Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Thomas Sowell Retired: Bye Felicia

“But, to the race hustlers, black lives don't really matter nearly as much as their chance to get publicity, power, money, votes or whatever else serves their own interests.”                                                
Thomas Sowell

When I logged on Twitter and saw Thomas Sowell trending I thought he had passed away; I was relieved to find out he was just retiring. That relief was replaced with joy, which was then replaced with apathy. I hope Thomas Sowell enjoys a long and fruitful retirement. I don’t wish him any ill will. I hope he gets to snap pictures for another decade, but I won’t pretend like his career benefited the masses of Black people. Thomas Sowell, Walter Williams, Ward Connerly, and Larry Elder are my Mount Rushmore of Anti-Black-Black academicians and media personalities. In my opinion, their collective efforts to sabotage anyone fighting systemic racism, coupled with their innate ability to attack Black victims of police brutality make them just as dangerous to young Black men as the Trap Rappers who make millions selling the illusion of drug game fame and fortune. The latter have succeeded in profiting from gangster imagery that may or may not be grounded in reality, but the former provide cover to racist elements in the conservative media who portray Black people as willful accomplices to many of the injustices we face. 

I know Black Conservatives who've used Thomas Sowell’s work to ground much of their economic and political philosophies. I can’t and won’t deny his impact on some of my contemporaries. He is an iconic conservative thinker and writer, but I part ways with him when it comes to his commitment to the Black community. Thomas Sowell has always chosen white conservative acceptance over justice for Black people. I know Black conservative writers who will never make it big because they choose their people over their politics. The cardinal sin for a Black conservative is defending Black people from truncated racist tropes. To make it big as a Black person in the conservative media one must deny the racism that exists in too many Human Resources departments, you must defend the police in instances of police brutality (no matter how egregious their behavior), and when in doubt: blame problems in the Black community on the destruction of Black family or Black on Black crime. There are a number of industries where being on that, “Black sh*t” doesn't fly, but I haven’t seen any industry as intolerant of pro-black rhetoric as the conservative media. I can’t think of one prominent Black conservative with a national platform who has routinely called out racism. You can't advance in that system by challenging the conservative media's position on issues related to the Black community.

Putting a Black face on white supremacist ideology and rhetoric is a tactic rooted in slavery. Contrary to the profit centered "race hustling" myth perpetuated by conservatives, the overwhelming majority of Black activists I've come in contact with haven't benefitted monetarily from supporting the Black community. Most have been blackballed at one point or another from predominantly white institutions because of their outspoken support for Black people. Dr. Michael Parenti once said, "a  journalists who writes for any publication can feel free to write what they want, as long as what they write pleases their editor's wishes." This holds true for Blacks on conservative platforms; even some liberal platforms have a threshold for excessive Black content. Black conservatives talk about freedom, but many aren't free to speak out against systems of white supremacy if they wanted to. A majority of conservatives avoid subject matter that challenges their view of America.

I will remember Thomas Sowell as a man who denied the plight of Black men in America when he wasn't too busy ignoring it. He was, after all, one of George Zimmerman’s most prominent Black defenders. I did a quick Google search to see if he's defended any Black Person in any of the high-profile cases of police brutality over the last few years: I couldn’t find one example of him doing so. Dr. Sowell’s retirement isn’t anything for the Black community to celebrate or mourn. He never used his intellect or platform for our benefit. He leaves and opens a space for a new Black face to rise up the conservative media ladder. 

Almost 25 years ago, Dr. Sowell gave a full-throated defense of the L.A.P.D. officers who nearly beat Rodney King to death. In the last few years Black conservatives have been on television and radio defending the N.Y.P.D. officer who choked Eric Garner to death, blaming Freddie Gray for his severed spine, and defending Michael Slager’s character to the detriment of Walter Scott’s life. There will always be a seat at the table for anyone promoting or normalizing anti-Black sentiments (see Tomi Lahren). If Black conservatives ever want to ditch the label of “Uncle Tom” or “Coon” it would behoove them to start supporting Black people in public. I’ve never heard a Black person call someone a sellout because they believed in supply side economics, but I have seen people disown public figures for their silence. When Black conservatives learn they can’t ignore the plight of Black people and build a legacy with us at the same time they might be able to come home, but until then: Bye Felicia!

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Cardwell Charge Dismissed

Cardwell charge dismissed in General District court

WARM SPRINGS – A misdemeanor charge of disorderly conduct against Danny Cardwell of Hot Springs was dismissed by Judge Gregory Mooney in Bath General District Court Wednesday.
Judge Mooney heard the case, which was prosecuted by Alleghany commonwealth’s attorney Ed Stein and, after closing arguments from Stein and defense attorney Taylor Baker, dismissed the charge.
The case stemmed from an Oct. 5 incident at Fast Break in Mitchelltown. According to Carl Chestnut of Hot Springs, who filed a complaint against Cardwell, Chestnut was inside Fast Break about 8:45 a.m., and Cardwell came in, talking to Richard Hise. Hise manages the local radio station where Cardwell is employed.
Cardwell said he went inside Fast Break to pay for his gas and buy some juice. When he left the store, Chestnut followed him outside and asked if he could ask Cardwell a question.
Chestnut testified, “He (Cardwell) done a taping of me of a meeting I had (at the Hot Springs firehouse in September). I asked him why he left a man out (of the video). He told me it was none of my (expletive) business… He got into my face.”
When Stein asked, Chestnut held his fingers about two inches apart. “(Cardwell) was this close to my nose,” he testified. Chestnut also said Cardwell threatened to “kill my (expletive) ass … He said, ‘I know I am going to have to go back to jail, but I am going to do it.’”
Chestnut said when Cardwell reached into his pocket, “I didn’t know what the hell was in his pocket,” he said.
“Excuse me?” shouted Judge Mooney, referring to the vulgarity.
“Sorry,” said Chestnut.
Chestnut said Cardwell took out his cell phone and began filming, saying, “I got your ass, homeboy.”
About that time, store manager Patti Trout came outside and asked both men to get in their cars and leave the premises.
Chestnut said he drove to the sheriff’s office later that morning and reported the incident.
Cardwell’s attorney, Taylor Baker, then asked Chestnut if he was “upset” about the video.
“Yeah,” he said. “I wasn’t mad; I just asked him about it.”
“Were you scared of him?” Baker asked.
“Why were you upset there was a portion of the video missing?” asked Baker.
Stein objected, citing relevance. Mooney sustained the objection.
“When you reported it to the sheriff’s office, did they bring charges?” asked Baker.
Stein again objected, which Mooney sustained.
Chestnut said he later spoke to Sheriff Robert Plecker and Virginia State Trooper Tim May about the incident. They directed him to go to the magistrate and swear out a warrant.
Next, Stein called Trout to the stand. She said she was busy with store duties, and at first did not pay much attention to the two men in the parking lot, between the door and the gas pumps.
“The next thing I know, my assistant told me things were getting a little excited out there,” she said. “I went outside and asked them to please stop; this isn’t the place for it … I asked Danny to please put his phone away … I did hear Danny call Carl a homeboy,” she said.
Asked if she ever thought there was “going to be any violence,” Trout said she did not.
Trout said the store is equipped with a surveillance camera that records what occurs in the lot and at the pumps. She watched the recording, she said, and then saved it, because she figured the sheriff’s office would want to see it at some time.
“Carl told me he was going to file charges against Danny… (The) sheriff’s office came a couple days later and got it.”
There is no audio on the store video, which recorded about three minutes, 50 seconds of tape.
Baker keyed up the recording on his computer, and the judge watched it carefully.
The tape clearly shows the two men outside the store. Each is pointing a finger at the other from time to time; however, at no time did Cardwell get within a few inches of Chestnut’s nose.
The commonwealth rested its case after Trout’s testimony, and the airing of the store tape.
Baker immediately moved to strike testimony by the complaining witness. He noted that, in the opinion of the defense, what Cardwell did “was not disorderly conduct.”
Stein disagreed, stating that, “even though there may have been a few more words exchanged than Mr. Chestnut re- membered,” there were sufficient words and conduct to support the charge.
Baker countered, “Mr. Chestnut instigated the entire conversation. Mr. Cardwell had every right to take out his phone and record” the incident.
Judge Mooney overruled Baker’s move to strike.
Baker called Sheriff Plecker as his first witness. Plecker said he and May advised Chestnut how to contact the magistrate to obtain “whatever warrant he was trying to get.”
“Did you take any further action?” Baker asked.
“No, we did not,” Plecker replied, noting Trout had “asked me to tell both men that they were welcome to come back into the store at any time.”
Then Baker put Cardwell on the stand. He testified about going inside the store to pay for his gas and buy some grapefruit juice. Once inside, he said, he encountered his boss, Hise, and they had a conversation. “We walked out together. Mr. Chestnut approached and asked to ask me a question. That leads up to what I’d call a gray area,” Cardwell said.
Cardwell digressed a little about what his job at the radio station entails – “It is an audio medium … there is no video.” He noted the video he made of the meeting at the firehouse was not done as part of his radio station job. He also noted he has “no idea” how to manipulate, change or delete a live-streaming video.
Outside Fast Break, Cardwell said, “Mr. Chestnut accused me of willfully trying to make him look stupid … I was arguing, but finally figured out we were not going to get anywhere … It was plain there was some kind of confrontation he was looking for … I decided I’d better pull out my phone.”
He added, “There is one thing Mr. Chestnut and I agree on: He followed me outside when I was leaving the store.”
“Did you say you were going to kill him?” Baker asked.
“Did you make any threat of violence?”
“Did you make any reference to going back to jail?”
“No … I did say, ‘Carl, you need to get out of my face.’”
Stein cross-examined.
“You stepped toward Mr. Chestnut to tell him to get out of your face?”
“My intention was to get him out of my face.”
“You could have gone toward your vehicle at any time? You made no threats?”
“I asked him to get out of my face.”
“How many felony convictions are on your record?”
Cardwell mused a moment, and then replied, “Three.”
Both Baker and Stein made closing arguments reiterating various points that underscored those that had been testified to as evidence.
Then, Judge Mooney took the case under advisement for a few minutes, making notes on a pad. Finally, he spoke.
“The burden of proof rests with the commonwealth,” he began. “I have a degree of doubt. I am going to dismiss the charge. We have two competing versions; neither tops the other.”
He added, “I found the video very significant. I observed it very carefully. I watched the timer, and it took 90 seconds … That was sufficient for me to conclude … what I saw was a vehement disagreement, that very clearly leads to uncivil behavior on … both parts. I see two people who are close to each other; I don’t see much in terms of advancement. I see finger-pointing by both parties. That leaves a significant degree of doubt in my mind.”
The judge suggested either party may ask the court to rule that the other party have no contact. Both Stein and Baker asked for that no-contact order. It prohibits contact in person, by phone, letter, notes, email, or any other means, in public or private, directly or indirectly.
The small downstairs courtroom was packed with spectators, most of whom filed out after the verdict. They gathered in groups at separate ends of the hallway, Cardwell family and supporters on one end, Chestnut family and supporters on the other. Deputies stood in between the two groups, who dispersed peacefully.

