Ted Cruz Is A Terminator

Ted Cruz Is A Terminator

Senator Ted Cruz has made the news recently for all the wrong reasons.  Two weeks ago, when the electrical grid in Texas failed after one of the worst winter storms in their history, Cruz decided the proper response was to take his family on a vacation to Cancun, Mexico.  While Cruz was jetting south, Beto O’Rourke, the Democratic candidate he defeated in 2018, was organizing his campaign’s volunteers to make wellness calls to 150,000 Texans.  Rightfully, the media and political world responded with indignation.  In several critiques, his actions were highlighted as the epitome of white privilege.

There is only one small problem with this analysis.

Ted Cruz isn’t white.

Ted Cruz’s actual name is Rafael Cruz.  He is the son of a Cuban immigrant.  According to presently accepted categories, Cruz is Latino.  He could list himself as such on the census.  He and his children could receive whatever benefits – however meager – being in that minority group might provide.  Indeed, during his campaign, when speaking to primarily Hispanic audiences, Cruz was quick to claim this heritage and identity.  He was also equally quick to avoid these connections when speaking to the white population of Texas.  He needed his white audiences to see him as white.

This desire is not unique to Ted Cruz.  For centuries, people have hoped to be seen as white and to receive all of the benefits thereof. In a recent post, How To Keep America White, I explored the historic instances when the definition of whiteness was expanded to include new populations.  When whiteness is threatened by demographic shifts, one of its defense mechanisms has been to allow some previously excluded group to join the club.  This strategy has allowed whiteness to remain the majority and protect its supremacy.   

Italians are an often-mentioned example of this dynamic.  Pre-Civil War, Italians were not considered white by most Americans.  They were treated as an inferior race and discriminated against throughout society.  Only with the growing fear of black emancipation were Italians redeemed and claimed as members of the white race.  They responded by becoming some of the more ardent anti-black racists of their time.

That Donald Trump was able to garner about 25% of the Latino vote in the 2020 election is startling evidence of this new manifestation of white expansion.  It is one of the explanations for how Latinos could vote for a person who consistently said derogatory things about them.  Simply stated, many Latinos no longer see themselves as Latinos.  Many – like Cruz – identify more with American whiteness than their ancestral roots. These new recruits to whiteness – in order to prove their worthiness – are often the most ardent proponents and defenders of white supremacy.

Ted Cruz is the epitome of this tendency.  Rather than express solidarity with other Latinos, Cruz consistently champions policies that do significant damage to people of his ancestry without any remorse.  For example, he is an ardent opponent of birth right citizenship which has been the path of citizenship for millions of Latinos.  Many of his other positions would make it more difficult for minorities to vote, receive government assistance and avail themselves of their civil rights.

While Cruz would argue his positions are conservative rather than racist, he was not shy in claiming Jesse Helms, one of the most racist Senators in US history as his political idol.  Cruz often brags of sending the Helms campaign a $10 donation at the age of 10. At an event honoring Helms shortly after his death, Cruz said, “The willingness [of Helms] to say all those crazy things is a rare, rare characteristic in this town, and you know what? It is every bit as true now as it was then. We need a hundred more like Jesse Helms in the U.S. Senate.”

Why would a Latino boy send money to Helms and adopt him as his hero?

If you want to be seen as white, identifying with the most racist white person you know is a good place to start.

This is why I fear Ted Cruz.  Again and again, in US history, white supremacy has weaponized its newest recruits to defend white supremacy.  After the Nate Turner rebellion, poor white sharecroppers were recruited into whiteness and helped build the societal structures that made slavery an exclusively black institution. In 1863, white supremacy inspired Italians to rampage through New York City, targeting and killing hundreds of black people.  In the years since, whiteness has invited Caucasian featured Asians, Latinos, Native Americans and even lighter skinned blacks to understand themselves as whiter than a targeted minority.

Sadly, Ted Cruz is not an example of a Latino man rising to the heights of national power and prominence.  Ted Cruz is a Terminator.  Like in the famous Terminator movie series, Cruz is a tool of white supremacy disguised as a Latino man, but sent to destroy those who look like him in order to protect his masters.

We can only hope that – as in the movie – the Terminator is ultimately defeated.

One Thousand One Hundred Dollars

One Thousand One Hundred Dollars

Two weeks ago, my wife answered a knock at our door.  A white woman handed my wife an envelope and explained that our neighbors were deeply disturbed by the recent racist attacks on our family.  Over the past year, our transracial family has been the target of two incidents of racist graffiti and – more recently – someone shooting a bullet into the hood of our car.  The woman said our neighbors wanted to demonstrate their support.  After she left, my wife opened the envelope and found one thousand one hundred dollars.

In the days since, my wife and I have gone from surprise to appreciation, from appreciation to discomfort, from discomfort to deep questioning.  While we felt guilty for “looking a gift horse in the mouth,” we couldn’t shake the suspicion that something wasn’t quite right about this gift. What did the gift demonstrate?  Why was it given?  What should we do with it?

