Category Archives: Hate Crimes

Tongue


“Death and life are in the power of the tongue,

    and those who love it will eat its fruits.” | Proverb 18.21

Calling all cats!

Get our tongues!

Only you can play with them.

Open your mouths and say, “Ahhh.”

Because if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.

Loose lips are dangerous.

Teeth hold steady

We cannot help hate, which always stands ready.

We must hold our tongues

 accountable

Every letter and every syllable

No tongues lashing

These are life and death words

Horror stories, the product of our characters

Tongue- swords, piercing flesh, dealing death

One word away from taking her last breath

This is no time to be talking out of both sides of your mouth.

You say what you mean.

You mean what you say.

Swear to me that you will use your tongue for love.

People are dying over our words, falling to never rise again.

Because of pride’s insurrection that burns our throats and makes our veins bulge.

Don’t let your lip slip.

Bite your tongue

Until it bleeds

 

Instead cry and say what you really mean.

Turn on your tongue.

Tell on your tongue.

Confess the sins of your tongue.

I must warn you.

It is unruly and not to be tamed.  Ask James.[1]

Still it is better than adding to this list of names:

Joyce Fienberg, Richard Gottfried, Rose Mallinger, Jerry Rabinowitz, Cecil Rosenthal, David Rosenthal, Bernice Simon, Sylvan Simon (husband of Bernice), Daniel Stein, Melvin Wax, Irving Younger, Maurice Stallard and Vickie Lee Jones.

_____________________________

[1] See James 3.6-8, NRSV: “And the tongue is a fire. The tongue is placed among our members as a world of iniquity; it stains the whole body, sets on fire the cycle of nature, and is itself set on fire by hell. For every species of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by the human species, but no one can tame the tongue—a restless evil, full of deadly poison.

I am at a loss

Wind.jpeg
By Katie Fisher, 2016

I met an area rabbi for the first time this morning.  He shared his sacred space with me, his holy book with me.  We planned this meeting last week before the shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburg.  What a difference a week makes.

If God works in mysterious ways, then humans work in maddening ones.  I didn’t want to be brought together over this.  We share a smile but it is tinged with a familiar pain.  We share a hug but we are holding on for dear life, precious life, fleeting life.  Bagels with cream cheese and coffee are now mixed with incomprehensible sadness.  Lighthearted conversation impossible now.

What were we going to talk about?  What is there to say now?  I am at a loss.

Tonight, I will share in lament and mourning with my Jewish brothers and sisters.  I call upon you to share their grief as well because it is our grief as human beings.  Share their loss because it is our loss.  Cry out for us.  Bow your heads with us, for all of us now.

Happy Christopher Columbus Day?

Image result for christopher columbus murdered indians

I have the day off because Christopher Columbus “discovered” America.  But, we know this is not what really happened.  Because you can’t discover a place that is already inhabited by people, no matter how much you try to discount their presence, diminish their story and dismiss their culture.  Try telling them to go back where they came from.

Columbus and those who would follow after thought that if persons did not share their image and ideas, then they did not belong.  And they didn’t just ask them to leave, they killed them.  Because if you are different from us, you should not exist.  There is no place for you here.  They did not consider sharing the land or even moving on.  “No, we are here and you need to move out.”

They used the Bible to provide a kind of divine sanction but that’s not how it works and this is not the will of God.  God did not create people to be remade in our image and likeness.  Persons are not better because they behave like us.  Their lives are not improved because they speak English and wear American clothes.  And despite the myth of American exceptionalism, God does not like one part of the world more than another.  God has no favorite people and consequently, did not create the world to be populated and ruled by one culture or people group.  This is another gospel.

Nothing of Holy Scripture justifies or excuses this kind of behavior.  It is sin and needs to be repented of as this is a long way from the “Roman Road” (cf. Romans 3.23; 6.23; 10.9-10).  No, we are “saved by grace through faith”– not ethnic cleansing (Ephesians 2.8-9).  We are chosen people because we confess Christ as Savior and Lord, not because we fall into one cultural category or another.  But, celebrating Columbus reaffirms that America is somehow favored, special, unique while ignoring the deaths of indigenous people and their continued social marginalization.  But, you cannot have this holiday while separating it from its history.

The rape, murder and near genocide of persons indigenous to what is now the United States of America is well- documented.  So, let’s not pretend that this was a party, a social gathering and peaceable exchange.  For this reason, persons have argued that he should not be celebrated for these heinous acts.  Still, there are those who say, “We cannot rewrite history.”  Point taken. Because we would be if we celebrate him.

America is wealthy because its founders enslaved other human beings for hundreds of years and forced these indigenous persons and persons from Africa to develop the land, harvest the crops, cook for and feed them, clean and dress them, build and maintain their properties, feed their animals, birth and raise their children.  Christopher Columbus started it all.  He and members of his party murdered countless persons whose names we will never know and whose cultures we will never experience or see expressed.  Because he deemed himself better and entitled.

