Wednesday, July 14, 2021

From The Red Summer To Today: The Lived Experiences Of This Generation (Planting The Wind; Harvesting The Whirlwind, Part 3)

This is the third in a series on the history of slavery and racism in the United States.

In Part One, "1619 To The Civil War: Slavery Before Emancipation," I noted the biblical basis for caring about the history and the legacy of racism in our country before giving an overview beginning in 1609 through the Civil War and Emancipation. Basically, we should care because Jesus cares. If you have not yet read the first post, I encourage you to do so. There is a lot of information that will add context to what you are reading.


"Emancipation To The Great Migration: Jim Crow, Reconstruction and Sundown Towns" continued to look at the sinful impact and harsh legacy from the mid-1800s to the early 1900s. 


We pick up our narrative in 1921. Starting now, there are still people alive today who experienced these things. 


* * * * *


“They have planted the wind and will harvest the whirlwind.” (Hosea 8:7)

 


·    In 1921, the National Baptist voice publicized the NAACP's attempt to get pastors to take a Sunday to preach on the theme of racial justice (“Justice to the Negro: The Test of Christianity in America”), calling America “the archsinner among nations” because of the racial injustice. 

 

·   1921 also brought the Tulsa Massacre, in which a highly prosperous black community known as Black Wall Street was attacked and pounded into rubble after a black boy accidentally jostled a white woman in an elevator.  Hundreds were killed; more than 1,400 homes, businesses, schools and churches were burned; nearly 10,000 people were left homeless. The destruction of ‘legacy wealth’ is almost incalculable. The newspaper headline the next day read, “Two White People Killed In Race Riot.” The Tulsa race massacre was barely mentioned in history books until the late 1990s.[1]

 

·    Two years before that was the “Red Summer,” a summer of violent race riots sparked by things like a black boy on a raft being drowned after floating into the white people’s section of Lake Michigan in Chicago. 

 

·   The 1920s ushered in standardized testing, developed by eugenicists to filter out non-white college students.[2]  (I was a teacher for 20 years; this was news to me. Unfortunately, it’s true. Read the links. This is not to say standardized tests still do that, as this issue has been pointedly studied and addressed in the last few decades.)

 

·    In 1924, Virginia passed the Racial Integrity Act, thanks in part to the influence of the Anglo-Saxon Clubs of America. The act  prohibited interracial marriage and classified as "black" a person who had even one drop of black blood (known as the “one drop rule”). 

 

·   In Mein Kampf (1925), Hitler praised America as the one state that has made progress toward a primarily racial conception of citizenship, by “excluding certain races from naturalization.”[3] The infamous Nuremberg Laws of the Nazi regime were heavily influenced by Jim Crow laws in the United States.[4]

 

·    The unofficial “last hired, first fired” policy pushed the black unemployment rate following the Great Depression to 50% - 70% in 1932 – a rate double and triple that of whites.

 

·   In the 1920s and 1930s, there was a huge push to build bigger and better public swimming pools to become “common melting pots” and build communities; the Works Progress Administration was dedicated to this. By World War Two, there were thousands of pools, some of which could hold thousands of swimmers. You might expect where this is going – black people were not welcome. When lawsuits were filed in the 1950s, quite a few pools just became private rather than public and admitted only white members. In 1959, Montgomery Public Parks went so far as to close rather than integrate. They filled their pool with cement, sold all the animals from a zoo, padlocked their community center, and closed every park.[5]

 

·   “The Fairgrounds Park pool in St. Louis, Missouri, was the largest in the country and probably the world, with a sandy beach, an elaborate diving board, and a reported capacity of 10,000 swimmers. When the new city administration changed the park’s policy in 1949 to allow black swimmers… two hundred white residents surrounded the pool with ‘bats, clubs, bricks and knives’ to menace the first thirty or so black swimmers…a white mob that grew to 5,000 attacked every black person in sight around the Fairground Park. After the Fairground Park Riot…the city returned to a segregation policy using public safety as a justification, but a successful NAACP lawsuit reopened the pool to all St. Louisans the following summer. On the first day of integrated swimming, only seven white swimmers attended, joining three brave black swimmers under the shouts of two hundred white protestors….the city closed its pool six years later.[6]


     · In 1927, Alabama stopped leasing convicts to outside businesses. They, along with other states, simply started their own in-house, for-profit ventures from the labor of prisoners.


·    During the summer of 1930, about 150 Atlanta businessmen, along with American Legionnaires and members of law enforcement founded the American Fascisti Association and Order of Black Shirts to “foster the principles of white supremacy” and keep jobs in the city white. They would march with signs that read, “N*****s, back to the cotton fields – city jobs are for white folks.”[7] While white America was flirting with an admiration of fascism[8] (More than 100 fascist organizations formed after 1933[9]), the black America who resisted them were often inspired by communists,[10] who were giving lip service to democracy at that time when they found it useful to undermine facists.[11]

 

·   The KKK experienced a resurgence in the 1910s through the 1930s,with three to five million members in the North alone.[12] “It’s estimated that 40,000 ministers were members of the Klan, and these people were sermonizing regularly, explicitly urging people to join the Klan.”[13]

 

·   In 1931, nine African American men were falsely accused of rape by two white women in what became known as the “Scottsboro Affair.” Judged and sentenced by an all-white jury, their case resulted in a landmark victory for civil rights when the Supreme Court ruled that the defendants were denied due process because they did not have a lawyer and were denied a jury of their peers by the barring of blacks from serving on the jury.[14]

 

·   “Legislation turned for the better for tribes throughout the US with the passage of the Indian Reorganization Act (IRA) of 1934. Also known as the ‘Indian New Deal,’ the law reversed the privatization policy of the Dawes Act and restored tribal management of lands that had not yet been allotted to individuals. It aimed at restoring tribal sovereignty, particularly in the area of lands and resources.”[15]

 

·    The Social Security Act of 1935 provided a safety net for millions of workers. But it excluded two occupations: agricultural workers and domestic servants, who were predominately African American, Mexican, and Asian. 

