SLAVERY AND Racism–What a mouthful….
I will begin by making two statements:
1-Slavery of any kind by anyone is always immoral and inhumane.
2-Slavery has been part of the ‘accepted human culture‘ throughout recorded history.
Ancient history is rife with stories of one or another king or ruler conquering and enslaving others. The old Testament tells us that very likely, the ‘Brown’ people of the Middle East, North Africa and Europe were descendants of slave women who were impregnated by their more-white owners/masters. That same Old Testament tells us that the entire Hebrew tribe was enslaved by the Egyptians for a period of forty years. Furthermore, the New Testament makes many references to how slaves must graciously succumb to their master’s wishes.
One such admonition is found in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, 6: 5-7—“Slaves, obey your human master with the reverence, the awe, and the sincerity you owe to Christ. Do not render service for appearance only and to please men, but do God’s will with your whole heart as slaves of Christ. Give your service willingly, doing it for the Lord rather then men”. Similar statements are found in Col.3: 22-25, 1 Tim, 6:1-7,and Titus, 2: 9-10
In 1 Peter, 2: 18-21, we read: “You household salves, obey your masters with all deference, not only the good and reasonable ones, but also the ones who are harsh. When a man can suffer injustice and endure hardship through his awareness of God’s presence, this is the work of the grace of him. If you do wrong and get beaten for it, what credit can you claim? But if you put up with suffering for doing what is right, this is acceptable in God’s eyes. It was for this you were called, since Christ suffered for you in just this way and left you an example, you must follow in his footsteps.”
So, it goes without saying that any rational, reasonable, person would make the rather obvious observation that, in the Abrahamic religions of Judaism and Christianity, the end did justify the means—I plead ignorance about Islam’s relationship to slavery. By that, I mean that religious leaders and writers framed that accepted ‘social norm” as being a God-ordained principle—how convenient. In general, slavery has been the accepted norm as a ‘God ordained’ principle forever. Then we have to ask ourselves, “Is that what God really wants, or are we ‘putting words into God’s mouth’ just to suit our own desires—I think the latter. It seems quite obvious to me that slavery was justified and condoned for one simple reason—power, control and money (riches). Those who ‘created God and God’s word’ seemingly have never, even to this day, had a problem with dehumanizing a particular group of homo sapiens. Neither have they ever had any problem at all of dehumanizing everyone’s sexuality for that exact, same reason—power, money, control.
I have attended Roman Catholic Mass weekly for eighty five years, mostly in Kentucky, but also in Florida, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Missouri, Indiana, Arizona, Michigan, Texas and Tennessee. At no time, at any of these services, have I ever heard a single utterance against slavery. Likewise, I have listened to dozens of Sunday Televangelists of one denomination or another—again, not a single mention of slavery and its evils.
If I were to live to be ten thousand years old, I would never forget the feeling of dis-belief and dismay I experienced when in February, 1962, my wife and I crossed the Kentucky-Tennessee line for the first time on our way to Memphis—I was going for an interview to join the orthopedic training program of the famous Campbell Clinic. Every public building of any kind was marked with big, bold lettering: Black Only or White Only—we had never seen that before, and I had previously gone to college in Austin, Texas nine years before. To say I was shocked would be a gross understatement.
I had grown up in a three-room shack with no electricity, and with the Illinois Central Freight Line running eighty feet from my front door. Pre-WW2, we were in the throes of the great depression. Freight trains, loaded with starving hobos, both black and white, frequently stopped in front of our little hut to set off carloads of coal at a local side switch near Fancy Farm, Kentucky. Invariably, they hastily came knocking at our door asking for food. My mother always fed them whatever meager supplies we had left from previous meal. Mind you, we never went hungry—we had our own little thirty acre farm and grew and preserved nearly everything we ate. I’ll never forget the remorse and pity I felt for them. Not one of them ever threatened us in any way—they were so grateful for our generosity.
