The Face of Racism…

Senator Rand Paul (R) Kentucky (c) US Senate

The face of racism is unassuming.  It is not an angry cropped hair white 20-something holding a torch screaming “you will not replace us!”  It is not a barrel-chested gun toting self-styled militia guy wearing a Confederate flag.  It is not the “Becky” or “Karen” calling the cops.  The face of racism is any white person in a position of power and influence who prioritizes their need to parse their interpretation of words over the lives of black people and other non-whites.

The Senate of the United States has been closer this year than ever to finally making lynching a federal crime [S. 488 – Information about the bill and its companion H.R. 35 – Emmett Till Anti-Lynching Act].  It has already been passed by both houses.  This would create a law that makes lynching, of any kind, a federal crime.  This would be justice for every black person, every white person, every Latin-x person every, Native, Chinese, Japanese and Jewish person and every LGBTQ person who was ever lynched.  This would mean that when a gang of people hunt down and kill another transwoman of color, there would be some kind of federal recourse for their crimes that needs to be considered.  It would mean that that the gang rape, torture and murder of a woman who is trafficked would have larger consequences.  It would mean that a group of men, regardless of their professional position as police, when they detain and forcibly pin down an unarmed and compliant man and do not listen to his cries for air and he dies, would have a federal violation to answer for.  It would be justice for George Floyd.

But the Rand Pauls of the world are like too many white people that I’ve experienced when the conversation turns to codifying the definition of racism and creating substantive policy to prevent it.  They get uncomfortable.  They turn to wordsmithing in order to avoid “unintended consequences” and they reason for “common sense”.  Meanwhile, black people and those who do not benefit from whiteness, but who are always at its mercy, are forced to attend another senseless funeral, another tear streaked vigil, another protest, another march.  How dare anyone call for a “common sense” response to rampant, historical, lethal racism wielded as a bludgeon against innocent people?

I echo Senator Cory Booker’s statement in the clip below that there is nothing any white person can tell black people about lynching.  Senator Rand Paul is trying to “amend” this bill so that it is more “specific” and that someone can’t be accused of “lynching” by giving someone a ‘bruise’.  As Senator Kamala Harris says, this is offensive.  But what Paul is doing is actually straight out of the playbook of the Southern Democrats who blocked similar legislation from 1918 – 1922 (Dyer Anti Lynching Bill).  Too often when policies are crafted to deal with racism, white fragility rears its head and asks that these corrective measures “don’t go too far” and that they “show restraint” and that they don’t create a punishment worse than the crime.

There is no crime worse than racism that kills.  Racism is born of pure hatred and holds no redeeming or justifiable purpose.  Racism deserves no defense or assumption of innocence.  End racism.  Racism doesn’t see itself and it doesn’t hear itself.  Racism is a white ophthalmologist who stares blankly in the faces of two black attorneys and tells them about writing law.  Racism is a white man arguing publicly about race with three black people and defending what he knows about lynching.  Racism is a white guy talking about a bruise in a conversation that begins with the many ways black people have been hung, burned, disemboweled and castrated.  Given every opportunity in the world for redemption, apparently racism is also still the United States.

And sadly this seems to be Senator Rand Paul.  But he works for us.  Please let him know what you think.

I am urging all of my colleagues and friends in Kentucky to please call Senator Rand Paul’s Local and DC office to get him to withdraw his proposed amendment immediately and clear the way for this historic legislation.  The time is now.  End racism.  Senator Paul is literally holding the lynch pin that could put at least one piece of the racism of the United States in its long awaited grave.

Contact Senator Rand Paul

Bowling Green
Main State Office
1029 State Street
Bowling Green, KY 42101
Phone: 270-782-8303

Washington DC
167 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington DC, 20510
Phone: 202-224-4343

Its All About Time…

Derek Chauvin murdered George Floyd by kneeling on his neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds.  People are now kneeling and praying and holding silence for this amount of time and it feels epic and unbearable.  It is easy in the midst of that interminable silence to understand how monstrous this act really was.

By contrast, there’s a shorter stretch of time that’s also worth noting: 5 minutes and 41 seconds.

That is the total amount of time we have witnessed the President of the United States appear at religious institutions so far this week.  Not in prayer, or in reverence, but as a self serving show.  On Monday, Donald Trump awkwardly held a bible while standing outside of a darkened St John’s Church in Washington, D.C. after using a small scale military operation to clear peaceful protesters.  It made me sick.  (But I’m getting used to the taste of bile in the back of my throat as long as he is president.)  Then yesterday he followed that up with what amounts to a drive-by strut on the catwalk at the St John Paul II Shrine with Melania.  I agree with Washington Archbishop Wilton Gregory that this display was “reprehensible.”

Here’s how it breaks down:

Trump time at St. John the Evangelist – 00:02:28 (not including the Third Reich style promenade from the White House).

Trump time at St. John Paul II Shrine – 00:03:13

Total Trump time for both photo ops – 00:05:41

Time Derek Chauvin knelt with his full adult body weight on George Floyd’s neck – 00:08:46

Fixing the perversion of religion, the misuse of religion in politics and government, … is the responsibility of the religious, specifically religious leaders.

Religion is not a prop.  What people believe and how they believe it is not a political marketing tool.  Our constitution provides for freedom of religion, as well as freedom from religion.  From a basic ethical standpoint, none of us should be subjected to each other’s beliefs either as bribery or deterrent.  The reason freedom from religion was equally important to the framers of the constitution is because, in their time, religion had been weaponized against people as a tool of coercion and oppression.  Disestablishment was about preventing the financial dependence of churches on public funds and avoiding an obligatory relationship between the government and one church. The Trump administration seems to have missed this.  But then you miss a lot about religion when you only know how to spend five minutes anywhere near a church.

Trumps on the Catwalk
The Trumps on the Catholic catwalk

I have written before about the many ways in which fixing white racism is the responsibility of white people. It is a similar situation with religion. Fixing the perversion of religion, the misuse of religion in politics and government, the leveraging, pandering to and otherwise abuse of religion by bad actors is the responsibility of the religious, specifically religious leaders.  Religion or lack of religion can and does inform many people’s political decisions, but political action cannot be beholden to any religion or religious ideology.  Political policy must make room for people’s different and varied religious beliefs and practices if they have them.  More importantly, however, political policy cannot use belief and practice to achieve its end.  Nor can policy be inscribed with religious doctrine.  Take careful note: Trump also just signed an executive order on Advancing International Religious Freedom.  Really, it just piggy backs on existing policies and priorities that the administration has expressed about religious liberty before. But appearances are everything to the Trump administration and to the untrained MAGA eye, he looks like St. Trump the Evangelist (for the last 48 hours, 5 minutes and 41 seconds anyhow.) But what else do you do in an election year when there is a global pandemic, race riots and historic unemployment? You sell more Trump steaks!

Religious/ spiritual/ ethical leaders of all kinds…progressive conservative, pro-choice, pro-life, Orthodox and Atheist must come together in this moment to recognize that all of our ideas about “faith” or “not faith” are being grossly abused and the result will be that we will all loose the right to our freedom of belief.  There is no policy agenda that is worth the loss of real liberty that comes from allowing the broad spectrum of faith to be co-opted and misrepresented by someone who only sees religious expression as theater.

We need to bring the curtain down on this show.