I love history.
I know, I know! Some of you may find history to be irrelevant, boring and super MEH. But I think that is the farthest thing from the truth! History is ridiculous and raw and real! It can be hilarious and foolish but also deep and so meaty with wisdom (or lack thereof). History’s exciting and FUUULLL of drama (even a Scandal episode ain’t got NOTHIN’ on the Presidential race of 1872!)
And if you’re a history buff like me you’ll realize history can be like an equation:
Historical Equation: This+that=WHOA!
(a Bill and Ted “Whoa” to be exact!)
This historical equation can help you see crazy coming a mile away! It has the ability to show us HOW things came to be while also giving us warning signs of what could come in the future! Not buying it? Take these famous historical lines for example!
“Absolute power corrupts absolutely” — Lord Acton
Warning: Anyone who doesn’t want checks and balances is doomed… also beware of dictators.
“Taxation without representation is tyranny” — James Otis
Warning: If I’m not being represented in government… DONT YOU DARE TAX ME!
“Wise men say only fools rush in” — Elvis Presley
Warning: Stopppp planning your wedding to the cute guy you met at Starbucks five minutes ago.
“Real G’s move in silence like lasagna” — Lil Wayne
Warning: Stop listening to Weezy.
See what I mean?! Ugh… I just LOVE history!!
Fangirling aside, if there’s ONE thing that history has taught me the most– it’s this: humans on an individual basis are the most un. pre. dict. able. creatures in the universe (well, the universe–as we know it #SpaceForce) . Honestly, we make NO SENSE.
Side bar: I don’t need history for evidence of this– look at me! I love the cold, hard facts of history AND the fake, crazy fiction of The Walking Dead?! HUH?!
But even as unpredictable human beings can be, history shows that human nature as whole is what truly makes history’s equation.
Human nature is sinful. Human nature is broken. And time and time again, the sinful, brokenness of humanity rears it’s ugly head and terrible things happen. Things “civilized” people swore they would never do because they are sooo much more progressive. As just Michael Jackson would sing perfectly: Why, why?! Tell them that it’s human nature!
Why, why?! Because humans are the worst and if you study history, like me– you will realize because of human nature, history has a large potential to repeat itself.
I know what you’re thinking:
Okay, I’ll get to the point! Thursday night my mom and I went to go see BlacKkKlansman. In case you’re not aware, this is a Spike Lee Joint based off the true story of a Black Detective, Ron Stallworth, who was able to infiltrate the KKK back in the 1970’s. I know…crazy.
As far as movies go– it was brilliantly made, exceptionally acted and probably one of the best films Spike Lee has done…ever.
But in the same token, as a black woman, it was ROUGH to sit through. Rough.
There’s a huge difference between reading or watching things about the hatred of black folks by the KKK and sitting through two hours, essentially being “a fly on the wall” of the Klan. Obviously, many scenes just displayed the hateful, evil thoughts and words expressed by KKK members; which obviously incited many emotions within me.
All in all, this movie was awesome but it made me angry, sad and uncomfortable. Witnessing such an accurate depiction of the KKK’s arrogance, pride and general grotesqueness made me sick to my stomach.
There was one scene in the BlacKkKlansman that especially broke me in half.
WARNING: Spoilers (sort of) are afoot! I won’t reveal anything significant to the plot tho, as I’m a Marvel movie gal. I know better. #Snap. #Thanos. #Bucky.
At one point in the movie there is a sort of paralleled scene between an induction ceremony within the KKK and a special event within Black Student Union of Colorado Springs (the town everything is based).
At the KKK event, you see David Duke (real life leader of the KKK) sharing the history of the Klan. Throughout the rally, Duke is interweaving God and the church into his messages and there are scenes of hateful chanting, a viewing of Birth of a Nation (the heinously racist film that reignited the KKK krazy in the 1900’s) and just weirdo communion-ish/baptismal rituals. During this scene, you can just sense the depths of hate the KKK has for anyone who isn’t a “pure white American”.
Simultaneously, the Black Student Union is listening to a guest speaker, activist Jerome Turner (Harry Belafonte). He shares some history of the horrific treatment of black folks, particularly his first-hand, eye witness of the lynching of Jesse Washington. Hearing Belafonte recount the terrible acts that happened to Jesse while witnessing the KKK members chanting “Kill the Nigger, Kill the Nigger” was a kick to the gut and the floodgates of tears were opened.
