The WASP’s nest

Picture of two wasp insects with one saying "Mama! Joey's calling me a white Anglo-Saxon Protestant again!"
Park, (2008). (C) CartoonStock Ltd (2020). All rights reserved. Used in accordance with licensing agreement.

We’re Americans, and as such, we can’t remember shit. Perhaps that’s why, as we write this, the massive, orchestrated effort by the current administration to revise history even as it occurs is experiencing almost total success. Events are being reduced to sound bites; sound bites are becoming mantras. The truth—if you edit carefully enough, omit artfully enough, distort brazenly enough—becomes lies. And lies, if repeated relentlessly, become truth. Especially if they are wedged immovably between the covers of the kind of history text that bored you to tears in high school.

(Cooper, 2006, p. 11)

My husband I have a wasp flying around our house. It flew in several days ago when we were letting the dogs out. Because I hate to kill things, I am keeping an eye on it to try and shew it out of the house when it gets near the door. But I’m concerned about the dogs discovering it and getting stung. Thus far, wasp and dogs, have kept their distance. If that changes, I suspect I will have to take a swatter to the wasp in order to protect our dogs because wasps don’t die when they sting (The Manitoba Housing and Renewal Corporation, n.d.).

Old world map of the globe from 1705
Zee-Atlas (Loots, 1705)

Speaking of discovering things, did you know the word discover, comes from its Latin and French roots, and as used in Middle English originally meant to “make known” (Lexico, 2020).

So how do lies, wasps, and the word discover relate to racism? They are the very foundation upon which our White Anglo-Saxon Protestant (WASP) society rests, and within which a culture of racism and racists history has been so thickly veiled and embedded into society, that we cannot see it’s role in how we continue to perpetuate subtle racist ideology today. If racism is to be deconstructed, then the Christian Church must recognize, and atone for, its culpability in the issue.

Let us go make known how this happened …

On June 18, 1452, Pope Nicholas V issued the papal bull, Dum Diversas. The first set of documents that would compose the Doctrine of Discovery. The Doctrine of Discovery (i.e., making known) would allow for European Monarchs, with authorization from the Christian Church –

Example of a Papal Bull (Indigenous Values Initiative, 2020). Copyright CC-BY-4.0
Example of a Papal Bull (Indigenous Values Initiative, 2020). Copyright CC-BY-4.0

to invade, search out, capture, vanquish, and subdue all Saracens (Muslims) and pagans whatsoever, and other enemies of Christ wheresoever placed, and the kingdoms, dukedoms, principalities, dominions, possessions, and all movable and immovable goods whatsoever held and possessed by them and to reduce their persons to perpetual slavery, and to apply and appropriate to himself and his successors the kingdoms, dukedoms, counties, principalities, dominions, possessions, and goods, and to convert them to his and their use and profit (Emphasis Added)” (as quoted in Charles & Rah, 2019, p. 15).

So, when Columbus “made known” the America’s to an Imperialist European Monarchy, the establishment of the slave trade began. When the frontier men and women “made known” to President Andrew Jackson the wild, wild west was prime territory, the genocide of Native American’s was sanctioned (in Adelman, 2003, DVD Scene 8). Not only was it sanctioned by the Government, it was sanctioned by the Christian Church as our God-given, puritanical, white Anglo-Saxon Protestant historical narrative. And these WASPs have not lost their sting.

The Doctrine of Discovery continues to sting Native Americans through the government’s environmental policy towards Native American lands and the Dakota pipeline (Aune, 2019). It is still an issue of relevance in the United Nations (Pineda, 2017). And the Doctrine of Discovery is the king pin of our stand your ground culture that allows the WASPs to sting with complicity and near impunity in the murder of innocent black and brown persons (Douglas, 2015).

All of this was “made known” to me in my UCC SC2ER facilitator training this week. I am sickened and saddened not only by the Christian Church’s historical role, some of which was taught in our whitewashed history of the Christian Crusades, but not it’s long lasting and continued effects into the 21st century. It is time for the Christian Church to rend the temple veil of history behind which American Exceptionalism lies and begin to make ethical, moral, and financial reparations for its actions. A topic I hope to broach in my next entry.

References

Adelman, L. (Producer). (2003). Race – The power of an illusion (Episode 2) [DVD Documentary]. California Newsreel. https://www.pbs.org/race/000_General/000_00-Home.htm

Aune, S. (2019). Euthanasia politics and the Indian wars. American Quarterly, 71(3), 789-811. https://doi.org/10.1353/aq.2019.0054

Charles, M., & Rah, S.-C. (2019). Unsettling truths: The ongoing dehumanizing legacy of the Doctrine of Discovery. InterVarsity Press.

