Monday, September 10, 2012

Heritage and Hatred

The license plate read “Heritage Not Hate."
Right on the front of the pick-up truck it made me think. With a Confederate flag as its background it made me wonder: Does that heritage come without hate?
Who celebrates the antebellum South? 
It turns out lots of people do. They celebrate it with Confederate flags and Civil War re-enactments. They celebrate it by whistling Dixie and loving “Gone with the Wind.” They mourn it's passing by renovating elaborate monuments to human misery that once dotted the southern landscape. They call these monuments plantations and pledge their undying love for each other on the buildings' steps. That time is a time steeped in nostalgia, and if there is one thing people love, it is nostalgia.
But how do you divorce the heritage from the hatred? Do you ignore the backbone of the South, the soul-destroying practice of enslaving humans that made the entire shebang function so smoothly? Do you ignore the birth of the Klan, the rise of Jim Crow and the systematic attempts to recreate slavery without violating the Constitution? How many mint juleps must you consume to perform that level of mental gymnastics?
It is hard to respect someone who won’t acknowledge the obvious. It’s almost impossible to accept people who never want to pay the cost of the beliefs they espouse.
If you love that South, don’t try to pretend that it was something it wasn’t. Don’t try to sell us this dream that it was just good ol’ boys working hard and playing harder.
Own up to what that time really was about for your ancestors and mine. Admit what they tried to accomplish, and what you still resent that they failed to do. Otherwise, I refuse to take you seriously.
It is a heritage steeped in hatred. There is no separating the two, and it doesn’t matter how many bumper stickers and license plates say otherwise.
Have enough self-respect to refuse to accept the easy lie.


Thursday, August 23, 2012

Black President Re-cap

If you haven't already you should really check out Ta-nehisi Coates latest piece in the Atlantic about President Obama. It touches on many of the topics we've discussed here at the blog over the years, and raises what some black folks see as the central debate about Obama's presidency.

Was it worth it?

Well, that's the way I read the piece at its core. Coates seems to be asking whether having a black president was worth the uptick in racism and the ridiculous attempts to downplay the effects of racism that have followed Obama's ascent. Moreover, Coates seems to be asking if it was worth all the hope and faith black folks invested in what Obama's presidency meant considering the fact that in order for him to be president he had to sacrifice or hide some of the very sentiments many black folks want a black president to express.

Let's be honest, most of us didn't expect Obama to be a revolutionary in the White House. Yet, deep in our hearts we likely hoped that at some point he would have a real talk with white folks. We hoped that eventually he would let white folks know exactly where the world stands and what part they played in getting it here. We knew this was unlikely and would probably be the end of his political career. But I'm willing to wager that most black folks expected that if we weren't going to get special treatment from the nation's first black president, we would at least get the unvarnished "Truth About White Folks" at some point.

That hasn't happened. I'm a big Obama fan and think the brother has done an admirable job in the face of ridiculous opposition. I'm proud to have voted for him. Unlike many, I know he's reformed the Justice Department and provided needed services to the poor. I know he's tried hard to undo the conservative evil wrought by Bush and his cronies. But, I also know that he's done all that while being extra careful to avoid offending the racial sensibilities of white folks.

Look, every black person who works for white folks or with white folks knows why that tact was necessary. There are very few other paths available to many of us. But I'd wager that most of us were hoping that Obama's seat at the big table would provide an opportunity for him to display righteous indignation at least some of the time. His indignation would have expressed the things we've always wanted to say, but often had to bite back because of other concerns. After all, being the Leader of the Free World should at least come with that perk, right?

Coates explores exactly why this hasn't happened and why it's unlikely to happen. He also discusses what that means for black folks in the long run, and whether Obama's success will have unintended consequences like the once heralded rush towards integration. Check out the brother's work when you get a chance.


God Of The Poor

When was the last time you examined the Old Testament?

I understand that's not the most popular part of the Bible. All that "Thou shall not" seems to make people pretty uncomfortable. And while Americans and humans in general tend to love violence and sex in every other book, it feels a tad out of place to many folks in the holy word of God. I get that, really I do.

