“These are revolutionary
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. “Time
to Break the Silence”
It’s so horribly different
today. It seems, everyone hates. The Christians do, out of necessity.
In my twenties, I was impressed with
Liberation Theology as practiced in South America and South Africa. I
was familiar with the story of Archbishop Oscar Romero, the El
Salvadorian priest who assassinated while serving mass on March 24,
1980. Later I read James Cone’s Black Theology (1969)
and became familiar with his work in South Africa. “When South
Africans sought inspiration for a black theology of their own, they
found it primarily in the writings of James Cone, a prolific author
of serious theological works who was appointed a professor at Union
Theology Seminary in New York after the publication of his first book
in 1969” (Black Liberation: A Comparative History of
Black Ideologies in the United States and South Africa,1995).
wasn’t seeking inspiration, having already left the Catholic
Church the year Cone’s book is published. By the 1970s, Cone is
situating “blackness” as “an ontological symbol and
a visible reality which best describes what oppression means in
America.” To say, I’m black is a symbol of
with the practitioners of Liberation Theology in South America,
Cone’s contribution provided black activists in the 1970s a
language in which to describe, at least, black incarceration within
the confines of a white cultural narrative. We can agree that Cone,
and many clergy like him lived the life of a resister, working to
transform the steady implementation of white supremacy into an
existence free of hate—the very hate necessary to maintain
white racial dominance.
other words, the work of Liberation clergy, those thinkers and
activists who ignored warnings from the Catholic Church to stay clear
of the peoples campaigns for justice, was useful to non-believers in
the Struggle. To stand with the people against government oppression!
To thumb your nose even at the Church itself whose history is a
tarnished one when it comes to Church and State joining arm in arm
against the people.
is there, the liberation struggle of the oppressed is here.
ironic that while the Catholic Church is embroiled in the sexual
abuse scandal that persisted for decades in various countries, it
decides to honor Archbishop Romero’s legacy.
as preached by white missionaries “helped sustain racist and
colonialist oppression.” As George M Fredrickson points out,
Christianity “not only helped to justify slavery and
imperialism but also taught black converts that their own cultural
traditions were worthless and that resistance against white
domination was sinful.”
supremacy masquerading as divine truth, speaks of the sinfulness of,
for example, those innocent boy children or those black converts,
instructed to recognize themselves as an “enemy” of God,
unless there’s change, submission to white authority.
has aided in the dehumanization of Africans and their descendants,
making it possible to surround a people within a narrative of barbed
wire fences in which the captive see out but is punished if
attempting to escape. Wardens and guards have all the control,
perhaps not equally. But what does it matter if the one at the top
and his minions among the captive have access to the captive’s
body and mind and practice with impunity white privilege.
by the narrative of white supremacy, the captors inform the caged of
their child-like state: Never are the caged to experience themselves
as anything but helpless. Helplessness then becomes, over time,
accepted as a given. The way of the world. God’s wish—for
his children. In turn, only the
“almighty” is both free and powerful. Powerful because
free to control the children who are but helpless. In the gaze of the
Panopticon, the captive is watched, looked down upon. Small and weak,
the captive seems no longer to distinguish the eyes of the guard (in
reality) from that of the “divine” (the fantasy).
The outcome has already been
Similar to the children made to
submit to a state of helplessness by Catholic priests, submitting
themselves before the powerful gods of wanton masculinity.
Americans can’t afford the luxury of an ideology such as
Christianity, with it’s insistence on subordination to a
doctrine that relegates justice to the whims of very human and male
deities. Just as Christianity waged war against humanity as it
engaged in colonialism and imperialism, so too it wages war against
non-believers whose traditions fall outside the Western Euro-American
borders. In conquest mode—from individual children, mostly from
disadvantaged families, to whole countries, most assuming themselves
sovereign. Certainly grown up enough, if not historically ancient.
Luther King Jr. would never have approved of this moment in history;
and in his day, he spoke out against the waging of war in Vietnam. A
victory would have seen the military receding only to be replaced by
merchants of capitalism. And Christianity. King was warned by most
black Baptist preachers: Don’t rock the boat! Let’s
just coast now. Let’s not insist on our full participation just
yet. Let’s wait!
wasn’t buying it! The continuation of the killing, maiming, and
the suffering of women and children must end. War is for the oil
industry and the weapons industry. What’s patriotic or moral
ships are blessed and sent on their way to battle. God is called on
to see to destruction, the “shock and awe,” against a
whole hosts of countries where the citizenry is of darker hue.
turn, if Jesus speaks and urges blacks to wait, then something is
warned the nation that black people couldn’t wait decades ago.