Now, let me just stop here real, (not so) quick to talk about Jesse Washington.
Jesse Washington: My History and Yours…
Jesse Washington was a black, teenager with mental/intellectual disability accused of the rape and murder of a white woman in 1916. Now, I’m not gonna lie, I had only heard bits and pieces of this story before (most notably hearing about the post cards of his lynching). After seeing the movie, I wanted to look more into what happened. Based off of my research, here’s a (not so) quick synopsis.
Jesse worked for the woman he was accused of raping and murdering. The only reasons he was implicated was due to the fact that he was seen at the scene earlier in the day (as he worked for her and her husband) and when they went to question him he had overalls with blood on them (which he tried to explain was from a nose bleed). He never had an attorney present when being questioned by police and being that he was 17 at the time, he should have had a parent in the room also, which he did not.
Mobs were out to lynch him from the moment they found the woman dead so they had to transport him to several different jail locations. Angered by this, the police asked the mobs to stop searching for him and mobs told the police they would hold off any lynchings as long as the court case went quickly, with a confession waiving Jesse’s legal rights.
Now, I’m not lawyer… but I watch enough SVU to know a thing or two. It seems to me Jesse Washington may have been coerced into a confession of this crime. While it is noted that he did have a temper, just because he had a temper doesn’t mean he raped or killed anyone. I genuinely think because the angry mobs told police they would stop harassing him/try to illegally lynch him (lynching was illegal at that point)– in order to “keep the peace”, police told Jesse to admit to something he did not do.
It was noted that the confessions were “obtained, under duress and were suspiciously clear, not entirely in the boy’s own words” When asked about the mobs coming for him, Jesse was even quoted as saying “They promised they would not if I would tell them about it.”
During the trial, the doctor gave testimony never mentioning rape (as he did not think the woman was raped according to his notes) and Jesse’s defense attorney’s didn’t even try to make a case for him. After only an hour long court case (talk about quick!), he was found guilty by an all white jury… in the Deep South.
Even if he hadn’t signed a confession, it seems like he would have been found guilty either way.
Now, don’t misunderstand me. I’m not diminishing the crimes. Rape and murder is absolutely horrible! I am sorry for this woman and her family. But at the same time, the right person needs to be held accountable for the crimes and I really don’t think it was Jesse. It looks like he was just an easy target.
But even aside from my opinion, for argument’s sake, what if Jesse was guilty of this crime (which I don’t believe he was)
… does that mean he deserved this? (straight from Wiki):
After four minutes of deliberation, the jury’s foreman announced a guilty verdict and a sentence of death. The trial lasted about one hour. Court officers approached Washington to escort him away, but were pushed aside by a surge of spectators, who seized Washington and dragged him outside. Washington initially fought back, biting one man, but was soon beaten.
A chain was placed around his neck and he was dragged toward city hall by a growing mob; on the way downtown, he was stripped, stabbed, and repeatedly beaten with blunt objects.
By the time he was taken to city hall, a group had prepared wood for a bonfire next to a tree in front of the building.
Washington, semiconscious and covered in blood, was doused with oil, hung from the tree by a chain, and lowered to the ground.
Members of the crowd cut off his fingers, toes, and genitals.
The fire was lit and Washington was repeatedly raised and lowered into the flames until he burned to death.
German scholar Manfred Berg posits that the executioners attempted to keep him alive to increase his suffering.Washington attempted to climb the chain, but was unable to, owing to his lack of fingers.
The fire was extinguished after two hours, allowing bystanders to collect souvenirs from the site of the lynching, including Washington’s bones and links of the chain. One attendee kept part of Washington’s genitalia; a group of children snapped the teeth out of Washington’s head to sell as souvenirs.
By the time the fire was extinguished, parts of Washington’s arms and legs had been burned off and his torso and head were charred.
His body was removed from the tree and dragged behind a horse throughout the town. Washington’s remains were transported to Robinson, where they were publicly displayed until a constable obtained the body late in the day and buried it.
It was estimated that 10,000 people witnessed a 17 year old, mentally disabled boy being beaten and tortured for a crime that no one really proved he committed. His body was dragged through the streets. His fingers and genitalia were cut off. People smiled, unafraid at repercussions (because there were no consequences for them), as his bloodied, charred, cut up body laid…helpless.
And the cherry on top of this terrible plight? The facts I knew going into this:
Pictures of his torture, his burning, his agony– were sold as postcards.
People sent messages to friends and family using photos of this poor boy’s brutal execution.