Monday, December 19, 2016

The Hug Heard Around The Country

"Next time we may have to kill him."

                                                      John McGraw

On December 15th 79-year-old John Franklin McGraw plead no contest to a misdemeanor charge of assault that stemmed from the well-timed forearm shiver he delivered to 26-year-old Rakeem Jones at a Trump rally in March. He was charged with a misdemeanor for a crime that had felonious intent. North Carolina state law allows such offenses to be classified as misdemeanors, so I can’t blame him, but let’s be honest: he was sentenced to unsupervised probation for committing an assault captured on video. If you're reading this and believe Rakeem Jones would have received such a lenient sentence had their roles been reversed I would suggest you do a quick google search of this country's history.

Donald Trump created a “Stone Cold Steve Austin” like confidence in some of his most ardent supporters. After months of denying the violence we saw with our own eyes president-elect Trump finally acknowledged his supporter’s behavior during one of his thank you tours, “You people were vicious, violent, screaming, ‘Where’s the wall? We want the wall!’ Screaming, ‘Prison! Prison! Lock her up!’ I mean you are going crazy. I mean, you were nasty and mean and vicious and you wanted to win, right?” He went on to say his supporters have since calmed down, but none of the data I’ve seen supports that notion. There has been a spike in hate crimes since the November 8th election, but some of these tensions have been brewing since the earliest days of the campaign.

Donald Trump's campaign successfully emboldened a racist subset of geriatrics longing for the good old days. These seniors see it as their duty to protect America from those of us born a little less “American” than them. This gets particularly dangerous when you consider how militarized some of these people are. We have de facto slave patrols in America again. This sounds like hyperbole to people who don’t have to worry about stand your ground laws being distorted to justify the extrajudicial killing of people who look like you, but the evidence is out there. A few weeks ago, in Charleston, West Virginia, a few hours from my home, William Ronald Pulliam murdered 15-year-old James Means. Pulliam claimed Means bumped into him at a convenience store before brandishing a firearm. Pulliam murdered a child and then went home and ate dinner. No gun was found. 

These kind of situations are happening more often than our national media is comfortable with. I had a man in his 70’s threaten me.  I’m 6’1” and 240lbs; I’m probably one of the last people a senior citizen should provoke into a physical altercation, yet my size and strength didn’t deter someone from provoking me. This is a real phenomenon with real world consequences. In the last few years we’ve seen militia members aim firearms at federal agents and another group take over a wildlife refuge. This isn’t just grumpy old men. These people pose a clear and present danger to society. It was all laughs and giggles when Uncle John was just repeating the crazy things he heard on Fox news, but now that he’s been arming himself for the last 8 years it isn’t funny.

America has changed so much in the last 50 years. Some of the belligerent behavior we're seeing from disgruntled seniors is their last gasp effort to derail the train of history. Some of these 70 and 80-year-old men have had front row seats to three generations of Black people destroying the lie of white supremacy. Many openly say "their" country has been stolen from them. Many of them have always viewed equality as their enemy. I’ve said it before, and I will say it again, global capitalism created a new class of people. 

Here's a truth that goes contrary to the religious principles I fail trying to adhere to: I don't care that "real America" feels bad about what’s happening to them. When my parents, grandparents, and every ancestor I had on this continent were working like dogs to build this country and provide for our family many of these same "good ole boys" did everything in their power to make their lives worse. I won’t spend a minute trying to better understand people left behind by a system built on the backs of Black slave labor. I’m not one of these happy go lucky Negroes going out of my way to forgive people for failing in their attempt to destroy me. Black people are the only people on Earth routinely called on to forgive those who would cheer our destruction. I won’t be Rodney King; while I believe most of us can get along I’m not na├»ve enough to believe all of us can. My faith and religious conviction isn’t as strong as the family members of the Emanuel Nine who forgave Dylann Roof.

When Rakeem Jones hugged John McGraw I knew that image, like the image of the crying young boy hugging a Portland police officer, would be used by well-intentioned people to shift the focus from what happened to the promise of a utopian future; America has way of pivoting from potentially painful conversations about race. Rakeem Jones and John McGraw’s hug, and promise to “heal America” is as American a response to racial tensions as apple pie. Twitter and Black Twitter’s response to the hug heard around America couldn’t have been more different. My timeline was filled with overly optimistic White people wanting to turn the page, and Black people in disbelief at how lenient the sentence was. How many more of us have to forgive White people for senseless acts like this before that same spirit of forgiveness translates into America collectively treating us better? Don't Answer that!

