Grace and Truth

ORIG_15003_022_use_1Language has always been powerful, words from a young age the panacea for skinned knees or the bludgeon worse than leather belts or closed fists. We see the world through words, soft words, hard words, correct words and changed words. The words of a world that defines us and confines us, a world that wishes us to be different than we are or more accepting of our position within it. Our world expands or contracts based upon how we are defined, how we define ourselves within the narrow confines of a language that may not be our own, yet is the only one we know.

Over time, words change and with those changes, our view of the world may be moved. The things we once believed, thought were written in concrete become mud and we are left wondering if all our preconceived notions of the world must be reexamined in light of our new understanding. These changes of course, this reexamination requires first a heart and mind willing to consider new ideas. It also requires the intellect to see through the barriers of history and how society uses language and symbols to create new meanings, divisions and sometimes-even reconciliation.

Occasionally, we are thrown out of our comfort zones by language. Other times we co-op language to make others uncomfortable, or perhaps simply to force a change in perception. We tend to combine language and symbols, making connections with those we might otherwise have nothing in common with or who we might otherwise choose never to associate with. The only thing drawing us together, our common language and adherence to the symbols we claim as defining us as a group, as our stake in heritage and pride, whether national or otherwise.

Whether these symbols and the language surrounding them are flags, guns, uniforms, a badge or some other mark of distinction; they set us apart. In many cases what once were used to define boundaries and defy a world finally are being exposed for the symbols of ignorance, subjugation and violence they always were, without the whitewashed language that has surrounded them for fifty plus years. The language, the words to describe this symbol of horror were many, most were lies yet we all turned away allowing the lies to stand until finally they could stand under the glare of historical truth no more.

Battle Flag of the Confederacy

Battle Flag of the Confederacy

Of course, these truths were always there, always right before our eyes we simply allowed the lies to stand. We, as a nation allowed a small minority to change the truth, to rewrite history and fly their symbols of hate, bigotry, fear and slavery over public buildings and within state flags without saying a single word to expose the truth. We, the people of this nation turned away from the truth without a word, we shook our heads and allowed a lie to stand for nearly sixty years even knowing the insidious nature of the lie, we allowed it to stand to infect another generation and become accepted as a truth. That is the nature of language, of words and of allowing the defeated to rewrite history.

I grieve at our willingness to continue the lie generation to generation. The language we use to hide the truth of our terrible history and its continued impact today. I am dismayed at the hubris of so many who believe they can rewrite our terrible history, deny its truth and the ongoing truth of racism, hate, intolerance this nation continues to support. Words, language how we use them tend to ultimately define us, ultimately show who we are. This is true even when we attempt to change the meaning of things, the meaning of symbols and the words surrounding them.

We have watched this play out over the past weeks with the Confederate Battle Flag. We have watched the defenders using language of “Heritage not Hate” and “States Rights”. We have seen the Memes slide across social media about the secession of the southern states not being about protecting their right to own human beings. Those of us who understand the truth of that flag, the history of that flag tried to educate, tried to refute these lies and some of us lost friends. Many who revered the Confederate Battle Flag they didn’t know this wasn’t anything more than a Battle Flag, they didn’t know it was only unfurled in 1961 in protest of Civil Rights. They didn’t know the true history that this battle flag was unfurled in protest of the undoing of Jim Crow laws in the South, of not being able to subjugate, abuse and lynch the former slaves their ancestors had turned traitor to keep enslaved.

I mourn this nation, we buy pabulum fed to us without challenge and despite the evidence to the contrary allow lies to stand as truth.

Grace, something we need heaped upon us. The President spoke of Grace when he sent State Sen. Clementa Pinckney home with a powerful eulogy. On the floor of the South Carolina House as they debated the removal of the Battle Flag, this was the most compelling fifteen minutes I heard, I hope you will listen.

Grace, we need it. We need to find the language to heal this nation. We need to find the words to lift ourselves up from the mire of the lies we have told ourselves. We need to start pulling the threads of truth from the great ball of bullshit we have rolled up and allowed to stand in our proverbial town square as truth. We must knock down the memorials to traitors and begin to lift up the true heroes of our nation, begin to tell the true stories of our nation, begin to learn from them and progress toward a future that lifts all of us up.

Grace, we have little of it right now though what we do have comes far too often from those with the least reason to show it, to give it. It is time we begin to open the doors and windows and give it back, starting with an acknowledgement of truth.

Be Damned

The Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church sits at 110 Calhoun St. in Charleston, S.C.

The Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church sits at 110 Calhoun St. in Charleston, S.C.

I am incapable of words to express my sorrow or my fury. I am at a loss where to begin to express my deep empathy for the families of those who were lost, the survivors, all victims of a terrible hate crime, a horrifying act of violence. I find I am at a loss at how to express my compassion for those left behind to survive the terrible repercussions of violence.

Where do you even begin?

Do we start with the grief that we have not risen from the past but instead nurture hate so closely it drives some among us to walk into places of worship and indiscriminately murder innocent people. How do we battle this cultural nightmare, this disease that continues to feast on heart, decimate soul and destroy future?