The last question was the easiest.  We couldn’t keep the money, even if our property had been damaged.  Being a white ally should never be financially advantageous.  Posting our “Black Lives Matter” sign may have made us a target of abuse, but it shouldn’t make us money.  Being an ally to black people isn’t praiseworthy.  It is the lowest of bars – an act of basic human decency.  Ironically, a few days before we were given the money, I’d written a post entitled “White People Are Neither Brave Nor Brilliant.”  Being rewarded with this money felt wrong.

Resolving this question wasn’t difficult.  My wife and I matched our neighbor’s gift of one thousand one hundred dollars with one thousand one hundred dollars of our own and donated this money to two organizations.  The first was the Black Lives Matter Foundation, which works to support BLM advocates and initiatives across the country and the second was the National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America (NCobra).  These are both organizations doing important work on racial justice.  We made these donations not as an act of generosity or charity, but of responsibility and reparation.  I note this because understanding the motive of a gift is important – for both donor. and recipient.

This brings me to the second and more difficult question we’ve tried to unravel.  Why did our neighbors – who are nearly all white – give us this money?  Was it an act of solidarity with us, with black people, or with both? Was it motivated by guilt or responsibility? Was it charity or reparation?  Since the gifts came from many different neighbors, I suspect there were many different motives, including simple peer pressure.

But why us?

I wonder if our neighbors would have been as generous and outraged if this had happened to a black family.  I suspect some would have been, but I also know that when anti-BLM graffiti was sprayed on our property that several white neighbors stopped to tell me, “I disagree with Black Lives Matter, but I still think its horrible that someone vandalized your property?”  Later, I wished I had replied, “I don’t give a damn about a little vandalism.  I care about 400 years of black oppression and injustice.”  Would my neighbors have stopped to voice their support for a black family?

I worry those one thousand one hundred dollars are just another example of my white privilege.  Historically, when white allies of black people are attacked, the damage is lighter, the response of the authorities is quicker, and justice is more likely.  I worry about the black families in our city, state and country who have faced far more abuse than my family and NEVER received a single dollar in support.  I worry that my neighbors – whether they were conscious of it or not – were motivated by seeing an attack on someone who looked like them.

This brings me to our final question.  What did the gift demonstrate?  Was it an act of solidarity with black people and their plight or an attempt to assuage white guilt and escape white responsibility?  While I cannot answer this question with certainty, I have my suspicions. I should tell you this same group of neighbors – in response to our situation – decided to place signs of support in their yards. They chose signs that read, “Love, Not Hate” instead of “Blacks Lives Matter.”  They chose signs that will NOT make them targets of racist attacks, that do NOT address the deep racial injustices in our nation, and that will NOT demonstrate their support of the black families in our neighborhood.  Loving our neighbors as ourselves will never bring racial justice.

Why not?

Loving our neighbors as our white selves doesn’t require us to understand – or even ask – our black neighbors what they need or want.  By using our white selves as the norm, we will always do what would make us comfortable and not what would address the deep pains of our black neighbors.

During our conversations, my wife said, “I wish they had never given us that money.”

That must sound terribly ungrateful.   Especially to white ears.

Again and again, white people have given black people what we thought they needed or deserved, never asking what they desired.  When they’ve questioned our motives or complained about the inadequacy of our “generosity,” we’ve accused them of being ungrateful.  We’ve said, “After all we’ve done for you…” 

White enslavers said such things after they gave enslaved men and women an afternoon off from their dusk to dawn labors.  White politicians said such things after they granted black people a civil right that white people took for granted.  White businesspeople said such things after they hired their token black employees.  White benevolence always demands polite appreciation.

In the gift of one thousand one hundred dollars, my wife and I had a glimpse into this exhausting racial dynamic. We confronted a question that black people have asked for centuries. Do I accept and appreciate the gift or point out the deep inequities that make the gift necessary? It was a such relief when my wife and I realized that we didn’t have to feel grateful for the one thousand one hundred dollars.  It was not what we would have asked for.

If our neighbors had asked, we would have asked each of them to place a Black Lives Matter sign in their yard.  That would have made a statement in our predominantly white neighborhood. We would have asked each of them to educate themselves, to explore those groups working for racial justice and make a donation in their own name.  That could have been transformative. We would have asked them to act in solidarity with black people and not simply with us.

Hopefully, by giving their gift to black organizations, our neighbor’s financial donations will bring change.

I’m just not sure it will change our neighbors.

February Is Ugly White History Month

February Is Ugly White History Month

Note to my white self…

Black History Month isn’t for black people.

It is for white people like you.

Black people know their history. They know the myriad of ways they were exploited and oppressed by white people and systems over the past 400 years.  They know of their heroes, of those who overcame slavery and discrimination to excel and succeed.  When you attend a Black History Month event, the black people aren’t the ones being educated.  They’re the ones nodding their heads in remembrance of the historic events or individuals being mentioned.  You are the ignorant one.

Some white people complain there should be a White History Month.  While the common response to this complaint – that the other eleven months are largely white history – is valid; it misses an important point.  Black history is always white history.  For every story of a black man or woman who succeeded, there are several subplots about the white individuals and systems they had to overcome.  For every historic event that negatively impacted black people, there is a parallel history of white racism, hate and injustice. I know you don’t like to think about this, but Black History Month could just as easily be titled, Ugly White History Month.

