Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Stand Your Ground - Chapter One - America's Exceptionalism

Dr Douglas begins this chapter with the question, "If Trayvon Martin was of age and armed, could he have stood his ground on that sidewalk?" (pg3). In the next 44 pages, she presents a well-researched position that traces writings concerning Anglo-Saxon superiority to 98 CE (pg4). Those writings are quoted in the founding documents of our country, and are used to strengthen and legitimize white "as Cherished Property" (pg 23). Thus, white as supreme: skin color, cultural norms, etc. The very foundations of culture and religion are built on white supremacy.

The rights of white supremacy include the rights to exclude, the rights of property ownership and the rights of personal space. These are only some of the privileges I have been historically able to hold as a white person. While those first two may be lessening, it is the third one that I see causing the clashes more and more in our society today. It seems like the calls to law enforcement go something like this, "There is a Black person outside with a gun." Law enforcement shows up, assumes the truth of the call and a Black person is detained, arrested, or killed = a Black person in a white space is seen as the problem. Public streets, even in Black neighborhoods, are seen as white space.

Dr Douglas has opened my eyes to how I travel trough daily life. I do not feel safe everywhere, but I certainly expect that my body and my rights will be protected everywhere, as a white person. I now see how our forefathers could write about the rights of all, yet truly mean only those of white heritage. This is a suspicion I held before this, and I am thankful to have such a tightly-researched chapter to trace the lineage of influence.

What are your thoughts as you digest chapter one and ponder what exceptionalism means? Where are you and your family history weaved in and out of this story? How have you noticed your privilege differently since reading this chapter?

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Book Club - Stand Your Ground: Black Bodies and the Justice of God

It started with a Facebook post anchored in the frustration that I did not know which of my friends might be starting to educate themselves on racial issues. I had begun stumbling down that path, with half of my life already behind me, and I felt isolated in my ignorance and tardiness. I want companions for this journey. I have been blessed with many Facebook and Twitter "friends" who graciously allow me to peek into their serious and on-going conversations on race and inequality. I have been even more blessed by my colleagues and friends in real life who are gentle, yet strident that this is my work to do. That is truth.

This is the beginning of my work in community with those who will gather here to clarify our learning, check our assumptions and prejudices, and un-learn what needs to be challenged. My prayer is that our blinders will be removed, and we will be led to right actions as we learn how to be allies in the work of racial justice, and specifically the Black Lives Matter movement.

The Rev. Dr. Kelly Brown Douglas
The first book I have proposed that we read together is Stand Your Ground: Black Bodies and the Justice of God by the Reverend Dr. Kelly Brown Douglas. I have read and marked up the prologue, introduction, and first two chapters so far.

I will keep posting as I continue to read, and I truly and humbly invite your comments. I will comment after writing the summaries of the chapters. I will create new posts as I progress, so the labels will be important for finding your place in the conversation as we go along. All will be labeled "Race Issues" and then "SYG" followed by the chapter, although this one is labeled "SYG Intro." I hope that will help with navigation. I have added a search bar under my photo to assist us.

If you are reading ahead of me and would like to create the post for a chapter, please feel free. My email is AmyPHaynie at gmail dot com - I would love for this to be a group effort. I will also monitor and delete any comments that are uncivil, just in case anyone tries to derail our conversation.

In another post below, I have linked to a news interview with Dr. Douglas concerning the death of Freddie Gray in Baltimore, MD. In the interview, she calls for a national conversation. I do not imagine this as the national conversation she envisions, but I do hope we can advance our own knowledge with shared experiences and conversation.

Dr. Douglas uses the prologue and introduction to orient us to her social relationship to the Stand Your Ground laws. As the mom of a black young man, as a professor of religion at Goucher College well-versed in racial history, and as a black woman in US society, she asks "Why is it becoming increasingly acceptable to kill unarmed black children...Why are they so easily perceived as a threat?" (pg ix).

In the introduction, Dr Douglas states that "this book will explore the socio-cultural narratives that have given birth to our stand-your-ground culture and the religious canopies that have legitimized it. This stand-your-ground culture has produced and sustained slavery, Black Codes, Jim Crow, lynchings, and other forms of racialized violence against black bodies" (pg xiii).

In the comments of this section, I invite us to introduce ourselves and explore why we are interested in this work at this time. What do you hope for or want from this conversation? I hope we will be able to keep this space safe by checking our own white fragility and using "I" language as we do this important work.

The Rev. Dr. Kelly Brown Douglas on expanding narrative on race

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Notes on the Meeting with Senator Cornyn's Staff Members

Suzi, Nolen, Karen, Me, Shelly
Meeting with Collin and Khamal, staff members of Senator John Cornyn (R-TX)
July 15, 2016

These are the bills we were told Senator Cornyn had sponsored or co-sponsored, some were co-sponsored with Democrats as they said:

  • ·      Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act of 2016

  • ·      Funding for National Human Trafficking Hotline (with Democrat)

  • ·      Mental Health and Safe Communities Act of 2015

  • ·      A bill to amend the Controlled Substances Act to add certain synthetic substances to schedule I, and for other purposes

There may have been some others also, but these were the ones I could find on the website.

The staff assured us that Senator Cornyn is committed to maintaining relationships with colleagues from both parties.

We were told that the Assault Weapons Ban did not deter shootings. I have not checked that yet, but it does not seem true – we have certainly had record-setting mass shootings since the Assault Weapons Ban expired.** Senator Cornyn is not interested in any gun control measures.

We passed along our concerns about gun transactions held at gun shows, pawn shops, private sales, etc without any background checks. We objected to assault weapons being sold to whomever wanted to buy them and their high capacity clips.

We also expressed knowledge and concerns about the lack of residential mental health facilities for youth and young adults. There was discussion about mental health issues and the pressure placed on police and correctional facilities housing those who are mentally ill.

We spoke about the children coming into Texas as immigrants from Guatemala. The staff members reported that Senator Cornyn visited Guatemala to assess the conditions there, and he does not support returning them. He also does not support the rhetoric of Trump concerning immigrants and building a wall.

**Statistically, it is true that the Assault Weapons Ban did not deter shootings.