Blacks, Jews, Civil Rights, & A Banana in the Tailpipe

Sacred Cow: (an idea, custom, or institution held, especially unreasonably, to be above criticism (with reference to the Hindus’ respect for the cow as a sacred animal).

Sometimes I get a lot of flack for not worshiping sacred cows. I’m a 52 year old Black man from East St. Louis, Illinois. I have my sensibilities for sure. But I’ve made it a practice to check them before drawing harsh conclusions. In other words, I value substance over style when it comes to the real issues facing Black folk or Americans for that matter. One of my favorite words is ‘nuance,.’ defined as (sensibility to, awareness of, or ability to express delicate shadings (as of meaning, feeling, or value)

Nuance isn’t a refusal to point out black and white facts. It is understanding time, place, circumstance and relevance when it comes to discussing a particular matter. A rule of engagement. Nuance requires work and intellectual honesty. Not an easy thing in society. In my community we experienced this with our discussions on Bill Cosby. Many of my people could not wrap their heads around accepting that a man who provided so much entertainment along with his America’s Dad image could do the things he’s been convicted of doing. Others just didn’t care. Because he was a Black icon of sorts, they considered him to be the victim. Now we are having this same debate with R. Kelly. Some of us are appalled and disgusted with what we’ve heard in the streets over the years. The Lifetime series brought a scathing in-depth look that I found hard to stomach. Yet I’m pushing back on Black people who feel Kelly is the victim. Some are once again bringing up White men who are accused sex abusers or pedophiles as a reason to let the ‘Pied Piper’ escape our judgment. I call bullshit on it all! Nuance say’s we can recognize talent without lying about the dastardly deeds of the talented. I’ve had conversations with friends over the years and we agreed on this premise: R. Kelly knows how to make a hit. The numbers back that up. With this additional information, it is also evident that this talented individual is a narcissistic, manipulative, and predatory human being. How one chooses to compartmentalize this dynamic is up to them. Long ago I refused to listen to his music. If someone else chooses to, it’s their right. But I don’t want to hear shit about what White people do as a reason.

This article isn’t about R. Kelly, however. It’s about people and their sacred cows. Each group whether by race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation all have them. There are none that are irredeemably flawed, nor pristinely perfect. I’ve criticized Black and White folk, the LBGTQ community, PETA, Christians, Muslims, Atheist, Democrats and Republicans. Why? Because sometimes folk just be doing too damn much! It’s the nature of having humans in your group. Show me a group that doesn’t need to be ‘checked’ sometimes, and I’ll show you a big fat Moo Moo that needs a ceremonial machete.

One group that seems to escape the blade in these United States are my Jewish brethren. I’m not talking about from Right wing extremist who hate Jews for the sake of hating them. I’m not talking about The Nation of Islam or Louis Farrakhan. I’m referring to the mainstream activist groups who seem to be the gatekeepers in suppressing voices and opinions which they do not agree with. In the latest example I site The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute in Alabama. In September of 2018 the Board of Directors elected to give it’s annual Fred L. Shuttlesworth award to political activist, academic and author Angela Davis. In December, The Southern Jewish Life Magazine criticized the museum citing among other things Davis’ critique of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians. Soon afterwards, the Civil Rights Institute not only rescinded the award, it cancelled the gala altogether. 

I call bullshit on these actions on so many levels. First on the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute for allowing someone outside of it’s community to tell them who to honor, but I’ll get back to that.

Before I go on let me start prefacing lest I be labeled an anti-Semite. If I have a friend from Palestine I don’t know it. I do, however, have several Jewish friends, one with whom I am very close. I’ve worked at Jewish Community Centers in two different states for over 10 years. My experiences and interactions with Jews have been on par with any other group of people. Politically speaking, I didn’t have anything to do with Israel becoming a state, and I certainly do not begrudge it either. For the sake of peace and human decency I am both pro Israel and pro Palestine. As the region goes, there has been dirt done on both sides. The history is centuries old and extremely complicated. Often, the players making the decisions are evil power hungry people. If an Israeli or Palestinian leader is not a radical, his own party is subject to oust him. Logic tells me because Israel has the most funding, assets, weapons, and technology – (especially from the United States) they tend to get better press and empathy. The White Evangelical movement is also an ally. On the other hand, Israel is surrounded by countries that hate them. Some for perhaps ‘legitimate’ reasons and some over religious bullshit. But I digress. Hopefully you get my point. I don’t proclaim to be a scholar in these matters. But I understand a little history and the human condition.

