Our Love is as Fierce as Our Anger
“We have a responsibility to speak up and create the discomfort that comes with demanding a better world…It is in that discomfort that individuals are able to grow, and systems are able to change…
Anger at injustice ultimately comes from a place of love for our neighbor. Being angry that you or others are being marginalized and dehumanized is righteous. I ask us all to ensure that our love is as fierce as our anger. I tried to hide from my anger. Instead, it only ate away at me…I learned to lean into it, acknowledge it and I found that this anger was rooted in a deep longing for a more loving society, one that reflected the value and humanity of all people…”
The quotes above are from Mary Conlon. They are part of the remarks that she made in her Valedictorian’s speech to the 2019 graduating class of St. Mary’s College of California. Her words best sum up my intentions in this book. Mary Conlon felt that she had a responsibility to “facilitate discomfort” and to “disrupt the status quo.” I feel compelled to do the same.
I have tried to hide from the anger that I have been feeling about matters of race and how they have been treated in the media, by politicians and even by religious leaders that I respect. The anger I felt was so strong that I couldn’t watch certain programs in the media, I couldn’t watch certain political commentary, and I even found myself withdrawing support from certain religious leaders.
I’m angry because I haven’t been honest. I haven’t been honest about who I am and what I believe. In a country where people fight to identify themselves in so many ways, I for many years have identified myself as a Christian and a Republican. I’m angry that those terms recently have been so closely associated with racism and division.
I’m angry that the President of the United States could go to Alabama in a rally and refer to a black athlete protesting gun violence as “a son of a bitch.” As a person who has taught in predominantly Hispanic schools for the past seven years, I’m angry that I had to explain to my students why their president has referred to Mexicans as “killers, rapists, murderers, and drug lords.” I’m angry that my church sent missionary teams, aid, and clothing to Puerto Rico’s disaster recovery while simultaneously supporting a president whose of delay in sending billions in aid exacerbated the problems.
I am angry that the son/grandson of poor immigrants has such a ferocious policy immigration policy that he would separate non-criminal parents from their children and place the children in conditions not much better than internment camps.
Most of all I am angry that my fellow Christian Republicans would support a person, in the name of the “religious right” who has never been a true champion of abortion or espoused any of the values, morals, or standards of decency and character we’d want in any national leader. If it’s possible, I’m even angrier that some of my Christian leaders have further moved on to call President Trump “chosen by God.”
I have “leaned into” my anger and written this book. I originally started writing this book in soft conciliatory tones in hopes of winning over white people from the groups that I identified with, Christians and Republicans. It is obvious by now that I have abandoned that approach. More urgent action is needed. I am 54. I have seen division in our nation over the years but nothing like this. There is a renewed fire that is being fanned along racial lines that I can only compare to the climate in which my parents grew up.
The reason that renewed division amongst racial lines has been flamed up is that it has been allowed to. As a minority, I believe that many of my white friends and even church leaders have become calloused. They no longer see racial injustice in the scenes that are played out in the media. They no longer hear racism and division in the characterization of certain ethnic groups. They no longer say anything about the disparagement of minorities or the negative portrayal of minorities. They have allowed this undercurrent of racism to become the new status quo. They have allowed themselves to dismiss injustice along racial lines by diminishing it to warped coverage by the opposing news network or the “fake news” of the opposite political party.
I have a home in Phoenix, Arizona, and I will share two stories that illustrate what I have been trying to convey. Recently there was an incident of a white man and woman resisting arrest. It was caught on the body cameras worn by the police. I don’t know why the man was being arrested by the police. All I know is that, even after multiple warnings, he did not comply. The police then began to use a taser on him multiple times, even going so far as to pull his pants down and tase him in the genitals. STOP. What are you thinking?
As an African-American, my first thought was that if the man were black, the police might have shot him. My next thoughts were, have you ever heard of a black man being abused by a taser vs. shot, punched in the face, or hit with a club? How many parents of dead black men would much rather have had their son tased in the genitals? How different were your initial thoughts from mine?
Fast forward. In June 2019. A black couple here in Phoenix left the scene of a Dollar General store suspected of stealing a baby doll and possibly a pair of underwear. If you are not familiar with the case, STOP and imagine the police officer’s reaction.
Now, here’s what happened. One of the officers pulled a gun on the mom who was holding one child and had another holding onto her leg. The officer profanely threatened her for not putting her hands up even though she said she couldn’t because she was holding a baby. He also said, “I’m going to put a F***n cap right in your head.”
Is that how you imagined the shoplifting confrontation with the police ended? All too often as African-Americans, we have seen these type confrontations end tragically with a use of force against an unarmed person, use of force that was not commensurate with the offense.
Slavery would have never ended without the help of white abolitionists. The Jim Crow laws and civil rights abuses of the ‘50s and ‘60s would never have stopped without the intervention of white civil rights workers, white political leaders, and white clergy. In the same way, this historic tide of racially inspired division between black, brown, and white people will not be turned without the people who are the least affected by it.
Racism is a heart issue. I believe that the church is uniquely suited to address matters of the heart. As believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, we believe that God has the power to change men’s hearts. Is change needed? I believe it is.
Just this past weekend, there was another mass shooting in El Paso, TX. The shooter cited white nationalist themes and quoted words used by President Trump:
…President Trump repeatedly warned that America was under attack by immigrants heading for the border. “You look at what is marching up, that is an invasion!” he declared at one rally. “That is an invasion!”
