This is a long one, minions, you might want to wait until you get home from work to slog through it…
Some days there is no place to run. Early this morning I get an email from Uncle G with this speech of in it:
Remarks for Senator Barack Obama
University of Texas Brownsville
Friday, February 29, 2008
I’d like to begin with a prayer.
It comes to us from Jeremiah 29,
when the prophet sent out a letter to those exiled from Jerusalem to Babylon.
It was a time of uncertainty, and a time of despair. But the
prophet Jeremiah told them to banish their fear – that though they were
scattered, and though they felt lost, God had not left them.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” the Lord revealed to Jeremiah, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a
God had a plan for His people. That was the truth that Jeremiah grasped – the creed that brought comfort to the exiles – that faith is not just a pathway to personal redemption, but a force that can bind us together
and lift us up as a community.
It’s a lesson I learned more than two decades ago, when I went to work as a community organizer with a group of Christian churches in Chicago, fighting poverty in the shadows of a shuttered steel plant.
It wasn’t easy. Sometimes the road ahead seemed too long or hard to tread. There were setbacks and false starts, and moments whenour commitment was tested. But we never gave up. Day in and day out, we provided
job training for the jobless, and after-school programs to keep kids off the
streets, and block by block, we turned those neighborhoods around.
And as I was meeting with leaders and lay people in the churches,
and trying to get them organized, I found that I recognized a part of myself in them. And I think they recognized a part of themselves in me. They saw that I knew Scripture, and that many of the values I held and that propelled me in my work were values that they shared. But I suspect they also sensed that a part of me remained removed and detached, that I was an observer in their midst. And slowly, I came to recognize that something was missing in me as well.
You see, I wasn’t raised in a particularly religious household. My
father, who came to this country from Kenya, was agnostic, and he left when I was two. My mother was from Kansas, and though she was a deeply spiritual person, she wasn’t all that religious in the way most folks use the term. And my mother’s parents, who raised me throughout much of my childhood, were non-practicing Methodists and Baptists. So I had no anchor for my beliefs, no commitment to a particular community of faith.
And I think some of the pastors I was meeting with started to sense this. They began saying to me,“If you’re organizing churches, it might help if you actually went to church once in a while.” And I figured they had a point.
So one Sunday, I woke up at 6 a.m., brushed the lint off the only suit I owned, and went over to Trinity United Church of Christ on 95th Street on the South Side of Chicago. And I heard a sermon about the audacity of hope. And during the course of that sermon, I was introduced to someone named Jesus Christ. I learned that my sins could be redeemed and that if I placed my trust in Christ, He could set me on the path to eternal life.
And it was because of these newfound understandings that I was finally able to walk down the aisle of Trinity one day and be baptized. It came about as a choice, not an epiphany. The questions I had didn’t magically disappear. The skeptical bent of my mind didn’t suddenly vanish. But kneeling beneath that cross, I heard God’s spirit beckoning me. I
submitted myself to His will, and I dedicated myself to discovering His truth,and carrying out His works.
But my journey is not unique. The calling I heard – a calling to apply the values of my faith to the problems of our society – is one that’s been heard through the ages. It’s what led a predecessor church from my own denomination, the United Church of Christ, to inspire the Boston Tea Party and help bring an Empire to its knees.
It’s what led men and women of faith to take up the banner of abolitionism and purge the stain of slavery from the soul of this nation. It’s what led young men and women, clear-eyed and straight-backed, to board
buses heading South, to sit in for equality, and stand up for justice, and march from Selma to Montgomery in freedom’s cause.
It’s what connects Dr. Martin Luther King to those of you who’ve traveled so far to be here today –the belief that our values should be expressed not just through our families,our communities, and our churches, but through our government. Because the challenges we face today are not simply technical problems in search of the perfect ten-point plan. They are moral problems, rooted in both societal indifference and individual callousness – in the imperfections of man.
