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October 18 – Racism in America

In 1712, William Lynch stood on the bank of the James River and gave a speech, the topic, How to Make a Slave. His secret, separation, intimidation and manipulation. We know about the whippings. But the manipulation between old and young, and especially between male and female, we most likely did not.

Willie Lynch’s idea was to change the hierarchy of the family, making the woman the strong, independent one and the male the weaker by removing him from the family, often whipping him, selling him or even killing him-in an effort to show him as weak. That way, the child becomes dependent upon the female psychologically, spiritually. Willies’ idea of taking the male away from the female after a child is born to make the child dependent upon their mother may, in my opinion, be seen in many of today’s families still.

Just an example of the strength of family history and domestication in the life of African Americans.

We have looked at both white privilege and racial history. Even I, who grew up very poor, in a food insecure household for half of my childhood, I understand that I had and probably still have, white privilege.

And I believe that when we begin with admitting we had a start, however small, we still had a start over people of color.

And from there, once we admit to that privilege, we can open our eyes to see our racism and start learning to resolve it…where did it come from and what do we do with it, how do we release it from our minds and especially, from our hearts.

For that, we see guidance everywhere in the Bible: for example, from Philippians 2:3-4

“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”

It is within OUR interests to remove racism from our hearts. We each start with ourselves and so begin the transformation of our nation. Remember, peace begins with each of us.

I have something I found on FB from David Gamble, Jr., a black man. He posted it June 13th and it has been shared over 94000 times, with over 1000 comments, mostly of appreciation. This is part of that essay, giving us a brief look at racism in our country:

David writes:

I grew up in Reno, Nevada.

In third grade a boy confidently tells me and my brother that his mom said black people cannot swim because our muscles are different than those of white people.

In middle school, standing among a group of white classmates talking about video games, I am the only black child. One classmate expresses surprise that my family has enough money to afford a PlayStation.

In high school, my brother is at a teen house party that gets broken up by police, a common occurrence. The kids at the party scatter, also a common occurrence. My brother, the only black child in attendance, is the only one on whom a police officer draws a firearm to get him to stop running away. He is 14.

In high school, a group of my white friends frequently sneak on to the outdoor basketball courts at an athletic club to play. They can usually play for hours, including with club members. On the two occasions I attend, club members complained, and we are ejected from the club within minutes.

In high school, I am excited about black history month and am talking to a friend about black inventors. My friend snorts and says, “Black people have never invented anything.”

In college I am standing in a group of white friends on campus. A white acquaintance of one of my friends approaches to chat. The acquaintance tells a story about something that frustrated him and then reels off a series of expletives ending with the N word. None of my friends corrects him.

In college I visit an antique shop in Auburn, California with my girlfriend, who is white, and her parents. The shopkeeper follows me around the store whistling loudly as I browse, until we leave.

I move to San Diego, California for law school.

In law school, during a discussion in my criminal law class, a white classmate suggests that police officers should take a suspect’s race into account when determining whether there is reasonable suspicion to believe that an individual is committing a crime.

The weekend of my law school graduation my family comes to San Diego. I go to the mall with my brother and sister and visit the Burberry store. Two different employees follow us around the store – never speaking to us – until we leave.

After law school, I return to Reno.

I attend a pub crawl with friends. We end up at a party in a hotel suite in downtown Reno. I am greeted by a white man at the door who loudly expresses surprise that I am an “educated negro” upon hearing me speak.

I walk a friend who is a white woman from a restaurant to her car because it is night- time. As we stand by the car chatting, a police officer pulls up and shines a light on us, asking if everything is okay. Once my friend confirms, the officer drives away. I tell her that he was worried about her, she teasingly says, “Oh yeah, because you’re so scary.” Later, I tell another white friend I felt racially profiled by the officer. My friend shrugs and says, “I don’t know man, that’s a stretch.”

A white friend tells me that white voters have become upset at black people because of black people’s liberal use of food welfare benefits. When I point out that more whites than blacks receive welfare benefits in the U.S., my friend expresses confusion at how that could be the case.

I discover that one of my clients does not want me to represent him as his Public Defender because he does not want a black attorney. I am given the option to withdraw as counsel. I do not.

Last year, I am at a barbecue chatting with a white acquaintance who asks if I have ever experienced racism. When I say it is a nearly daily occurrence, the acquaintance retorts, without missing a beat, that that is “BS.”

Before any of these instances, my family of origin moved to Reno, Nevada from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1984.

