Archive for the ‘Racism’ Category

Racism in the USA

Sunday, February 3rd, 2019

At my church, Dayspring Church in Germantown (Maryland), a member faith community of Church of the Saviour, we have a Peace and Justice Candle brought to us by a member who was a Methodist pastor in South Africa and active in the struggle against apartheid. The Peace and Justice Candle is a candle surrounded by barbed wire. The barbed wire symbolizes something that is an obstacle to the Beloved Community, and the flame of the candle symbolizes the light of Christ shining in the darkness. Each Sunday, someone offers a reflection and lights the Peace and Justice Candle. This is my reflection offered on February 3, 2019.

Site of Woolworth store in Greensboro, NC, where the 1960 lunch counter sit-ins took place
By dbking from Washington, DC - Greensboro, NC “Sit In” 1960, CC BY 2.0, Link

On February 1, 1960, 4 black students sat down at a Woolworth’s lunch counter in Greensboro, North Carolina, and asked for coffee. The store refused to serve them, and the students came back each day, soon with many more joining them, until July 25th, when management started serving blacks at the lunch counter.

This wasn’t the first such sit-in, but this sit-in got national coverage and inspired people in many other cities to engage in such actions. It prompted statements of support from President Eisenhower and other prominent white Americans. And many lunch counters in a number of states were desegregated after sit-ins. 4 years later, the Federal government enacted the Civil Rights Act barring segregation in public accommodations.

The courageous nonviolent witness of many people in a number of places, some of whom endured physical attack, did result in progress in the struggle against the evil of racism.

While the sit-ins and other acts of public witness in that time period resulted in significant progress, deeply embedded structural racism has continued to result in unfair treatment of African-Americans and other minorities in many ways in our country. A few examples of the many ways racism continues to impact African-Americans:

• In 2017, Harvard Business School analyzed 24 field experiments testing hiring discrimination over a period of 15 years. This meta-analysis showed that white applicants on average received 36% more callbacks than black applicants, and 24% more than Latinx applicants with identical resumes. Furthermore, it indicated that the situation had not improved for black applicants over the 15 years reviewed.

• A 2016 study by the Pew Research Center found that the median wealth of non-Hispanic white households was $171,000, 10 times greater than the $17,100 median wealth of black households.

• African-Americans comprise only 13% of the U.S. population and 14% of the monthly drug users, but are 37% of the people arrested for drug-related offenses and 57% of the people in state prisons for drug offenses.

• An African-American male born in 2001 has a 32% chance of going to jail in his lifetime, while a Latino male has a 17% chance and a white male only has a 6% chance.

If I tried to give all the possible information on how racism impacts African-Americans, we’d probably still be here at kickoff for the Super Bowl. Suffice it to say there’s a lot of work to do, and we each need to prayerfully consider our part in that work.

The barbed wire symbolizes how racism limits the opportunities for African-Americans to show their God-given potential. The flame that I am about to light symbolizes the light of Christ who came to liberate the oppressed and call us to be the Beloved Community.

- Bill Samuel

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I can’t breathe

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2014

My black brothers and sisters are being killed by police officers with impunity.

I CAN’T BREATHE

Dozens of U.S. cities prohibit people from feeding the homeless where they live.

I CAN’T BREATHE

The U.S. has the highest incarceration rate in the world, and private prison operators make money out of people’s misery and use the imprisoned as slave labor.

I CAN’T BREATHE

We are one of the richest countries in the world, and yet millions of our citizens lack adequate food, housing or medical care.

I CAN’T BREATHE

We are one of only three countries in the world without paid maternity leave, and millions of poor women have their unborn babies killed because they can’t see how they can support them.

I CAN’T BREATHE

Representatives of big corporate interests are put in charge of agencies that are supposed to regulate them, resulting in serious harm to our people, our land and our environment.

I CAN’T BREATHE

Palestinians are denied basic human rights, and my country gives billions of dollars to the oppressors.

I CAN’T BREATHE

Egypt sentences hundreds of peaceful protestors to death, and my Secretary of State praises the country ’s “democracy” and we give billions of dollars to the Egyptian forces of oppression.

I CAN’T BREATHE

SOA/WHINSEC trains those from Latin America who oppress those struggling for freedom, and kill with impunity.

