©Wendell Griffen, 2018
Justice Is A Verb!
July 11, 2018
Many people have experienced the pain of learning unpleasant news. Every day people cope with learning they have been diagnosed with terminal illness, news about the deaths of loved ones, loss of jobs, termination of romantic relationships, and other traumatic events and situations. Today I bear similar unpleasant news. White supremacy is a moral and ethical cancer threatening the United States.
Communities of color have challenged, protested, and condemned racist policies in our society for centuries. It is time to admit that the problem of racial injustice has always been deeper than unjust policies. Racial injustice exists and has persisted across the entire history of this society – legally, economically, politically, socially, and culturally – because white supremacy is now – and has always been - sacralized. By sacralized I mean that white supremacy has always been considered sacred. Whiteness has always been the standard of “rightness.”
It is, therefore, a fundamental mistake to view and treat white supremacy as merely an attitude or a set of practices and policies. White supremacy is something approaching a theology in this society, if not the world! The evils of mass incarceration, state sanctioned abuse and homicide of black and brown people by police agencies, racist immigration policies that target persons from South and Central America, South Asia, Africa, and Muslims, dislocation and other economic oppression of communities of color through gentrification and other commercial schemes, and the refusal to engage in the long overdue work of reparations are based on the conviction that white norms are superior, that white culture is superior, that whiteness entitles one to a presumption of superior morality, dignity, intellect, and privilege, and that the only legitimate remedies for racial injustice are those fashioned and/or accepted by white persons based on white norms and objectives.
In this sense, race is not only a social construct. White supremacy is a theological construct whereby white norms, goals, and aims define what is right, good, true, healthy, fair, and otherwise worthwhile. This theology deified whiteness, demonized non-whiteness, and has deceived many people for such a long time and so thoroughly that even theologians have not recognized its religious nature and effect. And because we have not treated white supremacy and white racism as sacralized evil, we have not understood that white supremacy and racism must be “de-sacralized” and exposed as demonic.
Hence, police officers routinely get away with slaughtering unarmed black and brown people because white supremacy has sacralized police brutality against black and brown communities. We have the challenge of “de-sacralizing” police brutality against black and brown people by calling police brutality demonic.
Real estate speculators and developers are allowed to dislocate communities of color – now as in the past – because white supremacy has sacralized the idea that white presence on land and white perspectives about who should be on land and decide how it is used are more valuable and valid. We face the challenge of “de-sacralizing” gentrification and other neo-urban renewal schemes by saying that gentrification schemes are demonic.
Opioid addiction is now being widely considered a health crisis while heroin addiction and other substance abuse have been viewed as proof of moral depravity. We must “de-sacralize” the racist double-standard and hypocrisy surrounding drug addiction, and declare that hypocrisy and deceit to be demonic.
Militarized white people who openly carry firearms are lionized as protectors of public safety and civil liberty. However, people of color from the Native Americans to the Black Panther Party have been vilified for insisting on the right to defend their communities from homicidal and otherwise abusive white assaults. We have the challenge of “de-sacralizing” white supremacist- driven discourse about public safety, and expose the deceit and hypocrisy surrounding “gun rights” as demonic.
The poisoned water in Flint, Michigan is sacralized evil. Disregard for Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria is sacralized evil. Religious endorsement of a lifelong bigot to lead the nation is sacralized evil. Dislocating communities of color is sacralized evil. Evil becomes embedded and part of the ongoing life in a society only because it is sacralized. We have the hard and urgent task of “de-sacralizing” it.
For starters, we must admit and declare the hard truth that racism and white supremacy are not restricted to notorious white nationalists such as the Ku Klux Klan. Racism and white supremacy are so embedded in the foundational moral perspectives of white people as a whole, and in many people of color for that matter, that most people do not recognize that white supremacy dominates and defines what we think and behave!
Now, as it did before the Civil War, after Reconstruction, and during the challenge to racial segregation, the wicked religion of white supremacy threatens the moral, social, civic, and political future of our society. Will followers of Jesus disavow and condemn white supremacists and white Christian nationalists as heretics to the religion of Jesus? Have we forgotten his words near the end of the Sermon on the Mount?
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many acts of power in your name?’ Then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; go away from me, you evildoers’” Matthew 7:21-23 (NRSV)