Monday, February 23, 2015


©Wendell Griffen, 2015
New Millennium Church, Little Rock, AR
February 22, 2015 (First Sunday In Lent)

1 Peter 3:13-22
13Now who will harm you if you are eager to do what is good? 14But even if you do suffer for doing what is right, you are blessed. Do not fear what they fear, and do not be intimidated, 15but in your hearts sanctify Christ as Lord. Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you;
16yet do it with gentleness and reverence. Keep your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who abuse you for your good conduct in Christ may be put to shame. 17For it is better to suffer for doing good, if suffering should be God’s will, than to suffer for doing evil.
18For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, in order to bring you to God. He was put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit, 19in which also he went and made a proclamation to the spirits in prison, 20who in former times did not obey, when God waited patiently in the days of Noah, during the building of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were saved through water.
21And baptism, which this prefigured, now saves you—not as a removal of dirt from the body, but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers made subject to him.

          We have entered the Lenten season.  From now until Holy Week (March 30 until April 4) we will ponder the disciplines of suffering, prayer, repentance, and their relationship to being people of God in a world where people are determined to set up their own empires. 

          The epistle of 1 Peter is named after that colorful follower of Jesus who was a leader of the early Christian community after the ascension of Jesus.  New Testament scholars are reasonably sure that Brother Peter did not write our lesson.  The Greek is much more scholarly from what one would expect for the Galilean who quit his fishing business to follow Jesus.  The situation described in 1 Peter points to a time after Peter’s death during the last decade of the first century in the Christian era.  Scholars believe 1 Peter was written in Peter’s name to bolster confidence its teaching was in line with the religion of Jesus.

1 Peter is a “pastoral letter,” written to instruct and encourage people described as “the exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, who have been chosen and destined by God the Father and sanctified by the Spirit to be obedient to Jesus Christ and to be sprinkled with his blood.” (1 Peter 1:1-2)  These people once lived according to the dominant value system of their communities.  But after they became followers of Jesus they were abused, criticized, and socially marginalized. 

The suffering mentioned in 1 Peter didn’t involve such things as illnesses, natural disasters, and other common troubles that befall humanity.  The people addressed in 1 Peter were suffering criticism, abuse, and ostracism because their obedience to the values of Jesus put them out of step with the social and cultural outlook where they lived.  Unlike the oppressive culture around them where human dignity and worth was based on social standing, power, privilege, and wealth, the people addressed in 1 Peter were struggling to obey the teachings and example of Jesus that emphasized unconditional love toward all persons. 

1 Peter shows that the attitudes and values that produce injustice in family, employment, commercial, social, and other relationships are so different from the values of Jesus that followers of Jesus will be unpopular, unwelcome, and even subversive and dangerous.  For the writer of 1 Peter, living according to the gospel of Jesus was worth suffering “for doing what is right” (1 Peter 3:14).  The writer then gave some specific guidance.

Follow Christ courageouslyBut even if you do suffer for doing what is right, you are blessed.  Do not fear what they fear, and do not be intimidated, but in your hearts sanctify Christ as Lord (1 Peter 3:14-15a).  Living according to the gospel of Jesus requires the courage to face unpopularity, criticism, and even mistreatment.  When followers of Jesus shy away from living with that courage, we are not treating Christ as Lord. 

Courage is the moral attribute that leads people to do what is right even though doing so is unpopular or unwelcomed.  Jesus is the example of courage for people who say that Jesus Christ is Lord, because Jesus was willing to endure unjustified suffering in obedience to what pleased God.  Following Jesus requires the courage to live according to the love and justice values of Jesus. 

According to the Entertainment Software Association, people in the United States lead the world in buying and playing video games and spent almost $25 billion on video games, gaming hardware, and related accessories in 2011.  Roughly 70 percent of Americans (that’s 7 out of 10) play video games. That comes to about 165 million people. 

Some of the most popular games people are playing on PlayStation, Xbox, Microsoft Windows, and other gaming platforms seem hostile to the values of Jesus. Call of Duty is a video game that simulates combat—yes, killing people.  Grand Theft Auto simulates committing crimes while evading government agencies.  It says a lot about a society where millions of people are spending so much time and money fantasizing about killing and committing acts of mayhem.  Do we, as followers of Jesus, have enough courage to live differently?