Take a minute to think about that.
And this is history. This is my history. This is your history. And as Americans– this is our history.
Where do we go from here?
Recently, I’ve been being more vocal and intentional about the truth of race relations in America and my experiences. Some people agree and some disagree. One idea that literally blows my mind is the fact that some people don’t believe racism still exists.
Not gonna lie, most of the people I hear this from are indeed: white. But shockingly, I’ve heard it from people of color too. From their mind’s eye, racism is a thing of the past and because there are laws banning things like lynchings, Jim Crow and the like… Racism apparently is gone.
*blinks* I can’t wrap my head around it!
Sometimes, I think, maybe because folks haven’t experienced blatant racism, they choose to believe it no longer exists. Or maybe people subconsciously try to distance themselves from the horrors done by their or to their ancestors, so they write off racism because “that was them! It’s not me!”
But most times– I think its just, plain ignorance.
Whatever the case may be, I can tell you– it’s not true. Racism is real. It is evil. And honestly… it never left. It just cleverly disguised itself as some people pretended it was gone. And no matter how much you think it is going away… it’s not. It won’t. At least not until we can all admit it’s a part of history and it’s here and now.
Real talk: I’m sick of this! Racism has to go.
You Make Me Sick
As a black person who grew up in predominantly white setting, I realized that most white people don’t know what to do with racism. White people would often be super awkward or even shame me for talking about it. So I learned to “protect” them (and myself) from the truth of some things because I “loved” our friendships too much and I didn’t want to make anyone feel uncomfortable or offend them because they couldn’t deal.
“It’s just white people… They’ll never understand. It’s not their fault”
But it’s funny… Most white people never did that for me. They never held back their negative thoughts on Martin Luther King, the Black Panthers or Obama. They never cared about how their straight, up racist remarks and backwards thinking affected me.
When I would say “I get why folks are scared of most police…” few white persons sought to understand why. They would often write me off or tell me I was being “foolish” because “its just a couple of bad apples”
When myself or friend would speak up about something that was offensive toward our skin color, they would laugh it off saying we are “being too sensitive or “you know its funny” or “it’s true though, right?” I even had a friend’s dad quote scripture at me one time telling me it was “sinful to be offended”
Yes. That really happened.
And then there was last year: Charlottesville. When President of the United States of America said Nazis are “good people” thereby choosing not to condemn acts of hatred. When David Duke (remember, the real life leader of the KKK?) publicly endorsed the President’s ideals the same as his own. Yea, that time.
When I spoke about how wrong this was I was told by some: “FREE SPEECH! Anyone can walk around intimidating with tiki torches. This is America!” My own church (a mostly white but very diverse church) didn’t even address the events in Charlottesville at first. I don’t think they would have if hadn’t I told a friend out of state how disappointed I was, thus leading them to tell an elder it needed to be addressed. Only then did they gave a weak statement a full week after the events. In fact, only one person at church (bless her heart) talked to me about my blog and how she was enlightened by my experience. But what got me the most was some of my best white friends didn’t even care to see how the events were affecting me and people like me. They didn’t even like my blog! (Yes…I’m petty like that.)
I just can’t understand it… and at the end of the day it hurts my feelings. People I care for, whom I fellowship with, who are supposedly my brothers and sisters in Christ just don’t care about to do anything about racism.
What’s worse, they have completely ignored the joys and hardships of my blackness– one of the biggest parts of who I am.
But just because people don’t care doesn’t mean I don’t.
I realized that just because others ignore or are just scared of my skin doesn’t mean it’s my job to “protect” them from it. I need to value myself even if the value is not reciprocated. I love black people. I love white people. I love all people in between! But loving people is not “protecting” them from the truth– it’s speaking it.
My whole life I’ve been protecting (mostly white) people from the realities of being Black in America. And it’s time to stop and reveal the facts. And what are the facts?
Well, truth is: I love being black. I’m not ashamed of my skin! I’m proud to be a part of a beautiful, strong and amazing people. But, at the same time… I am scared, I’m angry and a lot of people of color share those feelings with me.
Your scurred? What ya heard?!
As I said in the beginning: I love history and I know it pretty well. Now, what makes me and countless others so angry and scared is the fact that American history’s equation has proven time and time again that Black people’s lives are not valued in this country.
We are angry because we see how little things have changed over the past few decades and we are scared because human nature is rearing it’s ugly head and history is repeating itself in this political and social climate.
