According to Hebrew and other legend, the world was formed from chaos. As John the Seer describes in the Book of Revelation, we are in the period of re-creation. The re-creation will emerge from chaos. Our role is to co-create with the Divine a world of love, inclusion, and justice. Hold on it, its going to be a bumpy ride.
Thank you for inviting me to spend time with you this morning, or we say allowing me to tarry awhile. I selected this letter from the prophetic Divine sent messenger Dr. King because he is telling us that what we traditionally consider as normal is in reality chaos for the masses, and folks hold unto that normalcy until it is disrupted. This is the message that Bishop Barber with the Poor Peoples Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival calls to us- what is normal is really chaos, and it is time to disrupt that chaos and
create a justice community, a beloved community, an inclusive community.
Historically when there has been the greatest chaos, through the determination of good will men and women, there has come creation.
Reading the Greek translation of the Book of Genesis, it states that the Divine created the world from chaos. Some readings will saw that there was void, the word void means chaos. This mean that creation came from chaos.
A low spot in the enslavement of African men and women was when the Supreme Court ruled in the Dred Scott case in 1857. The decision said that the Constitution was not meant to include American citizenship for black people. The chief Justice stated that a black man has no rights which a white man is bound to respect. Three years later, the United States engaged in a Civil War which lead to the emancipation of enslaved people in the Confederate states.
The brutal murder of Emmett Till in 1955, ignited the modern Civil Rights era. The decision by his mother to have an open casket which was published throughout much of the country was followed by the Montgomery Bus Boycott four months later. There had been women who had refused to move before, and there had been efforts to integrate public
accommodations but the murder of Emmett Till awaken the consciousness of the Negro Community.
The white community knew what was happened and most had turned a blind eye and a deaf ear to what was happening but when on this new invention brought live action into their living room – the murder of four little Negro girls attending the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham in September 1963, the beating of John Lewis and others on Bloody Sunday in March 1965, the fire hoses and dogs used against children in Birmingham and other cities, the burning of buses during the Freedom Rides led to the passage of the Civil Rights Act in 1964 and 1965, and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
The devastation from the AIDS crisis that took the lives of almost 450,000 Americans between 1981-2000. Homophobia drove much of resistance to responding to this pandemic. By 2014, we had marriage equity and this year it was determined that federal law covers sexual orientation and gender expression. I personally more than 300 people who died from AIDS including best friends, former partners, students, colleagues, and customers.
We are now in a space in which we are naming injustices and the list is long. The murder of George Floyd and Berona Taylor and others too many to name has brought us to our moment of chaos. As Dr. King wrote in his letter from the Birmingham Jail, we have identified the issues of injustice. And those with privilege have chosen to ignore it and not negotiate in good faith. Almost weekly, a black or brown man, woman, or child is murdered by the police. This is the new form of lynching.
Privilege is not willing to give up power. It continues to attempt to re-frame falsehoods. When Colin took a knee to protest the police brutality, it was re-framed that he was against. The President called the players an inflammatory name, and his base, who claimed to be evangelical Christians, cheered.
This year marks my being active in the human justice movement for 60 years. This week we heard about the chaotic humble beginnings of John Lewis. Most of the justice warriors have similar starts. We got sick and tired of being sick and tired, as Fanny Lou Hamer declared. I grew up in a segregated Housing project. Attended all Negro schools from K-12. I just up with separate rest rooms, lunch counters, riding on the back of the bus, and everything from birth to grave designed to make me a second-class citizens. But the Divine and the ancestors had a different plan for me.
Having spent 45 years in predominately white institutions as student staff, faculty, administrator, and senior level administrator, I have learned about the culture of whiteness and white privilege. I have been always been the only POC or a few I have conducted hundreds of trainings and workshops My experience has been that during this kind of work, the most challenging have those who consider themselves to be inclusive and open. Many have declared themselves allies to various marginalized groups without clearly
understanding what requirements and qualifications person in that group would expect declaring someone an ally.
My experience tells me that it is these folks who have the most difficulty doing the intrapersonal work. They have declared themselves devoid of influence of whiteness and have a difficult identifying not only how they benefit from privilege but how they continue to support systems of privilege.
Through passive aggressive behaviors, they are gatekeepers for whiteness. They are very comfortable giving a hand down or a handout but find it next to impossible to give a hand up or a handover to members of marginalized groups.
As I shared with a young man the other day, it is difficult for to not be in the center and have things revolve around that center.
There is a tendency to conflict or chaos avoiding and demand civility and pleasantness, which is a way of blocking truth. There is fearful of the expression of negative emotions. There is a resistance to sharing in the discomfort.
