Friday, September 4, 2009

Christianity and Racism... comments by FSJL

On 4 August FSJL posted the comments below in response to my blog post on July 30th entitled "Nervous (in one case) notes". I publish them (very lightly edited, first paragraph omitted) here with thanks, and of course, his permission, since they seem as good a lead in as any to my promised reflections on the remarks of conservative Catholic bishops cited in last week Friday's front page article in the New York Times. Anyone interested in his complete comments need only go to my post of July 30th.

North American racism has traditionally been deeply associated with Christianity, and relied on the Bible for justification. No surprise there, the Bible, after all, endorsed slavery and commanded slaves to obey their masters. In the aftermath of slavery in the United States, organisations which emerged to sustain white supremacy did so in the context of the prevailing ideological system, which was Christian.

Thus, every Klan Klavern in the US had a chaplain called a Kludd, who would lead the sheetheads in prayer. This was a requirement of the Klan Klonstitution. That's what it was klalled, er, called. The heartland of the Klan in its heyday was not where it was founded, down here in Georgia, but Indiana, by the way.

There have, not at all by the bye, been a couple of studies on the role of Klan women in promoting the cause of women and raising issues germane to (white) women back in the 1920s.

More germane to the link you cite. I've seen this argument for the past fifteen years or so. It's a reflection of a deep-seated fear by a significant segment of white working class and middle class and middle class men as they face competition for opportunities that had in previous decades been reserved only for them. That's seen as the fault of threatening women/Jews/blacks/Asians/Latinos who are taking away jobs/manhood. The solution is to go back to the good old days when [white] men had everything their own way [or so they thought].

As my father once said, "I'm not going to talk about 'the good old days' -- dem was neva good".


FSJL said...

I just came across this story today:,0,5064693.story

clarabella said...

Hi FSJL: Thanks so much for this. It's a good kind of story: no twisting of history, just the plain truth of it, and a hopeful truth. Give thanks. I am thinking of writing a post about memes. I think increasingly that a great many of our social behaviours, the bad ones included, are hard wired, and I am getting to the point where I no longer believe that education by itself can set us free. After all, fundamentalist, er, Christians, and it seems some fundamentalist Jews also, believe that earth is a few thousand years old, never mind that it's patently lunatic. To achieve any true liberty I now believe that we need the same grace that has brought this quilt, made to celebrate the KKK, through the agency of someone ashamed to own it, into the hands of someone, and an African American someone, who will know how to use it for good. You and I will understand 'grace' differently, but never mind. The point is that I'm now convinced that something more than just knowledge has to anoint our minds and souls if those ugly memetic wires are to be unwound. Selah.

FSJL said...

You have to consider the number of people who had to suffer to achieve the decency. Grace is not a divine gift, it's the product of human action. Our choices, I would say, are constrained by the conditions in which we find ourselves.

clarabella said...

FSJL: Like I say, we will understand the source of grace differently, though I think we agree well on its effects.