Tag Archives: racism

Frederick Douglass

Agitate ×3

“Agitate! Agitate! Agitate!”

Frederick Douglass


“Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet depreciate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground.”

—Frederick Douglass


“Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe.”

—Frederick Douglass


I’m featuring three quotes today, and I could have featured a lot more. Douglass was prolific, wise, and arguably one of the greatest minds in America’s history. (Read up on him.) Over the last few weeks, I’ve been thinking a lot about Douglass’ words. I kept coming back to how poignant his speeches and writing remain over a century later. The work ain’t over. Racism, bigotry, and prejudice still plague our culture. The fight goes on. Lip service, phrases, quotes, and black squares on social media mean nothing without action. All lives won’t matter until Black Lives Matter, too.

The Conversation I Never Needed to Have

The Conversation I Never Needed to Have

Watch this.

I remember it happened twice. I was pulled over by the same Idaho State Patrol officer for speeding on the same quiet country road. I was 17/18 at the time; this was 1998/1999—I was easily doing twenty over the posted speed limit in both instances. My front bumper was sagging and broken in one car. (I later wrecked it.) The other was a rust bucket with a sour interior smell and only had one headlight. (I later sold it.) Both cars were a mess at the best of times. The first instance happened in the morning on the way to school. The latter late on a foggy night after a breakup. Same officer. Same infraction. Same road.

He let me go both times.

Why? Well, I could make a pretty solid guess. I’m white, and I’m male, and he was an occasional parishioner in my dad’s church. That’s privilege. I recognize this. Maybe not at the time but assuredly now as an adult. I never had a conversation with my parents like those in the video above. Sure I got the standard “respect cops” speech every kid receives, but nothing that compares. I never had the worry. I never had the fear. Never had the tears. I never faced that prejudice. That didn’t—it couldn’t—happen to me.

My skin color protects me. My gender protects me. My sexual orientation protects me. My status as a pastor’s kid protected me in both moments. That’s privilege. I didn’t have to worry about a broken headlight, reckless speeding, or a frumpy bumper being the sort of issue that could lead to my murder by the hands of police. I never worried about abuse. I never worried about spending the night in jail for doing next to nothing. Even now, the idea remains an alien concept. I’ve never had to fear police. I still don’t.

That’s privilege.

Growing up, it wasn’t a conversation topic in my home.

It shouldn’t be a conversation in anyone’s.

The fact it needs to is a travesty. If America is going to ever be great, it needs to start by being great for everyone.

Black. Lives. Matter.


FEATURED IMAGE CREDIT: © 2016 PACIFIC PRESS


Language of the Unheard

The Language of the Unheard

“Certain conditions continue to exist in our society, which must be condemned as vigorously as we condemn riots. But in the final analysis, a riot is the language of the unheard. And what is it that America has failed to hear? It has failed to hear that the plight of the Negro poor has worsened over the last few years. It has failed to hear that the promises of freedom and justice have not been met. And it has failed to hear that large segments of white society are more concerned about tranquility and the status quo than about justice, equality and humanity. And so in a real sense our nation’s summers of riots are caused by our nation’s winters of delay. And as long as America postpones justice, we stand in the position of having these recurrences of violence and riots over and over again.”

Martin Luther King Jr.

“Stop Police Killings, Selma March—Steve Shapiro, 1965”

