Category Archives: Race in History

A 3- Minute Lesson on Race

You’ve got time for this class and it is brought to you by Jenée Desmond Harris.  It is a lesson that must be learned and that bears repeating.  Harris starts from the beginning of race and no, she does not begin in the book of Genesis.  Lie #1 struck down.  Race is not that old.

Race is a lot of things but biological, biblical or original to our being are not to be included.  Still, the misrepresentation of who we are continues and so does the cycle of hatred.  Race wars are plotted against places of worship for African Americans and Jews.  Protests seem unending, CNN describing last year as “a year of outrage.”  The hashtag Black Lives Matter has become a movement.  Right now, the University of Missouri has been added to the list and to the ongoing conversation on race after accusations of racism on campus. Consequently, this class is always in session.

And while it won’t lead to an advanced degree, these truths concerning race as a social construct are certain to advance our understandings of self and our neighbor.  I’ve devoted my life to teaching about race and to the eradication of the racial category for human identity.  Week after week, I look for ways to say this because it is so much easier and less painful to accept this superficial existence.  I want us to go deeper and pray that this video and my words would peel away another layer of race’s deceptions.

Understanding Race

I am continuing to explore the varied definitions and understandings of race in hopes of getting to the root of our tensions concerning it.  I want to disprove them all.  Ultimately, it is my desire to rid the social construct of its illusions and mystery by pinning it down with concrete descriptors.  It is important to know what race is not so that we can more fully understand who we really are.

Accompanied by the wisdom of Dr. Maya Angelou and others, this video is another resource to aid in such an unpacking of history and hopefully, will aid us in carrying on in our human relationships without it.

 

Bridges

050304_selmamarch_ss09.grid-8x2Today, persons will remember the historic march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge that occurred fifty years ago on Sunday, March 7, 1965. Already a movie, Selma will be a buzzword and a hash tag.  It will be a trending topic today and perhaps for a couple more after that.

We will wear t- shirts and other memorabilia to capitalize on the event, standing in materialistic support.  We will impress ourselves with catch phrases and slogans that recapture the spirit of the movement.  We will praise the work of history and curse the fate of the next generation’s future less we do something quickly.  We must do it now while we have the momentum and the minds of the people.

Discussion panels will rehash the event and draw comparisons between Selma and Ferguson.  They, along with the viewing audience, will resolve to fight social injustice, to change the laws that oppress us, to change the tenor of the conversation on race.  We will remind ourselves of history’s threat of repetition and vow to do things differently.

Networks will replay the black and white footage in two- hour specials.  Surviving participants will be interviewed.  We will sponsor and attend dinners, give awards and medals and speeches.  President Obama will visit the bridge and make a speech.  Persons will listen and write about it, critique and quote him.

The day will be reenacted and the story redacted as persons put themselves in the shoes of those who were actually there, having still not taken “the inward journey,” to use the words of the mystical preacher Howard Thurman, needed to make the trek. Many people will be talking about that “Bloody Sunday” when Alabama state troopers attacked protesters as they marched peacefully for civil rights.

The bridge will attract a crowd and will receive the red carpet treatment as celebrities will flock to it, wanting to be a part of the celebratory memory, hoping to be upfront and arms locked with those who were there, singing the songs sung, remembering the iconic preacher who paved the way, the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  They will want to be apart of remembering a moment that has already passed.

Which makes me wonder about the present moments that we don’t show up for?  What are the Edmund Pettus bridges of today for which leadership is marked absent?  Where should we be marching and for what causes should our foot prayers be offered?  Or, does time have to tell us that this was the bridge that we should have walked across?

And what of our lives?  What ways are we making for others?  How do our lives move people?  What passage does our life provide to others?  Are we bridges or are we standing in the way?

Race @ the movies

film-reel-8The belief in the social construct of race is not up for debate.  Clearly, we have believed in it for hundreds of years, sacrificed the identity of our children to it.  Race is a god that takes our will, our ability to self- determine.  We are who race says that we are and we will do what race says that we will do.  Consequently, it is my task here and through my life’s witness to inspire unbelief.  I want to make persons race atheists, race eliminativists.

I do that by deconstructing its nature, by creating doubt, by questioning its social truths, by challenging its authority and position in our lives.  Why is race here and here and here?

I want to talk about race until it becomes unspeakable, until we do not include race in conversations about human identity, until the thought, the idea is not just seen but known as absurd.  This is why I write and why I examine race in the various mediums wherein it is presented.  One such medium is movies and there is one that is in theaters and another that is on the way that might assist you and I in understanding race and why it creates such misunderstanding within ourselves and our communities.

Selma is an interpretation of the leadership of well- known Civil Rights leader and activist the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the work of others courageous enough to stand alongside him in order to ensure the right to vote for African Americans.  The other movie option will open in theaters on January 30.  Black or White  is a story of love for one bi- cultural child shared by two cultures, two families who believe that they know what is best for her.  I encourage you to watch them both and then entertain the possibility of a race-less life.

The Theological Declaration of Barmen

“We reject the false doctrine, as though there were areas of our life in which we would not belong to Jesus Christ, but other Lords– areas in which we would not need justification and sanctification through him.”

~ The Theological Declaration of Barmen, 1934

Karl BarthKarl Barth’s stand against the Nazis and Hitler’s desire to form a national church remind me that theology is not done in an ivory tower or even behind stained glass windows but in the public square, often in defiance of the world, its leaders and their desires.  Barth and other writers were motivated by their faith to reject the rise of Hitler and to denounce his false doctrines.  It was 1934.

When was the last time you took a stand and made a theological declaration against the false doctrines of race– not in the privacy  of your home or from the comfort of a pew but in public?

Click here to read and learn more about The Theological Declaration of Barmen.