There seems to be a belief that if you keep telling a blatant lie, that lie morphs somehow into the truth.  Nikki Haley classifies herself as white, although she is the daughter of Indian immigrants.  In the past, she has recounted that her parents were discriminated against in this country; yet she asserts that the United States is not racist.  That African Americans, for example, are disproportionately deprived of fulfilling the major indices of quality of life does not seem to indicate to Haley that something is amiss.  It is not because there are innate things in Blacks that make many of their lives challenged in the well-being categories.  Therefore, there are other elements outside of themselves that preclude the possibility of such fulfillment.

Now, it is not because Haley and other Republicans of her ilk are unintelligent or have difficulties with understanding research data.  Instead, they are consciously and deliberately denying a reality because they do not want to confront the evidence that institutionalized, or systemic, racism is pervasive in our society.  They want to claim that racism might have been a part of the past—since the enslavement of Africans is clearly something that cannot be denied—but they do not want to realize what the history entails and how it continues adversely to affect the descendants of slaves into the twenty-first century.  Such denial of structural racism allows Haley and others in the GOP to ignore the flagrant injustices against Blacks (and other racial and ethnic minorities) and do nothing about the impact such oppression has upon them in the present day and in the foreseeable future.

An ideology that counters self-evident facts is more than just ignorant.  As a matter of fact, it is probably not ignorance at all.  For ignorance gives such stupidity a pass.  Rather, it is an unethical and evil stance so that the issues of the suppression of many American citizens do not need to be addressed or redressed.  And I use the word “citizens” purposely, for Haley, during the Senate race between Herschel Walker and Raphael Warnock, actually stated that the latter, born in Savannah, GA, needed to be deported!

Thus far, the candidates for the presidential nomination aligned with the Republican Party all cater to the drum and fife of racial prejudice and white supremacy.  They are trying to save the United States for white people—as if they can really stop what has been badly characterized as the “browning of America.”  The fact of the matter is that over two-thirds of the world are people of color, so to speak, and that actuality is going to become the reality of the United States by the end of this century.  To put forth that idea is not a scare tactic; rather, it is merely a statement of fact.  No matter how hard it is for some folks to accept and appreciate, there is nothing any individual, group, organization, or institution can do to counter this inevitability.

Certainly, there are some Republicans who are able to face this reality and who appreciate the beauty of diversity.  Rather than fight against it, seek to delay it, or use their current advantages to practice forms of genocide, are there not some who want to fight for an egalitarian society where everyone has the opportunity to seek the unalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness?  Will we continue to travel down the road of culture wars and xenophobic division in order to exploit and dehumanize fellow Americans because they have more melanin in their pigmentation?  Must we seek to protect our future generations from learning about the violence the early settlers of this nation perpetrated against the indigenous peoples and against Black and Hispanic folks, and others, to foster a system of advantage and superiority?  Or should we not grasp the adage that those who fail to remember and study history are doomed to continue to practice the evils of the past?

For all intents and purposes, the 2024 election cycle has already begun.  Are we going to allow the prevarications and the supremacist attitudes to rule the period?  Or are we going to challenge at every turn the ludicrous lies and historical falsehoods and contemporaneous denials that pollute the political discourse of the Republicans?  Can we not identify and bolster those who recognize their words and behaviors as anathema to our democratic republic and pluralistic nation?

I do not have any illusions about where we are today.  If we do not object to the ideological dangers we see around us, we will continue to go down a road that will be a dead end for democracy.  It will place us in the camp of other states, past and present, that are fascistic in nature.  Those who believe in freedom and inclusiveness and equal opportunity must come together and continue to fight tooth and nail against the stoppage of the so-called American Experiment.  The struggle is real.  God help us to be fit for the battle!

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Research informs us that the majority of social studies classes in upper primary, secondary, and postsecondary schools have as the central substantive core an emphasis on white society and culture.  This neglect and dismissal of the critical roles, perspectives, attitudes, and actions of people of color are deliberate and the ramifying consequences of a country steeped in racism and xenophobia.  The exclusion of traditionally underrepresented groups—their coping mechanisms, their development of sociocultural identifiers, and their persistent endurance, despite adversities, resulting in meaningful and essential contributions to the nation’s character and metier—is a false narrative of the past and a flagrant distortion of the dialectical path that entails where we are today.

To compensate for these shortcomings and the failure to depict historical and contemporaneous realities, there have been countless attempts to diversify social studies curricula by integrating the philosophies and actions of people of color.  Because of the ineptitude of bigotry, scholarly obstructions by various disciplines, weak challenges to the value of such broadened analyses by largely picayune disagreements with historical minutiae that do not abrogate the salient and conclusive contributions of so-called racial and ethnic minorities, these genuine endeavors for inclusion have been primarily in vain.

Therefore, recourses to make available a more realistic presentation of the evolution of the American experiment, so to speak, instituted specialized classes designed to spotlight the challenges, achievements, sociocultural distinctions, and critical scholarship of BIPOC individuals, groups, and organizations.  Needless to say, many of these resorts, or alternatives, met with much resistance by the dominant scholastic culture.  Programs in Black, Chicano/Latino, Native American, and Asian Studies were significantly marginalized, unsupported, underfunded, mocked, ignored, and truncated or discontinued.  

