The Links That Changed Me | White Supremacy

white supremacy reading and resources
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Articles and pieces that speak to the types of questions, fallacies, and misinformation I’ve seen on my personal social media feeds. I admit that I meant to get this up sooner – and, in fact, I meant to read much more before now – but I am currently working more than 40 hours a week as a chaplain at a hospital and the transition has been more emotionally overwhelming than anticipated.

Christian Response

Christian Atheism by J. Kameron Carter:

I’m not talking about the atheism of the likes of Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, or the late Christopher Hitchens. The atheism I’m talking about entails social, political, and intellectual struggle, not against some god-in-the-abstract, but rather against a specific or particular god: the “American god.” What I hear in Dr. Butler’s term the “American god”—and what, I think, we all must hear—is not a condemnation of America as such, but rather the courage to name its idolatries so that we can be a different, more just United States of America, “not a perfect, but a more perfect union,” as President Barack Obama said last week in his most poignant comments to-date on race in America.

And just as we cannot talk about god-in-the-abstract, nor can we speak of idolatry-in-the-abstract. The white, western god-man is an idol that seeks to determine what is normal. It is a norm by which society governs the body politic or regulates, measures, evaluates, and indeed judges what is proper or improper, what is acceptable or suspicious citizenship. It is this idol, the idol of the “American god,” that is the symbolic figure Zimmerman identified himself with and in relationship to which he judged Trayvon Martin as, in effect, religiously wanting—wanting in proper citizenship, and ultimately wanting in humanity…

What I’m in effect calling for is a Christianity uncoupled from this nation-state project, from the project of social purity or “proper” Americanness, with its (racially inflected) legal protocols and its vision of racialized criminality and institutions of incarceration. I’m calling for a Christianity that no longer provides religious sanction or the cloak of righteousness to the political project of U.S. sovereignty and its vision of who is normal (and in the right place) and who is abnormal (and thus out of place). I’m calling for a Christianity whose animating logic is no longer tied to that false “god-man.” The “god” of (or that is) whiteness is a god toward which we must be thoroughgoing atheists and religionless.

Episcopal bishop on President Trump: ‘Everything he has said and done is to inflame violence’

“Let me be clear: the president just used a Bible…and one of the churches of my Diocese without our permission as a backdrop to a message antithetical to the teachings of Jesus and everything the church should stand for…I am outraged. The president did not pray nor did he acknowledge the agony of our country right now, and particularly people of color in our nation who wonder if the people in power will ever acknowledge their sacred words and 400 years of systemic racism and white supremacy…We follow someone who lived a life of nonviolence and sacrificial love. We align ourselves with those seeking justice.”

Police Corruption

Protests about police brutality are met with wave of police brutality across US

“The International Crisis Group, which monitors unrest around the world, said the police had used “excessive force”. The UN high commissioner for human rights, Michelle Bachelet, said: ‘All police officers who resort to excessive use of force should be charged and convicted for the crimes committed.’”

FBI warned of white supremacists in law enforcement 10 years ago. Has anything changed? by Kenya Downs

In the 2006 bulletin, the FBI detailed the threat of white nationalists and skinheads infiltrating police in order to disrupt investigations against fellow members and recruit other supremacists. The bulletin was released during a period of scandal for many law enforcement agencies throughout the country, including a neo-Nazi gang formed by members of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department who harassed black and Latino communities. Similar investigations revealed officers and entire agencies with hate group ties in Illinois, Ohio and Texas.

Police Erupt in Violence Nationwide by Matthew Dessem

“The ongoing protests following the killing of George Floyd were caught up in violence again on Saturday, as police all over the country tear-gassed protesters, drove vehicles through crowds, opened fire with nonlethal rounds on journalists or people on their own property, and in at least one instance, pushed over an elderly man who was walking away with a cane. Here are some of the ways law enforcement officers escalated the national unrest.”

