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.
One of the classes I’m taking here at Boston University is called Global Ethics, which is actually more of a semester-long introduction to liberation theology. And not just the Latin American variety, but almost every kind you can think of: womanist (both African American and African), feminist, Palestinian, Korean, Native American, etc. Before starting the class, I had assumed as a result of my sojourn in the Catholic church that liberation theology was more or less dead. But no, the rumors of liberation theology’s demise are quite premature, and it’s arguably doing better than ever.
Last Sunday, while addressing Rock Hill Missionary Baptist Church, a black church in rural South Carolina, GOP presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee asserted, “I hear people say we’ve got racial problems. We don’t have a skin problem in this country, we have a sin problem in this country.” In a 1997 speech commemorating the desegregation of Little Rock’s Central High, Huckabee expanded on this “sin not skin” notion by saying:
Government can do some things, but only God can change people’s hearts. Government can put us in the same classrooms, but government can’t make classmates go home and be friends when school is out.
Government can make sure the doors of every public building are open to everyone. Government can ensure that we share schools and streets and lunch counters and buses and elevators and theaters, but let us never forget that only God can give us the power to love each other and respect each other and to share life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
I imagine that these statements went over quite well, given that they were uttered in the Bible Belt, where people of all races love god-talk, but they’re quite silly, given that 1. Christianity and racism have aided and abetted each other throughout the centuries 2. prejudice surrounding skin color most certainly is the problem, not “sin.”
Fans of To Kill a Mockingbird are aghast at the revelation that Atticus Finch, the noble protagonist of that celebrated book, becomes a segregationist and Klansman in his dotage in Harper Lee’s new book Go Set a Watchman:
Black humanist poet Langston Hughes wrote this poem back in 1935, and it remains just as relevant today in the era of “Black Lives [Ought to] Matter” as it did then.
Special guest post from Myristic Mystic:
Back in 2001, I was a senior in high school in an institution that had a progressive pedagogy and an unusually reactionary student body. There entire school had about 120 students from three to eighteen, and there were never any more than twenty-two students in the entire high school at any given time. This meant that if you didn’t like those twenty odd people, you were pretty much SOL in terms of having a social life. One of those students was a boy I’ll call Z, who was a self-identified redneck, though he came from a well-to-do background. Z liked to wear t-shirts from a company called Dixie Outfitters that often had the Confederate battle emblem on it. I complained about it on more than one occasion, including during the weekly class meeting when these sorts of inter-personal issues were supposed to be hashed out, but Z kept wearing them. When I complained to a (white) teacher for the umpteenth time about it, she said, “You need to stop complaining about Z and his shirts, because he knows more black people than you and they’re okay with it.” I wish I had replied with, “I don’t care if Z is besties with Nelson Mandela, he will never have to live in as a black person in a white society,” but unfortunately, I just became upset and left the room in tears. The main lesson I learned from this experience — other than the fact that my high school was peopled with horrible individuals — is that for many Southern white people, racism is not a problem, but complaining about racism is. This brings me to yesterday’s AME church massacre in Charleston, South Carolina.