Taxpayers in the United States are now paying more than $10.54 million every hour for the wars our nation has waged since 2001.  We’ve spent over $1.6 trillion on wars since 2001.  Do we have the courage to follow Jesus as peacemakers in a world driven by “national security” obsessed politicians, profiteers, and fear-mongers.

Do we have the courage to live as followers of Jesus concerning income inequality and wage theft?  Will we admit that there is something very unlike Christ where Walmart--the largest retail company in the world—refuses to pay employees a living wage?  

Will we stop shopping at Walmart to show solidarity with those workers?  Or are we so addicted to personal convenience and financial status that we aren’t willing to boycott Walmart because of its anti-union and anti-worker practices and policies? 

Would Jesus side with Walmart stockholders such as the Walton heirs or with Walmart workers?  Will we?

The courage to live as a follower of Jesus is a call to suffer with Jesus to save the world for the glory and honor of God.  Let’s unpack what that means for our time.

Whoever wrote 1 Peter dared to believe that it is better to suffer for doing good, if suffering should be for God’s will, than to suffer for doing evil.  For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, order to bring you to God (1 Peter 3:17-18).  For whom are we suffering in obedience to the example of Jesus Christ? 

Are we suffering with Christ to deliver people from oppression from greed and the ravages of opportunistic business practices? 
Are we suffering with Jesus to deliver marginalized people who are gay, lesbian bisexual, or transgender from the terrorism of bigotry and discrimination that is often done in the name of religious liberty? 

Are we suffering with Jesus to deliver people in Palestine from government-sponsored terrorism by the Israeli government in the name of Zionism, and to challenge politicians in the United States—including President Obama and whoever runs to succeed him—about the wickedness and dishonesty of pretending to be blind about the racism, land theft, and rampant inequality practiced by the Israeli government?

Are we suffering with Jesus to deliver people of color from government-sponsored terrorism disguised as a “war on drugs” and “war on crime” designed, led, and carried out by fear-mongering politicians and a law enforcement culture that glorifies and condones brutality?

How can we suffer with Jesus Christ—who came preaching about setting captives free—and deliver victims of mass incarceration and their families from political, social, and economic bigotry and discrimination?

How will we suffer with Jesus to humbly and lovingly confront people who—whether they call themselves ISIS, Hamas, Boko Haram, the Family Research Council, the Chamber of Commerce, the National Rifle Association, or something else—use religion, economic theories, political philosophies, or anything else as reasons to oppress others?

We have been baptized into the value system of Jesus Christ.   There is a reason we sing songs such as “Down At The Cross” and “Must Jesus Bear The Cross Alone.”  We sing those songs as followers of Jesus Christ who suffered the physical agony and moral and psychological horrors of a public hanging to save humanity from itself.

We are followers of the one who placed people above property, profits, and personal privilege and comfort.  Jesus!

We are followers of the one who endured criticism, persecution, and even state-sponsored and religiously orchestrated execution in obedience to God’s love and truth.  Jesus!

According to whoever wrote 1 Peter, we’ve been called and baptized as followers of Jesus into a faith that requires having the courage to suffer for what is right in a world where doing so will be unpopular, even dangerous.  That involves a lot more than refraining from eating sweets for a few weeks.  We’re called to follow Jesus in everything.  We’re called and committed to risk and endure suffering to save humanity and the creation for the glory and honor of God. 

So here’s the big question.  How are we suffering with Christ to save the world?  Or is the world suffering the wickedness of injustice because so many people lack the faithful courage to suffer in obedience to the life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ?


Friday, February 20, 2015


©Wendell Griffen, 2015
A Sermon delivered at New Millennium Church, Little Rock, AR
February 15, 2015 (Transfiguration Sunday)

Mark 9:2-10
2Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, 3and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them. 4And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, who were talking with Jesus. 5Then Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” 6He did not know what to say, for they were terrified. 7Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!”8Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no one with them anymore, but only Jesus.
9As they were coming down the mountain, he ordered them to tell no one about what they had seen, until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead. 10So they kept the matter to themselves, questioning what this rising from the dead could mean.
We are all familiar with the experience of being in a room of chatting people when someone is trying to make a point about something important, but can’t get people to stop talking with each other.  Sooner or later, the person who has an important message to convey is forced to do something that will interrupt the chatter and cause people to refocus.  When I was in the Army, someone would shout out “At ease!” or “Listen up!”  At that command, people would stop chatting and turn their attention toward the person who issued that call.