So, when I saw those segregation signs in South Fulton, TN, I was bewildered. As it so happened, I did get accepted into the Campbell Clinic starting July 1, 1962. We had not been in Memphis a month when ‘all hell broke loose’—James Meredith had integrated Ole Miss in Oxford MS, a mere sixty five miles from Memphis— I thought the world was coming to an end. I was wise enough to keep my mouth shut at the time, not that I wanted to—it would have been total futility—I was outnumbered one thousand to one.
I had been around black people all my life, working in tobacco fields, strawberry patches, moving houses and the like. To me they were just ordinary, hardworking, kind-hearted people—I had no expectations of anything more or less. During my six years of medical education in Saint Louis, most of my hospital time was spent in the charity institutions of the City and County hospitals. I had occasion to care for thousands of destitute black and white people—my heart went out to them all.
Several years back, when I began in earnest to analyze religion in general, and God specifically, I came to the startling realization that religion was, and always had been, the main instigator and propagator of slavery. About that same time, one evening, while at dinner with Protestant friends, I brought up that observation in our conversation. Immediately, all but one of them jumped up and, with an air of righteous indignation, departed our table with the speed expected as though a fifteen foot long cobra snake was about to strike them. I was astonished—I had anticipated a good, meaningful, conversation about such an important subject.
One must ask, then, where such ideation came from. After careful consideration, I have concluded, that, just as with all other considerations concerning the Abrahamic religions, it all started with the false narrative that ‘the Jews were God’s chosen people’. It did, in fact, take me a long time (50-60 years) before I got the ‘dimmer switch’ fully turned up—the Jews had ‘created’ their own God just like they wanted him. Three hundred years after Jesus’ death, the Christian Bishops did likewise, while adding several, self-serving, twists—they didn’t dare touch slavery. Well, guess what, when Martin Luther got his ‘belly full’ of Catholic hierarchy abuses, he bolted the pack—he opened the flood-gates, so that now, there are thirty three thousand so-called Christian denominations in the world (as of 2014). Not a single one, that I’m aware of, except the Black Churches, has ever openly condemned slavery. Mind you, legal slavery was abolished in this country in 1865.
Physical slavery in this country is illegal—mental and emotional enslavement seems to be alive and well. It comes in all sizes, shapes, descriptions, and colors, and, again, seems to be inexorably intertwined with religion and politics—people and organizations striving to control our minds and emotions for their own gain.
There is an old saying that ‘a house built on a weak foundation is destined to fall’. Martin Luther King ‘had a dream’—so did I. Literally, I was afraid to awaken for fear the dream would vanished—it did. In my sight of observation, what we are witnessing right this minute is an entanglement of false feelings and ideas most of which are being fostered by both religion and politics. The absolute fact is this: there is not a citizen alive in the United States of America who ever owned a slave—neither is there a person alive who ever was a slave. However, the narrative continues under the guise of racism. Our current Vice President claims to be descended from a Jamaican slave—I have little doubt that she used that claim to garner ‘sympathy votes’. Please allow me to explain that entanglement.
For starters, little children know no color or race—they do not know that they are white, black, brow, tan, or red. They learn from their teachers that they may be a certain color, and ,more importantly, that their color may matter. And, who is doing the teaching?—early on, their parents and, possibly teachers, who have been biased by ill-intentioned politicians and clergy. Later on, as they advance in age, they cannot possibly avoid the constant cacophony of alleged racism being spewed from every TV and radio station in the country, to say nothing of so-called social media rancor over the subject.
Politicians discovered at least seventy five years ago that racism was most beneficial for their purpose of staying in power. If you can convince people that they are being discriminated against, then you have created a ’cause’ in their minds. If you can teach people that they are being ‘disentitled’ on the one hand, or, better still, ‘entitled’ on the other, you have thusly created a following. Of course, the politicians are right there to guarantee those entitlements will be honored. History shows that thy seldom have been—the narrative thrives just the same.
