BTSF in chronological order (most recent articles appear first):

Monday, February 13, 2017

Doomed to repeat itself?

This week we will mark the 75th anniversary of the signing of Executive Order 9066
On February 19, 1942,  Franklin D. Roosevelt signed EO-9066, stripping American citizens of their legal rights, and allowing their indefinite imprisonment without due process. Having broken no laws, hundreds of thousands suffered the undue loss of their freedom and property.

internment_mochida.jpgThe mass incarceration of Japanese Americans is one of the many subjects that are egregiously under-taught in our schools (See posts: 'Ethnic Studies' and 'White History Month'), yet it holds particular salience for our lives today.

When anyone's constitutional rights are violated, it further normalizes the practice for everyone else as well. As we continue to observe racially-based harassment for the sake of 'national security', we must understand the precedence the United States has for such behavior:

Though German and Italian Americans did face harassment during WWII, they were never summarily imprisoned en masse based on their ancestry. Japanese Americans, however, were racially profiled and forced into concentration camps (the term used by FDR and others at that time). Even as German U-boats navigated the eastern coastline, imprisonment efforts focused on combating Japanese espionage that was never actually substantiated by evidence.

Most internees were taken from the west coast, where the 'threat of espionage' was perceived to be the highest. Yet, had 'military necessity' actually been the driving force for this action (as was originally claimed), we would expect Hawaii residents to be the heavily targeted for their proximity to both Japan and the key US Pacific military base.

On the contrary, despite a 35% Japanese-American population, only 1% were detained in Hawaii. Rather than a strategic military operation, the imprisonment of ~120,000 people was instead “motivated largely by racial prejudice, wartime hysteria, and a failure of political leadership"(not unlike the arbitrary nature of banning refugee from seven non-terrorist-associated countries).

Remind you of anything?
Individuals, families, and entire communities were forcibly removed from their homes and were sent to one of ten internment camps in Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, and Arkansas. These locations consisted of unpartitioned toilets, cots for beds, and "tar paper-covered barracks of simple frame construction without plumbing or cooking facilities of any kind." Camps were surrounded by barbed wire, and prisoners were provided with a daily 45 cents per capita for food rations. Of those imprisoned, nearly half were children under the age of 18.

One of the first examples of legal opposition to the government's policy of internment was Hirabayashi v. United StatesGordon Hirabayashi contested his imprisonment, taking his case all the way to the Supreme Court in 1943, where he eventually lost unanimously (a ruling finally vacated in 1986). On the same day, the court ruled against a similar case Yasui v. United States, and a year later against that of Fred Korematsu (See post: Fred Korematsu Day).

Another version of the
'Sundown town'
Perhaps most famous of the three cases, the Korematsu v. United States decision ruled that EO-9066 was indeed constitutional in its violation of civil rights (a ruling that still stands today). Of note, during the course of the proceedings, Solicitor General Charles Fahy suppressed legal documents, which stated that "there was no evidence Japanese Americans were disloyal, were acting as spies or were signaling enemy submarines."

Through it all, white Americans either voiced support for the interment program or simply remained silent. Indeed, the ACLU largely sided with the FDR administration.

Today, we observe rampant racial profiling in the name of national security. Since 9/11, the treatment of American Muslims, and those of Middle Eastern decent, has consistently followed a xenophobic trend toward limiting citizens' individual rights. For example, a federal appeals ruling in 2008 gave President Bush "legal power to order the indefinite military detentions of civilians captured in the United States." The harassment of latinx residents and citizens over 'board security' concerns echoes similar racialized tactics as well.

As long as such behavior is a part of our history and our current policy, we are dooming ourselves to repeat a history we should be ashamed of...if we even knew it.

Take some time to learn the stories of the Americans imprisoned as a result of EO-9066, and then reflect on the implications of our current attitudes and policies surrounding national security.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Know Your History

I've been posting Richard Kenyada's “Inauguration Ball 2009” for Black History Month for four years now. No matter how many times I've read it, it always makes me cry by the time I reach the end. This year even more so. Know your history. -KH

A. Phillip Randolph
Guests began arriving early. There are no place cards and no name tags. Everyone knows everyone else here. Now, there's a grand foursome - Malcolm X and Betty Shabazz sharing laughs with Martin and Coretta Scott King. Looks like Hosea Williams refused the limo again, keeping it real. And my goodness; is that Rosa Parks out there on the dance floor with A. Phillip RandolphGeoffrey Cambridge took one look at the trio of Zora Neale HurstonRalph Ellison and James Baldwin, and jokingly asked, "My God, who invited my personal library?"

