Friday, March 03, 2017

Henry Louis Gates ... for Lent.

PBS' "Africa's Great Civilizations"

If you get a chance to watch this, I encourage you to do so.  I love this guy - ever since Obama had him over for a beer with the cop who arrested him.  If it wasn't for Gates, I would never have been able to know the depth of my internal racism... I know, sounds like I've been brainwashed, but it's true.  I've always believed I wasn't really racist - but thanks (in part) to Gates and his excellent scholarship - I'm serious - I was able to recognize what I'd call an internalized cultural racism and prejudice towards black people who were more 'hip-hop' culturally.  (Not sure what the PC term would be.)  More importantly, Gates' work has given me a much greater respect and esteem for African peoples and their heritage.

That sounds a bit over the top I suppose, but I'm really grateful to him and media which gave him a voice outside of the academic realm.

My appreciation of African culture has been limited.  For instance, I've always been fascinated by Ethiopian culture and Orthodoxy, my first introduction was through their iconography and monasticism, yet the rest of African culture I was interested in only grabbed my attention from an European perspective, as it related to the missionary efforts of the Catholic Church.  I ignored the exploitation colonialism which exploited African natural resources and people.  Therefore, this PBS series by Gates is very informative.

This, rather, is the fasting that I wish:
   releasing those bound unjustly...

During the night, I reflected on the sad state of humanity - wondering how we can do this to one another, century after century; how could God tolerate it?  We ask those questions over and over throughout history, saying 'never again'!  Yet we ignore the horrible crimes committed against indigenous peoples of every nation.  We think God will intervene to punish or put an end to the atrocities associated with abortion, but he has allowed humanity to slaughter and kill, to exclude and subject entire nations, not only in Africa, but around the world.

Thus says the Lord GOD:
Cry out full-throated and unsparingly,
lift up your voice like a trumpet blast;
Tell my people their wickedness,
and the house of Jacob their sins.
They seek me day after day,
and desire to know my ways,
Like a nation that has done what is just
and not abandoned the law of their God;
They ask me to declare what is due them,
pleased to gain access to God.

Tell my people their wickedness,
   and the house of Jacob their sins...

Every day online you read someone on Facebook, or on their blog, bitching about Trump or the Pope, catching every single little (or big)  faux pas or misspeak.  Like we are so morally superior or correct about what is to be done or what should be corrected.  Over and over, repeated day in and day out, this harping on this or that - how can we even know the depth of our hypocrisy when our contempt for others blinds us?

"Why do we fast, and you do not see it?
afflict ourselves, and you take no note of it?"
Lo, on your fast day you carry out your own pursuits,
and drive all your laborers.
Yes, your fast ends in quarreling and fighting,
striking with wicked claw.
Would that today you might fast
so as to make your voice heard on high!
Is this the manner of fasting I wish,
of keeping a day of penance:
That a man bow his head like a reed
and lie in sackcloth and ashes?
Do you call this a fast,
a day acceptable to the LORD?
This, rather, is the fasting that I wish:
releasing those bound unjustly,
untying the thongs of the yoke;
Setting free the oppressed,
breaking every yoke;
Sharing your bread with the hungry,
sheltering the oppressed and the homeless;
Clothing the naked when you see them,
and not turning your back on your own.
Then your light shall break forth like the dawn,
and your wound shall quickly be healed;
Your vindication shall go before you,
and the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard.
Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer,
you shall cry for help, and he will say: Here I am! - IS 58:1-9A

I know people do not like Gates and disagree with his historical research and conclusions, even the question of racism may be more complex and politically defined than many of us understand - so one needs to be alert to false narratives which claim everyone and all of Western culture is hopelessly racist.  Nevertheless, I appreciate the work of Henry Louis Gates and find it an important POV on African history.  So there.


  1. Thanks for sharing what I have always believed to be true, us, navel gazing while the world burns.

    Never heard of Gates though.

    I hope you and your blog readers have a holy Lent, Terry.

    Let's keep each other in prayer.

  2. You touch on a seminal issue; colonialism. The 19th century laid the groundwork for our 20rh century mindset. It is embedded in our conscious and unconscious thinking and of course then behavior. We have seldom been taught the full story of European misdeeds. I know little but I know enough to conclude that "the White man's burden" is laden with what we now call war crimes. South America, Australia, Canada, and our own country are all complicit. That said, what are we to do? We personally did not do it even if we are the beneficiaries. I do not know the answer to that. As for Gates, I watched his genealogy show regularly. More then once I was irrated by his descriptions and interpretations of events and motives. Like you pointed out it could be instead racism. Then again it could also just be a different interpretation and opinion. I do not believe we will ever fully work these issues in this life. Definitely not in my lifetime. Maybe that is what heaven is for after all.

  3. Well, you are correct about racism ( perhaps better be called " the other ones".MY entire life has been spent in Africa, and I am white, a descendant of Europeans who had to establish a half-way house for the ships on their laborious way to the East. They had to make this journey/turn around the southern most point of Africa. This half-way house for getting some fresh fruit and water developed into a "country" in time. It wasn't meant to be a Colonial European country or state. But it did develop into precisely this.
    All I can say/witness is: racism is almost universal. Not only racism: the black nations/tribes in my country are as racistas some whiyes(more??). On top of that most of them are extremely xenophobic. Their hottest anger and violence are directed at black folks who flee to our country from other African countries.

    Human beings we all are. Same foibles, same weaknesses, same aspirations. Colour of skin makes no difference. The idolatries and its manifestations stay the same.

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    2. Typos sans coffee go hand in hand ...

      When I worked for a certain Healthcare organization here in So Cal, my supervisor was black. She is very lite-skinned with blue eyes, a Creole. Anyway, she used to tell us she experienced racism from within the black community, especially at her church because she was 'not considered black enough.'
      Never understood that since she was always saying how proud she was of her black roots.
      In Mexico, it is said racism exists as well. Dark skinned folk from the rural areas, "los ranchos pobres," illiterate, depending on what part of Mexico one is from, chances are you were discriminated against.

      I remember being called 'dirty Mexican' as a kid by some of the neighborhood kids.

      Never felt dirty but insulted.


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