took him down. At one point in the scuffle, the man appeared to reach for an officer’s gun. Neighbors quickly gathered to jeer at the officers.
Each moment was an expectant one, high tension for long minutes, and it’s eerily easy to imagine how nerves on both sides could’ve caused this situation to escalate quickly.
Does it surprise you to know that in each of the above cases the victim was Black? If you live in the USA, it almost certainly doesn’t.
Think what that means: that without even being told, you knew these victims of police murder and brutality were Black. Those cases—and the thousands more like them that have occurred just in the past few decades—add rivers of tears to an ocean of pain. And they are symptoms of a larger, still deeper problem.
Conventional wisdom says that while some disparities remain, things have generally advanced for Black people in America and today they are advancing still. People like Obama and Oprah are held up as proof of this. But have things really moved forward? Is this society actually becoming “post-racial”?
The answer to that question can be found in every corner of U.S. society.
Take employment: Black people remain crowded into the lowest rungs of the ladder…that is, if they can find work at all. While many of the basic industries that once employed Black people have closed down, study after study shows employers to be more likely to hire a white person with a criminal record than a Black person without one, and 50% more likely to follow up on a resume with a “white-sounding” name than an identical resume with a “Black-sounding” name. In New York City, the rate of unemployment for Black men is fully 48%.
Or housing: Black people face the highest levels of racial residential segregation in the world—shunted into neglected neighborhoods lacking decent parks and grocery stores and often with no hospitals at all. Black people, as well as Latinos, who had achieved home-ownership had their roofs snatched from them. They were the ones hit hardest by the sub-prime mortgage crisis after having been targeted disproportionately by predatory lenders—resulting in the greatest loss of wealth to people of color in modern U.S. history.
Or healthcare: Black infants face mortality rates comparable to those in the Third World country of Malaysia, and African-Americans generally are infected by HIV at rates that rival those in sub-Saharan Africa. Overall the disparities in healthcare are so great that one former U.S. Surgeon General recently wrote, “If we had eliminated disparities in health in the last century, there would have been 85,000 fewer black deaths overall in 2000.
Or education: Today the schools are more segregated than they have been since the 1960’s with urban, predominantly Black and Latino schools receiving fewer resources and set up to fail. These schools more and more resemble prisons with metal detectors and kids getting stopped and frisked on their way to class by uniformed police who patrol their halls. Often these schools spend around half as much per pupil as those in the well-to-do suburbs.
Or take imprisonment: The Black population in prison is 900,000 a tenfold increase since 1954!—and the proportion of Black prisoners incarcerated relative to whites has more than doubled in that same period. A recent study pointed out that “a young Black male without a high school degree has a 59 percent chance of being imprisoned before his thirty-fifth birthday.”
On top of all that, and reinforcing it, is an endlessly spouting sewer of racism in the media, culture and politics of this society—racism that takes deadly aim at the dreams and spirit of every African-American child. And who can forget the wave of nooses that sprung up around the country, south andnorth, in the wake of the 2007 struggle in Jena, Louisiana against the prosecution (and persecution) of six Black youth who had fought back against a noose being hung to intimidate them from sitting under a “whites only” tree at school?
All this lay beneath the criminal government response to Hurricane Katrina in 2005. For reasons directly related to the oppression of Black people throughout the history of this country, and continuing today, African-Americans were disproportionately the ones without the resources to get out of the way of that storm, as well as the ones concentrated in the neighborhoods whose levees had gone unrepaired for years. Far from “mere” incompetence, the government responded with a combination of gun-in-your-face repression and wanton, murderous neglect. People were stuck on rooftops in 100-degree heat for days on end, with nothing to eat or drink. Prisoners were left locked in cells as waters rose to their necks. The protection of private property and social control was placed above human life. The governor of the state ordered cops and soldiers to shoot on sight “looters”—that is, people trying to survive and to help others. On at least one occasion, people trying to escape the worst-hit areas were stopped by police at gunpoint from crossing over to a safer area. When evacuations finally were carried out, they were done with the heartlessness of a cruel plantation owner. Families were separated, with children ripped away from parents. Tens of thousands were scattered all over the country with one-way tickets, sometimes not even told their destinations. Back home, bodies were left floating in water, or lying on sidewalks, underneath debris, decomposing and mangled, for months.
Through it all, politicians and commentators spewed out unrelenting racism. Who can forget Barbara Bush herself, the president’s mother, and her remark in a shelter for refugees from Katrina—some separated from their families and having lost everything, including dear ones—that “[S]o many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this is working very well for them.”A 10-term Congressman took the prize for declaring, “We finally cleaned up public housing in New Orleans. We couldn’t do it, but God did.”Since then, the first…the second…the third anniversary of Katrina passed with many parts of New Orleans still uninhabitable ghost towns. In the mostly Black 9th Ward, blocks of devastated houses have been razed—a vast wasteland now dotted with occasional concrete steps going nowhere. When Black people have fought to stay in the projects which are still habitable, they have been driven out—and when they have protested at City Council, they have been pepper-sprayed and beaten.Oil rigs and tourist areas are long since back up and humming, while rebuilding schools, hospitals, and childcare centers are pushed off the list. Through it all, cops and national guards continue to occupy poor neighborhoods like enemy territory.
Does all this look like a “post-racial” society to you?
The answer is clear. And while more Black people than ever before have been allowed to “make it” into the middle class, two things must be said.
First, even for these people their situation is still tenuous. To take one stark example: In opposition to the widespread notions of the “American dream,” where each successive generation “does better” than the previous one, the majority of the children of middle-class Black families have been cast, by the workings of this system, onto a downwardly mobile path. And every Black person—no matter how high they rise—still faces the insults and the dangers concentrated in the all-too-familiar experience of being stopped for “driving while Black.” As Malcolm X said over 40 years ago, and as is still true today: What do they call somebody Black with a Ph.D.? A “nigger.”
Second, and even more profoundly, for millions and millions of Black people things have gotten WORSE.
It will not help—in fact it will do real harm—to believe in this “post-racial” fantasy, or even the “less ambitious” lie of steady improvement. The cold truth of the oppression of African-American people must be squarely confronted and deeply understood, if it is ever to be transformed.
This country was founded on the twin crimes of the genocidal dispossession of its Native American (Indian) inhabitants, and the kidnapping and enslavement of millions of Africans. But this essential and undeniable truth is constantly suppressed, blurred over, distorted and excused—all too often treated as “ancient history,” if admitted at all. But let’s look at its implications.
Modern capitalism arose in Europe, when the merchant class in the cities—the newly arising capitalists, or bourgeoisie—began to set up workshops in which they exploited peasants who had been driven off their land, as well as others who could not make a living any longer other than by working for, and being exploited by, these capitalists. This was the embryo of the modern proletariat—a class of people who have no means to live except to work for someone else, and that works for wages in processes that require a collectivity of people working together. The early capitalists, like their descendants, would take possession of and sell the goods thus produced, paying the proletarians only enough to live on, and thereby accumulating profit. They did this in competition with other capitalists, and those who could not sell cheaper were driven under; this generated a drive to gain any possible advantage, either through lowering wages and more thoroughly exploiting the proletariat, or through investing in more productive machinery, or both. This twin dynamic of exploitation and competition drove forward the accumulation of capital in a relentless and ever-widening cycle.
Why Education Is Not the AnswerPeople say: “We need to get educated, that’s the problem. Yes, we don’t get the resources the white schools get. But if our children would only study harder—and if we would do better at turning off the television more often—then they could learn and get ahead.”
This mixes up some important truths with some very wrong conclusions. The truth is that this system has consistently denied a good education to Black children and continues to do so today, beginning with the execution of slaves who taught other slaves to read. Today, most African-American children are confined to prison-like inner city schools which get much fewer resources and in which the true history and dynamics of society and the world are covered up, and there is little if any attempt to instill critical or creative thinking. These schools send African-American children the message, in ways spoken and unspoken, that there is no real future for them in this society. And it is a further crime of this system that many Black youth then end up “buying into” the system’s lies that they are inferior, “turn off” to their own potential to learn and, in so doing, turn away from the wider world of knowledge and science.
But suppose every single Black child somehow DID get an education that enabled them to think critically and to master the skills involved in different kinds of mental labor. Would millions of today’s poor then be able to get good jobs and climb out of poverty? No. Even if you could somehow eliminate discrimination short of revolution—which in fact cannot be done—so long as the system of capitalism is in effect, people are employed only ifsome capitalist can make money off their employment. By that standard, there is not a “demand” for that many technical jobs and even many of those jobs are being shifted to parts of the world where people are forced to work for even lower wages. The capitalists know this, of course, and that is one big reason that they are NOT providing a good education for the youth in the inner cities in particular—they do not want to raise the expectations of Black people “too high.” They fear a situation in which millions of people have knowledge and skills and therefore expect to get a decent job and a better life, and then are STILL denied—many political operatives of the ruling class recall very well the experience of the 1960s, when Black people’s hopes and expectations were raised, and then largely dashed, and the result was a massive explosion of righteous anger and rebellion among Black people, particularly the youth, and today the ruling class harbors a deep fear that again raising expectations would be far too socially explosive.
There is a further problem still: that unless and until there is a concerted effort, backed up by state power, to actually overcome inequality and white supremacy in every sphere of society, not only will educational systems themselves continue to reinforce this but no amount of education will avail to overcome and eradicate it. Even today, when someone succeeds against all odds in getting a good education, the discrimination remains. Education alone is not sufficient; it will take a revolution, in which the rule of the exploiters and oppressors is broken and state power is put into the hands of the masses, to get rid of the capitalist fetters and to thoroughly uproot the white supremacy it has fed on. A socialist society needs the creative and critical thinking of people throughout society, including those whose creativity and critical thinking has been stifled and suffocated under this oppressive system. One of the key features, and necessities, of this new society will be to encourage and foster this creativity and critical thinking among the people broadly—developing their potential and enabling them to increasingly contribute, in many diverse ways, to the development of society, and the emancipation of humanity, as part of the great collective effort to bring into being a new society, a completely new world, without exploitation or oppression.
As part of building the revolutionary movement, we certainly unite with people’s struggles and efforts to fight against the savage inequalities of today’s education system. And the revolutionary movement itself must educate people in the real history and dynamics of society, in science, and in the scientific method more generally. But education alone, of whatever kind, cannot solve the problem.
Education as “the way out” turns people’s eyes away from the real problem and even leads them to blame themselves when it turns out to be yet another false hope.
But this was not some linear or self-contained process. In fact, capitalism in Europe “took off” with the development of the world market, and that in turn was fed and driven forward by theslave trade. Ships would sail from London and Liverpool, in England, filled with the goods sold by the capitalists. They would unload these goods for sale or trade in the coastal cities of Africa, and fill their holds with human beings who had been captured in raids in the African countryside. They would then take this human cargo to the Americas and the Caribbean, to be sold as slaves. Then the ships would take the sugar, cotton, rice and other goods produced by the slaves in these colonies back to Europe, to be sold for use as raw materials or food. And so on, every day, year in, year out—for centuries. This slave trade and the slave economy that went with it—along with the extermination of the Native peoples of the Americas (the Indians) through deliberate slaughter, disease, and working them to death in silver mines—formed what Karl Marx called the “rosy dawn of the primitive accumulation of capital.”
The crime was enormous. Between 9.4 and 12 million Africans were kidnapped, sold and sent to the Americas as slaves. Over two million more died in the voyage from Africa, and enormous numbers perished in Africa itself, through the slave-taking raids and wars, followed by forced marches in chains to the coastal African cities to feed this market. At least 800,000 more died in the port cities of Africa, locked down in prison (the barracoons) awaiting shipment. Once in the Americas, slaves were sent to “seasoning camps” to “break” them—where an estimated 1/3 of the Africans died in that first hellish year.
Take a few seconds to think about the reality behind those numbers. THOSE WERE HUMAN BEINGS! Numbers alone cannot hope to capture the agony and suffering all this meant for over three centuries; the best these numbers can do is give a sense of the sheer scale and scope of the barbarity. But even today this is very little known, and what went into the foundation of American history is barely taught, if at all, in the schools, or recognized in the media and culture.
Those Africans who survived this hell were then forced to toil as slaves, doing the work to “tame” the Americas—to develop the agriculture that would form the basis for the new European colonies. A respected historian put it this way: “Much of the New World, then, came to resemble the death furnace of the ancient god Moloch—consuming African slaves so increasing numbers of Europeans (and later, white Americans) could consume sugar, coffee, rice, and tobacco.
Within Africa itself, the slave trade caused tremendous distortions in the development of Africa and gave rise to the major African slave-trading states in west Africa, as these states traded slaves to the Europeans for commodities that included guns.
Slavery existed in every part of the world and many societies before the transatlantic slave trade that began in the 1500s—but it had never before been carried out on this scale and with this nearly industrial-style inhumanity. That was the product not of uniquely evil men—but of men who became monsters by serving the demands of a monstrous new system whose only commandment was “Expand or Die.” This slave trade was so integral to the rise of capitalism that the sugar and tea produced by slaves not only turned huge profits, but also served as a very cheap way to feed empty calories and stimulants to severely exploited proletarians in Europe. And the labor organization of the sugar cane fields of Jamaica was adapted to the factory floors of London.
To justify this, the capitalists and slave owners drew on the Bible—which yes, does in fact justify slavery, in both old testament and new—and then later on pseudo-scientific ideologies of racism that claimed that Africans and Native Americans (Indians) were a “lower species,” inherently inferior. The fact that Africans had been kidnaped, tortured, enslaved, killed if they tried to educate themselves, forced to watch as their children or spouses were sold off to other parts of the country, and generally kept in an inferior position—this CRIME by the rulers was pointed to as “proof” that Blacks were inferior. Incredibly enough, these slaves were denounced as “lazy” by the parasitical slave masters whose great wealth the slaves created through their back-breaking labor! These lies served both to “justify” the horrors of slavery and formed a crucial element in the “social glue” that held society together. This pattern, and this lie and its social use, have continued in different forms up to today.