In one university where I taught, I chaired a committee that established a Black Studies minor.  At the same time, there was developed a Woman’s Studies minor.  The following fall, as the two minors commenced, a group of us on the two separate committees went to the new president’s meet-and-greet gathering.  We were eager to share what we had accomplished.  After we had exchanged hellos, we introduced him to the two minor programs.  Without any hesitancy whatsoever, that new president responded that he did not like “specialty” classes in the curriculum!  His unashamed expression of sheer ignorance and reflexive stupidity initially astounded us despite our visceral understanding of the pervasiveness of such insipid disinterest!  In spite of his pet peeves, both the programs still exist today and he is no longer president!

At yet another postsecondary institution, I chaired a committee to form an American Ethnic Studies Minor.  It passed all the required curricular hurdles and became an official academic program.  However, when it came for a coordinator to be assigned to oversee and market the minor, none was assigned.  The committee had recommended me for the coordinator, but because I was an administrator in another division and an adjunct faculty, I technically did not qualify.  For two years, there was no coordinator named, and this inattention led to the removal of the program within two-and-a-half years!  It was clear that many did not wish the program to succeed.

When I was a student at Boston University in the mid-to-late 1980s, I had the privilege of becoming friends with the renowned scholar-activist Howard Zinn.  I took a graduate seminar with him called Politics and History, and we worked together on Free South Africa movement activities outside of the classroom.  In the course, we discussed how the writing of history is often based on the author’s perceptions in addition to scholarship.  One reason why he wrote A People’s History of the United States is because he found much scholarship to ignore the role of traditionally underrepresented groups in the making of U.S. history and the concomitant failure of interweaving their roles into the developing tapestry of this nation.  It is necessary, he averred, to learn the conditions, cultural expressions, worldviews, and perspectives of those oppressed, exploited, and marginalized—yet the mechanisms by which they survived and contributed masterfully in the creative processes over time.  Would that there were more like Zinn in the academy as far as submitting a comprehensive view of our variegated past is concerned!

Currently, there is a negative ideological thrust that is trending in our extremely divisive society and culture.  Specifically, there is an intensification of notions of white supremacy and nationalism.  Whereas we know these ways of thinking are puerile, crass, foolhardy, and inept, we are also aware that actions emanating from these distortions can be violent, insidious, dangerous, and destructive of living peaceably together—especially if people are radicalized by such lies and self-serving propaganda.  What is equally disturbing is the continuous denial of historical facts that inevitably place their “whiteness” in a terrible light.   Concealing the truth because it is shameful and causes some to feel guilty does not validate such silence.  The truth must be confronted: addressed and, hopefully, redressed.

For example, it is ludicrous to claim there has not been any institutional and systemic racism in our past and that subsists until today.  The disparities in the quality-of-life indices among racial and ethnic minorities are sufficiently researched that it is downright nonsensical to refute the evidence.  The reality of past and present is transparently clear.  A basic course in sociology would establish in rudimentary fashion the structures, processes, policies, and services that manifest the machinations of racial and ethnic discrimination and comprise the very definition of systemic!  The way our foundational xenophobia is exhibited in our daily lives is the warp and woof of interpersonal relationships and the organizing of social institutions.  

Perhaps, a slight digression will be instructive.  Male chauvinism in one sense is expressed by beliefs that females are relegated to certain sectors in our society and not to others.  If men believe women are frail, nurturing, unintelligent, emotional, and desirous of fulfilling men’s lusts, then it isn’t a leap to ascertain why women were considered property, could not vote, were not afforded formal education, and told they needed to be homemakers—but if they worked away from home, they did not deserve the same pay as their male counterparts who simply performed the same or equivalent duties.  When the prejudicial views of women devolve into patterns of oppression as delineated above, the perduring and pervasive result of such suppression is called “systemic.”  To deny systemic sexism in this country is naive and stupid, on the one hand, or deceitful and malicious, on the other hand.  Such denials are lies for they misrepresent reality.

In The Life of Reason published in 1905, George Santayana asserts, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” That happens a lot as we go through cycles of hateful views of specific others.  The perpetrators and circumstances can be different, but the developing dynamics are frequently very similar.  We need to learn from the illogic of our past fraught with the objectification of other human beings and change the way we behave presently and in the future.  The sustaining of old prejudices because we do not understand or appreciate history often results in new expressions of hate that reflect Mark Twain’s nuanced aphorism: “History does not repeat itself, but it often rhymes.”  Or another saying that complements it: “If you tell truth you don’t have to remember anything.”

Until the day arrives when traditionally underrepresented groups are fully integrated into the national story found in already established curricula, there remains a need to educate future generations by making available programs of study that incorporate the whole truth.  Such studies must be fully accredited and carry as much value and weight as any comparable sleight of classes.  

Stop the fear-mongering and the vicious omission of facets that further define and make more accurate the content of social studies courses!  All learners of the whole story will be more knowledgeable, well-versed, competent and astute than their predecessors and contemporaries devoid of the whole reality.  Ultimately, the true story about this country will be grasped and appreciated more and more, and as a result, the sad repetition of our hateful past will disappear and we will be gratefully challenged by new rhymes!

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In the early days of our democratic republic, there was no organized system of education.  Small schools did spring up in the 18th century, but they were primarily put together by parents in local communities with no unitary or coherent structure from one school or community to another, respectively.  Needless to say, white boys were the ones to be educated almost universally; however, as time progressed through the latter part of the century, white girls were sparingly and sporadically allowed to go because they would have the most contact with infants and children.  In addition to a lack of uniformity in organization, structure, and goals or objectives, the schools that did exist had no standard curriculum.  

