Thursday, May 31, 2018

Political Correctness and a call to respect of the humanity of the other

There are times when one must make their selves heard, and as such, make their stance on positions known. These days I consider “Where I Stand” more important than ever. This post about political correctness emerges after watching a debate on political correctness and the various intersections of grievances which have become fertile ground for discussion whether on the political left or right.  There seems to be so much grievance these days I wonder will the republic survive. This is my response or input on the topic of political correctness.
Image result for images of political correctnessPolitical correctness is fundamentally about respect.  That is respect for people, considered the other, whose humanity was disrespected, trampled, neglected and in many cases murdered for over 300 hundred years and even today suffer amidst systems of oppression. The children of those who perpetrated such violence and vitriol still to this day have difficulty and are exercised by the need for them to respect, unconditionally, the humanity of the other. Political correctness is an imperfect means, as all means are, of somehow giving respect due black and brown bodies. It is an acknowledgement that the country was founded with a birth defect at its foundation. Political correctness is one means to address the birth defect, to engage in a process of healing. Healing, in this case, becomes a moral obligation as the soul seeks the light of justice, as love in the public square. It is effectively building a more inclusive and healthy society which imparts its best. Mindful of Micah 6:8, political correctness is a means to love our sister and brother and to do justice and to walk humbly with God.
It would seem, based on the rhetoric of the President of the United States, AM talk radio, Fox and Friends, and many of the supporters of Make America Great Again, that the moral obligation which political correctness seeks to address, as one interpretation of Micah 6:8, is antithetical to their position, whether in a religious or secular context. To respect the humanity of the other is tantamount to heresy. To acknowledge the humanity of the other would be a rejection of their believe system which is rooted in the denial of the other and their humanity to avoid an all-consuming apocalypse.  Charles Blow, a brilliant American Journalist, commentator, and current visual op-ed columnist for the New York Times commenting on the cancellation of the Roseanne Barr show by ABC, in response to her abhorrent racist tweet about Valerie Jarret, said that “racism is a part of a believe system present since the founding of this country. He further says, stop being astonished!” Van Jones said, in response to Charles Blow, “It does seem that there’s been a moral collapse in our political center.” This moral collapse is a consequence of a believe system which rejects outright the call of political correctness.
Even now fans of Roseanne are attacking ABC for canceling the show. It is clear from the sitcom’s ratings that many, not all, of middle America felt affirmed in their biases and in many cases racist tendencies. It allowed them to feel comfortable in expressing their views and perspectives of disregard for a society and culture more and more diverse. It is unfortunate that for many, free speech, is about their freedom to disparage a person or community they don’t understand or don’t like. This type of “free speech” is detrimental to society making it more and more coarse and as such dangerous and divisive on many levels. On the other hand, “I get it.” Political correctness regarding free speech, should not be about protecting anyone from the harsh realities of life in America.  It should not be used to stifle dissent or controversy, more so, it should enrich serious debates on social and cultural matters which lead to a mature and pragmatic discourse. But should it be used to stifle the racist, the sexist, the homophobe, transphobe, etc., or intimidation, those who practice what is considered immoral and indecent? No, but there must be a robust pursuit of just language which overcomes a language of intimidation and the indecent.
Amidst a cultural and civil war raging, its proxy being social media, politics and religion, Jordan Petersen, Professor of Psychology at the University of Toronto, and a Clinical Psychologist, is against political correctness seeing it as a part of a failed postmodernist intellectual regime hell bent on resentment against those and their systems who oppress. It is the oppressed getting back at the oppressor which, for Peterson, is detrimental to society and the grievance of the oppressed.  While I see his point and I, myself do not believe in revenge, I do want respect for my humanity. This is the question, “Can those historically oppressed and disenfranchised ever attain respect from the dominant group?” It is clear that the dominant group represented by the Trump supporter has a serious grievance as they feel disrespected, marginalized and made to feel less than, and their grievance should be addressed, yet, to be clear, their grievance comes nowhere near the grievance held by First Nations People, African American’s, Mexican Americans, Chinese Americans, Korean Americans, women, and people who identify as LGBTQIAP, etc., but I don’t want to get into what aboutism, a term used by those on the political right these days as an excuse for deeper more psychological issues rooted in displacement regarding entitlement and privilege.
In a debate involving Michael Eric Dyson, Michelle Goldberg, Jordan Petersen and Stephen Fry, Michelle Goldberg, blogger, author and New York Times columnist, commented that in her interviews of people at Trump rallies she found that many people were upset that they couldn’t say what they wanted to say about women and by implication black and brown people. They feel their voices are marginalized for the sake of political correctness. Goldberg’s interviews are a reminder that many people, particularly those who support Donald Trump and his Make America Great Again agenda, demand freedom to disrespect the other anytime they please without hesitation, to discriminate, to return to a time, reflecting here on the Dred Scott v. Stanford Case of 1857, when black people, i.e. slaves had no rights that should be respected by the United States.  
From a Christian perspective, and this is my theological point, political correctness is a discourse on justice, as a means towards morality, which expresses ones love for God and the other. The other, many times in sacrifice, struggles to live this sacred call out daily amidst certain injustice which looms over their humanity. In this, the other transcends a believe system which marginalizes and denies their humanity and the humanity of others. Emanuel Levinas, a precursor of James Baldwin and Cornel West, engages the other as an authentic, even a sacred presence.  The other, considering a mindset which denies their humanity must be the resistance as they develop certain strategies which combat a mindset reminiscent of Nazi Germany and America’s Jim Crow South. Their actions must be of a morality courageous as they remain steadfast in their just convictions. Many times, this may be a protest against a legal policy which reflects desires to protect ideologies of injustice such as the current U.S. Immigration policy.
Political correctness is not about shutting down the rhetoric of those haters and people discontent but it does seek to call those who would be such to show respect for the other even in their hatred and discontent.  Is this a bridge too far?  Only time will tell.