The fact that these supposedly “inherently inferior” people had played a crucial part in building up highly developed societies and cultures in both Africa and the Americas, long before Europeans came to dominate these places, was an “inconvenient truth” written out of the official histories and textbooks. And the fact that all human beings are all one species, with only relatively superficial differences in some characteristics, was also written out, with spurious racist pseudo-science substituted instead—lies that also come up in new forms today.
There was nothing inherent in Europeans that led to capitalism taking root there first—there were a number of areas in the world where capitalism might have taken off slightly earlier or slightly later if things had come together a little differently. But Europe is where capitalism did take off, and the dominance of the capitalist nations of Europe and then the U.S. (and Japan, which developed in a different set of circumstances) over the past five centuries is inconceivable without slavery.
“There Would Be No United States as We Now Know It Today Without Slavery”
Slavery fueled the foundation and rise of not just capitalism in general, but the U.S. in particular. This is not just a “stain” that can eventually be washed, or even scrubbed, away within the confines of this system; it is embedded in the very fabric of this society—indeed, the U.S. Constitution itself legally institutionalized slavery and deemed African-Americans to count as only 3/5 of a white person for census purposes.
In the recently published work, Communism and Jeffersonian Democracy, Bob Avakian wrote:
There is a semi-official narrative about the history and the “greatness” of America, which says that this greatness of America lies in the freedom and ingenuity of its people, and above all in a system that gives encouragement and reward to these qualities. Now, in opposition to this semi-official narrative about the greatness of America, the reality is that—to return to one fundamental aspect of all this—slavery has been an indispensable part of the foundation for the “freedom and prosperity” of the USA. The combination of freedom and prosperity is, as we know, still today, and in some ways today more than ever, proclaimed as the unique quality and the special destiny and mission of the United States and its role in the world. And this stands in stark contradiction to the fact that without slavery, none of this—not even the bourgeois-democratic freedoms, let alone the prosperity—would have been possible, not only in the southern United States but in the North as well, in the country as a whole and in its development and emergence as a world economic and military power.
In short: There would be no United States as we now know it today without slavery. That is a simple and basic truth.
Avakian then goes on to discuss and analyze the importance of slavery to the mind-set and outlook of American society, and its political life in particular. To justify slavery and the theft of native lands, the lies and myths we described above were used to deem Black people and Indians as less than human, as social pariahs, or outcasts, not deserving of the “natural rights” due to all white men. The masses of white people of all classes, including the most exploited among them, were appealed to on the basis that by virtue of not being slaves they were in fact part of the master class (whether they actually owned slaves or not).
Taking my rest in the Lord today is paramount because I am angry about the injustice we as Americans of all races are suffering. I served this devil for 14 years, I became a prisoner of war and can’t get veteran benefits. I sit and seize in anger in my flesh but my spirit constrains the HATE my flesh feels for this conundrum of politics and injustice I wish I had an army to combat. An army of believers that have gotten tired of fighting among-est themselves. An army that really walks and is willing to draw the line in the sand of racism, hatred and injustice. We as a nation of suppose to be free bodied individuals won’t assume our rightful positions in the struggle together crossing all color and ethnic background.
Darren Wilson people massed together to move in his behalf in a monetary and solidarity fashion. The church and our communities are not massing together in prayer or to support visions of God or His righteousness. Our government has been moving toward it’s plans for years. In yet another astonishingly treasonous act the U.S. administration has eliminated yet another key check to control out of control government, the 1878 Posse Comitatus Act. The Posse Comitatus Act abolished the use of the U.S. military against our own citizens and eliminated the ability of the U.S. government to eliminate the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights by declaring Martial Law. ISIS The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) used to have a different name: al Qaeda in Iraq. Has massed to kill steal and destroy fueled by hate, but together.
In early 2006 Congress passed bill H.R.5122 granting the President the right to commandeer Federal and State National Guard Troops for use against citizens. The bill is entitled the John Warner Defense Appropriation Act for Fiscal Year 2007 .
Section 1076 of H.R. 5122.ENR allows the President to:
“…employ the armed forces, including the National Guard in Federal service,to… restore public order and enforce the laws of the United States when, as a result of a natural disaster, epidemic, or other serious public health emergency, terrorist attack or incident, or other condition in any State or possession of the United States…, where the President determines that,…domestic violence has occurred to such an extent that the constituted authorities of the State or possession are incapable of maintaining public order; suppress, in a State, any insurrection, domestic violence, unlawful combination, or conspiracy…”
This act attempts to nullify the Posse Comitatus Act and the Insurrection Act (10 U.S.C. 331-335) and gives the President the legal ability to declare Martial Law under any condition he so chooses. This very equipment was aimed at innocent babies of all colors on American soil. I used this very equipment in nine campaigns serving this country only to see more injustice like it being used on my own people. I am hurting tonight and struggling with PEACE…
And the rest, some on boards, some on broken pieces of the ship. And so it came to pass that they escaped all safe to land (Acts 27:44).
The marvelous story of Paul’s voyage to Rome, with its trials and triumphs, is a fine pattern of the lights and shades of the way of faith all through the story of human life. The remarkable feature of it is the hard and narrow places which we find intermingled with God’s most extraordinary interpositions and providences.
It is the common idea that the pathway of faith is strewn with flowers, and that when God interposes in the life of His people, He does it on a scale so grand that He lifts us quite out of the plane of difficulties. The actual fact, however, is that the real experience is quite contrary. The story of the Bible is one of alternate trial and triumph in the case of everyone of the cloud of witnesses from Abel down to the latest martyr.
Paul, more than anyone else, was an example of how much a child of God can suffer without being crushed or broken in spirit. On account of his testifying in Damascus, he was hunted down by persecutors and obliged to fly for his life. but we behold no heavenly chariot transporting the holy apostle amid thunderbolts of flame from the reach of his foes, but “through a window in a basket,” was he let down over the walls of Damascus and so escaped their hands. In an old clothes basket, like a bundle of laundry, or groceries, the servant of Jesus Christ was dropped from the window and ignominiously fled from the hate of his foes.
Again we find him left for months in the lonely dungeons; we find him telling of his watchings, his fastings, and his desertion by friends, of his brutal and shameful beatings, and here even after God has promised to deliver him, we see him for days left to toss upon a stormy sea, obliged to stand guard over the treacherous seaman, and at last when the deliverance comes, there is no heavenly galley sailing from the skies to take off the noble prisoner; there is no angel form walking along the waters and stilling the raging breakers; there is no supernatural sign of the transcendent miracle that is being wrought; but one is compelled to seize a spar, another a floating plank, another to climb on a fragment of the wreck, another to strike out and swim for his life.
Here is God’s pattern for our own lives. Here is a Gospel of help for people that have to live in this every day world with real and ordinary surroundings, and a thousand practical conditions which have to be met in a thoroughly practical way.
God’s promises and God’s providences do not lift us out of the plane of common sense and commonplace trial, but it is through these very things that faith is perfected, and that God loves to interweave the golden threads of His love along the warp and woof of our every day experience.
I am praying that I will stand until the end as Paul, because I am very angry at this SIN in this world and the corruption within our political and justice system. Please pray for us all and especially me. If you look at this spiritual forecast and CAN STILL HAVE FUN AND GO ABOUT YOUR LIFE AS IF ALL IS WELL PLEASE LET ME KNOW HOW TO ACHIEVE THAT!!!!!!!
I can distinctly recall a particular occasion on which I attempted, in vain, to please men. In all honesty, it would be more accurate to say that I attempted to please other men. I was a sea cadet that had choose , SEAL Training. I endured a mental and physical nightmare that lasts for weeks. I had grown up in the inner city of Washington D.C., and I thought I knew all there was to know about swimming. While several of the trainers were watching, I decided to show them how a “pro” would dive. Running full force from the beach and plunging headlong into the water, I discovered to my dismay that the water was exceedingly shallow and my face scraped along the graveled bottom. There was no choice but to come to the surface (only inches above) and to expose my bloody face.
Likely each of you can remember stories about yourself, too. All of us have been guilty of trying to please men. Paul was accused of being a man-pleaser by those who proclaimed a gospel different from that which the apostle preached. This accusation was intended to undermine Paul’s authority and to accredit the “different gospel,” which the Judaizers had been preaching among the Galatian churches. Paul, however, was innocent. The passage which we are to study is a part of Paul’s defense against the charge of being a man-pleaser.
We need first to refresh our memories with respect to the context in which our passage is found. The first two chapters of Galatians are introductory and foundational. The Galatian Christians had deserted God by adopting a perverted version of the gospel (1:6-9). This, we shall see more clearly, was the result of the teaching of the Judaizers, who sought to add the keeping of the Old Testament law to faith as a requirement for salvation. The Judaizers attacked Paul’s apostleship as part of their teaching of a “different gospel,” a gospel different from that which Paul had proclaimed. Chapters 1 and 2 are a defense of both Paul’s apostleship and of the gospel which he had proclaimed. Chapters 3 and 4 expose the theological error of Judaism by turning back to the Old Testament law, demonstrating that it was neither intended, nor able, to accomplish what the Judaizers promised. Finally in chapters 5 and 6 Paul explains how God has made provision for holiness through the grace of the gospel. Thus, it is only grace which supplies the holiness which the law demanded.
The Issue of Paul’s Motives and Message
10 For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ. 11 For I would have you know, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. 12 For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.
There is nothing indirect about Paul’s approach in chapter 1. He has already bluntly stated that some of the Galatian saints have forsaken God by following another gospel. Having outlined the false teaching within the church, he hastened to address the problem which the church seemed to have with him. The Judaizers could not attack the gospel Paul preached without attacking him. This they did by an assault on his character. They alleged that Paul had changed not for the better, but for the worse, and that his message was motivated by a desire to win man’s approval, rather than God’s. Such charges are implied by Paul’s statement in verse 10:
For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were stilltrying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ.
The word “now” appears first in the Greek text, underscoring its emphasis. It centers upon the change in Paul since his conversion. Indeed, it almost begrudges his conversion. The charges infer that Paul once sought to please God, but now he only wishes to please men. Paul focuses on this change which has occurred and upon the motive which his opponents are suggesting underlies his gospel. Paul’s opponents charged that he had thrown out the requirements which had been historically laid upon Gentile proselytes to Judaism. Now, he was preaching that Gentiles could be saved apart from Judaism, by mere faith in a Jewish Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ. They claimed that he acted not out of integrity, not out of necessity, but out of a desire to gain easy converts who would be indebted to Paul and who would look upon him with favor.
It is very difficult for us to feel the intensity of emotion involved in this issue. Let me attempt to illustrate it in a way that comes a little closer to home. Suppose that you were a white, southern aristocrat who belonged to a very private club. A reason for the club’s exclusiveness was the extremely high initiation fee. For years and years membership had been restricted to only those whom the members themselves chose to admit. The club even had its own religious rituals, all very formal and “high church.” Suddenly, with the change in federal law, such private clubs were now outlawed. Members could not be excluded on the basis of race, creed, or social status. One of the members radically changed his mind and began to bring in new members, precisely those who had previously been purposely excluded. To add insult to injury, this person had the audacity to bring in new members without requiring any initiation fee whatsoever.
There is a mentality, common among religious fundamentalists, which suspects anything which is too easy.31 This mindset distrusts anything that appears to be too tolerant and not sufficiently difficult and demanding. The underlying assumption is the more demanding the duty, the more painful the process, the higher the price of piety, the more likely it is to be of God. Thus, there is an immediate suspicion concerning anything which appears to be too easy. Contradictory to this attitude is the fact that biblical Christianity is founded upon the principles and the processes of grace. The danger of a fundamentalist mindset (as good as this may be), is that it may question the grace upon which salvation and sanctification rest. Paul not only preached grace, he practiced it, and in so doing brought about a strong reaction from the Judaizers who questioned both Paul’s message and his motives.
There is an element of truth in the accusation of the Judaizers against Paul. Paul admitted to changing his conduct depending upon the cultural preferences of his audience. This he did to avoid undue offense to the gospel (cf. 1 Cor. 9:19-23). While Paul was willing to make cultural concessions, he was unbending concerning any concession with regard to the gospel which he preached. He was unwilling to make any requirements of the Gentiles concerning the keeping of the Old Testament law, for this was contrary to grace.
The issue in question is whether Paul deliberately diluted his message to suit his audience in order to gain status among them. Paul’s defense begins with the word “still” in verse 10. He thus turned the tables on his opponents. His conversion was not a change for the worse, but a change for the better. It was not that he had begun to be a man-pleaser since his conversion, but that he had ceased to be so. As a zealous Pharisee he was a man-pleaser. Had he not been converted, he would still be a man-pleaser. In verses 11 and 12 Paul gives a general answer in his own defense: “For I would have you know, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.”
Paul’s motives, according to the Judaizers, were human. They claimed that he desired more to please men than he did to please God. Furthermore they charged that the divine message had been corrupted by Paul’s fallen humanity. Paul insisted that nothing could be farther from the truth. The details of his conversion and growth as a Christian (and an apostle) refute the charge that he was a man-pleaser. What he learned about the gospel, he learned apart from men (vv. 11, 12). No one could claim more independence from human contamination of the gospel than he. Paul buttresses his argument by more specific examples from his experiences: (1) his conversion (1:13-17); (2) his relationship to the apostles in Jerusalem (1:18–2:10); and (3) his confrontation of Peter (2:11-21).
13 For you have heard of my former manner of life in Judaism, how I used to persecute the church of God beyond measure, and tried to destroy it; 14 and I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries among my countrymen, being more extremely zealous for my ancestral traditions. 15 But when He who had set me apart, even from my mother’s womb, and called me through His grace, was pleased 16 to reveal His Son in me, that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with flesh and blood, 17 nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me; but I went away to Arabia, and returned once more to Damascus.