Many Americans want to celebrate the birth of this country without acknowledging the deaths that resulted.   That is rewriting history.  Celebrating a man who stole the land, infected with disease, exploited and nearly erased all of the only natives of America is troubling.  What is there to be proud of?  What of this can we boast in?  What are we really celebrating?

But if you must, release the balloons.  Cue the confetti.  Bring out the cake.  “Happy…

In Memory of the Emanuel Nine: Looking for the words

Image result for names of the emanuel 9I looked at their faces this morning and sighed.  “God, help us.”  One. Two. Three. Four. Five. Six. Seven. Eight. Nine. Lives.

They say a cat has nine lives.  But, how many lives does hate have?  Why won’t it die?  How does it continue to live after this?  How can we let it live on in us after this?

Two years ago, Rev. Clementa Pinckney, Cynthia Hurd, Rev. Sharonda Singleton, Tywanza Sanders, Susie Jackson, Ethel Lance, Myra Thompson, Rev. DePayne Middleton- Doctor and Rev. Daniel Simmons went to church and were murdered by twenty- one year old Dylann Roof.   As both a pastor and a parishioner, this hurts in places I can’t get to and it messes with my faith.

The only death that I think about while in church is that of Christ’s but there’s no crime tape.  No body bag.  No bullets.  No blood.

The Holy Scriptures talk about God as a place of safety and refuge.  And for hate to show up in a place where African Americans have gone to shield themselves from the assaults of society, find solace and support, express themselves apart from the restrictions of the social construct of race and to be seen and fully accepted is tragically unfair.  For this sacred space, a “church home” to be targeted by hate is incomprehensible.

I don’t know what to say or where to find the words to express this grief.  It goes down deep.  I shuffle my feet and begin to put my head between my knees.  I think that I am going to be sick.

“God help us.”

Taking down statues and taking back history: Symbols that segregate

Image result for jefferson davis statue removed

Recently, there has been a push to remove symbols of America’s racial past, specifically those related to American slavery.  In 2015, the Confederate flag came under scrutiny in North Carolina after the murder of nine worshippers at Mother Emanuel A.M.E. Church by 21 year old Dylann Roof.  Roof wanted to start a race war and the flag seemed to hail a time when African American bodies were legally the enemy, the inhumane, the property of another.  Their death, his aim and that flag reminded many Americans that things had not changed, that we were not as progressive as our politics would have us to believe.

The fight over the flag is proof that some Americans were still on the Confederate side of history, that secession had occurred some place deeper and within the hearts of Americans.  Taking it down was an effort to take back again the truth that Africans and later African Americans were not created as property but as people.  Still, the tug-o-war continues.

And while there are those who would downplay the attack on Mother Emanuel A.M.E. Church as an anomaly or the work of some secret hate group that somehow evaded our surveillance for a moment, that would suggest that Roof somehow broke loose from an otherwise harmless group with a morally reprehensible message, that he just got riled up and took it too far, then we are only lying to ourselves.  Furthermore, our ability to take this position is a privileged one as we cannot walk in his victims’ shoes.  They are buried under six feet of earth and less we trample over their graves by dismissing or diminishing the hatred that was expressed in their murders, we might take a few minutes to examine the signposts that led Roof to them.

New Orleans is the latest to remove a symbol of the Confederacy, that is the eleven slave- holding secessionist states of the U.S.  Its members did not want to let go of African American bodies and the statue of Jefferson Davis, the president of the Confederacy, reminds us of that.  This history is repeated by the presence of his image, told from his perspective.  Towering above us as a kind of giant, he is positioned to look down on us.

It is comparable to empowering the confessions of an oppressor.  For those who have been oppressed, they are not interested in his side of the story for it makes them no less enslaved and no more free.  Besides, they know what he thinks and the last thing they need is a reminder of his power and presence in their lives.

Putting the past behind us is not the goal but putting persons in their rightful place is.  Statues are reserved for champions, heroes, heroines, leaders, martyrs and idols.  Which one do you suspect Davis is?  Because we don’t memorialize villains, right?  Or are we expected to believe that he was a good, slave- holding person?

Still, there are those who want to leave the granite figure and the past as it is.  They conclude that we cannot change history and removing this symbol does nothing.  But, is this true?

Symbols serve as historical markers, representatives of meanings past.  Unlike a picture, these statues are worth more than words but are tied to experiences and ideologies that have cost the dignity, emotional and mental health and very lives of persons not socially colored white.  And when we erect monuments that reference actions we now understand to be offensive at least and inhumane at worst, we reinjure and suggest that the symbol and not our words carry more weight.

And what is hidden or being held in place by these cultural tokens and signposts?  Why do we choose these graven and woven images instead of relationships?  What of these symbols have a hold on us and get in the way of us practicing community?

Why would we pledge allegiance to a Confederate flag over and against our fellow brother or sister?  Why would we allow a statue to speak for us, material that we have molded and sculpted to get in between us?  How can we call ourselves the United States when we have symbols that segregate?