MLK and Malcolm X

This is the telegram MLK sent Malcolm X’s wife after her husband’s assassination by Phil Edwards

It’s common to view Malcolm X entirely in opposition to King. However, in a 1988 interview, King’s wife Coretta Scott King lent a more complete perspective to the pair and their relationship, which she implied would have flourished if they had lived longer:

“‘I think they respected each other. Martin had the greatest respect for Malcolm and he agreed with him in, and, in terms of the feeling of racial pride and the fact that Black people should believe in themselves and see themselves as, as lovable and beautiful. The fact that Martin had had a strong feeling of connectedness to Africa and so did Malcolm. Ah, I think if he had lived, and if the two had lived, I am sure that at some point they would have come closer together and would have been a very strong force in the total struggle for liberation and self determination of Black people in our society.‘”

What would Martin Luther King Jr. say about the current civil unrest? by Peniel Joseph

“We know how King would respond to our current mean season of political unrest, racial division and state-sanctioned violence. He understood much more than the fact that “riots were the language of the unheard.” He eloquently argued that the racial upheaval gripping the country during the 1960s was the direct result of white supremacy’s uncanny hold on every aspect of American life, from public schools, housing and health care to criminal justice, employment and domestic and foreign policy.”

Who Defines Racism?

Who gets to define what’s ‘racist’? by Musa al-Gharbi

”What is more plausible is that many whites, in their eagerness to present themselves as advocates for people of color and the cause of antiracism, neglect to actually listen to ordinary black or brown folk about what they find offensive, or what their racial priorities are.

White elites —who play an outsized role in defining racism in academia, the media, and the broader culture — instead seem to define ‘racism’ in ways that are congenial to their own preferences and priorities. Rather than actually dismantling white supremacy or meaningfully empowering people of color, efforts often seem to be oriented towards consolidating social and cultural capital in the hands of the ‘good’ whites…”

Allyship

Performative Allyship Is Deadly (Here’s What to Do Instead)

“Sometimes real activism requires us to step up and shout. But far more often, it requires us to carry out simple daily acts that no one will ever see. If, on reflection, everything you do is public, it’s likely you’re a performative ally. Challenge yourself to do things quietly, like changing the things you buy, giving your platform to a BIPOC, or educating yourself on the history of racism without telling everyone about how educated you now are. That way, you know you’re really down for the cause — and not the cause of looking like a woke person.“

Implicit Bias

Take implicit bias tests from Harvard’s Project Implicit to learn more about your deeply held biases, many of which may respond against your conscious intentions. Heads up, though. Taking each test once probably won’t give you definite data:

For years, this popular test measured anyone’s racial bias. But it might not work after all.

Other Recommendations:

I have found that reading long form narratives has often had a deeper impact on me than articles and sociological studies. I recommend anything by Toni Morrison, The Autobiography of Malcolm X, Americanah, the poetry of Amiri Baraka, and taking a deep dive into the sermons and speeches of Martin Luther King Jr.. I also highly recommend The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander. If you’re looking for theology, I recommend Jesus and the Disinherited by Howard Thurman.

I hope to take more courses on Black Theology and Black Social and Political Thought during my time in seminary, and will have more to share in the future.

While I acknowledge that there are many incredible voices using social media for educative purposes around white supremacy, I do not tend to engage with social media in a proactive enough way to be able to offer recommendations, and I find that longer form content outside of the strained atmosphere of public commentary can do more good while trying to course correct.

4 comments

  1. I am not a religious person anymore, but I was raised Episcopal. My parents made me go and once high school was over they let me decide what I wanted to do and I stopped going. I don’t believe in God, but I believe people who mean well in religion have the power and compassion to help others. I read the Episcopal bishop article on the Washington Post and it made me very happy – proud I dare say – that the bishop said these things because they are true. It’s good to see the church confront these issues and confront a tyrant.

    1. I appreciate your response. Certainly, the Episcopal Church has a lot of structural work to do in addressing privilege (all kinds!) and its historical ties to the slave trade (which I didn’t actually know about until moving to New England). But I agree, the bishop’s comments were thoughtful and incisive.

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