Remember the composition of religion departments back during the 1960s? They predominately and unapologetically consisted of white males – especially the so-called Ivies. Now imagine if one of these schools, realizing the need for different perspectives, decided that they wanted to have a feminist viewpoint taught in their department. A search committee would be formed, advertisements placed, interviews conducted, and after an academic year of deliberation, the most qualified candidate would be hired – probably a white man whose Ph.D. dissertation somewhat dealt with a few aspects concerning women’s issues. Even though several women steeped in feminist thought applied for the position, it would not be too surprising if a man would have been hired. So, allow me to rephrase my question: Can a man teach Women’s Studies?
Dear Trump Voter:
I fully understand many of you voted for Trump last year out of a profound dislike for his opponent Hilary Clinton. Others voted because they believed his promises of Making America Great Again or because he promised the country will tire of so much winning. Maybe you voted for Trump because you wanted to safeguard the chance of a conservative being appointed to the Supreme Court. And still others might have believed a pragmatic businessman in the Oval Office would be good for America. And while I may disagree with your reasoning, I not only respected your decision but defended it because of my commitment to the democratic process (even though he did lose the popular vote by 2.9 million). Still, I confess feeling somewhat disturbed by your failure to condemn his more egregious pronouncements such as his numerous misogynist comments culminating with grabbing them by the pussy, or his more racist pursuits like the birther movement. But especially his xenophobic, anti-Latinx campaign kick-off statement where he said those of us who came to this county as undocumented immigrants were bringing drugs, bringing crime, and are rapists.
But if you still support Trump after his failure to condemn Nazi and Klan activities in Charlottesville, I have to wonder if the real reason you voted for him was because you share his racist white nationalist viewpoint. To stand before the American people after a white man purposely drove his car into a group of peaceful protestors and say there is blame on many sides is to defend white terrorist groups who are fueled by hatred for people of color and their allies (both right and left of center) who stand with them. To say all sides are to blame ignores how one side were mainly carrying guns, while the other side were mainly wearing collars. The former chanted epithets toward Jews and Blacks, the other prayed for love and peace.
If the President, or you, cannot bring yourself to condemn the perpetrators of home-grown terrorism, then both the President and you are racist. I know you hate being called this, but honestly, there is no other term. Embrace who you are and repent, or simply prove me wrong in words, or more importantly, in deeds. There really is only one way to prove me wrong: strongly and without qualifiers condemn white supremacy in all its forms and manifestations, including in how they are currently prevalent in this administration. Your complicity in remaining silent as modern-day Brown Shirts terrorize Americans, or providing milquetoast responses that all sides are to blame (reminiscence with how Nazi blamed Jews for Kristallnacht) makes you an ally, a supporter, and an advocate of Nazis, the Klan, and skinheads.
I can’t imagine how the man who tweets against every minuscule slight can’t find 140 characters to condemn what even other conservative politicians with whom I normally disagree are condemning. A man who bombarded both Barack Obama and Hilary Clinton for their refusal to say the words “Islamic Terrorism” cannot find the will to say “White Terrorism” which, by the way, is less than 140 characters. Is it because when a Muslim drives a vehicle into a crowd both you and the President are quick to call it terrorism but when a white person does the same thing, it’s just a civil disturbance? For the record, of the hundreds of Muslims whom I know and collaborate with, not one of them gives me any cause to fear. I cannot say the same about the white people I know.
In fairness, there does exist another group which still supports Trump who are not necessarily racist. They are religious fanatics, believers in the made-up exegesis they are calling the “Cyrus Effect” meaning that that God is using a nonbeliever like Trump, just like God used a nonbelieving Persian King in 539 BCE to bring about God’s purposes. Lord have mercy – the biblical gymnastics we do to justify our satanic beliefs. Considering nothing resembling Christian has yet to emerge from this administration leads me to conclude believers in this Cyrus interpretation are really worshipping a frail and feeble God. The only Christian advancement made under the Trump Administration thus far is the advancement of the Christianity held by those white men and women (yes – let’s not forget the white women) carrying Tiki Torches. What is sad about these Cyrus believers is how many of them are of color, a modern-day example of what Malcolm X once referred to as “house slaves” (grant you, X used stronger language).
So, dear Trump voter, allow me to speak plainly. Whatever reasons caused you to vote for Trump no longer matter. The mask has been ripped off to show the racism beneath it, in all of its vile glory. Our nation is divided between those promoting hate and those calling for justice. Neutrality and silence places you in the former camp – whether you like it or not. You can join the rest of humanity, liberals and conservatives, and condemn the alt-right white nationalist movement; or you can continue being an apologist. I know not what course you will take, but as to me: unless you repent for your continued support of racism, Islamophobia, misogyny, and transphobia, then please accept this letter as my symbolic gesture of dusting off the sand from my sandals and moving on without you. There can be no fellowship, no reconciliation until you repent.
Occupying a Latino male body in the academy is a continuous challenge where not a day goes by in which I am not reminded that I am an outsider, that this space I occupy within the ivory tower is a space never intended for me. To occupy this space, I am forced to be fluent in the way white folk think, philosophize and theorize. Any attempt to ground my theological view in my cultural context is dismissed as quaint, unscholarly or exotic. I would never have been granted a Ph.D. if I were not competent in Hegel, Barth or Moltmann. And yet, my white colleagues are deemed rigorous scholars without ever having to read Martí, Unamuno or Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz.
Neoliberalism as a religious movement is an economic doctrine that can only be accepted by faith. This neoliberal faith is based on the power amassed by a decentralized network of institutions, and the militarily “advanced” nations it profits, which in turn verifies the universality of its economic doctrines. There can be no salvation outside the global market forces of “free trade.” An alternative to the spirit of neoliberalism can be found within the faith of the people. Within the present post-modern condition, a space has been opened—perhaps inadvertently—for the sacred. In this space, the faith and/or spirituality of the people can directly challenge global capitalism. The alternative to neoliberalism, the hope for the vast majority of the world’s population, will be found within their own faith traditions—specifically, how those faith traditions equip the marginalized within their midst to seek their own liberation. Although the actual tenets of any faith are important, the poor and disenfranchised usually approach their faith tradition differently than those who usually serve as the academic or ecclesiastic spokespersons of the faith. Any attempt to understand the faith of the people from the margins of the community will find itself rooted in the everyday, attempting to discover how their faith provides the means of surviving the condition of their disenfranchisement.
What religious considerations should inform the current immigration discussion? Are you ready for leading liberation theologian, professor of social ethics and Latinx studies at Iliff Seminary to brew some rad theology? In Episode 44 of the Brew Theology Podcast Janel, Liz, Kyle, Ryan & Stef get to talk with Dr. Miguel De La Torre on the US Immigration Crisis, and what De La Torre calls an ethics toward place. Miguel is on Episode 8 as well. Back in Episode 8, Dr. De La Torre speaks about his theology of hopelessness, and “para joder” (Spanish for “screwing with”).
Currently, I am living in Germany as a Fulbright scholar at Johannes Gutenberg University. During my time here, I have visited concentration camps, attempting to understand how an advance and civilized society, a culture which gave the world Beethoven, Luther and Klee, could also mechanize some of the greatest atrocities of the 20th century.
Rather than wrestling with evil, it becomes easier to simply dismiss Nazi concentration guards as monsters. Constructing monsters simplifies our visceral response. But even monsters pet dogs. It is so easy to characterize the abuser as inhuman, as lacking any sense of loving emotions. Simple binaries of good and evil makes inhumane those placed under the label of evil.