Archive for May, 2008


Friday, May 30th, 2008

On the other side of the coin is a view that argues that race is the most important category for human identity.

One major supporter of this view is Sang Hyun Lee, Professor of Systematic Theology and Director of the Asian American Program at Princeton Theological Seminary. He calls this racial/cultural separatism “marginality.” The whole ideal of marginality relates to all minority groups–ethnic and racial who are experiencing some form of exclusion in a dominant culture. One’s marginality is understood as resistance from a minority group in a hierarchial relationship with another dominant group toward this dominant group. Likewise the nonmarginal/dominant group seeks to resist the marginal group’s entrance to the group and enjoyment of its privileges. Sang Lee sees this resistance as being inevitable.


Thursday, May 29th, 2008

Some white Americans argue that race is an irrelevant category. Americans make decisions according to class, gender, socio-economic standing–but not race. They say that race is an insignificant category. And, in the long run, worth ignoring. Many white Christians support this position. They argue that the only legitimate categories are “Christian” or “non-Christian.” To judge or to evaluate the efficacy of human relationships according to any other category–like race or class–is wrong.


Wednesday, May 28th, 2008

Slavery, confusion about race-mixing, Jim Crow laws, the Great Migration, the New Deal, the positive liberal state–they all conspired together to create a black fury that resides in many African-American hearts. White American Christianity often fanned the flames. Conversion introduced the slave to a gospel of freedom that contradicted the gospel of slavery. The egalitarian implications of Christian fellowship cooled white fervency toward the conversion of blacks.


Monday, May 26th, 2008

Did African-Americans form a class identity? In other words, did African-Americans grow angry with American society because they were poor or because they are black? African-Americans have never formed a class identity. In the 1920’s, in places like Chicago, white labor was still controlled by ethnic groups, and even though ethnicity was being challenged by mass culture, African-Americans remained isolated from the normal forces of class formation–industrialization and labor–because of racism. In fact, the only institutions that thrived in the African-American community were the segregated ones (like the church).


Friday, May 23rd, 2008

Slaves were brought to America primarily as agricultural workers (in the South) and in the cities as laborers and house servants (in the North). After the American Revolution, the invention of the cotton gin increased the need for slaves. Before 1900 the African-American urban population grew very slowly, if at all, as European immigrants filled the need for unskilled labor. In the urban setting African-Americans were in competition with immigrants for jobs and opportunities. This competition explained why there was often friction between African-Americans and other urban immigrant groups for most of American history.


Thursday, May 22nd, 2008

A new type of Negro is evolving-a city Negro. He is being evolved out of those strangely divergent elements of the general background. And this is a fact overlooked by those students of human behavior . . .In ten years, Negroes have been actually transported from one culture to another.
–Charles S. Johnson, 1925



Wednesday, May 21st, 2008

Slavery invited slave resistance. After the Great Migration and its disappointment resistance gave way to frustrated anger. Langston Hughes and Jacob Lawrence and millions of African-Americans saw the Great Migration as an epic struggle of injustice, strife, change, and even beauty. These men and women described their hopes for something better. The African-American community embraced this vision. Believed in this vision. Shared this vision with their children. One can well imagine the degree of disappointment the African-American community experienced when in fact the North–while it offered more legal protection for African-American Americans–did not offer African-Americans a sanctuary from racism. The Great Migration had not brought equality and justice.

After the civil right movement, Martin Luther King’s efforts, the Black Panthers, and thirty years since the 1960 race riots there still was essentially two Americas. The failure of the Great Migration made the African-American agenda more concerned with power issues. After the Great Migration American racial relations became a history of movement–not progress.

The northern city remained the point of destination for most African-Americans. But, as we shall see in the next chapter, the city was not kind to African-Americans. The failure of African-Americans to prosper in the northern city assured the failure of the Great Migration and was more evidence that white domination was still very much alive in America.


Tuesday, May 20th, 2008

For many African-Americans, the years after the Civil War were very much like the years before the Civil War. While they were legally free, economically and socially they were still in bondage. “Jim Crow” laws made sure of this. The demon of racism manifested itself now in unjust laws promulgated by white governments to maintain its hegemony over its African-American population.

A sort of African-American revolution occurred in the early twentieth century when millions of African-Americans migrated to northern cities. The so-called Great Migration is one of the most puissant images of African-American resistance to racism. As surely as the Puritans left England to form a New Jerusalem in North America many African-Americans left Alabama, Mississippi, and Arkansas to seek out a New Israel in Detroit, Chicago, and Boston. The Great Migration was the greatest transfer of a population group in world history. In the sense that African-Americans were leaving a place of unhappy circumstances to seek a better life elsewhere, it was also one of the greatest protest movements in world history.


Monday, May 19th, 2008

There are two of them . . . Uncle Buck and Uncle Buddy . . . They lived in a two-room log house with about a dozen dogs, and they kept the niggers in the manor house. It don’t have any windows now and a child with a hairpin could unlock any lock in it, but every night when the niggers come up from the fields Uncle Buck or Uncle Buddy would drive them into the house and lock the door with a key almost as big as a horse pistol; probably they would still be locking the front door long after the last nigger has escaped out the back. And folks said that Uncle Buck and Uncle Buddy knew this and that the niggers knew that they knew it . . .

Most white masters–like William Faulkner’s Uncle Buck and Uncle Buddy–knew that slaves were resisting their enslavement. Therefore, slaves had to be controlled, to be managed. White masters created slave dependence upon their owners. The demon of white privilege lodged itself well into the institution of slavery.


Friday, May 16th, 2008


The most grievous historical metaphor for the African-American community is chattel slavery. It is the quintessential image of the apparent triumph of white racism in the American civilization. This unhappy time captures the African-American heart as strongly as the Egyptian bondage motif captures the Old Testament community. Slavery presented African-American Americans with a disconcerting contradiction: legally they were defined as property; but, at the same time, they were called upon to act in sentient, articulate, and human ways.

Within the context of chattel slavery, the African-American community created patterns of resistance that remain today. Resistance–not accommodation, not abdication–was the behavioral outcome of three hundred years of white American prejudice. This resistance was usually passive but occasionally violent. This pattern was repeated in one form or another throughout American history.