And so long as we’re not doing everything in our individual and
collective power to solve them, the conscience of our nation cannot
Our conscience cannot rest so long as there are folks being
called the “working poor” – if you’re working, you shouldn’t be poor in the
United States of America. We need to ease the tax burden on working families,seniors, and struggling homeowners, and crack down on the predatory lenders who are tricking families into buying homes they can’t afford. That offends our conscience, and it shouldn’t be tolerated in this country we love.
Our conscience cannot rest so long as schools from East L.A. to
West Chicago to Brownsville are crumbling or overcrowded or underfunded, so long as Hispanics are more likely to leave school than any other Americans. Because when our children aren’t getting the world-class education they need to reach for their dreams and compete in our economy, that’s not just a Hispanic problem– it’s an American problem.
It’s time for real education reform in this country. We need to reform No Child Left Behind and make sure the money isn’t left behind. We need to make college affordable. And we need to give teachers more pay and support, and recruit them to come teach in places like Brownsville. And until we do, our conscience cannot rest.
Our conscience cannot rest so long as there are 12 million undocumented immigrants living as second-class citizens in the United States of America. Do we not remember that we were all strangers in the land of Egypt?
Now, I understand the very real concerns of Americans who are worried about illegal immigration not because they’re racist or xenophobic, but because they fear it will result in lower wages when they’re already struggling to raise their families. But what I refuse to accept is the rising current of distrust and evenhate that’s being directed not just at immigrants, but at all Hispanics. We are – each of us – children of God, and the Bible tells us to love all of our neighbors, no matter where we come from or what documents we have.
Yes, we are a nation of laws, but we are also a nation of immigrants, and there is no reason we can’t reconcile those traditions. And until we do – until we not only secure our borders, but give every undocumented
immigrant who’s otherwise playing by the rules a chance to earn their
citizenship by paying a fine and waiting in line behind those who came here
legally – until we fix our broken immigrations system, our conscience cannotrest.
But understand, if we are to meet these challenges –if we are to ease the conscience of our nation – government alone is not enough. We must reclaim in every corner of this country the lesson I learned on the
streets of Chicago, the parable you preach to your congregations – that I am my brother’s keeper, I am my sister’s keeper, and that what’s beyond our grasp alone is within our reach together.
There are those who say we cannot do this, that the divisions of race, religion, and party run too deep in this country, and cannot be overcome. But I reject this. Because whenever I hear folks talk about the “brown-black” divide, I remember my days as a community organizer, when I brought African Americans and Hispanics together to fight a rising drop-out rate in our schools. I remember my days as a civil rights lawyer, when I worked with my Hispanic brothers and sisters to protect our voting rights. And I remember May Day 2006, when I marched shoulder-to-shoulder
with the Hispanic community to stand up for comprehensive immigration
Whenever I hear folks talk about how we can’t come together as Protestants, Catholics and Jews, believers and non-believers alike, I think
about the evangelicals I know who may not agree with progressives on every issue, but agree that poverty has no place in a world of plenty, that hate has no place in the hearts of believers, and that we all have an obligation to be good stewards of God’s creation.
Whenever I hear folks say that Republicans and Democrats can’t come together around a common purpose, I look to the work that Hispanic evangelicals like you are doing to mobilize voices in Congress for comprehensive immigration reform.
And whenever I hear stories about Americans who feel like no one’s looking out for them, like they’ve been left behind, I’m reminded that God has a plan for his people.
God has a plan for the father who goes to work before dawn, and lies awake at night wondering how he’s going to provide health care for a daughter who’s ill.
God has a plan for the boy who’s watched his parents hauled off in an immigration raid.
God has a plan for all those men and women serving tour after tour after tour in a war that should have never been authorized and never been waged.
God has a plan for hispeople. But it’s a plan He’s left to us to fulfill.
So I’m asking you to walk with me, and march with me, and pray with me. And if we can do that, if we can reach for the America we believe in; if we can stand strong, even when it’s not easy, even when it’s hard; if we can overcome what might divide us and embrace a common destiny, then I believe we’ll not only be easing the conscience of our nation, we’ll not only be caring for our own souls, we’ll be fulfilling God’s plan here on Earth. Thank you.
