Course: Anti-Black Racism in the U.S.—The Most Vital and Challenging Issue (June 2020)
Faculty: Gwendolyn Etter-Lewis, Anthony Outler, Chitra Golestani, Emily Tancredi-Brice Agbenyega, Niki Daniels
Editor’s Note: What follows are excerpts from Susan Bailey’s learning self-assessment, and a poem she wrote titled Far from Fair. This was Susan’s first Wilmette Institute course, which she took with a group led by Wandra Harmsen – see “Study Group Shares Plans for Action.”
“I have acquired new insights into systemic and structural racism in U.S. society, both past and present. The course has increased my understanding of the enormous scale of atrocities committed against both Native Americans and African Americans. The deliberate genocide, annihilation of native tribes, and the appropriation of their land by Europeans is “Man’s inhumanity to man.” Europeans, explorers, theologians, and anthropologists created the term “Divine Destiny” to justify their crimes against aboriginals and enslaved people. The Age of Exploration should really be re-titled as The Age of Exploitation.”
New skills and attitudes. “Gaining knowledge has improved my ability and confidence to discuss the topics we have studied. Having facts and cited resources at hand will enable me to cross reference current misconceptions in meaningful conversations. I now feel confident to actively seek out opportunities to speak out against racism. I have acquired a new vocabulary and terminology I did not previously know.
I am developing the skill of attentive listening. This will provide me with a deeper sensitivity, respect, and appreciation of experiences and feelings expressed by POC. They know what I do not, because it is personal. Also, to ask questions and not be afraid to have conversations about racism. To Step Up and Speak Out.”
Degrees of separation. “I knew that the institution of slavery was evil, cruel, and immoral. The wealth of this nation was built by those who were enslaved. What I learned is the degree to which African Americans are denied for centuries any access and benefits to the wealth that benefited white people. The United States government maintained “white supremacy” through creating new forms of slavery embedded in language and laws. Slavery took new names: Sharecropping, Jim Crow Laws, Separate but Equal, Desegregation, Civil Rights violations, The War against Drugs, White Backlash, Mass Incarceration, and Police Brutality.”
Two of the many quotes which impacted me:
“Fear is one of the dominant emotions of the black experience”Jim Coates
“Until all people are free, no one is free.”Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Future plans. “I am motivated to continue to learn, read, and actively promote Anti-racism. I will read the book The Pupil of the Eye, and reread The Advent of Divine Justice by Shoghi Effendi. I plan to actively create opportunities to discuss the concepts I have learned in this course, and advocate Black Lives Matter!“
FAR FROM FAIR
White people are called “fair”
for the color of our skin—
But we do not deserve,
the term of being fair.
FAIR-ness means Justice, Equality for all.
“The Declaration of Independence”
penned by Founding Fathers
for white males only.
Elite gentry, “owners” of property
that was not theirs to claim—
Land stolen from Native Americans,
whom whites dehumanized
as “red-skinned savages.”
White male colonists were definitely not fair.
they bought and sold,
chained ebony bodies,
on auction blocks like cattle,
treated as chattel.
Systemic slavery, white-armed
whips, barbed with brutality
White men moving even further from fair.
White men reigned from
thrones of white supremacy;
Deciding who mattered—
Not people of color, not women,
not illiterate or poor.
Corrupting the Scriptures
to ease their consciences,
worshipped the Golden Calf of Greed,
the devil they called” Divine Destiny.”
White moral code word for elevating Unfair.
White men convinced themselves of being “The Chosen Fair.”
To ease their inner darkness,
white men ratified
the law of three-fifths
as if you could divide
a body from its soul-born
Oneness with God.
Abdu’l Bahá Himself described
that Black is the color and the
“Pupil of the Eye”
Whites cannot see what is NOT fair.
The wounds of the lash, still scar
generations of those wronged—
Jesus wept tears of blood,
Bound by fetters, cruelly crucified…
The slaveowner’s soul
shrivels, like a raisin in the sun
White men decry the ethos of fair.
When the Civil War was done,
the enslaved declared “set free,”
40 acres and a mule,
no harness or plow,
nor seeds to plant the soil.
Working the cotton-picking fields,
Slavery became “sharecropping”
White wealth, neither shared nor fair.
Slavery morphed into poverty,
as Negroes escaped to cities North;
But red-line real estate and trickery,
“whites only home-ownership”
Others need not apply,
and they will be denied.
Blacks are still NOT treated fair.
Slavery morphed into poverty,
white people’s wealthy privilege
increased at Blacks’ expense.
Jim Crow laws ratified, to keep
the “darkies” in their place.
White wealth is definitely not fair.
Cycle of the status quo—
treachery of “separate but equal.”
Voices shouted to rally for reason,
MLK and JFK, to fight for Civil Rights.
But fair-skinned folks fought dirty,
unleashed dogs, batons and fire hoses.
White people do not fight fair.
JFK silenced, assassinated, then MLK.
Bobby Kennedy was next (I remember all)
Malcolm X responded, Black Panthers
terrified the whites; KKK lynching
“strange fruit” hanging from the trees.
Even today, People of Color—
Still They Can Not Breathe.
White Backlash—how strange
the choice of language—
whites the ones wielding
the lash against Black backs!
Both whites and blacks bleed RED blood
Lip service paid daily in schools
the pledge of allegiance.
As a substitute teacher,
I would substitute the words:
“with liberty, Injustice, for all”
as my own spoken protest.
Past and present, whites are far from fair
But at last awareness wakens
in 2020 crisis, demand accountability;
white allies join support with
Black Brothers and Sisters—
Peaceful protests against BLUE brutality.
WE CAN’T BREATHE!
ALL people need to breathe!
SAY THEIR NAMES!
BLACK LIVES MATTER!
BLACK LIVES MATTER!
Susan T. Bailey
September 2, 2020