On the eve of Michael Brown’s funeral, a New York Times profile of the slain youth called him “no angel” and characterized Brown as troubled, citing his experimentation with rap as evidence. Vociferous criticism quickly followed, with the Times‘ public editor, Margaret Sullivan, finally admitting that the language used to describe Brown was regrettable.
Much of the criticism focused on how race played an implicit role in the vilification of Brown – how his blackness provoked descriptions white victims of violent crime rarely see – as is often the case in American media.
In a stunning display, Sean McElwee took that critique one step further by contrasting Brown’s description not with those of other white victims of crime, but with a white perpetrator of violent crime – mass murderer Ted Bundy.
Below is a paragraph from the Times‘ profile of Brown published on August 24, 2014. It is preceded by evidence that the teenager who was gunned down by police, unarmed, was grappling with and deepening his spiritual beliefs.
Credit: Creative Commons/Wikipedia
Pope Francis appeared to step into the quagmire in Iraq last week when he reportedly “endorsed the use of force” against ISIS. He was speaking a week after Obama authorized U.S attacks on ISIS military positions to stave off the threatened destruction of refugees in the Kurdish mountains. So was the “Pontiff of Peace” sprinkling holy water on airstrikes, perhaps even embarking on “the last crusade”?
No, in fact, the pope was doing nothing of the sort. His message was garbled through glib and superficial reporting, as Elizabeth Stoker Bruenig has shown in an excellent analysis in The Daily Beast of what the pope said and didn’t say.
However the pope’s statement – and subsequent misinterpretations – clearly show how urgently the leaders of the three Abrahamic religions need to start talking face to face rather than through press statements. The crisis in the Middle East goes far beyond the military and political conflict, horrific as it is. At a deeper level, the spiritual identity of all three religions is under assault from the militarization of language and glorification of conflict.
To respond to these spiritual temptations of power and dominance, there’s an urgent need for these religious leaders to declare a “spiritual emergency” and meet in a “spiritual summit” to speak clearly to their faithful, from their respective traditions and scriptures, in defense of their shared values and vision of faith as applied to the current circumstances.
The work of artists and creative activists can help to create a cultural democracy that prizes diversity, practices equity, and brings a deep respect for human rights to every aspect of civil society. Therefore, the people-powered U.S. Department of Arts and Culture calls on all artists and creative activists to join in the movement to demilitarize the police and bring justice to victims of publicly funded racism.
- USDAC Call: Creativity for Equity and Justice
For the past two years, I’ve been working with other volunteers to build and launch the USDAC, “the nation’s newest people-powered department, founded on the truth that art and culture are our most powerful and under-tapped resources for social change. Radically inclusive, useful and sustainable, and vibrantly playful, the USDAC aims to spark a grassroots, creative change movement, engaging millions in performing and creating a world rooted in empathy, equity, and social imagination.” We need volunteers, so please help if you can!
This week, appalled by the deluge of racism and violence flooding the news, we issued the USDAC Call: Creativity for Equity and Justice. Recognizing that racism, the denial of human rights, and official violence are all cultural issues, an amazing group of artists and activists (just click the link to see names like Judy Baca, Lucy Lippard, Gloria Steinem, Jawole Willa Jo Zollar, Peter Coyote, Brett Cook, Lily Yeh, and dozens of others) called on all of us to
Join together in affirming to all public officials and policymakers that a culture of punishment cannot stand. We join together in applying our gifts to the public gatherings, organizing campaigns, and policy proposals that will support positive change. We stand together with generations of creative activists in communities across the nation who have been envisioning and working toward a world of equity and safety for all.
Are you upset about what is happening in Israel/Palestine?
Are you tired of the vitriolic discourse with friends, family members, or on social media?
Do you want to learn skills to communicate compassionately and effectively across differences? Want a safe place to grieve and mourn?
… If so, this workshop is for you.
Come meet others who care deeply about ending the suffering in the Middle East, and learn how to effectively communicate with others with whom you might not agree!
The Network of Spiritual Progressives and Tikkun are offering a four-hour workshop where you willlearn techniques to deal with your distress, rage, and upset about the situation in Israel and Palestine and also have opportunities to learn and practice skills for hearing those who don’t agree with you and expressing yourself more effectively. You will leave feeling empowered to engage in healthy discourse, even with those with whom you disagree.
by: Ebele Mogo on August 25th, 2014 | 3 Comments »
The potent possibility of discerning the divine is actually not a closed process but an ongoing negotiation that changes over time Credit: Creative Commons/Aaron Escobar
I once made up a game: what if you could only use a word once in your lifetime and afterward you had to find new ways of expressing the same thought? The first time I could ask you to “come.” The next time I might have to say, “Advance.” “Draw near.” “Move forward.” “Progress in my direction.” The responsibility to find other exacting terms was exciting as it opened up possibilities in the use of language and challenged the brain.
Now imagine applying the rules of that game to the use of the word “God.” Finding other ways to express this word would probably extract what people really mean by it from the shadows. Some may say none, one, or multiple of the following: Judge. Energy. Father. Mother. Creator. Nothingness. Fighter. Defender. Being. Universe. Mystery. Love. The man upstairs. I do not know.
In the case of “God,” the glaring truth is that, within the same word and even within the same religious worldview, there are multiple understandings of what necessarily is an abstract noun, and thus beyond the complete grasp of language.
[African Americans are] born with a veil, and gifted with second-sight in this American world – a world which yields [them] no true self-consciousness, but only lets [them] see [themselves] through the revelation of the other world. It is a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness, this sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others, of measuring one’s soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity.
