It’s Black History month in the United States. Our new President has rolled out some truly terrifying Executive Orders his first dozen days in office. If you have a pulse you’re doubtless aware, so I won’t take up pixels enumerating them here – ’cause this post isn’t about him. These orders – with their policy and cultural ramifications – have led to some beautiful acts of resistance across the country and around the world.
They’ve also led to some dire predictions of what it all means, as well as alternative framings that basically say ‘calm down, it can’t
be this bad.’ I’ll admit, I’ve found myself caught up in all this back-and-forth, but I got a wake-up call when scholar, educator, and theologian Ashon Crawley shared this on Facebook:
Reading some of these doomsday think pieces, I suspect some self-branded leftists get pleasure from elaborating worst-case scenarios. There’s this sorta muffled glee from talking about how they were right – about everything – from the beginning. No no no, 45’s admin isn’t full of novices but really serious and sinister and smart people and y’all aren’t ready for fascism, they imply.
I think the more grotesque and absurd 45’s actions, the more pleasure they get from telling us how bad things will be. The stuff I’m reading isn’t about knowledge with the purpose of confronting and alleviating harm, but about spreading discomfort. And it’s almost like a shaming:
“Why didn’t you think it’d be bad?! how could you not know?!” sorta moralizing happening. because they wanna style themselves as the ones with the real knowledge of what’s ‘actually happening.’
It’s quite vulgar.
And this is where Ashon got me:
This is why minoritarian knowledge is so important. Not (only) because we emerge from traditions of resisting this shit since before 1492, but also because we have had to imagine – and thus materially implement – alternatives to normative order as a way of life. Doomsday narratives emerge as pleasurable when you don’t pay attention to indigenous and black and latinx and queer and women knowledges.
Right after the presidential election, I wrote a call to an Insurgency of Spirit. In it I reflected:
As a white male, I will resist the temptation to presume a place of command in this insurgency, as this is precisely the pattern of being that’s gotten us into this mess: the last gasp of Colonial nostalgia and Boomer entitlement. I will become a grateful student of those far wiser and more experienced than I – the Mujerista, the Zapatista – Standing Rock Water Protectors and Black Lives Matter white supremacy conscientious objectors.
Teach me, if you’re willing. For I stand with you.
I meant this. I mean this. But sometimes I forget.
So this month – this Black History ‘month’ that our nation has deigned to dedicate to a people and a culture that’s contributed so much to everything that’s best about these ideally-United States – I’m going to listen extra hard.
I’m starting with re-engaging a talk that Reverend Dr. William Barber is sharing across the nation right now like a modern-day circuit rider. This is part of a nationwide Moral Revival initiative being lead by Repairers of the Breach and the North Carolina NAACP. I heard Dr. Barber share a version of this message at the closing of the annual AAR gathering in San Antonio this past November; it was powerful. Having heard him many times at the Wild Goose Festival and on the steps of the NC Capitol building while participating in Moral Monday marches in my home state, I expected to be inspired. What I didn’t expect was to be educated. He gave us all vital, perspective-giving lesson on empire and white supremacy, and the hope of liberation that Jesus brings in his invitation to join the Beloved Community.
Please take an hour to watch this video with minimal distraction – especially if you’re white like me:
One compelling quote among many:
America must not waste time asking ourselves how this could have happened. It happened because it is a habit written deep in our public memory. If we are willing to see ourselves as we are and have been, we will also see another habit – and that is our potential for prophetic resistance. Our potential for revival and resiliency and redemption after rejection – even in times like these.
Happy Black History Month. May we come to realize, ever-more, that our liberation is bound up in each other’s freedom.
Recommended Reading to Catalyze Conversation & Collaboration:
- Forward Together: A Moral Message for the Nation by William Barber
- The Third Reconstruction: How a Moral Movement Is Overcoming the Politics of Division and Fear by William Barber (I’ve been listening to the audio version on Audible and the reader is amazing.)
- Blackpentecostal Breath: The Aesthetics of Possibility by Ashon Crawley
- Dancing with God: The Trinity from a Womanist Perspective by Karen Baker-Fletcher
- Joy Unspeakable: Contemplative Practices of the Black Church by Barbara Holmes
- The Very Good Gospel: How Everything Wrong Can Be Made Right by Lisa Sharon Harper