Some of the schools were free, while others had tuition and fees that parents and community members paid or contributed to in order to pay teachers, supply materials, and facilities.  Given the nature of the early days of our developing republic, African Americans and indigenous peoples were not permitted to attend—even if some parents could afford the costs.

It was not until the first third of the nineteenth century that the concept of public, or common, schools emerged especially in New England and northeastern regions of the country.  What was the purpose of these new schools?  The primary reason for the establishment of public schools was to school the young in the meaning of citizenship and to prepare them for competing on the world stage.  An expected byproduct would be to provide moral instruction, ethical decision-making, and character building.  Hence, it was discerned by governmental and civic leaders that the creation of citizens demanded the development of a system of education with common instruction around the basics of the three r’s as well as the principles of fundamental comprehension of and dutiful participation in the body politic.  Consequently, the federal government became integrally involved in building and supporting a public school system.

Advocates of common schools contended these academies should be free of charge and accessible to all regardless of socioeconomic status.  Needless to say, at this time there was no real effort to include persons of color.  Gradually, the curriculum expanded to include other subjects such as social studies, English grammar, debate, public speaking, civics, and moral behavior.  Beyond these badges, what also developed was the notion that common schools should prepare youth for work and economic opportunities and solvency. Education was perceived as a way not only to reach familial and personal stability, but also to accomplish and ensure the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

As one would expect, there were folks who did not want to pay for other children to be educated.  Still others from affluent families, for example, did not want their children to associate with persons of lower economic classes.  Even some who were advocates of a system of public education that would allow for children of different economic status to commingle were nevertheless averse to crossing racial and ethnic lines.

The above notwithstanding, the strongest advocates of common schools articulated a vision in which all children would be able to attend without financial, socioeconomic, or cultural constraints.  Such would prepare the country to compete adequately globally, provide children with the tools to escape from poverty and social malaise, and to reduce and resist the resort to crime, calumny, hatred, and other antinomian and misanthropic activities.

One other significant aspect of the inclination towards public schools was the prevention of certain communities having advantages over other communities by means of money, status, position, authority, etc. By establishing a singularly structured system of public education—that is to say, one that is universally conceived and accessible—with federal funding through tax dollars, the surety of a certifiable process of broad academic achievement goals was formulated and concretized before the turn of the twentieth century.

There were private and parochial schools alongside of the developing and expanding public education system, but they did not receive tax dollars: after all, public funding of education was by definition allocated to public schools.  However, contrary to the tenets of the staunch broachers and defenders of the burgeoning education system, the century that had abolished slavery and made future generations of African descendants full citizens ended with the Plessy v. Ferguson decision by the U.S. Supreme Court of 1896, which asserted that racial segregation laws were constitutional as long as separate facilities were equally provided, maintained, and protected.  It was a ruling that clearly defied the reality of Jim Crow discrimination in all facets of society and culture, including the system of public education.

By the end of the nineteenth century, public education of elementary schoolchildren had become firmly established in approximately three-quarters of communities across the United States.  In many ways, these community schools, like religious institutions, had become places where neighborhood residents could congregate for business, social, entertainment, recreational, and other enterprising purposes.

As public education developed into the twentieth century, secondary schools became increasingly important and mandated for citizens.  The concept of the educational system included the idealistic element that children learning together would improve the amenable congress of people from different backgrounds and eventuate in a more harmonious society.  If it were not for the flourishing of the civil rights movements that sought to make real the promises of democracy for all citizens regardless of race and ethnicity (and eventually expanded to include other underrepresented categories of people), this grandiose intention of the more conscientious advocates of public schools would not have been largely achieved.  With the 1954 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Brown v. Board of Education that overturned the fraught policies of separate but equal legitimated by Plessy, and with the passage of landmark civil rights legislation in the 1960s, the dream of inclusivity and appreciation of diversity and pluralism lockstitched in the tapestry of the progenitors of common schools seemed closer to being realized.

The positive ethical forces that led to these progressive developments became increasingly challenged by many factors as we entered the last quarter of the twentieth and the first quarter of the twenty-first centuries: growing income inequality, emergent white supremacist backlashes, smaller government champions, economic and social class divisions, culture wars, difficulties in achieving the so-called American Dream, and development of multimedia platforms allowing for constant blathering of opinions, falsehoods, extremism, hatred, and violence.  Rather than appreciating the beauty of diversity and the constructive interchange of ideas, we have increasingly entered into ideological silos that made it more difficult to engage in building a less discordant society and enhancing our educational competency in the world.

One element that increased in popularity was faultfinding regarding K-12 public education.  Rather than commit to improving and supporting public education in a variety of ways, many became convinced that autonomous institutions of learning could provide a more adequate path to lifting up their ideological pet peeves and peccadillos, a place for distancing their children from categories of people they deprecated, and to assimilate their children to a worldview congruent with their own interests.  For sure, there were some whose intentions were more valorous than these, but usually their perspectives fell prey to more myopic and divisive trends.

Accompanying the expansive freedom of self-flagellating opinionizing made possible by technological advances and social media, alternatives to public education such as private, parochial, and charter schools began to populate and thrive.  Why cannot our children go where we parents feel they can separate themselves from others and isolate themselves from sociocultural situations they dislike?  As a result, some communities started to become tales of segregation according to perceptions of the failure of public education to endorse their own multiple prejudices.  Instead of seeking to ameliorate the public school system in holistic ways, many looked elsewhere and advocated for alternative schooling and the economic means to provide it for their offspring.