 

·   The 1935 Wagner Act (collective bargaining for unions), which helped millions of workers join the middle class, permitted unions to exclude non-whites. Many unions remained nearly all-white well into the 1970s. In 1972 every single one of the 3,000 members of Los Angeles Steam Fitters Local #250 was still white. For more on how this played out in cities like Boston, see the link in this footnote.[16]  "


     When they started building the wall behind Margaret Watson’s house in northwest Detroit, she knew the reason without having to ask. As a child in the late 1930s, Watson had... roller-skated down those newly paved lanes at speeds that would have been impossible on the dirt roads that ran in front of her house. She knew the new streets had to be for white families — not Black ones like hers — so she wasn’t particularly surprised when, in the spring of 1941, a 6-foot-high, 4-inch-thick, half-mile-long concrete fortification suddenly appeared in her backyard.The divider — called the “Birwood Wall,” the “Eight Mile Wall” or the “Wailing Wall”... would have far-reaching repercussions for the people, both Black and white, who lived in its shadow. On the west side, the white side, some children who moved into the houses that sprouted along the new streets in the 1940s — now in their 70s and 80s — say they never knew the wall was there, just as they didn’t know that the houses their parents bought back then had deed restrictions barring residents who weren’t white... In a six-month investigation, NBC News and BridgeDetroit discovered that one of Detroit’s most prominent families built the wall and developed the adjacent white neighborhood. The reporting also examined the ways this single act of segregation has influenced generations of Detroiters... The side of the wall these residents called home would later affect the sale price of their houses, the value of their next homes, and, eventually, the wealth they might inherit from their parents. Their experience in elementary school would determine the classes they took in high school, their decisions about college or the military, and the ease with which they achieved their goals. And throughout their lives, the friendships they made would frame their interactions with classmates and colleagues, with doctors and law enforcement, in social settings and in job interviews."  Read the story here.  


In 1934, the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) introduced our modern mortgage lending system, which included redlining policies in over 200 American cities. Redlining was a way of helping the government decide which neighborhoods would get home loans and which would not.[17] The redlining overwhelmingly highlighted communities with black residents....The wall in Watson’s backyard was built by white real estate developers who struggled to secure financing for their white neighborhood until they cut it off from a Black one. It is one of a number of segregation walls built in the mid-20th century for this purpose and one of a few still standing." 


·   In the 1930s, a remarkable and unexpected shift occurred: Black voters in general began moving out of the Republican Party and into the Democratic Party. From 1932-1936 – just four years – the number of votes for the Republican presidential candidate dropped in half, from 56% to 28%. How did this happen? The impact of Franklin Roosevelt’s (D) New Deal can hardly be overstated;[18] it alone accounts for the 56/28 drop. The Great Depression had devastated the black population economically. In addition, Roosevelt appointed more African Americans to positions within his administration than his predecessors did; he was the first president to appoint an African American as a federal judge; he tripled the number of African Americans working in the federal government; and he appointed special advisors for the New Deal known as the Black Cabinet.[19] There are more reasons as that 56% moves closer to 90% – watch for the [D]s and [R]s as the story unfolds.

 

·   Matilda McCrear, the last known survivor of the transatlantic slave trade, died in 1940 at the age of 81 or 82.[20]

 

·   1942: FDR signed Executive Order 9066, ordering the evacuation and mass incarceration of 120,000 persons of Japanese ancestry living on the West Coast, most of whom were U.S. citizens or documented immigrants[21]

 

·   Pulitzer Prize - winning author Douglas Blackman, in his writing on convict leasing (Slavery By Another Name), writes, “Certainly, the great record of forced labor across the South demand that any consideration of the progress of civil rights remedy in the United States must acknowledge that slavery, real slavery, didn’t end until 1945.”[22]

 

·    Harry Truman (D) established the President’s Committee on Civil Rights in 1946 and integrated the armed forces in 1948 after the NAACP pressured him to act when a black veteran, Isaac Woodard, was pulled off a bus in February of 1946, arrested, and beaten so badly (while in uniform) that he lost his eyesight. Truman also fixed the racially discriminatory parts of the Social Security system. 

 

·    In 1947, Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in baseball.

 

·   Between 1934 and 1962, the federal government backed $120 billion of home loans. Less than 2% went to blacks, who constituted 12% of the population. Of the 350,000 new homes built with federal support in northern California between 1946 and 1960, fewer than 100 went to African Americans. That is .0003% of loans for 5% of the population.[23]

 

·   When courts began overturning redlining and race-based zoning laws, the government began building highways right on the former boundary lines at the request of community members.[24] At times, highways were routed purposefully through minority communities.  The government took property by eminent domain; black neighborhoods lost homes, businesses, churches and schools.[25]  Constructing interstate highways through majority-black neighborhoods eventually reduced the populations to the poorest proportion of people financially unable to leave their destroyed community.[26](#”urbandecay”)

 

·   In the mid-1950s, pastors of Christians in Kirkwood, Georgia actively urged their members not to sell their homes to black people. “ ‘If everyone simply refuses to sell to colored,’ the pastors assured residents, ‘then everything will be fine.’” They pleaded with church members: “Please help us ‘Keep Kirkwood White’ and preserve our Churches and homes.”[27] I offer this example because it was not as unusual as we would like to think. 

 

·    The Negro Motorist Green Bookpublished from 1936 to 1966 (three years before I was born), helped black motorists travel without getting in trouble. John Lewis recalled how his family prepared for a trip in 1951:“There would be no restaurant for us to stop at until we were well out of the South, so we took our restaurant right in the car with us.... Stopping for gas and to use the bathroom took careful planning. Uncle Otis… knew which places along the way offered "colored" bathrooms and which were better just to pass on by. Our map was marked and our route was planned that way, by the distances between service stations where it would be safe for us to stop.”

