Tag Archives: Jim Crow

Ralph Northam’s yearbook photo is actually a group picture

Associated Press

Democratic Virginia Governor Ralph Northam has admitted to wearing a racist costume and has apologized.  In his 1984 medical school yearbook, there appears someone dressed as a member of the Ku Klux Klan and another in blackface.  Tonight, persons are calling for his resignation.

While I take issue with his decision to wear either “costume” as the history of pain and suffering that the blackface caricature and the terrorist actions of the Klan have caused African American people goes without question, I also can’t help but wonder, “Who stood beside Northam?  Who stood behind the camera to take the picture?  Who arranged the pictures in the yearbook?  Who proofed the final version and sent it to the printer?  Who published it?  Who signed his yearbook?”

Because racism is  a group effort.  Yes, it takes a village to raise a child but it  also takes a community to raise a racist.  Racism does not happen without consensus, without support, without the agreement that, in this case, African Americans deserve to be mocked.  Racism, this belief that one cultural group is better than another based on the amount of melanin in their skin, is not something persons just come up with on their own. 

The belief in human races and the supremacy of the so- called white man is not to be lumped in with Santa Claus, unicorns and tooth fairies.  No, this lie has an ugly history.  This blackface caricature and the Klan have been around for a long time.  This is hand me down racism, traditional stereotypes and hatred.  Who taught him this? 

Doesn’t he know that pictures of African American men and women were taken while being tortured and lynched?  That crowds gathered for this spectacle of injustice as they were dismembered and burned alive?  That the images were printed and sold as postcards, that persons shared these pictures like they would a photo with Santa Claus?  That the injustices inflicted upon African American people have been photographed and are now filmed from body cameras and cellphones?  That African American people have been seeing these images for a long time?

Did anyone in his family or in his circle of friends, his teachers or classmates tell him that this was mean- spirited, inappropriate, insensitive or racist?  And if not, why not?  This is the real conspiracy, that is to silence our conscious, to go along with this history of bullying, to put it on, to capture it in a frame, to make it apart of our personal memories.  This picture is apart of what he remembers about his time in medical school.

In 2017, African Americans made up almost 20 percent of the population in Virginia.  Tonight, I wonder how they are left feeling about the leader who is supposed to represent them.  There is no need to look at his heart; the yearbook picture is worth a thousand words and represents hundreds of years of humiliation for African American people.  I wonder why he didn’t see this in 1984 and why we still don’t see it now?

Because racism is not out of the picture.



Race is something to talk about

I’m not one to shy away from a conversation on race and today, Prada had an unplanned one after a passerby noticed a bag in the window of a shop in Soho.  There appeared to be a blackface accessory attached to the bag.  Cue the removal of the bag, a statement from Prada and another conversation on race.  Described as “monkey trinkets,” many people are asking, “How did this happen?”

“What year is this?”  “I thought we were farther along.”  But, should we be?  What have we said about race that propels us forward?  What of our conversations about race have brought understanding and healing?  When have our conversations about race not been reactive?  How have we prepared for conversations on race?

Still, we shuffle along, pretending that our cross- cultural relationships are all patched up, only to have someone point out another hole.  We missed a spot.  The job was rushed.  The material was not the best and thus, not able to withstand another brush with race.  We’ll deal with it later or when the time comes.  Well, here we are again.

Deep sigh.  “Why do we have to keep talking about race?”  Because questions of identity, belonging and membership continue to arise.  Because we are not saying what needs to be said.  And we don’t know what needs to be said.  Because we end the conversation at the first sign of discomfort or disagreement.

Because we give race the silent treatment.  Rather than have vulnerable conversations, we enter with our guard up.  We decide that we will only say so much.  We would rather be disingenuous than open up.

This means that our exchanges are not authentic.  Instead, we feign interest, outrage, empathy and/ or understanding.  We don’t invest much more than a head nod and a pat on the back.  “I just don’t know what to say.”  And if we are honest, we have not taken the time to learn what to say.

We don’t want to keep talking about it.  But, that’s the problem.  Conversations on race should be on- going.  We need to keep the conversation going so that the Prada bag never even makes it to the shop in Soho.

Don’t Occupy Me

Occupy Wall Street  has now entered its twenty- seventh day and I must confess that except for an article that discussed the spiritual nature of the movement, I have not been following the demonstration that began on September 17, 2011 in New York City’s financial district.  Said to have been inspired by the Egyptian Tahrir Square uprisings and the Spanish acampadas and called to action by he Canadian activist group Adbusters,  Occupy Wall Street is described on the Adbuster’s website as “a people- powered movement for democracy in America.” Perhaps, my inattentiveness to their demands is due to the numerous occupations being held in my mind.  All are calling for equal treatment and time.  But, there is one that I don’t want to occur.

I don’t want race to occupy me.  As I was searching a drawer for an unpaid speeding ticket, I came across a sheet of paper where I had scribbled these words.  Despite the lack of attention I had given to the actions of those who have gathered in New York City and now Washington, D. C., I couldn’t help but think of the varied ways in which we have occupied spaces in the name of race, the ways in which race has occupied us and how race has been our occupation.

Jim Crow segregation is an example of the occupation of race in America.  We held up its signs.  We hung them in store windows and above water fountains.  We placed them on doors and other pseudo- public places.  Today, we hang those signs over our communities, attach them to job announcements and place them on our lives.