Nowadays, there are a number of states that are supporting the development of charter and other alternative schools with the use of taxpayer dollars to enable families to afford the costs associated with these newer entities.  It is a no-brainer to understand that funneling monies out of traditional public education will increasingly erode what the system can offer and inevitably challenge families that depend upon the inexpensive learning institutions.

What is ineluctable about these alternative individual and sometimes small collectives is that certain curricular standards will have to be met that will conflict with some of the narrow criteria that spawned them.  For example, a school that chooses to glamorize a particular historical era that is universally regarded as oppressive can intensify divisions in society that are contrary to the principles of unity, community, shared values, and overall comity.  Denial of the horrors of African slavery, the interment camps of Asian peoples, the near genocide of indigenous peoples, the holocaust perpetrated by Nazism, the repression of women, etc., can be conveyed in ways both subtle and blatant, but should not be allowed to be taught despite the opinions of teachers, families, and other supporters.  Eventually, standardization will be necessary and rigorously monitored—something that is already fundamentally in play in the current system of public education.  Unless all schools become charter schools as is already happening in a couple of states, the differential educational goals, objectives, and substance of voucher programs alongside of a traditional public education network will remain very problematic.  What will happen is that parental choice will nullify isolationist tendencies because evidence-based research and scholarship—in addition to the three R’s—will have to become normative.  Else, the idea of a United States of America will deteriorate—which may be what some folks intend.


Project for the Beloved Community, Inc., is a not-for-profit corporation devoted to promoting justice, interpreting ethics in our society and world, and helping organizations and individuals in need of financial assistance.  If you feel compelled to donate to the Project, you can do so by sending your contribution via PayPal (mdbwell@yahoo.com) or CashApp ($peacenik55).  Make sure to put “Project” in the memo.  Thank you.

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When I first entered the teaching profession, I was relegated to instructing introductory courses in religious studies.  One of them was called, “Religion in America.”  During the 16-week semester course, I spent one week on African American religious expression.  Very few scholars in the area of religion and society would discount the significant role of Blacks in the history of religion in the United States.

At the end of the semester, a couple students criticized my class by commenting that I talked about Black people throughout the course!  My department head came to me and told me that I needed to curb my discussion of African American religious experience in my classes.  He did not ask me anything; he simply assumed that I did what the two students had reported!

Although I wanted to curse the ignorant chair, I calmly took out my course syllabus and showed him the schedule of subject matter that revealed the solitary week on Black religious expression.  He then stated that maybe I needed to watch how I lecture during the other weeks and not casually or extemporaneously mention Blacks.  I simply thanked him for the advice, and clearly sent the message that the conversation was over and what he had spouted was sheer nonsense.

The student population and the faculty at the university was overwhelmingly Caucasian.  Of course, such a composition should not make any difference with the material in the course.  It is fairly standard to present the history and culture of the United States in order to understand how religious expression developed, variegated, influenced and manifested itself in our society.

Moreover, this self-same head called me into his office on another occasion to ask me about the portraits on my wall.  He informed me that a couple students who had visited my office shared their discomfort over the fact all my hung photos were of Black people.  He averred that I was being insensitive to the students who were largely non-Black.

Realizing that the complaints were puerile and offensive, I decided that my being in his office could be a teachable moment.  First, I told him that my photos were of major historical figures: Martin Luther King, Jr., W. E. B. Du Bois, Mary McLeod Bethune, Malcolm X and Shirley Chisholm.   Second, I told him that I also had on my wall photo of Mohandas K. Gandhi, who was obviously not Black, but indeed a person of color.  And third, I made it a point to look around at the pictures on his walls and then asserted all his personages were white!

Rather than be supportive of a faculty member in his department, this head immediately sided with the students with whom he identified were like him!  Choosing and putting pictures of famous historical figures on my office walls were my prerogative.  As a matter of fact, they could be conversation starters for visitors who were unaware of who they were.  To challenge my choices because a couple students had expressed discomfort demonstrated his inability to inform the students of the beauty of diversity in our increasingly pluralistic society and in the already vastly multicultural world.

When teaching historical and sociological facts about the United States, it is imperative to discuss the variety of peoples present in the land and how they not only came to be here, but also survived, lived, and endured in light of their specific circumstances.  Things happened in certain ways, which must be transparently explained and interpretations of which must be shared lucidly.   To deny students the evidence-based research and the multiple and cumulative perspectives about what occurred because of the perceived, alleged, or real discomfort of students is intellectually negligent, morally deficient, and patently dishonest.

The oppression, discrimination, and exploitation of people of color since the early settlement of this already occupied land between the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans are not debatable.  Moreover, the legacy of that inception has perdured throughout this country’s history.   They have constituted a central theme in our body politic.  Prejudice against racial and ethnic minorities was institutionally codified and legalized very early on, and the effects of that ever broadening malaise continue to infect our society today.

The multifarious dehumanization is lockstitched into the structures, processes , policies, and services of this country—making it both pervasive and seamless.  Consequently, the disparities in reaching the quality-of-life indices as outlined by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development are largely defined, at least in the United States, along racial and ethnic lines.   Hence, the argument alleging there is no institutional discrimination against racial and ethnic minorities historically and contemporaneously is utterly unintelligible, untrue, unfounded, and unethical!