 

·   Many hotels, motels, and boarding houses refuse to serve black customers; by the end of the 1960s, there were an estimated 10,000 “sundown towns”[28] across the United States, named because of signs that read, “N*****, Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on You in This Town.”[29] I worked as a camp counselor in Hazard County, Kentucky in the summers of 1987-1989. There was a town nearby that was unofficially still a “sundown town.”[30]  

 

·   The Black Hospital movement took place from 1865- 1960s.[31] Black patients were usually not admitted to white hospitals or hired as staff, especially in the South, and for a long time could only get an education at a select few colleges in the North and Midwest. 

 

·   Sometimes, the white medical facilities did active damage. In 1932, the Tuskegee Institute, working with the United States Public Health Service, began a study on syphilis originally called the “Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Male.” During this study, they lied to 200 black men whom they told were being treated for syphilis, when in fact they were not, even though a treatment was available. In the1970s, a class action lawsuit paid out 10 million dollars to wives, widows and children.[32]

 

·    1952 was the first year since 1882 that there were no recorded lynchings in the United States. 

 

·    Also in 1952, California finally made it legal for Asian immigrants to own land.

 

·   In the 1950s, the University of Texas developed a strategy to keep out black students in the face of the legal demands for segregation. The trustees estimated they could cut the black student population from 300 to 70 out of 2,700. Notes from the UT president’s speech to the Rotary Club in Houston include, “Do not anticipate any great numbers of N’s, but to avoid appearing to discriminate against unqualified have tied it in with a selective admissions policy for all students without ref. to racial origin, etc.” Many other universities used standardized testing without any known racist intent, but it functionally kept minorities out of the elite schools.[33]


·   Billy Graham initially allowed segregated seating in southern cities, but he ended the practice in 1953.[34] Graham was not a civil rights activist, but he did put his reputation on the line over segregation. He appeared with Martin Luther King Jr. at a New York City Revival in 1957, where King offered a prayer at the assembly. Mahalia Jackson performed there, beginning a tradition of African-American vocalist singing at Graham Crusades. Graham's moderate pro-civil rights stands earned him the ire of many fundamentalists; he even got hate mail from the KKK.

 

·    In 1954, a regional meeting of clergymen in the Presbyterian Church in the United States (PCUS) featured a speaker discussing a “Christian view of Segregation.” At that conference, the pastor of First Baptist Church in West Dallas gave a sermon entitled “God the Original Segregationist.”

 

·    Also in 1954, the Supreme Court (Tee-Hit-Ton Indians vs United States) basically reaffirmed the M’Intosh ruling that declared European conquerors had the right to the land they forcibly took from Native American inhabitants. “That discovery gave an exclusive right to extinguish the Indian title of occupancy, either by purchase or conquest.”

 

·   Also in 1954, Brown vs. Board of Education declared that segregation in education was inherently unequal, and black children had the constitutional right to equal protection of their education. Read the backstory of what happened in Hearne, Texas to push this to the Supreme Court at the link in the footnote.[35]

 

·   Those bothered by desegregation started segregation academies, which were founded between 1954[36] and 1976.[37] Wikipedia lists 200 of these schools.[38]  25 of them are clearly Christian. One even has evangelical in the name. 

 

·   1955: Fourteen-year-old Emmett Till was kidnapped, brutally beaten, shot and killed for allegedly whistling at a white woman. Two white men arrested for the murder were acquitted by an all-white jury; they went on to boast about the murder in a Look magazine interview.[39]

 

·   By 1956, hospital integration was common in the North (83% of hospitals providing integrated services). In the South, only 6% of hospitals offered unrestricted services to black patients; 31% did not admit black patients under any conditions.[40]

 

·   January 10-11, 1957: Sixty Black pastors and civil rights leaders from several southern states—including Martin Luther King, Jr.—met in Atlanta, Georgia to coordinate nonviolent protests against racial discrimination and segregation.[41]

 

·    On February 1, 1960, four African American college students in Greensboro, North Carolina refuse to leave a Woolworth’s “whites only” lunch counter. The Greensboro Sit-In, inspires similar “sit-ins” throughout the city and in other states.[42]

 

·   Throughout 1961, black and white activists, known as freedom riders, took bus trips through the American South to protest segregated bus terminals and attempted to use “whites-only” restrooms and lunch counters. The Freedom Rides were marked by horrific violence from white protestors, but this drew international attention to their cause.[43]

 

·   The United States passed civil rights bills in 1957, 1964 and 1965.  The 24th Amendment (1964) finally assured voting rights for black citizens.  This was thanks to Lyndon Johnson, first as Democrat Majority Leader then as President. The Voting Rights Act of 1965, by the way, finally made it illegal to practice racial gerrymandering - drawing districts that intentionally diluted the voting power of blacks and other minorities.[44] Literacy tests for voters, which overwhelmingly targeted black voters, were declared unconstitutional. Check out the footnote link for what these looked like, with special attention to Louisiana’s.[45]

 

·    John F. Kennedy’s (D) administration is remembered for fighting segregation, though it was his VP, Johnson, who really had a heart for the Civil Rights movement. He used JFK’s death as a rallying point to pass major legislation.  

 

·    Strom Thurmond [D to R], who lost the presidential race to Truman, fought for decades as a Democrat to oppose civil right legislation. In 1964, Thurmond and other Southern Democrats, feeling racially betrayed by Democrats, jumped to the Republican Party.