Recently, LeBron James used Instagram to make a statement about his competitive drive for success. He used a rap lyric from 21 Savage, “We been getting that Jewish money, Everything is Kosher.”

In the art of Hip Hop, lyrical gymnastics and word play are clever ways to describe narratives and make points. In the eyes of James and Savage, everything about that lyric was complimentary to Jews – something to aspire to. It was not to imply a hyperbolic narrative that every Jew has generational wealth. Understanding nuance, I posted to my Facebook page that LeBron was right to apologize – simply because as a Non Jew he can’t tell them what to be offended by. I realize that all Jews were not offended. I know of many who were not. But for those who were there is nothing wrong with owning the offense and correcting it.

The reason some Jews were offended is because they feel the words ‘Jews and money’ reinforce stereotypes of Jews controlling the media and or the world. It’s part of the narrative that fuels anti Semitic hate among people who wish them harm. I get that. And my message to Jews is this: Do you want to know how to dispel the myth that Jews run the media and control the world? Stop pressuring groups like the Civil Rights Museum on who they should honor!  Otherwise, you are in effect doing exactly what you hate being accused of; manipulating an organization, people and process that has nothing to do with you.

Listen, when people like me say they are pro Palestine having a peaceful homeland, they are not saying to hell with Israel! Protecting yourselves is expected. But don’t act like everything Israel has done in the region is right! Israel has as many hard asses and goons as any other group of people.  Don’t even get me started on Benjamin Netanyahu. Bibi has plenty of shit in his own game. But speaking against his criminal actions should get me fired or disqualify me from an award or a speaking engagement? (Like CNN did Mark Lamont Hill) GTFOH! Since I’ve worked at the Jewish Centers in St. Louis and Columbus, I’ve witnessed all kinds of programs for writers, performers, intellectuals, scholars, and so on. I have never heard of a Black organization trying to get them to shitcan one of your guest. What gives you the right to propose shitcanning one of ours?  If you don’t like Angela Davis, don’t invite her to your programs! If you care to see where she’s coming from, engage her, or set up a meet! I believe you as proponents know where she’s coming from. And if she doesn’t say Israel can do whatever the fuck it wants and damn the Palestinians, then you got beef with her. You overstepped your bounds! This isn’t the way to make friends out of the Black community.

And to the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute; you guys are cowards! I don’t know if it’s about the funding or something else. But at some point you have to learn to stand on the legacy for which you claim. You wrote in your statement that “..we believe this decision is consistent with the ideals of the award’s namesake, Rev. Shuttlesworth.” But that’s bullshit! Fred Shuttlesworth was a personal friend of mine.  I’ve had days and days of conversations with him about the movement. He personally told me all the details of when his home was bombed by the Klan. I’ll tell you one thing about Fred. He was politically savvy but not politically expedient! He didn’t compromise with any sort of foolishness! So don’t put your decision to diss Angela Davis on him! You own that shit yourself! Angela Davis is an ICON in our community! For decades she has given her life to the righteous cause of black people. Fred would absolutely honor her! You missed out on a great opportunity! And your lack of integrity is disgusting! Shame on you!

Ice Cube said almost 30 years ago, “Cause you can’t be the Nigga 4 Life crew – With a white Jew tellin’ you what to do!”

 

***Update: See Angela Davis’ response on an interview with Democracy Now

Shoutout to Jewish Voice for Peace and other Jewish people and organizations for supporting Angela Davis!  We know you are out there!

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

To Hell With Politics, This is WAR!

Several months ago I thought to myself, “You know, I hope President Obama wins a second term and I believe if he does he can get more things done than even his first.  But if Mitt Romney becomes president, it won’t be the worst thing that could have happened.”