Mountain (In)justice

A Class 1 misdemeanor in Virginia is the highest of the misdemeanor classifications. It's punishable by up to 12 months in jail, as opposed to prison, and is punishable with a fine of up to $2,500.

All of the links in this blog are redirects to videos, audio, and an independently published article supporting my claims. This is the true story of what happened to me.

On October 5th 2016, I was charged with a Class 1 Misdemeanor and served with an Order of Protection. The incident that lead to the criminal complaint occurred just before 9am outside of a Mitchelltown, Virginia convenience store. I was stopped in the parking lot by the plaintiff who, per his sworn statement to the Magistrate and the court, "followed me out of the store." The content of our conversation is still disputed, but no one disputed the fact that I was leaving the store when the plaintiff followed me and provoked our confrontation. The plaintiff's initial statement to the police, his statement to the court, the store surveillance video used at my November 16th trial, and eyewitness testimony confirmed this.  

I was accused of threatening to kill man (in public) and creating a public disturbance. In his statement to the Magistrate, the plaintiff said, “He then reached in his pocket; not sure what he had I turned and walked ‘by’ into the store.” What I reached for was my phone. I thought he was going to say I hit him, so I started recording. When I ended the recording I had 25 seconds of video. I left the store thinking everything was over only to be visited two hours later during my live radio show by a member of law enforcement who gave me a chance to tell my side of the story. At the completion of our talk I was assured nothing more would come of this situation. I look back and regret not letting the official know about my video. I didn't let anyone associated with law enforcement see the video I recorded. Approximately 13 hours after the incident I was told by a coworker at my 2nd job that I needed to stop by the Sheriff’s Office before I went home. Before I went inside the Sheriff’s office I used my phone and some recording equipment to wire myself. I left with a 19-min mp3 that further complicated an already frustrating situation. In the Commonwealth of Virginia, it's legal for citizens to record conversations with law enforcement. Once I got home, I made copies of the audio and video files I recorded and emailed them to a few people I trust. The misinformation I received from the deputy who processed my paperwork made me feel like I was being set up. I was so paranoid that I mistook his ignorance of the law with malice. The very next day (Thursday) I made a video detailing the events from the day before, and on Friday I retained legal counsel: a local attorney I trust and a Black woman from Richmond connected to several civil rights organizations.

On October 19th, two weeks after the incident, the protective order against me was dropped and replaced with a no contact order. I was given a strict warning not to be in the immediate proximity of the plaintiff ahead of my November 16th trial. In the two week period between the accusation and my first court appearance I was treated like I was already guilty by many people in my community. I had a cadre of very supportive people: young, old, rich, poor, black, and white, but they were indeed in the minority. There were people I worked with on various projects over the last few years who treated me like I was Hannibal Lector. My wife and I traveled every weekend just to get away from the constant questions about that morning. For 6 weeks, I lived under a presumption of guilt. I was (incorrectly) told by the deputy who served my warrant that I wouldn’t be able to attend county government meetings because of the protective order: thus limiting my ability to participate in some very important local issue. On several occasions before my preliminary hearing Bath County Sheriff's Deputies publicly and privately admitted they knew the plaintiff had been causing problems with other citizens, but felt powerless to act. When I asked what was being done to protect other citizens from this kind of abuse I was told, “We know what’s going on.” They truly believed their knowledge of the problem was a viable remedy to it.

In the weeks before my confrontation with the plaintiff I faced incredible harassment: I had horse manure delivered to my day job multiple times, I received a threatening phone call from an elected official the day before I was confronted, and I had another elected official threaten to cut funds to a non profit organization I'm affiliated with. For as bad as the harassment was in the weeks before the confrontation, things proceeded to get worse. Someone close to the plaintiff contacted two venues I was scheduled to give talks at and tried to get my speaking engagements cancelled. I had to suspend a business opportunity that was planned for November due to the loss of revenue that came from canceling speaking engagements and the legal expenses I incurred. Even though the case was dismissed, my family and church suffered immensely: my mother lost close to 20 pounds worrying about the outcome of my trial, my wife spent six weeks answering questions about my mental stability, and our church came under undue scrutiny for having ordained someone like me.

This story really got confusing after I was found not guilty. The Commonwealth’s Attorney for Bath County didn’t want to prosecute the case: he thought it was ridiculous. A special prosecutor from another county was tapped to prosecute me. I learned that the magistrate didn’t want to issue the misdemeanor warrant. The Sheriff met with me a number of times to assure me that neither he nor anyone in his department was out to get me, yet I had my life spun upside down by someone with too much free time on their hands, a grudge, and the support of elected officials. The overwhelming majority of people representing the legal system in our area didn’t want this issue to go further than it had, but I still found myself in court facing a criminal charge.

In the time since my charges were dropped I’ve asked myself two questions over and over: what if there wasn't a surveillance video of this incident? What if this happened to someone passing through town who didn't have access to a proper legal defense? During my trial I was questioned in a very vindictive and mean-spirited way. It was more than a ferocious prosecutor doing his job; It was personal and condescending. At one point during my cross examination the prosecutor wanted the judge to find me in contempt of court. I had all of the evidence on my side, over thirty people showed up to support me, the sheriff testified on my behalf, the manager at the convenience store testified she never felt the situation created a public disturbance, and I still had to fight like hell to prove my innocence. This is what justice looks like for too many people in our society. Even with all of the evidence supporting me, I had to be perfect to get the benefit of the doubt necessary for a flimsy case like this to be dismissed.

I've spent the majority of my adult life pointing out and fighting against systemic inequalities in society and our legal system. I use the platform I have to highlight the injustices I see. I’ve lost employment opportunities and speaking fees because of my public stances on issues related to the Black community. A lot of people are shielded from the subtle kinds of racism black people deal with on any given day, so they are often surprised when they hear claims of racism. Just because a Black person has caring and supportive white friends doesn't mean they can't be touched by racism. This is a reality Black people need to stay in touch with. When your skin color is enough to warrant suspicion there's no amount of intellect, wealth, or success that can protect you. If my situation occurred somewhere else I can't say with confidence that the outcome would have been the same. We live in a country where too often Black victims of crimes are talked about worse than their killers. My situation was steeped in ignorance, but race played a part in the way I was treated. I have audio and video of people doing worse than I was accused of (in front of law enforcement) and their actions were ignored. I was one of the lucky ones.
There's a sequel to this piece chronicling the disturbing behavior of our elected officials. 

Click the link below to read the full article from The Recorder


Sunday, December 11, 2016

Hegemony, Shifiting Demographics, and "Populism"

"And before we knew it we were totally outnumbered at the family gatherings and consigned to a corner of the sectional, whispering and ducking among the flying hands, feeling rather small and blind, like moles or voles trembling in the shadows of the raptors."

When I first heard Paul Hostovsky's poem "Hegemony" I was so caught up with the in-group out-group role reversal narrative that I completely missed the poems lesson: communication. In the poem the protagonist has three deaf cousins who were largely ignored by the rest of their family, but through a series of marriages, births, divorces, and new marriages the biblical narrative of "the first shall be last and the last shall be first" was manifested. The deaf cousins found themselves the center of attention. The "small and blind" feeling the new minority of the hearing felt was based solely on their response to their new position within the family. The majority's willingness to ignore the minority left them on the outside looking in. Maybe we need to start communicating better and read more poetry? 

It's another week and I find myself in the familiar position of sitting in front of my computer with the option of writing about things that, for one reason or another, seem to only happen to people who look like me. Last week provided a wealth of material. I could write about the American legal system failing another black family: the Michael
Slager mistrial. I could definitely write about Joe McKnight being murdered and the shooter (Ronald Gasser) being released only to be "strategically" arrested days later. How about that press conference Jefferson Parish Sheriff Newell Normand gave? I could drone on for days about his use of threatening messages and profanity as a vehicle to diminish the legitimate concerns people of color have about these types of investigations.

