Jesus Radicals Blog 2005-2017
By: Gregory Williams
This piece is, in many ways, an attempt to pick up a conversation that I tried to start two years ago, in 2013, when, New England, the region where I lived and worked, was responding to two violent events which received a great deal of media attention: the Newtown school shooting of December 14, 2012, and the Boston marathon bombing of April 15, 2013. It was a difficult conversation, then, and it is a difficult conversation now. To be right up front about it, dear reader, I am writing to tell you not to publicly mourn the death of a police officer. If you don’t want to read that kind of essay, now is the time to stop reading this one.
WHITE MARTYRDOM AFTER NEWTOWN AND BOSTON
I wrote Newtown, Boston, and the Martyrology of Whiteness after it seemed as though New England had been in continuous mourning for several months. In December, 20 children and 6 staff at the Sandy Hook Elementary school had been killed, and faces of the victims, particularly white victims, were appearing on television screens and social media. Then, in April, three people were killed and hundreds were injured after a bomb exploded during the Boston marathon. The pictures of the victims were not as prominent in the media coverage, but what was was the non-white racial identity of the alleged killers.
As someone working, at that time, with people who were undocumented, incarcerated, or homeless, most of whom were people of color, I could be (perhaps cynically) unfazed by the volume of mainstream and social media coverage: the deaths of children do not garner as much attention if those children are not white. What shocked me was the very personal nature of the treatment that the suffering that occurred at Newtown and Boston was receiving. I wrote, at the time,
Note: This article originally appeared at Women in Theology.
“Credit is a means of privatization and debt a means of socialisation. So long as they pair in the monogamous violence of the home, the pension, the government, or the university, debt can only feed credit, debt can only desire credit. And credit can only expand by means of debt. But debt is social and credit is asocial. Debt is mutual. Credit runs only one way. But debt runs in every direction, scatters, escapes, seeks refuge.” (Fred Moten & Stefano Harney, The Undercommons, 61)
There are a variety of ways in which one can understand blackness’ relation to value. As I’ve tried to set out in the two previous posts, within the system of global racial capitalism, the position of the black is one of permanent indebtedness. Blackness is the exclusion from the social relations of the credible. It is the inescapable nature of one’s debt, which is one’s blackness. This indebtedness is the means by which the credibility of those who can be creditors or debtors is maintained. The value of credibility requires the devaluation of indebtedness, which is to say, requires seeing debt as a threat. Seeing blackness as a threat.
By: Brett Gershon
New hope is growing in places of abandonment as tendrils taking back what has been subsumed by so much concrete. While large scale urban abandonment in places like St. Louis, Baltimore, and Detroit has led to conditions of crushing poverty, fragmented family-life, and bleak, inhospitable cityscapes and living conditions for those abandoned there and with no means to escape, new possibilities of life are also opening that defy the present order. For so many of us caught in the thrall of the encroaching planetary crisis (like deer in headlights), not knowing where to turn and feeling sometimes ourselves simultaneously coaxed into a dull passivity and desperately abandoned to be consumed by the appetites of the powerful, the crumbling urban center stands as both sign of ruin to come and beacon of hope and possibility.
James W. Perkinson’s latest book, Messianism, Against Christology: Resistance Movements, Folk Arts, and Empire (Palgrave Macmillan, 2013) is contained within the deteriorating and vacant yet vibrant and bursting with life cityscape of urban Detroit as a road into what will be defined as “messianism”: the spirit of resistance which counters heinous and inappropriate systems of death with creative opening of new possibilities for life. Messianism breaks these possibilities wide open through the engaging of imagination and invocation of memory of prior ways of being more viable and in step with the rhythms of creation through folk mediums (storytelling, song, dance, etc.) and through embodying those memories in creative action. The spirit of messianism and the new possibilities it engenders occur under the influence and charisma of one who refuses to be contained by and who galvanizes a following against hegemonic control and into alternative economies based on reciprocity and more egalitarian lifeways. It is a sort of artful defiance that exists under any socio/political/economic order which counters oppressive power with creative energy and compassion.
By: Jarrod Cochran
I was driving home from work when I heard about the eruption of protests in Baltimore over the death of 25 year-old Freddie Gray while in police custody. As I began to get a barrage of texts and posts on social media about the riots, I chewed it over in my mind and came up with something I felt was extremely eloquent to write about it. After I arrived home, I forgot those expressive words and stared at my blank computer screen. I began to give up and close the laptop thinking, "If you don't have something important to say, don't just run your mouth." That thought process sounds "right" on the surface. However, if we dig a little deeper, we see an ugly root.
It is the Church's silence on the things that matter that has allowed so much ugliness in the forms violence, war, oppression, prejudice—all borne out of hatred and fear—to become manifest. Use your words. Use your body. Get in the way of violence and injustice. Take a stand.
Just because you do not have the writing or oratory skills of Thoreau or Lucy Parsons does not mean that what you say matters less. Simply declaring that what is occurring in the world is wrong and taking a stand to make it right means more than a million good and eloquent intentions that never produced an action. When we are silent on the things that matter, we have already sided with the oppressor. It is with this understanding that I write to you now.
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