Justice for Eric Garner. Justice for John Crawford III. Justice for Michael Brown. Justice for Ezell Ford. Justice for Dante Parker. Justice for Michelle Cusseaux. Justice for Laquan McDonald. Justice for Tanisha Anderson. Justice for Akai Gurley. Justice for Tami Rice. Justice for Rumain Brisbon. Justice for Jerame Reid. Justice for George Mann. Justice for Matthew Ajibade. Justice for Frank Smart. Justice for Natasha McKenna. Justice for Tony Robinson. Justice for Anthony Hill. Justice for Mya Hall. Justice for Phillip White. Justice for Eric Harris. Justice for Walter Scott. Justice for William Chapman II. Justice for Alexia Christian. Justice for Brendon Glenn. Justice for Victor Manuel Larosa. Justice for Jonathan Sanders. Justice for Freddie Blue. Justice for Joseph Mann. Justice for Salvado Ellswood. Justice for Sandra Bland. Justice for Albert Joseph Davis. Justice for Darrius Stewart. Justice for Billy Ray Davis. Justice for Samuel Dubose. Justice for Michael Sabbie. Justice for Brian Keith Day. Justice for Christian Taylor. Justice for Troy Robinson. Justice for Asshams Pharoah Manley. Justice for Felix Kumi. Justice for Keith Harrison McLeod. Justice for Junior Prosper. Justice for Lamontez Jones. Justice for Paterson Brown. Justice for Dominic Hutchinson. Justice for Anthony Ashford. Justice for Alonzo Smith. Justice for Tyree Crawford. Justice for India Kager. Justice for La’vante Biggs. Justice for Michael Lee Marshall. Justice for Jamar Clark. Justice for Richard Perkins. Justice for Nathaniel Harris Pickett. Justice for Benni Lee Tignor. Justice for Miguel Espinal. Justice for Michael Noel. Justice for Kevin Matthews. Justice for Bettie Jones. Justice for Quintonio Legrier. Justice for Keith Childress Junior. Justice for Janet Wilson. Justice for Randy Nelson. Justice for Antronie Scott. Justice for Wendell Celestine. Justice for David Joseph. Justice for Calin Roquemore. Justice for Dyzhawn Perkins. Justice for Christopher Davis. Justice for Marco Loud. Justice for Peter Gaines. Justice for Torrey Robinson. Justice for Darius Robinson. Justice for Kevin Hicks. Justice for Mary Truxillo. Justice for Demarcus Semer. Justice for Willie Tillman. Justice for Terrill Thomas. Justice for Sylville Smith. Justice for Alton Sterling. Justice for Philando Castile. Justice for Terence Crutcher. Justice for Paul O’Neal. Justice for Alteria Woods. Justice for Jordan Edwards. Justice for Aaron Bailey. Justice for Ronell Foster. Justice for Stephon Clark. Justice for Antwon Rose II. Justice for Botham Jean. Justice for Pamela Turner. Justice for Dominique Clayton. Justice for Atatiana Jefferson. Justice for Christopher Whitfield. Justice for Christopher McCorvey. Justice for Eric Reason. Justice for Michael Lorenzo Dean. Justice for Breonna Taylor. Justice for George Floyd. Justice for… Justice for… Justice for… Justice for… Justice for…

How long do we let this continue? How long do we allow society to choose tranquility over justice? How many people do you know, more outraged over property damage than they were over the murder of a black man? Racism has never gone away, we’re just able to record it now.

#BlackLivesMatter


FEATURED IMAGE CREDIT:  AP Photo/Julio Cortez


 

Why Early Cartoon Characters Wore Gloves

Why Early Cartoon Characters Wore Gloves

Ever since I first read it, historian Jason Steinhauer’s excellent 2017 essay “History is Not There to be Liked” has been rattling around in my head. His point of perpetuated myths often becoming more potent than reality has stuck with me. What we think of as normal can often have an unpleasant past obscured by more palatable lore or legend. It can be difficult for a culture to decouple the truth from its feelings toward a beloved myth.

Those thoughts cropped up again (around a less sober topic, surely) after I watched this excellent video from Vox on the reasons why so many cartoon characters wear gloves and the unfortunate connection between early animation and minstrelsy. It’s a nice bit of investigation around the craft of animation and the historical connations therein—worth checking out.


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William Pickens

Our Blindness

“To cheapen the lives of any group of men, cheapens the lives of all men, even our own. This is a law of human psychology, or human nature. And it will not be repealed by our wishes, nor will it be merciful to our blindness.”