Cooper, T. A., & Mansbach, A. (Eds.). (2006). Fictional history of the United States (with huge chunks missing). Akashic Books.

Douglas, K. B. (2015). Stand your ground: Black bodies and the Justice of God. Orbis Books.

Indigenous Values Initiative. (2020). Doctrine of discovery [Photograph] Retrieved March 22, 2020 from https://doctrineofdiscovery.org/papal-bulls/

Lexico. (2020). Discover. In Lexico.com. Retrieved March24, 2020 from https://www.lexico.com/en/definition/discover

Loots, J. (1705) Zee-Atlas [Map] Retrieved from the Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/item/2011586011/

Park, W. B. (2008). Mama! Joey’s calling me a white Anglo-Saxon Protestant again! [Cartoon]. Retrieved from https://www.cartoonstock.com/cartoonview.asp?catref=wpa0182

Pineda, B. (2017). Indigenous Pan-Americanism: Contesting settler colonialism and the doctrine of discovery at the UN permanent forum on indigenous issues. American Quarterly, 69(4), 823-832. http://doi.org/10.1353/aq.2017.0068

The Manitoba Housing and Renewal Corporation. (n.d.). Bees, wasps, and hornets: What you need to know. https://www.gov.mb.ca/housing/pubs/pests/bees.pdf

The Myth of Race

I continue to be saddened at the extinct to which the construct of race has contributed to a culture of racism that is systemic to our American society today. As part of my UCC SC2ER facilitator training this week I’ve had some heady assignments that I am still processing.

One assignment was to watch episode 1 of the PBS series, Race – The power of an illusion (Adelman, 2003). Episode 1 discusses the fallacy of race from the perspective of biology and genetics. Describing the development of the construct of race through the lens of science and history as the overarching narrative, the video followed a group of high school students conducting tests with their own DNA. The students were surprised to discover that they were more likely to more genetically similar to those outside our race-culture construct then those within their race-culture construct. The same would hold true for you and I.

Pantone. (2020). [Photograph of Patone Skintone™ color cards for 110 skin shades]. Retrieved March 10, 2020 from https://www.pantone.com/skintone-guide
SkinTone Color Cards (Pantone, 2020)

Any variations in skin color is due to the melanin we all possess and that has adapted over time based upon geography. This does not equate to a biological basis for race.

Just as there is no single gene to control for athleticism, musicality, or intelligence, there is no single gene that controls for race. Evolutionary biologist Joseph Graves describes it best. If we were to travel from the tropics to Norway we would see a gradual change in skin color, “… at no point along that trip would we be able to say, ‘Oh, this is the place in which we go from the dark race to the light race’” (in Adelman, 2003, DVD Scene 8). This is punctuated by our common ancestral African roots from which all humanity as descended.

Logically this makes sense, culturally it is hard to grapple with, and scientifically, it is yet to be settled how best to divorce variations in skin color as a biological basis for the construct of race (Yudell, Desalle, & Tishkoff, 2016). Race, as we know it, is a myth rooted in power structures, not biology.

Historically, this biological myth of race has led to some of the darkest times in American history, American present, and I predict, American future, of which I will talk about in my next entry. But as Hammond observes, ““Race is a human invention. … We made it, we can unmake it” (in Adelman, 2003, DVD Scene 17).

References

Adelman, L. (Producer). (2003). Race – The power of an illusion (Episode 1) [DVD Documentary]. California Newsreel. https://www.racepowerofanillusion.org/

Pantone. (2020). [Photograph of Pantone Skintone™ color cards for 110 skin shades]. Retrieved March 10, 2020 from https://www.pantone.com/skintone-guide

Yudell, M., Roberts, D., Desalle, R., & Tishkoff, S. (2016). Science and society: Taking race out of human genetics. Science, 351(6273), 564-565.

Across the Great Divide

I was walking into work this morning. Behind me to my left were two white men, mid 40’s or 50’s. One rolling a suitcase with his overnight bag resting on top. The other walking beside him carrying nothing. Their conversation went something like this:

The Queen of Sheba. From the manuscript “Bellifortis”
by Conrad Kyeser, ca. 1402-05. Staats- und
Universitätsbibliothek Göttingen, 2 Cod. Ms. Philos. 63,
Cim., fol. 122r. This photo was retrieved from
MicroSoft Word and indicated as Creative Commons
and for use in the public domain as follows:

This Photo by Unknown Author is
licensed under CC BY-SA.

