I am a Christian. I am a man. I am a Black American. I am an Army Veteran. I am a Seventh-day Adventist. I am a Chaplain. When I write I am writing from these perspectives. I admit it. So when I speak about race issues in this nation, I do so with this background in mind. While through all these perspectives I can be scholarly, and while there is scholarly work ad infinitum written on the topic or race, reconciliation, and redemption (which 3 points I may write in a later post), only being a Chaplain has taught me to be reflective.
Reflection on this topic was fueled for me as more and more evidences on police violence and cover-up, of exonerations and aquittals were handed out for obvious abuse of power and murder, have been revealed. It was instigated by some injustices that go without speaking, and yet are glaring for me, in my own church. Some question I sought to answer are as follows: if peaceful protesting has brought us to where we are now, and we still are dealing with similar issues, what do we think peaceful protest will do for us in the future? Why protest at all, accepting instead the current state of things as inevitable? Why not revolt, and overthrow the established and entranched injustice "...by any means necessary"? What is the appropriate SDA Christian's response to systemic injustices? Are we resigned to the will of God, as well as the dictates and definitions of evil, intent on reforming a fallen system, or is the system so corrupted that we should participate in the violent overthrow of the establishment?
Today I am reflecting on 3 R's in social activism which seem to point toward futility. This is Part 1.
Option 1: RESIGNATION
- an act of retiring or giving up a position, or the acceptance of something undesirable but inevitable.
This is to actually do nothing. It is to accept, to lay down, to "soldier on", to "suck it up", to "deal with it" According to Carl Linneaus (1707-1778), there are some general categorical assumptions he and other made about race...the rules of racism:
- The Americanus: red, choleraic, righteous; black, straight, thick hair; stubborn, zealous, free; painting himself with red lines, and regulated by customs.
- The Europeanus: white, sanguine, browny; with abundant, long hair; blue eyes; gentle, acute, inventive; covered with close vestments; and regulated by customs.
- The Asiaticus: yellow, melancholic, stiff; black hair, dark eyes; severe, haughty, greedy; covered with loose clothing; and regulated by opinions.
- The Afer or Africanus: black, phlegmatic, relaxed; black, frizzled hair; silky skin, flat nose, tumid lips; females without shame; mammary glands give milk abundantly; crafty, sly, careless; anoints himself with grease; and regulated by will.
Christopher Meiners (1747-1810) posited that only the white race was beautiful (superior, moral, human) considering other races ugly, inferior, immoral, and animal-like. Meiners stated "...the dark, ugly peoples were distinct from the white, beautiful peoples by their "sad" lack of virtue and their "terrible vices"". These two gentlemen and many other like them, along with their other "scientific" racial discoveries, were touted as the justification for intentional, systematic, colonially imperial abuse of people of color globally, and can be found easily on Wikipedia.
Add to this the faulty Calvinistic interpretation and application of Biblical predestination, election, etc. The idea behind this is that God, before everything (anything) was created, decided how everything would operate, to include humans. He decided who would be evil, and who would be good. Thus, if one was born to the immoral dark peoples, that was God's choice. Therefore, one's subjugation was God's choice, one's abuse was God's choice, and the immorality one manifested in those situations was God's choice. Resignation accepts all of this as God's divine decision and desire for our reality. Resignation accepts 2nd class citizenship, chattel slavery, the rape of a people and a continent, etc., as the divine design and desire. Thus, not only is my situation God's fault, but the evil, the immoral person I become is God's fault as well. Not only have I accepted being 3/5 human, I have accepted the negative descriptions invented about me by my captors as my identity, and I am holding God accountable for not only their abuse and my subjugation, but my gang affiliation, my drive-by shootings, my domestic violence, my single parent homes, my drug dealership...all that is God's desire for the world before he created it. Therefore, when I am resigned to the definitions and expectations of my captors, then logically all the evil done by others to me, me to others, and me to myself, is in actuality God-glorifying because we are all fulfilling God's divine desire, design and decision for creation.
Resignation justifies all evils. Resignation has no personal or corporate responsibility. Resignation is Uncle Tom, Judas, and Benedict Arnold, all rolled into one. Even the word Resign literally is re-sign, to sign again. Resignation helps no one. It is convenient evil.
Option 2: REFORMATION
-the action or process of reforming an institution or practice, to shape again.
This sounds quite noble, and can be done peacefully or violently. The methodology (peaceful vs. violence) is secondary to the motivation. The motivation, or intent, of reformation is to correct the organization or system. Something is revealed as flawed, and in need of fixing.
Here is the problem with this in America. This system of racism is built on the ideologies of men like the ones mentioned above. It is built off of a theology which supported these pseudo-science views, and may have actually preceded them. These views allowed whites humans in America to be view black humans as 3/5 human, natives around the globe to be viewed as savages, with Aborigines in Austraila to be viewed as part of the natural "flora and fauna", nothing more than vegetation and animals, not be be counted among the census of humans.
