Thursday, July 2, 2015

Have You Read The New York Times' "Looking 'White' in the Face"? If Not, You Should

I hope that the weather is as nice where you are as it is here in Chicago.

The July 4th weekend is approaching so I will be asking more questions and sharing short posts here on the site than the usual habit of posting longer essays. We will pick up our normal routine next week. 

The speculative piece on Fox News and the burning of black churches is over at Salon as well if you want to check out the comment section there to see what the Right-wing sewer dwellers are up to.

I am also migrating the files for The Chauncey DeVega Show over to Libsyn (here is a link to the page as it develops and gets finalized if you are curious). Moving the files is time consuming and tedious. But, it was necessary and now that I am getting more accurate stats it would seem that folks are listening to and downloading the episodes even before my formal announcement that the site is "live". Good stuff.

I am also going to be attending some panels at the Socialism 2015 conference here in Chicago. If you happen to be there don't hesitate to say "hello". 

[Some questions. How do Socialists feel about cologne? Is my favorite pink shirt too individualistic and loud for the Socialism conference? Are there any room parties? Or are Socialists a dour and boring bunch?]

In can be pretty hard on the mainstream corporate news media and the 4th Estate. Given the high levels of journalists malpractice in the era of 24/7 cable news and corporate media consolidation, they are more than deserving of criticism and scorn. Nevertheless, there are moments when outlets such as The New York Times and The Washington Post do some good work.

The last few days featured some great writing and content that deserve to be praised.

The Washington Post ran a wonderfully written and beautiful essay--on an ugly topic and a horrible human being who should be used as Satan's condom in the afterlife--about Dylann Roof's defilement tour of Black America's hollowed ground that are the plantations, slave ports, and other sites of the Maafa. 

The Washington Post needs to do a more extensive story on how such tours are common for white supremacists. In the future, I hope that they take on that task. For now, the final paragraph of
"Dylann Roof’s eerie tour of American slavery at its beginning, middle and end" deserves to be shared:
Thematically, Roof’s journey was also a montage of subjugation, beginning with the cruel Ellis Island of African Americans and how they had been made to suffer. 
He ended it in the fellowship of their descendants, just across Charleston Harbor, as they prayed and worshiped the God they credited for their and their ancestors’ strength, succor and mercy. And then, police say, Roof raised the Glock and began to kill them.
The New York Times has been running a series of conversations/interviews with philosopher Dr. George Yancy. He is an amazing thinker--my frequent use of the phrase "the white gaze" is a direct allusion to his book Black Bodies, White Gazes--who has brought some wonderful folks to his virtual salon at The New York Times. Dr. Yancy is practicing what the best type of public pedagogy should be: serious conversations, about serious topics, with serious thinkers, people who the general public needs to be engaged with and exposed to.

"Looking White in the Face"--which is today's installment of his column The Stone--features Dr. Thomas Watson of Villanova University.

My religious beliefs, or lack thereof, are a bit nontraditional and most certainly are very vexing to those who are more formal and fundamentalist in their religiosity (as such, I have caused great frustration to such binary thinkers, essentialists, and simple minded religious people; ironically, many of them are so smart in other areas, but so limited by their assured clarity as to run away from those whose values they cannot easily decipher or locate on their simple cognitive map. Political-religious socialization as a child and young adult is one hell of a drug and a type of programming that is not easily undone).