Suitcase guy: “My wife and I had driven to a conference to see a part of the country we hadn’t seen before, Southeastern Ohio and West Virginia. I had to wonder how those women that worked in those gas stations that have the booth, how their lives looked like.”

Empty-handed guy: <Sound of acknowledgment>

Suitcase guy: “I guess they’re happy, but they were obviously lower middle class. Most of them weren’t white either. they were mostly black or Hispanic women and some black men”.

Empty-handed guy: <Another sound of acknowledgment followed by some statement that I didn’t quite get about the statement Suitcase guy just made>

Suitcase guy: “I haven’t given it that much thought since it’s different in Michigan”, was the last thing I heard before our paths diverged.

As far as I’m concerned, the only difference between Michigan and Ohio, who share a common border, are their football teams (Buckeyes rule … I know because I went to The Ohio State University many years ago). The people are pretty much the same across the state line … if you discount things like color, money, politics, factories, farming, drinkable water … (rolling my eyes as I type).

As I prepare for my UCC SC2ER training tonight, I think about the beginning of civilization and our common African ancestry. I think about the riches of Biblical Kush (today’s Ethiopia), which could have encompassed “the modern territory of the [entire] continent of Africa” (Adamo, 2001, p. 34), and their Greco-Roman neighbors across the Mediterranean. And I wonder what if? What if this much larger Africa had been able to retain its gold, copper, timber and other tangible it possessed pre-Colonialism (Miller, 1885)? What if, instead of European Colonialism, the United States had African Colonization? How would that same conversation play out?

Suitcase guy: “Oh, I haven’t given it that much thought, since they were only white people”.

You and I could have easily been the enslaved field workers forced from our land, beaten, sold, abused, murdered, raped, tortured and still falsely accused and falsely imprisoned today. We could have been treated like we have treated others.

So how does it look to you now … across the great divide?

References

Adamo, D. T. (2001). Africa and the Africans in the Old Testament. Wipf and Stock Publishers.

Miller, D. (1995). 2000 years of indigenous mining and metallurgy in southern Africa – A review. South African Journal of Geology, 98(2).

Jesus didn't speak in red letters

United Church of Christ - a just world for all
United Church of Christ – a just world for all (United Church of Christ, 2018a). Copyright 2018 by the United Church of Christ. All rights reserved.

The title refers to the fact that many translations of Christian Scripture put the words of Jesus in red.

I recently started reading several books for my United Church of Christ (UCC) Scared Conversations to End Racism (SC2ER) facilitator training, one of which is The Africana Bible: Reading Israel’s Scriptures from Africa and the African diaspora (Page, 2010a). One of the first things that gave me pause to consider is the movement away from Old Testament and New Testament terminology to that of First Testament and Second Testament. While the terminology is not specific to this book alone, in my mind it drives home that I have a still speaking God, one of the foundational beliefs of the UCC (UCC.org, 2018), and that my ears need to be equally open to new interpretations.

Never place a period where God places a comma

Gracie Allen

While not too far into the reading as of yet, the book makes use of a historical and cultural centered perspective of reading, interpreting and understanding of Christian Scripture. When I was in seminary, before God dragged me into education kicking and screaming, the focus was less on the cultural and more on the historical. Textbooks we read were largely rooted in tomes written by foundational authors from a European Christianity perspective (James, 2010). Commentaries on the Scriptures were also by white authors, leading rise to my second point to ponder, “Given the importance of commentaries to those who read the Bible, it is surprising that biblical scholars receive little formal training in how to write them [(commentaries)]” (Page, 2010b, p. 6). A fact to which I can attest. And I, a somewhat trained reader, have to admit that while I have read from white culture, sometimes Israeli culture, and sometimes Greek culture perspectives, I have never read the Bible from a black or brown perspective or considered the large role Africa played during the First and Second Testament periods.

I look forward to hear how God is still speaking as I read this book and others during my journey as facilitator in training for the UCC SC2ER. Until then, I shamelessly plug the UCC.

United Church of Christ (2018b)

And if you’re ever in my “neck of the woods”, come visit me and my church family at Warwick United Church of Christ, 10 Matoaka Lane, Newport News, VA 23606 or like us on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/WarwickUCC/).

References

James, L. R. (2010). The African diaspora as construct and lived experience. In H. R. Page, Jr. (Ed.),The Africana Bible: Reading Israel’s Scriptures from Africa and the African diaspora (pp. 11-18). Fortress Press.

Page, Jr., H. R. (Ed). (2010a). The Africana Bible: Reading Israel’s Scriptures from Africa and the African diaspora. Fortress Press.