Lately, there has been a lot of noise about “woke-ness.”  On the one hand, it is a term that suggests that the story of the  so-called American experiment is distorted by the omission of the persistent mistreatment of racial and ethnic minority groups; thus, being “woke” implies discerning that reality and making it blatant in any representation of U.S. history.  On the other hand, it is a term derided by those who wish to conceal the historical truth and the current reality.  Nowadays, like many other matters, the term has become a type of slogan for those who use the term— whether in exposing the deniers of the major elements of our history or in claiming that a discussion of our derogatory past and present regarding people of color is more destructive than constructive and enlightening.

Personally, I do not fancy sloganeering, for it is reductionistic and socioculturally sloppy.  The data on how institutions affect people according to race and ethnicity are quite extensive and explicit—just as they are concerning sex, gender, age, ability, and so forth.  If we are going to increase our level and quality of knowledge in the world—which seriously lags behind—we must deal with facts, evidence, and truth.  Those who desire to keep these factors hidden are cheating present and future generations, and are demonstrating a level of immaturity, inhumaneness, and deception that is unconscionable!


Project for the Beloved Community, Inc., is a not-for-profit corporation devoted to promoting justice, interpreting ethics in our society and world, and helping organizations and individuals in need of financial assistance.  If you feel compelled to donate to the Project, you can do so by sending your contribution via PayPal (mdbwell@yahoo.com) or CashApp ($peacenik55).  Make sure to put “Project” in the memo.  Thank you.

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It appears we are living in a society in which, if one has comparative wealth, one can wield power and influence that are immoral, unconscionable, and often unlawful.  It is not the case that logic and ethics win the day.  Often, it is the desire for advantage bolstered by money and ideology that makes palatable behaviors that are harmful, corrupt and chicane.  And these actions are undergirded by the orchestration of multiple lies and deceptions.

Take, for example, the notion that there was widespread voter fraud in 2020.  No court in the land supported such a claim; yet the lack of evidence has scarcely deterred losers from asserting the lie and fomenting violence, criminality, intimidation, and so forth.  Consequently, an ignorant and co-opted citizenry latch onto the invalidities and subsequently vote against their socioeconomic interests.

The tragedy of these states of affairs is that our democratic republic is at stake.  If money can vitiate the truth and blur reality, reenforced by authoritarian pursuits, questionable conduct, facetious lawsuits, threats of violence,  and so forth, the tenets and ideals of democracy are seriously jeopardized.

Those who believe in the promises, principles, and soundness of democracy need to understand the urgencies of the moment and make sure that the road to perdition, i.e., the totalitarianism of oligarchical groups, cannot be continued.   Money should not be the base of authority and position in a society where those who have wealth are an infinitesimal minority.   

We can see that the masses of people who are struggling financially are disrespected by many, if not most, of those who are not.  The lack of empathy for families and individuals who cannot or barely are making ends meet is scandalously arrogant, selfish, immoral, and the very definition of evil.  

The number of problems proceeding from these unethical perspectives defying our constitutional democracy and moral compass are enormous.  As a result, a lot of continual, holistic organizing must occur to re-situate the nation on the genuine avenue that commenced this experiment called the United States of America.  Whereas there a countless groups dealing with this or that issue, there is rarely enough of a critical mass that can effect constructive and positive change in the body politic.  In addition, there’s often that human flaw which prevent people working on a particular issue will suppress their egos to unite with others addressing the same matter to forge a stronger entity.  One of the hallmarks of advocacy and activism is centering on the cause and not the credit.

Furthermore, participation in agencies of change is not a short-term affair.  To be an agent of change, especially of transforming an entrenched, inveterate, and oftentimes disparate networks of systemic corruption grounded in individual and corporate wealth, one must commit to it for the long haul.  Self-sacrifice and communal support are necessary factors for the duration.  This mindset acknowledges that the health of our nation and future generations depend heavily on our persistence in making a better tomorrow.

As the saying goes:

Our thinking makes our future,

Our actions pave the way;

We build a new tomorrow,

On plans we make today.

Let’s get busy!

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Christian Nationalism? Nope!

The Establishment Clause of the First Amendment states: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”  It is irrefutable that the founders of the new republic respected an individual’s freedom in terms of religious choice; however, it is equally unquestionable that they insisted on a secular state.  In other words, a state religion was verboten.

The irony of something like Christian nationalism rests in the fact that Jesus was born into a Jewish family, was raised a Jew, practiced the Jewish faith as an adult, and died a Jew.  He never indicated he wanted to begin a new religion; rather, he expressed a desire to amplify and magnify the Jewish belief system.  As a matter of fact, Jesus did not call himself Christ or Christian.  Jesus most often referred to himself as the “Son of Man.”

The term “Christian” appears over a decade after Jesus met his death by crucifixion.  The people to whom Paul and Barnabas preached in Antioch are purportedly the first to coin themselves as Christian in the early 40s AD/CE.  Both apostles were, like Jesus himself, apocalypticists: they believed in the imminent end of the world and a day of judgment.  Understandably, none of them was interested in creating a new religion.  In essence, they were seeking to inject novel principles based on their Jewish belief system. 