Consider the last lynching in Indiana, an event sometimes mentioned during Black History Month.  This lynching took place in Marion, Indiana on August 7th, 1930.  During Black History Month, the deaths of Thomas Shipp and Abram Smith are often remembered and mourned.  However, this event is not solely about two black men.  It is also a story about a dozen white men who participated in their torture and lynching.  It is about the thousands of white Marion residents who are said to have attended and watched the ugliness. Sadly, in making this lynching a Black History story, we’ve allowed white people to pretend this isn’t part of our history.  Indeed, to this day, blacks in Marion, Indiana have been unable to get even a historic plaque acknowledging the events of 1930.

White history has been whitewashed.

People of color know white history is less history and more propaganda. It is false narrative about the American story, intended to ennoble white people and obscure people of color. Until very recently, most white history selectively celebrated white achievement while ignoring how often those accomplishments involved massacring Native American families, whipping black backs, exploiting Chinese workers and Latino immigrants. We are repeatedly told how exceptional we are when the truth is far more damning.

Black History Month is primarily for white people.

Even most progressive white people don’t understand this.  Progressives may not complain about Black History Month, but we ignore it.  We consider our support of such a month as proof of our tolerance and enlightenment.  Look at us.  We’ve created a whole month for black people to be center stage, even if it is a performance we don’t plan to attend.  Unfortunately, this attitude makes Black History Month into a ghetto, a place for black people to exist and interact out of white sight and mind.

You know this is true. When you’ve attended Black History, you’ve looked around. You’ve counted the white faces present; often on one hand.  Where are all those who give lip service to supporting black people and their causes?  Where are those who think Black Lives Matter?  One of the ways to prove that is to value their history and to confront the uglier side of your own.

Maybe that’s the problem. We are still uncomfortable with hearing the ugliness of white history, especially in the presence of those who’ve experienced this ugliness.  We, if we are supportive, are more interested in supporting black people from afar than interacting with them face to face.  To attend a Black History event is to be in the minority, to be confronted with black nobility and white savagery, to be the ignorant one and to become incredibly aware of the whiteness of our skin.  Our hostility toward or absence from Black History Month is simply more evidence of how deeply racism is embedded in the white psyche.

You can do better. You can make Black History a priority and not just for a single month. You can make understanding our shared history a commitment. You can do so with the understanding that the black people at Black History events do not see you as one of the villains.  They see your presence as a sign of hope.  If enough white people finally know our ugly history, maybe we won’t repeat it.  Maybe the story of black people today can be different than of those in the past.

Black History Month isn’t primarily about the past.

It is one means to a different future.

(Those wishing to begin an exploration of black history might want to begin with my post, Things I Didn’t Know.)

Black Lives Matter and the Influence of Carol Marks

Black Lives Matter and the Influence of Carol Marks

Last week, someone posted the following on my Facebook page…

“Have you ever read BLM’s “Mission Statement?”  It is right out of the Carol Marks Hand book!”

Perhaps this was the result of auto-correct, but maybe not. 

As much as the right loves to accuse the left of Marxism, most of them couldn’t identify Karl Marx in a police line-up.  Their understanding of Marxist thought is an inch deep and a mile wide.  The problem with accusations that BLM is Marxist is not their accuracy.  Many of the founders of Black Lives Matter have been influenced by Marxist and socialist thought.  The problem is that most conservatives have no understanding of Marxist and socialist ideology.  They believe socialism and Marxism are evil, but can’t tell you why. They know they should hate the “Carol Marks” handbook, but have never read Marxist writings.  Ask them to explain Marx’s critique of capitalism and most of them are clueless.

Yet many white progressives get nervous whenever another white person accuses BLM of being Marxist.  Some deny it.  Others reply that BLM is a movement and not a hierarchical organization with a united mission.  Still others suggest they support BLM’s opposition to police killings, but not its broader desire to change American economics.  In so doing, we reveal how successful white supremacists have been in justifying their existence as a counterweight to leftist Marxism.  We miss the obvious.  If Marxism is the opposite of white supremacy, why would any person committed to equity and justice oppose it?

Is Black Lives Matter a Marxist movement?

Of course, it is.

The Black Lives Matter movement almost universally advocates for democratic socialism.  This should not be shocking or embarrassing or even newsworthy.  Democratic socialism is the belief that all voices should be given equal weight and that all human needs should be given equal attention.  When the right screams against Marxism, this is what they are essentially opposing, though most of them don’t know it.

The question white people should be asking is not if the Black Lives Matter movement is Marxist, but how it could be anything else.  Why would people who were considered “capital” by white people for nearly 250 years be proponents of capitalism?  Why would the people who continue to benefit the least from a capitalist economic system be advocates of that system?  Wouldn’t these people be rightfully suspicious of a system that has allowed white people to continue to oppress them?  In America, capitalism and white supremacy have always worked hand in hand to deny black people the rightful wages of their labor.

From the moment Karl Marx outlined the central problems with capitalism, black people realized he was speaking about and to them.  When Marx described an elite, rich oligarchy committed to exploiting the labor of the poor, they remembered plantations, sharecropping, and sweat shops.  He wasn’t espousing an economic and political theory to them.  He was describing their experience.

