justice

Black lives, windows, and good governance

There is a debate over the first amendment and preservation of property in Oakland right now, and the camps are fairly clear:

“I’m tired of seeing my city trashed.”

“Broken windows do not matter more than broken Black bodies.”

The mayor of Oakland recently enforced a sundown restriction on protests (possibly although not necessarily influenced by two SF Chronicle columnists who suggested similar measures after windows were broken, cars were damaged and buildings were tagged in the Auto Row neighborhood). This policy shift (which the mayor indicates is a policy already on the books which she simply chose to enforce) was executed during a peaceful protest to honor the lives of Black women, including Black trans women, who have died due to police brutality. Police also kettled and arrested numerous people (including a planning commissioner) at a protest of the curfew two days later and stood at the ready during the interfaith protest the next night.

 

Here’s what’s interesting about this issue to me:

Both sides agree with each other. (more…)

“I enjoy being a girl”

or “How Patriarchy unintentionally saved me”

(feel free to listen to this song in the background for inspiration.)

There are a few guys in my circles of radical clergy with a certain public following. I love their tweets and facebook posts because they’re sometimes funny and sometimes biting, and they’re almost always so certain.

Which, for those of you who have known me for a long time know, is exactly how I used to sound.

One of the big ironies of my life is that my biggest bump in with patriarchy is what started me down a path that I wish was available to my incredibly certain brothers: the path into humility in the midst of the righteous cause. (more…)

“An Obnoxious Peace”

Image from Urban Cusp, taken in Baltimore on April 23, 2015

Image from Urban Cusp, taken in Baltimore on April 23, 2015

Preached April 26, 2015 at Rockefeller Chapel, Chicago IL, dedicated to the people of Baltimore.

In the days following the Michael Brown verdict, that cold Thanksgiving week, there emerged a debate among my friends regarding the uprisings happening in my hometown and around the country. I called it the debate of the Kings. That is, my friends would quote these two Kings in defense of their positions.

On the one hand was Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who said in his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech, I am still convinced that nonviolence is both the most practically sound and morally excellent way to grapple with the age-old problem of racial injustice.”

On the other hand was Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, who said in 1966: “I contend that the cry of ‘black power’ is, at bottom, a reaction to the reluctance of white power to make the kind of changes necessary to make justice a reality for Black people. I think that we’ve got to see that a riot is the language of the unheard.

(more…)

Can we talk about “the talk?” – teaching children how to protect themselves from “Protect and Serve”

I remember an incredibly uncomfortable Thanksgiving during Occupy Oakland. Not the cliche uncomfortable of Republicans and Democrats getting into immigration policy over the mashed potatoes and gravy.

A friend of mine who had been arrested during Occupy for carrying an umbrella (the citation indicated it was a temporary dwelling, which had been banned from the plaza in front of city hall) was regaling us with stories about what it had been like to be in jail, and how they sang together and made jokes to the arresting officers.

Across the table, another friend was clearly not amused, while his daughter’s eyes got wider and wider.

See, my friend had been working really hard not to normalize jail or prison as a regular part of life for Black people in his daughter’s eyes. He wanted his daughter to believe that to be Black in America did not mean an expectation that jail or prison would be a regular and normal part of life; even though they have people in their family who have been to jail and prsion. He did not want her to see it as “no big deal” or a laughing matter. Now, he was also raising her to know about civil rights and justice and fighting for fairness, and when she reached the double digits, they would likely start talking about the prison-industrial complex, because he knows how real the New Jim Crow is. But the light, comical treatment of jail life at the dinner table was the opposite of what he was going for at this moment in his daughter’s formation.

Parenting is hard. Parenting a Black child in America is harder.

(more…)

Oklahoma Pastors give me hope when Oklahoma legislators don’t

My chaplain friend Vinson said it best:

jesus A picture is worth a thousand words.

But if you haven’t heard the controversy, here’s the basic rundown:

An Oklahoma legislator has decided that the current laws on the books about wearing hoods during crimes are not sufficient. (That law, by the way goes back to the 1920s and was the state’s way of reigning in the violent acts by Klansmen in one of the most racially divided states in the union at the time, with some of the ugliest hate crimes against the Black community.)

State Senator Don Barrington is proposing an additional law that threatens up to a $500 fee for wearing a hoodie (or other covering) to disguise one’s identity: “To wear a mask, hood or covering, which conceals the identity of the wearer during the commission of a crime or for the purpose of coercion, intimidation or harassment; or To intentionally conceal his or her identity in a public place by means of a robe, mask, or other disguise.” You can read a large chunk of the bill here, and you should, if only because a piece of legislation being proposed in 2015 uses the phrase “minstrel troupes” as an acceptable reason for wearing a face covering. (What are you people in Oklahoma doing with your free time? Taking time travel trips back to 1861?)

