Our Work Just Got Harder

Im struggling to find words tonight, friends. Having just watched this Trmp press conference, I am sick and heartbroken and angry and frustrated and quite frankly scared for whats to come. I have been purposeful about not speaking much on Trmp since the election. During the campaign I tried to make clear his hateful rhetoric, but since America made its choice, I have tried to stick to naming and unpacking the ideas behind his horrendous rhetoric. But I cant ignore what happened tonight.

Beloved, I need you to understand that our work just got harder. I need you to know that our work just became more dangerous. I need you to know that our work just became more risky. Because this is the first time in decades that white supremacists have found a *friend* in the white house. This is not a small matter. This is permission-giving. We are watching the highest form of our government being celebrated for creating a moral vacuum in which you can stand on anyone's side or no one's side and be right. The "both sides" declaration is an illusion, beloved.

His words tonight are reckless, and no doubt have emboldened white supremacists who now get to call themselves good, their motives good, and their mission good. And at the same time, has placed those who would stand against the hateful ideology of white supremacists on the same moral ground by placing everyone's actions under an equal banner called violence.

I shudder to think what this group of white supremacists will do next. Because of white supremacy, we have already had 9 black people killed in a church.  Because of white supremacy, we have already had a young, white woman run over by a car. What will be next? Who will be emboldened next? How many lives will they take as they seek to make reality the dominance of whiteness and the subjugation of people of color and marginalized bodies? 

My friends. You have to let go of this idea that you can sit in the middle, not choose sides, condemn everyone equally and be on the side of Jesus. You can be nuanced in your thinking, but you must choose to stand either with an ideology of peace and love or an ideology of violence and hate. Choose ye this day.

As I sit here, I am imagining the news story that may have been written after Jesus went into the temple and led a one man protest. I wonder if the newspaper called him violent for turning over all the furniture? I wonder of local reporters said that everything was fine until he caused all the chaos. I wonder if government leaders condemned his actions calling it a riot. I wonder if no one reported about the people who came to him afterwords- the poor, the children, the sick... I wonder if Jesus's declaration that the temple would be a house of prayer for all nations rubbed some folks the wrong way. i wonder if it felt like losing power. I wonder if felt like an affront, a break with how things had always been. I wonder if anyone pointed out that the moneychangers at least had permits, but Jesus didnt. And tonight, I wonder how many of you would have condemned Christ, proclaiming that there were problems on both sides. Sure the money-changers shouldn't have been treating people unjustly, but then again Jesus could have found a better way, a quieter way, a less violent way, a kind way, a patient way, a more polite way, a more reasonable way, a more acceptable way, a less chaotic way to handle the situation.

Beloved. Jesus stood on the side of the marginalized over and over and over and over again.

MLK wrote in The Letter from Birmingham Jail that the folks he was disappointed by weren't the hate filled people who spat on him and jailed him, weren't the people who hurled slurs at him and beat him, weren't the people who sent hate mail and bombed his home. The people in whom he was disappointed were the white moderate. Here is just a portion of his quote:

"First, I must confess that over the last few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Council-er or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate who is more devoted to "order" than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says "I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I can't agree with your methods of direct action;" who paternalistically feels he can set the timetable for another man's freedom; who lives by the myth of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait until a "more convenient season."

Shallow understanding from people of goodwill is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection."

Take. A. Stand.

Its time, Beloved. Its time to commit yourselves to learning. Its time to commit yourselves to speaking. Its time to commit yourselves to writing. Its time to commit yourselves to organizing. Its time to commit yourselves to preaching. Its time to commit yourselves to teaching. Its time to commit to understanding American history. Its time to commit yourselves to the work of racial justice. Its time to commit yourselves to love- whatever that looks like at the intersection of your giftedness and influence.

But when I say love, Im not talking meaningless, polite niceties. You can keep that. Im talking about a love that takes risks. A love that requires sacrifice. A love that protests hate.

Its time to unequivocally protest the hate embedded in white supremacy- not just in the events of Charlottesville but around the dinner table, in the pews, in the classroom, in the neighborhood, in the board meetings, in the curriculum, in the books, movies, and media in your house, and most of all from within your own heart, mind and spirit. 

Its time. Because our work just got harder. 

Austin Brown
Black History Week 3

From Ferguson to Baltimore: The Fruits of Government Sponsored Segregation  because "[w]hat white Americans have never fully understood—but what the Negro can never forget—is that white society is deeply implicated in the ghetto. White institutions created it, white institutions maintain it, and white society condones it.”

 

James Baldwin's Letter to My Nephew because its important to "remember that what they believe, as well as what they do and cause you to endure, does not testify to your inferiority, but to their inhumanity and fear." 

 

Martin Luther King Jr interview by Alex Haley because you should not believe that MLK and other Civil Rights leaders weren't angry. "It was the angriest I have ever been in my life."

 

The Invisible Women of the Civil Rights Movement because there would've been no movement without women. 

 

Recy Taylor and Rosa Parks because we dont talk enough about the specific histories carried within the bodies of black women.

 

Public Opinion Polls of the Civil Rights Movement because its important to know that most Americans did not approve of the now famous Civil Rights Movement.   

 

1992 LA Riots because police brutality has long been an issue, and we must remember that rioting is the language of the unheard. 

Austin Brown
Black History Week Two

The Convict Leasing System because for most of American history "To have Negro blood in the veins makes one unworthy of consideration, a social outcast, a leper, even in the church." (This is a brilliant pamphlet written by Ida B Wells. The forward is from the hand of Fredrick Douglas). 

 

The Progress of the Afro American Since Emancipation a part of the same pamphlet above, this chapter was written by I Garland Penn outlining the amazing contributions and progress of African Americans in the decade following slavery- in education, trades, music, art, journalism and much more. 

 

Southern Horrors: Lynch Law in All Its Phases because Ida B Wells commitment to the truth inspires us to do the same. "Somebody must show that the Afro-American race is more sinned against than sinning, and it seems to have fallen upon me to do so." 

 

How It Feels to be Colored Me because we are proud of who we are "I AM NOT tragically colored. There is no great sorrow dammed up in my soul, nor lurking behind my eyes. I do not mind at all." by Zora Neale Hurston.

 

We Wear the Mask because our poetry says it all and yet leaves so much unspoken. 

 

The Great Migration because Isabel Wilkerson is a brilliant storyteller and captures a period of time in which many of our families persisted and persisted and persisted. 

 

Gordon Parks (Jim Crow Images in Color) + Personal Narratives about Jim Crow because its sometimes too easy to see these photos in black and white, forgetting the world was in color. Because its important to know the daily stories- how Jim Crow felt, smelled, spoke in its daily experience. 

Austin Brown
Black History Week One

7 Medieval African Kingdoms You Should Know because our history doesnt begin with slavery.

 

The Atlantic Slave Trade During Its Heyday & The Remarkable Life of Olaudah Equiano because our survival is truly remarkable.

 

African Resistance to Slavery because "Africans started to fight the transatlantic slave trade as soon as it began."

 

The Half Has Never Been Told because we continue to tell only half the story of slavery (if that much). 

 

When Slaves Go On Strike because "slaves freed themselves." 

 

Reconstruction: The Second Civil War because the end of the Civil War only initiated a new wave of terror and injustice against black people

 

History's Lost Black Towns because you cant erase our history

Austin Brown