For this reason, every movement in opposition to white supremacy has quickly realized that capitalism has been and is a white supremacist tool.  In accepting Marxist critiques and advocating for socialist solutions, the BLM movement is simply building on the foundation laid by the Civil Rights movement, which was also identified by white supremacists as communist, socialist, and Marxist.  And rightly so. 

Dr. Martin Luther Kings, Jr. first said, “One day we must ask the question, ‘Why are there 40 million poor people in America?’ And when you begin to ask that question, you are raising questions about the economic system, about a broader distribution of wealth. When you ask that question, you begin to question the capitalistic economy.”  King gradually realized civil rights and economic rights were intertwined.

King eventually wrote, “I am much more socialistic in my economic theory than capitalistic… Capitalism started out with a noble and high motive… but like most human systems it fell victim to the very thing it was revolting against. So today, capitalism has out-lived its usefulness.”  While it is unclear what capitalism’s noble and high motive was, it is clear King was less and less enamored with it.

A few weeks before his murder by a white supremacist, his critique of capitalism deepened, “The evils of capitalism are as real as the evils of militarism and evils of racism.”  King had come to see that opposing racism inherently required opposition to capitalism.  Make no mistake, this conclusion and its threat was what led to his assassination.  White supremacists understand that – in the United States – the dismantling of capitalism is also the dismantling of white supremacy.

It is vital that white allies of the Black Lives Matter movement understand both the roots and rationale for adopting the Marxist critique and advocating for socialist solutions.  Marxism is not a blemish on an otherwise worthy movement.  White allies need not be embarrassed or apologetic.  When the right accuses Black Lives Matter of being Marxist, we should ask them to explain what Marx got wrong about the inherent injustice, inequity, and inhumanity of the capitalist system.

When you ask, don’t hold your breath while awaiting their answer.

Most of them haven’t read Carol Mark’s handbook.

We Have Never Been More United

We Have Never Been More United

I am tired of white people complaining that our nation “has never been so divided.”  This complaint is more evidence that white people are ignorant of our history and of their privilege. We are a nation that once fought a bloody civil war over whether we could enslave black people. What the insurrection at the Capitol revealed was not something new, but an ugly and racist division that has been sustained since our nation’s founding. When it comes to the work of creating a diverse and vibrant democracy, we have never been more united.

Consider this.  In 1790, after the signing of the U.S. Constitution, only property owning or tax paying white men could vote.  White was defined as people of Anglo-Saxon origin.  Women of all races and backgrounds, Blacks (free and enslaved), Irish, Italians, Hispanics, Chinese, Native Americans and many more were disenfranchised.  This meant 6% of the population held power over the other 94%.  When it comes to who holds power, our nation was never less democratic than in 1790.

It would not be until 1828 that the last U.S state would eliminate property owning and tax paying requirements.  For the first time, most white men could vote.  Yet they still represented only about 35% of the US population.  Sadly, this minority would enshrine their dominance across our culture, establishing white male supremacy as the guiding principle for church, government, family, and society.  Those who disputed this inequity were ostracized, oppressed, imprisoned, and murdered.  We were only a democracy if you were a white man.

That 80% of the insurrectionists at the Capitol were white men should not surprise us. Only white men could look at what has happened in our country over the past few decades and conclude we need a revolution. Only white men would see the presidency of Barack Obama as a threat.  Only white men would celebrate the election of a white, narcissistic strongman.  For many others, today’s society is the evolution we have dreamed of – a multicultural nation where no gender, sexual orientation, race, or ethnic background is legally privileged.

The American story is not one of reclaiming some past glory, but of gradual empowerment.  Over the decades since our nation’s founding, the powerless have taken Jefferson’s words as truth and repeatedly challenged white male supremacy.  In 1869, the 14th Amendment gave the vote to all black men.  For a few short years, nearly 50% of our population was enfranchised.  Black men served in our Senate and House of Representatives.  For about eight years, racial equity looked like a possibility.  Sadly, this splendid failure would be the high-water mark of our democracy for the next 100 years.

In the years after the Reconstruction, little progress was made, especially for people of color.  In 1920, though all women received the vote, only white women were able to demand this right. Essentially, white women were invited into the all-male club with the unstated agreement that they continue to sustain white male supremacy.  Together, this ugly alliance of white men and women fought the inclusion of everyone else.

It would not be until 1943 that people of Chinese descent were granted the vote.  Until 1957, many states still denied the vote to Native Americans.  Until the Voting Rights Act of 1965, most blacks could not access the voting booth.  Even after that Act, white legislators in state after state did all in their power to obstruct minorities from voting.

If a democracy is a government of “all the people,” the United States is a young democracy.  Only in the last few years has most of our adult population had access to the vote.  Only in the last few years have white men and women realized their 250 years of national dominance is in danger.  Only in the last few years have white men and women cared about the historic divisions in our nation – divisions that were previously to their advantage.  Ironically, those who invaded our Capitol claimed to be patriots defending democracy.  In actuality, they were insurrectionists trying to topple it.

Here is the good news of today.

For the first time in the history of our nation, the forces in opposition to white supremacy may finally be stronger and more united than those sustaining it.  For the first time in US history, a president spoke out against white supremacy in his inaugural address.  For the first in our checkered past, calls for unity are not simply calls for white solidarity.