Seated at a nearby table, Frederick Douglass has a captive audience in W.E.B. DuBose and Fannie Lou Hamer, and Medgar Evers has just joined them. Marian Anderson was asked to sing tonight, but she only agreed to do it if Bessie Smith and Mahalia Jackson shared the stage, and they were accompanied by Marvin GayeJohn Lennon, and Jimi Hendrix. Look, there's Harriet Tubman. No one knows how she arrived, but there she is. And my guess is that, when the time comes, no one will see her leave.

Marian Anderson
There's Jackie Robinson swiftly making his way through the hall as the crowd parts like the Red Sea to the unmistakable sound of applause. "Run, Jackie, run!" Along the way he is embraced by Jesse Owens.  Three beautiful young women arrive with their escorts – SchwernerGoodman and ChaneyMs. Viola Liuzzo flew in from Michigan, exclaiming, "I could not miss this."

Richard Pryor promised to be on his best behavior. "But I can't make any guarantees for Redd Foxx and Moms Mabley," he chuckled. Joe Louis just faked a quick jab to the chin of Jack Johnson, who smiled broadly while slipping it. We saw Billy Eckstine and Nat King Cole greet Luther VanDrossJames Brown and Josh Gibson stopped at Walter Payton's table to say hello.  Althea Gibson said, "You always were a charmer," as she gave Arthur Ashe a hug. August WilsonDouglas Turner Ward and Lorraine Hansberry have just arrived from New York.

Miriam Makeba
I witnessed one touching moment after another… Young Emmett Till tapped James Farmer on the shoulder. "Mr. Farmer I really don't want to sit at the children's table. We feel we're old enough to be out here with everyone else. My friends here are Addie Mae Collins, 14, Denise McNair, 11, Carole Robertson, 14 and Cynthia Wesley, 14. They just came in from a church in Birmingham. None of us wanted to miss this night."  Then, all decked out in stylish evening wear, a small group of guests from the New Orleans Superdome proudly took their seats to rousing applause. It warmed my heart to see Mama Africa, Miriam Makeba, still singing and dancing pata pata style. I caught a glimpse of Lincoln Perry. He was steppin' all right, but this time he was in white tie and tails.

Bill Pickett
San Francisco City Supervisor Harvey Milk discusses organizing strategies with activist Cesar Chavez. The 60-Minutes man, Ed Bradley, just introduced himself to Josephine Baker, who flew in from Paris. It made me smile to notice how uncomfortable rodeo cowboy Bill Pickett looks in a tuxedo. Then there are the African warrior and his pregnant wife. No one knows for sure, but John Henrik Clarke thinks they could be the first Africans to have thrown themselves over the rail of a slave ship rather than take their chances with Affirmative Action. I felt a sudden chill when I saw Dred Scott speaking with Johnnie Cochran, who believes he could have won the case. Satchel Paige made his way through the crowd to greet Ossie Davis, who was sharing thoughts with Langston Hughes over there near the crystal stair. Burt Lancaster and Marlon Brando were intently listening to Nina Simone make a point, while John and Bobby Kennedy cornered Lyndon Johnson for a few laughs. All was forgiven.

Oscar Peterson is moving to take his turn on the bandstand, followed by Ray Brown. And it looks like Art Blakey and Max Roach will be keeping it tight. I spotted Congressman Adam Clayton Powell having a lively political discussion with Eldredge Cleaver, and there's Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall looking on with interest. World War II Pearl Harbor hero Dorey Miller shared a few thoughts with Crispus Attucks, a hero of the Revolutionary War. And there is Madam C.J. Walker talking with Marcus Garvey about exporting goods to Africa. Look out, America - a King of Comedy, Bernie Mac, is in the house. But tonight, he is the perfect gentleman, with Lady Day and Ella on each arm. A party wouldn't be a party without the lively bunch from Galveston Texas that brought all the jubilation of their annual Juneteenth gathering.

