Continuing our series of Hispanic Heritage month, Deacon Inez Torres Davis – from the Women of the ELCA – gives us a candid reflection on the exhilaration and disappointment of working to dismantle systems of white supremacy in the church and broader society. Both lyrical and terse, her words are a fantastic point of departure for any discussion on race, patriotism, and justice. Read, comment, and share, friends. Keep the conversation going!
Rev. Dr. Linda E. Thomas – Professor of Theology and Anthropology, Chair of LSTC’s Diversity Committee, Editor – “We Talk. We Listen.”
He has told you, O mortal, what is good;
and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God?
I am a patriot.
I love this land, this nation—I long for the dream that is America.
I come from a military family. My uncles and my brothers served in one or another branch of the military. From WWII to Korea to Vietnam to Desert Storm to Operation Iraqi Freedom, family members have offered their lives and bear the scars of military combat. When the National Anthem plays, my eyes tear and my chest swells.
Twice when I have shared this in training retreats White women told me how my statement helped them, brought them joy. Or, was it a sense of relief? I do not know; their perspective is not mine to explore. But I asked each woman to explore the why of her joy.
Why does hearing me say that I am a patriot provide another joy?
What mechanization of internalized white privilege lies beneath such?
Can’t I love America in all of her imperfections? Is the ability to inventory our nation’s shortcomings and then live a life in pursuit of making things better more the road-map of a patriot than to blindly assent to power and refuse any idea that things need to be fixed, or returned to some illusion of the past?
Do we require the sleight of hand that buries what is true about America in order to love her? Not only is it possible to love the incomplete; it is an imperative of the gospel for what makes another an “enemy” if not our ability to see their lack, their failure?
But, the chickens are coming home …
Smart phones have brought into the homes of America the racial profiling and targeting of people of color. Social media provides the average person access to alternative press news. Groups like Daily Kos, MoveOn, NowThis, Color of Change, Colorlines, The Root, and the like get out the stories that the corporate media do not cover or would not otherwise cover.
Colin Kaepernick refused to stand for the National Anthem because he refuses to “stand to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people.” His refusal to stand was his protest against the police brutality visited upon his community. In response to his patriotic action, all kinds of baloney came out the conservative meat factory.
World Cup and Gold Medal winning soccer player Megan Rapinoe was the first white and the first woman to kneel during the playing of the national anthem. She did it to show solidarity with Kaepernick. Then members of the West Virginia Tech Women’s Volleyball team kneeled during the playing of the National Anthem.
Opening day in the NFL had Kansas City cornerback Marcus Peters raise a black-gloved fist during the national anthem. The protest was amplified later Sunday when four Miami Dolphins kneeled on the sideline with hands on their hearts as “The Star Spangled Banner” played in Seattle. The movement is spreading.
I am a patriot.
I long for the dream that is America.
And, there are chickens coming home to roost.
The Standing Rock Sioux have been joined by other tribes in their protest of the construction of the North Dakota Pipe Line that risks the water they drink as well as desecrate their holy land. The federal government’s temporary hold on the development of the North Dakota pipeline has only slightly shaken the world of entitlement and privilege. The Dallas-based Energy Transfer Partners had the military capabilities of this nation at their beck-and-call; the protesters have only moral authority. Most recently the possible use of drones has been added to the police force’s ability to “protect and serve” the rights of the corporation. The same is reflected by the state of North Dakota vs. Amy Goodman in which state power seeks to punish Democracy Now! for its video reporting of attack dogs being used on peaceful protestors on September 3.
Power refuses to release its privilege. It is that simple.
I don’t care how complicated people want to make it.
Extreme right wing activism has provided a candidate that the GOP struggles to handle, to make palatable. At the same time, the corporate media confuses providing fair coverage with making false equivalencies. And the nation teeters.
In my research the idea of curses being like birds who return to their place of origin (nest) is said to have first been offered in 1390 when Geoffrey Chaucer wrote in The Parson’s Tale: “And ofte tyme swich cursynge wrongfuly retorneth agayn to hym that curseth, as a byrd that retorneth agayn to his owene nest.” It speaks to the unwelcome dividends (the karma) of our wrong actions.
Jesus said it this way:
You reap what you sow.
My further research revealed how the 19th century when Robert Southey’s poem The Curse of Kehama (1810), said, “Curses are like young chicken: they always come home to roost.”
Now, I realize I have the privilege of a quarter of a century of study in the racial history of this nation. It is this exposure to hidden as well as the collective racial truths of America that provides my perspective. When I say that the chickens are coming home to roost, I am speaking of how the racial injustices that have been practiced and continue to be practiced in this nation is delivering to us a tidal wave of issues and challenges that simply will not fly away or be hid from.
When Malcolm X referred to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy as the “chickens coming home to roost”, what happened to him is what often happens to those who speak truth to power, his words were twisted. But, if we listen to Malcolm X, he spoke deep truth.
Further, when given the opportunity to speak about progress toward racial justice, Malcolm X clearly stated he was unable to say there was progress being made because “if you stick a knife in my back 9 inches and you pull it out 6 inches, there is no progress. You pull it all the way out, that’s not progress. The progress is healing the wound that the blow made. And, they haven’t begun to pull the knife out.”
And here we are. We can count chickens. The evils of our society ruffle in their roost. There are many faces of oppression but there is no hierarchy of oppressions. Each is full-winged. Racism. Sexism. Heterosexism. Classism. Age-ism. Able-ism. I list these few coming home to roost.
We must tend to the chickens.
It is the patriotic thing to do.
If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, pray, seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land. (2 Chronicles 7:14)
A controversial commercial from Coca-Cola featuring “America the Beautiful” sung in multiple languages.
#WeAre America ft. John Cena – “Love Has No Labels” | by the Ad Council
Inez Torres Davis is an Indigenous Latina working within and for the whitest religious affiliation in the United States, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, as Women of the ELCA’s core racial justice/anti-racism trainer – having worked in this capacity since January of 1997. She is also rostered Word & Service lay professional of the ELCA and currently serves on the World Day of Prayer USA Board, is an Illinois State Commissioner for Guardianship & Advocacy, and she sits on the ELCA’s Theological Discernment table. If this wasn’t enough, she’s also a blog writer (for WELCA and her own blog page), a spiritual director, a wife, mother, grandmother, gardener, writer, and painter, as well as a Reiki master and creator of sacred spaces.