Response to Charlottesville

Having lived in David Duke’s home state of Louisiana for two years, I can tell you what he did today. He woke up and got to work, as he has done every day since he decided to spread his message. The man neither paused nor did he let defeat deflate his drive or let success give him pause through all these years. He may be cheering and celebrating today yet he was on the phone, posting online, and planning his programs, intent on his goal just as he has done every other day.

He is a racist, a bigot, and an anti-Semite but the First Amendment protects his right to spew his hatred.

What about you? What about me? Do you and I have the same depth of passion, but for justice and right? After all, fighting for climate change legislation is tough in a fossil fuel world. Explaining racial injustice and raising awareness of the economic injustices of energy policies to communities that do not want to hear facts and reason is a stubborn climb. Holding proudly to one’s faith in a cynical world can be a daily hurt. Are you still fighting?

This missive is not about the Neo-Nazis and the White Supremacists though. This message is about those who have the passion to fight for what is right, good, and godly, about those who stand up to the evil and hate. These people are our family, our friends, acquaintances, workmates and our members-in-faith.

One died and nineteen more lay wounded in the Charlottesville confrontation. Many, many more though, people of all colors, creeds and faiths, marched; they held the lines, and shouted down the hatred. Their passion brought them forth and their courage kept them going. The citizens of Charlottesville refused to accede to hatred, to acquiesce to murderous rage. Instead they welcomed those who hold beliefs of equality, justice, and freedom for all of God’s children. Together, they gave the voices of hatred no quarter and no measure of comfort to broadcast their message of intimidation and confrontation.

Evil only expands when it is allowed, when people of goodwill do not stand as a bulwark against the malicious tide. Silence, apathy and vacuum are tacit permissions to continue to fill the streets with hate-filled rhetoric. The streets of Charlottesville were not silent though and intimidation was met with spirited determination.

What about you? What about me? Are we going to sink into the sofa cushions or lean back into our computer chairs, and watch passively as a few good souls contest a contagious fear and paranoia? Whether the summons is the Hindu call of Gandhi, the Christian call of Martin Luther King Jr., or the beckoning of the ancient Israelite prophets, the universal demand of justice is broadcasting loud and clear across the land.

Will you and I answer the call? Shall we answer with unequivocal passion?

“Then I heard the voice of my God saying, “Whom shall I send? Who will go for us? Then I replied, ‘Here I am; send me.’”  Isaiah 6:8

Here I am; send me.

Angry Black Woman

Shonda Rhimes, an actress and producer of good repute, responded heatedly to an article by a television critic to the New York Times. The article intimated that Ms. Rhimes has cemented her position in the entertainment world by playing “The Angry Black Woman”. Ms. Rhimes responded appropriately.

Contrary to the Supreme Court decision that gutted a major tenet of the landmark Voter Rights Act of the 1960’s, racism is alive and well, dwelling with mundane comfort throughout our nation. As a nation we have learned not to use the “N” word and to be conscious of using “hyphen” words when more dated, loaded terms are no longer tolerable. We no longer sound racist, biased, or bigoted in public and when someone does use these dated terms, we know what to conclude.

All of these changes in public vocabulary are shallow and trivial. A casual racist will not be swayed by a change in labels; the casual racists of the past decades have not been convinced to turn towards enlightenment. They did learn to promulgate their convictions with subtlety, calm, and legal maneuvers worthy of a master script writer.

However, human beings cannot easily hide their deep convictions, their hatreds and their loves. Last week the stereotype emerged as “The Angry Black Woman” and this week or next, another, probably polite example will pop up. This is not cynicism; this is an argument that the battle to overcome xenophobia is an ongoing dynamic and that there is no one final battle in the public square that will finally defeat stereotyping, neither from the subtle to the extreme.

The point is to get out in the public square and call out racism and bigotry for what it is. We should thank Shonda Rhimes, not for defending herself, but for reminding us that we are all responsible.