We did this, yes when I say we I am specific in my calling out. We, White Folks, those of us with the privilege of being born with skin the color of moonlight. Those of us who check the box, ‘Caucasian’,  or ‘White’ on the Census and all the other forms through our lives, we did this. It is ours, we own it and we have owned it from the first slave sold in this nation. From the Three-fifths Compromise to Dredd Scott, from Jim Crow to Separate but Equal and everything before, after and in between. Every step along the way, White People in power worked to keep those they considered ‘different’ and ‘less than’ powerless. Through economic, educational and justice policies, we have divided this nation’s people into cultural classes that not coincidently aligned along racial-color lines, keeping Black, Brown, White in their separate and unequal lanes.

Now, in this century, in this decade and after the election of the first Black President the hate and fear, the true ugliness of racism has risen like a phoenix from the ashes of political correctness and the result has been truly terrible to witness. Fear and fury rose up from the White community, from the dirt floor of the poorest house in the Appalachians to the polished marble floors of Congress, White Men rose up in protest at the Black Man in the White House. It was terrible to see, but we turned away. We shrugged our shoulders and said, ‘these are not the norm, these are the minority’. We did nothing, said nothing, demanded nothing be changed nothing be confronted.

Worse than the rising up has been our acceptance of this ‘new normal’. We see it, we witness the horror of violence, we turn away. We justify our apathy with, ‘but it isn’t me, I am not a racist’. We11164745_892454580813961_4783942740135091392_n watch in horror as another act of violence is carried out, another unarmed black man, woman or child is beaten or killed by police or civilians but we do nothing except perhaps wring our hands and pretend we don’t understand why. We listen to the nuanced language, the media spin trying to justify the horror show of murderous rampages by white thugs, whether cops or civilians, against those they deem unworthy of life, liberty, freedom and the pursuit of happiness in the land their ancestors helped to build in chains. We pretend we don’t see it, we forget within the next news cycle.

The state of South Carolina flies the Confederate flag, a symbol of all that is wrong, a symbol of traitors who fought to maintain the status quo of enslaving human beings. The Sons of the Confederacy can whitewash and bullshit all they like, can cry their tears of states’ rights, liberty and freedom as the driving factors of their ancestor’s reasons for secession from the lawful government and their own reason for continuing to worship the Stars & Bars. We should pull that scab off the wound that was the Civil War, demand the history books be revised to tell the truth and call those who would say otherwise damned liars. The war of secession was fought  to keep human beings enslaved and preserve a way of life for wealthy White men and women who did not wish to give up their privilege. The majority who died fighting in that war were poor, ignorant and fearful, they were convinced if the slaves were freed they would be displaced, their women would be raped and their jobs taken. The language of the traitors was eerily similar to those of the Tea Party today, hauntingly analogous to many of those who would be President.

“Government Overreach”

10407515_10203057948409525_2425821899359663210_n“Preservation of Constitutional Values”

“Preserving Liberty and Freedom”

Yes, familiar rhetoric isn’t it. The hubris of those who would preserve a way of life built upon the blood and misery of others is exceeded only by the ignorance necessary to believe the lies. The amount of money spent to divide us, keep us separate, maintain the horror of racism and ignorance exceeds the budgets of some nations, yet we allow it to continue without rising up. We, owe ourselves better than this, better than more blood, more hate, more division based on ignorance. We must demand a change, an accounting; we must say no more.

We, each of us with the privilege of our Whiteness intact must stand up and demand the same privilege for those not born with skin the color of moonlight. We must demand history books tell the truth of America, of slavery, of Jim Crow, of enslavement through poverty, miseducation, unequal justice and incarceration; we must demand an accounting and we must apologize for our own ignorance and blind acceptance of the lies we have told to preserve our own power. We must rise up and against hate and hate groups, we must stop turning away and instead call them what they are, Domestic Terrorists. We must demand an accounting of media that uses their power to criminalize Black victims while whitewashing even celebrating White murderers. We must begin to call things and people what they are, we must hold accountable those who refuse to do so.

We must stop giving a pass to any person who refuses to stand up and call out Hate Crimes and Racism for what they are. We must hold those who would lead to the highest standard and demand they call the nation towards healing, towards justice, towards equality and fairness. Those who will not stand up and call racism what it is, who will not call out their followers for their racist remarks and acts, they do not deserve leadership roles, certainly don’t deserve to be President.

Dead at the hands of a terrorist, racist thug.

Dead at the hands of a terrorist, racist thug.

We all need to start demanding better, doing better, teaching our children better and demanding of our leaders better than they are today. For the lives that have been lost, we need to give them names and bear witness to their tragedy. For those who took their lives, we need to give them no name but murderer, thug, terrorist we need to give them no excuse for their act but the one they gave, racism and hate.

Cynthia Hurd, 54

Depayne Middleton Doctor, 49 Myra Thompson, 59
Clementa Pinckney, 41 Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, 45 Susie Jackson, 87
Ethel Lee Lance, 70 Daniel L. Simmons Sr., 74

Tywanza Sanders, 26

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