By: Nekeisha Alayna Alexis
Y’all just can’t front on us niggas no more
At this crucial time in our lives when everything is so desperate, when every day is a matter of survival I don’t think you can help but be involved…We will shape and mold this country or it will not be molded and shaped at all anymore. So I don’t think you have a choice. – Nina Simone
Written on July 7, 2016
I am writing from a place of intense anguish and rage. I am naming this sentiment clearly, lest there be any confusion.
Today is the day the police killing of Philando Castile has made the headlines, which is the day after the police killing of Alton Sterling rose to national attention. Reeling from another round of blows against we who are darker than blue, I am convinced that there needs to be new language—new terms to describe the tumultuous emotional landscape that erupts for so many Black persons when another one of our slaughtered bodies bleeds out in our streets or in our cars or on our couches or in our beds or on our playgrounds or in the halls of our apartment buildings or hangs lifelessly from a garbage bag in a jail cell. There is no single word that I know of to describe the simultaneous unsurprised surprise, the "angrief," the hopeless defiance, the wounded wrath that floods one’s entire being when unmitigated, virulent, state-sanctioned, White supremacist power and violence shows itself in another public execution. The visceral response to these acts of systemic annihilation, to this structured hatred, defies categorization. The emotion is a mystery, like trying to speak to the totality of God or the character of love in a single utterance. Yet I feel it in my body as I write to the White Majority upon whom this nation’s Klan Culture relies and through whom the plague of Black death continues.
By: Xeres Villanueva
When imperialism, alienation and subjugation crept in as a part of our everyday reality, it also became a struggle for average people to relate to each other in ways that are life-giving, just and mutual. Many modern societies and cultures are structured to reinforce the unjust relationships and community dynamics that often require one to put down others to lift oneself or someone else up. In other words, people are conditioned to take away someone else’s power to themselves be empowered. For example: in the Hayti District in Durham, NC, urban renewal, suburbanization and highway development have fragmented and disempowered the once economically self-sufficient and independent black community. This phenomenon is widespread in urban centers where predominantly middle-class individuals daily commute into urban areas for work. Issues of traffic congestion are often solved by cutting thoroughfares through communities that are predominantly of color. This empowers those middle-class individuals who commute daily into the city to get to and from their places of work with relative ease, but is highly disempowering for the communities that are divided by these developments.
Another unjust dynamic that often creeps in to our ways of relating as individuals and communities is a sense of noblesse oblige. Noblesse oblige can be defined as “the perceived responsibility of privileged people to act with generosity toward those less privileged than themselves,” and it is embodied in some aspects of short mission trip programs where mission trippers end up doing jobs and projects for the recipient communities rather than doing the projects alongside them as partners. This ultimately makes these trips about the service and good works of the participants rather than empowering the local people to make a difference in their own lives. In effect, these mission trips “carve a highway” (so to speak) across the recipient communities which brings power to mission participants (sates their consciouses/makes them feel like good Christians) while disempowering the receiving communities who often lose any sense of independence and self-determination.
Editor’s Note: Make sure to read parts one, two, and three before this last part in Dan Oudhorn’s series challenging the somewhat flimsy ways we’ve tried to embrace the way of Jesus even as we accommodate the “death-dealing powers of our day.” Be forewarned–this is the most provocative part of the series.
All too often, those involved in Christian communities are so solely focused upon enacting a creative, life-giving alternative that they end up neglecting the concomitant work of resistance to the death-dealing powers of our day.
This is a point I have inherited from cultural theorists and philosophers like Jean-Paul Sartre, Michel Foucault, and Jacques Derrida. If, in the context of death, we wish to participate in something that is new and life-giving, then we must simultaneously, if not first of all, engage in the destruction of that which is death-dealing. So, for example, taking feminism seriously requires us to not only ensure that women and men are accorded the same status and judged by the same standards; it also requires us to abolish previous structures, attitudes, and discourses that were patriarchal and androcentric. Or, to take a second example, we can see how the worship of YHWH necessarily requires the Israelites to destroy their idols in the Old Testament, and necessarily requires Jesus to overturn the tables of the moneychangers in the New Testament.
Therefore, if we are hoping to be involved in communities of new creation, committed to life, love, solidarity, and justice; then we must also be committed to resisting and destroying that which is given over to death, hatred, alienation and injustice. It is not enough for us to simply focus upon being a creative alternative to the status quo. We must also attack the status quo. Doing so does not mean that we have given in to a “false soteriology”. I once thought this, given the way I have been influenced by the Duke School and scholars like Stanley Hauerwas and William Cavanaugh. Both Hauerwas and Cavanaugh have made convincing arguments that liberal democracies operate with a false soteriology and look to the State for salvation… when in actuality salvation is found in Christ and in the Spirit-empowered community of those who follow him.
Editor’s Note: This is the first of a four part series by Dan Oudshoorn exploring some obstacles (and possibilities) in creating liberated communities. In this series, Dan offers a hearty challenge to our rather bourgeois attempts of living into the root of Jesus’ kingdom. It seems particularly appropriate for the Lenten season.
I would like to begin by reading a passage from Slavoj Žižek’s recent defense of communism in light of the failures of democratic liberalism and the horrors of global capitalism. This passage relates a joke that isn’t funny (and I warn you–it is vulgar) but it hammers home a point that I hope will be taken very seriously by those of us gathered here today. Let me quote Žižek:
In the good old days of Really Existing Socialism, a joke popular among dissidents was used to illustrate the futility of their protests. In the fifteenth century, when Russia was occupied by Mongols, a peasant and his wife were walking along a dusty country road; a Mongol warrior on a horse stopped at their side and told the peasant he would now proceed to rape his wife; he then added: “But since there is a lot of dust on the ground, you must hold my testicles while I rape your wife, so that they will not get dirty!” Once the Mongol had done the deed and ridden away, the peasant started laughing and jumping with joy. His surprised wife asked: “How can you be jumping with joy when I was just brutally raped in your presence?” The farmer answered: “But I got him! His balls are covered in dust!” This sad joke Žižek goes on to say] reveals the predicament of the dissidents: they thought they were dealing serious blows to the party nomenklatura, but all they were doing was slightly soiling the nomenklatura’s testicles, while the ruling party carried on raping the people…
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Nekeisha Alayna Alexis
Liza Minno Bloom
Eda Ruhiye Uca