It started off my day pretty well. While I’m not a practicing member of any religion I have seen what churches can do to lift up and change a community when they start focusing more on what’s outside their coffers than inside, so I applaud his goals. Then I go over to the Field Negro’s blog for my daily hit of reality and get bitch slapped by some idiot from Cincinnati. If you’ve got a minute, check out the comments section. I haven’t commented yet because I feel the need to wait until my blood pressure has come back down from the stratosphere and my head is not filled with vile name-calling. I refuse to link to her. She gets no hits from me. Here it is:
Back in 2001 I had my political awakening to race-card politics
duly blogged under the heading “Is This White Woman Racist and Does She Really Fucking Care”. This was in response to the so-called Cincinnati riots. (Here is the local media’s politically correct distortion of the
events, and here is the correct assessment.) As I review those early
posts I can trace my journey from someone who had absolutely no issues with any race or ethnicity to my present views on racism.
As a pre-teen, I was not a participant in any civil rights movement, wasn’t particularly aware of it, but never had any perception of blacks as inferior. I think what frightened me most, as I remember, was associating poverty with blacks. My mother, born shortly after her parents immigrated from Yugoslavia, was thrust into an orphanage at a young age and her dire tales of want and hardships chilled me as a child, leaving me far more wary of that particular condition, no matter what color skin bore witness to it.
It actually is very hard for me to think in terms of ethnicity. I have never felt need to make claim to my Romanian-Serbian roots nor lament the plight of my gypsy kin in Transylvania. My daddy grabbed his American name from a billboard and proceeded to move himself steadily up the economic ladder.
By the time I was born, he had turned his allotment of rags into riches, and I was, quite frankly, a spoiled little rich girl, without the attendant social status. I felt we had much in common with the Beverly Hillbillies. My dad may have known how to make a buck, but uneducated white men who sold cars for a living didn’t get much respect in the wealthy neighborhood I grew up in. And my dad, an independent cuss, could not have cared less. But there was never a moment in my life that I defined myself, or others, according to blood, skin or lineage.
Black men worked for my father at the dealership. He also hired them to cut our grass and paint our home. There wasn’t a disparaging word uttered by my parents. They were treated like any other contractor that came to the house.
I do have vague memories of the Cincinnati riots in 1966. Those were actual riots. I remember my dad getting the gun out of the safe. In retrospect, our neighborhood was so far from Cincinnati center that the likelihood of anyone driving out to do us rich folks harm was minimal. But he didn’t talk about shooting “niggers”. The word wasn’t in the home and my guess is he would have gotten the gun out no matter what race was having a riot.
But here’s the rub. It isn’t about civil rights anymore. It’s about victimhood. It’s not about equality. It’s about extortion. It’s not about unity. It’s about vengeance and pay back. Obama dresses it up with flourishes of pompous rhetoric and spices it with the incense of mysticism but it’s the same ole same ole race, entitlement and “justice” rhetoric that constituted “dialog” during the riots here in 2001..."
As a descendant of enslaved Africans and of English and Portuguese immigrants I find her premise ignorant and her blog insulting. I can tell you about a woman desperate to give her children something better in life and uprooting herself to come to America, learn a new language and wade through years of red tape to become a citizen. I can tell you of how hard she studied and how proud and grateful her family is of her. I can also tell you of a woman working the fields of the sea islands of South Carolina and raising her son to believe in himself and his own worth and not let anyone else, even his ‘master’ decide that worth for him. I can tell you that belief was handed down in my family and is part of the reason we take pride in owning part of the land where we were once ‘owned’.
I believe in family, community and country. Yes, I believe in this country and her citizens, as hard as it is sometimes. I believe in hard work for my self and my community. I believe in creating a future for the generations behind me and honoring the sacrifices of the ones that came before. History must be studied and learned from so that it is not repeated. I hope that at some point I’ll be able to explain to her the difference between coming to a country in hope and in chains, but until that time I’ll stay away from her blog because right now she’s shaking my belief in everything both sides of my family sweat and bled for and all I want to tell her is to kiss my ass.