Dear Rabbi Michael Lerner,

Your Winter/Spring Issue of Tikkun’s Exploring Identity Politics presented a number of provocative points of view. Identity Politics, in redrawing self/community, retraces colonial thought and its accompanying theological compromises, as today’s Democratic Institutions are being threatened by ideology

Thandeka’s Creating a Spiritual Practice to Heal and Transform the World brought into laser focus the white community, that across class, economics, age, education and gender, voted Mr. Trump victorious.

Thandeka asks us to consider carefully this whiteness, particularly the wealthy whom she sees as the prime arbiter who mixed the white paint. She asks us to see the need for a redemptive forgiveness of the whites ensnared. She parses out the lead content in the white paint and its real self-harm to the poor who participated. For Thandeka, the white rich force of law which brings thirty lashes on a black bare back or on a shirted Caucasian is still 30 lashes, tearing flesh and sinew to make of itself a raw display of power.

Her analysis then follows this white demarcation line in American History from its creation in the 1600’s when indentured servants/slaves stations were altered to hue, moving on to the Constitution’s three fifths cocktail for the landed rich, to the black face assimilation minstrel coaches for desperate rural European immigrants, bringing us to the Tea party and their Evangelical Protestants with Bannon’s conservative Catholics tagging along.

Recalling Dr. King’s Riverside speech April 4, 1967 Thandeka raises again King’s problem with the power of property over and above the people’s welfare, and what he perceived so clearly that if not corrected, racism, materialism and militarism would be uncontrolled.

Thandeka sees the unabated responses to Donald J Trump rise and his rhetoric- the White Lives Matter Movement and the Resistance Movement with Tea Party tactics as destructive to our democracy. Thandeka’s pastoral experience is evident in her call for an “organization of a spiritual vision quest for Progressives in concrete racial, political and experiential terms”.

Thandeka pastoral call echoes the religiously based reform movements such as Abolitionist, the Shakers, the Quakers, the long line of African American Orators and Preachers, the Jewish Federations… that shape our American history. For generations of Americans the Synagogue and Church has bound up the wounds from the unfettered power of property and Capitalism. The American Social fabric wove in compassion from these charitable institutional trusts.

Thandeka wants Progressives now to embrace spirituality for the white-hot embers of forgiveness to address the broken heartedness in the White Power Movement and to give sustenance to the Resistance. The one question that this raises for me may be the depth of the wound and for whom. Thandeka covers brilliantly a broad historical overview of racial training opportunities for Caucasians to be White and the motivating divisive intention of class. She postulates as to what an individual would gain and would be lost in embracing whiteness.

What I would question and posit as all costs measured as prerequisite for any societal/religious forgiveness. This begins at the area Thandeka referenced as the fear referenced by Whites as “out there” as part of the embracing of whiteness and which Thandeka stated “I haven’t a clue”. Fear and Pride are binary together. Whiteness did distribute to all allowed participants pride/power subsequently some measure of control in lessoning degrees.

Power is seductive and especially desirable when one is helpless and facing the depth of the damage – the gun, the whip, the knife, the boxcar, a starving child, a fist, the grave- wrought by someone else’s unmitigated power. The film Mudbound directed by Dee Rees and based on the novel by Hillary Jordon graphically illustrated this point with precision in the intertwined lives of white and blacks in the Mississippi delta. The film illustrated the primal fear of near death that can transform hard wired racism. One of the films characters Jamie goes in a bombing run over Germany. When he experiences the intimate killing of his copilot and his gunner behind him in the small cockpit, the very next moment the RedTail’s clear the sky of German fighter planes. It is this Jamie, that as an individual, attempts to be different on his return to the delta. He endangers Ronsel a Black Vet on his brother’s farm and Ronsel’s family. Jamie and the Ronsel’s family leave his brother’s homestead with different costs paid.

Resistance movements across history have recognized unmitigated power stops at nothing. Thandeka has identified an important moral compass spirituality can add to the Resistance. Spirituality first task as a vision quest will need to face real costs of injustice to all parties beyond the self to bind us up in the fight together for justice.

Very respectfully,

Noreen Dean Dresser


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