Updated: Aug 21, 2021
The Freedom-Pulse of Black Resilience
The Hebrew Bible’s Jubilee is a time when slaves go free and a wealth giving back brings equality and joy ‘to all people.” As prophets elaborate the message, property is recognized as a temporary gift to be stewarded and shared, rather than a possession for private exploitation. Jubilee is the deepest hope that underlies the journey from emancipation to freedom – full freedom being equality of social and economic opportunity as well as release from bondage. In the New Testament, Jubilee is at the core of Jesus' mission, as when he announced, “the first shall be last, and the last shall be first.”
The Post, Juneteenth (2020), on this website, describes the Emancipation and the racist backlash that followed during the era of Reconstruction. Read that Post for a deeper historical understanding of this holiday.
The pulse of the freedom journey stretches from the Hebrews breaking out of Egypt to the present. In the following video, Paul Robeson, speaks as the son of a slave and sings, “Let My People Go.” Robeson speaks and sings inclusively for all ethnic groups who are on the freedom journey toward Jubilee. Black gospel songs embody rhythms that date back to Africa and are a symbol of the Freedom-Pulse as a unifier that reaches across ethnic boundaries. (Paul Robeson was not only a singer and actor, he and his powerful wife, Essie, were worldwide warriors against fascism. Their story will be told in a forthcoming Post.) Robeson’s video performance is followed by a clip from the 1963 Children’s March in Birmingham that awakened the conscience of America, making it possible to pass the Civil Rights Bill. (the children volunteered to overflow the jails when no adults would, because of fears of losing their jobs and violent repercussions. Birmingham had the nickname “Bombingham”). Next comes a clip from Black Lives Matter, showing demonstrations around the world that followed the murder of George Floyd, which marked “The Great Awokening,” a nna“a time for racial reckoning.” That awokening, however, differently affected sectors of the American population. After these videos, a probing discussion will explore for whom antiracism progressed and conversely where backlash was sparked. “What are the roots of racism and what is needed to achieve a more complete mitigation of racism?” will be the final questions addressed. Click on the photo of Gianna Floyd, below, to access the videotape introduction to this Post.
Black culture’s pulse of freedom is a flow of breakout, collective energy. We just saw it expressed in the video of children pouring in and out of the Birmingham Baptist Church, “like a waterfall,” marching to face off with violent oppressors; and also expressed through the young people marching around the World under the banner “Black Lives Matter.” They were fueled by a cultural energy field that extends across regions and back and forward through time. It is the pulse of slave insurrections, of the Underground Railroad, of the nineteenth and twentieth century economic co-ops that would reemerge with another name after being dismantled by violence, of the Harlem Renaissance, of contemporary Black artists, musicians (Motown music), poets, politicians, athletes and everyday leaders. The movement for Black Lives Matter (BLM) along with other effective pressures for taking down hundreds of monuments that have given false glory to the “Lost Cause” is propelled by the energy field of which the Freedom-Pulse is at the center. Shifting winds of antiracist change seem to blow more strongly with each unarmed Black killed by police.
The video of George Floyd’s murder was so intimate and lasting that it engaged the hearts of antiracists and many racists as well. Did the soul penetrating power of the imagery that coursed through social media cause lasting progressive change? The answer is both “yes” and “no.” Before parsing out this general answer into specifics, I offer definitions of what I mean by “racist” and “antiracist.” These definitions have no generality of usage or acceptance, but they will bring clarity to this discussion.
Racist #1: anyone who uses external appearance or characteristics to identify a group and then stereotypes behaviors to everyone in the group. Unless we have been blessed with a sufficient diversity of experience, most of us would fall into this category since such ingroup/outgroup perceptions have been part of the human family for tens of thousands of years, thereby entering the hardwiring of our brains. :(
Ra,cist #2: anyone who is oblivious to systemic racism. In our culture, it is the culmination of a biased economic system that has included slave labor without wages, sharecropper instead of landowner farming, racist infected unions that bifurcated labor representation for decades leaving Blacks vulnerable to exploitation by corporations, redlined housing markets that left many Blacks without the wealth building, mortgage deals available to White people, and finally racist ceilings within many economic and educational institutions that prevented entry or optimal advancement. Because of their oblivion, maintained through defensive blinders, Racist #2 people don’t consider themselves “racist” and though generally good-hearted folks, they are vulnerable to manipulation by political power grabbers, who speak racist codewords that leave defensive blinders intact and who wrap themselves in the United States flag. A prime example of late is the campaign to defame “critical race theory,” which simply looks at systemic racism; this defamation campaign protects such people from having their blinders removed and instead it shifts their defensiveness to the belief that they are protecting their idealized country and children’s future from defamation. Nearly a score of states because of support for this type of propaganda, have banned the teaching of “critical race theory” in public schools.