Even while I am an "atheist who believes in God" and one who also does a whole bunch of talking to J.C. Soul Brother Number One (I don't go for the mumbo jumbo of miracles and such, the mythology of the man and his teachings are sufficient without such things), this beautiful exchange between Yancy and Watson damn near brought me to tears. Call me sentimental...or just moved by powerful ideas:
G.Y.: You’ve argued that true religion or prophetic religion engages the real, involves a process of risk, especially as it demands, as you’ve said, serving those who have been oppressed, marginalized, orphaned. Etymologically, religion comes from “religare,” which means to “bind fast.” I wonder if that process of binding fast is with those who are the strangers, the orphans, the unarmed black men recently killed by police, women who are sexually objectified, the poor, etc. 
That has been felt in a particularly cruel way among black men and women and children, where poverty is the most entrenched and life is the most desperate. The popularity of such cruel ideas, their success in the ballot box, is terrifying to me. The trigger-happy practices of the police, not all police, but too many police, on the streets of black America should alert everyone to how profoundly adrift American democracy has become — attacking the poor as freeloaders and criminals, a distorted and grotesque ideological exaggeration of freedom over equality. The scandal is that the Christian right has too often been complicit with a politics of greed and hatred of the other. 
J.D.C.: Yes, it is, of course. In the gospel Jesus announces his ministry by saying he has come to proclaim good news to the poor and imprisoned and the year of the Jubilee, which meant massive economic redistribution every 50th year! Can you imagine the Christian right voting for that? The great scandal of the United States is that it has produced an anti-gospel, the extremes of appalling wealth and poverty. But instead of playing the prophetic role of Amos denouncing the American Jeroboam, instead of working to close that gap, the policies of the right wing are exacerbating it. 
To be sure, younger evangelicals are becoming critical of their elders on this point, and I am trying to reach them in my own work, and there are also many examples of prophetic religion, like the Catholic parish in a North Philadelphia ghetto that I wrote about in “What Would Jesus Deconstruct?” The secular left, on the other hand, won’t touch religion with a stick and abandons the ground of religion to the right. So both the left and the right have a hand around the throat of prophetic religion.
Do you have any great gems of writing or other nice discoveries regarding matters of public or private concern that you would like to share? 


joe manning said...

Gimme that ol time religion of the social gospel as espoused by G.Y. and J.D.C.

Society's left/right cleavage is especially apparent in religion. Black churches tend to be more inclusive than the more "inner directed" white churches.

The Christian right is especially susceptible to the Tammany-ization that trends toward national and international fascism.

Poor whites perceive that "big gummit" programs exclude them so they settle for God, guns, guts, evangelicalism and the shibboleths of "don't tread on me," and "that government is best that governs least." While federal regulation is anathema to the popular libertarian small business ideology that masks Corporatocracy.

The vacuum on the left prevents the creation of a people friendly state.

seeknsanity said...

Thanks for the articles CD,

Looking White in the Face was an interesting interview. Mr. Yancy asked some pertinent questions. I especially like the following one, because I firmly believe, if not for one, the other would not be so powerful:

"You mentioned that most philosophers and most academics are quite progressive, but often slip into a kind of unintentional thoughtlessness. Still, the recipients of such thoughtlessness can suffer deeply. And even “progressives” can continue to perpetuate deep systemic forms of discrimination in problematic ways. Do you think that thoughtlessness can function as an “excuse” for not engaging more rigorously in combating various structures of systemic power?"

But, my feeling about religion goes deeper, because I don't view it as its believers do, nor as most people for that matter. The interviewee, as well as many others, approach questions of religion from a default position which excludes the roles religion has played in shaping such an unjust world. They chose to selectively see it as a force for good. They simply won't acknowledge, that it was anything other than the teachings of Jesus. As if, this has all simply sprung up out of the ether, and their peaceful and loving dogma hasn't anything to do with racism, which is describe as an extreme fear, rather then the effective tool that it was ,in the hands of the religious.

To me, worship of a religious practice that was used to, justify 'converting the savages,' which resulted in colonialism and slavery, is akin to agreeing to the premise of that religion's actions. Both in the past, and the horror it is still wreaking in Afirica, as protestants from America, spread their idea of a Christian utopia. To states that are seeing people practicing such things as witch hunts, burnings and stoning, to this day. Few of which makes it onto the mainstream here but, look at the crazy Muslim country that is doing it. To me, it's tacit approval for slavery, after-the-fact, and is why the decedents of slave owners can afford to be less than empathetic to the plight of blacks. Because, in their eyes, and in the eyes of the who vehemently worship their foundational religion, whether they know it or not, 'slavery was good for black people.'

Anne O'Nimmus said...

Chauncey, I like your pink shirt (the one in the top pic?) and I love your black cat - reminds me of my long gone Tommy ( aka Cattius Clay) who lived to 17 1/2.
I don't have a gem of discovery as such, but a prog that was on bbc World Service (radio) that's a mix of beautiful and glorious and sad, of friends and colleagues remembering Rev Clementa Pinckney:
a lot of other listeners also thought it brilliant. Well worth a listen over your holiday weekend, and should be available, being world service.