It is this more inclusive unity which Donald Trump and his followers fear. His campaign thrived on heightening age-old divisions.  His administration glorified a past America where less of our nation had voice.  The failed insurrection of January 6th is both evidence of this lingering malignancy and of democratic resilience. That those who have sustained white supremacy for so long are now calling for reconciliation, healing and unity is encouraging.  Those who cannot enforce their will must plead for such things. 

If it is unity they desire, we must demand it be a unity grounded in our national aspirations, so long denied to so many, that all people are created equal and endowed with certain inalienable rights, namely life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  Anything less is appeasement, a strategy that has failed again and again in the battle with white supremacy.

White supremacy must finally end.

In this, more and more of us are united.

White People Are Neither Brave Nor Brilliant

White People Are Neither Brave Nor Brilliant

Note to My White Self…

You are not brave.

I know other white people tell you that you are brave for speaking out against racism, for challenging your white peers, for posting anti-racist memes, for putting up a “Black Lives Matter” sign and attending Black Lives Matter protests.

Do not believe them.

Their compliments say less about you and more about them.  By naming these simple acts of advocacy as bravery, they are creating the fiction that what you are doing is extraordinary, something that they and other white people should not be expected to do.  Their compliment actually sustains white supremacy.

Speaking out against injustice is what any human being should do.

When white people call you brave, remind them it is nearly impossible for a white person to be brave in a culture that protects our every privilege.  When you protest, you do so in relative safety.  You can even invade the US Capitol and leave unscathed.  For black people, a traffic stop can lead to death.  Imagine the courage it takes for them to protest, to stand up against a culture designed to oppress them, knowing how easily that culture can justify their murder.  Even when you and a black person stand in the same space with the same signs saying the same things, they are so much braver than you.

You are not brilliant.

I know other white people tell you that your writings about anti-racism are brilliant, that you’re saying things they’ve never considered or heard.

Do not believe them.

Their compliments say less about you and more about them.  By calling your words brilliant, they are reinforcing – whether they know it or not – the fiction that ideas are only worthy when a white person says them.  What you say and write is not new. It has been said more brilliantly by countless black men and women for decades.

Echoing these voices is more plagiarism than brilliance.

When white people call you brilliant, remind them it is nearly impossible for a white person to be brilliant when it comes to understanding racism and privilege.  When you pontificate, you are only scratching the surface.  Like a snorkeler in the ocean, you see only the most obvious.  What you share are the shallowest of insights.  Black people, like the fish in that ocean, are inescapably immersed in this racist sea.

When it comes to racism, white people are many things.

Some are hostile, actively working to silence brave and brilliant black people.

Most are disinterested, unwilling to listen or acknowledge even the most blatant truths.

A few feel responsible, reluctantly admitting our complicity in systems of oppression.

As for you, bravery and brilliance are dishonest descriptors.

You are mostly embarrassed.

Embarrassed it has taken you so long to abandon your most treasured prejudices, so long to become curious enough to read and listen, and so long to recognize your cooperation with injustice.

You have been ignorant.

You have been a coward.

What you do now is mostly too little, mostly too late.

Acknowledge this.

Regret this.

Try to do better.

But never allow other white people to call you brave and brilliant.

We Still Don’t Allow Black People To Run Away

We Still Don’t Allow Black People To Run Away

Two-hundred and twenty-six.

This is the number of black men and women killed by police in 2020.

Some of these we know.  William Howard Greer was shot while handcuffed.  George Floyd couldn’t breathe. Breonna Taylor was killed in her pajamas.  Daniel Prude had a hood put over his head until he suffocated.  Rayshard Brooks fell asleep at a Wendy’s.  Jonathan Price was killed while trying to protect another person.  Casey Goodson and Andre Hill, unarmed, were killed in cases of mistaken identity.

The other two hundred and eighteen incidents are lesser known.  They never made the headlines.  Some appear justified with the victim firing a gun repeatedly at the police prior to their death.  Many involved people with serious mental health issues.  However, as I read the descriptions of all two hundred and twenty-six deaths, I noticed a common theme.  In nearly forty incidents, the person was killed while fleeing.  Often, they were shot in the back.

This is deeply troubling.  Police officers are only allowed to use deadly force in self-defense or to protect another person.  Yet in situation after situation, black people fleeing from police enraged the officers and justified murder.  A fleeing black person was perceived as a threat, even though the officer was in no physical danger.  What was the threat?

It was a threat to white supremacy.

Black people are not allowed to run away from white people.

This is deeply ingrained in our society.  We often forget that the American policing system is historically rooted in the need to prevent enslaved persons from fleeing.  For the first two hundred years of our history, one of the responsibilities of police – in both the north and south – was to capture enslaved persons and return them to their owners.  In many cases, officers were given permission to do so either dead or alive.

Think about that.  If you gave permission to the police to kill a fleeing black person, you were obviously concerned about something greater than their return.  You were willing to make an example of that black person’s death to discourage other enslaved persons from fleeing.  A black person fleeing was a direct threat to white power.

Even after the American Civil War, a primary role of the police was the control of black bodies.  Many states passed Jim Crow laws criminalized black people leaving their jobs, towns, and state of residence without the permission of a white person.  For one hundred years, black people knew that turning their back on a white person was extremely dangerous; grounds for arrest, beating and even death.  Nothing enraged white people more than a black person demonstrating autonomy.

