How Did I Get Here? Origins pt. 2

Last night I started a series of posts on why (and how) I’ve come to believe the things I do.  And how I came not to believe some of the things I used to.  

This morning I found an article at about a new Senate resolution to apologize to black Americans for slavery and Jim Crow laws.  This is significant, because much of my own embrace of postmodern thought came out of my recognition of differing worldviews shaped by culture, experience and history (reality to me is not necessarily reality to you - Existentialism 101).  As I’ve said before, this began unexpectedly, in part by listening to Tupac Shakur, who vividly painted images for me of realities I never saw in white, middle-class suburbia.  I started to learn that reality is relative.

CNN: Senate to take up resolution apologizing for slavery  The U.S. Senate on Thursday was scheduled to consider a resolution apologizing to African-Americans for the wrongs of slavery. The nonbinding resolution sponsored by Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, is similar to a House resolution adopted last year that acknowledged the wrongs of slavery but offered no reparations.

Harkin's resolution "acknowledges the fundamental injustice, cruelty, brutality and inhumanity of slavery, and Jim Crow laws," and "apologizes to African-Americans on behalf of the people of the United States, for the wrongs committed against them and their ancestors who suffered under slavery and Jim Crow laws."

Some members of the African-American community have called on lawmakers to give cash payments or other financial benefits to descendants of slaves as compensation for the suffering caused by slavery.

I thought some of the comments attached to the CNN article reflected well the tension and discord surrounding issues of race.


  • “The African American community has received more than enough hand-outs already…”
  • “Well we also need to reach out to the Native Americans, Native Hawaiians as well. They are first in line for the apologies…”
  • “Blacks in California as a race voted overwhelmingly for Prop 8 which denies the Civil Rights of Lesbians and Gays. Remember, is wasn't that long ago that a black could not marry a white and yet blacks seem to think Separate Is Equal…”
  • “Where is my apology from the black people that have mugged me?

I agree that there are other people groups deserving of White America’s apology, repentance, and even reparation.

I do think it’s fascinating that the black community remains as conservative about Gay Marriage as it does, given its painful history.  But conservative Christianity runs deep in many black communities.

It’s tragic that one of the respondents would equate being mugged by someone (even more than one person) as being mugged by a race of people.  And this only highlights the problem of systemic crime resulting from multi-generational oppression.  It’s like Palestinians in Israel, beaten and provoked year-after-year.  Even when legitimate efforts are finally made toward peace or reconciliation, how do you ask a trauma victim to trust again?

The first comment, I have little use for: “handouts.”  I think it’s a distraction, and assumes a level playing field.  I can understand that a poor white person with little privilege may have a hard time reconciling with a broader conversation about racial inequity: after all,
they haven’t felt any benefit from race.  But corporate sin and suffering is so much bigger than individual stories.  To move forward, there has to be a move on the part of the privileged majority to separate the overall discussion from individual exceptions.  

Reality is relative.  That’s at the core of all this.  White poverty in America is a very separate issue from black poverty, and the sooner we name this the sooner corporate healing can take place.

More to come, thanks for hanging in with me...


Wickle said...

I don't even see why this is controversial. (Of course, it wasn't ... I believe that the vote was unanimous.)

It's an apology that doesn't mean much except that we're saying that slavery and the Jim Crow laws were bad. That's it.

That other groups might (and do) warrant apology doesn't change that.

As for the "handouts" and mugging arguments ... people will rationalize their bigotry in all sorts of ways. That is one of the sad realities of living in a fallen world.

Joan Ball said...

Hey Peter: Do you plan to expand more on the "reality is relative" notion. Are we talking "tree falls in the woods" philisophical relativity or are you just saying that your background/upbringing/environment/genetic makeup, etc. are foundational to your perception of reality? I have a tangential knowledge of philosophy, so take it easy on me...

Peter said...

Hi Joan,
I do plan on expanding, but I PRIMARILY mean that it's all about one's perception of reality. But I also believe that perception IS reality insofar as human beings are concerned, so I'll go into that and a little about God and the concept of "absolute truth" soon. Don't worry, I'm pretty "lay" myself,

Joan Ball said...

Looking forward to hearing more from you on this. It was the foundation upon which I built my arguement against the existence of God as an atheist.

Geoff said...

If I may...

If White America has to apologise to Black America for past sins, is it not only fair that the African nations, read black Africans, whose ancestors sold people into slavery to the Brits, French, Spanish, et al, should also apologise for black slavery in the Americas, along with Spain, Britain, France and all other nations that participated?

Where do we end this madness of apologising for the sins of our fathers?

As for the Palestinians; you need a history lesson. The Arabs living in what is now Israel were asked to leave by the five Arab nations that were going to invade the new nation of Israel. Most of them left without ever seeing an Israeli soldier. The oppression these Palestinians suffer is at the hands of their own brother Arabs, not Israel.

Five times these people were offered statehood in the 20th century, five times they refused it.

The world has poured billions into the Palestinian coffers for them to build their nation. They bought guns and bombs instead. If they are victims, they are so because their own leaders make them such - not Israel.

And that is not a relative reality, it is factual reality, a vastly different place than most of the world seems to wish to understand... in both arguments.

Wickle said...

Geoff -

Who cares what Spain or anyone else does? The question is what's right, not who's going to blink first.

What, exactly, is the harm in acknowledging that slavery and Jim Crow were bad?

As for Palestine, there are people there who don't deserve to be treated the way they are, by their government or by the Israelis. "They" didn't ask to have their homes bulldozed for new settlements, although it suits the purposes of extremists on both sides to have such things happen in order to provoke future conflict.

There's something here about how people are supposed to react in love, rather than resorting to worldly logic.

Nate said...

This is quite interesting Peter. I've many a boundary testing Christian friend who have emerged from evangelical Christendom, but the story is always different...yours being no exception.

Personally, I don't buy the relative reality, theory. I'll admit the interpretation of reality is relative, but reality itself is constant.

Peter said...

Wickle, thank you for your response. I agree with you. Calling compassion "madness" seems sorely unproductive. I'll keep apologizing every day of my life, if that's what someone needs to feel validated. And it takes more than words, but I'm willing to start there.

Nate, I may agree with you more than you realize - reality itself is sort of unknowable, isn't it? We only know what we see, hear, touch, taste and smell? Reality is simply the framework in which all of us, human and animal, perceive. So perception is the only reality beyond an empty objective universe beyond us. But then, we (I) don't believe in an empty universe beyond us. I believe the cosmos is filled with the presence of the Holy Spirit of the Creator. But God's perspective is not the same as humanity's. And yes, perhaps God's is "right-er," because it is whole-er, truer, bigger. But God's reality and perspective encompasses all of our individual perspectives... perhaps making them all true? Making them all an incomplete portion of truth? Not wrong. Not in gradation of truthfulness, one from the other, but "in partial truth." God's is the whole, because God's is all.

A few brief thoughts...

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