A few years ago, during a search for a New Testament professor, I asked two questions during the interview – two questions I ask of every candidate for a position with our institution regardless of rank or discipline. The first is innocent enough: “How important is racial/ethnic diversity to you when teaching?” All candidates, to a fault, enthusiastically answer in the affirmative. Then I ask my second question: “Which scholars and/or books from racial and ethnic minorities do you include in your syllabus and why?” Here is when the squirming usually begins, revealing the lack of academic rigor of the candidate under consideration.
White privilege is maintained when white ignorance is sustained. The demise of our democracy will not be at the hands of foreign entities. Democracy will fail at the hands of an ignorant and uninformed electorate seeking demagogues as saviors.
Some whites choose to dance with disaster. For promised privileges, they make an alliance with their richer compatriots, the 1 percent of whites who control 38.6 percent of the nation’s wealth. They are played by their wealthier colorblind counterparts, who could actually care less about the skin pigmentation of those whom they devour like hungry wolves. Other whites naively seek to reclaim and repeat a Confederate heritage of the dirt-poor who fought and died to protect the privilege of plantation proprietors to own human chattel. White ignorance has always been crucial in preserving the concentration of wealth and power in the hands of the few.
Christianity has died in the hands of Evangelicals. Evangelicalism ceased being a religious faith tradition following Jesus’ teachings concerning justice for the betterment of humanity when it made a Faustian bargain for the sake of political influence. The beauty of the gospel message — of love, of peace and of fraternity — has been murdered by the ambitions of Trumpish flimflammers who have sold their souls for expediency. No greater proof is needed of the death of Christianity than the rush to defend a child molester in order to maintain a majority in the U.S. Senate.
Me too, for knowing all too well of my complicity with this sin flashing across my social media.
Me too, for wanting to be among those men who rush to proclaim a state of innocence with their silent response.
Me too, for noticing the silence of men during this campaign and refusing to hold them, and me, accountable for embracing muteness.
A full page advertisement ran in the Sept. 20 edition of the New York Times sponsored by the World Jewish Congress. The advertisement made four points, two with which I agree wholeheartedly, one with which I lack sufficient knowledge to make a decision, and one with which I totally disagree because of the danger it poses to justice.
The two with which I concur are: 1) “We should never have to be afraid to practice our faith,” and 2) “We must never be silent (while people of any faith are attacked).” Amen and amen! The one for which I am not knowledgeable enough to respond is, “We are one people.” I’m not sure if my Jewish colleagues would agree. I’ll simply punt to them to discuss, although I would be greatly interested in the discourse.
Using my own body as a canvas, I began in 2011 to exclusively wear bow ties. I work in an institute of higher learning, the kind of place where you might think the Roger Kimball quip, “There is something about the combination of denim and tenure that is inherently preposterous” might hold true. But mine’s not this kind of place.
Within my institution, male professors make an attempt to look as young as the students. T-shirts and jeans are preferred over jackets and ties because neckties are seen as a barrier—distancing the professor from the student. Conformity to the culture of the other male professors means creating a state of “eternal adolescence,” a wistful attempt to remain the same age as their students. Hence, me choosing to wear bow ties becomes a nonconformist act even though bow ties enjoyed a long-term tie to the academy, a tie severed by the casual look.
You cannot be a person of faith – faith in a Deity, faith in humanity, or faith in oneself – and support in any way the callous act of tearing children and young adults from the only home they have ever known. But hatred and/or fear of brown bodies can turn any beating heart into stone. Repealing DACA follows the long immoral arch of this nation which genocided red bodies, enslaved black bodies, placed yellow bodies in concentration camps, and since the invasion of Florida and Mexico, have been decimating and pauperizing brown bodies. Mass killings, mass theft, and mass incarceration has historically been the norm faced by those falling short of white-constructed superiority because churches, specifically Christian churches have failed to know, much less implement, the teachings of Jesus.