Race has been controlling our lives for so long that we have normalized it presence.  America is a racialized society; consequently, we live our lives in protest.  We don’t walk past each other; we march around each other.  We don’t talk; instead, we make demands.  We declare war on everything from poverty to drugs to terrorism.  Our solution is always to fight about it.

Race is our work and we work at it.  We create new stereotypes and prejudices.  Each day, we sharpen our divisions and perfect our disagreements.  We train the next generation on the traditions of separation and segregation.  We pass down our knowledge of race by sharing our stories of its presence in our lives.  But, what has been the benefit?  What is the pay off for working for race or working at racial division?

I’m tired of the separation, tired of protesting, marching, demanding, segregating.  I’m tired of the presence of race and I don’t want it to occupy me anymore.

The Seven Deadly Sins of Race

I know that many persons don’t understand my displeasure with race and I can’t point to the specific time when my intense dissatisfaction began.  In fact, I don’t know why I just can’t let go of the conviction that race must be eradicated, that I don’t see it as others have though I have had many of the same experiences and conversations regarding race, that my response to race and its progeny is altogether different, that I didn’t end up in the same place and reach the same conclusions that generations past have.  Still, this is my message and it will not change.  Race makes us hate each other, hate ourselves and even hate God.  And once I came to this awareness, there was no way that I would attempt to accept race on any terms.

Race is the enemy not a coach or a running partner.  It is not a supporter or a cheerleader– no matter your social position.  We all lose ourselves when it comes to race.  It never works for me or for the good of others but always works against me, limiting my vision and negatively impacting our perception.  We are weaker than we should be, no closer to the goal of this great life and to each other than we could be–all because of race.  And I just can’t accept that.  My mission and the purpose of this blog is to make us hate race.  We are not to run with it, to go along with its perceptions and prescriptions but to run against it.  This is the daily race. 

I despise race and I will not give it credit for my successes or my failures.  I don’t like race because it is in a position that it did not earn and continues to exercise power and influence over persons that it should have no control over.  Race has no right to redefine our humanity and its purposes.  It is out of place and out of order.  It should not be as close to us and to our ability to be and to do as it is. 

I don’t like that race keeps us in the old when God has promised us newness.  I don’t like that it says that we must remain the same while emphasizing our differences.  I don’t like that its stereotypes make us helpless as to our social condition and our hearts hardened against persons and cultural groups that we may have little or no experience with.  I don’t like the way that it makes me feel but I especially don’t like the way that persons talk about their life and its ability or possibility when it comes to race.  I don’t like what race makes us do, that we lay aside the teachings of Jesus Christ instead of this sin that “does so easily beset us” (Hebrews 12.1) in order to practice our belief in race.

And race allows us to practice many sins all at the same time as you cannot harbor such a position and not think or do one of them.  In fact, I can think of seven and they have been called deadly, produced first by Origen and then later amended at the end of the fourth century by Caspian: pride, envy, gluttony, lust , anger, greed and sloth.  The Book of Proverbs records seven things that the Lord detests: a proud look, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plots, feet that are swift to run to mischief, a deceitful witness that utters lies, and one who sows discord among the brethren (Proverb 6.16-19).  Still, not convinced?  Let me give you just a few examples.

Pride: The excessive belief in one’s own abilities is actualized in the thought pattern of White Supremacy and Black Nationalism.  Ironically, such positions often reduce the ability of God to govern and to rule.  Race often makes us live independently of the contributions of others no matter their impact or ability.
Envy: This is realized in our consumption of products and services that allow us to look like each other ironically while holding fast to the belief that we are better or the most beautiful of God’s creation.  Race makes us live life by comparison.
Gluttony: The desire to consume more than is needed is evident in American slavery, Jim Crow segregation, the red lining of properties and white privilege for example.  Race does not allow us to share.
Lust: The craving for power and money specifically have created realities to include segregation in its various forms, much of which still remains intact today and the systematic deprivation of goods and services to communities based on their perceived potential worth and contributions to American society.  Race does not prepare an equal place for everyone.
Anger: There is a lot of anger when it comes to race, whether covered in a need to overcompensate for the “card” that race has dealt or in one’s perception of a threat due to the presence of a member of another cultural group in the neighborhood, on the job or a public place that has historically been reserved for socially colored persons of privilege.  There are also underlying issues of fear, loss and regret that fuel this often misplaced emotion.  Race will not allow us to move past our anger.  We cannot talk about it; we can only fight about it. 
Greed: The desire for material wealth and gain is often color- coded, suggesting that only socially colored white people are to have access and to accumulate.  Still, neither the desire to keep or to take is good but race makes us hoard the earth’s bounty and divide it amongst our cultural group.  Race says that the world only belongs to us.
Sloth: Either we believe that we should not work because it rightfully belongs to us, that the earth is ours and the fullness thereof, the world and the people that dwell therein (Psalm 24.1) or that our ancestors have earned the right to the land and/or its wealth due to past labor during American slavery.  But, someone has to work!  Race says to all of us, “They stole it from you. Now, take it back.”  This tug of war gets us no where.
Now, I don’t know how many of these sins you will admit to practicing but be sure of this– race is deadly and its sins are slowly killing us.