LOW-COUNTRY CADENCES: Dr. King spoke that language too!

WEDNESDAY, JULY 1, 2015

Part 3—An electrifying event:
In our view, the pushback came remarkably fast when the families in Charleston spoke about love and forgiveness.

The pushback came from the up-country gurus who have been leaving us barefoot and clueless over the past several decades. The condescension was fast and familiar concerning the low-country rubes.

Our “cable left” didn’t seem pleased with the things the families had said. In some ways, we thought Professor Butler’s statement to Chris Hayes was most notable of all:

“The problem is, love and forgiveness are not productive in American politics. That`s not how social change is achieved. You know, you could do it through organizing, you could do it through electoral politics, you could take it to the streets, but being nice in the face of white supremacy does not advance racial justice.”

We were surprised when we saw Professor Butler make that statement. For one thing, we’ve read Dr. King. Beyond that, we’re so old that we can remember the twentieth century—the century of Gandhi, King and Mandela.

It was plain that Professor Butler was very upset last week. There’s no obvious reason why he shouldn’t have been upset.

Still, as giants of cable and the web condescended to those families, we thought a basic point might be worth remembering:

Way back when, a famous person spoke precisely the way they spoke after the Charleston murders.

That famous person was one our greatest political achievers. It might be worth remembering this when we turn on cable each night.

We refer, of course, to Dr. King, who spoke at length about love and forgiveness throughout his ministry and his career. When the Charleston families spoke as they did, they were speaking from the tradition of Dr. King—one of the most brilliant moral and intellectual traditions the world has ever known.

Our cable savants rarely imagine the possibility that their low-country cousins may be speaking from a tradition more brilliant than their own. For that reason, it might be worth recalling Dr. King’s account of his own thinking about social change—for example, the account he gave in Stride Toward Freedom, his history of the Montgomery bus boycott.

Chapter 6 of that book is called Pilgrimage to Nonviolence. In that chapter, Dr. King described the “intellectual quest” he finally undertook in earnest when he entered Crozer Theological Seminary at age 19—“a serious intellectual quest for a method to eliminate social evil.”

No one is required to agree with the conclusions Dr. King reached. But before we condescend to those Charleston families, we might want to understand that they are speaking the language of Dr. King—one of the greatest social achievers in American and world history.

The full text of Dr. King’s chapter 6 is here. Warning! On various occasions, his purity of heart may seem embarrassing in the modern context.

That said, you’ll see this world historical figure speaking the language of love and forgiveness, just as those families did. Let’s start when his intellectual quest takes an important turn.

While at Crozer, Dr. King says, he “spent a great deal of time reading the works of the great social philosophers...from Plato and Aristotle down to Rousseau, Hobbes, Benthan, Mill and Locke.” He spends several pages describing his reactions to his reading of Marx.

“During this period I had about despaired of the power of love in solving social problems,” Dr. King writes, saying he had perhaps been influenced by Nietzsche. He then describes an electrifying event which would change his view of the world:
KING (page 96): Then one day I traveled to Philadelphia to hear a sermon by Dr. Mordecai Johnson, president of Howard University. He was there to preach for the Fellowship House of Philadelphia. Dr. Johnson had just returned from a trip to India, and to my great interest he spoke of the life and teachings of Mahatma Gandhi. His message was so profound and electrifying that I left the meeting and bought a half-dozen books on Gandhi’s life and works.

Like most people, I had heard of Gandhi, but I had never studied him seriously. As I read I became deeply fascinated by his campaigns of non-violent resistance. I was particularly moved by his Salt March to the sea and by his numerous fasts. The whole concept of “Satyagraha” was profoundly significant to me. (Satya is truth which equals love, and agraha is force. “Satyagraha,” therefore, means truth-force or love force.) As I delved deeper into the philosophy of Gandhi my skepticism concerning the power of love gradually diminished, and I came to see for the first time its potency in the area of social reform.
No one is required to agree with anything Dr. King thought or believed. That said, you’ll note that this world historical figure is speaking the language of the Charleston families.

For ourselves, we’re inclined to think their language was brilliant. As Dr. King continues, he continues to speak in those low-country cadences. He describes his own utter mistake:
DR. KING (continuing directly): Prior to reading Gandhi, I had about concluded that the ethics of Jesus were only effective in individual relationships. The “turn the other cheek” philosophy and the “love your enemies” philosophy were only valid, I felt, when individuals were in conflict with other individuals; when racial groups and nations were in conflict a more realistic approach seemed necessary. But after reading Gandhi, I saw how utterly mistaken I was.

