So after last week, I did some research into the institutions I've attended/benefit from - I looked into any connections between slavery and my hometown, my college, my grad school.
I didn't find anything. I knew some about the history of the Department of Defense (where I've had most of my career up until now), and read some more about their efforts towards a diverse force.
One notable place I didn't look: my church. And then my naivete hit me through Friday's reading:
As cotton production expanded west, the promise of more wealth escalated and religious institutions wanted in. “Money for the operation [1836 negro speculation] was in brisk demand….Capitalists demanded high rates of interest….Then it was the Trustees of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church, lured by these high rates of interest….withdrew their amount of $94,692.88, from a Northern institution where they were drawing the usual interest, and invested them in the Southwestern banks where they would be loaned to the speculators in the bodies and souls of men, women and children. In the reaction, and general bankruptcy that followed, the Presbyterian Church lost $68,893.88 of their funds” (The American Slave Code in Theory and In Practice by William Goodell, 1853:61).
I am a member of a Presbyterian church.
And it's washing over me, as it has before, but apparently I keep needing the reminder: this sin is so pervasive, it impacts every organization or institution I participate in.
Enslavement of Africans from 200-300 years ago, and their dehumanization, is everywhere in the fabric of our society.
So what am I going to do about it? Well, for one, I started researching what the Presbyterian Church has done and was glad to find that - even though I wasn't aware of it, the church was aware of their sin, and [the PCA church] has issued an apology.
I'm curious to hear from black people if this apology, and the changes they intended to make, is enough. (As if there can ever be anything that would make up for the horrendous sins). I see where the PCUSA (the other arm of the Presbyterian Church) has called for reparations and other strategies to try to counteract the impact of centuries of oppression.
The Movement for Black Lives platform includes calls for an end to violence against Black people, reparations, an invest-divest strategy, economic justice, community control and political power. The platform was written in collaboration with more than 25 groups including the Black Lives Matter Network and asks endorsers to carry these issues into local, state and federal arenas.
Another thing that stood out to me from this weeks' readings was the reminder that only a small fraction (4%) of the people removed from Africa came to the US. The large, large majority went to Central America, the Caribbean, and Brazil. It's not like I follow a ton of news from South America, but I don't think I've read even one article or heard one story about race relations in Brazil - how has their country recovered from their own historic oppression? Well? Not well? So now I'm off to research race relations in Brazil, to see what lessons we can learn from there.
And not to make this even longer, but I feel like I'd be leaving it out if I didn't personally process today's reading about the implied meaning behind black and white (implied? no. Explicit). And how our associations of good things with white and bad things with black color our impressions of people.
I remember taking the Implicit Association Test a few years ago and being so relieved that I "passed." It's a test that has you quickly click on associations that kind of reveal your biases. I "passed" but I know full and well that I was trying SO hard to hit the right buttons. Which, in-and-of-itself reveals my own bias.
A lot to pray through....