          The Transfiguration of Jesus can be understood that way.  Six days earlier Jesus fed about 4000 people with seven loaves of bread and a few fish.  There were seven full baskets of leftovers afterwards.  Despite that feat, his critics challenged Jesus to give them a sign of his divine authority.       

Then Jesus cured a blind man at Bethsaida (Mark 8:22-26), and traveled with his disciples to Caesarea Philippi.  There Peter declared that Jesus was the long promised Messiah from God. 

But when Jesus began telling the disciples he would be seized by the religious authorities, killed, and rise again after three days, Peter rebuked Jesus (Mark 8:32-33).  Peter believed Jesus was the Messiah, but Peter didn’t want to hear Jesus talking about being put to death.  Jesus had to scold Peter and teach his followers about the cost of discipleship (Mark 8:34-36).

          The Transfiguration happened six days later. Jesus took Peter, James, and John with him to a mountain.  While they were there the clothes Jesus was wearing became dazzling white and Jesus was joined by Moses and Elijah.  Peter then suggested that three shrines be erected, one each for Jesus, Moses, and Elijah.  That was when a cloud overshadowed the mountain and a voice said, “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!”

Recent history provides clear evidence that we tend to resemble Peter. 

After a federal court ruled that Alabama’s ban on marriage between persons of the same sex is unlawful the chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, Roy Moore, directed that Alabama probate judges not issue marriage licenses to persons of the same sex. 

Last week the Arkansas legislature enacted a law that will prohibit cities and counties from enacting measures to protect people from discrimination that might be otherwise permitted under Arkansas law.  Persons who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender are the obvious targets of that law.  Governor Asa Hutchinson intends to allow the measure to become law without his signature. 

Port Arthur, Texas pastor Randy Vaughn of the National Baptist Convention USA, Inc., the oldest and largest body of black Baptists, recently circulated a message objecting to the appearance of Bishop Yvette Flunder of San Francisco as a speaker at American Baptist College in Nashville, Tennessee because Bishop Flunder is married to a woman. 

Self-proclaimed “evangelical Christians” have complained about President Obama’s remarks during the recent National Prayer Breakfast criticizing how religion has been used to justify violence because Mr. Obama mentioned how the Bible was misapplied by Christians to justify the Crusades, enslaving Africans, and discriminating against women. 

These examples show that we, like Peter, disregard what God has revealed in Jesus about love, truth, and righteousness and how to save the world.  Like Peter, we are easily tempted to tell God what we want to do while disregarding what God has revealed for us in Jesus Christ. 

But there is something quite wrong about saying that we are honoring God while we disregard the presence and authority of Jesus.  There is something wrong about claiming to follow Jesus while we base our actions on something besides his ministry of grace and truth.   It is wrong to claim to be a follower of Jesus while one violates the commandment he taught that we love our neighbors—including our gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender neighbors—as ourselves. 

Let me speak plainly.  Bigotry and discrimination against people who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender is morally wrong.  It does not honor God because it violates the teachings and example of Jesus Christ.  People who claim to honor God while seeking to discriminate against others are not following the gospel of Jesus.  They are disobeying the gospel of Jesus.  This is not living according to the gospel.  It is “anti-gospel” and “un-Christian.”  Bigotry and discrimination have nothing to do with the “good news” of God’s love and truth because oppression based on ethnicity, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, income, nationality, or any other social status violates “the love your neighbor as yourself” mandate found in Scripture and commanded by Jesus.

The good news is that God speaks!  A cloud overshadowed the mountain and a voice declared, “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!” 

The voice was not speaking about listening to Moses!  We need to remember that when people cite the Holiness Code in Leviticus as grounds for bigotry toward people who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender they are not basing their views and behavior on Jesus. 

The voice was not speaking about listening to Elijah!  You recall that Elijah superintended the slaughter of 450 priests of Baal at Mount Carmel (1 Kings 18:1-40).  That was like ISIS, the Crusades, and lynching of people of color by the Ku Klux Klan, not the love of God revealed by Jesus! 