Gandhi was probably the first person in history to lift the love ethic of Jesus above mere interaction between individuals to a powerful and effective social force on a large scale.
Love for Gandhi was a potent instrument for social and collective transformation. It was in this Gandhian emphasis on love and non-violence that I discovered the method for social reform that I had been seeking.
No one is required to agree with Dr. King’s reading of Gandhi. No one has to agree with the conclusions he drew.

We’re only suggesting that we might want to acknowledge a basic point—those Charleston families were speaking the language of this world historical giant. It’s a point you’re unlikely to see expressed on your favorite cable news channel, or in the profit-fueled piddle-poo they serve us each day at the new Salon.

We’re sorry to be the ones to say this, but Dr. King believed in what he called “the love ethic of Jesus.” He believed that Gandhi was perhaps the first person to transform that “love ethic” into “a powerful and effective social force on a large scale.”

According to Dr. King, it was in “this Gandhian emphasis on love and non-violence” that he “discovered the method for social reform” he had been seeking since his teen-age years. “I came to feel that this was the only morally and practically sound method open to oppressed people in their struggle for freedom,” he said as he continued.

Who knows? Thanks to the wisdom of cable news and the web, we may have reached the point where we can see that Dr. King was well-intentioned but hopelessly misguided.

In The Grand Inquisitor, Dostoyevsky imagined Jesus returning to earth to learn that Christians don’t want to hear his views any more. Perhaps we’ve reached a similar state with respect to Dr. King, Gandhi and Mandela. The cable insights of Rachel and Sean may have obviated our need for these once-famous figures.

For ourselves, we think there’s still a lot to learn from the views Dr. King expressed in Stride Toward Freedom. As he continued discussing his intellectual quest, he discussed some very important ideas, including his refusal to create and denigrate The Other—his explicit refusal to hate.

(“The nonviolent resister not only refuses to shoot his opponent,” Dr. King wrote, “but he also refuses to hate him. At the center of nonviolent resist stands the principle of love.”)

For ourselves, we think the rest of Dr. King’s chapter 6 includes a collection of insights which are applicable to social movements today. We’ll scan that material tomorrow.

That said, Dr. King’s views and beliefs bear little relation to the current behavior and impulses of us on the cable news left. Let’s face it! If Dr. King appeared on cable today, puzzled producers would shake their heads and vow not to have him back.

No one has to agree with Dr. King’s rejection of otherization. That said, will someone please tell our fiery leaders that their low-country cousins were swaying last week to the cadences and the language of one of the world’s greatest historical figures? One of our greatest achievers?

Tomorrow: “The nonviolent resister not only refuses to shoot his opponent, but he also refuses to hate him.”

Warning! It gets even worse after that...


Supplemental: From the Trans-Pacific Partnership to the role of race at UT!

TUESDAY, JUNE 30, 2015

Also, Bessie Jones meets Hobart Smith:
Given the way our up-country journalism works, does anyone ever understand any policy issue?

For example, could you explain the issues involved in the Trans-Pacific Partnership in any way at all? There have been very few attempts to explain what that whole thing’s about—or to explain why Obama is siding with the congressional GOP more than with his own party.

Over the weekend, we took the obvious step. We reviewed what Krugman has said about the TPP in his columns and on his blog.

Some day soon, we’ll show you what Krugman has said. (We were a bit surprised.) In the meantime, let’s admit it. None of us understands the TPP, and no one is making the slightest attempt to explain the relevant issues.

Second issue: Obamacare.

We don’t intend what follows as a criticism of President Obama. But we’re often struck by the way the liberal world seems to have settled regarding this general topic.

We’re so old that we can remember when President >Clinton tried to create a national health care program or something of that sort. No one ever understood that program either, but it seems to us that the original goal was something like “universal coverage.”

Twenty-two years later, the Supreme Court saved Obamacare’s bacon last week. That said, we still aren’t hugely close to universal coverage; we still spend two to three times as much on health care, per person, as other developed nations spend; and we watched Ezekiel Emanuel on C-Span last weekend telling a caller why the deductibles in Obamacare are so darn high.

Is it just our imagination? Or, judged on a global basis, is this a comically awful program, even after all these years?

(Some day soon, we’ll show you the Q-and-A with Emanuel.)

Third issue: affirmative action procedures at the University of Texas.

In this morning’s New York Times, Adam Liptak reports on the Supreme Court’s decision to review UT’s affirmative action admissions program again.