This is why white men, after acts of violence and murder, are often arrested without incident.  A police officer does not perceive autonomous acts of a white person – holding or pointing a gun, resisting arrest, demanding your rights, or fleeing from police – as a threat to our society’s structure of power.  However, when a black person acts in these same ways, they are perceived as a threat.  They are threatening a white person’s superiority.

In these past few days, we’ve seen the depth of this cultural double standard.  Thousands of white people gathered in Washington DC, many openly stating a desire to occupy the Capitol.  However, police leaders – mostly white – did not see them as a threat and were ill prepared for riots and insurrection.  They took none of the precautions that they took only months ago when thousands of black people descended on the capital.  A gathering of black people was a threat.  A gathering of white people reinforced white supremacy.

Once this gathering turned into a riot, is it any wonder that the police officers at the Capitol building seemed so confused and inept.  That so few rioters were arrested.  That some officers seemed sympathetic.  An American policing system focused on controlling black bodies was ill prepared to handle a white riot.  Without the white rage that inspires a swift and brutal response to any act of black autonomy, the police response at our Capitol lacked inspiration.  They were pathetic.

In the months ahead, we have another opportunity to examine policing and racism in America.   We must defund all those parts of American policing that focus on controlling black bodies.  We must develop new protocols for the use of deadly force and hold officers accountable for violating them.  We must create systems to handle mental illness and deescalate confrontations.  We must retrain police officers to understand their historic and personal biases. 

Most of all, we must allow black people to run away.

My Best Blog Posts of 2020

My Best Blog Posts of 2020

Each New Year’s Day, I take a few minutes to look at the statistics Word Press provides about my blog’s readership. In 2020, I had about 33,000 readers, mostly from the United States, United Kingdom and Canada, but spread across the globe. If you’re reading this, you probably one of those readers. Thanks for reading, responding, thinking and acting. It is gratifying to a writer when he or she is read. I am especially thankful to the nearly 600 people who follow the blog.

Most readers don’t. They encounter one of my posts on Facebook. It is always interesting to see which blogs were the most shared. They are often not the ones I expected. Indeed, some of the posts about which I felt most strongly were poorly read. Which is one of the reasons I enjoy this annual review. In this blog, I highlight some of most read posts in 2020, but I also mention some I wish more people had read. If you missed some of them, you might want to begin 2021 with some thoughts about racism in America.

Most Read in 2020

I probably spend too much time on Facebook. However, it is my primary way of staying connected to so many important black voices and perspectives. It is also the place where I challenge many of the racist posts and memes of my white peers. In so doing, I’ve become somewhat of an expert on the racist tropes of today. In the blog, Six Racist Facebook Posts You Should Never Share, I identify six of the tropes most commonly shared. Over 20,000 people read the post and it continues to be shared widely.

Most Impactful

In October, someone sprayed racist graffiti on our backyard shed – twice. In the blog, My Daughter Matters, I chronicle those events. Our antagonist was clearly upset by our Black Lives Matter sign. Though the culprit was never caught, I wish they knew how many people they inspired to finally place their own sign in their yard or window. We know of dozens who found the courage in response to our experience. That event also gave my wife and I a small glimpse into the terror and sadness our black friends know daily.

Most Gratifying

I have been writing this blog for four years. Slowly, the blog has found readership in universities across the country. Many university classes and racial awareness websites have begun to use one or more of my posts to teach anti-racism. While none of these blogs were written this year, they have all gained significant readership. When Compliments Are Racist helps people understand the many microaggressions hidden in white commentary. Things I Didn’t Know has become a tool to help people discover how little they know about the history of enslavement and racism. The Culture of Whiteness is cited by several websites as a clear explanation of something many white people cannot see. Finally, Are You Anti-Racist offers a quick set of questions to determine where a person stands in the fight against racism.

Most Angry

In August, I found myself increasingly angry about the response of many to the pandemic. I couldn’t understand how so many seemed so cavalier and ignorant. One day, I realized that many of the people who passed on memes suggesting the virus was a hoax were also the people who passed on racist tropes. In the blog, Why Racism Deniers Don’t Wear Masks, I shared by conclusions about this correlation. In the follow-up blog, Why Racists Hate Science, I figured out what this represents.

Most Important

For four straight years, one of the top ten most read blogs has been How To Tell If Someone Is Racist With One Simple Question. Over 250,000 people have read this blog. It has generated more comments than all of my other blogs combined. It has been reviled by some and celebrated by others. I continue to believe its simple approach to determining someone’s racism is valid. As we begin a new administration and the opportunity to talk once again about reparations, I’d encourage you to reread this blog and its two follow-ups.

Blogs I Wished More People Had Read

Every year, there are blogs that don’t resonate. Sometimes I wonder if the title wasn’t provocative enough, or if Facebook algorithms didn’t like the content. More likely, these blogs are painful to read. The blogs that don’t get shared are often blogs that expose a reality we don’t want to acknowledge. There are three blogs this year that I believe fit the category – painful, frightening and absolutely essential. It Ain’t Just About George Floyd challenges Americans to understand why Floyd’s death was so traumatic for black people. The Myth of A Few Bad Apples confronts our unwillingness to understand the racist brutality of American policing. How To Keep America White may be the most frightening post I’ve written in four years.