When Jesus was brought before the people, and Pilate asked them to choose the fates of Barabbas and Jesus, the majority of the crowd—made up of both Jews and Gentiles—elected to save the life of the former.  The above notwithstanding, there were many Jews and some Gentiles who were empathetic towards Jesus and desired his life to be spared.  The idea that only the Jews condemned, betrayed, and opted to crucify Jesus is a biblical device to differentiate the faithful followers of Jesus from those considered apostate.

Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are characterized as Abrahamic faiths, being grounded in the patriarch Abraham.  They all embraced a monotheistic perspective.  This common heritage makes mockery of historical and contemporary interfaith hatred.  There is too much commonality among them, especially as far as ethical interpersonal and group relations are concerned.  Often, they are morally complementary, despite the lacunae of their various traditions and polities.

Jesus and his followers did not seek to form a theocracy: a nation state based on a single religion.  Likewise, the founders did not desire such a government.  And most assuredly, despite the evident xenophobia endemic to the new society and throughout its history, our country’s documents of freedom did not include the establishment of a Christian nation.

Christian nationalism is nothing new.  It is an aberration and has no place in a democratic republic.  The racism and sociocultural discrimination, which pervade Christian nationalism both yesterday and today, is anathema to the Abrahamic faiths.  Jesus was not a white man, and he taught his followers not to alienate or discriminate against people of different nationalities.  In addition, he was not at all misogynistic.  Rather, his talk of God’s commonwealth was a genuine beloved community—not an exclusionary, oppressive, or repressive place.  Hatred of others was not his modus operandi or his objective by any means.  And as far as the establishment of a nation-state based on his religio-cultural situation, his statement, or the understanding of his followers, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s,” seems to put the kibosh on anything that resembles Christian nationalism.

Is Christian nationalism legitimate by any standard?  Nope!

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A Tribute to Mother

During spring break from the university in March 1996, I got in my car and took the long journey from Cedar Falls, IA, to Stratford, CT, primarily to see my mother, Ruth Blackwell (née Coleman), who was suffering from a variety of illnesses.  Both legs had been amputated above the knees; she had heart disease and breast cancer that had metastasized to her liver.  She was dying as she approached her 63rd birthday on May 8. As I returned to Iowa when my break was over, I wrote the following poem: “Oh, Mommy!” I pay tribute to my mother in this fashion, twenty-six years after she passed!

OhMommy!  How I wish you had lived
According to all you dreamed,
And were able to reach all of your goals
In the manner you had deemed.

Oh, Mommy!  How I wish I could see
The majesty of your smile,
That lit my life as your childlike voice
Minimized my baggage pile.

Oh, Mommy!  How I wish I could hear
The soft laughter that was you,
As you slaved at home for us and Dad—
Forgetting what was your due.

Oh, Mommy!  How I wish you had known
The freedom of living life,
By being all that you damned well pleased
Beyond child, mother, and wife.

Oh, Mommy!  How I wish you could walk
With back erect, hands held high. . .
With the liberty to dance, to talk,
And to breathe an endless sigh.

Oh, Mommy!  How I wish you had felt
The sustenance of true love:
The friendship of one you did not fear—
The tenderness of a dove.

Oh, Mommy!  How I wish you could see
The l’il grands mature and grow;
Their dreams reflect your maternal touch,
Your wisdom’s in their eyes’ glow.

Oh, Mommy!  Oh, Mommy!  Oh, Mommy!
Once perennial as grass—
Now, gone from us, thy soul released. . .still,
How I wish you did not pass!

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Joseph Louw/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images

A year has not passed since that tragic day when the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was struck by a bullet that exploded his neck and jaw, when my thoughts and heart have not recalled this giant of a person!  Often, I have been criticized for idolizing him by folks not able to understand the bond my soul has experienced with his commanding and devoted spirit.  From claims that he was not as smart, as religious, as savvy and as committed as routinely attributed to him to character assassinations for plagiarizing, philandering, and pussyfooting, I have never waned in my abiding appreciation for his superior mind, sincerity of purpose, and self-sacrifice.  Certainly, his charismatic leadership was not perfect, for he was a human being.  However, his vision of the beloved community, socioeconomic and political justice and equity, militant nonviolent activism, and utilization of democratic social principles was matchless among the annals of time in national and world history.  Period!

A week to ten days prior to the murder of King, my father predicted in a somewhat cavalier way that King would probably be killed.  He didn’t elaborate on his utterance, but it instigated me to discover what would make someone so angry by such a good and decent individual.  My father’s words pierced my spirit when I heard the news bulletin of King’s martyrdom from my bedroom,to which I was sequestering because of some punishment I can no longer recall.  The intensity of my interest, and the terrific sadness I felt, compelled my disciplinarian pop to lift his sanctions against me.  I was glued to the television set through his long funereal activities.  By the summer, I had read Stride Toward Freedom, Why We Can’t Wait, and Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community?  My thirteenth birthday was honored by my parents with the gift of the album, The Great March to Freedom, which captured the foreshadowing of King’s “I Have a Dream” speech at the Lincoln Memorial in Detroit, Michigan, on June 23, 1963.  His speech was so mesmerizing that I could not escape from emotional arousal whenever I subsequently heard his lilting baritone emanating from television, radio, or any other electronic device.  Eventually, when cassette tapes came into being, I invested in purchasing the series Martin Luther King Jr. Speaks from the headquarters of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in Atlanta, Georgia.  I memorized many of his sermons and addresses and parroted his manner of speaking.  To me, he deserved the moniker of “The Prince of Peace.”