But, I've been spending some time in the Old Testament, just picking books at random and reading until I'm finished. In my studies I've discovered two very important things. One, the God of the Old Testament displays all of the same qualities as the Jesus of the New Testament. For those scoring at home, that means he has always been incredibly merciful and loving. The second thing is that human beings really, really don't change.

The first point will have to wait for another post, , but I do want to say now that I found it to be the most inspiring part of my reading.  The second point is the focus of this post, particularly how this truth was driven home in my mind. It wasn't the stories of rape, murder, lying and thieving that made me comprehend the immutable nature of humanity. Those things were simply the result of a larger problem. Basically, we humans are just incredibly and amazingly selfish.

Now some of you are shaking your heads, secure in the knowledge that you and those you know care about others and do good deeds whenever possible. You likely dislike Christianity's allegiance to the concept of a "fallen man" born into sin. I understand you, but I think you're missing the message. Just because humans often do good doesn't mean we're not selfish. And just because we behave unselfishly does not mean that selfishness isn't innate. Consider the fact that every parent must teach their children to share, not to hoard.

But I discuss our selfishness for another reason. Do you know what God spent most of his time chastising Israel about in the Old Testament? First on the list was their proclivity for embracing other gods simply because that was easier and more popular. And second, God was constantly angry because his people refused to care for the poor, injured and desperate in their midst. This refusal came despite his repeated orders, and despite their own desperate pleas for his mercy.

Quite simply, it is amazing how often God discusses poverty and our responsibility to help the poor. People assume that Jesus was preaching some radical gospel, but the reality is that his teachings were perfectly aligned with God had been telling Israel for thousands of years. Jesus was basically asking the Jews of his time "When are you going to start listening to me?"

Exactly how responsible Christians are to the poor has always been a sticking point. Remember Jesus at one point allowed a lavish sum of money to be spent on him and chastised those who questioned the decision by noting that the poor would always be around. Some have taken that admonishment as proof that God want's his children to live in opulence.

This is obvious in America where the mostly white political right has wrapped itself in the mantle of Christianity although white people on the left are far less comfortable with religion. (I use white people because black people and Latinos are way more likely to express strong religious beliefs and still vote for Democrats.) It seems those folks who identify most closely with God are the ones vehemently opposed to political policies that attempt to correct longstanding economic inequities. Honestly, that's just not biblical.

Did you know that God supported socialism? Not only did the early church practice a small scale form of socialism by selling all of their worldly goods to support each other, but God himself ordained wealth redistribution.

For more proof, do a Google search on the term "Year of Jubilee" and read about how God planned for all land acquired through honest and dishonest means to be returned to its original owners every 50 years to insure that poverty wouldn't last for generations. (There is no evidence that Israel ever practiced this God-ordained rule.) Look at God's views on eradicating slavery, and the use of predatory interest rates. The more you read the Bible, the more you realize that while God has definite standards related to personal behavior, he is most concerned about how you treat him and how you treat those in need.

But, humans aren't interested in that sort of God. It clashes with the feelings of those believers who prefer the bootstraps ethos to its extreme. It clashes with those non-believers who don't want anyone telling them how to live. Human beings want to do what they want to do, and they don't care who says anything different. There really is nothing new under the sun.


Monday, August 20, 2012

A Brief Explanation

 It felt like it was time to go I'd said enough, and possibly said too much.. That's why I abruptly shutdown the blog. I'd become a casualty of the fickle economy, and in trying to position myself to find another job, I wondered if this blog was a positive. Sure, I post under a pseudonym, but it's not that hard to find out who I really am. How would it look in a job interview trying to explain exactly why I post my thoughts under the moniker of "Raving Black Lunatic"?

Turns out I was wrong.  I have plenty more to say, and if I have to explain why I write what I write, I'll do my best to make it plain.

There is still a need for lunatics, raving and black. So many things still bubble around inside the rusted cauldron that it is my brain, and I'll only make myself sick if I don't have a chance to express them. So I'm back, if anyone cares. And I will keep posting about race, religion and what being black means to me. I hope some of you will forgive my desertion and continue to check out what I have to say.


Raving Black Lunatic