Tag Archives: race war

Body Peace

My body is not the enemy.

I will not pull my hair when I see yours or ask my curls to straighten up and act right.
I will not scratch my eyes out because they are not blue or green.
I will not cut off my nose to spite my face because it does not make the point.
I will not hold or change my tongue because others prefer the sound of your voice.

I will not pretend that I am not a safe place to be,
That I am somehow better off dead to myself.
I will not give up on her so easily.
I need not add to the casualties of this war.

I will not pinch my skin and wish that I could trade places with you.
I will not take your side.

My body is not the enemy.

I will not mount a defense.
I will draw no color lines.
Because this is not my battle.
I do not wrestle with flesh and blood.

Instead, I will go inside the temple, this house of praise
And rejoice
Yes, rejoice
That the war is over
That I have made peace with my body, having no desire to fight over yours.

 

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?

 

The Acceptable War

Ward-ParkerI am still dumbfounded and disgusted by the recent on- air shooting of Miss Alison Parker and Mr. Adam Ward.  I have no words that would fully describe or give voice to my grief and the inability to remove myself from such horror since the killer turned the cameras against us as it were.  Like so many others, I watched their senseless murder in disbelief and felt trapped.  The Washington Post called it the “ultimate selfie” but I don’t want to see that again.

Mr. Vester Flanagan, who later died of a self- inflicted gun shot wound and is believed to be the shooter, was a disgruntled former employee of WDJB of Roanoke, Virginia.  Flanagan thought that he was fired due to racial discrimination and not only left us to grieve a very public death but he left a twenty- three page manifesto.

Questions of why he murdered two of his former colleagues were quickly answered.  On social media, Flanagan alluded to the belief that he had been wrongfully fired from his job at the station.  He also said in the manifesto that he purchased the murder weapon two days after the shooting at Mother Emanuel AME Church.  Perhaps, in addition to the perceived wrongful termination of his employment at WDJB, the murder of two of his former co- workers was in response to Dylan Roof’s murder of nine believers at Mother Emanuel AME Church.  Roof had hoped to start a race war; Flanagan had joined the fight.

Race war.  If there is a pairing that makes me physically sick, it is this one.  These two words should never be seen or said together.  The attempt of cultural groups to annihilate each other for the prize of supremacy is a “fool’s errand.”

But, we accept the war of the races, falsely linking it to the Bible or allowing the assumption of duty to defend to continue unchallenged and unchecked.  Genocide is not God’s will and a race war is not the determinant for those chosen by God to reign supreme as it were.

There have been too many lives lost, too many inexcusable atrocities committed and it has gone on for too long.  I will not enlist my son in this war.  It’s not acceptable in my home to fight with or to murder people based on the social construct of race.  Is this the presumption under your roof?

The murders of Alison and Adam should not be lost to the news cycle.  No, their deaths should make us turn off the television, put down the remote control and turn to our family members to express our love for all people, regardless of culture or kinship.  Because there is only defeat when we fight each other.  Let the race war end with you.

A Holocaust before Hitler

This video documents the tragedies of the attempted genocide of the Herero and Nama people of Namibia during the Second Reich.  Through these historical records, it is my hope that we would acknowledge and accept the collective oppression that all people have endured and the crimes that we have committed against each other, as our sufferings are not to be compared but mourned and forgiven.  It is not a matter of who started it but the lamentable fact that it has not ended.

Additional Resources

What is genocide?

Anthropogeography defined.

Ben Kiernan, Blood and Soil: A World History of Genocide and Extermination from Sparta to Darfur, (R.R. Donnelley: Harrisonburg, VA, 2007).

Luderitz Concentration Camps

Benjamin Madley, Patterns of frontier genocide (1803-1910): the Aboriginal Tasmanians, the Yuki of California and the Herero of Namibia, Journal of Genocide Research 2004 6(2), June, 167-192.

 

Jurgen Zimmerer, Annihilation in Africa: The Race War in German Southwest Africa (194-1908) and Its Significance for a Global History of Genocide, GHI Bulletin No. 37 (Fall 2005), 51-57.

O, race where is your victory?

“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. Give to everyone wo begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you.”
~Matthew 5.38-42, New Revised Standard Version

“Then Jesus said to him, ‘Put your sword back into its place; for all who take the sword will perish by the sword.”
~Matthew 26.52, New Revised Standard Version

George Zimmerman has been arrested, charged by Special Prosecutor Angela Corey with second degree murder in the killing of Trayvon Martin. His parents, Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin, were said to be “overwhelmed by the news.” Before they spoke to those gathered and watching on television, thanking God for the arrest of George Zimmerman, Rev. Al Sharpton said, “There is no victory here. There are no winners here. This is not about gloating. This is about pursuing justice.” A point almost lost in recent weeks to the threats of the New Black Panther Party (NBPP), who had placed a bounty on the head of George Zimmerman (Their presence in Sanford, Florida was not welcomed by the parents of Trayon Martin.) and the announcement from the neo- Nazi, National Socialist Movement (NSM) that they would protect “local citizens from the area who are concerned for the safety of their families.” There has been talk of race- baiting and a potential race war.

Ironically, Charles Manson, the cult leader now 77, was recently up for his twelfth parole hearing after he attempted to incite just that. Manson and three of his followers were convicted of killing five people in 1969, including actress Sharon Tate. Afterwards, they wrote in blood words like “Helter Skelter” (the song recorded by The Beatles on The White Album) and “pig” in the blood of their victims. Yesterday, I saw a video recording of a European American tourist visiting Baltimore, Maryland during Saint Patrick’s Day weekend who is beaten, robbed and literally stripped of his clothing by a group of African American men and women. And many persons are aware of what has been described as a “shooting spree” in Tulsa, Oklahoma where two European American males, Jake England, 19 and Alvin Watts, 32 have been charged with multiple counts of first degree murder after killing three and wounding two African American men. Sadly, the murders occurred on the second anniversary of the death England’s father who he says was killed by a socially colored black man, causing persons to consider the killings race- related and perhaps revengeful.

So, where does this leave us? Now, everyone is talking about race, rehearsing old battles and showing our scars. Historic fears are being revived and color lines are being drawn by new generation. But, George Zimmerman is in custody. Charles Manson has been denied parole. Investigators are pursuing the culprits of the Saint Patrick’s Day assault who posted statements about the event on Facebook and Twitter. England and Watts have both confessed to the shootings.

We know that race, its cultural stereotypes and socially color- coded prejudices are wrong. Still, we continue to sow this seed in conversation and in deed. We continue to reap its harvest, to gather its fruit and feed it to generation after generation, knowing and understanding the damage that will be caused. We are repeating race’s history. It’s rules have not changed: “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth” … “a life for a life.” And the results will remain the same, we will live and die by the sword and there is no victory in this.