You cannot be a Christian and remain silent as our young disappear. Silence is complicity. White privilege means embracing a deafening quietness that masks agreement with Trump’s racist stereotypes which were built on a campaign which called us drug dealers, crime procurers, and rapists. White privilege means that one can vote for Trump in spite of shameful tweets and comments because whiteness means protection from anti-Latinx legitimized death-dealing policies. You cannot be a Christian and support theses anti-Latinx immigration policies and the man calling for their implementation. The goats are relegated to the shepherd’s left because they specifically chose not to hear the cries of the hungry, the thirsty, the naked, and yes – the alien in our midst, even as they professed belief.
Do not deceive yourselves into thinking drug dealers, crime procurers and rapist are being deported to keep America safe. Dreamers are highly educated, tax payers, and entrepreneurs. They are serving their adopted country and shedding their blood on the fields of Afghanistan and Iraq. They have lost their lives rushing to save others in the midst of Harvey’s tempest anger.
Do not deceive yourself to think Trump is somehow protecting the rule of law to keep America fair. Law and order means our immigration policies are created to privilege white bodies at the expense of brown bodies. Making a specific group of people “illegal” means an entire demographic – regardless of documentation or not – will all be considered guilty until proven innocent. Occupying a Latinx body means we are all potential drug dealers, crime procurers and rapists, and thus outside the law where our rights are denied and our lives endangered by trigger-happy police and border agents.
Do not deceive yourself in believing this immigration policy is not rooted in racism to keep America white again. The only reason – the only reason there is a desire to tear these young people from their families and the only country they have ever known is because the majority of white people who count, those who vote, hate or are afraid of brown bodies, even if their disappearance economically hurts our entire society.
Some are saying this is a wake-up call for Christians. Some are saying Christians will rise up against this injustice. Some are saying this is the last straw. Forgive my hopelessness. The major problem to the oppression we face are the very Christians who become the apologists for racism – whether it be the goose-stepping white nationalists of Charlottesville, or those who support stripping our young of their human dignity. If U.S. history is any guide, I fear Christianity is more complicit with our oppression than our liberation. Since the conquistadores (Catholics) decimated the Taínos in the South while the Pilgrims (Protestants) massacred the Pequot in the North, white history – from global conquest to global colonialism – has been the most violent, the most blood-soaked series of human events that have plagued humanity. Why should I, or any of the world’s colonized, believe white Christianity would somehow “now” live up to what they profess to believe?
If this seems too harsh then prove me wrong. If you insist I should have hope, then do something more significant than posting a “like” on Facebook. Do more than signing another damn petition usually read only by the signers themselves in order to see who else added their name to the cause. If Jesus has again been captured, imprisoned, and crucified by the clerics of Empire, who for thirty pieces of silver, made a Faustus bargain to have a say in packing the Supreme Court, then it is up to us – those who believe and those who don’t, to wrestle Jesus from sulfurous hands.
To be a Christian – heck, to be a human being – requires us to turn over the tables of Homeland Security and the so-called Justice Department, which have set up shop in God’s Holy Temple. We must weave a whip and drive out from the Temple the anti-Latinx hymn singers who remain complicit with violence. Every church and seminary must become a sanctuary house – if not, they should be converted to tourist sites. Every religious organization must take in at least one undocumented individual facing deportation in open rebellion against the injustices of a racist government desire to crush us under their rhetoric of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Every minister who refuses to be thrown into the coliseum to face the lions along with the least of these should hang up their collars, for they are of no use to God or God’s creation. Every Latinx must register to vote and then vote against politicians who continue to see us, or our sisters and brothers of color, as less than human. Every white person who insists they are color-blind should go buy some glasses. Every white person who voted for Trump must repent before a Holy God for crying out before Pilate, “Caesar is lord.” Every white person who wants to be our allies should refuse to speak for us but instead assist us in amplifying our voices. Every Christian who refuses to stand in solidarity with Jesus incarnated as Jesús the Dreamer, who is trying to emerge from the shadows to which these policies will relegate him, should consider getting saved.