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Archive for white supremacy

MLK Sunday – a Drum Major for Justice

50 yrs ago the Rev Dr Martin Luther King Jr. preached his last sermon at Ebenezer Baptist Church before his assassination. It is a remarkable sermon. In it, he discusses his own death and how he wanted to be remembered. In addition, he skillfully used the “Drum Major Instinct” theme – “thinking that you are somebody big because you are white” – to offer a deep critique of contemporary culture and an inspired, practical vision for living the Gospel. Specifically, he critiqued the dangerous down-side of the drum major instinct. He addresses white supremacy, racism, economic injustice and war.

Like so many of his sermons, this one has incredible relevance for us today, the year after an election in which various forms of the drum major instinct are on parade all across our nation.  It is also what makes the message King brings home so poignant: the call of the Gospel to be a drum major for justice and peace, a drum major for serving humanity, that we may “make of this old world a new world.”

Join us this Sunday, as we listen to the prophetic voice of Dr King, 50 yrs later.

I share with you an excerpt from his sermon at Ebenezer Baptist Church:

… And when we were in jail in Birmingham the other day, the white wardens and all enjoyed coming around the cell to talk about the race problem. And they were showing us where we were so wrong demonstrating. And they were showing us where segregation was so right. And they were showing us where intermarriage was so wrong. …And then we got down one day to the point—that was the second or third day—to talk about where they lived, and how much they were earning. And when those brothers told me what they were earning, I said, “Now, you know what? You ought to be marching with us. [laughter] You’re just as poor as Negroes.” And I said, “You are put in the position of supporting your oppressor, because through prejudice and blindness, you fail to see that the same forces that oppress Negroes in American society oppress poor white people. (Yes) And all you are living on is the satisfaction of your skin being white, and the drum major instinct of thinking that you are somebody big because you are white. And you’re so poor you can’t send your children to school. You ought to be out here marching with every one of us every time we have a march.”

Now that’s a fact. That the poor white has been put into this position, where through blindness and prejudice, (Make it plain) he is forced to support his oppressors. And the only thing he has going for him is the false feeling that he’s superior because his skin is white—and can’t hardly eat and make his ends meet week in and week out. (Amen)

Delivered February 4, 1968.  listen to the audio.

Offer Love’s Response to White Supremacy’s Hatred

I am sickened by the latest incidence of violence, this time  in Charlottesville, Virginia. I pray for the families of the two police officers who died on their way to help. I pray for the family of Heather Heyer, the 32-year-old paralegal who was killed by a 20-year-old white supremacist, a terrorist whose name I will not speak, who turned his car into a weapon against non-violent protesters. Heather was killed, and 19 other people were struck down by malice, hatred and racism.

They were struck down by what has stricken our nation since its founding: the horrible lie that is white supremacy. This lie was formed in the mouth of Thomas Jefferson, who had a suspicion that the Africans who had been enslaved by the freedom-seeking colonists were inferior to their white owners. This horrible lie was fanned into pseudo-science about racial hierarchy. This lie spits in the face of the truth: there is only one race, and that race is called human.

We who know the truth must be set free from apathy and boldly challenge the falsehood of white supremacy every time and everywhere we see it. We who are people of faith must not pretend that what happened in Charlottesville was violence and hatred on “many sides.” We must say the truth out loud.

This is the truth: White supremacists organized themselves and descended on Charlottesville to protest the removal of a symbol of hatred and racism. They will keep organizing and use every tool in their power to make America racist, again and again.

And we who believe in freedom, we who believe in the power of revolutionary love must keep organizing as well, and use every tool in our power to fight this hatred, to renounce this bigotry, and to call our leaders into account. This is NOT the America for us. This rising ugly tide of white supremacy, if unchecked, will become a tsunami that will drown the liberties espoused by our constitution, and will end more and more innocent lives.

Hatred kills.

We must recognize that all of these movements (black lives matter, women’s march, immigration reform, LGBTQ Pride, affordable housing, education, and healthcare, prison reform, climate justice, etc) are all part of the human rights movement. We must join together to stand on the side of love. Here are some things we can all do now in response to white supremacy:

  1. Tweet the president or retweet a prayer that @POTUS joins us to name and fight #WhiteSupremacy and the #terrorism that accompanies it.
  2. Read “UCC Pastoral Letter condemns racist violence in Charlottesville, demands equality for all”
  3. Read these articles and learn more about what’s happening here in the Bay area, Aug 26-27 weekend:
    1. Message from Mayor of Berkeley – The Aug 27 Rally does not have a permit
    2. Nancy Pelosi asks if White House had a hand in approving the permit for Aug 26    
    3. Don’t give the haters any bragging rights 
  4. Sign this petition from Faith in Public Life that calls on the @POTUS to behave like a president. It calls “on all elected officials to explicitly and publicly condemn white supremacy and the organizations that advance and seek to give it mainstream credibility.” And it asks “President Trump to remove Steve Bannon and other supporters of the alt-right from his White House and stand against the racist policies they propose.”
  5. Join us for an interfaith worship service on Sat Aug 26th, in which our very own music director, Benjamin Mertz, will be performing; stay tuned for more as plans unfold. 
  6. Join us for a conversation immediately following worship this Sunday about our own personal discernment in response. 

And never forget that when we take these actions, we are praying with our hands and our feet. We are mourning, and we are organizing against white supremacy with revolutionary love,  until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like an ever flowing stream.

I leave you with the prophetic words of Rev Dr Martin Luther King Jr: 

Hate cannot drive out hate: Only love can do that. 
The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, 
begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. 
Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it.
Through violence you may murder the liar, 
but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth. 
Through violence you may murder the hater, 
but you do not murder hate. 
In fact, violence merely increases hate. 
So it goes. 
Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, 
adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. 
Darkness cannot drive out darkness: 
only light can do that. 
Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.
A time to end the Silence. 

History will have to record the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the vitriolic words and other violent actions of the bad people but the appalling silence and indifference of the good people. Our generation will have to repent not only the words and acts of the children of darkness but also for the fears and apathy of the children of light.” “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”