I am very distrustful of anyone who downplays or attempts to diminish the lived experiences people of color talk and/or write about. We inherited an America that wrote a Declaration of Independence and a Preamble to the Constitution that willfully excluded Africans. From a historical perspective, we are far enough from the most egregious forms of racism that even the conservatives admit slavery, Black Codes, and Jim Crow were wrong, yet too many of these same people (and even some liberals) refuse to address the racial inequities of today. It's like being a passenger in a car with a driver who admits to swerving erratically twenty miles ago, but refuses to acknowledge the two left tires in the center rumble strip now. The past is a great whipping boy for anyone trying to deny structural racism today; The past allows nostalgic Americans to ditch their responsibilities to the next generation by pointing out how bad past generations were. We're constantly reminded: "No one alive owned slaves." "You people are represented in every field." "This isn't the 1950's." Statements like these do two specific things; they offer absolution to those making them, and create resentment inside the people hearing them. People of color haven't been spared from economic hardships, so why are we only talking about working class whites?

America was created for white people. I don't know how this easily locatable fact has been turned into a controversial statement. If one were to honestly connect the dots between the actions America has taken in the name of the flag or the idea of American "
exceptionalism" you'd come to this conclusion. What it means to be white has changed since the 19th Century, but the goal of controlling contested resources is the same. Black freedom movements combined with the increased migration of Hispanics and other people of color changed the rules that governed who was considered white. Germans, Italians, and Polish people gained full acceptance into the American family. The Irish faced terrible discrimination when they got here, Italians were called every racially insensitive name in the book, and Polish people are the butt of some of the worst jokes ever told, but none of these people were systematically excluded for the first 60 plus years of the 20th Century. The collective economic pain many white Americans are feeling is rooted in economic decisions younger than me. There's always been pockets of poverty, but economic despair combined with the potential end to white hegemony have created a fear that passes for "anger".  

White inclusion has historically been strong enough to unite people of different socioeconomic backgrounds, but like the dollar: inflation has limited its purchasing power. The last decade has been marked by populist movements on both sides of the political spectrum. Donald Trump's underlying message of restoring whiteness was the electoral glue Bernie Sanders' economic message lacked. Scholars and political pundits on the left and right have worked incredibly hard to explain the overt racism we've seen as if it's a by product of the economic anxiety and not a constitutive part of it. We're told to focus more on what automation and globalization have done to working class whites than the racists and racist organizations they've embraced. America is changing fast. Extreme wealth is the only insulation from "New America", ane there's a shortage of cash. Whiteness isn't a blessing or a curse. I'm not trying to create anger, guilt, or sympathy. I'm suggesting we be as honest about this moment in history as we are about the past. 

Pathways to the middle class have narrowed, but economics alone doesn't explain why the old Tea Party/Trump coalition hates the old Occupy Wall Street/Fight For Fifteen crowd. If it were just about money the party fighting for higher wages would have won the election. I'm not willing to waste time circling the square about Bernie being screwed by the DNC. I won't engage hypothetical situations in which Trump isn't the president-elect. Donald Trump represents the hopes and wishes of millions of people who advocate for a return to authoritarian white hegemony. I can't afford to waste my time psychoanalyzing these people or parsing their words. Since the Rodney King beating I've watched dozens of courts across this country reaffirm the fact that I don't have the same rights as my white peers. The fairy tale is that all of these issues are separate from each other. People work harder to deny the existence of  causal links than to accept them and attempt to correct them. I don't care if someone has a personal prejudice: we all have them; I care that their prejudices are allowed to influence the daily experiences of others. As America undergoes more racial and cultural shifts we will see more whites only populist movements. We will be told these movements are based on creating opportunities, but if you listen closely you can hear the desire to reshape America into the country she always was. The family in the poem is a great metaphor for the new minority's fear.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

The Social Silences SHHH!

Last week I wore an Italian suit made in China. Let me say that again: I wore an Italian suit made in China. The designer's name was prominently displayed on a hanging placard attached to the left jacket sleeve, a smaller one on the vest, and a tag inside the pants. After a week with my tailor it was time to debut my newest set of threads. While I was pinning my handkerchief inside the breast pocket I noticed a made in China label. Then it hit me: the United States is powerless to affect the manufacturing decisions that allowed me to save a few hundred dollars buying this suit instead of some of the more expensive suits I passed on. In theory, we can impose tariffs or stop trade deals that have an adverse effect on American workers, but the reality is more and more companies around the globe are playing the game.

Trade deals outside of the United States impact American consumption in ways I never thought about until I had my sartorial bubble burst. This is an aspect of globalization that I've never heard mentioned by Donald Trump or Bernie Sanders. The rhetoric Donald Trump used on the campaign trail was very powerful, but it's also powerless. How can we crack down on China without mentioning the European businesses that use cheap, often exploited, Chinese and Indian labor markets to produce some of goods they sell here? We can be as protectionist in our trade philosophies and policies as we want, but global commerce is going to happen with or without our consent. This isn't an argument for TPP or against it, but we have to be honest about the situation we're in. Conservatives worship at the alter of free market capitalism, but the truth is: America worships at the alter of free market consumption.

Large scale manufacturing and textile jobs are gone. No one can bring them back. We have to quit letting politicians on the right and the left lie to desperate people about this fact. Wall Street and the investment class have spoken. The market feeds on escalating productivity and declining wages. No serious person believes that markets were waiting on a Trump administration to put patriotism before profits. We have to find a way to get people to take the medicine they need and not the candy they want. Economic populism that isn't grounded in economic reality does more harm than good. You can get people to pick up their pitchforks, but after they walk around aimlessly for a few days and nothing has changed all you've done is waste their time.

If you want to see America's future all you have to do is drive through any predominantly black neighborhood. Look at who's producing the goods and providing the services. When a community or country stops producing and only consumes misery follows. Globalization has been to America what integration was to black people: a net loss. At the top some have done extraordinarily well, but for the masses the experiment has left them worse off. I recognize the "anger" many working class whites are experiencing as fear; fear related to being powerless to control your economic future. I'm not playing a linguistic game. Anger is just one of the many vehicles for fear. The truth is almost always a harder sell.

No one wants to hear that we have to adjust to a new normal. How do you convince a Dixiecrat that globalization turned their life to crap and not Juan and Maria or Jamal and Keisha? We will always have the harder job of explaining nuance to a public that would rather hear sound bites. The middle class isn't disappearing because of women, or blacks, or immigrants. Wealthy white men willfully made decisions that have hurt the average American's ability to take care of their family. A lot of people get uncomfortable if you talk about this reality in specific terms. We're taught to speak in vague terms that don't point any fingers at those above us on the socioeconomic scale, but to my knowledge none of the economic policies that have hurt the middle class or working class whites were written by, voted on, or signed into law by poor people. I'm certain working class Americans didn't lobby congress on behalf of management and ownership.

Since the election I've read a dozen articles by "experts" who, after the fact, have offered some rather brilliant insights into how Donald Trump won. I personally don't care about these articles. I also don't care about the articles progressives have been writing to explain how the articles and blogs they wrote in the months leading up to the election were right, but the people choose wrong. No one underestimated the "anger" in "rural" America, and we knew turnout was going to be important- in an unrelated story: water is still wet. Those articles, for the most part, don't have any power. I'm concerned with the articles suggesting the Democratic party needs to move away from issues specific to people of color; these articles have the potential to further weaken trust between blacks in the south and the whites in the north.

Working class whites have always fared better than the majority of working people of any color. Look at how much higher black unemployment is than white unemployment. I'm not sure why some on the left are trying to make us choose between our shared economic struggles and problems specific to members of our coalition. Identity politics are the politics of people adversely affected by their identities. I die a bit everytime someone who hasn't worked multiple jobs making less money than their uneducated white coworkers suggest that trade will make all of our lives better. It becomes painfully obvious how much work we need to do in order to strengthen our weak alliance. In essences, the northern progressives who write these articles are ready to throw in the towel on social justice for the sake of winning the next election.