- W. E. B. Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folk, 1903
The veil hanging over African Americans, though, operates like a one-way mirror. They can easily see outward onto white America, and in this way, they develop a a "double consciousness." Credit: Creative Commons/Barbara Eckstein
For DuBois, this “veil” concept can be taken three ways. First, it suggests the literal darker skin of black people, a physical delineation of separation from whiteness.Secondly, the veil suggests white people’s deficiency or inability in seeing African Americans as “true” Americans. And lastly, the veil refers to black peoples’ difficulty under a racist system to see themselves apart from how white people in the United States define and characterize them.
The veil hanging over African Americans, though, operates like a one-way mirror. They can easily see outward onto white America, and in this way, they develop a “double consciousness.” Though not in the truest sense of “bicultural,” African Americans do acquire a realization of “otherness.” For emotional and often physical survival, they must learn how to operate in two societies, one black and one white. White people have no such veil wrapped around them, and the mirror makes it difficult for them to perceive the realities of African Americans.
by: Michael N. Nagler on August 21st, 2014 | 5 Comments »
Police and protestors engage in conflict in Ferguson Credit: Creative Commons/Loavesofbread
Some time back in the early fifties the U.S. Navy conducted an “exercise” to test bacterial warfare…in San Francisco! They sprayed bacterial agents into the fog over the Bay to “see what would happen.” Sure enough, some people got sick, and one elderly gentleman died. When Norman Cousins, editor of the Saturday Review, discovered this through the Freedom of Information Act he wrote a stinging essay in the magazine.He said, “We are outraged, and we should be; but we have to realize that these are the wages of violence. You cannot authorize a group to go out and defend you with military force and expect that that force will never come home to roost.”
This is the lesson we again seem to not to be learning from the violence – all of it, on both sides – unfolding in Ferguson, Missouri. Yes, what Officer Wilson apparently did on the night of August 9th was outrageous, inexcusable. I say “apparently’” because at this time controversy and contradictory reports are still swirling and it may be a while before we know – if we ever do – the truth. But even when we do, and no matter what it is, there is a deeper truth to which the mainstream media will never direct us to, and will, in fact, obscure by their attention to details and particulars of this event as though it occurred in a vacuum. What I’m thinking of here goes even beyond the racial tensions underlying the scenario of the white officer and black victim.
by: Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove on August 21st, 2014 | No Comments »
Credit: Southern Coalition for Social Justice
The first Tuesday in August is National Night Out in neighborhoods across urban America. Roadblocks stop traffic on one block or another as old men roll grills into the street and the young fellas gather for a pick-up game. Grandmas put their lawn chairs out on the sidewalk, and little girls skip rope double Dutch until they fall over on the ground laughing. I love these block parties. They’ve been a staple of summer life in Walltown since before we came here in 2003.
But I didn’t go to National Night Out this year. As much as I wanted to be with my neighbors, I couldn’t stomach the police dancing in the street and slapping high fives for one evening while they patrol Walltown like a militarized zone the other 364 days of the year.
Don’t get me wrong: I like the idea of a National Night Out. Local police partner with communities to “take back the streets” and create safe places for folk to be together. In places where violence has driven folks off their porches and out of the parks, coming together on the block can be a bold act of community building. Indeed, I’ve seen it happen right here.
But any partnership depends on trust, and my young neighbors have been teaching me how difficult it is to trust police culture in our neighborhood today. Beyond the age of thirteen, any young black man in Walltown knows that he is subject to being stopped on the street, asked for identification, frisked and possibly put in hand-cuffs while officers “check things out.” Jamal or Tyrone do not feel any better about this treatment for having seen Officer Brown do the electric slide last week.
Of course, they’re better than me at wearing the mask. They probably went down to the park last Tuesday to catch up with folks and eat a free hot dog. But I can’t shake this reality that they’ve forced me to see. I can’t, in the words of Jeremiah, say, “Peace, peace,” when there is no peace.
Are men and women really different? Does it even matter? Credit: Wikimedia Commons/Haabet
Have you noticed how easily people fall into passionate disagreement over points that matter far less than the heat they generate might suggest? I see it all the time. Last week my blog shared ideas and observations en route to speaking at the Women’s International Study Center’s inaugural symposium. The Symposium was excellent. Everyone was so smart, thoughtful, and articulate, I thought the building might levitate. But even with that much brainpower in the room, two points of this kind impressed me.
Are women better? Some speakers suggested that equal rights for women were justified by the differences women would make: that surely, women would bring different values and energies to workplaces, institutions, and the halls of power, and that would be a great improvement for everyone. These differences often turn on conventional gender types: women would be more collaborative, less belligerent. They would bring a softness and kindness. They would value relationships more and competition less.
Maybe. Maybe not.
Rev. Jim Burklo has, for many years, had quite an influence on my spiritual and vocational journey. When I read this most recent of his “musings” I thought it needed to be shared with the Tikkun Daily community. So, with Jim’s permission… read on!
Credit: Creative Commons-Flickr: Waiting For The Word
Michael Brown should not have been shot dead by police in Ferguson, Missouri. His hands were up. He was unarmed. It doesn’t make any difference whether or not he had stolen earlier something that day. If he had committed such a crime, he should have been given appropriate justice, not a volley of bullets. At the time he was shot, there was simply no excuse for what happened to him.
Somebody else had his life stolen from him, too: a man named Jesus, killed for no good reason. Jesus also died with his hands up. He had been ethnically profiled by the Roman occupying army in Jerusalem, and was brutally murdered on a cross.