Mark Wingfield recently wrote an article reporting on the defeat of a Black pastor who had served for 17 years on a public school board in Houston. The defeat was orchestrated by right-wing white parents opposed to Critical Race Theory and intersectionality (although there is no evidence that public high schools are teaching Critical Race Theory or intersectionality).
We have not seen the end of the behavior reported about. Sadly, many white right-wing opponents to public education claim to be followers of Jesus.
Nicholas Clairmont said, “Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it.” That quote is most likely borrowed from writer and philosopher George Santayana, who originally wrote, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Respectfully, Santayana and Clairmont did not account for another reality. Some people remember the past and are determined to revive it.
The white supremacist offensive against justice and truth has been going on for 400 years in North America. At every turn, it has been conducted by people who claim to be followers of Jesus. Long before 1860, white supremacists who claimed to be followers of Jesus settled frontier areas of North America with that vision in mind.
Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone went to the Republic of Texas and died at the Alamo because they, like others, wanted Texas to become a slave-holding enclave. Kurt Vonnegut alluded to this in his last book, titled A Man Without A Country, in these words:
What made Mexico so evil back in the 1840s, well before our Civil War, is that slavery was illegal there. Remember the Alamo? With that war we were making California our own, and a lot of other people and properties, and doing it as though butchering Mexican soldiers who were only defending their homeland against invaders wasn’t murder. What other stuff besides California? Well, Texas, Utah, Nevada, Arizona and parts of New Mexico, Colorado, and Wyoming.
White slaveholders who claimed to be followers of Jesus set up Baylor University in 1845. White slaveholders who claimed to be followers of Jesus set up the Southern Baptist Convention the same year. In 1846, President James Polk declared war on Mexico by falsely claiming that Mexican forces had attacked U.S. soldiers on American soil. The truth was that the U.S. soldiers had invaded Mexican land. The Mexican–American War lasted two years, until 1848, and was later declared by Ulysses S. Grant, who served in that war, “one of the most unjust waged by a stronger against a weaker nation.”
White slaveholders who claimed to be followers of Jesus seceded from the United States to create the Confederate States of America. White slaveholders who claimed to be followers of Jesus attacked Fort Sumter in South Carolina to begin the Civil War. They did so because they were determined not merely to keep the evil system of enslaving Black people; they wanted to set up a slavocracy in North America.
After their Civil War effort ended in defeat, white supremacists who claimed to be followers of Jesus terrorized formerly enslaved Black people across the South at every opportunity. Their politicians deliberately conditioned their support for Rutherford B. Hayes in 1876 in a pledge from him to remove federal troops from the South, where they protected formerly enslaved people from re-enslavement and terrorism.
“White supremacists who claimed to be followers of Jesus …”
White supremacists who claimed to be followers of Jesus carried out acts of domestic terrorism against Black people and white people who believed in justice and inclusion following the Reconstruction Era.
White supremacist justices on the U.S. Supreme Court perverted the promise of equal justice under law guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment in court decisions culminating in the notorious decision of Plessy v. Ferguson in 1896 that upheld Jim Crow segregation in interstate transportation.
In 1898, white supremacists who claimed to be followers of Jesus carried out a murderous political coup in Wilmington, N.C., which David Zucchino documented in Wilmington’s Lie, which won the 2021 Pulitzer Prize for nonfiction.
White supremacists who claimed to be followers of Jesus lynched Black men, women and children in broad daylight. The Red Summer of 1919 and massacres of Black people across the nation were carried out by white supremacists who claimed to be followers of Jesus.
White supremacists who claimed to be followers of Jesus served as prosecutors, law enforcement officers, judges and jurors in legal proceedings to exonerate white perpetrators of those murders.
White supremacists who claimed to be followers of Jesus served as pastors and religious educators in churches, colleges and divinity schools where white supremacy and its violence was sacralized.
After the Supreme Court overturned racial segregation in public education by its 1954 decision in Brown v. Board of Education, white supremacists who claimed to be followers of Jesus openly defied court rulings. White supremacists who claimed to be followers of Jesus took over boards of education and kept racially segregated public education, and the funding and other resource disparities associated with it.
White supremacist attacks on justice and inclusion took on more intensity after Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which outlawed racial segregation in public education, public accommodations and public transportation, and after passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
“These events did not happen because people failed to remember history.”
After Richard Nixon was elected president in 1968, white supremacists who claimed to be followers of Jesus began what has become a decades-long effort to take over the federal and state courts. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s refusal to allow former U.S. Circuit Judge Merrick Garland to have a confirmation hearing after former President Barack Obama nominated Garland to succeed former Justice Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court was part of that effort. The effort culminated with the election of former President Donald Trump, who McConnell aided in placing Justices Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett on the Supreme Court.
These events did not happen because people failed to remember history. They happened because white supremacists who claim to be followers of Jesus want to revive and substitute slavocracy for democracy. Their attacks on Critical Race Theory and intersectionality are part of that effort.
They are the faces and voices of hateful faith. Their hateful faith threatens the United States and the rest of the world. To ignore that threat or misconstrue it as being caused by failure to remember history is not a mistake. It is a delusion.
Wendell Griffen is an Arkansas circuit judge and pastor of New Millennium Church in Little Rock, Ark.
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