My decision to go to college and to pursue a doctoral degree was the result of years of grappling with how I could carry on the work for which King had given his life.  Although I excelled in a number of classes in junior and senior high school, from which I graduated with honors, I was forced into the field of science and entered my baccalaureate institution with the goal of becoming a biochemist.  It was not my heart’s yearning, for I could not ascertain how a researcher’s vocation could effectuate positive social change for the oppressed.  Very quickly, my naïveté wandered to other academic disciplines until I had to pick a major and settled on government, i.e., political science.  In the process, towards the end of my undergraduate program, I had also unofficially minored in English and religion.

The ensuing fall of the year I graduated from Wesleyan University, I ventured to Atlanta to see how I could make more concrete my desire to embrace and practice the nonviolent activism of my hero.  I attended Ebenezer Baptist Church for a year, and then elected to enroll at the Morehouse School of Religion, a constituent seminary of the Interdenominational Theological Center.  I was licensed to preach at Ebenezer, and then returned to my home state of Connecticut, where I transferred to Yale Divinity School.  Ultimately, I matriculated at Boston University’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences in religious and theological studies, with a concentration in social ethics (and the sociology of religion).  My choice of B.U. was reached, despite the possibility of continuing at Yale, for one reason alone: King had received his degree in systematic theology from that school nearly thirty years earlier!

I opted first to go into teaching rather than the full-time ministry, for I shared some of King’s criticism of the Church in its lack of full-throttled participation in the struggle for social justice.  Instead, as I taught, I also became integrally involved in community organizations that advocated for civil and human rights.  This tri-vocational lifestyle—teaching, preaching, and serving—stayed with me for more than thirty-five years.  November of this year will mark forty years as an ordained minister and social activist.

As I reflect upon the life and legacy of Dr. King on the occasion of his mutilation some fifty-four years ago, I realize my celebration is bittersweet.  The beloved community he had envisioned is far from fulfillment.  And many of the issues he sought to address still linger with us today: racism, militarism, and economic exploitation.  The battle continues in multifarious ways amid the backlash against democracy, redistribution of wealth, nonviolent resolution of conflict, political empowerment, and human rights and decency.  Humbly, I pass the baton to the younger generations to keep on keeping on in the fight for love of neighbor.

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The Father of Black History

Carter Godwin Woodson (1875-1950), the son of enslaved parents, was unable to attend high school until he was a few months’ shy of his twentieth birthday in 1895.  He was forced to work hard labor for many years prior to enrolment at Douglass High School in Huntington, West Virginia, which was named after the famous abolitionist and most photographed American, Frederick Douglass.  Soon after graduation in 1900, Woodson was hired as principal at the school.  His teaching career had begun, and became his primary occupation until his sudden death in 1950.

For a few years, Woodson studied at the Appalachian postsecondary school, Berea College, and subsequently spent time in an educational endeavor in the Philippines.  Eventually, he enrolled in the University of Chicago, where he received A.B. and A.M. degrees in 1908.  While there, he became a member of the historically black fraternity, Omega Psi Phi.  Woodson was fond of the work of William Edward Burghardt Du Bois, one of the founders of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and an arch opponent of Booker T. Washington’s accommodationist, or “bootstrap,” philosophy. With Du Bois as a hero, one who was the first African American to earn a doctoral degree (in sociology) from Harvard University, Woodson pursued doctoral studies at there and earned a Ph.D. in history in 1912.  Woodson remains the only individual from enslaved parentage to be awarded the terminal degree from that esteemed academic institution.

Despite his superlative academic achievement, Woodson experienced white racism in the educational profession.  Because he was black, he could scarcely find work in colleges or universities.  Rejected by the lily white American Historical Association, he wanted to establish a place where African Americans could learn more about their history and could conduct research to teach all generations.  With the help of philanthropic organizations and likeminded intellectual associates, Woodson founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History in Chicago in September of 1915.  The mission of this organization, which still exists today (see http://www.asalh.org), was to research, interpret, and disseminate information on black life, history, and culture to the world. The following year, he started the academic Journal of Negro History.  After working as a dean at West Virginia State University in the early 1920s, Woodson eventually found an academic home at the prestigious Howard University in Washington, D.C.—ultimately serving as Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.

In 1926, Woodson founded Negro History Week.  His primary purpose for starting this period, much forgotten in recent times, was to compensate for the lack of attention given to Africa and the African Diaspora in school curricula.  He wanted blacks to learn about their heritage and to discover how vital people of African descent have been for the advancement not only of the United States, but also of the entire world.

Even if he were not the founder of the weeklong celebration during the 1920s, Woodson would still have a very important place in the annals of American history in the twentieth century.  Educated at Berea College, the Sorbonne, the University of Chicago, and Harvard University, he was a prolific scholar who dedicated his life to depicting the socio-cultural conditions of black people in the United States and to demonstrating how many overcame extrinsic impediments to make notable achievements in a variety of fields.

In 1937, he inaugurated the Negro History Bulletin.  His dedication to the cause of scholarship on black history inspired a host of historians of all hues to enlighten citizens on the multifarious contributions of African Americans to the lifestyle cherished in this country.  Negro History Week was extended to a month-long observance in 1976, during the fiftieth anniversary of the celebration.