The gospel Paul preached was that same message by which he was saved; thus, his gospel and his conversion were intertwined. In verses 13-17 Paul outlines his conversion experience. Verses 13 and 14 describe him as he was before his conversion. He was devoutly religious as a defender of Judaism.32 Not only was Paul zealous for Judaism, but he was also successful as a Pharisee. He claimed that before his conversion he was “advancing in Judaism” beyond many of his contemporaries (1:14). No one advances in prominence and position unless people are pleased with his performance. Paul, therefore, informs us that it was his devotion to duty which earned him his status within Judaism.
Not only was Paul’s success as a Pharisee the result of pleasing men, but his belief in Judaism was based upon the teachings of men. According to verse 14 Paul was a devotee of Judaism with a zeal for his “ancestral traditions.” Would his opponents charge him with forsaking that which was divine for that which was human? They were wrong, for Judaism was a religion that men had prescribed and promoted. Paul’s zeal to advance within the ranks of Judaism was based upon his desire to win the favor and approval of his contemporaries.
Paul’s new faith came about in an entirely different way, as he describes in verses 15-17. His conversion was initiated by God, rather than by any human agent. God had set him apart, even while in his mother’s womb, for the express purpose of preaching Christ to the Gentiles (1:15-16). God revealed His Son in Paul, not just “to” him (1:16). Specifically, Paul’s conversion was one which took place “within” him through the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit who brings the dead to life (cf. John 3:8; Eph. 2:5; Titus 3:5). You will remember that in Paul’s recorded encounter with the risen Christ on the road to Damascus Paul was directly addressed by the risen Lord; however, though Paul’s companions heard the sound, they did not understand Christ’s voice (Acts 22:9). Paul’s conversion resulted from a direct confrontation with the risen Son of God.
To be sure, there was human instrumentality. It was through Ananias that the way of salvation was made known to Paul, along with his calling as God’s instrument to proclaim the gospel to the Gentiles (cf. Acts 9:10-18). Paul spent several days with the saints at Damascus (Acts 9:19). Apart from these minimal involvements with human instruments, Paul’s conversion and spiritual growth was primarily the result of direct divine encounter. Paul claims that he did not immediately confer with men in general, nor with the apostles in Jerusalem, but instead he grew largely in solitude (1:16b-17).33 During the critical, early formative years of Paul’s life as a Christian, he had few men about him to corrupt the gospel. Paul’s salvation and the gospel he was being taught were remarkably free from human contamination.
Paul’s First Visit to Jerusalem
18 Then three years later I went up to Jerusalem to become acquainted with Cephas, and stayed with him fifteen days. 19 But I did not see any other of the apostles except James, the Lord’s brother. 20 Now in what I am writing to you, I assure you before God that I am not lying. 21 Then I went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia. 22 And I was still unknown by sight to the churches of Judea which were in Christ; 23 but only, they kept hearing, “He who once persecuted us is now preaching the faith which he once tried to destroy.” 24 And they were glorifying God because of me.
It was not until three years after his conversion that Paul finally went to Jerusalem.34 This chronological fact easily meshes with Luke’s abbreviated account in the book of Acts.35 In Acts 9 we are told that Paul was converted in Damascus (vv. 8-19a), where he spent several days with the believers (v. 19b). We are told that he boldly preached Christ (v. 20), and that after “many days had elapsed,” Paul left Damascus because of a death plot (v. 23) and went up to Jerusalem (v. 26). As a result of a plot to kill Paul in Jerusalem, he was sent to Caesarea and then on to Tarsus, his home town36 (vv. 29-30). Thus we can account for a period of three years from the time Paul was first saved in Damascus to the time he fled “after many days” to Jerusalem, only to flee again after a very brief stay.
Even three years after his conversion, Paul did not seek to formulate his gospel on the basis of apostolic approval. Paul tells us in verse 18 that he went up to Jerusalem “to become acquainted with Cephas.” This expression does not suggest a desire to have his message given the “apostolic seal of approval.” Instead, it conveys Paul’s desire to know Peter better. What a wealth of information Peter could supply about the life of our Lord—matters about which Paul would have intense interest, just as you and I do. The visit with Peter lasted for fifteen days (v. 18). In addition to Peter, only James,37 the brother of our Lord, was seen by Paul.
The gospel which Paul preached had very little human input, especially from those who were regarded to be significant—the apostles and elders in Jerusalem. Paul was known more by reputation than by appearance to Christian leaders in Jerusalem. While he was an enemy of the church and trying to destroy it, no one wanted to see him. Once he became a believer, few were able to see him. Nevertheless, the saints in Jerusalem rejoiced at the report that Paul, who had once persecuted the church, now proclaimed the gospel himself (Gal. 1:22-24).
Living exceptionally for Christ requires a real relationship with Him. We all have a tendency to accept those who have come from the same tradition as ourselves much more readily than those who are from another tradition. Let us be content to accept men and women on the basis of the gospel which they profess and preach, rather than on the basis of the denomination or tradition from which they have come.
“Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.” -Dietrich Bonheoffer
Bonheoffer wasn’t speaking casually with his statement. As a minister during World War II, he faced the choice to speak out against the Nazi regime, or stay silent and save himself. He chose to speak, ultimately being executed for daring to stand for truth. Injustice demands a voice.
That’s why the issue of HATE is not something we can privately hate but publicly tolerate. It is controversial. The issue of this event being connected to black and white culture has made it seem that only an intolerant hater could be 100% against racism. While I would agree we are intolerant (of sin, of murder—so was Jesus, by the way), we are not haters. On the contrary, we are lovers of Life. We love people who are destroyed by HATE and want to see redemption. Being outspoken on the issue of HATE might be unpopular, but if it’s rooted in prayer, it’s a hope for a nation when we call on the mercy of God to save. The Bible is clear that when we shed innocent blood it pollutes the land, and there are consequences for this. This officer has the right to be supported. He has the right to be innocent until proven guilty, but even as an officer of the law he does not have the right to kill unnecessarily. I pose the question, Is it HATE of a black man that has fueled these supporters of officer Wilson to be so generous with their money while not being generous with compassion to the woman who has lost her son to a senseless and merciless killing of her child. Am I guilty of HATE for pondering the question of why my GoFundMe site for the empowering of ex-offenders has not been sewed into like that of “Fatcat” the dog, or for the “Athiest” who raised money for a girl caught in a tornado in Oklahoma, not because he cared for her but only to mock God and Christianity, or because Rhianna helped to raise money for a broken cellphone? Am I a hater? NO!!! I am a man who sits and watches people donating obscene amounts of money for everything except for the empowering of human life. White supremacist support each other, athiest support each other, animal lovers help each other even after their loved one has been torn to shreds by a shark, they still go out and raise money to study why they eat people and how to stop them but they won’t sew into helping people rebuild their lives. These people I am talking about are EX-OFFENDERS!!!.
Thank you so much for all of your continued support! We have received a lot of emails through this site within the last 48 hours. We are attempting to respond to each email as quickly as possible. We also want to address all of the inappropriate comments submitted on our page. We will be refunding the donations from those who are not supporting Officer Darren Wilson. We hope all can understand. We will have all communications responded to within the next 24 hours. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!
Operation welcome home Fatcat
Raised $7,032 of $5,000 Raised by 168 people in 8 days
Stand-up comedian Doug Stanhope has drawn a philosophical line in the sand by proclaiming that, contrary to popular belief, “hate can help.” The outspoken atheist set out to prove his theory by raising over $125,000 for a woman who identified as an atheist on television after a tornado destroyed her home. But beyond a simple act of generosity, Stanhope is now admitting that his fundraiser was at least as much about proving a point as it was charity.
After Oklahoman Rebecca Vitsmun explained to Wolf Blitzer that she didn’t “thank God” for saving her family from a deadly tornado, Stanhope was so impressed with her bravery in confirming her atheism that he created an IndieGogo fundraiser in the name of Atheists United in order to help Vitsmun, her husband and her baby.
Stanhope, who frequently and brazenly attacks religion in his act — after the Sept. 11 attacks, he quipped about George W. Bush’s appeals to religion: “Your god takes Tuesdays off” — recently released a video explaining why he raised the money.
“If you think [her admission] didn’t take balls, you’ve never been to Oklahoma,” said Stanhope, who resides in Arizona. “Saying ‘I’m an atheist’ in Oklahoma is like screaming jihad at airport security.”
He set the goal at $50,000, but $125,760 was ultimately raised in a few months after the support of other atheist celebrities such as Ricky Gervais and Penn Jillette. In exchange for contributions, donors received gifts such as a “Get Out of Hell Free Card” and a “Phone Call From God.”
Although Vitsmun indeed received the funds from the campaign to help rebuild her life, Stanhope was clear that he did not start the campaign entirely in the name of selfless charity.
“I didn’t do it because I felt sympathy because she got all her shit destroyed by a tornado,” he said. “I did it simply to be a prick to her Okie Christian neighbors, hoping they were all eating off their FEMA trucks when someone drove up and presented Rebecca with a giant cardboard check.”
The commission president saw the broken phone as another chance to raise money for under-served students who want to participate in the LAPD’s cadet program. He is auctioning it on EBay, where bids are running at more than $1,200.
Soboroff saw Rihanna at Sunday night’s game and explained his idea to auction the phone. She wrote, “Sorry! I ♥ LAPD. Rihanna,” on the phone.
The commission president says the singer went a step further and pledged $25,000 to help fund police cadets from underprivileged backgrounds and the families of fallen officers.
[T]herefore, as I live,” says the Lord GOD, “I will prepare you for blood, and blood shall pursue you; since you have not hated blood, therefore blood shall pursue you. (Ez. 35:6)
Hate is a noun that could be a verb. Godly hatred of sin has action just as its ungodly counterpart does; it takes energy and is passion. Hatred for the act of bloodshed is not hatred for people who are victims in this spiritual war. We hate bloodshed, the acts of darkness so we can love people to walk in light. Prayer is one of the primary ways in which we love people. On our own we are powerless. We may convince one person to change a decision or alter a path by the power of persuasion, but no persuasion is greater than that which is fueled by heaven.
We start with prayer, both privately and publicly, both silently and vocally, but then we carry out that revelation into the world. We vote righteously, for those who stand for Life. We volunteer at Teen crisis centers, not only out our desire to do good but out of prophetic revelation of truth. We give our money to various programs and causes, to those who work in the Life movement full time. Our prayers fuel our prophetic voice and we act.
This is why God holds prayer up as the solution for a nation riddled with the bloodshed of the innocent:
So I sought for a man among them who would make a wall, and stand in the gap before Me on behalf of the land, that I should not destroy it; but I found no one. (Ez. 22:30)
Therefore He said that He would destroy them, Had not Moses His chosen one stood before Him in the breach, to turn away His wrath, lest He destroy them. (Ps. 106:23)
Then through our vocal actions:
Open your mouth for the speechless,
In the cause of all who are appointed to die. (Proverbs 31:8)
Our prayers must be the force that drives our voices on injustice of any kind. We speak from the place of prayer, but we speak out against the face of evil, against powers and principalities and rulers of darkness (Ephesians 6), on behalf of those for whom Jesus died—especially the those who had no silver spoon or a chance to get an opportunity of equality because of a broken system riddled with HIDDEN AGENDAS and IDEOLOGIES passed down from for fathers fueled with HATE who never get a voice.
I’m reaching out to some of America’s leading foundations and corporations on a new initiative to help more young men of color facing especially tough odds to stay on track and reach their full potential.”
– President Barack Obama, January 28, 2014
“There are a lot of kids out there who need help, who are getting a lot of negative reinforcement. And is there more that we can do to give them the sense that their country cares about them and values them and is willing to invest in them?”
– President Barack Obama, July 19, 2013
When I first responded to you, I didn’t think that it would cause people to reach out to me and voice their opinions. I’ve never been on the internet in my life and I’m not fully aware of the social circles on the internet, so it was a surprise to receive reactions so quickly.
I learned that some of the responses on your website were positive and some negative. I can only appreciate the conversation. Osho once said that one person considered him like an angel and another person considered him like a devil, he didn’t attempt to refute neither perspective because he said that man does not judge based on the truth of who you are, but on the truth of who they are.
Your words struck a chord with me. You said that my perspective is different and therefore my words have a sort of value. Yet, you’re talking to a young man that’s been judged unworthy to breathe the same air you breathe. That’s like a hobo on the street walking up to you and you ask him for spare change.
Without any questions, you’ve given me a blank canvas. I’ll only address what’s on my heart. Next month, the State of Texas has resolved to kill me like some kind of rabid dog, so indirectly, I guess my intention is to use this as some type of platform because this could be my final statement on earth.
I think ’empathy’ is one of the most powerful words in this world that is expressed in all cultures. This is my underlining theme. I do not own a dictionary, so I can’t give you the Oxford or Webster definition of the word, but in my own words, empathy means ‘putting the shoe on the other foot.’
Empathy. A rich man would look at a poor man, not with sympathy, feeling sorrow for the unfortunate poverty, but also not with contempt, feeling disdain for the man’s poverish state, but with empathy, which means the rich man would put himself in the poor man’s shoes, feel what the poor man is feeling, and understand what it is to be the poor man.
Empathy breeds proper judgement. Sympathy breeds sorrow. Contempt breeds arrogance. Neither are proper judgements because they’re based on emotions. That’s why two people can look at the same situation and have totally different views. We all feel differently about a lot of things. Empathy gives you an inside view. It doesn’t say ‘If that was me…’, empathy says, ‘That is me.’
What that does is it takes the emotions out of situations and forces us to be honest with ourselves. Honesty has no hidden agenda. Thoreau proposed that ‘one honest man’ could morally regenerate an entire society.