I CAN’T BREATHE

U.S. drones attack foreign countries, and only 1 in 28 of those killed are official targets, and many more are children and women.

I CAN’T BREATHE

Billions of our innocent fellow creatures are held in inhumane conditions, tortured and slaughtered for our palates, causing considerable human health problems and contributing greatly to global climate change.

I CAN’T BREATHE

Unfortunately, I could go on and on.

Take away from me the noise of your songs; I will not listen to the melody of your harps. But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream. Amos 5:23-24 (NRSV)

How long, O Lord, how long?

-Bill Samuel, December 3, 2014

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Am I Trayvon Martin?

Sunday, July 21st, 2013

In the public witness actions regarding the case of George Zimmerman killing Trayvon Martin, many people have carried signs reading, “I am Trayvon Martin.” This brings me to the question which I use to headline this post.

This case has triggered something deep in much of the African-American population in the United States. I have heard from a number of whites whose response is to analyze the case. This I think is missing the point. In some ways, the case is not ideal as a frame for looking at the larger issues. But Zimmerman’s relationships with African-Americans and the way Martin responded when he felt threatened by Zimmerman should not be the focus of our national discussion. Rather, we should be looking at why this case causes such deep reactions among our African-American brothers and sisters, and how we can address these underlying issues. I think the President’s comments to the nation on July 19 provide a more useful framework.

My personal reaction not surprisingly is closely related to my personal experience. Due to the unique circumstances of my life, my perspective is informed in the way that the perspective of most Americans of European heritage is not.

Martin died when he was a 17-year-old high school student. So I think back to when I was a 17-year-old high school student - which is 48 years ago for me. The year I turned 17 my family moved to a small Southern town where my father taught at an African-American college, and we lived on the campus. This was my senior year of high school. This was the first year of token integration in that rural county.

The school system didn’t decide until the last minute how to handle the buses. They communicated bus information to students by telephone. My family did not have telephone service because the local office of the phone company (this was the days of phone company monopoly) didn’t want to serve “n****r lovers” (the asterisks were filled in in their case), and it took months for the appeal to go through to get our telephone. As a result, they were unable to notify me of what bus to use.

Because I had not been told what bus to use, I went with a kid three doors down on campus who was going to the same school. He was African-American. The bus driver was quite surprised to see me, but I was allowed on the bus. The buses were segregated. Our bus served its dozen students after it dropped off students at the black high school in the morning and before it picked them up in the afternoon. As a result we got to school late each day and left early each day.

Only one white student at the school would talk to me with other than insults. Since I was the only senior on the bus, I was isolated most of the day. I remember being really scared for my safety when one time the science teacher sent the class off to lab and didn’t come with us. During that lab, one student (President of Youth for Goldwater) remarked loudly to another student, “If there’s one thing I hate worse than a n****r, it’s a n****r lover.” Fortunately I was not physically attacked, but I always felt in danger.

The whites in town knew me as “that n****r lover in the high school.” When I walked down the streets of that tiny town, I saw each white person on the street as a potential threat to me, and each African-American as a friend. This perspective was realistic. This was my experience for a year, and only when I was in that town. So this was only a taste of what African-Americans experience every day wherever they are. They are always marked persons in the larger American society.

What white people in this country need to understand is how it feels for a person of color - and most dramatically for a young African-American male - to be a marked person viewed suspiciously by many others when they are in the larger society environment. If whites can achieve some understanding of what that feels like, they can begin to understand the emotional reaction of African-Americans to the case. It isn’t just about one person in Sanford, Florida. It’s about all who have experienced being regarded as suspicious simply for who they are. The “I am Trayvon Martin” signs express a deep truth about them also being treated as suspicious for who they are.

So I am Trayvon Martin, or at least I was Trayvon Martin. And with my African-American brothers and sisters, I yearn for the day when no one is treated as suspicious just because of the color of their skin, and perhaps combined with their age, their gender and what they happen to be wearing. I yearn for a day when each person regards each other person as a brother and sister worthy of dignity and respect across the boundaries of ethnicity, culture, age, gender, class, sexual orientation, mental and physical abilities, and anything else which divides us artificially.

-Bill Samuel

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