Sure he’s pretty slick, but he certainly didn’t appear to be an off the chain loony like some of the previous candidates, i.e. Rick ‘Niggerrock’ Perry, Rick ‘No Birth Control’ Santorum, Michelle “Blame Obama for Everything” Bachmann and Herman “999 White Honeys I Screwed” Cain.  Romney seemed like the reasonable choice among republicans.  Much of his policies and politics in Massachusetts were fairly moderate for a Republican.

Since becoming the Republican nominee, I’ve done 180 on Mitt.  I’ve always said I don’t mind having a president whose policies I may differ with as long as I believe he/she truly cares about the nation and wants to serve it’s citizens.  Yes, one has to be ambitious to want to be the president, but ambition as the sole motivation presents a clear and present danger to the citizens of whom this person seeks to govern.

Mitt Romney is very rich. I’m perfectly fine with that.  However, when one has such a monetarily prosperous upbringing, it can be difficult to be in touch with or understand the plight of those who aren’t so prosperous.  Even that in itself shouldn’t be punished.  What is problematic instead, is when that same person has no interest in being made aware this plight.  What is downright unacceptable and morally reprehensible is when this same person goes out of his way to judge, demean and attack said people.  This is what we have in Mitt Romney.

Every time Romney opens his mouth regarding the majority of Americans he says something that either shows his willful ignorance or complete disdain for those who are not like him.

To college students at Otterbein University in Ohio he told them that if they don’t have the money to start a business to, “borrow money from your parents.”

****Keep in mind that the median family income for the 89 counties in Ohio is less than $60,000 per year. 

When he showed up in New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Isaac, (I have no idea why because he couldn’t do anything about it) he consoled Jodie Chiarello, 42, who lost her home in Isaac’s flooding by telling her, “There’s assistance out there,” go home and call 211.”

**Well, he must meant her SECOND or third home.  Well as it turns out she doesn’t have one of those.

Now in speaking at a private fundraiser he really let his true feelings known.

Exhibit A: On the disadvantages of being a rich White male in America:

“My dad, as you probably know, was the governor of Michigan and was the head of a car company. But he was born in Mexico. And had he been born of Mexican parents, I’d have a better shot of winning this… But he was unfortunately born to Americans living in Mexico. He lived there a number of years, and I mean I say that jokingly, but it would be helpful to be Latino.”

**Apparently he believes this so much he painted his face in such a dark brown so that he can look the part!.  It’s hard to imagine this rich white man actually wants us to believe that he think he would be better off if he were Latino.  How amazing is that?

Exhibit B: On people who are not the wealthiest and richest in America:

“There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. That that’s an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what.”

…”So my job is not to worry about those people, I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives. What I have to do is convince the 5 to 10 percent in the center that are independents that are thoughtful, that look at voting one way or the other depending upon in some cases emotion, whether they like the guy or not, what he looks like.”

Juxtapose that to what President Obama said about those not voting for him in 2008, “What I said on election night was, even though you didn’t vote for me, I hear your voices, and I’m going to work as hard as I can to be your president.”

Look, this guy doesn’t want to show us his own personal tax returns over the last decade because he’s afraid of what they will reveal.  He has a shitload of off shore accounts to hide his personal fortune, and not only criticizes 47% of Americans who cannot afford to hide what little money they have in Switzerland or the Cayman Islands, but admitted that he doesn’t cares about them anyway!

As far as I’m concerned, the dye has been cast!  This is a guy who after passing universal healthcare in the state he governed, that the emergency room is an acceptable plan for folk who don’t have insurance now.  This is clearly THE most expensive way to handle ‘healthcare’.  Not only that, this defeats the purpose of the emergency room…which is to treat emergencies!  It’s not healthcare!

So memo for a few groups out there.

Racist White Conservatives: You can continue to believe the hype and buy into this racial crap if you want to.  But if you aren’t making serious bank Mitt’s policies are not going to pay dividends for your family!  Would you rather have a money in your pocket with a black man as president, or be broke as a joke with a white one?  I know many of you would take the former, but I’m appealing to some of you who have better sense and will think about your finances and get over losing the Civil War!