Noting in the teachings of Jesus justifies bigotry and discrimination against people for any reason, including based on sexual orientation or gender identity.  When religious people object to same sex marriage they don’t cite anything Jesus taught about sexual orientation or marriage. They misconstrue passages from the books of Moses or the writings of Paul?  Instead, of using Jesus to understand God’s will about equality and marriage, they run to Moses and Paul.  That’s just like Peter’s desire to erect shrines on the mountain for Moses, Elijah, and Jesus less than a week after announcing that Jesus—not Moses or Elijah—was God’s Messiah!   

But God has plainly and best revealed what love, righteousness, and truth mean most clearly in Jesus!  Not Moses!  Not Elijah!  Not Paul!  Not Peter!  Not me or anyone else!  Jesus!  The voice from the cloud that Peter heard commands us, as it commanded Peter, to listen to Jesus! 

Listen to the one who said “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Luke 4:18-19).   Jesus!

Listen to the one who declared that God’s righteousness requires that we “do to others as you would have them do to you, for this is the law and the prophets.”  (Matthew 7:12)  Jesus!

Listen to the one who socialized with people considered untouchable such as Simon the leper (Matthew 26:6).  Jesus! 

Listen to the one who accepted women and refused to abide by traditions of male superiority and historical bigotry as shown by how Jesus interacted with a Samaritan woman (John 4:1-39).  Jesus!

Listen to the one who showed us by the miracles of feeding thousands with very little that sharing what we have rather than hoarding is the way to improve the lot of those in need (Mark 8:1-21).  Jesus!

When we listen to Jesus, we will stand with people who are downtrodden.  When we listen to Jesus, we will speak up for people who have no voice. 

When we listen to Jesus, we will protect people who are vulnerable.  When we listen to Jesus, we will set people free who are held captive by oppressive powers of greed that profit from human need and suffering. 

When we listen to Jesus, we will help those who are blind about God’s love and truth recover their sight.  When we listen to Jesus, we will proclaim God’s will that those all who are held captive by oppressive powers must be set free.

The voice on the Mount of Transfiguration challenged Peter to listen to Jesus because God has shown us how to live in Jesus.  If we profess to love God let us listen to Jesus.  Then let us live as Jesus has taught and shown.


Wednesday, February 18, 2015


©Wendell Griffen, 2015

Governor Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas unveiled a three-point $64 million plan to address prison overcrowding (the euphemism for the travesty more accurately termed “mass incarceration”) during a press conference at the Arkansas State Capitol today (February 18, 2015).  His proposal contemplates spending fifty million dollars ($50,000,000) to expand existing prison capacity.  The remaining fourteen million dollars ($14,000,000) would be used for “alternative and accountable sentencing programs for non-violent offenders.” 

We should not be impressed.

In the first place, the proposal is based on the ridiculous and oppressive notion that we should incarcerate even more people than we do already.  Otherwise, Governor Hutchinson would not propose to create more prison space. 

Sending people to lockup facilities in other states (such as a lockup in Bowie, Texas) means continuing to spend money on incarceration.  How will the Arkansas Department of Correction (ADC) be able to properly superintend the out-of-state inmates?  How will the families of inmates shipped out of state be able to remain in contact with them?  Remember the old adage about the devil being in the details?  There are plenty of details that should trouble us.

Creating more prison space means spending money to build or paying others for having constructed places to house and hold them.  It also means hiring more prison guards and spending more money on incarceration—in other words trying to reduce mass incarceration by enlarging the capacity to perpetuate it.  

One does not cure the causes of cancer by building more cemeteries and hiring more funeral directors and grave diggers.  That analogy shows the primary error in what Governor Hutchinson has proposed.    The governor’s proposal is not a new song.  It is merely the same “mass incarceration” song set to a different key. 

Nowhere in the proposal can one find any hint that Governor Hutchinson understands how the “war on drugs” contributed to mass incarceration.  Nothing in his proposal hints that his administration intends to abandon the “war on drugs.”  “Alternative sentencing” for non-violent offenders means continuing to label people criminals who are non-violent but who violate existing draconian drug possession laws. 

Nowhere does Governor Hutchinson’s proposal address the relationship between education, poverty, health, and incarceration.  Rather, the proposal fails to recognize how educational deficits, lack of employment opportunities, and mental health issues affect the potential for people to continue to become mass incarceration victims. 