We need to accept the fact that a majority of white America chose Trump's flash and rhetoric over any substance we thought we had; maybe we are too cerebral for our own good? I get lectured to by progressives who don't spend any time with self identified rednecks. Some of these people actually believe they know what my neighbors with the Trump signs in their yards want without ever talking to them. I don't know whether to chalk this up to the "elitism" that seems wedded to the academy or northern residential privilege. Trump can't make coal cheaper than natural gas, so mining jobs will continue to decline, I'm doubtful he can make any substantial changes to any of our existing trade agreements, and If he put a 'huuuge' tariff on imports he will cause more harm than good. He hasn't offered any substantive remedy to help fix our healthcare system. We know we are stuck with what we have or some lesser version of it, but many of his supporters will find out later. When they do we need to have some serious and digestible answers for them. The Democrats would be foolish to kick vulnerable people out of the tent in order to bring the Trump supporters back.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Segregated Faith: America's First Sunday

“I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizens Councillor or the Ku Klux Klanner but the white moderate who is more devoted to order than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says, "I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I can't agree with your methods of direct action"; who paternalistically feels that he can set the timetable for another man's freedom; who lives by the myth of time; and who constantly advises the Negro to wait until a "more convenient season." Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.


Today was America’s first full day of church services since candidate Trump became president-elect Trump. The outcome of the election has been received quite differently depending on the racial makeup of a church’s congregation. The data shows 80% of self-described White Evangelicals voted for Donald Trump while Black support for Trump was between 8-10%. The old aphorism about 11:00am Sunday morning being America’s most segregated hour was evident in the way Christians voted.

As I walked towards the lectern in the pulpit this morning I knew the words I chose wouldn’t and couldn’t do an adequate job of placing this moment in a proper biblical or historical context. This election magnified the racial divide in America’s churches. The truth is: many churches haven’t made any substantial progress in desegregating that segmented hour of our week dedicated to worship. As I prepared and meditated on my remarks, I was (once again) forced to face the reality that due to our aging congregation and the racial demographics of our area the only way our church can survive is to bring more of our white brothers and sisters into our fellowship. We are one of the two historically black churches left in our county. I often find myself wondering how can we grow our church in a Republican enclave surrounded by Christians who don’t understand why Donald Trump is anathema to a majority of our members?

Since Tuesday, I’ve read social media posts and watched videos by White pastors who have likened the election of Donald Trump to an Old Testament prophecy coming to fruition. As an ordained member of clergy and a student of human history I find myself questioning what matters most to some of my fellow Christians: nationalism or their membership in the kingdom? I don’t know how so many pastors were able to overlook the obvious racial undertones, xenophobia, misogyny, and overall vindictive rhetoric Donald Trump uses. I can’t understand how the Christian right was able to so easily embrace a candidate who embodied so many of the actions they’ve spent decades worth of lip service fighting.

I’ve been assured by close to a dozen of my fellow Christians that their support for Donald Trump wasn’t based on any racial, religious, or national calculus. They assured me they want “real change”. I’ve been told that Donald Trump won’t govern the way he talked on the campaign trail. I was told that we need to give him a chance. I was told that Donald Trump isn’t a racist, “he just puts Americans first”. I was told all of this by people who assured me they aren’t racist. I had someone tell me how bad they feel that so many racist organizations have aligned themselves with their movement. I’ve come to the conclusion that none of their reasons really matter to me. I don’t have the time or energy to analyze each and every motivation people used to make their decision. It almost feels like some of them are looking for absolution. I know all Trump supporters aren’t racist, but that won’t help me if, and when, I’m subjected to state sanctioned discrimination.

It’s deeply upsetting listening to pastors provide religious cover to a man who hasn't shown the ability to engage in civil discourse with anyone he disagrees with. Donald Trump speaks worse about his political opponents than Dr. King spoke about the people who were trying to kill him. Let that sink in! The Religious right have turned ecumenical back flips finding ways to forgive Donald Trump for behavior they would have crucified President Obama for. I can’t help but question what makes family value conservatives embrace a man with 5 children by 3 women, or his womanizing ways. Legendary conservative womanizers like Newt Gingrich and Rudy Giuliani think the Donald has had a good run.

In the 18th and 19th centuries the enlightenment caused the disenchantment with the church. In the 20th and 21st century it’s been our hypocrisy. What it means to be a Christian and who decides is a trap civilizations and cultures have fallen into since the church was founded. The church has survived crusades, inquisitions, reformations, and countless other existential crises; as an institution, it will always be here. I don’t question whether the church will live, I wonder how many people will want to be affiliated with it after we’re done?

I started this post with Dr. King because he has simultaneously been the best tool America has produced for the destruction of systematic racism and for shaming civil unrest. There’s much to learn from his sermonizing and writing. He possessed the ability to weave secular and religious texts from the past into road maps for an egalitarian future. No figure in American history has had their legacy more distorted to the detriment of the people he died advocating for than Dr. King. He has been reduced to the role of Black America’s principal or daddy. The moment there’s racial unrest America would rather dismiss than engage Black people are bombarded with images of MLK and told how we should or shouldn’t conduct ourselves. Almost fifty years after his assassination America has convinced herself and three generations of her children that she loved him when he was alive.

The protesters in our streets have very real issues they’re concerned about, yet the inexcusable actions of some knuckleheads have overshadowed their pleas for help. The electoral process has yielded a President-elect who’s caused some in our country to question how safe they are moving forward. Many of Donald Trump’s most loyal supporters don’t have to worry about the kind of collateral damage that can come from draconian immigration policies or a national stop-and-frisk campaign. When members of the LGBTQIA community talk about losing civil liberties based on the religious beliefs of others they are dismissed as drama queens (double entendre intended). The left and the right are equally guilty of dismissing the concerns of the other side. When we ignore or diminish the pain others are experiencing we don’t make their pain go away; we only show them how little we care about it. Now would be a great time for some understanding and resolve. Maybe we can talk about how we got here without yelling at each other?

Martin Luther King's 'Letter From Birmingham Jail'

Letter from Birmingham Jail

by Martin Luther King, Jr.