William Pickens


A lot has been on my mind over the last three days. The hate on display in Charlottesville is the antithesis of the America I was raised to believe in, and it sickens me. In the aftermath of an event like this, a lackluster response those from those in power can resonate. It doesn’t take a decent person three days to solidify their opinion on racism, bigotry, and hate.

It can be disheartening to see failures in leadership, and that can bring about cycles of depression and despair. If you find yourself in those places, I would encourage you to stay strong. Do not lose hope. Get active. Be a help to the helpless, be a voice for the voiceless, and defend the defenseless. As I said in November last year: despair isn’t how you defeat evil. Action is.

 

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame, With conquering limbs astride from land to land; Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame. "Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

Defending the Defenseless

Over the last week, America has seen an uptick of hateful intimidation and harassment towards minority people and groups. The Southern Poverty Law Center has reported over two-hundred cases alone, it’s been on the news, Jim C. Hines has a collection of incidents on his site, and activists like Shaun King have been keeping a running tally of reports.

This has become immediately personal to me. It’s happening to my friends. I’ve seen cars vandalized. I’ve heard former coworkers tell stories about being verbally harassed. I’ve seen people get hateful emails and Facebook messages because they happen to be married to someone who isn’t white. It’s appalling.

Sadly, on some level, none of this is too surprising. Racial division has split America for a long time, and it’s not strictly an American problem. Similar harassment happened in the UK aftermath of Brexit (another campaign fueled by anti-immigrant/minority sentiment.) Hateful bigots get empowered by rhetoric, so it’s not shocking to witness it going on here in America. (Disappointing, yes. Surprising, no.) This sort of behavior puts everyone on edge and emotions run hot. But we can stand up to this.

“Whatever you are, be a good one.”

Abraham Lincoln said, “Whatever you are, be a good one,” and I plan on being a good one. There are many things we can do to help defend those who need it most right now. So I figured it’d be handy to present some options for those who are interested in helping.


Donate

Many folks out there won’t witness this sort of activity. (Seriously, consider yourself lucky.) But you’re going to read about it, and you’re going to want to help. Consider giving to organizations that defend those who can’t defend themselves. Here are four good ones.

Note: This is just a small list focusing on a subset of groups. There are so many other charities and activist organizations that need you help. The important thing is to give. Most organizations have options to do monthly or one-time payments. Any amount helps. Give what you can.


Act

If you see harassment happen, get involved. Don’t wait for the victim to turn to you and ask for help. Alert the authorities if you see vandalism. Step in if you witness abuse. I posted an excellent quote from Desmond Tutu last week about the danger of remaining neutral during situations of injustice. Go read it.

The illustrator and artist Maeril put together a handy comic on how to diffuse a harassment situation and how you can help. The comic focuses on Islamophobia, but it serves as an excellent guide to stopping most harassers. Again, if this doesn’t work, alert the authorities.

What to do if you are witnessing Islamophobic harassment


Engage Locally

Take a stand against hate. Look for local ways to help out minority communities in your neighborhood. Volunteer at or donate to your local homeless shelter. Many churches have groups that offer help to the needy and work to welcome immigrants into communities. Work with your local food bank. Get involved in groups that welcome refugees and work with minorities.

For example, during the upcoming holidays, Kari-Lise and I are working with the International Rescue Committee to sponsor a local refugee family and provide them Christmas presents. We want them to feel welcome in our city, and little acts of kindness like this can go a long way to making an immigrant family feel welcome.


Hate groups are empowered right now, so don’t expect this sort of behavior to go away. (They’ve been on the rise all year.) Even if it lessens over the next few weeks, it’s clear that the animosity is there, bubbling under the surface. We have a long way to go before America, and humanity in general, is past its deep-set racism, bigotry, and hate.

Despair isn’t how you defeat evil. Action is.