[SSU staff and faculty chose this book to read together this term – a powerful and painful exposition. Here’s a taste:]
As a means of assigning value to entire swaths of humankind, caste guides each of us often beyond the reaches of our awareness. It embeds into our bones an unconscious ranking of human characteristics and sets forth the rules, expectations, and stereotypes that have been used to justify brutalities against entire groups within our species. In the American caste system, the signal of rank is what we call race, the division of humans on the basis of their appearance. In America, race is the primary tool and the visible decoy, the front man, for caste.
Race does the heavy lifting for a caste system that demands a means of human division. If we have been trained to see humans in the language of race, then caste is the underlying grammar that we encode as children, as when learning our mother tongue.
- Isabel Wilkerson, Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents
[From an article on trauma and racism]:
When people react with horror and surprise to racist and violent incidents, they may not be aware that their reaction might not translate well for those most directly affected.
I confess that even though I am not surprised on a macro level, and I know that hateful incidents are part of a pattern of systemic racism, my immediate, unfiltered reaction to a horrific incident is often a combination of surprise and outrage (e.g., “I can’t believe that this just happened!!”). I need to check myself because I’ve learned that the expression of surprise can unintentionally have the impact of invalidating another’s experience or give the impression that I believe these incidents are, in fact, isolated. For this reason, I’m working to restrain that gut reaction!
Black people aren’t surprised. They are not surprised about #TamirRice, #TrayvonMartin #AiyanaJones #EricGarner, #SandraBland, #AhmaudArbery, #BreonnaTaylor, #GeorgeFloyd, and countless others. BIPOC in Canada are not surprised about #MissingandMurderedIndigenousWomen, #ColtenBoushi, #ChantalMoore, #MachaurMadut, #RegisKorchinskiPaquet, and so on. For those who recognize the impact of systemic and structural racism, there is no surprise.
What can I do? Reflect on my actions, learn from mistakes, read more, learn more, acknowledge more, invite feedback, and listen to what BIPOC say they need and want. These are good things that anyone can and should be doing!
You may well ask: “Why direct action? Why sit ins, marches and so forth? Isn’t negotiation a better path?” You are quite right in calling for negotiation. Indeed, this is the very purpose of direct action. Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored. My citing the creation of tension as part of the work of the nonviolent resister may sound rather shocking. But I must confess that I am not afraid of the word “tension.” I have earnestly opposed violent tension, but there is a type of constructive, nonviolent tension which is necessary for growth.
- Martin Luther King, Jr., “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”
[a bit of a challenging read – but if you take the time to work through this I think you’ll see something unique that is often missing in Western contemplative traditions]:
Communal contemplative practices in Africana contexts have been hidden from view by the exigencies of struggle, survival, and sustenance…
The spiritual practices become public theology through acts of shared liturgical discernment. These acts of shared contemplation move individual mystical events from the personal private toward the public and pragmatic. Accordingly the inward journey transcends the private imagination to become an expanded communal testimony.
I am contending that communal contemplation is richer than the immediacy of personal experience because the experience, the story, the event is subjected to the gaze of both the individual and the community. In Africana and other indigenous cultures, this unique orientation toward the sacred elements of life begins at a very young age. Children soon learn that when events surprise, frighten, or mystify them, they can face the unknown with a discerning community. It has only taken a few generations to lose sight of this integral aspect of Africana community life.
Such losses can result from inclusion/integration into dominant cultural paradigms. The price for full acceptance is often cultural and spiritual amnesia…
I am offering an understanding of contemplation that depends upon an intense mutuality, shared religious imagination, and the free flow of interpretation within the context of a vibrant and lived theology.
– Barbara A. Holmes, Joy Unspeakable: Contemplative Practices of the Black Church
[I usually avoid re-posting something that I read on Inward/Outward – excellent as it is, too many people receive both emails – but with last week focusing on Martin Luther King, Jr, I couldn’t find anything better and more apt than this quote]:
The church must be reminded that it is not the master or the servant of the state, but rather the conscience of the state. It must be the guide and the critic of the state, and never its tool. If the church does not recapture its prophetic zeal, it will become an irrelevant social club without moral or spiritual authority. If the church does not participate actively in the struggle for peace and for economic and racial justice, it will forfeit the loyalty of millions and cause [people] everywhere to say that it has atrophied its will. But if the church will free itself from the shackles of a deadening status quo, and, recovering its great historic mission, will speak and act fearlessly and insistently in terms of justice and peace, it will enkindle the imagination of [humanity] and fire the souls of men [and women], imbuing them with a glowing and ardent love for truth, justice, and peace. [People] far and near will know the church as a great fellowship of love that provides light and bread for lonely travelers at midnight.
Martin Luther King Jr.
Source: A Knock at Midnight (11 June 1967)