Looking through the eyes of empathy & honesty, I’ll address some of the topics you mentioned. It’s only my perspective.
The Justice system is truly broken beyond repair and the sad part is there is no way to start over. Improvements can be made. If honest people stand up, I think they will be made over time. I know the average person isn’t paying attention to all the laws constantly being passed by state & federal legislation. People are more focused on their jobs, raising kids and trying to find entertainment in between time. The thing is, laws are being changed right and left.
A man once said that revolution comes when you inform people of their rights. Martin Luther King said a revolution comes by social action and legal action working hand in hand. I’m not presenting any radical revolutionary view, the word revolution just means change. America changes as the law changes.
Under the 13th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution all prisoners in America are considered slaves. We look at slavery like its a thing of the past, but you can go to any penitentiary in this nation and you will see slavery. That was the reason for the protests by prisoners in Georgia in 2010. They said they were tired of being treated like slaves. People need to know that when they sit on trial juries and sentence people to prison time that they are sentencing them to slavery.
If a prisoner refuses to work and be a slave, they will do their time in isolation as a punishment. You have thousands of people with a lot of prison time that have no choice but to make money for the government or live in isolation. The affects of prison isolation literally drive people crazy. Who can be isolated from human contact and not lose their mind? That was the reason California had an uproar last year behind Pelican Bay. 33,000 inmates across California protested refusing to work or refusing to eat on hunger-strikes because of those being tortured in isolation in Pelican Bay.
I think prison sentences have gotten way out of hand. People are getting life sentences for aggravated crimes where no violence had occurred. I know a man who was 24 years old and received 160 years in prison for two aggravated robberies where less that $500 was stole and no violence took place. There are guys walking around with 200 year sentences and they’re not even 30 years old. Its outrageous. Giving a first time felon a sentence beyond their life span is pure oppression. Multitudes of young people have been thrown away in this generation.
The other side of the coin is there are those in the corporate world making money off prisoners, so the longer they’re in prison, the more money is being made. It’s not about crime & punishment, it’s about crime & profit. Prison is a billion dollar industry. In 1996, there were 122 prisons opened across America. Companies were holding expos in small towns showing how more prisons would boost the economy by providing more jobs.
How can those that invest in prisons make money if people have sentences that will allow them to return to free society? If people were being rehabilitated and sent back into the cities, who would work for these corporations? That would be a bad investment. In order for them to make money, people have to stay in prison and keep working. So the political move is to tell the people they’re tough on crime and give people longer sentences.
Chuck Colson, former advisor to the President once said that they were passing laws to be tough on crime, but they didn’t even know who the laws were affecting. It wasn’t until the Watergate scandal and Colson himself going to prison that he learned who the laws were affecting. Colson ended up forming the largest prison ministry in America. He also foreseen in his book THE GOD OF SPIDERS & STONES that America was forming a new society within its prisons. Basically, that prison would become a nation inside this nation. He predicted that over a million people would be locked up by the year 2000. The book was written in the 8O’s. Now, its 2014 and almost two million people are locked up. It’s not that crime is the issue. Crime still goes on daily. It’s that the politics surrounding crime have changed and it has become a numbers game. Dollars & Cents. You have people like Michael Jordan who invest millions of dollars in the prison system. Any shrewed businessman would if you have no empathy for people locked up and you just want to make some money.
I don’t agree with the death penalty. It’s a very Southern practice from that old lynching mentality. Almost all executions take place in the South with a few exceptions here and there. Texas is the leading State by far. I’m not from Texas. I was raised in California. Coming from the West Coast to the South was like going back in time. I didn’t even think real cowboys existed. Texas is a very ‘country’ state, aside a few major cities. There are still small towns that a black person would not be welcomed. California is more of a melting pot. I grew up in the Bay Area where its very diverse.
The death penalty needs to be abolished. Life without parole is still a death sentence. The only difference is time. To say you need to kill a person in a shorter amount of time is just seeking revenge on that person.
If the death penalty must exist, I think it should only be for cases where more than one person is killed like these rampant shootings that have taken place around the country the last few years. Also, in a situation of terrorism.
If you’re not giving the death penalty for murder, then the government is already saying that the taking of one’s life is not worth the death penalty. Capital murder is if you take someone’s life and commit another felony at the same time. That’s Texas law. That makes a person eligible for the death penalty The problem is, you’re not getting the death penalty for murder, you’re actually getting it for the other felony. That doesn’t make common sense. You can kill a man but you will not get the death penalty……if you kill a man and take money out his wallet, now you can get the death penalty.
I’m on death row and yet I didn’t commit the act of murder. I was convicted under the law of parties. When people read about the case, they assume I killed the victim, but the facts are undisputed that I did not kill the victim. The one who killed him plead guilty to capital murder for a life sentence. He admitted to the murder and has never denied it. Under the Texas law of parties, they say it doesn’t matter whether I killed the victim or not, I’m criminally responsible for someone else’s conduct. But I was the only one given the death penalty.
The law of parties is a very controversial law in Texas. Most Democrats stand against it. It allows the state to execute someone who did not commit the actual act of murder. There are around 50 guys on death row in Texas who didn’t kill anybody, but were convicted as a party.
The lethal injection has become a real controversial issue here of late because states are using drugs that they’re not authorize to use to execute people. The lethal injection is an old Nazi practice deriving from the Jewish Holocaust. To use that method to kill people today, when it’s unconstitutional to use it on dogs, is saying something very cruel and inhumane. People don’t care because they think they’re killing horrible people. No empathy. Just contempt.
I understand that it’s not popular to talk about race issues these days, but I speak on the subject of race because I hold a burden in my heart for all the young blacks who are locked up or who see the street life as the only means to make something of themselves. When I walked into prison at 19 years old, I said to myself ‘Damn, I have never seen so many black dudes in my life’. I mean, it looked like I went to Africa. I couldn’t believe it. The lyrics of 2Pac echoed in my head, ‘The penitentiary is packed/ and its filled with blacks’.
It’s really an epidemic, the number of blacks locked up in this country. That’s why I look, not only at my own situation, but why all of us young blacks are in prison. I’ve come to see, it’s largely due to an indentity crisis. We don t know our history. We don’t know how to really indentify with white people. We are really of a different culture, but by being slaves, we lost ourselves.
When you have a black man name John Williams and a white man name John Williams, the black man got his name from the white man. Within that lies a lost of identity. There are blacks in this country that don’t even consider themselves African. Well, what are we? When did we stop being African? If you ask a young black person if they’re African, they will say ‘No, I’m American’. They’ve lost their roots. They think slavery is their roots. Again, its a strong identity crisis.
You take the identity crisis, mix it with capitalism, where money comes before empathy, and you’ll have a lot of young blacks trying to get money by any means because they’re trying to get out of poverty or stay out of poverty. Now, money is what they try to find an identity in. They feel like if they get rich, legal or illegal, they’ve become somebody. Which in America is partly true because superficially we hail the rich and despise the poor. We give Jay-Z more credit than we do Al Sharpton. What has Jay-Z done besides get rich? Yet we see dollar signs and somehow give more respect to the man with the money.
A French woman who moved to America asked me one day, ‘Why don’t black kids want to learn?’ Her husband was a high school teacher. She said the white and asian kids excel in school, but the black and hispanic kids don’t. I said that all kids want to learn, it’s just a matter of what you’re trying to teach them. Cutting a frog open is not helping a black kid in the ghetto who has to listen to police sirens all night and worry about getting shot. Those kids need life lessons. They need direction. When you have black kids learning more about the Boston Tea Party than the Black Panther Party, I guarantee you won’t keep their attention. But it was the Black Panther Party that got them free lunch.
People point their fingers at young blacks, call them thugs and say they need to pull up their pants. That’s fine, but you’re not feeding them any knowledge. You’re not giving them a vision. All you’re saying is be a square like me. They’re not going to listen to you because you have guys like Jay-Z and Rick Ross who are millionaires and sag their pants. Changing the way they dress isn’t changing the way they think. As the Bible says, ‘Where there’s no vision the people perish’. Young blacks need to learn their identity so they can have more respect for the blacks that suffered for their liberties than they have for someone talking about selling drugs over a rap beat who really isn’t selling drugs.
They have to be exposed to something new. Their minds have to be challenged, not dulled. They know the history of the Crips & Bloods, but they can’t tell you who Garvey or Robeson is. They can quote Drake & Lil Wayne but they can’t tell you what Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton has done. Across the nation, they gravitate to Crips & Bloods. I tell those I know the same thing, not to put blue & red before black. They were black first. It’s senseless, but they are trying to find a purpose to live for and if a gang gives them a sense of purpose that’s what they will gravitate to. They aren’t being taught to live and die for something greater. They’re not being challenged to do better.
Black history shouldn’t be a month, it should be a course, an elective taught year around. I guarantee black kids would take that course if it was available to them. How many black kids would change their outlook if they knew that they were only considered 3/5’s of a human being according to the U.S Constitution? That black people were considered part animal in this country. They don’t know that. When you learn that, you carry yourself with a different level of dignity for all we’ve overcome.
Before Martin Luther King was killed he drafted a bill called ‘The Bill for the Disadvantaged’. It was for blacks and poor whites. King understood that in order to have a successful life, you have to decrease the odds of failure. You have to change the playing field. I’m not saying there’s no personal responsibility for success, that goes without saying, but there’s also a corporate responsibility. As the saying goes, when you see someone who has failed, you see someone who was failed.
Neither am I saying that advantages are always circumstancial. Sometimes its knowledge or opportunity that gives an advantage. A lot of times it is the circumstances. Flowers grow in gardens, not in hard places. Using myself as an example, I was 15 when my first love got shot 9 times in Oakland. Do you think I m going to care about book reports when my girlfriend was shot in the face? I understand Barack Obama saying there is no excuse for blacks or anyone else because generations past had it harder than us. That’s true. However, success is based on probabilities and the odds. Everyone is not on a level playing field. For some, the odds are really stacked against them. I’m not saying they can’t be overcome, but it’s not likely.
I’m not trying to play the race card, I’m looking at the roots of why so many young blacks are locked up. The odds are stacked against us, we suffer from an identity crisis, and we’re being targeted more, instead of taught better. Ask any young black person their views on the Police, I assure you their response will not be positive. Yet if you have something against the Police, who represent the government, you cannot sit on a trial jury. A young black woman was struck from the jury in my case because she said she sees the Police as ‘intimidators’. She never had a good experience with the Police like most young blacks, but even though she’s just being true to her experience, she’s not worthy to take part as a juror in a trial.
White people really don’t understand how it extreme it is to be judged by others outside your race. In the book TRIAL & ERROR: THE TEXAS DEATH PENALTY Lisa Maxwell paints this picture to get the point across and if any white person reading this is honest with themselves, they will clearly understand the point. I cannot quote it word for word, but this was the gist of it…
Imagine you’re a young white guy facing capital murder charges where you can receive the death penalty… the victim in the case is a black man… when you go to trial and step into the courtroom… the judge is a black man… the two State prosecutors seeking the death penalty on you… are also black men… you couldn’t afford an attorney, so the Judge appointed you two defense lawyers who are also black men… you look in the jury box… there’s 8 more black people and 4 hispanics… the only white person in the courtroom is you… How would you feel facing the death penalty? Do you believe you’ll receive justice?
As outside of the box as that scene is, those were the exact circumstances of my trial. I was the only black person in the courtroom.
Again, I’m not playing the race card, but empathy is putting the shoe on the other foot.
The last thing on my heart is about religion and the death penalty. There are several well-known preachers in Texas and across the South that teach their congregations that the death penalty is right by God and backed by the Bible. The death penalty is a governmental issue not a spiritual issue. Southern preachers who advocate the death penalty are condoning evil. They need to learn the legalities of capital punishment. The State may have the power to put people to death, but don’t preach to the public that it’s God’s will. It’s the State’s will.
If God wanted me to die for anything, I would be dead already. I talk to God everday. He’s not telling me I’m some kind of menace that He can’t wait to see executed. God is blessing me daily. God is showing me His favor & grace on my life. Like Paul said, I was the chief of sinners, but God had mercy on me because He knew I was ignorant. The blood of Abel cryed vengeance, the blood of Jesus cryed mercy.
There are preachers like John Hagee in San Antonio who have influence over thousands of people, who not only attend his church, but also watch his TV program, and hear him condoning the death penalty. Hagee doesn’t see his Southern mentality condones the death penalty, not the scriptures. There is absolutely nothing in the Bible that condones the way Texas executes people today.
Southern preachers use scriptures like God telling Noah, ‘Whoever shed’s man’s blood, by man his blood shall be shed’. ‘That’s murder. Under Texas law, you cannot receive the death penalty for murder. There is no such thing as capital murder in the Bible, where murder must be in the course of another felony. Yet, they preach capital punishment is God’s will. Even if you’re guilty of capital murder in Texas, it doesn’t mean you’ll receive the death penalty. People get the death penalty when a jury has judged them to be a ‘continuing threat to society’. ‘That means they are deemed so bad that they have no hope of redemption or change in their behavior. That is the only reason a person gets the death penalty. They are suppose to be the absolute worse of the worse, so terrible that they cannot live in prison with other murderers.
That in itself is contrary to the whole Christian faith that believes no one is beyond redemption if they repent for their sins and put their faith in Jesus Christ. For a Christian to advocate the death penalty is a complete contradiction.
As easy as it is for a preacher to stand up in the pulpit with a Bible and tell thousands of people the death penalty is right, I challenge any preacher in Texas, John Hagee or any others to come visit me and tell me that God wants me to die. Martin Luther King said, ‘Capital punishment shows that America is a merciless nation that will not forgive.’
Again, Mr. Nolan, this is only my perspective. I’m just the hobo on the street giving away my pennies. A doctor can’t look at a person and see cancer, they have to look beyond the surface. When you look at the Justice system, the Death Penalty, or anything else, it takes one to go beyond the surface. Proper diagnosis is half the cure.