Liptak’s front-page report struck us as perhaps a bit propagandistic, and perhaps a bit poorly explained to boot. After reading it, we don’t even feel clear about which part of UT’s admission procedure will be under review.

In this passage, Liptak describes the current admission procedure, which has two basic parts:
LIPTAK (6/30/15): Most applicants from Texas are admitted under a part of the program that guarantees admission to top students in every high school in the state. (This is often called the Top 10 program, though the percentage cutoff can vary by year.)

The Top 10 program has produced significant racial and ethnic diversity. In 2011, for instance, 26 percent of freshmen who enrolled under the program were Hispanic, and 6 percent were black. Texas is about 38 percent Hispanic and 12 percent black.

The remaining Texas students and those from elsewhere are considered under standards that take account of academic achievement and other factors, including race and ethnicity. Many colleges and universities base all of their admissions decisions on such “holistic” grounds.
Later, Liptak describes the Top 10 program as “race-neutral,” implying that it won’t be under review. Here’s the problem:

If we understand the matter correctly, the Top 10 program was adopted in part to produce racial diversity. Among various theoretical downsides, it can have bad consequences for ambitious black kids and for diversity in Texas high schools. (In theory, it could give black kids a reason to stay in all-black high schools instead of transferring to more challenging magnet schools, where they might not end up in the top ten percent.)

We didn’t think that Liptak’s report was especially clear. For that reason, we had the analysts file “UT admission procedures” in the drawer with TPP and O-care.

Our national discourse is a daily ridiculous mess. This fact, though, may be hard to discern, given the platforms from which our journalists and our professors perform.

Those high platforms may convey the sense that the moral and political intelligence resides in Gotham and DC, not in the Carolina low country, where people talk love and forgiveness and may even lapse into Gullah.

Do yourselves a favor! Imagine the possibility that those families in Charleston may know more about various things than their condescending city-dwelling cousins, who pushed back against them last week.

Why not take a trip on that old gospel ship! For more on the so-called “Lowcountry clap,” you can examine a book from the Duke Books Scholarly Collection, Talking to the Dead: Religion, Music, and Lived Memory among Gullah/Geechee Women.

The low-country clap is explicitly mentioned. Readers, we’re just saying!

Ranging a bit further afield, our personal preference, even in music, is for so-called black and so-called white together. For that reason, we offer this link, in which the Georgia Sea Island Singers engage with Hobart Smith.

Our up-country ways may not be all that. Except when we’re doing the telling!

LOW-COUNTRY CADENCES: The families love built!

TUESDAY, JUNE 30, 2015

Part 2—Echoes of Dr. King:
In this morning’s New York Times, Alan Blinder describes the last of the Charleston funerals.

“Charleston Church Mourns One More Beloved Victim,” the headline says, employing a bit of language from Dr. King.

Myra Thompson was 59 when she was murdered. According to Blinder, “She joined [the Emanuel AME Church] when she was young, and she was long one of the church’s lay leaders.”

Governor Haley and Mayor Riley spoke at Thompson’s funeral. At one point, Blinder reports an implausible claim:
BLINDER (6/30/15): Hundreds of mourners could not attend the service in the crowded sanctuary, including some who said they arrived around 7 a.m., four hours before Ms. Thompson’s funeral was scheduled to begin. As Ms. Thompson’s coffin arrived, onlookers lifted handwritten signs that declared: “Love Wins. Every. Single. Time.”

The signs also included “#CharlestonStrong,” a refrain that has been common here since the massacre. The suspect, Dylann Roof, 21, has been charged with nine counts of murder.

“We know that an evil man came downstairs 12 days ago with hate in his heart, and this community responded with love,” Mayor Joseph P. Riley Jr. said. “He came preaching and believing in division, and he brought unity.”
For ourselves, we wouldn’t call Roof “an evil man.” We think the term confers power on someone like Roof. We think it encourages other lost souls to follow along in his wake.

That said, does love win every single time? In the literal sense, it certainly doesn’t seem to.

Last Thursday night, Professor Butler went a bit farther than that. He spoke with Chris Hayes, who thanked him for his “frank honesty:”
BUTLER (6/25/15): It goes to a larger issue, that when black people talk to white people about white supremacy, we’re supposed to be loving and forgiving. The problem is, love and forgiveness are not productive in American politics. That`s not how social change is achieved. You know, you could do it through organizing, you could do it through electoral politics, you could take it to the streets. But being nice in the face of white supremacy does not advance racial justice.
Are black people somehow supposed to be loving and forgiving when speaking in such contexts? We can’t say we observe that dynamic in our national discourse a lot.