We have a lot of work to do and we will get through this.
Rev. Monica Joy Cross, Christian Church Disciples of Christ

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

An Unwavering Stand Against Racism

Image result for images on racismI find that I should write a blogpost as a response to the small minded nature of the times we are living through here in the U.S. A time when those delicate unable to cope with the changes and shifts in American society are seemingly spouting rhetoric revealing thoughts unhealthy and unwise owing to a sense of fear rooted in the history they themselves created. Concerns for loosing their second amendment, a disregard for the truth, embracing alternative facts, ethical considerations now negligent and racism alive and well seem to be the calling of this time.  And now this narrative has become inhumane and immoral since there is little to no concern for morality. While there are those of us who think this new narrative a dangerous one and that it will mark the U.S. like the holocaust marks Germany, realize that many people only care about losing their sense of entitlement, privilege and supremacy.
In a recent YouTube video the commentator was commenting on the second amendment and how it protects white people from the violence which may be inflicted upon them. That this how a sense of control is maintained. I suppose if you had a dark history, one predicated on the enslavement of the African, the genocide of indigenous people, the Chinese exclusion act of 1882, Jim Crow, and  myriad of other injustices, just to name few, I imagine you would need to protect yourself from the descendants of people murdered, hung from a tree, discriminated against and marginalized for your sake. The NFL debacle is one more instance of profound injustice as the voice of the players has been marginalized for the sake of so called patriotism at the insistence of the president and profit margins.  
My spiritual mother showed me pictures from a flea market in Amarillo, TX, where crosses, made out of guns and bullets, formerly, a symbol of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, the foundation of the Christian faith are used as props for the second amendment. Some things should be out of bounds. Then there is The World Peace and Unification Sanctuary in Newfoundland, PA, a congregation which seemingly loves the second amendment so much that some were remarried to their spouses while honoring their AR-15 gun. This is a seriously ludicrous church event. They say that God gave them their guns.  “The AR-15 is their golden calf” as commented by Cenk Uygur, host of The Young Turks. The majority of the congregation had AR-15’s supposedly unloaded.  Some serious idolatry going on in this church. 
Guns, an icon of strength, protection and power, for people in fear of black and brown bodies, is one icon among many whose purpose it is to enforce a narrative of white entitlement.  One more icon was the Roseanne Bar sitcom which was cancelled due to the star of the sitcom putting out an abhorrent racist tweet on twitter calling Valerie Jarrett, one of President Obama’s key advisors, an ape. Of course this wasn’t the first time she had done this.  She had also called Susan Rice, former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations who became President Barack Obama's national security advisor in 2013, a man, using vulgar and extreme derogatory language. She had sung the National Anthem at a baseball game in such a way that it was disrespectful to all Americans while a black man cannot kneel in respect of the flag remembering the injustice that flag also represents. That said, many people are asking the question, “Why did ABC let her do the show in the first place?  We can never discount the profit motive when addressing huge corporations such as Disney.  I think, and this is just my thought based on the various media both left and right, it is because of her controversial stance on race, as a fundamental discourse in the Make America Great Again movement, in particular, which got people, particularly the Trump supporter, to look at the show making it the top show on ABC. I think for ABC there was a line drawn in the sand and she crossed that line and lost her show. The question that has come up is, “How strong will the backlash be?” or “Will the show get picked up by another network?”
What we have are a people frightened of the history they’ve chosen to create. It is a cautionary tale that one must be aware of the long term implications of one’s actions at the moment of decision. This would seem to be the case of those who have built up whiteness, giving it a luster, even a shine rooted in the oppression of those black and brown. Of course those who lift up whiteness are the latest in a long procession of the those who oppress for sake of social and cultural sensibilities, profit and privilege. That said, those who hold on to their second amendment and a strange unjust faith, are a detriment to a nation divided as they fuse their fear with notions of white nationalism.
While I am very much aware that many people don’t like putting injustice in racial terms because it makes matters worst or it puts up a block, etc. we must acknowledge that racism as a fundamental part of the problem.  I get it, we want to communicate but without actually sharing the hard truth of the matter we do a disservice to a movement of justice for all. People say, put it in terms of class, education or anything else but not race. It’s hard for me not to consider race as a fundamental concern as it is the initial building block of American injustice. Police brutality, red lining, school to prison pipeline, don’t begin with a person’s class, education or politics but their race. Yes the issues are larger than race but we should not push race aside saying, “It’s not pertinent to ongoing issues of social and economic justice. 
 We must say no to racism in all its forms and iterations.  To do anything less is a condoning of injustice. We must stand strong and unwavering in the face of a resurgence of racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia, Islamophobia and other forms of hatred and bigotry. I think the actions of corporate America like Starbucks and ABC whose parent is the Disney Co., might be some examples of standing and fighting against racism. We cannot compromise on our stance against the ugly underbelly of America. Even if it means a so-called double standard which they base on their belief that they are not heard or don’t have sufficient voice in the public square. Fact is, they have a significant media complex which makes the voice heard. Fox, Talk radio, the President of the United States, both houses of congress.  Yet they say their voice is not heard.  Give me a break from this nonsense. One more fact is, the victims of right wing populism and its rhetoric, after centuries of injustice are finally gaining some voice which begins to compete with those who have historically been the perpetrators of that injustice.  Times have changed and we will not go back.