There is fear in truly giving up power or the status quo. Good talk but not good walking the walk.
My experience is if challenged, there is a whole repertoire of mechanisms to protect them for being open to learning.
There is a behavior and culture of whiteness, which few people of European descent will acknowledge. One of the activities that I used with students was to separate non-white students into a group and ask them to define traits of white culture. I would divide much larger group into the white students smaller groups and ask them to define traits of different ethnic groups. Every time I did this exercise, I would enrage the white students. Euro-centrism tells us to focus on the individual and it is also impossible for them to claim group identity. And there lies a problem in making progress toward justice.
I often shock people when I am doing workshops by telling them that I still have to consciously work on my issues with stereotypes, prejudices, and the potential for discriminatory behavior. Justice work requires a comfort with chaos. Not only situational but the intentional chaos. And then comfort with speaking it into the universe.
There are two books that I have used in my teaching. Love is Letting Go of Fear by Gerald Jampolsky. His thesis is that there are only two base emotions-love and fear. The intrapersonal work requires us to look at our fears. We can not become the beloved community while still holding onto fear. Intrapersonal work requires us to examine our privilege, to examine that our parents, religious leaders, grandpa that we love may have been wrong. Love and fear can not exist in the same place.
The second book is Do I Have to Give Up Me to Be Loved by You? Their thesis is that we have two basic intent – the intent to learn and the intent to protect. I believe that the Divine sent not only Jesus, but hundreds of others in all cultures to teach us to create Heaven here on Earth. As long as our intent is to protect, our race, our false truths, our history, our money, our reputation, our privilege, our supremacy we can not create the beloved community.
My experience in doing justice work is that well-meaning progressive folks are among the biggest barriers to the movements succeeding. The level of passive aggressive behavior to protect whiteness suffocates movements. Many are there to prove themselves different than other white people. When I enter a circle, I shock people when I tell them that after 60 years of doing this work, I still have stereotypes, prejudices, and can be discriminatory. Yet, I can not tell you how many thousands of times, someone has come up to me and say they don’t see color.
They are gatekeepers of whiteness. Different on the surface from the conservatives but still holding onto the same core. They use all types of strategies to protect their privilege. I am connected with many POC who diversity work and this is almost consensus. I recommend that you read and discuss Understanding White Privilege by my friend, Francie Kendal.
In his new book, Eddie Gause quotes Baldwin wanted Kennedy to see what was at the root of all of our troubles: that, for the most part, human beings refused to live honestly with themselves and were all too willing to hide behind the idols of race and ready to kill in order to defend them. One of the tactics that I find consistently in the program I have conducted is my majority culture participants refuse to define an outcome which is to be achieved by process.
Why do I raise these? Because as Baldwin writes the desire to protect the status chaos is great. Most people of color recognize these games and are often the first to not return ones for a second session.
We must recognize the dynamics at work. Having real authentic conversation is the first step to real action and real transformation. My belief goes back to the two books I mentioned – we acknowledge our fear and then release it. And we must let go of our intent to protect in order to then learn.
In the Christian Bible, it is reported that Jesus tells us the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. His work is for justice, love, and inclusion.
I believe that this period of chaos will be not be brief. We are challenging 400 years of a false narrative, not just about poor people. This country has been built on shifting sand. Built on greed, theft, genocide, enslavement, rape, destruction. We have glorified the destruction of life and the environment. It will not be fixed by having a kum bah ya moment.
This is no longer about police brutality. Bishop Barber has declared we are creating a fusion movement. Not an organization but a movement. The pandemic has unveiled the pan-demonic.
The period of the pandemic is the Divine placing us into a holy time-out. How will we respond? We will attempt to protect falseness and return to ‘normal’ or will we embrace perhaps our last opportunity to create the beloved humanity here on Earth.
The book of Revelation was not written about the end times. John the seer was proclaiming the end of injustice. It reveals what those in the margins have known.
The battle in the streets in not just about police brutality or the removal of monuments, it is the battle to end the system of supremacy. The young people of all colors are joining the veteran warriors. An article last night said the majority of the protesters for Black Lives Matter were white Democrats.
My truth is that I may not be here when it comes but we are in the midst of a re-creation. The ideals of this democracy are great, but we are on the verge of losing the American experiment. But hold on, in the new creation the last shall be equal, for we are all precious in the face of the Divine.
As much as we may try, we can not bully the chaos away, we can not polite it away, we can put on a facade and make it go away.
John Lewis has been called a founding father. In the next few years, decades, we will see the true founding fathers and mothers very differently. Behold, Therefore, if anyone is in justice and love, they are a new creation. The old things have passed away; behold, the new has come into being.
Topics: Racial Justice