I’m a father. My daughter was six weeks old when I got locked up and now she’s 15 in high school. Despite the circumstances, I’ve tryed to be the best father in the world. But I knew that her course in life is largely determine by what I teach her. It’s the same with any young person, their course is determined by what we are teaching them. In the words of Aristotle, ‘All improvement in society begins with the education of the young.’
A tragic accident takes a husband from his family. The unexpected loss of a job leaves parents and children fearful and without provision. A young woman continues to wait for marriage, but each of her boyfriends says he still needs more time.
Sometimes we have the idea that if we just knew what direction to take, following God would be easier. But it never seems to work that way. How is God operating in our lives? Can we really know His will, and, if so, how can we know it?
“I’m totally confused. How in the world do I find the will of God for my life?” I cannot number how many times through the years I have heard that question. I am sometimes plagued by this question myself about what path am I to pursue to be in alignment with such a “Mighty God”.
I could probably list at least ten ways that God leads His children today, but I will limit myself to the four that I think are the most significant methods of God’s leading.
1. God leads us through His written Word.
As the psalmist said:
Your word is a lamp to my feet
And a light to my path. (Psalm 119:105)
Whenever you see the phrase “This is the will of God” in Scripture, you can count on it: that’s God’s will. You also know that to disobey is to reject His Word. Other clear indications of His leading are the precepts and principles in Scripture.
Precepts are clearly marked statements, such as “Abstain from sexual immorality.” That’s like saying, “Speed Limit 35.” What is speeding? Anything over 35 miles an hour. That’s a precept.
Then there are principles in Scripture, and these are general guidelines that require discernment and maturity if we are to grasp them. Paul writes of “the peace of God” guarding and guiding our hearts and our minds (Philippians 4:7). That’s like the sign that says, “Drive Carefully.” This may mean 40 miles an hour on a clear, uncongested road, or it may mean less than 10 miles an hour on an ice-covered curve. But it always means that we must be alert and aware of conditions . . . we have to be discerning. There is no sign large enough to list all the options you have when you’re behind the wheel. So you must know the rules of the road, follow the signs that are there, and use all your best judgment combined with discernment.
You will never, ever go wrong in consulting Scripture. Just be sure you pay close attention to the context. Don’t use the “open-window method,” letting the wind blow across the pages of your Bible and then closing your eyes and pointing to a verse and saying, “This is God’s leading on that.” If you do that, you could end up with “Judas went away and hanged himself” as your verse for the day! Don’t go there.
2. God leads us through the inner prompting of the Holy Spirit.
Read the following statement carefully:
So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure. (Philippians 2:12–13)
The inner prompting of the Holy Spirit gives us a sense of God’s leading, although that leading is not always what we might call a “feel-good” experience. In my own life, my decision to accept the presidency of Dallas Theological Seminary was not an easy one. Ultimately, it was an “at-peace” decision, but it was not what I would have wanted or chosen. I found all kinds of ways to resist when the position was first offered to me. I wrote the president and the chairman a two-page letter, well thought through, carefully stated, and full of Scripture. It should have convinced anybody that I was the wrong person for the job. Except that God was busy convincing them—and, later, me—that I was the right person. Although it went against my own wishes at the time, I could not resist the compelling, all-powerful prompting of the Holy Spirit.
So I can testify from personal experience that you can believe you really know God’s will, and you may be dead wrong. But if you are, the prompting of the Holy Spirit will be nudging you within.
The mind of man plans his way,
But the LORD directs his steps. (Proverbs 16:9)
It’s easier to steer a moving car—just get the car rolling and you can push it into the filling station to get the gas. But it’s hard to get it moving from a dead stop. So you’re on your way, you’re making your plans, you’re thinking it through. In the process, stay open. By doing so, you may well sense inner promptings from the Holy Spirit steering you.
That inner prompting is crucial, because much of the time we just can’t figure it out.
Man’s steps are ordained by the LORD,
How then can man understand his way? (Proverbs 20:24)
(I love that!) When all is said and done, you’ll say, “Honestly, I didn’t figure this thing out. It must have been God.” Talk about mysterious! The longer I live the Christian life, the less I know about why He leads as He does. But I am absolutely confident that He leads.
3. God leads us through the counsel of wise, qualified, trustworthy people.
This does not mean some guru in Tibet or a serious-looking stranger at the bus stop. This refers to an individual who has proven himself or herself wise and trustworthy and, therefore, qualified to counsel on a given matter. Usually, such individuals are older and more mature than we are. Furthermore, they have nothing to gain or lose. This also means that they are often not in our immediate family. (Immediate family members usually don’t want us to do something that will take us away from them or cause us or them discomfort or worry.)
At critical moments in my own life, I have sought the counsel of seasoned individuals—and they’ve seldom been wrong. That’s been my experience. However, you must choose your counselors very carefully. And just as the best counselors are usually not your family, often they are not your best friends either. Wise and trustworthy counselors are persons who want for you only what God wants. Such persons will stay objective, listen carefully, and answer slowly. Often they won’t give you an answer at the time you ask for it. They want to sleep on it; they want to think and pray about it.
4. God leads us into His will by giving us an inner assurance of peace.
“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts,” Paul wrote to the Colossians, “to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful” (Colossians 3:15). God’s inner assurance of peace will act as an umpire in your heart.
Although peace is an emotion, I have found it wonderfully reassuring as I’ve wrestled with the Lord’s will. This deep-seated, God-given peace comes in spite of the obstacles or the odds, regardless the risk or danger. It’s almost like God’s way of saying, “I’m in this decision . . . press on . . . trust Me through it.”
The will of God for our lives is not some high-sounding theory; it is reality. We have looked at some of the ways God leads us into His will. Now comes the bottom line: we have to live out His will in the real world.
Doing God’s will demands a decision. And that decision requires faith and action. You can’t see the end, so you have to trust Him in faith and then step out. You have to act. Faith and obedience are like twins; they go together.
Hebrews 11:6 tells us that “without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a re-warder of those who seek Him.”
1 I waited patiently for the LORD; and he inclined unto me, and heard my cry.2 He brought me upalso out of an horriblepit, out of the miryclay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established mygoings.3 And he hath put a newsong in my mouth, even praise unto our God:many shall see it, and fear , and shall trust in the LORD.4Blessed is that man that maketh the LORD his trust, andrespecteth not the proud, nor such as turn aside to lies.5Many, O LORD my God, are thywonderful works which thou hast done , and thy thoughts which are to us-ward: they cannot be reckoned up in order unto thee: if I would declare and speak of them, they are more than can benumbered . 6Sacrifice and offering thou didst not desire ; mine ears hast thou opened : burnt offering and sin offering hast thou not required .
Waiting is much more difficult than walking. Waiting requires patience, and patience is a rare virtue. It is fine to know that God builds hedges around His people–when the hedge is looked at from the viewpoint of protection. But when the hedge is kept around one until it grows so high that he cannot see over the top, and wonders whether he is ever to get out of the little sphere of influence and service in which he is pent up, it is hard for him sometimes to understand why he may not have a larger environment–hard for him to “brighten the corner” where he is. But God has a purpose in all HIS holdups. “The steps of a good man are ordered of the Lord,” reads Psalm 37:23.
On the margin of his Bible at this verse George Mueller had a notation, “And the stops also.” It is a sad mistake for men to break through God’s hedges. It is a vital principle of guidance for a Christian never to move out of the place in which he is sure God has placed him, until the Pillar of Cloud moves.
When we learn to wait for our Lord’s lead in everything, we shall know the strength that finds its climax in an even, steady walk. Many of us are lacking in the strength we so covet. But God gives full power for every task He appoints. Waiting, holding oneself true to His lead–this is the secret of strength. And anything that falls out of the line of obedience is a waste of time and strength. Watch for His leading.
Must life be a failure for one compelled to stand still in enforced inaction and see the great throbbing tides of life go by? No; victory is then to be gotten by standing still, by quiet waiting. It is a thousand times harder to do this than it was in the active days to rush on in the columns of stirring life. It requires a grander heroism to stand and wait and not lose heart and not lose hope, to submit to the will of God, to give up work and honors to others, to be quiet, confident and rejoicing, while the happy, busy multitude go on and away.
It is the grandest life “having done all, to stand.” –J. R. Miller
First thing that needs to be noted is that we just had another police shooting of an unarmed man in Austin, Texas on Thursday night.. This happened after the report was compiled, so add another name to this grisly toll..
Second, folks have got to understand this is not coincident, it’s quite deliberate. Police have moved from a point of trying to de-escalate or prevention to a shoot first ask questions later policy..
Michael Brown shooting: ‘They killed another young black man in America’
African American teenager’s killing by police puts Missouri city on edge after another night of protests
Michael Brown was on the right path, according to his family and friends. Studying did not come easily, but the 18-year-old worked hard at Normandy high school and graduated in May. Mike had been due to start classes atVatterott College last Monday. He was excited to enter the world of business.”This is a boy who did everything right,” said Cornell Brooks, the president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, “who never got into a fight, who stayed in school.”
While some boys would get into edgy scrapes, Mike, a “gentle giant”, wasn’t interested, said Chris McMillan, a 20-year-old childhood friend who grew up playing PlayStation with Brown.
“He was a cool person,” said McMillan. “He was laidback and respectful. None of that nonsense. None of the crews and gangs. We’d just play games, chill, and ride around.”
The list below are just noting the deaths at hands of the police, its not highlighting the enormous amounts of brutality and outright disrespect many in the Black community have to endure on a daily basis.. The report below is to say the least disturbing and underscores a low wage war going on in our communities…
Twenty-eight Black People (27 Men and 1 Female) Killed by Police Officials, Security
Guards, and Self-Appointed “Keepers of the Peace” between January 1, 2012 and March
– 28 cases of state sanctioned or justified murder of Black people in the first 3
months of 2012 alone have been found (due to under reporting and discriminatory
methods of documentation, it is likely that there are more that our research has yet
– Of the 28 killed people, 18 were definitely unarmed. 2 probably had firearms, 8
were alleged to have non-lethal weapons.
– Of the 28 killed people,
. 11 were innocent of any illegal behavior or behavior that involved a
threat to anyone (although the shooters claimed they looked “suspicious”);
. 7 were emotionally disturbed and/or displaying strange behavior.
. The remaining 10 were either engaged in illegal or potentially illegal
activity, or there was too little info to determine circumstances of their
killing. It appears that in all but two of these cases, illegal and/or harmful
behavior could have been stopped without the use of lethal force.
This list of28 names was collected between 3/28/2012 and 3/30/2012 by reviewing google
search results to the question, “who have police killed in 2012”. Only the first 65 pages out of
712,000,000 were reviewed.
 News One.com reported Rodriguez was African America however other reports and family
photos indicate he was Latino.
 Many written reports do not explicitly identify the race of the victim. Most, however, do show
photographs. In the case of Warren, no photo was displayed.
Police officers, security guards, or self-appointed vigilantes extrajudicially killed at least 313 African-Americans in 2012, according to a recent study. This means a black person was killed by a security officer every 28 hours. The report notes that it’s possible that the real number could be much higher.
The report, entitled “Operation Ghetto Storm,” was conducted by the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, an antiracist grassroots activist organization. The organization has chapters in Atlanta, Detroit, Fort Worth-Dallas, Jackson, New Orleans, New York City, Oakland, and Washington, D.C. It has a history of organizing campaigns against police brutality and state repression in black and brown communities. Their study’s sources included police and media reports along with other publicly available information. Last year, the organization published a similar study showing that a black person is killed by security forces every 36 hours. However, this study did not tell the whole story, as it only looked at shootings from January to June 2012. Their latest study is an update of this.
These killings come on top of other forms of oppression black people face. Mass incarceration of nonwhites is one of them. While African-Americans constitute 13.1% of the nation’s population, they make up nearly 40% of the prison population. Even though African-Americans use or sell drugs about the same rate as whites, they are 2.8 to 5.5 times more likely to be arrested for drugs than whites. Black offenders also receive longer sentences compared to whites. Most offenders are in prison for nonviolent drug offenses.
“Operation Ghetto Storm” explains why such killings occur so often. Current practices of institutional racism have roots in the enslavement of black Africans, whose labor was exploited to build the American capitalist economy, and the genocide of Native Americans. The report points out that in order to maintain the systems of racism, colonialism, and capitalist exploitation, the United States maintains a network of “repressive enforcement structures.” These structures include the police, FBI, Homeland Security, CIA, Secret Service, prisons, and private security companies, along with mass surveillance and mass incarceration.
The Malcolm X Grassroots Movement is not the only group challenging police violence against African-Americans. The Stop Mass Incarceration Network has been challenging the policy of stop-and-frisk in New York City, in which police officers randomly stop and search individuals for weapons or contraband. African-American and Latino men are disproportionately stopped and harassed by police officers. Most of those stopped (close to 90%) are innocent, according to the New York Civil Liberties Union. Stop Mass Incarceration alsoorganizes against the War on Drugs and inhumane treatment of prisoners.
Along with the rate of extrajudicial killings, the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement report contains other important findings. Of the 313 killed, 124 (40%) were between 22 and 31 years old, 57 (18%) were between 18 and 21 years old, 54 (17%) were between 32 and 41 years old, 32 (10%) were 42 to 51 years old, 25 (8%) were children younger than 18 years old, 18 (6%) were older than 52, and 3 (1%) were of unknown ages.
A significant portion of those killed, 68 people or 22%, suffered from mental health issues and/or were self-medicated. The study says that “[m]any of them might be alive today if community members trained and committed to humane crisis intervention and mental health treatment had been called, rather than the police.”
43% of the shootings occurred after an incident of racial profiling. This means police saw a person who looked or behaved “suspiciously” largely because of their skin color and attempted to detain the suspect before killing them. Other times, the shootings occurred during a criminal investigation (24%), after 9-1-1 calls from “emotionally disturbed loved ones” (19%) or because of domestic violence (7%), or innocent people were killed for no reason (7%).
