The GOP’s Tired, Poor, Huddled Masses

By Sikivu Hutchinson

With the final countdown to the election the GOP and the Religious Right are desperately trying to get their compassionate conservatism on.  After months of spewing white supremacist Minuteman rhetoric about dangerous illegals, Mitt Romney has come, hat in hand, to Latinos with a “kinder gentler” message.  President Obama’s granting of work permits and freedom from deportation to undocumented youth upped the ante for Romney.  Speaking recently before the National Association of Latino Elected Officials Romney didn’t dare reiterate his infamous demand that undocumented Latinos “self-deport.”  Instead, he trotted out bromides about keeping “strong families” together in a blizzard of limp pandering.  Recently the New York Times reported that some evangelicals are (shockingly) advocating a softer stance toward undocumented immigrants.  Like those freshly-scrubbed Mormon missionary boys who descend ritualistically onto the third world/inner city, some evangelicals are bug-eyed over the prospect of fresh meat from the “barrio.” The smartest among them have read the tea leaves and checked the collection plates.  Latinos are the fastest growing segment of the evangelical population.  Latino parishioners are fueling a resurgence of Pentecostalism in the U.S. and filling in the gaps of an aging white demographic in decline.  Taking a hard line white supremacist stance on immigration is political suicide for the GOP and the Religious Right.  As they continue to do a tortured 180 on immigration policy the Right will ratchet up classic divide and conquer narratives tied to bootstrapping and a racialized mythos of hard work.  These messages ultimately pivot on an implicit contrast between immigrant Latinos and African Americans.

In her book Whiteness and the Literary Imagination, Toni Morrison argues, “The rights of man…an organizing principle on which this nation was founded…was inevitably yoked to Africanism…the concept of freedom did not emerge in a vacuum. Nothing highlighted freedom—if it did not in fact create it—like slavery.  Black slavery enriched the country’s creative possibilities.  For in that construction of blackness and enslavement could be found not only the not-free…but the not-me…It is no accident and no mistake that immigrant populations (and much immigrant literature) understood their ‘Americanness’ as an opposition to the resident black population.”

This contrast between the immigrant trajectory of seized opportunity (and earned citizenship) versus the resident black population’s essential otherness, is a subtext of the GOP’s anti-government platform.  Every school age child of color has been indoctrinated into Statue of Liberty shtick declaring that somewhere back in the mists of time white people were poor backward immigrants clawing tooth and nail to make it on America’s gold-paved streets.  Every child of color is supposed to know that whites who work every day achieve upward mobility against great personal odds.  That’s why they don’t see white people living in their neighborhoods or going to their schools. [Read more…]

Norm Allen on Moral Combat: Black Atheists, Gender Politics and the Values Wars

Excerpted From QBR, Quarterly Black Book Review:

By Norm R. Allen Jr.

Sikivu Hutchinson’s superbly written and well-researched book stands out like a sore thumb among the books of “New Atheists” such as Christopher Hitchens, Victor Stenger, Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris and Daniel Dennett.  Hutchinson puts forth a bold analysis of the political and religious culture wars raging across the U.S.  She examines the Religious Right, scientism amongst white secular humanists, the need for social and economic justice, the ethical imperative to defend the rights of LGBTQ people, etc.  She does all of this from the perspective of a progressive African American feminist.

Today many White Christians are insisting that America is a Christian nation.  Indeed, Mitt Romney is meeting a great deal of resistance to his presidential campaign from conservative Christians that do not believe Mormonism is part of the Christian faith…However, Hutchinson maintains that race and Christianity have become inextricably linked among many White conservatives in the U.S.  She maintains that the contention that America is a Christian nation is tied to a belief in White supremacy and fear of the “Other.”  This analysis helps explain how the Tea Party used the notion of a Christian nation to foster the “birther idea,” and to maintain that Obama is a Muslim in Christian clothing.

Hutchinson does not simply critique conservative White Christians.  She also has strong words for Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the atheist and Somali-born darling of the Religious Right.  Ali has been a strong critic of Islam.  However, she has been warmly embraced by the ultra-conservative American Enterprise Institute, she has a Eurocentric world view, and she romanticizes the West.  Perhaps worst of all, she greatly downplays sexism and homophobia in the Western world.  Hutchinson eloquently takes her to task for her shortsightedness.

