“The Devil marched Ness and Sam back to hell. Once they got there, all of the slaves were called out to the whipping post. He stripped them both bare, tied Sam so tight he couldn’t even wiggle his fingers, and made him watch as Ness earned the stripes that would make her too ugly to work in a house ever again. By the end of it, Ness was on the ground, dust covering her sores. She could not lift her head so the Devil lifted it for her. He made her watch. He made them all watch: the rope come out, the tree branch bend, the head snap free from the body.”
In her novel Homegoing Alabama raised author Yaa Gyasi doesn’t just weave a collection of generational stories she kicks the door wide open to show all the dark corners and ugly crevices of our past and the atrocities against humanity, the courage, and the will that brought us where we are today. The atrocities committed in this country in the name of white supremacy and Christianity, in particularly in the South did not end with slavery, they continued with the convict lease program used by top industries in Southern states. Black men were arrested for things like eavesdropping, gambling, jaywalking and then forced for 10 to 20 years to work the coal mines on a chain gang when they were unable to pay the $5 court fee, though many died well before their sentence was up. They were beat with whips, picks, and shot on spot if the overseer saw fit. The constitutional basis for convict leasing is that in 1865 the Thirteenth Amendment, while abolishing slavery and involuntary servitude generally, permits it as a punishment for crime. In his book Slavery and the Penal System Thorsten Sellin wrote that the sole aim of convict leasing “was financial profit to the lessees who exploited the labor of the prisoners to the fullest, and to the government which sold the convicts to the lessees.” The practice became widespread and was used to supply labor to farming, railroad, mining, and logging operations throughout the South. In Alabama convict leasing began in 1846 and was formally outlawed in 1928, although evidence shows it persisted until 1941. The revenues derived from convict leasing in Alabama were substantial, accounting for roughly 10 percent of total state revenue in 1883 and surging to nearly 73 percent by 1898.
Meanwhile across the sea in 1933 Hitler took over in Germany and over the course of 7 years would take away the human rights of the Jewish people. In 1940 he began putting Jewish people in concentration camps, committing genocide on an entire sector of people based on the belief that Jews were evil and white Christians were superior. And even today crimes against humanity continue to happen in the world because one sector of humans believes they are better than another.
The reason I bring these topics up is because I want you to remember that these atrocities happened and they didn’t just happen overnight. They began with a thought that certain people are superior to others. They began not with heinous acts against human beings but with the simplicity of a single thought flowing through the brain like a drop of poison. And poison doesn’t just flow through the brain it feeds on fear and hate and soon it flows out of the tongue and soon it flows into actions. Poison becomes words touting fear and hate yet veiled in scripture. Poison says things like, “Black people keep themselves in a cycle of poverty.” “We need to get our white women and men to have more babies because we must remain the superior race.” “You know what makes Cullman so great, there’s no n******.” “I can’t stand f****** Jews.” “You know that type female – the ones who are career driven and want to act like men.” “I don’t think a woman should be president because of the Bible.” “Homos are going to hell.” “I don’t want their kind at our school.” “They (Mexicans) are in our country and they are killing our people.” “They (Mexicans) are bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.” “You have to treat ’em (women) like shit.” “Laziness is a trait in blacks. It really is, I believe that.”
For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him. – Matthew 7:17-18
These are all statements I have heard come out of the mouths of white men and these are some of the more tame ones. See I’ve been to your wine dinners, your backyard barbecues, your tailgates, your monochromatic board meetings and have heard these comments said without reservation or remorse. The last four comments were made by the Republican nominee for President of the United States of America. A nominee who not only makes racist comments but who has degraded women throughout his life, who has been accused of sexually assaulting women. A nominee who considers women inferior. Even Republican First Lady Barbara Bush says, “I don’t know how women can vote for Trump.”
You’ve got to stand for something or you will fall for anything.
We have watched as many Republicans have stood up and said ‘No’ to Trump. I thought we might see church leaders across the country stand up and say ‘No’ to his hubris, ‘No’ to his greed, ‘No’ to his meanness, ‘No’ to his name calling, ‘No’ to his racism, and ‘No’ to his fear, but we have not. Traditional church membership drops year after year and instead of standing up for the sake of our children and seizing this opportunity to evolve and let go of old ways that do not serve love and peace, church leaders are either silent or have jumped on the Trump bandwagon. A man whose ways Jesus Christ preached against. In the Bible Trump would be compared to Herod, in It’s a Wonderful Life he’s Potter, in The Jungle Book he’s Shere Khan, and he’s Biff in Back To The Future, he’s the guy we are taught in literature, plays, movies, and the Bible not to be like, not to admire. Yet here he stands as the Presidential nominee for a major party in our United States, a shallow demagogue with no experience and no real plans.
I will stand for something for the sake of our children and our children’s children. I will stand for the men and women who suffered and fought and died against oppression and who continue to suffer and fight and die for equality and freedom. I will turn away and not follow the pied piper whistling his poison. I will not vote for poison because I know what poison does and I will not rationalize why poison is okay. I know that each time you choose hubris, greed, meanness, gossip, fear or hate you loose a piece of your soul and from there you have to find a way back to that place of kindness and peace, and if you don’t, if you continue to choose hubris, greed, fear and hate, your heart will eventually be drenched in poison. I know the atrocities poison can bring against human beings, human beings with different skin color, human beings of different gender, human beings with hopes and dreams and hearts and souls – and I will not vote for poison. #imwithher