Postscript

One last note before I close. I’ve noticed many posts receive very few comments. That may be my biggest disappointment about the blog. I had hoped it would be good place for people to discuss the topics I present, offer differing opinions and wrestle with next steps. That hasn’t happened. I don’t know why. I try to always respond to every comment with patience and graciousness. If you’re a regular reader, please know that I would love to interact with you more in 2021.

When It Comes To Racism, Christianity Doesn’t Matter.

When It Comes To Racism, Christianity Doesn’t Matter.

As we approach one of Christianity’s holy days, I’ve been thinking about the role Christianity has played in racism in America.  How has Christian belief impacted racism positively or negatively in our society, both in the past and present?  As some suggest, would more church attendance, prayer or a spiritual revival lead to a less racist America?  I’ll admit to being pessimistic.

If anything, these past four years have reinforced my opinion that Christianity doesn’t make anyone less racist.  As I’ve interacted with Christians on Facebook and my blog, I have noticed that some people who call Jesus Christ their Lord and Savior repeat racist tropes and share racist memes and some of those following Jesus challenge those same tropes and memes.  When I mentioned this to a Christian friend, he argued that “real” Christians aren’t racist.  Of course, who gets to define real?

Curious about what science has discovered, I found a wealth of evidence that religious affiliation has no significant impact on whether a person is less racist.  Variables like higher levels of education, wealth, age and economic opportunity are far better predictors of whether someone is anti-racist.  Old, uneducated, poor people are the most likely to be racist.  Whether they claim Jesus as Lord and Savior is generally irrelevant.

Sadly, if anything, racism may increase with Christian allegiance, especially with white people.  In the 1960’s, studies by the famous psychologist Gordon Allport found racism strongest in fundamentalist and evangelical Christian groups, present but less pronounced in liberal Christian circles and far less common with agnostics and atheists.  In more recent studies, Robert P. Jones, author of “White Too Long: The Legacy of White Supremacy in American Christianity” has continued to find strong correlations between racism and Allport’s categories.   While all these studies were measuring correlations and not cause and effect, there isn’t much support for those who argue Christianity can solve your present racial differences. 

Last year, at an anti-racism workshop, I participated in a Q and A with a local black pastor and activist.  He and I were on the same page about state of racial relations in America, but I was surprised by his answer when someone asked for solutions.  He replied, “The love of God and the witness of the church are the primary tools for ending racism.”  I responded, “I wish I could be as optimistic, but I’ve found Christianity – as a whole – to have sustained and supported white supremacy rather than to have challenged it.”

This is such an irony to me.  When I left Christianity and became an atheist, some Christian friends worried I couldn’t be a moral person without being a Christian.  They inferred that without a Christian framework I would be less moral and more selfish.  What I discovered – after a time of transition – was an increased interest and commitment on my part to examining my behavior, attitudes, and opinions.  Indeed, my awareness of my own racism and passion for anti-racism occurred after I left the church. 

This is not to say a person cannot be genuinely anti-racist AND Christian or that some of their rationale and motivation for being anti-racist may use Christian themes or terminology.  Throughout the Civil Rights Movement, significant leadership came from Christian leaders, both black and white.  But I would argue that what they shared in common with their atheist and agnostic peers is far more important than what they shared with their Christian companions. Three central commitments – none of which are uniquely Christian – drove those who were passionately anti-racist

A commitment to equity over equality

An anti-racist understands the difference between equity and equality.  Many racist people give lip service – if not support – to equality.  Indeed, those opposed to affirmative action are quick to champion equality.  However, a commitment to equality can never end systemic racism.  It can only perpetuate the status quo.  Equity focuses on leveling opportunity and mitigating past disadvantages.  Equality focuses only on the present.  Equity takes historic realities into account, seeking ways to correct the inequalities of the past. 

A commitment to inclusivity over diversity

An anti-racist understands the difference between inclusivity and diversity.  Most white people recognize the right of people of color to have access to the same places and positions as white people.  Many support diversity.  It never occurs to them that – in 1860 – the most diverse places in America were Southern plantations.  Diversity is largely meaningless without inclusivity.  Inclusivity focuses on shared power and decision making.  It means giving people of color far more than a chair at the table.  It requires passing them the gavel. 

A commitment to repair over reconciliation.

An anti-racist understands the difference between repair and reconciliation.  Many white people are supportive of racial reconciliation, especially if it requires nothing more from them than a few niceties.  When black activists start asking for apologies, they are accused of damaging racial relations.  When they speak of reparations, they are accused of opposing equality.  Ironically, repair may be the most Christian of these three commitments.  Christianity is clear that saying you’re sorry is never enough.  The truly repentant commits to repairing the damage they have done.

These three commitments are the most predictive of whether a person is anti-racist.  Creating people with these understandings is far more important than converting more people to Christianity.  Those with these commitments will also challenge the obstacles to these understandings – lack of education, opportunity, and resource. 