From slavery, Reconstruction and Jim Crow South, to mass incarceration with harsher sentences for People of Color for petty crimes.
From the bombing of black churches during the Civil Rights Movement to the shooting of the black church in Charleston, SC.
From marching and burning of crosses to marching and burning of tiki torches.
From the lynchings of Jesse Washington, Emmitt Till, Willie Edwards, James Byrd Jr. to the shootings and killings of unarmed black people Tamir Rice, Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Philando Castile and Sandra Bland (all completely innocent or didn’t get a fair trial but all sentenced to death for just being black).
This shows my history and this shows my now. This is your history and this is your now. So dear friends, please refrain from rolling your eyes at me when I take racial injustice to heart and speak up about it! None of these people (historically or now) did anything other than just…exist as Black person. And because of this, I have commonality with these victims.
I exist being Black.
I exist being Black in America.
What could stop me from getting shot down at a traffic stop? What could stop me from getting lynched for saying the wrong thing to the wrong person? Laws can be broken, you know? Even worse, laws can be rewritten.
As I said earlier: Humans are unpredictable. History can repeat itself. Will it?
Here & Now.
After seeing BlacKkKlansman, I was reminded of Austin Channing’s sentiments from her book “I’m Still Here” (also the title of a Joaquin Phoenix mockumentary or…something? Also, thanks Nancy and J for the book… I love it! Sorry, I digress…)
In her college years, Austin went on a bus tour visiting famous areas of Black history. It was enlightening, educational and disturbing for her. After the trip, Austin shares how a white classmate who was very moved by the whole trip said: Doing nothing is no longer an option. That hit home for her and it hit home for me.
Doing nothing is no longer an option.
Doing nothing, sugar coating, down playing, ignoring– whatever the case may be– will not change the history of hate in this country. We have been ignoring the blatant wound of racism for far, too long and the wound has turned into a fatally toxic, sick, infection, festering all throughout the veins of this nation. The only way it can be healed IS BY DEALING WITH IT! Acknowledging it’s there, talking about it’s effects and allowing the Doctor to fix it.
Is there a Doctor in the house?!
You might be sitting there wondering: Okay… I’ve understood all your crazy metaphors up until now! Exactly which doctor can fix this grossness of a country?!
Well, the Ultimate Doctor, silly!
The Great, Almighty Doctor. The Doctor who created us and knows us better than we know ourselves. The Amazing Doctor who heals us of our human nature- our brokenness and our sins.
Yep! The Greatest Physician: Jesus!
The immigrant Jesus. The Brown Jesus. The “Hang out at the Sinner’s House” Jesus. The Jewish Man talking to the Samaritan Woman Jesus. The REAL Jesus, is the answer to the hatred, toxic, racial problem in this country. He’s not scared of it. He’s eager to heal it!
I’ve said it time and time again! God is not color blind. He created us differently ON PURPOSE. He cares about destroying racial injustices because racial injustice penalizes and exploits his creation for just… existing. God is NOT okay with that attack on His beloved. There is no excuse to treat people unfairly and those who are taken advantage of, or treated wrongly for reasons out of their control I’m sure makes Him livid.
To top it all off, Jesus Himself was the victim of a brutal murder for nothing other than being Himself… for being King! Trust me, this is something close to His heart.
Buuuuuuut, we MUST fess up and admit we need His help. We as a people need to humble ourselves before the Lord, name the wrongs, confess our sins, ask for forgiveness and repent of our actions as a nation– because human nature is sinful, broken and in desperate need of rescue. Yet, Jesus doesn’t force us to do anything. He wants us to choose to ask Him for help because only then do we acknowledge our hott messiness.
We also need to fess up and be transparent with each other. The Book of James very clearly states healing comes from confessing our sins to one another. People of Color: talk about your experiences in America. Talk about the joys of your culture and also talk about the struggles of it. White people: Sit down, be humble and listen. Ask for forgiveness from the persons of color in your life.
Let’s stop beating around the bush and get to healing!
Side bar: Now if you’re white person reading this, you might be thinking “Well… that wasn’t me. I didn’t do anything in the past or now! So why should I have to ask forgiveness from God or people?”
I’ve tried to type this several times…and my wording just wasn’t right! So, I found a great excerpt which can hopefully help you gain understanding on why this is important to healing this nation.
This is a direct quote about Corporate Repentance from the book “Beyond Racial Gridlock” by George Yancey.