 

·   Over fifty bombings from 1947-1965 in a slowly integrating white neighborhood earned Birmingham the moniker “Bombingham.” From May 2 to May 10, 1963, police in Birmingham, Ala., aimed high-powered hoses and loosed dogs on black men, women and even children who were determined to actually do the school integration the Supreme Court had granted 9 years earlier. In September of 1963, four young black girls were killed when KKK members detonated a bomb in Sixteenth Street Baptist Church.[46]

 

·   In 1965, Selma's 'Bloody Sunday' Became a Turning Point in the Civil Rights Movement.[47] This was Selma, of which Martin Luther King Jr. said, “There are more negroes in jail with me than there are on the voting rolls.” George Wallace ordered state troopers “to use whatever measures are necessary to prevent a march” of approximately 600 voting rights advocates. Millions of ABC’s viewers saw footage of troopers beating protestors, and “The juxtaposition struck like psychological lightning in American homes.”[48]

 

·   The “urban renewal” that followed “urban decay” displaced millions of Americans. Black Americans (13 percent of the population in 1960) were at least 55 percent of the displaced. James Baldwin called it the “negro removal” for good reason. The Chancellor of the University of Chicago noted that urban renewal was “an effective screening tool” for “cutting down the number of Negroes”. His notes from a board of trustees meeting read simply: “Tear it down and begin over again. Negroes.”[49]

 

·   The largest political rally for human rights ever in the United States happened when an estimated 200,000 to 300,000 participants converged on the Mall in Washington, D.C., on Aug. 28, 1963, to protest for jobs and freedom for African Americans. King delivered his iconic “I Have a Dream” speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.[50] 

 

·    The National Black Evangelical Association branched off from the National Evangelical Association in 1963, largely motivated by  frustration over white evangelicals refusing to get involved on civil rights issues.

 

·    In 1964 – the year in which three civil rights workers were killed in Mississippi - Bob Jones University gave segregationists Strom Thurmond and George Wallace (who stood in a doorway at the University of Alabama to block two Black students from registering) honorary doctorates. Bob Jones Jr. described Wallace as a man “who fought for truth and righteousness.”

 

·    In 1967, the Supreme Court overturned Virginia’s Racial Integrity Act.

 

·   The Fair Housing Act of 1968, signed by President Johnson (D), finally put an end to legally sanctioned redlining policies.[51] This was long overdue; just 2 percent of the $120 billion in FHA loans distributed between 1934 and 1962 were given to nonwhite families[52]

 

·   “In the decades preceding the Fair Housing Act, government policies led many white Americans to believe that residents of color were a threat to local property values. For example, real estate professionals across the country who sought to maximize profits by leveraging this fear convinced white homeowners that black families were moving in nearby and offered to buy their homes at a discount. These 'blockbusters' would then sell the properties to black families—who had limited access to FHA loans or GI Bill benefits—at marked-up prices and interest rates. Moreover, these homes were often purchased on contracts, rather than traditional mortgages, allowing real estate professionals to evict black families if they missed even one payment and then repeat the process with other black families. During this period, in Chicago alone, more than 8 in 10 black homes were purchased on contract rather than a standard mortgage, resulting in cumulative losses of up to $4 billion.”[53]

 

·   “Between 1945 and 1968, federal laws terminated more than 100 tribal nations’ recognition and placed them under state jurisdiction, contributing to the loss of millions of additional acres of tribal land. During this period, lawmakers again encouraged Native Americans to relocate—this time from reservations to urban centers, resulting in economic hardships and housing instability.”[54]

 

·   Lyndon Johnson’s Kerner Commission in 1968 found that “bad policing practices, a flawed justice system, unscrupulous consumer credit practices, poor or inadequate housing, high unemployment, voter suppression, and other culturally embedded forms of racial discrimination all converged to propel violent upheaval on the streets of African-American neighborhoods in American cities.” [55] One excerpt from the report notes, “What white Americans have never fully understood—but what the Negro can never forget—is that white society is deeply implicated in the ghetto. White institutions created it, white institutions maintain, and white society condones it.”[56]

 

·   The Indian Civil Rights Act granted Indigenous People most of the Bill of Rights, including the right to free speech, freedom from unreasonable search and seizure, and protection against cruel and unusual punishment. Up to this date discrimination against Indigenous People was legal.[57]

 

·   Nixon’s 1968 campaign employed the Southern Strategy, drawing white Southerners to the Republican Party and pushing black voters toward the Democratic Party. Nixon’s political strategist said in a 1970 interview, “From now on, the Republicans are never going to get more than 10 to 20 percent of the Negro vote and they don’t need any more than that…but Republicans would be shortsighted if they weakened enforcement of the Voting Rights Act. The more Negroes who register as Democrats in the South, the sooner the Negrophobe whites will quit the Democrats and become Republicans. That’s where the votes are. Without that prodding from the blacks, the whites will backslide into their old comfortable arrangement with the local Democrats.”[58]

 

·   In 1971, the Supreme Court affirmed that draining public pools to avoid integration was okay. Jackson, Mississippi had closed four of its public pools and sold the fifth to a YMCA (that only allowed white members). The Supreme Court, in Palmer v. Thompson, ruled that the city could have no public facilities rather offer an integrated one, because by robbing the entire public, they were spreading equal harm. “There was no evidence of state action affecting Negroes differently from white,“ wrote Hugo Black.[59]

 

·   Also in 1971, Nixon declared a “war on drugs,” a war that would go out of its way to focus on drugs used and sold in the black communities despite equal use and greater selling in the white communities. Harper’s Magazine released an interview with John Erlichman, Nixon’s domestic policy chief. Erlichman explained: “We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt these communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.” (emphasis mine)[60]

 

·   In 1974, National Association of Real Estate Board finally retracted the following guideline that had been in place since 1924: “The Realtor should never be instrumental in introducing into a neighborhood…members of any race or nationality, or any individuals whose presence will clearly be detrimental to property values in the neighborhood.”[61]

 

·    Kentucky ratified the 13th Amendment in 1976.