At any rate, Professor Butler plainly doesn’t seem to think that love always wins. He specifically said that “love and forgiveness” are unproductive in our American politics.

Plainly, Professor Butler is deeply pained by the events in Charleston. That said, we were very much struck by his remark about love and forgiveness.

He was speaking as part of an instant pushback against the conduct of the Charleston families who had responded to the murders with expressions of love and forgiveness. “We are the family love built,” one of the mourners memorably said just two days after the murders.

People all over the world have responded to those families with expressions of respect which bordered on incomprehension and awe. Up north, many of our professors and journalists engaged in instant pushback.

To our ear, a fair amount of this pushback was openly condescending. It was too soon for the families to forgive, an omniscient short story writer explained in the New York Times, a paper which couldn’t run fast enough to keep condescension alive.

Some of the condescension seemed to mock the families for being too old-school churchy. Inevitably, though, it fell to the new Salon to complain about the fact that the families had spoken at all.

It’s hard to top the new Salon! Bravely fighting through her own remarkable lack of information, a fiery omniscient named Ericka Schiche heroically offered this:
SCHICHE (6/27/15): What kind of twisted criminal justice system does South Carolina have that would even encourage a family member to address a killer before a trial has even transpired? Charleston County Chief Magistrate James B. Gosnell Jr., a person who allegedly once uttered the word “n***er” in court, ought to be ashamed of himself for even exposing grieving family members to videotape of the cretinous killer standing with his back to armed guards less than 48 hours after the shootings. The looming question is: Who is protecting and advising these families which are now permanently damaged by the massacre of their loved ones in this moment of extreme shock, sorrow and bottomless dejection?
We’ll assume that Schiche is well-intentioned in some tremendously general sense. That said, she seemed to suggest that the Charleston families needed someone to make them stop talking in such ridiculous ways.

For the record, Schiche knows what everyone else should do, but she didn’t seem to know what actually happened on the day to which she refers. In the court hearing in question, the Charleston families spoke directly to Roof, who was being held in a separate location, not to videotape of this pitiful soul.

Even at the new Salon, it was amazing to see Schiche’s fact-challenged condescension thrown into print. (Her factual error stands uncorrected, except in reader comments.) At any rate, readers of the new Salon were given a perfect tribal fantasy from which to derive their tribal pleasure:

The families only spoke that way because of the racist judge!

It’s hard to top the new Salon! That said, ponder these questions:

Did those pitiful Charleston families know whereof they spoke? Had they spoken up too soon, as the omniscient Roxane Gay seemed to tell us?

Should they have been told by advisers to keep their traps shut, as the all-knowing Schiche seemed to suggest? Was this “dangerous” mess the fault of a racist judge?

To our ear, the condescension expressed by these writers is obvious and quite familiar. But in our view, Professor Butler’s statement to Hayes was the most striking pushback of all.

Plainly, Professor Butler is deeply angry about these murders; there’s no reason why he shouldn’t be. That said, is it true that “love and forgiveness are not productive in American politics?”

In their statements after the murders, the Charleston families weren’t offering theories about what works in our politics. But is it true that “love and forgiveness” don’t work?

We were struck by Professor Butler’s claim because we’ve read Dr. King. He believed that love and forgiveness constituted a powerful force in effecting social change and addressing social problems.

In 1957, Dr. King published Stride Toward Freedom, his history of the Montgomery bus boycott. In Chapter 6, Pilgrimage to Nonviolence, he described the intellectual search which led him to conclude that “nonviolent resistance was one of the most potent weapons available to oppressed people in their quest for social justice.”

The concepts of love and forgiveness are central all through the chapter and book.

Dr. King describes an anguished search, undertaken at a young age. He describes the way he found the answer to his search in Gandhi’s concept of Satyagraha, which Dr. King translates as “truth force” or “love force.”

“As I delved deeper into the philosophy of Gandhi my skepticism concerning the power of love gradually diminished,” Dr. King wrote, “and I came to see for the first time its potency in the area of reform.”

Dr. King’s entire chapter can be read here. We’re surprised anew every time we read it. Truly, it’s a remarkable document, written when this world historical figure was just 28 years old.

You can read that chapter today. Tomorrow, we’ll run through highlights of the search which led him to his ultimate belief in the power of “the love ethic of Jesus” as a tool for social change.