Shirley Chisholm
General Benjamin O. Davis flew into Washington safely with an escort from the 99th Fighter Squadron - better known as The Tuskegee Airmen. At the table on the left are three formidable women - Shirley ChisholmSojourner Truth, and Barbara Jordan - gathered for a little girl-talk... about world politics. No one could mistake the men of the 9th and 10th Cavalry. As they mingled among the celebrities, The Buffalo Soldiers found adoring fans of their own. One soldier looked up and told his buddies, "Sharpen up, the 54th is in the house!" noting the fresh uniforms of the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry that fought so Glory-ously in the Civil War.

Patricia Harris
As usual, all the science nerds seem to have gathered off in a corner, talking shop. There's Granville T. Woods and Lewis Latimer needling each other about whose inventions are better. Someone jokingly asked Benjamin Banneker if he had needed directions to Washington. And George Washington Carver was overheard asking, "What, no peanuts?" James Weldon Johnson busted out laughing as he remembered how he wrote "Lift Every Voice and Sing" as a poem to introduce Booker T. Washington at a celebration for Abe Lincoln. "Looks like I'll have to write another verse for Barack." President Lincoln smiled and nodded in agreement while refusing an offered chair. "Learned my lesson; when you sit down in Washington, they make a monument of you," he joked. U.S. Cabinet secretaries Ron Brown and Patricia Harris are heard discussing possible Cabinet appointments in the new administration.

Bill "Bojangles" Robinson 
Dueling bands? Anytime Duke Ellington and Count Basie get together, you know the place will be jumping. Tonight is special, of course, so we have MilesDizzy, and Satchmo sitting in on trumpet, with ColtraneCannonball, and Bird on sax. Everyone's attention is directed to the dance floor where Bill "Bojangles" Robinson is tap dancing. Right beside him is Sammy Davis Jr., doing his Bojangles routine. And behind his back, Gregory Hines is imitating them both. Applause and laughter abound!

The Hollywood contingent has just arrived from the Coast. Led by filmmaker Oscar MicheauxPaul RobesonCanada Lee, and Hattie McDaniel, they find their way to their tables. At a nearby table, Beah Richards and ButterflyMcQueen are enjoying a conversation with Eleanor Roosevelt and Gordon ParksDorothy Dandridge, looking exquisite in gold lamé, is seen signaling to her husband, Harold Nicholas, who is standing on the floor with brother Fayard watching Gregory Hines dance. "Hold me back," quips Harold, "before I show that youngster how it's done." Much laughter!

Sam Cooke
You can't miss the big smile on the face of Sam Cooke as he moves through the crowd reminding everyone that he was the first to tell us that a Change was gonna come. Meanwhile, Ellington seats Ray Charles at the piano, and Brother Ray rips into a rousing version of "America the Beautiful." My heart felt like it would burst right through my chest. I had to remind myself to keep breathing. Then a sudden hush comes over the room. A single silhouetted figure stands at center stage, and as the lights slowly come up, the crowd recognizes the man of the hour, President Barack Obama.

The applause and cheers were deafening. The President looked out across the enormous ballroom at all the historic faces. There were many smiles; precious few dry eyes. Someone shouted out, "You did it! You did it!" And Obama replied, "No sir, you did it; you all – each and every one of you – did it. Your guidance and encouragement; your hard work and perseverance..." Obama paused, catching a glimpse of his mothergrandfather and his beloved grandmother, Toot. "You would not let me fail," he said, addressing them directly.

Workers in front of the White House
And after briefly composing himself, he continues, without cue cards or TelePrompTer. He speaks to us from his heart. "I look at your faces - your beautiful faces - and I am reminded that The White House was built by faces that looked just like yours. On October 3, 1792, the cornerstone of the White House was laid, and the foundations and main residence of the White House were built mostly by both enslaved and free African Americans and paid Europeans. In fact, most of the other construction work was performed by immigrants, many of whom had not yet become citizens. Much of the brick and plaster work was performed by Irish and Italian immigrants. The sandstone walls were built by Scottish immigrants.

So, I guess what I'm trying to say is that the White House is, ultimately, The People's House, with each President serving as its steward. Since 1792 The People have trimmed its hedges, mowed its lawn, stood guard at its gate, cooked meals in its kitchen, and scrubbed its toilet bowls. But 216 years later, The People are taking it back!"