 

·   The Indian schools as a movement lasted until 1978.[62]  With the passing of the Indian Child Welfare Act, Native American parents gained the legal right to deny their children’s placement in these schools.[63] On Navajo reservations, most people over the age of 50 are boarding school survivors, many with symptoms of PTSD.[64] I first learned about the Indian schools from a student at NMC whose grandparents went to school at the one in Harbor Springs, which closed in 1983.[65]

 

·   The IRS’s guidelines about racial integration being tied to tax exempt status in 1978 sparked outrage among many Christians. Congress received tens of thousands of messages. “What galvanized the Christian community was not abortion, school prayer, or the Equal Rights Amendment. [It was] Jimmy Carter’s intervention against the Christian schools, trying to deny them tax-exempt status on the basis of… segregation..”[66]

 

·   In 1981, Lee Atwater, a Republican strategist, was recorded in an interview discussing how the infamous Southern Strategy would be implemented in politics in the 1980s and moving forward.  “”You start out in 1954 saying ‘N*****, n*****, n*****.’ By 1968 you can’t say ‘n*****’ – that hurts you, backfires. So you say stuff like, uh, forced busing, states’ rights, and all that stuff, and you’re getting so abstract. Now, you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a by product of them is, blacks get hurt worse than whites…’We want to cut this.’ is much more abstract than even the business things, uh, and a hell of a lot more abstract than ‘N*****, n*****.’’[67] They ended up targeting welfare, inner cities, and the “underserving poor.” 

 

·   The Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986 instituted mandatory minimum sentences for selling cocaine – but they were far, far harsher for crack (commonly found in black communities) than for powder (commonly found in white communities). That discrepancy would not be corrected until 2010. Meanwhile, after 1986, 90% of those admitted to prison for drug offenses were black or Latino, even though whites and black use drugs on a statistically even pace, and there are more white than black drug dealers.[68]

 

·   Just after Emancipation, African Americans owned only 0.5 percent of the total worth of the United States. But by 1990, a full 125 years after the abolition of slavery, black Americans had gained half a percent for a grand total of 1% of the national wealth.[69]

 

·   From 1981 to 1997, the United States Department of Agriculture denied loans to tens of thousands black farmers that were provided to white farmers in similar circumstances. Two lawsuit resulted in settlement agreements totaling 2.31 billion dollars.

 

·    Mississippi ratified the 13th Amendment in 1995.

 

·   As recently as 2005, the Supreme Court cited the Doctrine of Discovery in City of Sherrill, New York v. Oneida Indian Nation of New York. They noted first that the “fee title” of Indian lands had gone to the “sovereign” (the United States); they noted “the impracticality of returning to Indian control land that generations earlier passed into numerous private hands”; and that various laws “precluded the Tribe from rekindling embers of sovereignty that long ago grew cold.”[72]

 

·   “At the turn of the century, banks disproportionately issued speculative loans to Black and Latinx homebuyers, even when they qualified for less risky options. These “subprime loans” had higher-than-average interest rates that could cost homeowners up to hundreds of thousands of dollars in additional interest payments. During the financial crisis, Black and Latinx households lost 48 percent and 44 percent of their wealth, respectively, due in part to these practices.[73] Homes in black neighborhoods continue to be undervalued to the tune of $156 billion in cumulative losses nationwide.[74]

 

·   At the Republican National Convention in 2012, Clint Eastwood performed a 12-minute skit in which he criticized an empty chair representing President Obama. In a violent twist, instances of citizens "lynching" these symbolic empty chairs from trees began to pop up, often with labels that referred to President Obama.[75]

 

·   “Since 2013, the National Congress of American Indians has requested all federal records for the hundreds of Native children who have disappeared or died while attending one of the hundreds of federally run or funded boarding schools. So far, there has been little response from federal officials, who say the requests are nearly impossible to fulfill.”[76]

 

·   “Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission has… documented the violent and traumatic legacies of Canadian residential schools and Indigenous child removal policies from the 1880s to 1996, which were modeled after U.S. boarding school policies. In 2015, the commission found that at least 6,000 Indigenous children died in Canadian residential schools. Canada had a total of 150 schools, less than half the 357 identified in the United States. It’s likely that the number of students who died in the United States is much higher.”[77]

 

·   Educational inequalities continue. Equally sized majority-nonwhite districts get $23 billion less in funding every year ($2,226 per student) than majority-white districts.[78] Why? Because schools are funded by property taxes, and the Supreme Court (Milliken v. Bradley) in 1974 ruled that a school district line can be drawn anywhere for almost any reason.[79] Many lines were drawn along the lines that began with redlining, continued through “urban decay,” and defined “urban renewal.” This effectively separated people by socioeconomic stratification - the 'better' the school system, the more expensive the housing and the cost of living, so the better the tax base for the school funding. Practically speaking, this separated yet again by race, as the economic disparity often correlated with race, having previously been entrenched by racially discriminatory practices According to the Economic Policy Institute, "Only about one in eight white students (12.9%) attends a school where a majority of students are black, Hispanic, Asian, or American Indian... nearly seven in 10 black children (69.2%) attend such schools...  Less than one in three white students (31.3%) attend a high-poverty school, compared with more than seven in 10 black students (72.4%). This funding discrepancy has huge educational and economic implications.[80]

 

·   Health care inequalities continue. The black population has been hit the hardest of all ethnic demographics by COVID-19 (3.5 times more likely to die from COVID-19 than white people) due in part to the impact of racial discrimination that has left a legacy to this day, including distrust of the health care system.[81] For Native Americans, one source of distrust is the 70,000 women sterilized against their will in the in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s. [82]

 

