A Reflection on Our Common AMERICAN History vis-à-vis Black History Month

A Reflection on Our Common AMERICAN History vis-à-vis Black History Month

February, 2022 — Black History Month

An African-American man lynched from a tree. His face is partially concealed by the angle of the photograph and his hat. (Circa 1925; National Photo Company – Library of Congress)

Last week at an antiracism meeting I participated in, a presentation was made titled ‘Power Analysis’ based on Rev. Joseph Barndt’s ‘Understanding and Dismantling Racism: The Twenty-Frist Century Challenge to White America’ (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2007).

The presentation mentioned three levels of power with “POWER3” defined as “racism’s power to control and destroy everyone. This is racism’s ability to make everyone serve its purposes AND destroy everyone’s humanity in the process.”

There was a discussion that ensued with some pushback within the group about the statement as to how racism can actually destroy everyone’s humanity. I ask anyone reading this post decide for themselves after reflecting on the image I included above to draw your own conclusions.

 I’d like to share with you some thoughts from a book I’m currently reading, ‘A White Catholic’s Guide to Racism and Privilege’ by Fr. Dan Horan, O.F.M., a well-known author, speaker, and professor. It is located in a section titled ‘Racism is An Actual Conspiracy’ and reads as follows:

“Some collaborators in the conspiracy have been overt and clear about their agenda of DEHUMANIZATION (my emphasis and others following), of genocide, of white superiority, of cultural Eurocentrism, and of land acquisition and wealth accumulation at the expense of HUMANITY, lives, safety, and future of whole populations of other HUMAN beings. But many whites — especially throughout the twentieth and twenty-first centuries — have remained willfully ignorant about the persistence of the conspiracy. When we unconsciously choose to not know, we white people are complicit with racism and remain, to borrow a legal term, “unindicted co-conspirators.” Just because you do not identify with or in any way support explicit hate groups like the KKK or neo-Nazi organization does not mean that you are free from responsibility. On the contrary, as we Catholics know well from the Confiteor prayer at the opening of Sunday Mass, we are always responsible for both “what we have done and what we have failed to do.”

I believe Fr. Horan responds directly to any questions about racism being a sin and crime against humanity and provides supporting guidance and illumination on the depths and power of racism as dehumanizing.

Fr. Horan also quotes the philosopher George Yancy in another section as follows: “If you are white., though, know that you are part of a system that would rather you live a lie than risk you seeing the truth. If you are white, you must face a certain kind of death — the death of your narrowness of vision, the death of your white narcissism, the death of your “innocence”, the death of your neoliberal assumptions, the death of the metanarrative of meritocracy, the death of all these things that underwrite your white gaze as the only way of seeing the world.” … My note: this is a very powerful statement!

A final thought I will leave you with from a reader of my book who said “Your use of the term “white supremacy” often made me very uncomfortable.  Here’s why… for me white supremacists are consciously, with intent, trying to hold people of color down!  And they are not afraid to use violence to do so… or have others do the violent acts for them; e.g., Trump & Jan 6.  Given that description, I do not consider most of white America white supremacist.”

The reader continues: “Most people either are oblivious to the continued racial issues OR if their hearts and minds are open, they do not know what they as one person can do in this very divided nation of ours! And also, stepping outside your comfort zone will bring negative reactions from family & friends… that takes a certain amount of courage!!!  Longtime good friends might choose to no longer be your friend!!! Sad, but true for me and others I know!!!”

My thoughts on what the reader is saying are threaded throughout my memoir, so without repeating myself here, I will say it was with authentic intentionality and awareness that I referenced “white supremacy” the way I did in the book. I purposely did not avoid the possibility of any discomfort discussing white supremacy might cause readers; frankly, that’s one of the outcomes I anticipated and I am grateful that this reader admitted the discomfort it evoked. Mission accomplished and I hope that many of you will take the time this month … and every month … to learn more about our true collective and common AMERICAN history including the depths of white supremacy that go well beyond “45” and the Capitol Insurrectionists. Again, just go back to the atrocity depicted in the photo above and ask yourself very simple questions such as who, what, why, when, where and ponder the realities of your answers.

Share post:

Comments ( 2 )

Leave A Comment

Your email is safe with us.