Most of the people killed were not armed. According to the report, 136 people or 44%, had no weapon at all the time they were killed by police officers. Another 27% were deaths in which police claimed the suspect had a gun but there was no corroboration to prove this. In addition, 6 people (2%) were alleged to have possessed knives or similar tools. Those who did, in fact, possess guns or knives were 20% (62 people) and 7% (23 people) of the study, respectively.
The report digs into how police justify their shootings. Most police officers, security guards, or vigilantes who extrajudicially killed black people, about 47% (146 of 313), claimed they “felt threatened”, “feared for their life”, or “were forced to shoot to protect themselves or others”. George Zimmerman, the armed self-appointed neighborhood watchman who killed Trayvon Martin last year, claimed exactly this to justify shooting Martin. Other justifications include suspects fleeing (14%), allegedly driving cars toward officers, allegedly reaching for waistbands or lunging, or allegedly pointing a gun at an officer. Only 13% or 42 people fired a weapon “before or during the officer’s arrival”.
Police recruitment, training, policies, and overall racism within society conditions police (and many other people) to assume black people are violent to begin with. This leads to police overacting in situations involving African-American suspects. It also explains why so many police claimed the black suspect “looked suspicious” or “thought they had a gun.” Johannes Mehserle, the white BART police officer who shot and killed 22-year-old Oscar Grant in January 2009, claimed Grant had a gun, even though Grant was subdued to the ground by other officers.
Of the 313 killings, the report found that 275 of them or 88% were cases of excessive force. Only 8% were not considered excessive as they involved cases were suspects shot at, wounded, or killed a police and/or others. Additionally, 4% were situations were the facts surrounding the killing were “unclear or sparsely reported”. The vast majority of the time, police officers, security guards, or armed vigilantes who extrajudicially kill black people escape accountability.
Over the past 70 years, the “repressive enforcement structures” described in the report have been used to “wage a grand strategy of ‘domestic’ pacification” to maintain the system through endless “containment campaigns” amounting to “perpetual war”. According to the report, this perpetual war has been called multiple names — the “Cold War”, COINTELPRO, the “War on Drugs, the “War on Gangs”, the “War on Crime”, and now the “War on Terrorism”. This pacification strategy is designed to subjugate oppressed populations and stifle political resistance. In other words, they are wars against domestic marginalized groups. “Extrajudicial killings”, says the report, “are clearly an indispensable tool in the United States government’s pacification pursuits.” It attributes the preponderance of these killings to institutionalized racism and policies within police departments.
Paramilitary police units, known as SWAT (Special Weapons and Tactics) teams, developed in order to quell black riots in major cities, such as Los Angeles and Detroit, during the 1960s and ’70s. SWAT teams had major shootouts with militant black and left-wing groups, such as the Black Panther Party and Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA) in 1969 and 1974, respectively. SWAT teams were only used for high-risk situations, until the War on Drugs began in the 1980s. Now they’re used in raids — a common military tactic — of suspected drugor non-drug offenders’ homes.
The War on Drugs, first declared by President Richard Nixon in 1971, was largely a product of U.S. covert operations. Anti-communist counter-revolutionaries, known as the “Contras”, were trained, funded, and largely created by the CIA to overthrow the leftist Sandinista government of Nicaragua during the 1980s. However, the CIA’s funding was not enough. Desperate for money, the Contras needed other funding sources to fight their war against the Sandinistas. The additional dollars came from the drug trade. The late investigative journalist Gary Webb, in 1996, wrote a lengthy series of articles for the San Jose Mercury News, entitled “Dark Alliance,” detailing how the Contras smuggled cocaine from South America to California’s inner cities and used the profits to fund their fight against the Sandinista government. The CIA knew about this but turned a blind eye. The report received a lot of controversy, criticism, and tarnishing of Webb’s journalistic career, which would lead him to commit suicide in 2004. However, subsequent reports from Congressional hearings and other journalistscorroborated Webb’s findings.
Hooks further argues that boys who are victims of patriarchy often become the world views of patriarchy, unconsciously embodying the abusiveness that they recognized as evil (p. 28). For the Black male, the connection between masculinity and power is represented by white male patriarchy. Bergner (1998) maintains that the white males is “overdetermined as an oedipal father; he is the agent of a racist social order prohibiting Black males not only from satisfying sexual desire, but from achieving basic autonomy, normative masculinity, and self-determination” (p. 253).
The impact of a young Black male bearing witness to the castration of the biological father [if present] and then other black males, literally and figuratively “suggests that their perspective as both witness and participant is an active even transformative experience. Castration symbolized a “feminine” position; in identity development the conflict begins to manifest as the adolescent male, in the stage of searching for an identity has to decide with whom he will identify. Gender implies identification with the “master’s” [White male patriarchy] authority; his race suggests identification with powerlessness and fear (Bergner, p.253).
The peculiar affinity towards white male patriarchy in an attempt to deny and repress social realities, and unconsciously obtain nurture and acceptance, the Black male develops fixations. Consistent with identity and personality development, Black males exhibit all three personality types, oral, anal, and phallic. The oral personality is rageful, mistrustful, and depressed. Conflict leading to violence is returned to anyone [typically, other than the white male] causing the him [Black male] to feel inferior, thus resurfacing repressed emotions and denied realities. His anal personality exhibits anxiety when he feels that he is no longer in control of the situation as it serves as both a trigger and a reminder of for his social status in America. In defense, hostility acted out as a way to regain the feeling of control.
Lastly, the most prevailing of all the personality types is the phallic character. The Black males efforts to portray manhood premised upon learned behavior, is often defined by sexual conquests. Consciously aware of his pervasive castrated status, when challenged by other males of his race, it leads to an outward display of aggression and exertion of pseudo-masculinity in order to subconsciously satisfy the desire of denying his castrated position. For the Black male that obtains a conscious understanding of themselves and the dynamics of societal and institutional racism and its effect on their development, traditional standards of masculinity are undesirable, thus becoming redefined to be consistent with alienation from mainstream values and institutions (Harris, 1995, 279).
The Results of Oppression
In order for one to understand the harrowing outcomes associated with Black male development, the results of historic and systemic oppression must be examined. Harris (1995), quotes Bowman in making the assertion that “among high risk Black men, chronic role strains and related psychosocial problems do not just occur at a point in time, rather, they evolve out of interactions between past role experiences, immediate role barriers, and adaptive efforts” (p. 279). The results of oppression manifest itself through disparities in every social system and dysfunctional behavior for Black males, especially the behavior of violence. Boodie (1997), confers with the authors assertion by stating, “the psychological theories of homicide proposed by Black psychiatrists Poussaint (1983), Grier and Cobbs (1968) and Pierce (1970) stress the chronicity and severity of frustrations Black males experience in American society. These frustrations engender feelings of rage which are displaced on targets in their immediate environments. The high incidence of Black-on-Black homicide reflects this displacement” (p. 2).
The cycle of violence has it origins in the marginalization experienced by Black males in American society; thus leading to feelings of alienation from a society that projects citizenship and equality, while simultaneously contributing to the destruction of self-worth and infringement upon the ability of the black male to to enter into manhood. In his article describing the impact of systemic social structure on Black male violence, Powell (2008), states “when a group occupies a stigmatized social space prescribed by the dominate group, it is not surprising that its behavior is seen as threatening” (313).
This notion put forth by Powell is particularly true for the Black male. hooks (2004), supports Powell’s assertion in her description of the process in which Black males are socialized through White male patriarchy to equate power and masculinity with violence “by the time slavery had ended, this patriarchal culturehad been transmitted with violence as an acceptable expression of power” (Powell, p. 313). Much of the stigmatization that exists about Black male violence is due to negative historic stereotypes and reinforced patriarchal masculinity. On the converse, much of reality of Black male violence is a direct result of their position within American society that has been and continues to be characterized by “societal oppression, internalized racism, violent social learning environments, sexism, male socialization, and economic exploitation” (Williams, 1998).
Economic oppression adds another dimension to the reactionary behavior of Black males in the home environment as well on a community level. A study conducted by Charles and Guryan (2009) revealed a correlation between racial prejudices of employers and the differences in wages between black and white workers; lower annual salaries, higher unemployment rates, and higher incidences of stressors, places Black males at greater risk of perpetrating or being a victim of violence.
A statistical report on domestic violence by the U.S. Department of Justice (2000) showed households with the lowest annual household income had higher incidences of domestic violence; nearly seven times greater than households with higher annual incomes. The reaction of violence is often an attempt of the Black to regain control, respect and status as social respect [in Black male culture] “may be viewed as a form of social capital that is very valuable, especially when various other forms of capital have been denied or are unavailable” (Anderson, 2009, p. 66). The external expression and the internal emotions of anger, powerlessness, and frustration experienced by the Black male associated with a constant subjugation of a daily reminder of their unequal status, function as the precursor to Mental and Physical Health issues.
Introspection: Awareness, Challenges, and Opportunities
The journey to becoming an effective helper is rooted in the many encounters one has with various cultures different from their own. That culture may not always be evident by difference of race, but could also include difference of social economic status, gender, sexual orientation, language, disability, and ethnicity. It also entails being cognizant of one’s own assumptions and biases about human behavior, being aware of society’s views and stereotypes about certain groups and/or races of people, and having a clear understanding of one’s own world view and the world view of others (Corey & Corey, 2007).
This same philosophy was applied as the author worked through this project. This is the most effort the learner has put into any Graduate and Undergraduate research paper, as the topic is one in which the learner has a deep connection to and interest in. The various readings, peer discussion, and this final paper, has allowed the author to become even more empathetic and understanding of the Black male experience. Being affected by the same system that creates disadvantages and subjectivity of Black males, the author always has to work through assumptions learned by the dominant culture regarding gender performance. Conducting extensive research, coupled with observation and lived experience has allow the learner to achieve a greater command of the psychology of Black males and the rationale behind behaviors sometimes deemed as dysfunctional. This discerning of such knowledge will increase the authors capacity in being an effective counselor and building positive relationships.
The establishment an effective counselor-client relationship is built upon core conditions such as geniuneness, empathy, unconditional positive regard, and congruence to name a few. The ability of a counselor to show empathy and understanding towards clients of varying cultures and backgrounds is a major principle and competency of multiculturalism. The determination of a counselor\’s ability to be both ethical and effective is defined by their ability to provide service to clients without regard to race, social or economic status, sexual orientation, or any other distinguishable factors.
The complex nature of the challenges confronted by Black males coupled with a host of developmental issues, conclude that a multitude of counseling techniques may be of value. Harris (1995) describes the necessity for the implementation of such techniques by stating, “both the extent and nature of problems specific to Black males suggest the need for creative counseling interventions and expanded roles of counselors. Although defining and targeting the most appropriate level of intervention can be difficult, the detrimental effects of these problems and the possible advantages of counseling favor intervention” (p. 244). Harris et al. further argues, “a broader spectrum of counseling goals is required than has traditionally been promoted by counselors. Psychological and educational counseling that employs diverse strategies and objectives in relation to the developmental and sociocultural needs of this population” (p. 244).
One technique that the author believed could be employed is education. If a Black male client exhibits signs of self-hate or behavioral dysfunction resulting from oppression and/or has rejection of Black culture, the author as a counselor and previous African-American Studies Major, could address the stereotypes that the client has about others and then the stereotypes that exists about them. One this process has occurred, the author could follow up with accurate, culturally relevant and affirming information. The aim would be to not recreate trauma that is already experienced by the client, but at the same time helping them to see the pattern of behavior and aid them in them in feeling more empowered and capable of shaping their own identity and their own reality, versus having it shaped for them. The most important lesson that the author has taken away from this course and this assignment is rooted in the ability to be ethical.
The failure of the counselor to provide quality service to client for any reasons regarding factors of multiculturalism infringes upon the basic human rights of the client to be treated without discrimination and infringes upon their cultural autonomy (Corey& Corey, 2007). Because this dynamic is already present within Black male life, the author must be cognizant as to not push personal world views, values, and beliefs upon the Black male due to lack of understanding, knowledge, and failure to deal with the authors own biases regarding definitions of Black male identity based upon patriarchy. This proves as a detriment to both the client and the counseling relationship as the author may not always know initially if the issues that the client has come to counseling for is some how intertwined with their functioning within society or interpersonal relationships due to factors of multiculturalism.
As the life of a Black man was viewed unequal to that of a white person, the U.S. Department of Public Health initiated the experimentation of 399 Black men [most of whom were illiterate sharecroppers] in what is known as the Tuskegee Syphilis experiment. Between 1932 and 1972, these men in the late stages of syphilis, were “used as laboratory animals in a long and inefficient study on how long it takes syphilis to kill someone” (Jones, 1993). It was never the intent of the DPH to neither inform the men of the seriousness of their disease nor cure them. They were denied treatment and many died as a result.
The dawning of the Civil Rights era would breathe hope into the tyrannized Black man. Characterized by social revolution, the consciousness of the age reflected the disdain of Black people towards racism, which for over 400 years left them in the revolving door of oppression, subjugation, and depression. Black men were still being literally and symbolically castrated and had failed to operate with full citizenship. 1964 would appear to be the turning point with passing of the Civil Rights Act that prohibited discrimination of all kinds on the basis of race, color, religion, or national origin. 1965, Congress would pass the Voting Rights Act, overturning the institution of the “black codes”. However, this same year, El Hajj Malik El Shabazz (Malcolm X), was assassinated. Shabazz, as many other Black men, was an outspoken activists and advocate against racism [white supremacy]. What Black men began to realize as the Civil Rights era came to a close and the Black Power movement took up the torch, was freedom only existed on paper, but the cultural reality of America told a different story.
