Crazy Faith Ministries
Many thought we were done with raw racism, the kind of racism that erupted in violence on the streets during the ‘60s. Poll after poll showed that many Whites believed there was no more racism. When Barack Obama was elected president of the United States, many joyously declared that the United States was post-racial.
Many, not all, but too many people were still dealing with racism, in spite of the heroic actions of President Lyndon Johnson, passing the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Many Whites believed that the laws – as odious as they were to them – marked the beginning of the end of even the need to talk about racism.
It was over. The law said so.
But the law could not and did not touch the hearts of Americans who had grown up with racism as a constant companion. The law could not erase the inbred feelings and beliefs that African Americans were inferior to Whites and the resentment many felt because they believed Black people were being given too much.
The law could not budge even pastors from their racist beliefs, and so they did not talk about racism in their sermons, or teach about racism as a part of their Bible studies. Pastors, charged with bringing a message of love and morality to their members, avoided the subject. The idea of African Americans being “equal” to Whites had always been distasteful and, they believed, just wrong. The law could not change their feelings about that. Black people were a sore to be tolerated, not human beings to be treated with dignity and respect.
The law could not change those feelings.
Some Whites struggled with what they were feeling and how to get past it, but other Whites just dug their heels into their anger, an anger made worse because they felt like they couldn’t even talk about it. They believed that America had been created to be a White man’s country, and these laws were messing with the natural order of things. They were resentful that Blacks were in “their” country, resentful that some Black people were able to go to school and get jobs, resentful that “the law” prohibited segregation and discrimination in housing, education and employment.
They avoided “the law” that made them go against their spiritual inclinations as much as they could; they held their noses in other cases and dealt with integration when it absolutely could not be avoided. But they hated what they were being made to do.
That resentment bubbled up from time to time. No matter what “the law” said, they knew what Black people were: lazy, shiftless, whining crybabies who wanted something for nothing. This, in spite of the fact that these Black people had worked the fields in the South and the drudge jobs in the factories in the North to help build America’s economy. They were “allowed” to serve in the military – but were often prohibited from fighting. Their “place” was to serve White people, and the effort was made in all segments of life, including the military, to keep things as they were supposed to be. Whites hated the interference of the federal government, which had the audacity to require that their children’s schools had to be integrated, so they broke the law and many school districts shut their schools down rather than integrate.
God would understand, they believed, and so would the state. Some things were just wrong.
Meanwhile, Blacks made gains in spite of White resentment. Black culture is one where people learn to “make do,” and Black people in America had been “making do” since they landed on these shores. Their schools were not good; state governments did little to protect them and their rights, but Black people pushed on and took advantage in the lull of the abject violence and lack of dignity they had lived with. Blacks kept on pushing in spite of lynching, in spite of not being able to get loans for schools and cars and education. They kept on because they knew that the more things change, the more they remain the same. They expected backlash after the Civil Rights Movement of the 60s because there had been backlash after the Civil War and Reconstruction.
White people were infected with racism, and the infection had not been treated. The symptoms never went away. In the same way that the HIV virus can become full-blown AIDS, Black people knew the AIDS of White supremacy was never far away.
And so when Charlottesville erupted, with angry, young, White men with torches carrying out a threatening march outside of a church where people were praying for peace, Black people knew. America’s AIDS was back, helped along by a man in the White House who fed their rage and resentment. Black people knew the script. It was familiar and not familiar at the same time, because many Black people had not experienced the violence caused by White resentment, not like their grandparents and relatives had.
The angry, young White men are on a roll, just as were their ancestors, who raided the countryside by night, setting homes afire, shooting innocent Black people just because they could, and working as hard as they could to snatch their country from the hands and lives of Black people. They are on a roll, emboldened by lawless federal leaders.
The more things change, the more they remain the same. Once again, Black people are going to have to fight for dignity and humanity, theirs by virtue of them being American citizens and human beings. The young White bucks who are bound and determined to bring racist terrorism back into the center of American life don’t care one iota about what their actions will cause.
They are busy “making America great again,” following a leader who has said to them, “Do what you need to do.”
We are not even close to being a post-racial society.
Rev Dr. Susan K Smith is a preacher, teacher and lecturer on the subject of the inability of the Bible and the Constitution to end racism. You may contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.