Racist #3: these are people who will intentionally cause harm. The three most basic Racist #3 types are: a) people who are aware of systemic racism but willingly allow it to harm minorities while exploiting it to their advantage; b) power-grabbers who will use conspiracy theories and propaganda to manipulate people in racist categories #1 and #2 into following their leadership, e.g., Donald Trump, Steve Bannon, etc.; and c) people who knowingly commit hate crimes or participate in groups that commit hate crimes.
Antiracists: people engaged in helping society overcome or mitigate the above forms of racism.
These definitions can enhance understanding of how different groups have responded regarding support for BLM in the wake of the murders of George Floyd and others. Which groups are really doing the populaly touted "racial reckoning" and ponder strategic responses. Following is a helpful graph using data from 2020. . First, taking averages across all groups. Wow, look how George Floyd’s death catalyzed a peak of support for Black Lives Matter and how quickly that support diminished! But, remember that old statistical aphorism, “ if you pick up five stones, weigh them each and take their average weight, you don’t know the weight of any of the stones.” The same wisdom is applicable to the different subgroups that makeup these general averages. (Data is from Civiqs,)
Diving into more differentiated data, consider the differences between the political parties. Differences have been exacerbated by Republican leaders who in the interest of building their power, have successfully used code phrases, subtle racist rhetoric to attract racist #2 people to leave the Democratic Party and join with Republicans. Consequently, the Republican Party has become almost totally White and has developed a policy identity that overlooks systemic racism and places the cause of racial economic gaps, health gaps etc. on the fabricated lack of initiative and persistence by Black people, rather than on systemic racism. The general Republican response to George Floyd’s death was a matter of passing, individual empathy and had little bearing on support for a BLM movement. See the following graph – (Data is from Civiqs,)
Republican support for progressive racial policies, briefly peeking at George Floyd’s death is an illustration of what I noted earlier, that racist #2 people are generally good folks, family minded, community minded, etc. and they are dependent upon not noticing systemic racism in order not to want to do something about it. Republican leaders have exploited this lack of awareness to retain their power. The opposite has taken place in the Democratic Party. Leaders during recent decades pointed out systemic racism and made it part of party policy to address it.
When Trayvon Martin was murdered in 2012, President Obama stated that if he had a son, his son would look just like Trayvon. And when Mike Brown was murdered by the police in Ferguson, Missouri, the increasing liberalism evident in the Democratic Party was propelled forward. Thus, when George Floyd was murdered, the momentum was already present for the Democrats to maintain and even increase their support for BLM. The following graph shows how the bifurcation between antiracist and racists became pronounced with the 2014 protests in Ferguson. Although, antiracists do not yet control a majority in Congress, they are stronger than ever before and the country is moving in a racially progressive direction. The following graph is from the article, The following graph is from the article, The following graph is from the article, Reparations, systemic racism, and white Democrats’ new racial liberalism - Vox
Noteworthy is how racial issues are intertwined. President Biden, in response to hate crimes, recently signed a bill targeting crimes against Asians. The extremists that marched in Charlottesville, chanted “Jews will not replace us” – they were referring to the conspiracy theory that Jews are behind Black protests and were seeking to replace White people with people of color. Click on the following photo to hear neo-Nazis in Charlottesville shouting their anti-Semitic chant. Ironically, this is the mirror image to the opening song by Paul Robeson in which he was linking Afro-Americans and Hebrews in the Exodus to freedom!
The history of anti-Semitism in America is little-known to many American non-Jews. Here are some samples. A place to begin is with the lynching of an innocent Jewish man for murder in Atlanta, in 1915. Next go to Henry Ford, who published regular anti-Semitic material in his Dearborn, Michigan newspaper – resulting in Ford being a favorite of Adolf Hitler, who placed Henry Ford’s photo on his office wall. Charles Lindbergh, the famous American aviator, for whom the airports in Minneapolis and San Diego are still named, was an open advocate for Nazis. Then, recall that in 1939, thousands of Jewish immigrants were turned away, including many who were on the ship St. Louis, resulting in many of those passengers being killed in the Holocaust. A psychologist, contemporary with myself, Arnie Mindel, raised in a secular Jewish family did not know he was Jewish until on the way home from elementary school, a gang of kids attacked him, saying that he had killed Jesus. His parents then explained to him that he was Jewish. The preludes to tragic pogroms and most especially to the Holocaust, have often been marked by the silence of non-Jews when the atrocities began. Thus, when neo-Nazis in Charlottesville shouted “blood and soil,” a cry that helped mobilize anti-Semitism across Europe before World War II, and “the Jews will not replace us,” a conspiracy theory upon the American soil, followed by Pres. Trump saying “there were good people on both sides,” many Jewish people were left wondering and emotionally triggered by such thoughts as – “how many Americans will remain silent?”