Warning! If you choose to read that chapter, you may perhaps be embarrassed on several occasions. Dr. King’s basic concepts are considerably out of step with the times, though much less so in the low country than in the rest of our world.

In her report on two earlier funerals, Lizette Alvarez mentioned “the syncopated ‘Lowcountry clap’” which animated the musical presentations.

Those Charleston families live with some remarkable low-country cadences. This includes their religious traditions, which are tied to a brilliant moral and intellectual regime, one which has changed the world.

To our ear, the pushback hasn’t seemed to be real aware of that fact.

Tomorrow: A remarkable search

Supplemental: Clinton “not quite as bad” as Bush!

MONDAY, JUNE 29, 2015

So says northern journalist:
Why are we inclined to support those Charleston families over our northern journalists and professors? Especially when the brilliant moral and intellectual tradition in question formed the backbone of the civil rights movement?

Consider the relentless bad judgment of our current northern intellectual guilds. Let’s start with the front-page report about Candidate Bush in today’s Washington Post.

The report concerns Candidate Bush’s allegedly shaky business history. Written by O’Harrow and Hamburger, the piece appears beneath these hard-copy headlines:
As Bush built wealth, questions arose
Legal cases involving some of GOP hopeful’s associates put his reputation at risk
The piece runs 3832 words.

Personally, we find reports of this type a bit dull. We’d rather see insightful reports about policy matters, including issues of racial justice.

That said, this is the basic nugget concerning the way the GOP hopeful has put his reputation at risk:
O’HARROW AND HAMBURGER (6/29/15): Today, as he works toward his run at the White House, Bush touts his business experience as a strength that gives him the skills and savvy to serve as the nation's chief executive. He has said he “worked my tail off” to succeed. As an announced candidate, Bush soon will be making financial disclosures that will reveal recent business successes and show a substantial increase in his wealth since he left office as Florida governor in 2007, individuals close to the candidate told The Post.

But records, lawsuits, interviews and newspaper accounts stretching back more than three decades present a picture of a man who, before he was elected Florida governor in 1998, often benefited from his family connections and repeatedly put himself in situations that raised questions about his judgment and exposed him to reputational risk.

[...]

Five of his business associates have been convicted of crimes; one remains an international fugitive on fraud charges. In each case, Bush said he had no knowledge of any wrongdoing and said some of the people he met as a businessman in Florida took advantage of his naiveté.

Bush, now 62, has said that he has learned to be more careful about vetting his associates, telling the Miami Herald during his first, failed run for Florida governor in 1994 that getting “burned a couple of times” made him “better at deciphering people's motives.”
Let’s be fair! Nothing in that passage says that Bush himself ever did anything wrong. The passage also seems to say that the business troubles it describes all occurred before 1998, when Bush was elected governor of Florida.

The passage gives that plain impression, but that impression is wrong. Several thousand words into the piece, O’Harrow and Hamburger report that Bush fell in with one of his crooks in 2008, after leaving the State House, when he joined the board of a start-up firm called InnoVida.

The head of the firm “eventually was charged with taking $40 million from investors and $10 million from a federal loan program intended to finance construction of homes in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake,” the Post reports. “He was sentenced to 12 1/2 years in prison and ordered to pay $24 million in restitution.”

The firm’s chief financial officer got a four-year sentence, according to the Post.

We’ll admit it! As we fought our way through these matters, we wondered how the corps would handle such facts if Candidate Clinton had been involved with this array of crooks.

We can’t necessarily answer that question, but it came to mind. Then, we read Jaime Fuller’s synopsis of the Post’s report at the up-country New York magazine, a pillar of the northern journalistic establishment.

As she starts, Fuller runs through the basics of the Post report. She then cites an earlier report by Jennifer Senior, a New York magazine piece which covered similar ground and produced little discussion.

According to Fuller, Senior described the InnoVida matter as Bush’s “most eyebrow-raising venture.” That’s the venture which started in 2008.

We were puzzling over the way the New York Times has broken its back inventing scandalous conduct by Candidate Clinton while saying next to nothing about matters like this. At that point, Fuller broke our hearts, fecklessly typing this:
FULLER (6/29/15): However, as Senior points out, at least one other 2016 presidential candidate has failed to win the Florida political missteps version of “Where's Waldo”—although not quite as badly as Bush.
Fuller then posts a long excerpt from Senior’s piece in which Candidate Clinton once had her picture taken with an unsavory person at a public reception.

In Fuller’s account, this means that Clinton has screwed up too, “although not quite as badly as Bush.”

