"I heard a voice from heaven saying, 'Son, let this woman be a bride to you in the restoration of my people. Let her be a mother for these people, regenerating souls through the salvation of spirit and water.'" (Hildegard of Bingen, Scivias)

Monday, November 28, 2016

Racism and Prison Rape

I recently joined the Marshall Project's regular email link list about prison and jail justice issues. It's too in depth to read all the articles but the headlines help and I try to click and read key reports when I can.

Today's was a devastating indictment of the especially egregious failure to comply with PREA standards for preventing and treating prison rape in Texas. (Content warning for sexual assault, obviously).

It brought me back to a huge insight from the October blog series on Black Lives are Sacred. It was a busy day so I posted a quick and upbeat entry: Committed's stunning a capella version of "Lift Every Voice and Sing." I composed a brief intro mentioning the beauty and confidence of the five young Black men serenely defying "the white cishet patriarchy that so furiously desires to see them in jail and dead in the street." And noticed the chance for a more effective parallel construction closing the sentence. So I asked myself "what in jail?" And the lightning bolt from heaven struck with the belatedly obvious answer: "raped in jail."

Sexual abuse and assault are a huge part of my theological, ministerial, and activist work. So I was aware of the huge evil of prison rape--the one time adult men are in serious and systemic danger. But I had never connected it--nor seen it connected elsewhere-- to the racism in our demonic new Jim Crow system of mass incarceration. (A google search on racism and prison rape to double check if I had missed things was truly upsetting because it revealed numerous claims that the major or indeed sole problem is black inmates constantly raping white ones).

Black men and boys unjustly imprisoned in huge and disproportionate numbers equals black men and boys in grave and systemic terror and danger of rape even on the outside. Which means they share the underlying PTSD-fueling grave and systemic terror and danger of rape that my daughter and I and all women share--even if toxic masculinity and physical sex differences mean that a greater proportion of the cis and straight ones, as with white men, will pass on the trauma by perpetrating themselves. Which increases danger to black women and children all the more upon release given the general prevalence of intra-, rather than inter-, racial violence of all sorts in all communities.

My heart was broken as I realized that my Black brothers share one of the greatest sufferings I and my sisters do as women but I had seen them only as men and hence primarily the problem on this issue while in danger from more obvious forms of racism. And that the cis white male lords of kyriarchy had successfully driven us apart by seductively offering them selected benefits of sexism and male privilege while offering me and other white women selected benefits of racism and white privilege. Because there are way the heck more of us than there are of them so the only way for them to stay in control is to divide and conquer we who are in the tricky middle by fear and resentment of each other along with utterly devastating Black women who are oppressed on both counts.

And my heart was opened in a whole new way to the amazing Black men I am coming to know through my participation in the Black Baptist church downtown via Sunday worship and especially Wednesday night bible study. They achieve so much personally and professionally in the face of horrible injustice. And honor a wise matriarch as their senior pastor and me as a theologian and, even more amazingly, a sister in Christ.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Hymn: Hearts' Rest

How can I find you, God of the ages,
How can I call you into my life?
Your Word that made me calls me to listen;
My heart is restless, searching for you.

Life is your bounty, passed through our own love,
Nurtured by parents, guided by friends;
Pleasures your good gifts, taken with wisdom;
Our hearts are restless, longing for you.

You searched and found us, took on our frail flesh,
Drew us to love you, fell at our feet,
Rose up in glory, sent us your Spirit;
Our hearts find rest now, resting in you.

Text: Laura Marie Grimes, inspired by Augustine’s Confessions
Tune: Bunessan 5 5 8 D (Morning has Broken)

Hymn: Blessed Sophia

This hymn of freedom and healing is especially resonant for me because I learned the original version by the amazing Fanny Crosby's during the ecumenical services I helped lead, with my BFF/chosen sister and my abusive pastor/professor, in my college chapel.

Blessed Sophia, Mother of all,
Give us the courage to answer your call:
Loving your people, tending your earth,
Claiming your healing in death and rebirth.

This is my story, this is my song, praising Sophia all the day long;
This is my story, this is my song, praising Sophia all the day long.

Living in Jesus, our brother and friend,
Fighting injustice and true to the end;
Born of a woman, slain on a tree,
Risen in power to set us all free.

This is my story, this is my song, praising Sophia all the day long;
This is my story, this is my song, praising Sophia all the day long.

Bright tongues of fire, fierce holy dove,
Fragrance of sweetness, anointing of love;
Vessel of mercy, hearing our cries,
And sending your prophets to open our eyes.

This is my story, this is my song, praising Sophia all the day long;
This is my story, this is my song, praising Sophia all the day long.

Sing praise to Sophia, our great One in Three,
Our Lover, Beloved, and Love’s Unity;
Sing praise to the Mother and praise to the Son,
And praise to the Spirit, who makes us all one.

This is my story, this is my song, praising Sophia all the day long;
This is my story, this is my song, praising Sophia all the day long.