WHILE confined here in the Birmingham city jail, I came across your recent statement calling our present activities "unwise
and untimely." Seldom, if ever, do I pause to answer criticism of my work and ideas. If I sought to answer all of the criticisms
that cross my desk, my secretaries would be engaged in little else in the course of the day, and I would have no time for
constructive work. But since I feel that you are men of genuine good will and your criticisms are sincerely set forth, I would like
to answer your statement in what I hope will be patient and reasonable terms.
I think I should give the reason for my being in Birmingham, since you have been influenced by the argument of "outsiders
coming in." I have the honor of serving as president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, an organization operating
in every Southern state, with headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia. We have some eighty-five affiliate organizations all across the
South, one being the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights. Whenever necessary and possible, we share staff,
educational and financial resources with our affiliates. Several months ago our local affiliate here in Birmingham invited us to be
on call to engage in a nonviolent direct-action program if such were deemed necessary. We readily consented, and when the hour
came we lived up to our promises. So I am here, along with several members of my staff, because we were invited here. I am
here because I have basic organizational ties here.
Beyond this, I am in Birmingham because injustice is here. Just as the eighth-century prophets left their little villages and carried
their "thus saith the Lord" far beyond the boundaries of their hometowns; and just as the Apostle Paul left his little village of
Tarsus and carried the gospel of Jesus Christ to practically every hamlet and city of the Greco-Roman world, I too am compelled
to carry the gospel of freedom beyond my particular hometown. Like Paul, I must constantly respond to the Macedonian call for
Moreover, I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be
concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an
inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. Never
again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial "outside agitator" idea. Anyone who lives inside the United States can
never be considered an outsider.
You deplore the demonstrations that are presently taking place in Birmingham. But I am sorry that your statement did not express
a similar concern for the conditions that brought the demonstrations into being. I am sure that each of you would want to go
beyond the superficial social analyst who looks merely at effects and does not grapple with underlying causes. I would not
hesitate to say that it is unfortunate that so-called demonstrations are taking place in Birmingham at this time, but I would say in
more emphatic terms that it is even more unfortunate that the white power structure of this city left the Negro community with no
other alternative.
IN ANY nonviolent campaign there are four basic steps: collection of the facts to determine whether injustices are alive,
negotiation, self-purification, and direct action. We have gone through all of these steps in Birmingham. There can be no
gainsaying of the fact that racial injustice engulfs this community. Birmingham is probably the most thoroughly segregated city
in the United States. Its ugly record of police brutality is known in every section of this country. Its unjust treatment of Negroes
in the courts is a notorious reality. There have been more unsolved bombings of Negro homes and churches in Birmingham than
in any other city in this nation. These are the hard, brutal, and unbelievable facts. On the basis of them, Negro leaders sought to
negotiate with the city fathers. But the political leaders consistently refused to engage in good-faith negotiation.
Then came the opportunity last September to talk with some of the leaders of the economic community. In these negotiating
sessions certain promises were made by the merchants, such as the promise to remove the humiliating racial signs from the
stores. On the basis of these promises, Reverend Shuttlesworth and the leaders of the Alabama Christian Movement for Human
Rights agreed to call a moratorium on any type of demonstration. As the weeks and months unfolded, we realized that we were
the victims of a broken promise. The signs remained. As in so many experiences of the past, we were confronted with blasted
hopes, and the dark shadow of a deep disappointment settled upon us. So we had no alternative except that of preparing for direct
action, whereby we would present our very bodies as a means of laying our case before the conscience of the local and national
community. We were not unmindful of the difficulties involved. So we decided to go through a process of self-purification. We
Letter From Birmingham Jail 2
started having workshops on nonviolence and repeatedly asked ourselves the questions, "Are you able to accept blows without
retaliating?" and "Are you able to endure the ordeals of jail?" We decided to set our direct-action program around the Easter
season, realizing that, with exception of Christmas, this was the largest shopping period of the year. Knowing that a strong
economic withdrawal program would be the by-product of direct action, we felt that this was the best time to bring pressure on
the merchants for the needed changes. Then it occurred to us that the March election was ahead, and so we speedily decided to
postpone action until after election day. When we discovered that Mr. Conner was in the runoff, we decided again to postpone
action so that the demonstration could not be used to cloud the issues. At this time we agreed to begin our nonviolent witness the
day after the runoff.
This reveals that we did not move irresponsibly into direct action. We, too, wanted to see Mr. Conner defeated, so we went
through postponement after postponement to aid in this community need. After this we felt that direct action could be delayed no
You may well ask, "Why direct action, why sit-ins, marches, and so forth? Isn't negotiation a better path?" You are exactly right
in your call for negotiation. Indeed, this is the purpose of direct action. Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and
establish such creative tension that a community that has consistently refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks
so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored. I just referred to the creation of tension as a part of the work of the
nonviolent resister. This may sound rather shocking. But I must confess that I am not afraid of the word "tension." I have
earnestly worked and preached against violent tension, but there is a type of constructive nonviolent tension that is necessary for
growth. Just as Socrates felt that it was necessary to create a tension in the mind so that individuals could rise from the bondage
of myths and half-truths to the unfettered realm of creative analysis and objective appraisal, we must see the need of having
nonviolent gadflies to create the kind of tension in society that will help men to rise from the dark depths of prejudice and racism
to the majestic heights of understanding and brotherhood. So, the purpose of direct action is to create a situation so crisis-packed
that it will inevitably open the door to negotiation. We therefore concur with you in your call for negotiation. Too long has our
beloved Southland been bogged down in the tragic attempt to live in monologue rather than dialogue.
One of the basic points in your statement is that our acts are untimely. Some have asked, "Why didn't you give the new
administration time to act?" The only answer that I can give to this inquiry is that the new administration must be prodded about
as much as the outgoing one before it acts. We will be sadly mistaken if we feel that the election of Mr. Boutwell will bring the
millennium to Birmingham. While Mr. Boutwell is much more articulate and gentle than Mr. Conner, they are both
segregationists, dedicated to the task of maintaining the status quo. The hope I see in Mr. Boutwell is that he will be reasonable
enough to see the futility of massive resistance to desegregation. But he will not see this without pressure from the devotees of
civil rights. My friends, I must say to you that we have not made a single gain in civil rights without determined legal and
nonviolent pressure. History is the long and tragic story of the fact that privileged groups seldom give up their privileges
voluntarily. Individuals may see the moral light and voluntarily give up their unjust posture; but, as Reinhold Niebuhr has
reminded us, groups are more immoral than individuals.
We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the
oppressed. Frankly, I have never yet engaged in a direct-action movement that was "well timed" according to the timetable of
those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation. For years now I have heard the word "wait." It rings in the
ear of every Negro with a piercing familiarity. This "wait" has almost always meant "never." It has been a tranquilizing
thalidomide, relieving the emotional stress for a moment, only to give birth to an ill-formed infant of frustration. We must come
to see with the distinguished jurist of yesterday that "justice too long delayed is justice denied." We have waited for more than
three hundred and forty years for our God-given and constitutional rights. The nations of Asia and Africa are moving with jetlike
speed toward the goal of political independence, and we still creep at horse-and-buggy pace toward the gaining of a cup of coffee
at a lunch counter. I guess it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging darts of segregation to say "wait." But when you
have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen
hate-filled policemen curse, kick, brutalize, and even kill your black brothers and sisters with impunity; when you see the vast
majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society; when
you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six-year-old daughter why she
cannot go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her little eyes
when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children, and see the depressing clouds of inferiority begin to form in her little
mental sky, and see her begin to distort her little personality by unconsciously developing a bitterness toward white people; when
you have to concoct an answer for a five-year-old son asking in agonizing pathos, "Daddy, why do white people treat colored
people so mean?"; when you take a cross-country drive and find it necessary to sleep night after night in the uncomfortable
corners of your automobile because no motel will accept you; when you are humiliated day in and day out by nagging signs
reading "white" and "colored"; when your first name becomes "nigger" and your middle name becomes "boy" (however old you
are) and your last name becomes "John," and when your wife and mother are never given the respected title "Mrs."; when you are
harried by day and haunted by night by the fact that you are a Negro, living constantly at tiptoe stance, never knowing what to