In an effort to demonized and destroy the attempt of Black men to obtain freedom and equality, J. Edgar Hoover, Director of FBI initiated the Counterintelligence Program (COINTELPRO). This program was designed to disrupt and dismantle Black resistance in ideology and practice and ultimately led to increased violenceincluding death to many Black male leaders. One of the programs primary aims was to “prevent the rise of a black messiah”. The rise of a messiah is a precursor to the progression of a people; as he is one whose aim is to liberate the masses from the oppression of white supremacy [racism]. As white fear of “losing control over the black gaze” heightened due to the cultural changes of the 1960s and 70s which eroded traditional forms of authority and loosened governmental and corporate control over people’s lives, the destruction of militancy, resistance, and revolutionary thought became more imminent. The system of white male patriarchy had to ensure that amongst Black people; no more messiahs [Black men] would be raised, thus serving as the motivation for the crack crisis.
The author would argue that the Crack era destroyed the fabric of Black civility and Black life. It ushered in a new form of enslavement, corporate slavery, which flourished and garnered mass dividends, off the subjugation and oppression of Black people, primarily Black men. It began with cocaine as, Reeves and Campbell (1994) highlight in Coloring the Crack Crisis, and transformed into crack as Reagan began doing CIA operative mission and CONTRA scandals in South America in an attempt to destroy the Sandinistas. Cocaine, was a white drug, for those celebrities, rock stars, and other whites, and was not a crisis, but a socially acceptable form of pleasure. However, as cocaine transitioned to crack, the color of the drug changed as well.
Sentencing laws, such as the 1984 Anti-Drug Act, provided harsher penalties for Blacks than whites and the prisons became disproportionately filled with Black males. The neighborhoods of Black America were no longer embedded in social change and progression, but rather became victims of terrorization from an American culture rooted in racism. Black men were demonized for selling crack to black women who the media portrayed as cracks primary users; and then the family structure declines. Crack babies, are sociologists new trend and terms such as “crack-head”, “crack-house”, urbanized, ghetto, all are listed attributes under Black. The demonization of the black man was a way to discredit and destroy him in the eyes of not only theworld, but more importantly the black woman and the black child. What this leaves is a perpetuated cycle of victimization and reenactment of violence and patriarchy.
Modern-day discrimination manifests itself through institutional racism i.e. criminal justice system, the educational system, the healthcare system and the workplace. Black men have shifted from the institution of chattel slavery, to the institution of the prison industrial complex. Harvey & Allard (2008) assert “perhaps in no other institution are there more blatant examples of institutional racism than in law enforcement and the criminal justice system” (p. 51). “Of the 2.3 million inmates in custody, 2.1 million are men of that Black male represent 35.4%, the largest percentage. Across all age categories, black males are incarcerated at higher rates than white or Hispanic males” (Sabol, 2007).
A longitudinal study conducted by Johnson and Johnson (2006) revealed that the impact of incarceration on wages is most severe for Black males and that regardless of their former incarceration status, Black men earn significantly less (3). A Princeton University workplace study had similar conclusions; their study showed that white males with a criminal record had a slightly better chance of getting a job than a Black male with no criminal record (Harvey et al.). Research studies have conferred Johnson’s findings that suggest that white men with the same education are more likely than Black men to be promoted in organizations (Harvey et al.). Despite the efforts of Affirmative Action to diversity the workplace, Black men continue to have difficulties in the labor market “in good times and in bad, the unemployment rates for this population tends to be about double that of whites. The marginal and faltering ties they [black men] have to the labor market are devastating entire families and communities.
Rising unemployment adds to the difficulties already affecting vulnerable families that live in communities plagued by poor educational outcomes, declining neighborhood quality, and high rates of incarceration” (Cawthorne, 2009). The legacy of racism’s historic and contemporary effects on the ability of the Black male to fully function as a citizen of equal status in America, serves as the catalyst for the complex identity formation characterized by oedipal conflict, double consciousness, and a peculiar affinity for white male patriarchy.
Formation of Identity, Issues, and Challenges
Psychoanalytic theory postulates that the structural component of identity exist in three levels: conscious, pre-conscious, and unconscious. In a careful analysis of Black male identity formation through observation and research, the author will argue that they [Black men] are conscious of the abusive and oppressive nature of the society in which they live. They often reflect a duality of consciousness in understanding that their experience in America historically have not meet their basic needs (love, nurture, belongingness, acceptance) and have instead produced a diverse group of men in modernity, often homogenized into boxed identities [stereotypes] in American culture. The obtaining of power and the ability to enact traditional masculine roles is the striving for every male child. However, as the Black male transitions from childhood to adolescence, and unresolved conflicts related to psychosocial development are retarded due to insubstantial access to masculine status and the historical continuance of social, cultural, and economic disadvantages, it become increasingly evident that academic, career, and social prosperity in the later stages of development have the potential for negative outcomes.
The process by which Black men have formulated their identities is rooted in trauma. Because trauma is often too painful to confront or deal with, it becomes a psychological mechanism of defense for one to utilize various tactics to shield themselves from the reality of their situation. Initially, such avoidance maybe conscious, but later it becomes automatic and unconscious (Pervin, Cervone & Oliver, 2005). A primary or psychologically primitive form of defense mechanisms is that of denial. For Black males, denial of their powerlessness and childlike functioning is existent in the multitude of contemporary issues that are exhibited within their dysfunctional behavior.
Harris (1995) asserts that in order to compensate for feelings of powerlessness, guilt, and shame, some Black males of lower socio-economic status have redefined masculinity to emphasize sexual promiscuity, toughness, thrill seeking, and the use of violence in interpersonal interactions. Observable mannerisms characteristic of this set of alternative masculine behaviors include physical posture, style of clothing, content and rhythm of speech, walking style, standing, form of greeting, and overall demeanor (280). In addition to denial, perhaps the most prevalent of all defense mechanisms in Black males is repression. Repression in the author opinions is the root cause of violence, exhibited by Black males , coupled with misogyny, and the difficulty in developing and maintaining healthy relationships especially with Black females. Operating out of both denial and repression, it can only be assumed that the correlation between dysfunctional behavior not be consciously tied to social oppression, but rather acted out towards other victims of the same phenomenon.
According to Erikson, up to the stage of adolescence, development mostly depends on what is done to us. From here on out, development depends primarily on what we do. And while adolescence is a stage at which we are neither a child nor an adult, life is definitely getting more complex as we attempt to find our own identity, struggle with social interactions, and grapple with moral issues (Harder, 2005). The psychosocial crisis of identity versus role confusion formulates the beginnings of unconscious desire of the Black male to emulate white male patriarchy. hooks (2004) defines patriarchy as “political-social system that insist that males are inherently dominating, superior to everything and everyone deemed weak, especially females, and endowed with the right to dominate and rule over the weak and to maintain the dominance through various forms of psychological terrorism and violence” (p. 18).
Within the cultural framework of America, the systemic structure is characterized by White male patriarchy that allows for Black males to have the ability to negotiate the way in which they have been socialized and institutionalized to think, act, and behave because they are men. However, the reality of race and the lack of diversity in the purest sense, impedes upon this effort and cripples the black male’s ability to truly transition into manhood. He is left to constantly struggle and fight for an identity, for power, for respect, and for understanding of who he is versus what he is projected as: a nigger.
The “nigger” does not exist in a cultural vacuum, but is rather an “expressive of the cultural crossing, mixing, and engagement of Black male culture with the values, attitudes, and concerns of the white majority” (hooks, 1994). The reactionary behaviors and coping mechanisms that manifest from this cultural group may appear incomprehensible to one who is not challenged with an anomalous form of self-awareness defined by a conflicting identity that forces the Black male to view himself through the lens of the dominant culture that does not perceive and does not allow him to function as equal.
The pressure to conform to white male patriarchal standards of manhood as protector, disciplinarian, and provider are representative of such a dilemma for Black males. Despite the unconscious internalization and acceptance of the white male patriarchal standards, inequities in education and employment and limited access to educational opportunities prevent the expression of these behaviors (Harris, 1995, p. 279).
This blog will evaluate how the historical and contemporary antecedents of social oppression in American culture and the formation of a White male patriarchal system serves as a catalysts to the complex identity formation of Black males, the performance of masculinity, and the striving for power. A self assessment of challenges, biases, and beliefs experienced and held by the author in working with this population as well as competencies that can be utilized in working with this population, will be also be identified.
Historical and Contemporary Accounts of Societal Discrimination
The peculiar institution of chattel slavery was meant to be a permanent condition for Black males; a condition that would lay the historical framework for structual and institutional racism that resulted in a conflicted formation of identity within Black males leading to perpetual servitude. In 1863, Lincoln issued an Executive Order known as the Emancipation Proclamation. “In recent years, scholars pondering the meaning and significance of Lincoln’s proclamation have focused essentially on…motivations…and actions of the president…without attending to the sentiments reflected in the disillusionment that emanated from the dichotomy between Black perceptions of the documents promise and they realities in which they experienced”(Holzer, Medford and Williams, 2006, p. 1-2). Despite efforts of the proclamation to gradually transition Blacks into citizenship, slavery continued to be legal until the ratification of the 13th Amendment in 1865. The amendment affirmed that physical bondage or involuntary servitude was outlawed in the US except in situations of punishment for crimes in which the person was found guilty. However, it did little to change to the sociopolitical culture in America as Blacks were still considered second-class citizens [as land ownership was equated to citizenship].
The author would further argue that the enactment of both the Emancipation Proclamation and the 13th amendment failed to liberate blacks and integrate them into society, but instead laid a foundation to maintain a refined version of slavery that manifested itself in the form of socioeconomic and psychological servitude.
The Post-Civil War Reconstruction Era provided the illusion of hope to Black men, to be able to function as “freedmen” and obtain the privileges and rights of being an American. Debates ensued around enfranchising Black men, primarily veterans and those deemed “intelligent” amongst blacks. The four million others were in question. In 1867, Black men voted for the first time and held offices, but this was quickly overturned with the enactment of “black codes” and the impending rise of the Jim Crow era (1876-1960). Freedmen [Free Black males] had more rights than other free Blacks pre-Civil War, but had no voting rights, second-class civil and human rights, could not own firearms, serve on a jury, as was subject to vagrancy laws.
The black codes disenfranchised Black males made it increasingly difficult for them to control their own employment, a phenomenon that continues to exist in modern day. They [black codes] were formulated to recreate the social control that existed during enslavement and ensure the legacy of white supremacy.
The rise of Jim Crow (1876-1965) validated anti-Black racism. Originating in former confederate states, the Jim Crow era was ushered in as “southern states began systematically to codify in law and state constitutional provisions the subordinate position of African Americans in society. Most of these legal steps were aimed at separating the races in public spaces (public schools, parks, accommodations, and transportation) and preventing adult black males from exercising the right to vote” (Davis, n.d.). Support for segregation laws was consummated by heinous acts of ritualized mob violence known as lynching. Booker (2000), argues that image of the black male as a sexual predator has deep roots in the American psyche (p.12), as lynching brought together the threads of contemporary racial image of black males into a paradigmatic justification for routinized barbarity (p.140).
At the height of the lynching period, Black males were the most targeted victims. Lynchings were social forms of entertainment that often attracted thousand of white spectators. “The burned, tortured, and mutilated body of the Black male would be torn apart by the crowd as battles broke out over body parts as souvenirs” (Booker, 2000, p.142). Between 1880 and 1960, nearly one hundred years more than 4700 Americans, primarily Black males are documented as having been lynched (Lester, 2005). 1915, would introduce a new purveyors of violence against Black men. D.W. Griffith’s film Birth of a Nation, was released glamorizing lynching and popularizing the Klu Klux Klan (KKK), a white supremacist terror group, who justified their violence against black males through the need to protect white womanhood and defend white superiority in the post antebellum south, from the hyper-sexualized Black male who sought to take white women and establish Black supremacy.
The result of Griffith’s film was increased violence against Black men in particular by the KKK; the summer of 1919, referred to as the “Red Summer” produced the greatest number of black fatalities due to lynching. For nearly one hundred years, the reality of life for Black men in America would be distinguished by a system of legal apartheid, murder, and struggle for freedom.
How the Exodus narrative helped sustain generations of blacks seeking freedom and equality.
Rhondda Thomas knows the power of a good story. One story in particular, the Exodus narrative, captivated her when she was a girl in Sunday school making her first voyage through the Bible. As she grew into her teens, went to college and then to graduate school, Exodus began to take center stage in her academic life.
“When I started my graduate studies and did research on the Exodus story, I found that scholars had taken a very limited view of the story’s potential and the power of this narrative through many years to drive and nourish blacks in their quest for freedom,” Thomas says. Her hunch was that many black writers, especially during the nineteenth century, had mined Exodus for its allegorical power.
It turned out Thomas was right.
“I did a search on Exodus stories, and I found them everywhere,” she says. “And in the sermons, letters, books and other written materials I researched, I was taken by the multiple ways this narrative was sustained as a way to express the strong desire for freedom.”
“Exodus was of course an oral tradition before Moses wrote it down, and sermons are also part of the oral tradition, but in America the print culture is such an integral part of our identity, I wanted to focus on the written, literary convention in this country,” Thomas says. “So even the sermons I discuss in the book were written down and widely circulated.”
In Claiming Exodus, Thomas mentions several dozen black writers who used the Exodus myth to further blacks’ struggle for freedom, but she says there are three who played especially important roles in the drama of emancipation and self-realization: Phillis Wheatley, Absalom Jones, and W.E.B. Du Bois.
Frontispiece of Memoir and Poems (1834). Source: Documenting the American South, UNC-Chapel Hill.
Phillis Wheatley: Include American slaves in the revolution.
Thomas found that the first person in America of African descent to use the Exodus story was also the youngest—Phillis Wheatley. She was eight years old when she was brought to Boston on a slave ship in 1761, and John Wheatley, a prosperous Boston merchant, purchased her as a personal slave and companion for his wife. Phillis received a solid education and, at age fourteen, began to publish her poetry and letters in Boston newspapers. In 1773, John Wheatley emancipated her.