Hutchinson does not shy away from critiquing womanist icons such as bell hooks.  She notes that many Black women such as hooks point to the book Corinthians as a major source of spiritual strength and empowerment.  However, Corinthians also contains passages defending patriarchy…thus the Bible presents women with a crippling paradox, when they would be better off rejecting dogma altogether.

The author discusses the effects that storefront churches have on the collective psyche and identity of African Americans.  She writes: For example, in North Lawndale Chicago’s ‘community of 1000 churches’ there has been much debate about whether the proliferation of storefront churches is harmful or helpful to the local economy…A 2009 Chicago Tribune article documented community dissatisfaction with which church congregations utilize tax exempt status to open churches [Read more…]

Undocumented and Unafraid

Janeth Silva

 

President Obama’s announcement that he will grant work permits and freedom from potential deportation to thousands of undocumented immigrant youth was a victory for human rights and partial payoff for the activism of undocumented youth across the nation. Having deported more undocumented immigrants than any president in recent memory, Obama’s administration has a lot to answer for.  Although the terms will only be in effect for two years (and offers no path to citizenship like the Dream Act) and applies exclusively to youth under 30, it will have an immediate impact on Women’s Leadership Project students like Janeth Silva.  Janeth is the first in her family to go to college and has worked diligently to raise private funding to begin Cal State University Los Angeles in the fall.  In her recent article “Undocumented and Unafraid” she said:

“AB-540 students, like myself, are a particularly vulnerable population in this dysfunctional education system because it is completely legal to discriminate us. Two years ago, my councilor, Ms. Mason-Lockett, scheduled me into the most challenging courses available at my school. By the end of my junior year she took notice of how easily I excelled and began summoning me out of class to help me chart my path to college. I remember, she once turned to me with uncharacteristic excitement and proclaimed, ‘Janeth, you’re not just ready to go to college, you have the grades to go to a top UC!.’ She, then turn her computer screen towards me and point out all my A’s and B’s. It was her exaggerated enthusiasm that caught me off guard. Ms. Mason-Lockett is infamous for her standoffish demeanor. I became excited too! She would paint me beautiful pictures where UC Berkeley or UC Davis were just waiting for me to step onto their campus. All of this was very flattering and made me feel good about myself. Without hesitation she invited me to be part of her new program for academically gifted students. Everything was going great until she asked me for my social security number and I informed her I didn’t have one. She would never again summon me in to her office or try to help me step on to that road to college, she once had assured me I was destined for. I never imagined that discrimination could be such a painful mix of sadness, anger, and powerlessness. From one moment to the next my legal status had some how rendered all of my years in gifted programs, hard earned certificates, and other accomplishments non-existent.”

 

The Uppity Negress & the O.G.s

katrina looting vs finding

By Sikivu Hutchinson

Word on the street has it that that uppity Negress/bad bitch from Black Skeptics has elicited “complaints” from a cabal of festering white men.  Last week PZ Myers reported that he and a few others had gotten an industry memo about her article “Black Atheists Rising” in the International Humanists News journal.  Since uppity Negress/bad bitch wasn’t cc’ed she can only guess how the virtual smackdown went but PZ did a good job of checking the o.g. gangstas.  In a 2000-plus word article about the social justice outreach and scholarship of non-believers of color seems the O.G.s were most riled about the Negress’ wack critique of white supremacy and scientism in the Kumbaya atheist nation.

Meanwhile, in a galaxy not far far away, the Negress attended the American Humanist Association (AHA) conference in New Orleans.  On the way to the hotel and the virtually all white conference she rolled through dilapidated segregated neighborhoods in an air-conditioned shuttle bus.  Post-Katrina the income and wealth gap between blacks and whites has become more gargantuan.  Black unemployment has skyrocketed, black residential displacement is still prevalent, New Orleans schools are hyper-segregated and charterized, and the city is no less churched than it was several years ago.  During a seminar the Negress facilitated on Culturally Relevant Humanism some of the white participants got all bothered when she introduced the alien concept of the dominant culture.  The seminar went through a variation of Peggy McKintosh’s “Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack” exercise in which race, gender, sexual orientation, and ability privileges are highlighted by who moves where in the room.  For example, white folk will never have to worry about their kids being Trayvon Martin.  White folk can bet that if they choose to have children they will always be able to see people of their race and/or gender represented in textbooks as authority figures and leaders in science and philosophy.  Historically, from the postwar FHA to mortgage lender Countrywide to Louisiana’s Road Homeowner Assistance Program, white homeowners have benefited from affirmative action policies that built white wealth and institutionalized segregated residential patterns.  Being of the dominant culture means never seeing it.  It means having a near religious belief that good meritocratic shit like living wage jobs, home loans, tenure, and safe communities  just come to you because you’re more enlightened, talented, disciplined, and hard working than those lazy shiftless racial others who are in church 24/7 and don’t subscribe to evolution.

