For the past month or so, I’ve been working on a class on medieval Christianity and before that I was dealing with a full load of four courses. It was my intention to do a number of posts on various aspects of the medieval church, but recent events have caused me to change my plans.
I haven’t been posting as much lately, what with the demands of graduate school and such, but occasionally a story happens that demands a response. No, it’s not about the Donald Trump Show, the ignominious return of the Duggars to television, the death of Mother Angelica, or whatever thing Pope Francis is doing. This story is much more important: Kathleen Battle is returning to the Metropolitan Opera:
One of Republican presidential hopeful Ben Carson’s schticks is his insistence that if nominated and elected, he would be America’s first “real black president.” As opposed to the “fake black” president we have now. This assertion isn’t new, since Herman Cain was saying the same thing during his own failed presidential run, and this meme is being reiterated by white Republicans who are desperate to run a black candidate to make them seem less white and less racist. Whatever one thinks of Obama’s policies, the notion that he is somehow “less black” than Carson or Cain ignores the way in which blackness was and is constructed in the United States.
One problem with discussing race with white people (or people in general, actually), is that they take they view that as long as they are personally nice to a small group of black people, they are not being racist, even if they support political policies that disenfranchise black people as a group. To them, racism only exists among a small subset of people that one could call “lifestyle racists”: Klansmen, neo-Nazis, racist heathens, etc. Such a view ignores the fact that “lifestyle racists” are relatively rare in 2015, and most of them don’t live in mainstream society, because these delicate snowflakes can’t fathom the possibility of having to endure even casual contact with those they deem “lesser.” This view also ignores the fact that for a long time, the Klan was considered to be a fairly respectable organization that had the tacit support of the white population.
I’ve been quiet thus far about the ongoing “pope-a-polooza” going on in NYC, since I wasn’t sure that I have much to say. However, I was interested in a number of articles about black Catholics that have appeared in the last week or so.
When Hurricane Katrina hit, I was actually in RCIA classes, not at St F (which, as a traditionalist parish, considered RCIA to be an “innovation” of Vatican II), but at the first stop on my religious misadventures, St A, which was mostly black. Many of the parishioners at St A had a familial connection to Louisiana in general and New Orleans in particular, and an influx of evacuees arrived at the parish after Katrina. During RCIA classes, we would discuss theodicy as it related to New Orleans and Katrina. At the time, the usual suspects were claiming that New Orleans was targeted by god because of its randy Mardi Gras celebrations, and the ever-present problem of “the gays.” It’s not surprising that fundamentalist Protestants like Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson would beat up on New Orleans, but this article by Richard John Neuhaus illustrates the ambivalence that conservotrads had towards the United States’ most Catholic city:
Most of the coverage surrounding the Rachel Dolezal controversy stems from the perceived notion that she was engaged in a 24/7 blackface routine or that she was misappropriating blackness out of some kind of deep-seated sense of confusion or emotional inadequacy. Frankly, none of that interests me. What’s incredible to me is that no one is asking how American racial politics enabled Dolezal to pull off her scheme, because in no other country would she consider her to be black, whether in her youthful Caucasian phase or in her current racially ambiguous disguise.