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. understood this need to expand the conversation beyond the early Christian rhetoric of the Civil Right Movement.  In the months before his death, he began to organize a new movement – the Poor People’s Campaign – aimed not at addressing racism, but the deep societal disparities that made racism so enduring.

King said, “We have moved from the era of civil rights to the era of human rights, an era where we are called upon to raise certain basic questions about the whole society. We have been in a reform movement…But after Selma and the voting rights bill, we moved into a new era, which must be the era of revolution. We must recognize that we can’t solve our racial problem now until there is a radical redistribution of economic and political power.”

It was statements like this that lead many whites – even some who had applauded his earlier speeches – to accuse King and his movement of being communist.  It is no surprise he was assassinated soon after these words.  In the end, an anti-racist is far more likely to be accused of being a Socialist than a Christian.  And rightly so.

Which is why – when it comes to racism – Christianity doesn’t matter.

Why Racists Hate Science

Why Racists Hate Science

Over these past four years, many Republicans, conservatives, evangelicals and the like have demonstrated less and less respect for the conclusions of science.  They often suggest science is just someone’s opinion.  Facts, proven by science, are open to interpretation.  When President Trump said a hurricane would impact Alabama, the scientists were asked to change their prognostications rather than confuse Trump with the facts. Trump voters are much more likely to think the pandemic a hoax.

This present reality shouldn’t surprise us.  Conservatives have been moving in an anti-scientific direction for several decades.  Years ago, I visited the state-of-the-art Creationist museum outside Cincinnati, Ohio and saw the lengths some will go to ignore science.  What I didn’t understand back then is that much of this ignorance and scientific disdain was directly connected to the protection of white supremacy.  Though science has often been coopted by white supremacy, it is ultimately the enemy of racism.

Racism is unscientific.

At its very core, race has no scientific merit.  Race is a political and social construct and not a biological category.  All human beings are part of the same species.  Genetic differences between human beings are negligible and largely cosmetic.  For this reason, almost everything people say about race is false.  Science says otherwise.

While science has debunked the most racist rhetoric of the past, when people argued for the genetic superiority of white people, science has also called into question modern racist assertions.  Nearly everything racists argue is disputed by scientific fact.

Racists like to say they don’t see color.

Science finds this ridiculous.  Studies have shown that babies note the differences between people of different skin colors at six months of age.  By the time children are five years old, studies demonstrate racial bias.  Every human being sees differences in skin color.  This capability is not the problem.  Indeed, seeing differences is important.  What is problematic is how quickly our society teaches children to attach value judgments to different skin colors.  Children quickly absorb the racist prejudices of their surroundings.

Racists like to say they treat everyone the same.

Science proves this false.  Studies have shown that by the age of twelve, both white and black children demonstrate a pro-white bias.  This bias becomes stronger and more durable with age.  All of us – racists and anti-racists – exhibit this bias.  Studies have demonstrated the presence of a pro-white bias with judges, jurists, police officers, doctors, social workers and countless others.  Ironically, those who argue they treat everyone the same are more likely to act on their bias.  Understanding that we don’t treat everyone the same is a necessary deterrent to racism.

Racists like to say systemic racism doesn’t exist.

Scientific evidence for systemic racism is as solid as the evidence for gravity.  Hundreds of studies have demonstrated the existence of both intentional and unintentional racist bias in every American system.  There is not a single societal measure where black people fare better than white people in the United States.  There can only be two explanations for these disparities.  Either black people are genetically inferior – which science has proven false – or our systems are biased against them.  Anyone arguing against systemic racism is racist.

Racists like to say whites are not privileged.

Science has identified countless examples of white privilege.  This white privilege does not mean that every white person does better than every black people.  It simply means that in our society – because of systemic racism – white people are at an advantage over black people when facing the same circumstances.  The very fact that we call it “privilege” instead of “unfair advantage” is a demonstration of pro-white bias.

While it is comforting to know science has so completely refuted any reasonable justification for the racist rhetoric of our day, we must not be lulled into complacency.  The last four years have been an illustration of the dangers of a white supremacist society’s growing antagonism toward science.  Indeed, white supremacy is more than willing to abandon scientific progress if that is necessary to sustain a racist, patriarchal hierarchy.  Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale” should be seen as a warning rather than dystopian fiction.

Racists hate science. I first addressed this frightening trend in a recent blog entitled “Why Racism Deniers Don’t Wear Masks”  I had noticed those on my Facebook page who consistently scoffed at arguments for systemic racism and white privilege were often the same people calling the pandemic a hoax and refusing to wear masks.  Initially, I thought this a simple correlation.  Now I believe it to be a cause and effect.  Racism causes people to be anti-intellectual.

The more clearly science undercuts the rationalizations for white supremacy, the more white supremacists will oppose science.  They do so not because science is false.  They reject it because its truths challenge their privilege and status.  Unfortunately, once racists reject the scientific conclusions about racism, they must reject nearly everything else science suggests, especially if it differs from their personal wishes or inclinations.  Science becomes their enemy.

Anti-intellectualism and racism are not two different movements in modern America.  They are different heads of the same monstrosity.  Scratch the surface of someone who is anti-intellectual and you’ll almost always find a racist underneath. Once we understand this, we can expose anti-intellectualism for what it is – another white supremacist strategy.