The Civil War, fought mostly for economic purposes, was an attempt to reform the system based on economic necessity. The moral and ethical were secondary and tertiary concerns of the Civil War. Civil Rights movement as well, was an attempt to reform the system. Here is a fundamental problem: macro system change does nothing for the mind and heart. It was the mind and heart of a people which created the injustices we here discuss, and this change must happen at a mind and heart level. Reformation is interested in systems and institutions, in macro change. Herein lies another fundamental truth: this system of government was working perfect for its design when slavery was in place, when blacks were counted as only 3/5 human. That is because the system was designed for, built on, and by those criteria. It works best when all the things it is designed for are in place. The moment Civil War happened the system broke. The system tried to right itself through things such as peonage, Jim Crow segregation, the war on drugs, the preschool-to-prison pipeline, the cash for kids scandal, etc. This is the system, and the systems people, trying to reform the system, to get it working correctly again according to its original praxis. What macro events such as the Civil War and Civil Rights actually accomplished was breaking the system, allowing minorities in, but offering no viable alternative. They sought to include in a racist system what this system was not designed to hold: interracial, intercultural equality and equity. I submit that the only way to reform this system is to reinstitute the system the way it is designed, not the way we would like it, and to do that would be to sell out my own people, as well as Christ himself.
Even the word reform means to re-form, to form again. Same substance, same material, arguably same purpose, just different shape.
We have protested, marched, had sit-its, boycotted. We have sung and prayed. We have taught our people, carried guns for our people, had mini-revolts. We have had Martin Luther King, Jr., as well as Malcolm X, the NAACP as well as the Black Panthers. All of these were attempting to reforming a racist system, while in actuality were breaking the system, and have birthed all the fruit they will ever birth. To continue such tactics with the intent of macro system reform will only produce more of what we already have. If we consider the nation's response to Obama's election, the Congressional recalcitrance from the day he entered office, as well as the vitriol spewing from the mouths of almost every 2016 Republican Presidential candidate, we can see that the fruit of our reformation/system-breaking work is being eroded before our eyes, the system actually trying to re-form itself back to its original design and purpose. System reformation as we intend it will not work. It will only get us more of what we have. On a theological note...this is why Paul never asks us to be reformed, but rather to be transformed....
Rom 12:1-2 beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
Option 3: REVOLUTION
-a forcible overthrow of a government or social order in favor of a new system, a dramatic and wide-reaching change in the way something works or is organized or in people's ideas about it, the movement of an object in a circular or elliptical course around another or about an axis or center.
When it comes to oppression, there is never a peaceful revolution. The elites, those who are in power, who run the system, and own the resources, aren't just gonna step away from power, and give up all their resources, both to be redistributed to the masses in an attempt to better society. In order to do such a dramatic and drastic redistribution one must take what the elites own. This taking can only be done with violence, a returning evil for evil.
The Civil War can be seen as a reformation or revolution, but it was primarily between whites. There has not been an en mass Revolution on this scale by blacks against this nation. Slavery's design was to so disconnect black from black that such revolution was not possible. Policing was instituted, using poorer whites to maintain status quo, to hunt down runaways, and to quell issurgencies. Blacks also were strategically kept from acquiring the means to acquire weaponry as well as weaponry itself, much less the national network through which to organize.
Additionally, consider the word revolve. It deals in circles, and the original Latin above meant to roll back. We even say that the earth revolves around the sun, meaning that in 365 days, the earth is right back to where it started. Even though seasons have changed, we are back at square one. The more things change, the more they stay the same, "there is nothing new under the sun." Here is the point: we live in a world with limited knowledge, resources, paradigms, and methodologies. Our imaginations are limited to what is known. Even when we try to imagine new things, we must reference a known in order to mentally picture our imagination. So if we revolve the wheel of progress, resources, and power backward, we will end up where we started prior to our problem. This means that the same situations, the resource and power distribution leading to our problem are present. This is not helpful.
If we revolve the wheel forward, we will come to the same location, since a wheel only has 360 degrees to it. No matter where we go on this wheel, we will find ourselves with limited options of knowledge, resources, paradigms, and methodologies. We will inevitably be back right here, either where we are right now, or where humanity was leading up to this point. In order to even get the wheel moving, we must violently repay evil for evil. Even the word Revolt above, has the same etymological origins as Revolution, to revolve. If blacks ran the system, since it is the only system we know, we would simply institute the same system with us on top, whites on the bottom. One need look not further than the history of Liberia prove this point. The oppressed become the oppressors. There is neither true justice, equality, equit, nor freedom in the process, nor is there hope. The wheel is a closed cycle. We are doomed to repeat it.
If we are to uplift people, we have only one option: RESISTANCE!
To Be Continued...