Here is the controversy of corporate repentance. White Christians logically ask, “What am I to repent of?” They will point out that they do not share the racism of their ancestors. They will insist that race is not an issue when they seek a friend or colleague. They will argue that they should not be held accountable for slavery, murder and oppression of minority peoples. Their responses are reasonable for those who see sin as only individualistic; but sin is not limited to individualistic actions. The Bible tells us that the Lord confronted the actions of Israelite society (Ezra 9; Amos 2:6–16; Malachi 1:6–3:15). Both Nehemiah (Nehemiah 1:6–7) and Daniel (Daniel 9:5–6) confessed not only their own personal sins but the sins of their ancestors. Their confessions show us that sin is not only individualistic but corporate as well.
Corporate repentance is not about whites repenting for their own personal failings, although some may need to do that. It is about sorrow for the historic and contemporary mistreatment of people of color. Its goal is that European Americans will be grieved to realize that they benefit from racism even though they are not racist themselves, and they will seek to understand more of the plight of people of color because they want to end the pain of racism. They will begin to understand how their racial attitudes are not so benign as they thought and may contribute to the maintenance of the racial status quo. From such new awareness, whites will act on behalf of racial minorities. Bringing reconciliation will become more important than protecting their own racial and social position.
True healing does not come until true confession, forgiveness and repentance happen. It’s not that God hinges on our confessions– by no means! He wants our confessions because he loves us and true love means speaking truth. If we can admit our sins, we are taking ownership and thus aligning ourselves with Him, ultimately receiving His grace and mercies FOR REAL. And when we confess to and forgive one another, we tangibly experience His grace and healing in real time.
The most powerful thing we can do as Christians is confess and ask forgiveness. It completely goes against our broken, sinful human nature and frees us from guilt, shame and pride of sin.
Case in point: Jesus can uproot and tear down all the of the crazy that’s happening in America. He is our Doctor ready for surgery and is the only One that can heal this land.
So, in Conclusion…?
I know this blog is a lot (LOL, welcome back)
I’ve had this stewing in my brain for awhile. Sorry, not sorry!
Listen, I’m certainly not claiming to have all the answers and trust me… I have a LONG way to go in expressing wisdom and understanding on this HUMONGOUS and VAST subject. However, I guess if I had to give you a takeaway– here are five.
- Know history and do something with it! It doesn’t have to be in depth… but just have sense of what causes what and how it could play a part now. We can’t ignore the wrongs anymore. We have to care about them! Just because something’s not affecting you doesn’t mean it’s not wrong. And honestly, if you’re breathing, you have a responsibility to know what’s going on and do something about it!
- Don’t be afraid to talk about race. It’s not a sin. Our country’s history makes racism raw and real and scary… yes. But being “color blind” is not the answer. Ignoring race means ignoring racial injustice. And ignoring injustice can’t happen. Not anymore. Engage with safe people, with different experiences (and maybe a different color *gasp* )…and talk.
- Be honest. BE HONEST. Don’t only speak the the truth in love… but speak the truth because of love. And after speaking truth, extend grace. Not everyone gets it and that’s okay. Keep speaking truth anyway.
- Seek healing and restoration above all else. We all have to stop being comfortable. Seek to understand. Sit with people in their hurt. Stand with people in their pain. Carry the burdens of your brothers and sisters. Ask forgiveness and repent of the sins done in the past whether it be from you, your ancestors or both. Sit down. Be humble. Healing and reconciliation is the goal.
- Jesus wants us to call upon His name. We can’t do anything in our strength and nothing will happen EVER if we pretend like everything is fine. Everything is not fine. Call upon Jesus for ALL things… Doing nothing it NO longer and option. He’s ready and willing to do what He does best– redeem and heal what is broken and sick.
Lastly, I’ll leave you with this:
Even though it’s hard to grasp right now, even in my feelings and even in my knowledge of historical crazy— I have a hope that is Jesus. He is the one and only person that changes the equation of history. He literally broke history in two (Hellooo! BC and AD! YEP!)
Jesus changed the game in the best way when he chose to clothe Himself in humanity, thus making true healing, love and peace available to the world. He did it 2000 years ago and can do it today for His ultimate glory! So, please know– even in my frustration, I rest easy knowing Jesus can and will heal my disappointed heart, my disillusioned environments and especially this disdainful hatred in America.
I just love Him for that!
Until next time,
He has told you, O man, what is good;
and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?
If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.
~ 2 Chronicles 7:14