Governor Hutchinson’s proposal isn’t a step in the right direction.  He is merely proposing to change the pace and take a more limited effort in continuing down the wrong direction.  Before anyone concludes that what Governor Hutchinson proposes is progress he or she should ponder a hypothetical. 

If you were in a car traveling along the wrong route would you prefer that the driver stop the car, turn around, and find the right road?  Or would you be closer to the correct destination and feel more comfortable if the driver said he was going to put more fuel in the vehicle and continue driving the same wrong route, but more slowly?

We’re all in the mass incarceration vehicle—although some of us are victimized by it much more than others—that Governor Hutchinson is driving.  We should urge him to stop the car, turn around, and take on fuel to travel in a different direction that doesn’t involve criminalizing non-violent conduct related to drug dependency and that addresses the root causes for other non-violent criminal behavior. 

Until and unless we do so, we are merely being complicit in and enabling bad driving while complaining about how much we are spending to not arrive where we want to go.

Monday, February 16, 2015


Justice is a Verb!
©Wendell Griffen, 2015

Arkansans should not read more into Governor Hutchinson's recent announcement that a new prison isn't the answer to prison overcrowding and mass incarceration in Arkansas than his acknowledgment that Arkansas cannot afford to build a new 1000 inmate prison (at a projected construction of cost of about $100 million). As Pulaski County Sheriff Doc Holiday states, even if funding was available and new construction could begin soon, the new lockup facility would not be ready to receive prisoners for years.

Governor Hutchinson's announcement that a new prison isn't the answer does not, however, address the basic problem. Arkansas, like the rest of the nation, has a prison over-crowding problem because the ill-conceived and intellectually dishonest "war on drugs" resulted in the arrest, prosecution, conviction, and imprisonment of thousands of people for non-violent conduct. Many of the "repeat offenders" mentioned by the prosecutor quoted in the KATV-TV news report about Governor Hutchinson’s announcement are non-violent offenders imprisoned for non-violent misdeeds while on probation or parole that are related in one way or another to substance dependency.

Substance dependency is, at bottom, a public health and wellness matter. People who are dependent on drugs (whether illegal substances or legal substances that are used improperly or without valid medical authorization) are impaired, not vicious. Governor Hutchinson should know this, admit it publicly, and should lead state officials to abandon the failed mindset of criminalizing drug dependency, focus attention on addressing drug dependency through the public health system.

Governor Hutchinson should also exercise his executive power to grant clemency to non-violent offenders who have been convicted on drug possession and related charges. Doing so will relieve the tremendous pressure on county and local jails where state prisoners are now being confined. Those jails and state prisons will then be able to confine people who commit violent offenses.

Sending Arkansas inmates to prisons in other states (such as Louisiana) and expanding county and local jails will not solve prison overcrowding. Doing those things will not address the cost issue because Arkansas will need to hold and house inmates somewhere, and must pay someone to hold and house them.

Using privately-owned or run prisons poses additional problems. The notion of treating humans as commodities (products to be shipped and stored for profit) is morally repulsive. Private prisons also have been exposed for mistreating prisoners, denying them lawfully required health and other services, and for abusing prison inmates.

The problem of mass incarceration and prison over-crowding (in Arkansas and the United States) is not going away on its own. Governor Hutchinson should exercise the responsibility of his office and courageously lead Arkansas and the nation in addressing to address mass incarceration in "a more excellent way" that respects the humanity of people whose lives and families have been snared because politicians dating back to former President Richard Nixon cleverly decided to declare "war on drugs" in order to prosecute and disenfranchise people of color and poor white people, the demographic groups that gained electoral importance after passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and other civil rights legislation.

There is plenty of space for non-violent offenders in their homes, with their families, and in our communities if we simply exercise the moral courage and wisdom to treat them as our impaired neighbors rather than as predators. Governor Hutchinson should call other civic leaders, faith leaders, and everyone else to summon that courage and act with that wisdom.  If he doesn’t, we will continue acting out the unjust and foolhardy mindset of the "war on drugs" that has been a curse on our society and a burden for countless persons and families for the past several decades.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015


©Wendell Griffen, 2015

February is Black History Month in the United States when it is customary to highlight the contributions and achievements of black people to humanity.  One reality of racism is that human history has been and continues to be defined and interpreted by people whose thinking is based on notions of white supremacy, white privilege, and the belief that people of color are inferior to people who are white.  Black History Month efforts and events attempt to challenge that mindset and actions flowing from it.