I am sympathetic to anyone who feels a small sense of despair about humanity at this point.

What’s interesting, though, is that a lot of people have read the bill and believe on its face it is not problematic. (My guess is that they didn’t read far enough to read the phrase “minstrel show,” but…)

And this is what is incredibly complex about issues of race in America today as opposed to 50 years ago. Today, there’s not a whole lot that on its face seems problematic or racist or opposed to free speech.

Our nation’s drug laws do not read racist on their face.

Our criminal justice structure does not read racist on its face.

Our policies for controlling mass demonstrations neither seem racist on their face nor as if they might be seeking to limit freedom of expression.

And yet the way they function in our society functions to hold up systems of oppression that protect White privilege and harm Black communities and communities of color.

I have concerns about the way this law might be implemented. I have concerns that it will be an excuse to target young Black men who are viewed with suspicion. I have concerns it will be used as an excuse to target in particular people of color who are expressing their first amendment rights to stand up against issues like police brutality, because as I read it, the proposed legislation is not just about committing crime (which previous legislation already does) but about people at public demonstrations. Because our whole nation has been trained to assume that young Black men are probably planning to do something dangerous; they just haven’t accomplished it yet. And then we encourage our police to act in our behalf.

But I’m not the only one concerned, and more importantly, I’m not the only one of faith.

A friend of mine made sure I read an article today about the head of our denomination’s Black community (National Convocation) and his role in protesting the hoodie act. And a White Disciples pastor was quoted in the same article as participating in the same action.

Rev Jackson will preach in a hoodie on January 18.

On Sunday, January 18, many Oklahoma pastors will don hoodies as they preach from their pulpits to bring attention to this legislation which will be considered the week of Martin Luther King Day.

I reached out to the two pastors from the article, Rev Jesse Jackson (Oklahoma City) and Rev Michael Riggs (Tulsa).

Rev. Jackson was on his way to a funeral, but I asked Rev. Riggs what his faith motivation was for participating in this action. Here was his response:

“By wearing a hoodie in church, Christians demonstrate the radical empathy of Christ with the marginalized and oppressed by standing (or in this case wearing hoodies) in solidarity with them, advocating God’s freedom and justice for all peoples in peace and love. Because hoodies have become associated with social justice movements such as Occupy and BlackLivesMatter, the proposed Oklahoma legislation reaches far beyond criminal activity — it makes for easy criminalization of those who would publicly voice their dissent. Just as Jesus ate with the sinner and tax collector (and others pushed to the margins of society in his time), both hearing their and giving them voice, I believe he would wear a hoodie for and with them. I choose to do the same.”

I don’t know if I have anything to add except Amen.

If you have friends in faith communities in Oklahoma, please share this with them. AND EVERYONE CAN PARTICIPATE IN WEAR-A-HOODIE-TO-CHURCH SUNDAY! What a powerful opportunity to witness and help their state legislature be its best self.

If you would like to become a patron of the arts by supporting Sandhya’s writing, you can do so by visitinghttp://www.patreon.com/sandhya. She would be honored by your support.

Christmas values – Day 11: Overcoming fear

A friend of mine has vowed to recognize every action as an act of love or reaching out for love.

She vowed that in the midst of the Ferguson and New York protests and possibly even after the police shootings that was followed by some truly alarming statements by Fraternal Orders of Police and police officers’ unions (the Bay Area’s statement was somewhat tame in comparison) about the need for a police state and unquestioning loyalty to the police. (Another friend explained that they were doing what unions do — assuring their members that they have their members’ backs under any circumstances, in ways that can be alarming or seem entrenched and militant and hostile to outsiders; he noted that teachers’ union statements can come off as militant and unyielding as well, although I bet they don’t talk about teachers as the only barrier against anarchy and chaos and the only line of defense of civilization.)

I would like to be as compassionate as my friend, because in my heart I believe that is true; it’s just that many of us have been scarred so much that our expressions of love or need for love have become misshapen in some incredibly problematic ways.

And so my intermediary step is this: I’m going to start trying to find compassion for the FEAR that underlies aggressive language and behavior. (more…)

Christmas values – Day 8: Community

Do you see it? Do you see who shows up for the very first Christmas?

We’re so used to the image that we don’t even notice what’s crazy subersive about the melange of folks kicking it at the manger, but this is as close to Burning Man as 1st century Judea would have gotten (except markedly more diverse; trust a real live Burner of color on that one). (more…)