Nine months later, a 21-year-old white man is accused of opening fire in a Walmart in El Paso, killing 20 people and injuring dozens more after writing a manifesto railing against immigration and announcing that “this attack is a response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas.”
The suspect wrote that his views “predate Trump,” as if anticipating the political debate that would follow the blood bath. But if Mr. Trump did not originally inspire the gunman, he has brought into the mainstream polarizing ideas and people once consigned to the fringes of American society.
…Mr. Trump has filled his public speeches and Twitter feed with sometimes false, fear-stoking language…At a Florida rally in May, the president asked the crowd for ideas to block migrants from crossing the border.“How do you stop these people?” he asked. “Shoot them!” one man shouted. The crowd laughed and Mr. Trump smiled. “That’s only in the Panhandle you can get away with that stuff,” he said. “Only in the Panhandle.” (Shear, 2019)
When I read that the killings could be tied to white nationalism, this phrase came up in my heart:How can we fan the flames of racism and not expect a fire? I was troubled when I read the response from some Republicans that said it was a “political move” to tie the words of the president to a “deranged lunatic.” (Shear, 2019) It was called “disgusting” and “outrageous” to try to connect the killings to the words of the President:
Grant Stinchfield, a former host of NRATV, the defunct online media arm of the National Rifle Association, said his “heart aches” for the victims of El Paso, but he accused the news media and Democrats of unfairly blaming Mr. Trump for a crime committed by a “disgusting, deranged human being.”
“Evil has existed since the beginning of time,” Mr. Stinchfield said. “To blame the president or any other conservative on the actions of a deranged lunatic is insane and flat-out disgusting. The problem with liberals today is they do not want to take responsibility for anything. They will blame everyone but the shooter.” (Shear, 2019)
When will we hold the President accountable for his words and actions? When will he be forced to “take responsibility” for his words? Since I read the “only get away with it in the panhandle” comment in the New York Times and Washington Post, I decided to search for the transcript of the President’s entire speech.
What I found was audio of the entire speech. The audio was much worse in light of the tragedy in El Paso. In his public address to the nation after the El Paso tragedy, the President said, “In one voice, our nation must condemn racism, bigotry and white supremacy. Hatred warps the mind, ravages the heart and devours the soul.” (Sonmez, 2019) But at a campaign rally just three months ago he cavalierly joked about shooting migrants in the Texas panhandle while the crowd roared.
Earlier at the same rally, he mocked refugees, portraying them as tattooed thugs faking suffering and the fear of death to gain entry into the United States. It was reprehensible. The nation has seen countless images of families, women and children, trying to escape crisis conditions in their home country. Yet in the comfort of his Make America Great Again family, the President showed his true colors by mocking refugees and calling each crisis country by name.
Instead of speaking of compassion and American relief efforts in these countries, he spoke of a wall. Instead of referring to the people as refugees fleeing crisis conditions, he called them an “invasion,” the same description the El Paso shooter used to describe the migrants he targeted.
To be clear when we review the President’s words, we aren’t talking about a few slips of the tongue here and there at a rally; we are talking about a consistent pattern, a continual stirring of racism:
…Mr. Trump embraced racist conspiracies for years: He was among the leading voices who pushed the “birtherism” lie claiming that President Barack Obama was not born in the United States. And since his campaign for the presidency, Mr. Trump has taken those views to the center of American politics. He denounces immigrant gang members as “animals” and complains that unauthorized migrants “pour into and infest” the United States. Illegal immigration is a “monstrosity,” he says, while demanding that even American-born congresswomen of color “go back” to their home countries. (Shear, 2019)
As an African-American, I don’t see how an audience member’s yelling out of, “shoot them” is any different than someone yelling out, “let’s lynch some niggers!” That person might not have got the rope or put the noose around a black person’s neck, but they may have been the spark that lit the flame. In this particular case, the President fanned the spark with the suggestion of a specific area of the country where such a hate crime might be feasible. The May rally in Florida is the second rally in a row where someone has yelled out some odious racist comment, and the President failed to condemn it.
We have relatively new laws on hate speech where people in seemingly every walk of life have been called to task, held accountable for their words. Do not these same laws and principles apply to the person that holds the highest office in our land?
A USA TODAY analysis of the 64 rallies Trump has held since 2017 found that, when discussing immigration, the president has said “invasion” at least 19 times. He has used the word “animal” 34 times and the word “killer” nearly three dozen times.
The exclusive USA Today analysis showed that together, Trump has used the words "predator," "invasion," "alien," "killer," "criminal" and "animal" at his rallies while discussing immigration more than 500 times. More than half of those utterances came in the two months prior to the 2018 midterm election, underscoring that Trump views immigration as a central issue for his core supporters.
He often turns to harsh rhetoric to describe gang members who are immigrants. But Trump just as often conflates the MS-13 gang, proliferating in South America and some U.S. communities, with the broader movement of immigrants across the border.
“The use of repetition – a propaganda mainstay – points to an intention by Trump to impose a way of thinking about his designated targets,” she said. (Fritze, 2019)
Using the words from the Stinchfield quote above it is “flat-out disgusting” that supporters of the President “do not want to take responsibility for anything” he says, even when he suggests that people can “get away with” shooting migrants in the Texas “panhandle,” and then someone actually does. (Shear, 2019)
The mass shooting in El Paso is no different than the racially inspired lynchings of my parents and grandparents generations. The cowards today just don’t use ropes, they use automatic weapons.
The President of the United States has a box of matches, and our country is on fire.
Click Follow to receive emails when this author adds content on Bublish