Woodson considered himself a radical in his day, for he was willing to risk ostracism and hatred for his belief in the humanity of all people.  He felt that Christian churches and their members abdicated their responsibilities to love their neighbors.  He implored local branches of the NAACP to fight more to enlist new members and to help those in need and those exploited by the structural racism pervasive in the United States.  He believed it was mandatory for all people of achievement to ensure that African Americans were able to participate fully in the warp and woof of society and culture.  This perspective is central to the thesis of his most famous book, The Mis-Education of the Negro, published in 1933.

Today, the Association for the Study of African American Life and History offers thematic approaches on an annual basis to Black History Month.  The theme for 2021 is “Black Health and Wellness.”  It is well established that African Americans disproportionately suffer from the major chronic conditions that impair health and result in death.  Most recently, we have seen these tragic consequences held true with the coronavirus pandemic.  Programs during the month of February should highlight these realities and ways to improve the quality of health indices that affect African Americans.  Moreover, the celebration of African American accomplishments and achievements, while honored in the month of February, should be a year-round, daily preoccupation until the injustices and oppression of people of African descent find the dignity and worth to which they are entitled as citizens of this country and as children of God!

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Prince of Peace & Father of Mindfulness

Martin Luther King, Jr., and Thich Nhat Hanh in Chicago (1966)

With the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, Martin Luther King, Jr., had to determine what direction he was subsequently to pursue.  After all, the previous year, he was able to celebrate the enactment of the accommodations bill; the Civil Rights Act of 1964 theoretically eliminated segregation known as Jim Crow in public places and outlawed racial discrimination and other oppressive xenophobia in the body politic.  Whereas it did not eliminate bias and prejudice, it gave recourse to those treated unfairly because of their background or identity to file for a redress of their grievances in a court of law.

Eventually, King began to focus on the socioeconomic disadvantages of African Americans and ventured into the northern cities of the United States to tackle poverty and unemployment and their ramifying effects.  While he was contemplating a move to Chicago for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference’s next campaign, his ears began to pique over the concerns his wife, Coretta, expressed concerning the Vietnam War and President Lyndon Johnson’s escalation of U.S. participation in that battle.  Coretta had already begun making some public references to our involvement there.  King himself was less vocal about the crisis because of his hope that the administration’s War on Poverty would begin to manifest some dividends.

During this period of time, King received an unexpected letter from a Buddhist monk born in Vietnam over the terrible strife in his native land.  Thich Nhat Hanh averred in that letter his appreciation for the nonviolent direct-action work that King had prosecuted and evinced over the past ten years.  He believed that King’s visceral aversion to violence and his conciliatory way of life would help in decrying the destruction occurring in Vietnam.  His admiration for King was self-evident, and the latter reciprocated the appreciation.  Thus, a genuine relationship of mutual respect began.

The two of them were members of the pacifistic organization known as the Fellowship for Reconciliation.  Nhat Hanh believed that their shared interests in the peaceful resolution of conflict could empower others to protest and demonstrate against the war in Vietnam.  They were able to meet the following year.  Nhat Hanh’s agreement with the nonviolent struggle for human rights helped to embolden King to pepper his speeches with references to that unwinnable war and its deleterious effects on the efforts to eradicate poverty in the most affluent nation in the world.

In January of 1967, King traveled to Jamaica for rest as well as to devote concentrated time on his new book, Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community?  While at the airport, he picked up some magazines, one of which was Ramparts.  In it, there was an article by William Pepper called “The Children of Vietnam.”  Pictures of dead children in mothers’ arms and burned bodies from napalm shocked King to his core.  As his friend, Bernard Lee, put it, King could not eat upon seeing it and vowed at that very moment to do whatever he could to end the internecine battlefront responsible for such horror.

Soon thereafter, King became more deliberate about his opposition to the war—despite the negative reactions by members of the SCLC, other African American civil rights leaders, and the media.  He could not resist the beckoning cries of Coretta, Hanh, Dr. Benjamin Spock, and Rev. James Bevel to take the stage to rail against the travesty in Vietnam.  Consequently, when he received an invitation from Clergy and Laity Concerned about Vietnam to speak out against the war at the Riverside Church in New York City, he unhesitatingly accepted.  Precisely a year before he was assassinated, King delivered his speech at that hallowed sanctuary entitled, “A Time to Break Silence.”

Among some others, Nhat Hanh greatly influenced King in this new venture.  They resonated with each other’s quest for peace and the search for the beloved community.  As a past recipient of the coveted Nobel Peace Prize, King went against protocol and strongly encouraged the Nobel Committee to award Nhat Hanh in 1967.  Perhaps because of the tensions involved with the international community over Vietnam, the members of the selection committed demurred and did not even grant a prize to anyone that year!

Although King was an ordained Baptist minister and Nhat Hanh a Buddhist monk, their religious differences did not alienate them from one another.  As a matter of fact, they found harmony in their shared ultimate goal of a more peaceful society and world.  Nhat Hanh was inspired by the nonviolent strategies of King and his embodiment of the teachings of Jesus; and King embraced Nhat Hanh like he did Mohandas Gandhi—considering the latter to be a great soul, the Mahatma, and the former to be a personification of the Buddha, i.e., a bodhisattva (an enlightened, saintly individual who stays around to eliminate human suffering).

They shared an ecumenical spirit severely lacking in our world today among divergent religious adherents.  We have much to learn from the Prince of Peace and the Father of Mindfulness.  

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