Page, Jr., H. R. (2010b). The Africana Bible: A rationale. In H. R. Page, Jr (Ed.),The Africana Bible: Reading Israel’s Scriptures from Africa and the African diaspora (pp. 3-10). Fortress Press.

United Church of Christ. (2020a). What we believe. Retrieved February 18, 2020, from https://www.ucc.org/about-us_what-we-believe

United Church of Christ. (2020b). Identity ads. Retrieved February 18, 2020, from https://www.ucc.org/god-still-speaking_ads

Warwick United Church of Christ [@warwickucc]. (2020). Home [Facebook page]. Facebook. Retrieved February 18, 2020, from https://www.facebook.com/WarwickUCC/

I was black until 1967

If I am to define race based upon skin color, then at my very genetic core … I must be a light-skinned black man. Legally, until 1967, I was black growing up in the Commonwealth of Virginia as a result of the Racial Integrity Act of 1924 (the instructions of implementation for the act are pictured below). Legally, I would only be able to drink from the non-white water fountains, I would not have access to the same quality education as white children, and I would have to sit at the back of the bus.

Racial Integrity Act of 1924
Wolfe (2015) Racial Integrity Act implementation [image].

“It is estimated that within the state from 10,000 to 20,000 possible more, near white people, who are known to possess an intermixture of colored blood, in some case to a slight extent it is true, but still enough to prevent them from being white”

from the Virginia Health Bulletin pictured

The act written to prevent interracial marriages in the Commonwealth of Virgina would not be ruled unconstitutional until the United States Supreme Court case of Loving v. Virginia, 338, U.S. 1 (1967) (Newbeck & Wolfe, 2015). But by definition, I could legally be classified as black in the Commonwealth of Virginia where I lived from ages 4-6, until 1967. I wasn’t, but I could have been, and so could you.

Need Proof?

Last November I had a health issue and all the doctors assumed I had lung cancer. They were also concerned about deep vein thrombosis which could lead to a pulmonary embolism. So when I read that the FDA had approved genetic testing with regards to thrombophilia, a blood clot disorder, (Boddy, 2017), I spit in a tube, and mailed it to 23 and me (https://www.23andme.com/). About a month later I got a report on my genetic characteristics. Fortunately, I was not genetically predisposed to thrombophilia. So how did I become black?

23 and me results also include ancestry and linage according to genetic markers. My genetic markers indicate I am 1.7% sub Saharan African and 1.3% of that is Angolan and Congolese. My historical genetic lineage traces back even further (see my 23 and me results below).

Dr. Cook-Snell’s African Maternal lineage according to 23andme.com.
Dr. Cook-Snell’s African Paternal linage according to 23andme.com.

So when did I become white? In 1967. But I had white privilege due to appearances long before that in my family of heritage, and that was in the 15th century, a topic I will explore in an upcoming blog.

References

Boddy, J. (2017, April 7). FDA approves marketing of consumer genetic tests for some conditions. NPR. https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2017/04/07/522897473/fda-approves-marketing-of-consumer-genetic-tests-for-some-conditions

Newbeck, P., & Wolfe, B. (2015, October 26). Loving v. Virginia (1967). In Encyclopedia Virginia. http://www.EncyclopediaVirginia.org/Loving_v_Virginia_1967

Wolfe, B. (2015, November 4). Racial integrity laws (1924–1930). In Encyclopedia Virginia. Rhttp://www.EncyclopediaVirginia.org/Racial_Integrity_Laws_of_the_1920s

The Journey Continues

Dr. Cook-Snell in Starbucks
Dr. Cook-Snell in Starbucks (Cook-Snell, 2019).

Last semester I started blogging about white fragility (DiAngelo, 2018) as an example blog for my students’ assignments. It’s another semester and time to start my blogging again.

My overarching question in my first post of last semester, What color is my hat, was how may I, as a Christian white man, talk with other white men and women of faith, on the topic of white fragility to be a change agent to fight against racism?

Summing up, in Color-blindness is a medical condition not a social excuse, I talked about the fallacy of claiming to see the person, not their color when we defend our non-racists positions. Doing so denies the experiences persons of color bring to the table and the real racism they face growing up black or growing up brown.  In my next post, Family values, I examined the spoken and unspoken words that perpetuated the illusion that my family of heritage did not express racists ideology, only discovering upon reflection how deeply embedded generational racism is in my family of heritage and how it subtly blinded me to issues of white privilege and fragility. Next, in What color is your Jesus?, I asserted my belief that Christ, the center of my faith, was more than likely a person of color than the images of white Jesus that populates my faith. I also found research supporting that when that same Jesus is black (Marsh, 2004), it is more than likely an image of crucifixion then redemption. Finally, to wrap up the semester, I wrote about how the first step to change is awareness of the problem. This semester my goal is to begin to be an active part of that change.