During the seminar AHA development director Maggie Ardiente (an outstanding leader and the only other woman of color there) and Dr. Anthony Pinn both reflected on how they are constantly being told by whites in the “movement” that they don’t see them as people of color, don’t see their race, implicitly see them as exceptions, ad nauseum ad infinitum.  As Pinn argues in his essential book African American Humanist Principles, white American Humanism was based on the elevation of the (white) universal subject and the construction of the racial other:

European humanism and white American humanism develop under the assumption of human worth and integrity.  That is to say, these two modalities of humanism emerge in light of an assumed value and worth.  They develop as the “surface” of Renaissance and Enlightenment confidence.  Yet, for those of African descent it is a different story.  They are the underbelly of the Renaissance and the Enlightenment in that the advances that shape these two periods occur in part because of the slave trade, and the overdetermination and dehumanization of Africans.  [Read more…]

Stop Christian Fascist Homophobes

By Sikivu Hutchinson

A video clip featuring a little white boy singing “I know the Bible’s right, somebody’s wrong…ain’t no homos gonna make it to heaven” in an Indiana church has gone viral.  The boy finishes his joyful noise to a thunderous standing ovation, macho high fives, and raucous laughter from the cornfed Americana congregation.  The video concludes with verses from First Corinthians citing how idolators, fornicators, and the “effeminate” will not inherit God’s kingdom. Homophobe Christian fascist culture terrorists pollute the minds of little children and call it the love of Jesus.  They slaughter human rights, spawn a new generation of jack boots and call it morality, God, country, and liberty all wrapped up in putrid red, white and blue.

On another tip, President Obama’s recent endorsement of same sex marriage signals a small transition in mainstream black perceptions about homosexuality but no one should get too happy. It is still a drop in the bucket vis-à-vis substantive policy change that would dismantle economic and social discrimination against LGBT people and their families; reverse the cycle of homelessness amongst queer black youth and protect their lives in classrooms and schoolyards.  The fact that there are virtually no prominent out black LGBT celebs or national public figures underscores how toxically politicized homophobia and heterosexism are in African American communities.  In the black Bible Belts that spawned rumored closeted gay man Tyler Perry, no black LGBT celeb dare rear his or her head in neighborhoods where economic blight and capitalism contribute to there being a quota of five churches to every block.

As Son of Baldwin says about the closeting of actress/rapper Queen Latifah:

“Queen Latifah’s reticence to say publicly that she is a lesbian tells me a great deal about the complicated beast that is homophobia. It tells me that it doesn’t matter that everyone in the world already knows that she’s a lesbian. It doesn’t matter that she be all up in the hottest lesbian clubs in the nation. It doesn’t matter that there are pictures and video of her cuddled up on vacation with the on-again-off-again, same gender love of her life. It doesn’t matter that she headlines shows at gay-themed events. It doesn’t matter that heterosexual, cisgender people rarely have to worry about navigating the invisibilizing, perverting, and shaming of their love lives. Heterosexual, cisgender people never have to use the sham word “privacy” as a euphemism for complicity, cowardice, fear, inauthenticity, and loss.

The key is that as long as Latifah doesn’t SAY IT OUT LOUD and confirm it for her largely homophobic audience (whether the homophobia be casual or formal, benign or deadly), she will continue to earn millions of dollars in revenue and the adoration of the public. And that is, primarily, with few exceptions, the contract between the queer person and the homophobic society (ESPECIALLY for the queer of color): You will be rewarded for as long as you remain as small, loveless, and sexless as they imagine you.”

America the Beautiful.