“Being freed from her master may have given the celebrated Wheatley the confidence to evoke Exodus in penning her strong abolitionist statement in ‘Letter to Reverend Samson Occum,’ published on the eve of the American Revolution,” Thomas says. “In her letter Wheatley draws on the rhetoric of the Exodus narrative and Enlightenment theory to elevate Africans from abject bondsmen to rational, spiritual human beings. In doing so, she shifts the objective of the Revolution from the colonists’ emancipation to the physical, religious, and political liberation of all Americans—including Africans.” Thomas adds that in the closing of her letter, Wheatley invokes biblical precedence, suggesting that Africans’ pleas for liberty are equivalent to ancient Israelites’ prayers for deliverance from Egyptian slavery.
“Basically what Wheatley does in this letter is point out the absurdity of the colonists using the Exodus narrative in their demand for liberty while still believing they should enslave Africans,” Thomas says. “This former slave girl was sharply questioning their sense of reason.
“Wheatley was likely the most prominent African American of her time to publicly demand the abolition of slavery during the American Revolution, which effectively complicated the debates regarding race, citizenship, and freedom.”
Absalom Jones. 1810 portrait by Raphaelle Peale. Source: Episcopal Archives.
Absalom Jones: gradual emancipation and community building
More than thirty years later, another strong voice in the struggle for liberty extended the Exodus myth: the Reverend Absalom Jones of St. Thomas African Episcopal Church in Philadelphia. On New Year’s Day, 1808, Jones preached “A Thanksgiving Sermon” on the occasion of a new law, taking effect that day, that prohibited the nation’s participation in the slave trade.
“In his sermon Jones characterized American slaves as ancient Israelites whose cries had moved God to convince politicians in Congress to outlaw the slave trade,” Thomas explains. “Jones evoked the Exodus narrative to interpret this legislation as a divine sign portending the emancipation of the slaves,” Thomas continues, “transforming free black Philadelphians into activists who should now continually commemorate their victory and aggressively work for civil rights.”
Thomas adds that by the time he delivered his “Thanksgiving Sermon,” Jones was sixty-two years old, a confident, Moses-like figure in the antislavery cause.
“His sermon was published and distributed and read widely,” Thomas says, “and it helped black Philadelphians to become one of the most activist communities in the nation.”
W.E.B. Du Bois, the first African American to earn a doctorate at Harvard and cofounder of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Photo 1904 by J.E. Purdy. Library of Congress collection.
W.E.B. Du Bois: Booker T. Washington as a potential Joshua
In Claiming Exodus, Thomas discusses a number of writers who used and extended the Exodus narrative in the struggle toward freedom through the nineteenth century’s pivotal events: the War of 1812, the great debates of 1820s, Manifest Destiny, the Civil War, and Reconstruction. Championed by black activists, various black leaders through the century came to represent Moses figures or Joshua figures (Joshua became the leader of the Israelite tribes after the death of Moses).
W.E.B. Du Bois, the first African American to earn a doctorate at Harvard and cofounder of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in 1909, somewhat reluctantly supported Booker T. Washington as a potential Joshua figure at the turn of the twentieth century, Thomas says, adding that the two men were not always in agreement as how best to accomplish their shared goals. “Du Bois would have wanted a leader who took a more radical approach to white Americans’ insistence on second-class citizenship for African Americans but said that to the extent Washington, the builder of the Tuskegee Institute, preached ‘thrift, patience, and industrial training’ for the masses, blacks should strive with him and glory ‘in the strength of this Joshua called of God and of man to lead the headless host,’” Thomas says, quoting her book.
With additional support from Andrew Carnegie, who singled out Washington as the ‘modern Moses,’ Washington was regularly identified by white newspapers throughout the nation at the turn of the twentieth century as the African Americans’ Moses, securing his status as race leader and affirming his more conservative strategy as the solution to the problem of the color line, Thomas concludes.
Book T. Washington. Photo 1905 by Harris and Ewing. Library of Congress collection.
Logging in lots of library time
Thomas describes the eight years of research and scholarship that led to the publication of Claiming Exodus as emphatically not glamorous.
“There were not the online databases there are now, so to try to find these stories I spent hundreds of hours reading bound volumes and painstakingly going through microfilm, despite the fact that whirling through microfilm actually makes me nauseous.”
Thomas’s research took her from Washington D.C. (Howard University) to Atlanta (the Emory University archives) to South Carolina (the Historical Society), and to Charleston, Philadelphia, and Boston. The occasional surprising finding was one of the things that kept her going, says Thomas.
“One of my best finds—this was in the American Antiquarian Society archives in Worcester, Massachusetts—was a letter from Frederick Douglass near the end of his life to Francis Grimké, a Presbyterian Church pastor in Washington, D.C. As far as I know, no one had known of the existence of this letter, which talks about the Promised Land,” Thomas says. Grimké was an important racial activist in the early twentieth century.
Another major discovery Thomas made through her research was that the writers she investigated had a far broader concept of the “Promised Land” than she had expected.
“I grew up thinking that either the American North or Canada was the Promised Land for blacks seeking their freedom,” Thomas says, “but I discovered through my research that writers also thought of the American West, East and West Africa, and even England and France as the Promised Land. Finding a multiplicity of promised lands was an interesting surprise.”
Why is the Exodus story so powerful?
“Every major moment in American history has seen a proliferation of Exodus narratives,” Thomas says. “The story is an epic narrative chock-full of drama, suspense, and a tremendous fight between good and evil. It’s the dominant narrative used by white and black Americans over and over again to try to keep their quest for freedom and democracy going. Collectively, the Afro-Atlantic Exodus stories sustained the momentum of early civil rights efforts.”
The Exodus narrative
The Book of Exodus tells how Moses leads the Israelites out of Egypt and through the wilderness to Mount Sinai, where God reveals himself and offers them a covenant: They are to keep his torah (i.e., law, instruction), and in return he will be their God and give them the land of Canaan. The Book of Numbers tells how the Israelites, led by their God, journey from Sinai towards Canaan, but when their spies report that the land is filled with giants, they refuse to go on. God condemns them to remain in the wilderness until the generation that left Egypt passes away. After thirty-eight years at the oasis of Kadesh Barnea, the next generation travels on to the borders of Canaan. The Book of Deuteronomy tells how, within sight of the Promised Land, Moses recalls their journey and gives them new laws. His death concludes the forty years of the exodus from Egypt. According to Exodus, Numbers, and Joshua, after Moses’ death Joshua became the leader of the Israelite tribes.
“Martin Luther King did not live and die that we might steal and lie in the name of justice in the middle of the night,” “He lived and died that we might seek justice in the middle of the day.”
18-year-old Michael Brown lost his life after an alleged altercation with police in Ferguson, Missouri on Saturday.
On Saturday a Ferguson, Missouri, police officer shot and killed Michael Brown, an unarmed teenager on his way to college this week. Brown was shot multiple times, though his hands were in the air. His uncovered body was left in the street for hours, as a crowd from his neighborhood gathered to stand vigil. Then they marched down to the police station. On Sunday evening, some folks in the crowd looted a couple of stores and threw bottles at the police. Monday morning was marked by peaceful protests.
The people of Ferguson are angry. Outraged. The officer’s story is dubious. Any black kid with sense knows it is futile to reach into an officer’s vehicle and take his gun. That story is only plausible to people who believe that black people are animals, that black men go looking for cops to pick fights with.
It seems far easier to focus on the few looters who have reacted unproductively to this tragedy than to focus on the killing of Michael Brown. Perhaps looting seems like a thing we can control. I refuse. I refuse to condemn the folks engaged in these acts, because I respect black rage. I respect black people’s right to cry out, shout and be mad as hell that another one of our kids is dead at the hands of the police. Moreover I refuse the lie that the opportunism of a few in any way justifies or excuses the murderous opportunism undertaken by this as yet anonymous officer.
The police mantra is “to serve and to protect.” But with black folks, we know that’s not the mantra. The mantra for many, many officers when dealing with black people is apparently “kill or be killed.”
It is that deep irrational fear of young black men that continues to sit with me. Here’s the thing: I do not believe that most white people see black people and say, “I hate black people.” Racism is not that tangible, that explicit. I do not believe most white people hate most black people. I do not believe that most police officers seek to do harm or consciously hate black people. At least I hope they don’t.
I believe that racism exists in the inexplicable sense of fear, unsafety and gnawing anxiety that white people, be they officers with guns or just general folks moving about their lives, have when they encounter black people. I believe racism exists in that sense of mistrust, the extra precautions white people take when they encounter black people. I believe all these emotions have emerged from a lifetime of media consumption subtly communicating that black people are criminal, a lifetime of seeing most people in power look just like you, a lifetime of being the majority population. And I believe this subconscious sense of having lost control (of the universe) exists for white people, at a heightened level since the election of Barack Obama and the continued explosion of the non-white population.
The irony is that black people understand this heightened anxiety. We feel it, too. We study white people. We are taught this as a tool of survival. We know when there is unrest in the souls of white folks. We know that unrest, if not assuaged quickly, will lead to black death. Our suspicions, unlike those of white people, are proven right time and time again.
I speak to this deep psychology of race, not because I am trying to engage in pop psychology but because we live in a country that is so deeply emotionally dishonest about both race and racism. When will we be honest enough to acknowledge that the police have more power than the ordinary citizen? They are supposed to. And with more power comes more responsibility.
We are talking about justifiable outrage. Outrage over the unjust taking of the lives of people who look like us. How dare people preach and condescend to these people and tell them not to loot, not to riot? Yes, those are destructive forms of anger, but frankly I would rather these people take their anger out on property and products rather than on other people.
No, I don’t support looting. But I question a society that always sees the product of the provocation and never the provocation itself. I question a society that values property over black life. But I know that our particular system of law was conceived on the founding premise that black lives are white property. “Possession,” the old adage goes, “is nine-tenths of the law.”
But we are the dispossessed. We cannot count on the law to protect us. We cannot count on police not to shoot us down in cold blood. We cannot count on politics to be a productive outlet for our rage. We cannot count on prayer to soothe our raging, ragged souls.
This is what I mean when I say that we live in a society that is deeply emotionally dishonest about racism. We hear a story each and every week now about how some overzealous officer has killed another black man, or punched or beaten or chocked a black woman. This week we heard two stories – Mike Brown in Missouri and John Crawford of Ohio. These are not isolated incidents. How many cops in how many cities have to murder how many black men — assault how many black women — before we recognize that this behavior is not isolated? It is systemic from the top to the bottom.
The answer isn’t looting, no. The answer isn’t rioting, no. But the answer also isn’t preaching to black people about “black-on-black” crime without full acknowledgment that most crime is interracial. The answer is not having a higher standard for the people than for the police. The answer is not demanding that black people get mad about and solve the problem of crime in Chicago before we get mad about the slaughter of a teen boy just outside St. Louis.
We can be, and have been, and are mad about both. Violence is the effect, not the cause of the concentrated poverty that locks that many poor people up together with no conceivable way out and no productive way to channel their rage at having an existence that is adjacent to the American dream. This kind of social mendacity about the way that racism traumatizes black people individually and collectively is a festering sore, an undiagnosed cancer, a raging infection threatening to overtake every organ in our body politic.
We are tired of these people preaching a one-sided gospel of peace. “Turn the other cheek” now means “here are our collective asses to kiss.” We are tired of forgiving people because they most assuredly do know what they do.
Mike Brown is dead. He is dead for no reason. He is dead because a police officer saw a 6-foot-4, 300-plus-pound black kid, and miscalculated the level of threat. To be black in this country is to be subject to routine forms of miscalculated risk each and every day. Black people have every right to be angry as hell about being mistaken for predators when really we are prey. The idea that we would show no rage as we accrete body upon body – Eric Garner, John Crawford, Mike Brown (and those are just our summer season casualties) — is the height of delusion. It betrays a stunning lack of empathy, a stunning refusal of people to grant the fact of black humanity, and in granting our humanity, granting us the right to the full range of emotions that come with being human. Rage must be expressed. If not it will tear you up from the inside out or make you tear other people up. Usually the targets are those in closest proximity. The disproportionate amount of heart disease, cancers, hypertension, obesity, violence and other maladies that plague black people is as much a product of internalized, unrecognized, unaddressed rage as it is anything else.
Nothing makes white people more uncomfortable than black anger. But nothing is more threatening to black people on a systemic level than white anger. It won’t show up in mass killings. It will show up in over-policing, mass incarceration, the gutting of the social safety net, and the occasional dead black kid. Of late, though, these killings have been far more than occasional. We should sit up and pay attention to where this trail of black bodies leads us. They are a compass pointing us to a raging fire just beneath the surface of our national consciousness. We feel it. We hear it. Our nostrils flare with the smell of it.
James Baldwin called it “the fire next time.” A fire shut up in our bones. A sentient knowledge, a kind of black epistemology, honed for just such a time as this. And with this knowledge, a clarity that says if “we live by the sword, we will die by it.”
Then, black rage emerges prophetic from across the decades in the words of Harlem Renaissance poet Claude McKay who penned these words 95 years ago in response to the Red Summer 1919.
If we must die, let it not be like hogs
Hunted and penned in an inglorious spot,
While round us bark the mad and hungry dogs
Making their mock at our accursèd lot.
If we must die, O let us nobly die,
So that our precious blood may not be shed
In vain; then even the monsters we defy
Shall be constrained to honor us though dead!
O kinsmen! we must meet the common foe!
Though far outnumbered let us show us brave,
And for their thousand blows deal one death-blow!
What though before us lies the open grave?
Like men we’ll face the murderous, cowardly pack,
Pressed to the wall, dying, but fighting back!
I offer no answers. I offer only grief and rage and hope.