In the case of religion, we see Catholic and Protestant missionaries alike constantly attempting to, both ‘protect their turf’, and enlarge it by proselytizing each other’s constituents. In the case of immigration, it is quite obvious that the official, unspoken Catholic Church position is for ‘open borders’. There is a subtle reason for that position. Church attendance in the US is dropping precipitously as more and more young people are finding religion irrelevant. The majority of immigrants across our southern border are Catholic and have been indoctrinated to attend Catholic services regularly. The supposition is that, even though most are paupers upon arrival, most would eventually find meaningful jobs—the collection baskets would once more be filled. The objectors to such illegal activity are labeled ‘xenophobes’—politicians, both governmental and religious, surely know well how to ‘play that game’.
There are millions of good, red-blooded Americans of all colors, races, and creeds who recognize all of that activity for exactly what it is—a political charade. The horrible part is that it benefits no one but the perpetrators. The plight of the unfortunate followers becomes worsened, and , worse yet, our nation is so divided so as, seemingly, to be on the verge of civil war—what a pity.
The only way out of this mess is through education coupled with dedication to hard work and self-determination. We are a most generous nation on earth—there is hardly one among us who would not ‘give the shirt off of his back’ to a truly needy person who, through no fault of his/her own, got caught in the trap of misfortune. Likewise, not many, but fools, would keep buying shirts for someone who ‘expected’ a new shirt every day just for the asking, while making no attempt to provide for himself. The American way is ‘hard work, self determination, and love of God and neighbor’. Love of neighbor means many things, among which are encouragement and education. There’s an old, so true, saying; “Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach a man to fish and he will eat for a lifetime”.
As a nation, we face a terribly important dilemma—how to motivate people to strive for self-sufficiency. How can we possibly reach our deprived children with appropriate education when millions have no parents with proper understandings. How can they become properly educated when their teachers refuse to teach history as it happened. How can we possibly ‘get inside their minds’ and teach them individual ‘personal respect’, when black athletes who are making more money in one year than I, as a hard-working, dedicated physician, made in a lifetime, are constantly spewing the narrative that the world ‘owes them something’. What the world owes them and every ‘them’ is the opportunity to try—then try, they must. There’s another old saying that is so true; “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink”. I earnestly wish we could just get a bridle on him—I’d gladly find a waterhole and, at least, give him a chance to drink.
Racism and perceived racism generated, long past, by centuries of slavery will not die easily. Those athletes, making millions, annually, for playing with a ball, stupidly and unwittingly think they can ‘demand respect’. If they ever learn that no one gains respect by ‘demand’. Anyone can ‘command’ respect by showing kindness and respect, and by leading graciously and gratefully by good example—Dr. Martin Luther King did. So do thousands of other black athletes, business men, and yes, even politicians, whom I witness daily. Those who spew a venom of hate and self-righteousness may think they’re ‘helping the cause’—my firm belief is they know better—they’re doing it for the selfish, self-serving cause of power, control , and, above all, money. In my humble opinion, we need many more Herschel Walkers and fewer Al Sharptons in our world. We need ‘motivators’, not ‘demeanors and detractors’. We need teachers who tickle our minds with the eagerness to know truth. Proper history is truth. Adult aged children need to know the history of slavery world-wide. They need to know that the fundamental ‘justification’ for its existence is to be found in religion—they need to know that the fundamental cause of its perpetuation in the form of ‘perceived racism’ is religion and politics. Their minds need to be stimulated with the desire to know science and the basic philosophy of psychology and logical thinking. Then, and only then will the perception of racism disappear.
I personally know of no rational white person who does not hold in great esteem any successful black or white person who isn’t arrogant—white people in general know how difficult it has been for most black kids to rise up from the ghettoes and ‘be somebody’. The arrogance of so many black athletes is appalling. It is very likely that none of them have worn the uniform of our US military, and proudly laid their lives on the line in defense of our country, like I and my five brothers have done—we did so that those black athletes could ‘take the knee’ during the playing of our national anthem. I suspect that if they knew the real truth, they would be taking the knee in front of every church building in America. George Washington, et. al., didn’t invent slavery and racism—they ‘inherited it’ through their religion.
The basic philosophy I present here today didn’t just happen—its been a lifetime endeavor of observation, questioning, investigation, analysis, conclusion. It is all neatly wrapped up in my two little books, Wilderness Cry and Peace in Spirituality.