” Now a new king arose over Egypt, who did not know Joseph. 9 He said to his people, “Look, the Israelite people are more numerous and more powerful than we. 10 Come, let us deal shrewdly with them, or they will increase and, in the event of war, join our enemies and fight against us and escape from the land.” 11 Therefore they set taskmasters over them to oppress them with forced labor. They built supply cities, Pithom and Rameses, for Pharaoh. 12 But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and spread, so that the Egyptians came to dread the Israelites.”
— Exodus 1: 8 – 12
“When Mexico sends it people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people,” — Donald Trump
“C’mon. America couldn’t elect a man like David Duke president” — Ron Stallworth in “BlackkKlansman”
“And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God. Then the Lord said, “I have observed the misery of my people who are in Egypt; I have heard their cry on account of their taskmasters. Indeed, I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them from the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey, to the country of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. 9 The cry of the Israelites has now come to me; I have also seen how the Egyptians oppress them. 10 So come, I will send you to Pharaoh to bring my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt.”– Exodus 3: 6 -10
There aren’t that many things that make me actually want to cry, but Spike Lee’s new movie “BlackkKlansman” did it. A (White, if that makes any difference) parishioner had suggested I see it. Trevor Noah did an interview with Spike Lee and told Lee that it made all those people seem almost normal…they weren’t, but you could see their side”. So, I went.
The movie begins with a scene from Gone With The Wind” and then cuts to Alec Baldwin as man making hateful, racist propaganda. One of the words he uses is “super-predator” to describe Blacks. If the recreation is true, I immediately thought, “If I were Black and Hillary Clinton used that phrase, I would never vote for her”. That would have left Donald Trump, or should I say, that would have left no one to vote for. And yet, African-Americans voted in large numbers. I can’t imagine.
The main story begins with a Black policeman infiltrating a Stokely Carmichael/ Kwame Ture rally because White folks are afraid of him. I had never heard of Carmichael’s “Ture” years, but I suspect they were like Malcom X’s time after Mecca. Love had pretty much supplanted hate by then in his speaking. Why had I never heard of it? Because the Stokely Carmichael who said, “Burn, Baby, Burn” was more in line with White America’s narrative.
While there, he meets a woman that he falls for who has been stopped and felt up by a White policeman. She believes the police — all police –are pigs. Given that death is a possibility when racist police are involved, I can see why this view might be handy for survival, but it drives a wedge between the couple, and illustrates what Ture had just been saying about having to be two different people: an American and a Black person.
This turns into an investigation into the KKK who are much scarier. Later, a colleague who is Jewish says, “I’m not a practicing Jew, but I find myself thinking about tradition more and more — and I have to say hateful things all day”. The KKK has created a division within him as well.
And so it goes, until the film ends with a cross-burning in retaliation and recent images of Charlottesville, -including our man-at-1600-Pennsylvania-Avenue and David Duke cheering him on.
So, I got to thinking: I know these people. I grew up in a time when they were sort of normal. That’s when the tears wanted to come. There is so much racism out there, kept in front of our eyes, and kept from our eyes. I have often thought that I was “too Black” for “always” talking about this stuff. Though I pride myself on my knowledge of Black culture, the Ture thing gives me pause. If I who wants to know doesn’t know it, what about my friends who don’t even try or know to try? Years ago, I went out to eat with my friend Greg Coles (who is African-American, though that shouldn’t matter). We didn’t get served after we sat down at a table. Greg knew what was up, but I didn’t. I believed the perception that he had, but I couldn’t imagine it was true. It has happened to him many times, I guess, and I was just “lucky enough” to see it because I was there. “What kind of a person does that?”, I thought. It turns out that quite a lot of people think that. And yet, I was there. I saw it for myself. Denial of evil is strong in our society, especially for a White, straight man.
We feel threatened by the change all around us — we do. I feel that way sometimes, but I don’t worry about dying because women are or aren’t attracted. I have a history of bad driving, but I would be dead by now if I were Black and pulled over that much. Gay men and lesbians — and now trans folks — can be dead if someone doesn’t like their existence.
We live in a nation and a culture that believes it’s the decent thing to do to not like another group’s existence. What is that?! The fact that people in this country have to prove they have the right to exist — that they’re not one of “the bad ones” of a group that they are supposed to hate — means that our base line is we don’t think they have the right to. What is that?!. What this movie pointed out to me is that so much of what Donald Trump says about “them” (pick a group, any group) is what people actually believe and what we believe is a lie.
Because we, yes we, White, Christian, heterosexual, men set up these rules, we must fix them. When this administration lets thousands of Puerto Ricans die and we stop caring, when this administration separates hundreds or thousands of families at the border because they’re not “us”, and has no plan to care about them, even, we imply that they don’t have the right to exist because we don’t have to care about them.
God sees all of this, and like the God of the Old Testament, God sees the misery of God’s people — and God is on their side. We only think we have misery. Constant fear of death is misery. If we don”t fix these problems The Big Lie that is Donald Trump’s entire presidency, the lie wins. That I cannot tolerate. Lies can’t win in God’s world, and if we want to be on the right side of history, we have to not let them, or fix them when they do. As a man of faith, I just can’t.
Love, reparations, healing, reconciliation, and beauty must win. Those things also come in the form of dark-skinned people of all sorts. Those things come from Asians and Native-Americans, and indigenous bush people, as well as White people, in women just as much as men. They all get to exist. If we kill them or maim them or neglect them intentionally, we do those things to God who is the source of all of those things.
May God help us if we don’t believe our own eyes.
Resisting with Peace,