While it is certainly important to highlight the contributions and achievements of black people to humanity, doing so is not enough.  Any useful understanding of the experience of black people in the United States and throughout the world—whether during Black History Month or any other time—requires that we understand the past and continued effects of racism, white supremacy, white privilege, and notions of black inferiority.  Otherwise, Black History Month amounts to little more than a routine we practice while refusing to face hard truths about the past and continued effects of racism, white supremacy, white privilege, and notions of black inferiority.

For example, one almost never reads or hears anyone connect the “achievement gap” between white and black students to the history of racism, white supremacy, white privilege, and notions of black inferiority in the United States and Arkansas.  The “achievement gap” is usually discussed as if that history never happened.  Instead, some people explain the “achievement gap” by claiming white families are more concerned about and better at educating their children than are black families.    

But the United States—including Arkansas—“was founded explicitly, prospered explicitly, and still often lives uneasily on the precept of black inferiority and white supremacy” to quote Judge A. Leon Higginbotham, Jr. from his book titled Shades of Freedom: Racial Politics and Presumptions of the American Legal Process.  Present conversations about the so-called “achievement gap” ignore what Judge Higginbotham declared.  “From the time the Africans first disembarked here in America, the colonists were prepared to regard them as inferior.” 

Perhaps some people will argue that any notion of black inferiority and white supremacy—at least in public education—ended  in 1954 when the U.S. Supreme Court outlawed racial segregation in public education in the case of Brown v. Board of Education.  In that case the Supreme Court ruled that intentionally segregating black children in public schools violated the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution and “generates a feeling of inferiority as to their status in the community that may affect their hearts and minds in a way unlikely ever to be undone.” 

Some people will point to the Brown v. Board of Education decision and ask why black academic achievement remains so far below that for white students in 2015, more than 60 years after 1954.  But belief in white supremacy and black inferiority did not end in 1866 when the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution outlawed slavery.  It did not end in 1868 when the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guaranteed equal protection for all persons.  It did not end in 1870 when the 15th Amendment guaranteed the right to vote to all citizens of the United States.  And the racist belief in white supremacy and black inferiority did not end in 1954 when the Supreme Court decided Brown v. Board of Education

The poisonous wine of racism, white supremacy, white privilege, and black inferiority that forced Africans into slavery in this hemisphere centuries ago has never been thrown away.  It has merely been poured into new bottles.  The decision by Governor Orval Faubus to deploy National Guard troops to prevent black students from enrolling in Little Rock Central High School was a new bottle.  Governor Faubus and the Arkansas General Assembly enacted legislation that outlawed integrated education of black and white students.  That was another bottle. 

As late as 1963, the Arkansas Advisory Commission of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights reported that “Arkansas public schools remain basically segregated.”  In the 1969 edition of the International History of Negro Life and History Charles Wesley reported that as of 1966, twelve years after the Brown decision outlawed racial segregation in public schools, “the facts of racial isolation in the public schools left the Negro as short-changed as before.”  Arkansas school districts resisted desegregation efforts even after passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act that prohibited federal funds from going to segregated school districts.  Those resistance efforts were new bottles.

At every turn, the old wine of racism, white supremacy, white privilege, and black inferiority has been poured into new bottles.    “Achievement gap” discussions almost never admit this history, let alone ponder how that old wine relates to the new bottles of racial profiling, police brutality, mass incarceration, racial health disparities, racial disparities in wealth ownership, and other signs of racial injustice. 

One reason the “achievement gap” continues is because many people have an “achievement gap” about the history of racism, white supremacy, white privilege, notions of black inferiority, and public education in the United States.  People who don’t understand their historical responsibility for a cross-cultural problem won’t understand their present inability to solve it, let alone question their competence to do so.  It is easier for them to blame current victims of racism, white supremacy, white privilege, and notions of black inferiority than accuse themselves. 

Culturally incompetent people are not reliable solvers of "achievement gap" and other cross-cultural problems.  We should remember this always, but especially during Black History Month.