Summarizing the familiar patterns of some white people’s responses to racial discomfort as White Fragility has resonated for many people that responded to last week’s column.
The sensibility is so familiar because whereas our personal narratives vary, we are all swimming in the same racial water.
Dr. Wade Nobles, an Oakland psychologist, uses fish as a metaphor of the slave trade in which Western man is depicted as a saltwater fish and Eastern man (Africans) is a freshwater fish that is captured and forced to swim in an alien saltwater culture. The fish can swim but the salt irritates their sensibilities and reddens their eyes.
The salty water represents W.A.S.P/Individualism.
However, African Americans and all nonwhite folks are fresh-water fish whose vision has been irritated by the salt because they have been forced to adapt.
The Right Rev. Eugene Taylor Sutton, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland, testified at Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee’s committee at the same hearing as filmmaker and seminarian Katrina Browne in June.
Sutton addressed the theological, political and economic complexity and intersectionality of the morality of reparations.
Sutton said Americans should avoid quick emotional responses to the word ‘reparations,’ because it could divide us and create resentment and suspicion.
He said just the term reparations accentuates the pains of the inherited mess of slavery that has long plagued this country.
There was an ominous judgment day tone to his words when he said, “None of us caused this brokenness, but all of us have a moral responsibility to fix it.
“For generations the bodies of Black people did not belong to themselves but were bred, used and sold for the purpose of attaining wealth. Our nation prospered from that evil, and many of our institutions- including, sadly, the church, profited as well.
Sutton told Congress that moral leaders must be committed to repairing our “broken foundation.”
The economic and theological questions intersect, and Browne lived in a house on the corner of Seminary Avenue and Ill-Gotten Gain$ Boulevard (pun intended).
While theologians debate the moral issues of right and wrong and while they rhetorically ask, “What must I do to be saved?” I will focus on the economic, political and legal issues of reparations as I have for the past 30 years.
As the great writer Victor Hugo said, “Nothing is as powerful as an idea whose time has come.” The reparations issue is “woke,” and the time has come to examine the founding documents down the streets of government from Ms. Browne’s childhood lemonade stand.
While the whole world watches, my city of Oakland is again in the vanguard of the fight for justice and equity with its newly formed Department of Race and Equity. That new department is under the supervision of the city administrator and the mayor with the limitations of the budget and finances.
Oaktown, the seat of the Alameda County government, is the cultural hub of several ethnic and racial groups that seek the review and removal of some of the past actions of government and private cultural entities…
Unlike the early debates over the definition of “Black Power” in 1966, which often excluded whites, the reparations debate is open to all Americans.
Reparations is a struggle for the “Soul” of our beloved nation.
It is ‘all-hands-on-deck’ time.
It’s ‘repair the ship of state’ time.
Its reform and discard institutions time.
Let us think nationally but act locally to examine our local governments to find the hidden obstacles.