More applause, and recorded music begins to play. Then Michelle makes her own entrance to the music of The Pretenders – "I'll Stand By You." She walks up behind Barack, kisses him and holds him tightly, as the song continues, "I'll stand by you; I'll stand by you. Won't let nobody hurt you. I'll stand by you." That's where I lost it, and tears streamed down my face.

The Obama familyThe President smiled broadly and took her hand as the music faded. "Today, Michelle and I usher in a new era. But, while we and our family look toward the future with so much hope, we know that we must also acknowledge fully this milestone in our journey. We want to thank each and every one of you for all you have done to make this day possible. I stand here before you, humbled and in awe of your splendid accomplishments and unwavering sacrifice. I will dedicate my Presidency, in your honor, to the principles of peace, liberty and freedom. And if it ever appears that I'm forgetting that, I know I can count on you to remind me." Then he pointed to me near the stage... "Kenyada, isn't it time for you to wake up for work? Isn't it time... Isn't it time for all of us to wake up and get to work?"

Suddenly I awake and sit right up in bed with a knowing smile. My wife stirs and sleepily asks if I'm OK.  "I've never been better," I replied, "Never better. It's gonna be a good day."

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Friday Fruit (02/03/17)

Black and white selfie of Black woman with braids and her young son On Fridays, BTSF offers links to other discussions about race & Christianity. It's an opportunity for you to read other perspectives, and for me to give props to the many voices leading the way...

Weekly Round Up:

These are some of BTSF's links of interest this week. What are yours?

Feel free to contribute your own links in the comments section, or submit items you feel should be included during the week. Self-promotion is encouraged.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Trump's Refugee Ban

Image result for jewish refugees on boatOn January 27, 1945, the Auschwitz concentration camp was liberated from Nazi control. This is why we honor that date. We remember, because we promised to "never forget." We promised to never forget how hatred, xenophobia, and religious fear led to millions of deaths. We promised to never forget how own own fear let us turn blind eye to a crisis situation.

Image result for syrian refugees on boatWe promised to never forget our own role in denying refuge. How the USA rejected legislation to admit 20,000 Jewish refugees. How we refused to help the nearly 1,000 on the St. Louis liner that made it to our shores, saying they must "await their turn" (see the chilling @Stl_Manifest memorial). How we acted out of fear instead of out of compassion.

On January 27, 2017, the 45th US president callously signed his Executive Order "Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States." It's rules would not have impacted the 9/11 attackers, nor the San Bernardino shooters, nor the Orlando night club shooter, nor the Boston marathon bombers. And certainly not the terrorists Dylan Roof, Adam Lanza, James Holmes, Charles Roberts, Michael McLendon, Eric Harris or Dylan Klebold.

Image result for holocaust refugees turned away political cartoonWho will be impacted?
The nearly 200 legally-entering travelers that were detained in airports, having taken off before the order was signed. The estimated 13,000 Syrian refugees who had hoped find refuge in 2017. The 60,000 refugees from anywhere that are now no longer allowed to enter the USA due to a reduced cap. The 84,000 people with legal visas from the seven banned countries that are now no longer allowed to travel. And potentially hundreds of thousands of green card holders, who have overcome tremendous screenings and hurdles to make the United States their permanent home.

Each of these numbers represent people, families, jobs, communities. It also means loss of revenue, national productivity, scholarship. With the order potentially impinging upon over 100 employees of Google, the company recalled all of its affected traveling personnel to the US. Microsoft warned its shareholders of the  potential financial impact. The order was condemned by 20 Nobel laureates, and thousands of academics.

This ban targets the absolute most vulnerable of our world (ahem, "the least of these"). In Syria, over 450,000 have died, and another 11 million have been displaced. And those numbers continue to grow. We are in the middle of a crisis. It rivals other infamous international tragedies like the Sudanese Civil War and the Rwandan Genocide. We have a chance to learn from our regrets over these events. Will we?

Generally, I dismiss Hitler comparisons. They're typically alarmist and exaggerated. And yet as I listen to the rhetoric, as I watch the news, the parallels are striking. True we have not reached the proportions, but why would we wait until it reaches that point to sound the alarm? Why hold our compassion until after we learn the full extent of the damage, as seems to be our habit.