A few more words to clarify the importance of the health care issue. I believe our national history has shown how minority groups have repeatedly been pushed if not into poverty than at least towards it. Once there, significant hurdles not of their choosing hindered their ability to get out of it, and certainly undermined their ability to give the next generation a financial boost. Recent studies are revealing the real biological impact of poverty that passes on through generations. “Socioeconomic status (SES) is a powerful determinant of human health and disease, and social inequality is a ubiquitous stressor for human populations globally. Lower educational attainment and/or income predict increased risk for heart disease, diabetes, many cancers and infectious diseases, for example. Furthermore, lower SES is associated with physiological processes that contribute to the development of disease, including chronic inflammation, insulin resistance and cortisol dysregulation. In this study, researchers found evidence that poverty can become embedded across wide swaths of the genome. They discovered that lower socioeconomic status is associated with levels of DNA methylation (DNAm) -- a key epigenetic mark that has the potential to shape gene expression -- at more than 2,500 sites, across more than 1,500 genes. In other words, poverty leaves a mark on nearly 10 percent of the genes in the genome.”[83]  This would be in addition to the lack of good health care coverage that usually accompanies poverty.  In 2014, 20% of Black adults could not access health insurance compared to 10% of white adults. Predominantly Black zip codes were 67% more likely to not have enough primary care physicians.[84] Black people aged 51–55 are 28% more likely to already have a chronic illness compared to white people of the same age, likely due to numerous factors such as chronic stress, chronic inflammation, lower rates of insurance coverage, and less access to quality healthcare or PCPs.[85] The National Institute of Health notes black women are three to four more times likely to die a pregnancy-related death compared to white women. The reasons are many, but they definitely include the impact of racism. [86] I recommend you read “Racism, Inequality, and Health Care for African Americans,” at the Century Foundation, for a sobering look at the racial disparity in health and health care.[87]

 

·   Michigan’s prison population has increased by 450% since 1973; blacks are massively overrepresented (14% of the population and 49% of prisoners); Latinos and Native Americans have rates equal to their population percentage; whites are massively underrepresented (77% of the population and 46% of prisoners). Much of this stems from things like “lifer laws” connected with drugs – a war that was clearly biased. Please read this link to better understand this.[88]  And this one.[89] And this one.[90] And this one.[91]  Meanwhile, the state of Michigan loosened legislation to allow for convict labor.[92]

 

·   It sure looks like modern segregation academies are happening again through the use of some charter schools.[93]

 

·   In 2011, Countrywide Financial Corporation agreed to may $335 million to settle claims that it overcharged more than 200,000 black and Latinx borrowers, and steered 10,000 minority borrowers into risky subprime loans. Black customers were twice as likely to be steered into subprime loans as similarly qualified whites; in some markets it was 8x more likely.[94]

 

·   The discrimination experienced when “driving while black” is a very real phenomenon. Go to the Marshall Project for extensive information.[95]

 

·   In 2017, J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. settled for $55 million over allegations that independent brokers charged African-American and Hispanic borrowers higher rates than white borrowers from 2006 to 2009, violating of the Fair Housing Act.[96]

 

·   Hate crimes have risen against Asian-Americans since the coronavirus started. This is largely attributed to how the constant drumbeat of the “China Virus” has focused anger and frustration on the Chinese as a group. Google “hate crimes Asian.” Nearly half of Chinese residents have report incidents tied to their ethnic background since the pandemic began.[97]

 

·   Today, approximately 3 in 4 neighborhoods‘redlined’ in the 1930s remain low to moderate income, and more than 60 percent are predominantly nonwhite.[98] One thing that certainly didn't help is the rate of sub-prime loans for homeowners: a 2014 study showed that black homeowners – after controlling for a lot of other factors -  are 103% more likely to get a subprime loan. They are three times as likely as whites with similar credit scores to have higher rate mortgages.[99]

 

·   The SBC, which issued an apology for its racist history, is still struggling to address this issue. Here are excerpts from a letter sent in early 2020 to the trustees of the Southern Baptist Convention’s[100] Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission by its then-president, Russell Moore.[101] “My family and I have faced constant threats from white nationalists and white supremacists, including within our convention. Some of them have been involved in neo-Confederate activities going back for years. Some are involved with groups funded by white nationalist nativist organizations. Some of them have just expressed raw racist sentiment, behind closed doors… From the very beginning of my service, I have been attacked with the most vicious guerilla tactics on such matters, and have been told to be quiet about this by others. One SBC leader who was at the forefront of these behind-closed-doors assaults had already ripped me to shreds verbally for saying, in 2011, that the Southern Baptist Convention should elect an African-American president…This same leader told a gathering that “The Conservative Resurgence is like the Civil War, except this time unlike the last one, the right side won.” I walked out of that gathering…This is just a tiny sample of what I experience every single day… 

 

·   I haven’t even touched on the issues swirling around race and law enforcement, and that issue is the one we read the most about in the news. See this link in the footnote from the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.[102]

 

A brother in Christ named Esau McCauley, author of Reading While Black, gets the final word on this section:

 

“And what more shall we say? For the time would fail me to tell of the lynching tree, the Red summer, the dogs and the water hoses, the sit-ins, Emmett Till, Medgar Evers, Martin Luther King Jr., the people who defied governors and presidents, braved mobs, and sang victory, people of whom the world was not worthy. The history of Black people in this country is a litany of suffering. 


Yet we are definitely more than this suffering. There is a thread of victory woven into the tale of despair. We are still here! Still, sometimes it’s hard to see that thread when the cloth is stained with blood. When a Black person learns the history of our suffering and then continues to experience the aftershocks of the seismic disruption of slavery in our ongoing oppression, a feeling of rage or even nihilism begins to rise. 

 

Our suffering is not an inadvertent consequence of an otherwise just system. It was designed to be that way. What are we do with this anger, this pain? How does Christianity speak to it? What does the cross have to say, not simply to human suffering, but the particular suffering of African Americans?

 

* * * * *

 

This is what many of our black and brown brothers and sisters are mourning. This legacy, and its ongoing impact. This is what breaks the heart of God as he sees the impact of racist sin. If we want to have the eyes of God, we must see what God sees. If we want to have the heart of God, we must feel what he feels. What breaks God's heart must break ours. 