Text: Laura Marie Grimes, copyright 2012
Tune: Assurance 9 10 9 9 with refrain (Blessed Assurance, Jesus is Mine)

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Black Friends™ and Retaining Sins

Our friendship suffered a death by 1,000 microagressions

Because these incidents of microaggression felt few and far between, I was loathe to label Ellen with any adjectives. Namely: racist.

The problems persisted, thorny and clinging to our friendship like wild rose vines to a trellis. After a while, I glumly realized that I was an enabling Black Friend™. She fancied herself “down,”—but only around Black people. Ironically, she parroted stereotypical Black culture to a person (me) who considered herself relatively untypical.

When any black coworker entered the lunch room, she greeted them, “Yo, homie, whassup?” with an affected voice and head nod. This usually earned me, not her, raised eyebrows. Everyone knew that she spoke perfectly proper English around our White co-workers. As her resident Black Friend™ I was expected by other Black people to keep her offensive forays into Blackness in check....

I distinguish being a Black Friend™ from being a Black person who is friends with a White person. The White people I consider friends are also allies. I have come to realize I cannot have a White friend who I don’t count as both.

More from Truly Takafari.

A family member's best man is Black. They became best friends at an elite white high school where one was on the way out of the working class to the one percent, and one a scholarship student on the way to the middle class. They became even closer in tenth grade when one of the boys in their tight group of friends suffered a tragic fatal accident at the beach. And stayed close enough for a visit to the best man's new home in Australia, with the requisite Sydney bridge climb picture.

L. was only Black in their class, just as his younger sister was the only Black in hers, and one boy and one girl made up the Black contingent in mine during the few years of my own sentence. They must have dealt with constant traumatizing microaggressions, including the one that returned to my conscience during the Black Lives are Sacred series. Trash 80, Space Invaders, lovely springy Afro right under my racist, boundary-violating fingertips.

I made a diligent search for his social media contact, in the hopes that a brief and respectful amends message would feel better late than never, but turned up a blank. So in the course of a perky catch up email to the family member I mentioned the incident and asked for an email address, softening the description to the also true "idiotic."

This request was refused because it wasn't at his fingertips. And he was sure that his Black Friend™ would have zero interest in an apology because he "doesn't carry baggage" and "looks forward, not back."

Which is why I am so insanely grateful to my womanist colleague for keeping her boundaries so strong and retaining the immense and unpayable debt of my personal and communal participation in white supremacy for both of our lifetimes. Cause I could totally be Rachel Dolezal-- but more dangerous because of avoiding the obvious racist idiocy of fake Blackness. And to my new Jewish friend for retaining the debt of my personal and communal participation in anti-Semitism for a significant period of healing and conversion to lay a healthy groundwork for avoiding a similar pattern in our relationship.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Intersectional Ignatian Reading: The Weave

There were a lot of gripping moments in the explicitly Jesuit sf The Sparrow and its sequel, but they ultimately ended with a simplistic and heartbreaking depiction of God as a spiritual abuser actively permitting rape.

Nancy Jane Moore does not mention Ignatius or the Society in The Weave, but it is a far more successful and enjoyable piece of Ignatian fiction. Compelling worldbuilding provides the backdrop for richly developed characters engaging discernment, call, conflict, healing, lament, and restorative justice.

Best Penance Ever

"I would go down into hell for you if I could [and I did]. But I will not allow you to put hell into me."

C.S. Lewis, The Great Divorce

Mama, Jesus, Sister Spirit:

I love you, I praise you, I thank you for saving me and my daughter from the lies and torture of our enemies.

I hate you sometimes because the path has been so hard and lonely. I hate you sometimes because you let them put hell into me.

I am grateful you gave me the hope and vision for freedom, and the safe place to own my lack of faith and trust, and the sweet army of intercessors to make that faith and trust come true.

I am grateful for the healing, conversion, freedom, and joy in metanoia of my sins and those against me.

I ask that you deepen my faith and trust in your loving power and mine in your image and your grace. And that they may move mountains casting down oppression in my life and the world.

I love you, I praise you, I thank you for giving me victory over the forces of hell and total healing.

Amen, Blessed Be!

"She who kneels before God can stand before anyone."

Go Cubs!

I'm so sports-unaware that I just knew the Cubbies broke their 108 year winning streak till I saw Awesomely Luvvie's celebratory piece this morning.

Chicago needed this big win, even if just for a morale boost. I’m a Northsider so this is the team I am geographically obligated to support (not the White Sox). But the Tale of Two Cities is real, as one side of the city celebrates this win and the media tells a dreary story about the other side. But that’s another piece for another day.

Anywho, as the true bandwagon fan that I am, I am geeked for my Cubbies!

But as the Petty Queen that I am, I am especially celebrating that the Cleveland Indians lost this. CELEBRATING. Why? Because they are a team that still bears a name of a people, with a caricature of those people as a logo.

Friday, November 4, 2016

The White Action Gap

Fascinating analysis of a poll on white support and non-support of the national anthem protests, thanks to a Facebook friend responding to yesterday's post.