Towards that end, when looking for new materials this semester to use as my examples for my students, I discovered a facilitator training opportunity offered by the United Church of Christ’s Sacred Conversations to End Racism (SC2ER) (United Church of Christ, 2018). As a congregant within the UCC, I will be completing that training. As a result, and because life and research are both messy, I’ve revised my question to how may I work towards social justice in the fight against racism with my brothers and sisters in Christ? Same topic, but a different perspective. This semester’s blog will chronicle that journey as my students complete their own journey on their own topics of choice.

References

Cook-Snell, B. H. (2019). [Photograph].

DiAngelo, R. (2018). White fragility: Why it’s so hard for white people to talk about racism. Beacon Press.

Marsh, C. (2004). Black Christs in white Christian perspective: Some critical reflections. Black Theology, 2(1), 45-56

United Church of Christ. (2018). Sacred conversations to end racism. Retrieved January 22, 2020, from https://www.ucc.org/sacred_conversations_to_end_racism

The first step to change is awareness of the problem

“ … humanity comes out in a variety of strange forms now-a-days, and there is no end to the odd things that humane people will say and do” (Stowe, 1852/2003, p. 8).

This narrative is a quote from abolitionist Harriet Beecher Stowe’s (1852/2003), Uncle Tom’s Cabin. The book, at one time, was second only to the Bible in terms of sales. The context of the quote is the purchase of a slave and the seller’s silent objection to the buyer’s sentiment that the slave is property before person. I hope that most white people today are abhorrent to the idea of slavery, but based on our current treatment of immigrants, I’m not so certain. Politics is an institution that doesn’t surrender its power easily … especially politics rooted in white supremacy.

Saskatoon Fight Against Racism Campaign
Saskatoon Fight Against Racism Campaign (Megginson, 2017).

How can I, as one white man, fight the system? Herein lies the argument that allows white fragility to keep us entrenched in white privilege and racial injustice. Our silence and perceived powerlessness is our “odd thing”. Let me rephrase that, and instead of speaking of the societal us, let me say it is my “odd thing” that goes against my value system. One that I have failed to strive to change, because I have been color blind, taught to treat people equally, and am a Christian … all of which I addressed in my previous three posts and illustrated how they have served to perpetuate racism versus eradicating it. I can no longer claim these three truths but can only use these statements as an impetus for change. It is time to move from problem to solution. But how to you address an invisible and systemic problem.

As a researcher, I discovered there is hope that change is possible when it comes to racial injustice, perceived or factual. Stewart et al. (2010) conducted a study allowing white undergraduate students to work on a math project or a social justice project on racial inequity at their university. Over 90% chose the social justice project. The project involved reading a statement on the lack of African American role models, followed be a fictional statement of inequity in the number of positions of black versus white faculty at the university not due to qualifications. They then read a section about white privilege immediately afterwards and were required to write an anonymous letter to the university calling administrators to address this inequity. Findings suggested acting to resolve this social justice increased feelings of self-efficacy when working towards a positive common goal to remedy the situation. Important here is the desire to change expressed by the white undergraduates and the desire to work together to address social issues.

Back to my original question of how may I, as a Christian white man, talk with other white men and women of faith, on the topic of white fragility to be a change agent to fight against racism? Megginson (2017)While I am just one person, I am one person writing a blog to educate my white friends on becoming aware of the biases that we hold unknowingly. The blog is public and available for comments. I have also invited several black friends and colleges to co-facilitate. I am posting my links to my entries on Facebook and asking members of my church to join me in the conversation. DiAngelo (2018) acknowledge that while we can’t change the world, we can facilitate change through awareness of our own biases.

References

Diangelo, R. (2018). White fragility: Why it’s so hard for white people to talk about racism. Beacon Press.

Megginson, T. (2017, July 5). Saskatchewan, Canada billboard [Photograph]. https://osocio.org/message/canadian-city-tackles-white-privilege-in-anti-racism-campaign/

Stewart, T., Latu, I., Branscombe, N., & Denney, H. (2010). Yes we can! Prejudice reduction through seeing (inequality) and believing (in social change). Psychological Science, 21(11), 1557-1562.

Stowe, H. B. (2003). Uncle Tom’s cabin: Barnes & Noble Books. (Original work published 1852)