 

Dane Ortlund writes, “The cumulative testimony of the four Gospels is that when Jesus Christ sees the fallenness of the world all about him, his deepest impulse, his most natural instinct, is to move toward that sin and suffering, not away from it.”[103]

 

When we spend time saying, “But I don’t like how the world is responding to racism,” rather than saying, “Here’s how we as Christians should be responding to racism,” we are in trouble. It looks like the world is more serious about addressing injustice and sin than we are. It might even seem like the church is a hostile environment if there is a barrage of complaints about over even talking about the reality and ongoing legacy of racism. 

 

I’ve heard the argument that minorities are better off in the U.S. today than in any other time in our history, so we should all just relax. That may be true by comparison to times of slavery and lynching and bombings and massacres, but…that’s a low, low standard. People can be at a better place than ever and still be in a deeply unjust place. 

 

·    Nobody tells the victim of domestic violence that since the physical abuse is over, the onging verbal and emotional abuse is just fine because, “You’ve never been in such a good place before!” 

·    Nobody suggested to the children of Israel that the wilderness was sufficient after they left slavery in Egypt. The goal was a land flowing with milk and honey; the goal is righteousness and justice. 

 

We are never called to “settle” short of that. And it begins by seeing and listening well. 

 

“’Where common memory is lacking, where people do not share in the same past, there can be no real community. Where community is to be formed, common memory must be created.’ The United States of America has a white majority that remembers a history of discovery, opportunity, expansion, and exceptionalism. Meanwhile, our communities of color have the lived experiences of stolen lands, broken treaties, slavery, Jim Crow laws, Indian removal, ethnic cleansing, lynchings, boarding schools, segregation, internment camps, mass incarceration, and families separated at borders. Our country does not have a common memory.”[104]

 

We can’t go back and re-experience things together, but we can learn to empathize; we can share in the collective memories in our nation; we can, by the grace of God, learn from history and create new memories, full of hope and truth and justice, united by Jesus. Gospel-centered love requires us to imitate Jesus’ example:

 

· “I see your pain.”

· “I hear your story.”

· “I will weep with you as you weep in hopes that we can rejoice together when it is time to rejoice.” 

· “I want to walk with you into this injustice and offer a gospel-oriented solution. How can we support each other on a path of restoration and hope?”

 

There are 34 places in Scripture where justice and righteousness are used synonymously. Check out Isaiah 59:14-17 and Proverbs 8:20 as just two examples. Those of us who claim to hunger for righteousness must also hunger for justice.[105] 


Esau McCauley gets the last word yet again.

 

Hungering and thirsting for justice is nothing less than the continued longing for God to come and set things right. It is a vision of the just society established by God that does not waver in the face of evidence to the contrary. Mourning is not enough. We must have a vision for something different. Justice is that difference. 

 

Jesus, then, calls for a reconfiguration of the imagination in which we realize that the options presented to us by the world are not all that there is. There remains a better way and that better way is the kingdom of God. He wants us to see that his kingdom is something that is possible, at least as a foretaste, even while we wait for its full consummation. To hunger for justice is to hope that the things that cause us to mourn will not get the last word. 

 

What does all of this have to do with the public witness of the church? Jesus asks us to see the brokenness in society and to articulate an alternative vision for how we might live. This does not mean that we believe that we can establish the kingdom on earth before his second coming. It does mean that we see society for what it is: less than the kingdom. We let the world know that we see the cracks in the facade.

 

Hungering for justice is a hungering for the kingdom. Therefore the work of justice, when understood as direct testimony to God’s kingdom, is evangelistic from start to finish. It is part (not the whole) of God’s work of reconciling all things to himself. 

 

Part Four: Where Do We Go From Here? 


* * * * *


Listen to/watch:

·    Southside Rabbi:  Season 2, Episode 12, “Floyd, Chauvin, and the War on Empathy.” https://soundcloud.com/southsiderabbi.

·    The Holy Post: “Let’s Talk About Race In America” (Parts 1 and 2) https://www.holypost.com/articles/categories/videos

·    Leave Loud – Jemar Tisby’s story. His podcast Pass The Mic offers more insight into similar stories. There are political comments that will be off-putting, but just listen. You don’t have to agree with every conclusion he reaches. https://thewitnessbcc.com/leave-loud-jemar-tisbys-story/

 

Read:

·    “The Bible and Race” by Tim Keller. https://quarterly.gospelinlife.com/the-bible-and-race/ This is the first article in the series on justice and race by Keller that includes: “The Sin of Racism,” A Biblical Critique of Secular Justice and Critical Theory, and “Justice in the Bible.

·    Unsettling Truths: The Ongoing Dehumanizing Legacy Of The Doctrine Of Discovery, by Mark Charles and Soong-Chan Rah

·    Reading While Black by Esau McCaulley https://www.ivpress.com/reading-while-black

·    African American Readings of Paul: Reception, Resistance, and Transformation  by Lisa M. Bowens

·    The Color of Compromise, by Jemar Tisby. https://www.amazon.com/Color-Compromise-American-Churchs-Complicity-ebook/dp/B07BB6R827

·    The Myth Of Equality, by Ken Wystma, lead pastor of the Village Church in Beaverton, Oregon

 

__________________________________________________________


[1] “In 1997 a Tulsa Race Riot Commission was formed by the state of Oklahoma to investigate the massacre and formally document the incident. Members of the commission gathered accounts of survivors who were still alive, documents from individuals who witnessed the massacre but had since died, and other historical evidence. Scholars used the accounts of witnesses and ground-piercing radar to locate a potential mass grave just outside Tulsa’s Oaklawn Cemetery, suggesting the death toll may be much higher than the original records indicate. In its preliminary recommendations, the commission suggested that the state of Oklahoma pay $33 million in restitution, some of it to the 121 surviving victims who had been located. However, no legislative action was ever taken on the recommendation, and the commission had no power to force legislation. The commission’s final report was published on February 28, 2001. In April 2002 a private religious charity, the Tulsa Metropolitan Ministry, paid a total of $28,000 to the survivors, a little more than $200 each, using funds raised from private donations.” https://www.britannica.com/event/Tulsa-race-massacre-of-1921

[5] The Sum Of Us, by Heather McGhee

[6] The Sum Of Us, Heather McGhee

[7] “The Great Depression,” Robin Kelley, Four Hundred Souls

[12] This is also when confederate monuments began to be built in earnest. 