Black Conservative Christians: I’ve already talked to you before.  The bible says to get wisdom, and with that get understanding.  Mitt isn’t going to overturn abortion. And he can’t outlaw homosexuality.  That horse it out of the barn!  You’re going to have to deal with gays and lesbians for the duration.  Regardless of what you believe personally or scripturally, you still have a responsibility to vote on more than social issues.  We are already making less than white folks as it is for the same jobs. Unemployment and incarceration hurt us more than anybody else.  Don’t be fools and end up more jobless and broker than ever, only to end up praying in church to God about delivering you from financial ruin!  So many of the challenges we face are not the devil, it’s you and us making decisions totally opposite of what is in our own best interest.

Pastors, if your congregation ain’t working, ain’t no tithes and offerings coming through the door!  Smarten up and lead the people with a purpose beyond what mainstream White Christians and White Christian radio is telling you!

To the rest of us, I say make sure you get out there and vote for Barack Obama.  Make sure your friends and family members are registered to vote and do the same!  Don’t take anything for granted.  Mitt, the hard right Republicans and The Tea Party are not playing with you.  You better take this seriously and understand the ramifications of the times we are living in.  This is indeed war on American and American families!  You best to soldier up unless you want to get run over!

Think about yourself and your families! Participate in the destinies of our lives so that we can have the best possible chances at thriving in our America too!

Religion and Political Conflict “The Deity Factor”

**The assignment for this Religion and Political Conflict class was to answer the question of why people threaten voilence or wage war in the name of religion.  It was written in September of 2004.  This is still my take, what’s yours?

Fighting for Religion

(The Deity Factor)

 

Now after the death of Joshua it came to pass that the children of Israel asked the Lord, saying, “Who shall be first to go up for us against the Canaanites to fight against them?”  And the Lord said, “Judah shall go up.  Indeed I have delivered the land into his hand.”  Judges 1:1-2

 

            The first reason I can think of as to why people threaten violence and wage war in the name of religion historically is because they sense or feel a mandate by god.  That sense of what I call the ‘deity factor’ can be the ultimate motivation to cause one to wage war in a most fierce manner.  There is no higher calling for a believer to have than the calling from a deified figure.  There are a couple reasons that come to mind.  First when a person or a nation feels they have a call from On High, the deity factor says that the calling is coming from One who is all powerful and able to win any battle against any opponent. After all no one believes his god is second to another.  Second the deity factor allows the god the attributes of creation as well as life sustaining power for and over the creation, causing the created to be grateful for life itself.  This sense of gratitude is a powerful motivator in that one doesn’t mind giving his life in service in order to fight his god’s battles.  The thinking is that even a tragic death on the battlefield in this type of service carries with it eternal reward for he who fought the good fight.

 

            There are also other rewards within the text.  In this case the Canaanites were on land that the Lord of the Children of Israel had given them.  This was also the case in many instances in the bible, including in Joshua where the Israelites were to cross over the Jordan.

 

Moses My servant is dead.  Now therefore, arise go over this Jordan, you and all this people, to the land which I am giving them-the children of Israel.  Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given you, as I said to Moses.  Joshua 1:2-3

 

Joshua also got that deified assurance mentioned previously in verse 5 of this same text.

 

No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life: as I was with Moses, so I will be with you.  I will not leave you nor forsake you.  Joshua 1:5

 

            Sure there are tangible benefits to waging and winning these battles.  Some would include wealth in the forms of land expansion.  The winning side at times has an opportunity to take hold of the conquered treasures.  But the deity factor can cause one to wage war with no tangible advantages at all, but only for the glory of the god giving the orders.

BB&G Explores Religion & Political Conflict

I was watching Meet The Press on Sunday morning, and of course one of the topics featured was the current crisis between Israel and Hamas.  As Hamas fires it’s missiles and Israel advances via ground, I imagine this is partly because there is a new administration coming into power later this month.  The Bush administration is of course an unrepentant supporter of Israel.  And while Obama says he also supports the nation just approaching 60 years since their declaration of independence, I don’t think the limits are known to Jews.  They may find it to their advantage to get a foot in certain geological and political places before Obama takes over.