There was too much violence then here and abroad. That was the
message he delivered in a speech after the Sunday School bombing at
the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church and after the death of JFK.
There’s too much violence still now.
We’ve been in the space
where we once waited and now we can’t go back.
the Negro had been an object of sympathy
and wore the scars of
deep grievances, but the nation had come to count on him as a
creature who could quietly endure, silently suffer and patiently
wait” (“Why We Can’t Wait”).
And Martin Luther King is our
nettlesome task is to discover how to organize our strength into
compelling power so that government cannot elude our demands. We must
develop from strength, a situation in which the government finds it
wise and prudent to collaborate with us. It would be the height of
naivete to wait passively until the administration had somehow been
infused with such blessings of good will that it implored us for our
programs. The first course is grounded in mature realism; the other
is childish fantasy” (“Time to Break the Silence,”
an attitude, a path, a course of action that rejects the notion of
“god” has a plan, there were or
are blacks and
other people of color in this
master plan? What course of action is to be taken up by this majority
of humanity to confront global challenges, including the most
pressing—that of global heating? To what end is the necessity
for war, if not profit for the few and loss of any notion of values
worth pursuing and passing down to future generations—assuming
we humans have future generations? How do we solve the political
problem humans create around the availability of food and water for
about a plan to end the plans that are supposedly originate from a
plans that seem to turn our world upside down are those implemented
by the corporations that routinely dump chemical waste into our
supply of water, for openers, while denying any such change in the
way Earth is responding to the violence of human stupidity heaped on
it—for profits. Christians watch and repeat, after each
other—it’s all in the Bible!
corporations along with the banks represent, collectively, the divine
right of money to be the god all humans live and parish by.
became an enemy. Demonized in Hoover’s narrative of criminality
in America, King was believed by most Americans to be the “most
dangerous man in America.” It said so right there one page one
of the FBI crime bulletin!
fit to live!
Americans thought King an ideal Christian
subsequent “resurrection” within the American narrative
of useful martyrs, services to dislodge the human being from the
message of justice—on Earth!
thinking, on the other hand, is
still very much demonized.
ago, King witnessed the cruelty inflicted upon the Vietnamese as they
watched Christians poison their water. They watched “as a
million acres of their crops are destroyed, as bulldozers roar
through their area preparing to destroy precious trees.” And
now we watch as Christian embargoes destroy water, crops, and
trees—as if none of this activity over decades done in the name
of an “almighty” deity will ever have to come to an
have you, the righteous ever contributed beside suffering?
(or as blacks would say in days past, staying) in a town like
Kenosha, Wisconsin, I’ve become familiar with a segment of
white Americans for whom Christianity service as a shield to protect
the collective memory from any claim that they are racist and in
anyway responsible for the historical millions upon millions
slaughtered as a result of Euro-American conquests. With a collective
memory lose, it’s easy to proclaim innocence loud and clear
with every righteous nod to the teachings of the Bible.
“Perhaps the more difficult
but no less necessary task is to speak for those who have been
designated as out enemies” (King,
“Time to Break the Silence”).
it would be “sinful” to stop and read any book that might
inform those whose heads reside with the ancient humans who
interpreted the world as they saw fit with knowledge about the world
is it—to blow the myth of innocence?
We must speak out, King told his
adversaries. “This I believe to be the privilege and the burden
of all of us who deem ourselves bound by allegiances and loyalties
which are broader and deeper than nationalism and which go beyond our
nation’s self-defined goals and positions” (“Time
to Break the Silence”).
Questions must be asked of each of
us as a community of humanity, and our answers must not end up
dismissed, left to the imaginary, created from our past,
a hand-me-down from ancestors trying to explain to themselves
the events that confronted them.
turn, our questions must reflect our evolution as a species or else
we are truly doomed as species. I would pose the same question
Wallace-Wells asks, when he discusses fictionalized stories of the
end of days presented to us by Hollywood. “What does it mean to
be entertained by a fictional apocalypse as we stare down the
possibility of a real one?” Only there’s nothing
entertaining about Christianity’s narrative of the apocalypse.
Nothing at all.
people suffer. Real people are tortured and die for the sake of this
imaginary story that restrains the human imagination from think
itself out of it’s current political crisis (the rise of
right-wing politicians and hate groups) and most importantly it’s
environmental crises (global heating).
takes away our mental capacity to soar on our own to feel,
to think critically about how we as human beings want to live on this
planet, among other species, without destroying and causing
unnecessary suffering to ourselves.
shackles. I thought African Americans, in particular, were done with
this phase of our Struggle for a transformed world in which justice