[13] Jemar Tisby, The Color of Compromise

[16] “Union Construction’s Racial Equity and Inclusion Charade,” Stanford Social Innovation Review. https://ssir.org/articles/entry/union_constructions_racial_equity_and_inclusion_charade

[19] “Last Hired, First Fired: How the Great Depression Affected African Americans.” https://www.history.com/news/last-hired-first-fired-how-the-great-depression-affected-african-americans

[22] As quoted in “Stolen Labor,” The Myth of Equality, by Ken Wystma

[23]

In 1947, home loans from the GI Bill after WWII disenfranchised black war veterans. “In New York and the northern New Jersey suburbs, fewer than 100 of the 67,000 mortgages insured by the GI bill supported home purchases by non-whites.”  6% of soldiers were black; .02% got loans. 

[25] “The real estate business practice of "blockbusting" was a for-profit catalyst for white flight, and a means to control non-white migration. By subterfuge, real estate agents would facilitate black people buying a house in a white neighborhood, either by buying the house themselves, or via a white proxy buyer, and then re-selling it to the black family. The remaining white inhabitants (alarmed by real estate agents and the local news media),[78] fearing devalued residential property, would quickly sell, usually at a loss. The realtors profited from these en masse sales and the ability to resell to the incoming black families, through arbitrage and the sales commissions from both groups. By such tactics, the racial composition of a neighborhood population was often changed completely in a few years.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White_flight#Government-aided_white_flight

[27] The Color of Compromise 

[29] Wikipedia! Also, there are still at least 5 towns in the United States whose names come from the acronym ANNA – “Ain’t No N***** Allowed.” 

[30] Two quotes from an article noting responses from readers concerning sundown towns. https://www.propublica.org/article/reader-responses-the-legend-of-anna-illinois-sundown-towns

“This reminds me of a shocking event from my teens. In the late 60’s, my dad and I were waiting with our new housekeeper at a bus stop in Burbank, CA, when the police pulled up and told us our housekeeper had to be out of town before sunset-so disillusioning, horrifying, sad.” — @JBEnglish1

“The place was Golden Valley NC. I saw the sign in 1997. I could not find the picture, but I remember the sign, ‘The sun never set on a black man in Golden Valley’ - right on the side of the road. I couldn’t get it out of my mind for a long time, and still think about it.” — @No_Bod_There

[33] “A Secret 1950s Strategy To Keep Out Black Students,” The Atlantic.  https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2019/09/how-ut-used-standardized-testing-to-slow-integration/597814/

[34] D.L. Moody and Billy Sunday both allowed segregation at their meetings.


[36] When the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that segregated public schools were unconstitutional.

[37] When the court ruled similarly about private schools. 

[51] I have barely covered the Urban Renewal movement in the 1950s and 1960s, and how it took homes and businesses from tens of thousands of poor black families.  See this link: https://thinkprogress.org/top-infrastructure-official-explains-how-america-used-highways-to-destroy-black-neighborhoods-96c1460d1962/

[58] “Stolen Labor,” The Myth of Equality

[59] The Sum of Us, by Heather McGhee

[60] “Stolen Labor,” The Myth Of Equality

[61] Ibid.

[62] About one-third of the 357 known Indian boarding schools were managed by various Christian denominations.

[64] Unsettling Truths, Mark Charles and Soong-Chan Rah

[65] Eric Hemenway, director of archives and records for the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians, said in a 2017 interview, “We hear devastating stories of kids who survived the school and they grow up to be our elders and, you know, they talk about the situations they went through and how that affected their ability to raise children and develop relationships with other people because of what happened to them at the boarding schools.”https://www.michiganradio.org/post/harbor-springs-boarding-school-worked-erase-odawa-culture-until-1980s

[66] The Color of Compromise

[67] The Sum of Us, by Heather McGhee

[68] “Stolen Labor,” The Myth of Equality

[69] A lot of information came from an article at https://www.pbs.org/race/000_About/002_04-background-03-02.htm

[72] Unsettling Truths, Mark Charles and Soong-Chan Rah

[76] “The U.S. stole generations of Indigenous children to open the West,” High Country News. https://www.hcn.org/issues/51.17/indigenous-affairs-the-us-stole-generations-of-indigenous-children-to-open-the-west

[80] This graph from the New York Times shows the implications of this well: economic hardship takes a toll for a lot of reasons, and economic ease opens a lot of doors. There can be complex reasons for these discrepancies, but general patterns emerge clearly along economic lines, lines which have been repeatedly re-drawn for centuries. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/04/29/upshot/money-race-and-success-how-your-school-district-compares.html

[83] “Poverty Leaves A Mark On Our Genes,” Northwestern University, https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2019-04/nu-pla040419.php

[92] “One Black Boy: The Great Lakes And The Midwest.” Tiya Miles, Four Hundred Souls.

[94] The Sum Of Us, by Heather McGhee

[99] The Sum Of Us, by Heather McGhee

[100]  “The world's largest Baptist denomination, the largest Protestant and the second-largest Christian denomination in the United States, smaller only than the Roman Catholic Church according to self-reported membership statistics.” (Thanks, Wikipedia)

[103] “The Heart In Action,” Gentle And Lowly

[104] George Erasmus, quoted in Unsettling Truths, by Mark Charles and Soong-Chan Rah

[105] Read the excellent chapter “Does Justice Belong In Our Gospel Conversation?” in Ken Wystma’s book The Myth Of Equality

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