There is a lesson for Christians in the experience of Arnie Mindel. The New Testament has anti-Semitic passages that scholars have shown to have been entered into the manuscripts when the Christians were wanting to distinguish themselves from the Jews, a task which was difficult with Jesus being a Jew.
In summation, despite the increased visibility of racism (that was already present) through the leadership of Donald Trump and others, progressive racial attitudes are moving forward. How can progressive processes be aided to help overcome the barriers that trap so many people in racist behavior?
When racist types were noted above, core dynamics that motivated their behaviors were described. Further elaboration can help develop strategies for speeding us toward a more tolerant and collaborative society. To zero in, a descriptive matrix will show how fulfilling human development need-satisfactions helps inoculate people from requiring someone to look down upon, to bolster their self-esteem. A caricature of a person whose self-esteem depends upon looking down upon someone else, goes like this, "If I'm a molehill dammit, I will ignore looking up at the mountains and instead look down at tiny ant hills. I am great." Of course, he or she needs to find others whom can be reduced down to "anthills."
Healthy self-esteem depends upon 1) a sense of belonging, of being cared about; and 2) a sense of efficacy, that one is respected and can act in a way that makes a difference upon one’s physical/social environment. It is positively impactful when these needs are met in several places, including the home/family environment, at work, in the community and in the larger arena of government policy. It is often overlooked that how one feels about their sense of belonging and efficacy regarding the national government is as associated with mental health as how these needs are satisfied or not in the family and other local spaces. The following matrix lays out how these needs are met or frustrated in each area.
Behavior regions- Places where our role patterns, expectations and relationship satisfactions are persistent over time. self-attitudes, home/family, school/work, community, and polity
Belonging - a sense of belonging includes both a feeling that we are cared about and also a feeling that our opinions and actions are respected.
Competency - a sense then we can take personal action and influence or have an effect upon people and circumstances in a behavior region.
As a part of the Urban Policy Study, this matrix was embodied in an array of survey questions used by 40 interviewers in face-to-face interviews with about 2000 people. Variously scaled items were used to rank satisfaction scores in each of the matrix cells. The lower their satisfaction scores regarding the need for “belonging” the more vulnerable they were to depression and also to identity politics where cues are taken from leaders as to what type of policies they should support.
The lack of satisfaction regarding needs for efficacy is associated either with depression or socially misplaced actions. As the psychiatrist, Eric Fromm noted, if people can’t satisfy their need for creativity constructively, they are apt to express that need destructively, to show themselves and others that they do make a difference. People who lack satisfaction for both belonging and for efficacy in socially positive groups are vulnerable to meeting these needs through extremist groups.
Amc.tcerica’s educational system and occupation system are both structured in ways that generate populations of low self-esteem who are dependent upon looking down on others. In the so-called “normal curve” structure of educational grading, one person does better when another person does poorly. There is a tendency to find someone else to look down upon in order to note that one’s own achievement is not at the bottom. The self-esteem deficiency that results can lead to what was defined above as Racist #2, where systemic racism is overlooked and instead people who do less well are blamed, in many cases for often made-up, defficient racial characteristics. [ Caveat: Many compassionately aware principals and teachers are, of course, aware of problems posed by overly competitive norms and seek to foster inclusive teaching in which the self-esteem of every child is nurtured. The overarching culture of competitiveness, however, becomes prominent in the students' minds as they seek scholarships, university admissions, and jobs etc..]
In the job world, as in the educational world, laudatory awards, now financial, are given to people who do better than others. This sets up competitive networks that often induce loneliness and, losers, defined by not doing as well as someone else and not getting the advancement. Again, these dynamics leave many people with lesser self-esteem and vulnerabie to racist compensation.
The values of competition and wealth achievement are so ingrained within the United States culture, they are difficult to mitigate. It might be impossible, except that with global warming and associated ecosystem destruction, reducing the competitive pursuit of wealth is essential not just for the sake of greater equality of self-esteem and associated inoculation against racism, but also to save the planet upon which we are all dependent. Perhaps this confluence of motivation can help us achieve a healthier society? Doing so is what the most basic Americavn values are all about.
In conclusion, America’s deepest values will be celebrated with a video clip, featuring an excerpt from Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech and a clip from Paul Robeson singing “Ballad for Americans,” which he sang when he came back to the United States in 1939 to bring together Americans across ethnic and cultural divides to fight Fascism
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