My mother recently told me that when I was a very young child my parents hired a company to remove a tree from our front lawn. Two white men showed up and removed the tree. One of them carved a swastika into the stump. My father had to confront him and ask him to remove it.

Before that, my now 93 -year-old grandfather served in the Army National Guard and was stationed in the U.S. south. Despite being active duty, he was not allowed to eat in restaurants due to “whites only” signage. He had to wait for fellow Guardsmen to bring him food outside.

Not long before that, my family were slaves, owned by Americans of English and Irish descent, which is why – despite being primarily of African descent – I have an English last name.

This is my experience of being black in America. To be black in America is to be told over and over that you are not good enough, that you do not belong, that you are genetically unfit, that your physical presence is undesirable, and that everything about you – right down to your lips – is wrong. It is absolutely true that everyone experiences hardships in life, but the psychological weight of being told both explicitly and implicitly, on a daily basis, that your very existence is objectionable can at times feel unbearable.

And despite this experience, I still love my country, my state, and my city. Despite my experience, I would not choose to be anything other than a black American. The history of black people in this country is one of struggle and triumph.

Our people were brought to this country as slaves and against all odds, in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles, have made our mark. Through slavery, poll taxes, literacy tests, redlining, and black codes we have persevered. Through the unspeakable horrors of mass lynching’s, the Tuskegee syphilis experiments; and the massacres at Tulsa and Rosewood, we have persevered.

Bass Reeves, Dovey Johnson Roundtree, Sarah Boone, Oscar Micheaux, Shirley Chisholm, Dorie Miller, Susie King Taylor, Georgia Gilmore, Octavius Catto, Jack Johnson, Garrett Morgan, James W.C. Pennington. These are just a handful of extraordinary and oft forgotten black Americans who helped to mold and preserve the American Dream. These individuals and their accomplishments should not be regarded as “black history,” but rather as American history.

I am an American of privilege, which makes me an African American of great privilege. I am an attorney. I live in a safe neighborhood. My children do not worry about their next meal. I can afford child-care. My family can afford personal vehicles. If my children become sick, I can take them to the doctor.

If I am this privileged, and these have been my experiences, primarily in my own hometown, often with friends and acquaintances who are fond of me, and of whom I remain fond even now; just imagine what daily life must be like for a black person in this country who does not enjoy my level of privilege.

The protests in the streets of America are certainly about the killing of George Floyd, but not just about George Floyd. They are about countless black men, women, and children for whom the punishment did not fit the crime – if indeed there was a crime at all. We live in a country where, in order to recall what life under Jim Crow felt like, many white Americans must pick up a history book. Meanwhile, many black Americans need only pick up a telephone, and call their parents.

When we as people of color share our experiences, we are not doing so to score political points, “play the race card,” get sympathy, assign blame, or to make you feel bad about yourself. We are asking you for help. We are asking you to join us in the ongoing fight against racism in our country, because we cannot do it alone. It will take Americans of every stripe to eradicate racism from American society.

I am now asking for your help. Please seek truth and knowledge. When sharing information, please check your sources and make sure that they are reliable. Try to place what is happening today into a historical context. Read about systemic racism and anti-racism. When your friends of color tell you that racism is real and affecting their lives, believe them and then, if you can, do something about it.

My children are likely to attend the same middle school and high school that I did. It is my great hope for them that those around them have the knowledge, compassion, and guidance to know better than to daily deluge them with words that make them doubt their intelligence, their beauty, and their worth as human beings based only on the color of their skin; and instead judge them by the content of their character.

It is for all of the above reasons, and so many more that we proudly say #blacklivesmatter

That was an essay from David Gamble, Jr. I thought it important to hear his message as we conclude our series on racism.

We are all, people of color and white people, burdened with our history of racial injustice. The onus is on all of us to confront our nation’s legacy of intolerance. Ask yourself, what is yours to do? Yes, start with yourself…ask questions, talk with others, reach out to learn what you can do for yourself and for our country, to make a change in this world. Knowledge is the key to understanding.

OUR Principles tell us that we are all one, with Divine Spirit as our Source, in and all around us. And as we learn more about our world and those in it, that knowledge brings us to new understanding. And once we know, we can’t go back. There is only forward.

So, ask what is yours to do, no matter what it is…it doesn’t need be some big Martin Luther King, Jr. type movement…every little bit helps.  And it starts with each of us.

Remember,

“There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.” — Galatians 3:28


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