Statistically speaking, these polls and numbers shouldn’t add up to white silence, Freeman writes:

“Interestingly, the white players interviewed said they support Kaepernick's kneeling (and added they have spoken to or texted Kaepernick in support) but won't publicly do so, as one said, ‘Because it's not my issue.”

In many ways, Freeman’s initial findings makes matters even worse.

For starters, must a white NFL player’s child be killed or brutalized by police for it to become “my issue”?

Let’s hope not.

Secondly, this cowardly business of private support but public silence is almost more disappointing than non-support. It means “you get it”, but just not enough to inconvenience your life over your teammate’s lives.

Call it “The White Action Gap.”

The white action gap is not related to consciousness.

It is not dependent on a changing attitude, a newfound awareness or even a passing outrage that the killers of Eric Garner, Natasha McKenna or Alton Sterling all remain free and gainfully-employed.

Nor is it dependent on being disgusted that the Beaumont Bulls football team of 11- and 12-year-olds would receive racist taunts, death threats and even have their entire season cancelled – on account of their audacity to kneel.

Certainly some white NFL players have some of these feelings.

The white action gap is based on preserving white privilege over calling on courage.

And no new poll can measure that.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Land of the Free Black Men

NFL ratings are down by large percentages and many attribute this, credibly, to the spread of Colin Kaepernick's National Anthem protests.

What we have right now is the stark reality that uneducated conservative white men hate few things more in the world than a fully free black man — particularly a decidedly wealthy, physically fit, fully free black man who unashamedly and unabashedly raises his black fist in the air during the “Star-Spangled Banner.” That’s exactly what we have the NFL right now.

Dozens and dozens of players from half of the teams in the league have raised their fist or taken a knee during the anthem with nothing more than a face of stone cold seriousness and it has clearly unnerved Donald Trump’s base to the point that they would rather stop watching the NFL than fix their eyes on a black man who is not seeking their love or approval.

Let’s be honest. As far as the NFL is concerned, it’s absolutely a black and white thing. It’s why 100% of the white players that the Bleacher Report surveyed said they were supporting Donald Trump. It’s also why 100% of the players who’ve taken a knee or raised a fist for injustice are black. The divide on the field is simply representative of the divide off of it. It’s not unique. It represents the deepening divide I see all over this country.


What is it that they hate exactly?

He doesn’t curse. He’s never been in trouble a day in his life. He doesn’t abuse women. He plays hard in every game from start to finish. He’s calm, cool and quiet. He isn’t overtly emotional.

They hate him because he’s free and because he is standing up for victims of injustice who’ve been railroaded by the very system they love and hold dear. Muhammad Ali was widely celebrated when he died earlier this year, but when the man was alive and standing up for black folk, he was widely despised by the same demographic that hates Colin Kaepernick today. But here’s the thing — we’re not going backwards. Black athletes in every sports league in America are standing up in brand new ways and feel fully empowered to do so. It’s amazing that we’ve gotten to this point, but here we are.

This is America. 2016.


Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Apologizing for Anti-Semitism Again

The wise and lovely Jewish woman who embodied the sweet piercing truth and mercy of Mother G-d for me in a spinoff from the "Black Lives are Sacred" October series not only freely and generously forgave me, but graciously unblocked me and then accepted my Facebook re-friending request after our extensive and healing message box conversation. She then circled back to rejoin the comment conversation at the original site of my grave sin and first sincere but inadequate apology. Her comment characteristically focused on gratitude for her own learnings, our mutual friend's role in our reconciliation, and anticipated blessings in a new relationship forged in the crucible of her redemptive suffering. My final response completing the story and sharing my own learnings for the permanent record is posted here with her kind permission.

I am profoundly grateful for your courage and holiness at every stage of this process which has taught me so immensely much and, in G-d's amazing mercy and yours, even led to the start of a real friendship when all I deserved was the valuable learning experience of losing the FB one.

Had you only been risked retraumatization by sharing your righteous anger and pain at the anti-Semitic desecration of your Day of Awe it would have been enough.

Had you only defended yourself and your people by blocking the egregious dismissal of that sharing it would have been enough.

Had you only grappled with an apology still failing to center you as the primary victim, returning nonviolent listening for abusive silencing, it would have been enough.

Had you only wrestled with all your feelings in vulnerable self-inquiry and conversation with a wise and loving friend who shared your perpetrator's unjust privilege--swallowing the bitter herbs of disproportionate reception and praise for her fruitful prophetic critique over yours--it would have been more than enough.

Had you only reached out to resurrect a slaughtered dialogue and share your sacred heart with the perpetrator it would have been far more than enough.

And had you only responded to the teshuvah you co-created with Her with your astonishingly generous forgiveness it would have been a galaxy far, far more than enough.

Sending a virtual hug but before that--if you will kindly accept the medieval peasant ritual enacted by proxy in Confession at the monastery yesterday--kneeling and kissing your hand in utter delight at your tikkun olam labor with the Holy One to open the sacred gates of Her transforming love for me, and yourself, and everyone we can better serve in the future.