This blog will be in two parts:
Part One: Dandelions and White Supremacy: The Overarching Frame
Part Two: Dandelions in the Temple: The Barmen Declaration in the Movement
Over on Facebook, my friend Rev. Kamal Hassan, pastor of Sojourner Truth Presbyterian Church in Richmond, California posted this on the “Happy to Be Presbyterian” page:
The last Bible study class we did at Sojourner Truth PC before summer break was a re-reading of The Barmen Declaration of Faith in light of our current times. The question that we grappled with was, “What caused German Christians to choose Hitler over Jesus?” One the most powerful and currently relevant answers is similar to this one in Charles Blow’s opinion piece about Trumpsters:
“Trumpism is a religion founded on patriarchy and white supremacy.”
We concluded that this was also true of the “Reich Church” in Nazi Germany.
What do you think about this question about Nazism and Trumpism parallels and our confession? Let’s discuss.
There were several posts expressing thoughts, but to my eye, none of them wanted to turn the mirror toward “good white people.” This is problematic because I truly believe that white folks in this country (and in others) have to embrace the reality that racism is within us and that the foundation for racism is white supremacy. We need to be honest with ourselves and say loudly and clearly that white supremacy has infused, has sustained, has been the nurturing force for just about everything we do, everything we have, and even everything we know. Otherwise, we are deferring responsibility and making it easy to throw up our hands in despair and say: “I am powerless! What can little old me possibly do?”
Over time, I have come to understand that evil is a powerful force, and that injustice is like dandelions in a lawn. We may choose to work at it when we see it, or we may not. To be honest, because they are insidious in their drive to propagate, that can wear a person out! And sometimes those little yellow blooms charm us with nostalgic remembrances: the little splash of color, the sunlit slow motion romanticized blowing of the puffball of seeds… But unless we’re constantly working on it, the seeds from one dandelion will float around until finding a good place to land and grow. They’ll even lay dormant for a while, springing up at some point in the future. Make no mistake – the purpose of a dandelion is to reproduce – that lifecycle will start again.
I believe that it is the nature of white supremacy to perpetuate itself in just this way. And it’s important to remember that the perpetuation and reassertion of white supremacy is not passive. It is enacted by human beings – people who have been acculturated by the centuries-old lie that white supremacy needs to stay alive in order to preserve generations of accumulated privilege and power.
My comrade Tur-Ha Ak reminds me that this time we find ourselves in is not surprising. The system had to reboot because not only did we have 8 years of a Black president, we have statistics that show that not very long from now, white people will be the minority in this country. In fact, white people are already are in the global minority (and have been for a long time). It shouldn’t surprise us that a system built on the foundation of oppression would begin to wobble as that foundation breaks down. But we should also recognize and name that the rise of current elected officials (locally and nationally) is the expected response of those who benefitted most from that system. The system needs to be perpetuated. It needs to be shored up. The system needs people who can figure out how to pour new concrete, build walls, fences, prisons, to prevent its complete collapse.
I believe that the only way to “fix” the reassertion of white supremacy is for white people to divest of the power, privilege, and resources we have (and yes, even poor white people have power, privilege, and resources) all of which have come to us by way of an oppressive system which was built on the backs of chattel slaves and rampant capitalism which requires the subjugation of many (historically people of color) so that the strength of the few (mostly white) can continue to grow. We need to move from a place where white people are willing to work on dismantling white supremacy when it manifests in obvious ways, such as the current alt-right movements, to a place where we are consistently turning the mirror toward ourselves to look for and root out those places where we participate in and even lend our considerable strength to the maintenance of this system.