What fascinates me as gas prices slowly rise again in the midst of this conflict, is the age old source of the initial conflict, religion.  In this case the beef between the Jews and a particularly radical group of Palestinians. 

I grew up experiencing and participating in various denominations of Christianity.  For a time I considered myself a rather devout Christian.  Now what that means to the reader is certainly subjective as we will get into later on.  I have also questioned and taken Christianity to task on differing subject matters.  I studied religion in college as well, and that really gave me an insight into how the religious beliefs of man determine lifestyles, laws, treaties, alliances and enemies.  It is the oldest and most consistent source of conflict in the world.  And when taken to such extremes, it seems as if it will never end.  Take the discussion on Meet The Press.  One of the guest was Jeffrey Goldberg, a Jewish American writer who currently writes for The Atlantic.  He had occasion to speak with Nizar Rayyan a late military leader of  Hamas who was said to be killed on New Years Day.  In his column from January 2,  Goldberg had asked Rayyan about the possibility of peace between Israel and Hamas.  This is what he wrote:

The question I wrestle with constantly is whether Hamas is truly, theologically implacable. That is to say, whether the organization can remain true to its understanding of Islamic law and God’s word and yet enter into a long-term non-aggression treaty with Israel.  I tend to think not, though I’ve noticed over the years a certain plasticity of belief among some Hamas ideologues. Also, this is the Middle East, so anything is possible.
 
There was no flexibility with Rayyan. This is what he said when I asked him if he could envision a 50-year hudna (or cease-fire) with Israel: “The only reason to have a hudna is to prepare yourself for the final battle. We don’t need 50 years to prepare ourselves for the final battle with Israel.” There is no chance, he said, that true Islam would ever allow a Jewish state to survive in the Muslim Middle East. “Israel is an impossibility. It is an offense against God.”

And there you have it.  This guy’s way of looking at his faith, or so he said was that no way his God would allow another people to live peacefully and that the only reason for a cease fire was to load up weapons and artillery for future battles.  Now don’t get me wrong, I have opinions on this as well as other conflicts both current and historical.  This “Deity Factor,” a phrase I coined in college which I will post later explains this perfectly.  But that is not the purpose of this post or the series which I plan to explore for the week.

My question is how do we deal with religion in the 21st century.  I see religion as a binding entity that has helped a lot of people.  I see it as a unifying force that allow great things to be accomplished among followers.  Through it people learn discipline, submission, and servant-hood as there is a recognition of a higher power beyond human domain.  Religion has sparked many humanitarian efforts all over the world through aid in the midst of wars and natural disasters for instance.  Equally, religion and religious ideology has also been the source of most wars around the world.  Historically, one religion cannot exist without some group of another trying to eradicate it from the earth in the name of said religion.  Religion has divided nations, torn brotherhoods asunder, killed babies and colonized generations of people.  People have ravaged lands, raped women, burned people alive and even attempted to wipe an entire ethnicity off the face of the earth – all in the name of religion and a brand of faith.

As sophisticated and technologically sound as we are in this nation with our computers, internet, satellite and space shuttle capabilities etc., primal religion and faith are still the straw that stirs the drink of American thought and motivation.  I don’t care how secular some say this nation is, make no mistake about it;  A major play in this past presidential election as well as the two previous are fundamental religious beliefs among Americans. 

This week I would like to explore that thought, provoke some conversation and get the opinions of ordinary people about the state of religion and how it effects our lives.  Of course we can’t cover every aspect, but I would like to start the year by exploring what is THE most significant factor of political and personal thought. 

Is it possible to exist with a people who don’t believe another people should exist?  Are we too radical in our approaches, not just them but us?  (Whomever us is) Do we question the origins of our own beliefs enough?  Do we respect others who do not believe as we do?  Are we doomed to just fight one another until the end of the earth?  All this week as we cover different topics surrounding religion, I invite you to just talk about it.  Maybe we can come up with some ideas, perhaps start a positive movement.

Peace