expect next, and plagued with inner fears and outer resentments; when you are forever fighting a degenerating sense of
"nobodyness" -- then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait. There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs
over and men are no longer willing to be plunged into an abyss of injustice where they experience the bleakness of corroding
despair. I hope, sirs, you can understand our legitimate and unavoidable impatience.
Letter From Birmingham Jail 3
YOU express a great deal of anxiety over our willingness to break laws. This is certainly a legitimate concern. Since we so
diligently urge people to obey the Supreme Court's decision of 1954 outlawing segregation in the public schools, it is rather
strange and paradoxical to find us consciously breaking laws. One may well ask, "How can you advocate breaking some laws and
obeying others?" The answer is found in the fact that there are two types of laws: there are just laws, and there are unjust laws. I
would agree with St. Augustine that "An unjust law is no law at all."
Now, what is the difference between the two? How does one determine when a law is just or unjust? A just law is a man-made
code that squares with the moral law, or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law. To
put it in the terms of St. Thomas Aquinas, an unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal and natural law. Any law that
uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust. All segregation statutes are unjust because
segregation distorts the soul and damages the personality. It gives the segregator a false sense of superiority and the segregated a
false sense of inferiority. To use the words of Martin Buber, the great Jewish philosopher, segregation substitutes an "I - it"
relationship for the "I - thou" relationship and ends up relegating persons to the status of things. So segregation is not only
politically, economically, and sociologically unsound, but it is morally wrong and sinful. Paul Tillich has said that sin is
separation. Isn't segregation an existential expression of man's tragic separation, an expression of his awful estrangement, his
terrible sinfulness? So I can urge men to obey the 1954 decision of the Supreme Court because it is morally right, and I can urge
them to disobey segregation ordinances because they are morally wrong.
Let us turn to a more concrete example of just and unjust laws. An unjust law is a code that a majority inflicts on a minority that
is not binding on itself. This is difference made legal. On the other hand, a just law is a code that a majority compels a minority to
follow, and that it is willing to follow itself. This is sameness made legal.
Let me give another explanation. An unjust law is a code inflicted upon a minority which that minority had no part in enacting or
creating because it did not have the unhampered right to vote. Who can say that the legislature of Alabama which set up the
segregation laws was democratically elected? Throughout the state of Alabama all types of conniving methods are used to
prevent Negroes from becoming registered voters, and there are some counties without a single Negro registered to vote, despite
the fact that the Negroes constitute a majority of the population. Can any law set up in such a state be considered democratically
These are just a few examples of unjust and just laws. There are some instances when a law is just on its face and unjust in its
application. For instance, I was arrested Friday on a charge of parading without a permit. Now, there is nothing wrong with an
ordinance which requires a permit for a parade, but when the ordinance is used to preserve segregation and to deny citizens the
First Amendment privilege of peaceful assembly and peaceful protest, then it becomes unjust.
Of course, there is nothing new about this kind of civil disobedience. It was seen sublimely in the refusal of Shadrach, Meshach,
and Abednego to obey the laws of Nebuchadnezzar because a higher moral law was involved. It was practiced superbly by the
early Christians, who were willing to face hungry lions and the excruciating pain of chopping blocks before submitting to certain
unjust laws of the Roman Empire. To a degree, academic freedom is a reality today because Socrates practiced civil
We can never forget that everything Hitler did in Germany was "legal" and everything the Hungarian freedom fighters did in
Hungary was "illegal." It was "illegal" to aid and comfort a Jew in Hitler's Germany. But I am sure that if I had lived in Germany
during that time, I would have aided and comforted my Jewish brothers even though it was illegal. If I lived in a Communist
country today where certain principles dear to the Christian faith are suppressed, I believe I would openly advocate disobeying
these anti-religious laws.
I MUST make two honest confessions to you, my Christian and Jewish brothers. First, I must confess that over the last few years
I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great
stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizens Councillor or the Ku Klux Klanner but the white moderate
who is more devoted to order than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace
which is the presence of justice; who constantly says, "I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I can't agree with your methods
of direct action"; who paternalistically feels that he can set the timetable for another man's freedom; who lives by the myth of
time; and who constantly advises the Negro to wait until a "more convenient season." Shallow understanding from people of
good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more
bewildering than outright rejection.
In your statement you asserted that our actions, even though peaceful, must be condemned because they precipitate violence. But
can this assertion be logically made? Isn't this like condemning the robbed man because his possession of money precipitated the
evil act of robbery? Isn't this like condemning Socrates because his unswerving commitment to truth and his philosophical
delvings precipitated the misguided popular mind to make him drink the hemlock? Isn't this like condemning Jesus because His
unique God-consciousness and never-ceasing devotion to His will precipitated the evil act of crucifixion? We must come to see,
as federal courts have consistently affirmed, that it is immoral to urge an individual to withdraw his efforts to gain his basic
constitutional rights because the quest precipitates violence. Society must protect the robbed and punish the robber.
Letter From Birmingham Jail 4
I had also hoped that the white moderate would reject the myth of time. I received a letter this morning from a white brother in
Texas which said, "All Christians know that the colored people will receive equal rights eventually, but is it possible that you are
in too great of a religious hurry? It has taken Christianity almost 2000 years to accomplish what it has. The teachings of Christ
take time to come to earth." All that is said here grows out of a tragic misconception of time. It is the strangely irrational notion
that there is something in the very flow of time that will inevitably cure all ills. Actually, time is neutral. It can be used either
destructively or constructively. I am coming to feel that the people of ill will have used time much more effectively than the
people of good will. We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the vitriolic words and actions of the bad people but
for the appalling silence of the good people. We must come to see that human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability. It
comes through the tireless efforts and persistent work of men willing to be coworkers with God, and without this hard work time
itself becomes an ally of the forces of social stagnation.
YOU spoke of our activity in Birmingham as extreme. At first I was rather disappointed that fellow clergymen would see my
nonviolent efforts as those of an extremist. I started thinking about the fact that I stand in the middle of two opposing forces in
the Negro community. One is a force of complacency made up of Negroes who, as a result of long years of oppression, have been
so completely drained of self-respect and a sense of "somebodyness" that they have adjusted to segregation, and, on the other
hand, of a few Negroes in the middle class who, because of a degree of academic and economic security and because at points
they profit by segregation, have unconsciously become insensitive to the problems of the masses. The other force is one of
bitterness and hatred and comes perilously close to advocating violence. It is expressed in the various black nationalist groups
that are springing up over the nation, the largest and best known being Elijah Muhammad's Muslim movement. This movement is
nourished by the contemporary frustration over the continued existence of racial discrimination. It is made up of people who have
lost faith in America, who have absolutely repudiated Christianity, and who have concluded that the white man is an incurable
devil. I have tried to stand between these two forces, saying that we need not follow the do-nothingism of the complacent or the
hatred and despair of the black nationalist. There is a more excellent way, of love and nonviolent protest. I'm grateful to God that,
through the Negro church, the dimension of nonviolence entered our struggle. If this philosophy had not emerged, I am
convinced that by now many streets of the South would be flowing with floods of blood. And I am further convinced that if our
white brothers dismiss as "rabble-rousers" and "outside agitators" those of us who are working through the channels of
nonviolent direct action and refuse to support our nonviolent efforts, millions of Negroes, out of frustration and despair, will seek
solace and security in black nationalist ideologies, a development that will lead inevitably to a frightening racial nightmare.
Oppressed people cannot remain oppressed forever. The urge for freedom will eventually come. This is what has happened to the
American Negro. Something within has reminded him of his birthright of freedom; something without has reminded him that he
can gain it. Consciously and unconsciously, he has been swept in by what the Germans call the Zeitgeist, and with his black
brothers of Africa and his brown and yellow brothers of Asia, South America, and the Caribbean, he is moving with a sense of
cosmic urgency toward the promised land of racial justice. Recognizing this vital urge that has engulfed the Negro community,
one should readily understand public demonstrations. The Negro has many pent-up resentments and latent frustrations. He has to
get them out. So let him march sometime; let him have his prayer pilgrimages to the city hall; understand why he must have sitins
and freedom rides. If his repressed emotions do not come out in these nonviolent ways, they will come out in ominous
expressions of violence. This is not a threat; it is a fact of history. So I have not said to my people, "Get rid of your discontent."
But I have tried to say that this normal and healthy discontent can be channeled through the creative outlet of nonviolent direct
action. Now this approach is being dismissed as extremist. I must admit that I was initially disappointed in being so categorized.