Image result for holocaust refugees turned away political cartoonSomali-British poet Warsan Shire, describes it well:
no one leaves home unless
home is the mouth of a shark
you only run for the border
when you see the whole city running as well
you have to understand,
that no one puts their children in a boat
unless the water is safer than the land
(read the full poem here)

Image result for political cartoon boat "where are you from?" earth

Scripture tells us that "when a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself" (Leviticus 19:33-34). And we are warned "I will be swift... against those who thrust aside the sojourners, and do not fear me" (Malachi 3:5)

While it's been stated more than once on this blog, it bears repeating: our faith is founded on the shoulders of refugees immigrating to strange lands. As a teenager, Joseph narrowly escaped death, forcibly leaving his parents to live in a foreign country. Moses's mother sent him down the river in a basket to escape imminent death. David spends much of his life fleeing those trying to destroy him. And Jesus himself was a child forced escape violence and oppression by becoming a refugee in a foreign country.

Image result for poll syrian refugeesWhat if Joseph hadn't be able to get a housekeeping job in the new country? What if Pharaoh’s daughter hadn't taken in a child in need? What if Saul's son, Jonathan, hadn't defied the law for David's sake? What if the Egyptian immigration agents had stopped Joseph and Mary at the border? Where would we be today, but for those immigrants and refugees?
Image result for poll syrian refugees
We are afraid of what will happen if we offer our welcome. But perhaps we should be more afraid of what happens to us if we won't.


For I was hungry and you said,
"Drug test those who would ask for food."

I was thirsty and you said,
“Oil for us is more important than water for them. Build the pipeline.”

I was a stranger and you said,
“He could be a terrorist. Don’t let him in.”

I was sick and you said, “Take away her health insurance.”

I was in prison and you said,
“Those people disgust me. We should bring back the death penalty.”

Truly I tell you, whatever you did to one of the least of these, you did to me.

Matthew 25:35-36 (Author Unknown)

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Outrage into Action

Image result for "good white people"After years of colorblind racism, we're seeing a heightened national awareness of how racism plays out in the United States. Largely in thanks to the protests in Ferguson, the persistence of #NoDAPL, the vision of the Dreamers, and so many others, conversations about race are once again taking place in 'polite society' and in the highest levels of public discourse.

At the same time, public statements of open bigotry have also been on the rise. A terrible backlash has given rise to new powers and principalities, threatening to re-entrench hate as a populist value. We face the threat of a "new normal" as the sentiments exhibited by our new president and many of his supporters become common place, indeed become the views backed by the government establishment.

Image may contain: 1 person, crowd and outdoorSo these days, there may be a temptation for "good white people" to rest in the assurance that we didn't vote for him, that don't subscribe to the same blatant ugliness, that we are more enlightened, and so are off the hook. We're a least better than that.

But unless our good intentions are converted to deeds, we remain merely hearers, not doers of God's word. It's time to turn our shock, our indigence, our moral righteousness into action. If we sit idly by, wringing our hands while we our own biases unchallenged, we miss the entire point.

Well-meaning white people have helped books like the New Jim Crow top charts, and movie protest songs have penetrated pop culture. But how is it affecting our lived reality and the steps we take each day to change the situation?

Where are your growth edges? Where are you still uncomfortable? What are the current limits of your support? Is it your time? Your money? Your social circles? What are the things you are yet unwilling to surrender for the sake of truly pushing back?

It is often more comfortable to sit on the sidelines, to made snide commentary and crude memes. But that is not what is needed in this moment.  Indeed, we are taught "let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action."

So in this post-post-racial era, ask yourself what you specifically can do. Identify the spheres of your own influence and take action. Do you have influence over hiring and firing at your workplace? Do you have a voice in your local schools regarding their disciplinary policies? How is your involvement at your church shaped by principles of justice?

How are you raising your own children in this society? Are you voting knowledgeably and responsibility all the way down the ballot? Do your public officials, both locally and nationally, know where you stand? Where does your money go when it comes to your daily spending, your investing, and your charitable donations?
Image result for moving sidewalk
If we are each willing to take action within our own spheres of influence, then we will begin living into the values professed on our Facebook feeds...and in our Bibles. Together, we will begin actually living out our redemption, having turned from our old ways into a new life.

Let us stop passively moving with the inertia of racism, and begin walking against that trajectory into a new future of justice and wholeness that God intended.
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By Their Strange Fruit by Katelin H is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
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