But as I continued to think about the matter, I gradually gained a bit of satisfaction from being considered an extremist. Was not
Jesus an extremist in love? -- "Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, pray for them that despitefully use you." Was not
Amos an extremist for justice? -- "Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream." Was not Paul an
extremist for the gospel of Jesus Christ? -- "I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus." Was not Martin Luther an extremist?
-- "Here I stand; I can do no other so help me God." Was not John Bunyan an extremist? -- "I will stay in jail to the end of my
days before I make a mockery of my conscience." Was not Abraham Lincoln an extremist? -- "This nation cannot survive half
slave and half free." Was not Thomas Jefferson an extremist? -- "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created
equal." So the question is not whether we will be extremist, but what kind of extremists we will be. Will we be extremists for
hate, or will we be extremists for love? Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice, or will we be extremists for the
cause of justice?
I had hoped that the white moderate would see this. Maybe I was too optimistic. Maybe I expected too much. I guess I should
have realized that few members of a race that has oppressed another race can understand or appreciate the deep groans and
passionate yearnings of those that have been oppressed, and still fewer have the vision to see that injustice must be rooted out by
strong, persistent, and determined action. I am thankful, however, that some of our white brothers have grasped the meaning of
this social revolution and committed themselves to it. They are still all too small in quantity, but they are big in quality. Some,
like Ralph McGill, Lillian Smith, Harry Golden, and James Dabbs, have written about our struggle in eloquent, prophetic, and
understanding terms. Others have marched with us down nameless streets of the South. They sat in with us at lunch counters and
rode in with us on the freedom rides. They have languished in filthy roach-infested jails, suffering the abuse and brutality of
angry policemen who see them as "dirty nigger lovers." They, unlike many of their moderate brothers, have recognized the
urgency of the moment and sensed the need for powerful "action" antidotes to combat the disease of segregation.
Letter From Birmingham Jail 5
LET me rush on to mention my other disappointment. I have been disappointed with the white church and its leadership. Of
course, there are some notable exceptions. I am not unmindful of the fact that each of you has taken some significant stands on
this issue. I commend you, Reverend Stallings, for your Christian stand this past Sunday in welcoming Negroes to your Baptist
Church worship service on a nonsegregated basis. I commend the Catholic leaders of this state for integrating Springhill College
several years ago.
But despite these notable exceptions, I must honestly reiterate that I have been disappointed with the church. I do not say that as
one of those negative critics who can always find something wrong with the church. I say it as a minister of the gospel who loves
the church, who was nurtured in its bosom, who has been sustained by its Spiritual blessings, and who will remain true to it as
long as the cord of life shall lengthen.
I had the strange feeling when I was suddenly catapulted into the leadership of the bus protest in Montgomery several years ago
that we would have the support of the white church. I felt that the white ministers, priests, and rabbis of the South would be some
of our strongest allies. Instead, some few have been outright opponents, refusing to understand the freedom movement and
misrepresenting its leaders; all too many others have been more cautious than courageous and have remained silent behind the
anesthetizing security of stained-glass windows.
In spite of my shattered dreams of the past, I came to Birmingham with the hope that the white religious leadership of this
community would see the justice of our cause and with deep moral concern serve as the channel through which our just
grievances could get to the power structure. I had hoped that each of you would understand. But again I have been disappointed.
I have heard numerous religious leaders of the South call upon their worshipers to comply with a desegregation decision because
it is the law, but I have longed to hear white ministers say, follow this decree because integration is morally right and the Negro is
your brother. In the midst of blatant injustices inflicted upon the Negro, I have watched white churches stand on the sidelines and
merely mouth pious irrelevancies and sanctimonious trivialities. In the midst of a mighty struggle to rid our nation of racial and
economic injustice, I have heard so many ministers say, "Those are social issues which the gospel has nothing to do with," and I
have watched so many churches commit themselves to a completely otherworldly religion which made a strange distinction
between bodies and souls, the sacred and the secular.
There was a time when the church was very powerful. It was during that period that the early Christians rejoiced when they were
deemed worthy to suffer for what they believed. In those days the church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas
and principles of popular opinion; it was the thermostat that transformed the mores of society. Wherever the early Christians
entered a town the power structure got disturbed and immediately sought to convict them for being "disturbers of the peace" and
"outside agitators." But they went on with the conviction that they were "a colony of heaven" and had to obey God rather than
man. They were small in number but big in commitment. They were too God-intoxicated to be "astronomically intimidated."
They brought an end to such ancient evils as infanticide and gladiatorial contest.
Things are different now. The contemporary church is so often a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound. It is so often
the arch supporter of the status quo. Far from being disturbed by the presence of the church, the power structure of the average
community is consoled by the church's often vocal sanction of things as they are.
But the judgment of God is upon the church as never before. If the church of today does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the
early church, it will lose its authentic ring, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no
meaning for the twentieth century. I meet young people every day whose disappointment with the church has risen to outright
I hope the church as a whole will meet the challenge of this decisive hour. But even if the church does not come to the aid of
justice, I have no despair about the future. I have no fear about the outcome of our struggle in Birmingham, even if our motives
are presently misunderstood. We will reach the goal of freedom in Birmingham and all over the nation, because the goal of
America is freedom. Abused and scorned though we may be, our destiny is tied up with the destiny of America. Before the
Pilgrims landed at Plymouth, we were here. Before the pen of Jefferson scratched across the pages of history the majestic word of
the Declaration of Independence, we were here. For more than two centuries our foreparents labored here without wages; they
made cotton king; and they built the homes of their masters in the midst of brutal injustice and shameful humiliation -- and yet
out of a bottomless vitality our people continue to thrive and develop. If the inexpressible cruelties of slavery could not stop us,
the opposition we now face will surely fail. We will win our freedom because the sacred heritage of our nation and the eternal
will of God are embodied in our echoing demands.
I must close now. But before closing I am impelled to mention one other point in your statement that troubled me profoundly.
You warmly commended the Birmingham police force for keeping "order" and "preventing violence." I don't believe you would
have so warmly commended the police force if you had seen its angry violent dogs literally biting six unarmed, nonviolent
Negroes. I don't believe you would so quickly commend the policemen if you would observe their ugly and inhuman treatment of
Negroes here in the city jail; if you would watch them push and curse old Negro women and young Negro girls; if you would see
them slap and kick old Negro men and young boys, if you would observe them, as they did on two occasions, refusing to give us
food because we wanted to sing our grace together. I'm sorry that I can't join you in your praise for the police department.
Letter From Birmingham Jail 6
It is true that they have been rather disciplined in their public handling of the demonstrators. In this sense they have been publicly
"nonviolent." But for what purpose? To preserve the evil system of segregation. Over the last few years I have consistently
preached that nonviolence demands that the means we use must be as pure as the ends we seek. So I have tried to make it clear
that it is wrong to use immoral means to attain moral ends. But now I must affirm that it is just as wrong, or even more, to use
moral means to preserve immoral ends.
I wish you had commended the Negro demonstrators of Birmingham for their sublime courage, their willingness to suffer, and
their amazing discipline in the midst of the most inhuman provocation. One day the South will recognize its real heroes. They
will be the James Merediths, courageously and with a majestic sense of purpose facing jeering and hostile mobs and the
agonizing loneliness that characterizes the life of the pioneer. They will be old, oppressed, battered Negro women, symbolized in
a seventy-two-year-old woman of Montgomery, Alabama, who rose up with a sense of dignity and with her people decided not to
ride the segregated buses, and responded to one who inquired about her tiredness with ungrammatical profundity, "My feets is
tired, but my soul is rested." They will be young high school and college students, young ministers of the gospel and a host of
their elders courageously and nonviolently sitting in at lunch counters and willingly going to jail for conscience's sake. One day
the South will know that when these disinherited children of God sat down at lunch counters they were in reality standing up for
the best in the American dream and the most sacred values in our Judeo-Christian heritage.
Never before have I written a letter this long -- or should I say a book? I'm afraid that it is much too long to take your precious
time. I can assure you that it would have been much shorter if I had been writing from a comfortable desk, but what else is there
to do when you are alone for days in the dull monotony of a narrow jail cell other than write long letters, think strange thoughts,
and pray long prayers?
If I have said anything in this letter that is an understatement of the truth and is indicative of an unreasonable impatience, I beg
you to forgive me. If I have said anything in this letter that is an overstatement of the truth and is indicative of my having a
patience that makes me patient with anything less than brotherhood, I beg God to forgive me.

Yours for the cause of Peace and Brotherhood,