Fuller’s end her piece with that utterly silly excerpt. Our question: Where in the world—where on earth—do they find these people?

In Fuller’s case, they found her post-Middlebury. She graduated four years ago, in 2011.

Today, Fuller displays the strange lack of judgment which has characterized our political reporting for lo, these disastrous years. Our advice?

Remember who you’re running with when you let these puzzling people stage their latest jihad—in this case, their jihad against the brilliant moral and intellectual values which drove the principal strand of the civil rights movement.

We’ll be discussing that jihad all week. Meanwhile:

Candidate Bush was in business with a succession of crooks. Candidate Clinton once had her photo taken.

Her conduct “wasn’t quite as bad!” Where in the world do they find these people? What makes us listen to them?

LOW-COUNTRY CADENCES: Widely rejected!

MONDAY, JUNE 29, 2015

Part 1—Big northern brains push back:
We’re not sure we’ve ever seen a more remarkable welter of pushbacks than we’ve seen in the past week.

The pushback came from Professor West, simultaneously speaking all sides of the topic on yesterday’s Reliable Sources.

(West on our cable news channels: “You’ve got MSNBC, you know, is basically Obama propaganda. You’ve got Fox News, right-wing propaganda. CNN, much more ambiguous, able to generate some insights, wrestle with some issues, like your show. But still, CNN fearful because you’ve got to deal with the profit margin. You’ve got to deal with making money.”

(Two months back, we captured Professor West kissing the ascot of his “brother” Sean Hannity as he attempted to sell his new book. Whatever! We’re just saying!)

Back to the recent pushback:

The pushback came from Professor Butler (of Georgetown), first in an angry hour with Diane Rehm, then in a somewhat puzzling segment with Chris Hayes, who praised him twice for being “frankly honest.”

Inevitably, the most pitiful form of the pushback came at the new Salon, in this jumbled essay. The pushback also came from Karen Attiah, on-line at the Washington Post.

In some ways, it seems to us that Attiah expressed the pushback most directly. It also seems to us that some of what follows doesn’t exactly make sense.

We tend to be like that up north:
ATTIAH (6/28/15): In society’s rush to fawn over how quickly and easily blacks turn to the Bible, and forgive and reconcile with those who seek to dehumanize black people, to harm black people, to destroy our sense of security at our places of worship, there is the tendency to ignore the psychological and spiritual price racial terror and white supremacy extracts from black people by striking fear into our hearts.

For black people in America, there has been a lot to feel afraid of lately. Are my family and friends at black churches safe? Can a black girl who looks like me go to a swimming party in a McKinney, Tex.? Will my brother and black male friends be safe at a “routine” traffic stop? Will my college-age friends be safe from chants of segregation and lynching from fraternity boys?

The media was filled with headlines riffing on the themes of “Grace in Charleston,” “Forgiveness in Charleston,” aiming to celebrate the capacity of black folks to forgive yet another unspeakable act of violence. We were enthralled by President Obama, the first black U.S. president, singing “Amazing Grace” during his eulogy for S.C. State Senator Rev. Clementa Pinckney, allegedly gunned down by white supremacist Dylann Roof this month at the Mother Emanuel AME church.

I admit Obama’s eulogy in South Carolina was a welcome tonic, easing, if only a little bit, the pain and weight of what happened in Charleston. But, as barely two weeks have gone by since the massacre in that church, many black folk are still hurt, angry and afraid.
Without any question, many black people are feeling hurt, angry, afraid. There’s no reason why people shouldn’t be feeling those ways.

Has there been a “tendency to ignore the psychological and spiritual price racial terror and white supremacy extracts from black people?” That could be true as well.

Beyond that, though, Attiah said that “society” “rushed to fawn” in the aftermath of the recent murders in Charleston. More specifically, she said society “rushed to fawn over how quickly and easily blacks turn to the Bible, and forgive and reconcile.”

Attiah also criticized “the media,” saying it was “filled with headlines...aiming to celebrate the capacity of black folks to forgive yet another unspeakable act of violence.” She linked to one alleged example, this analysis piece in the Atlantic. She didn’t cite the media entity for which she herself works.

(For the record, the piece to which Attiah links also cites the way Amish families forgave the killer in a 2006 mass schoolhouse shooting. The piece specifically states this point: “An individual or community’s gift of forgiveness, however, does not obviate a society’s demand for justice.”)

Attiah seemed to praise President Obama’s eulogy, failing to note that he too hailed the way those “black folks” in Charleston did what they did with respect to love and forgiveness and the affirmative refusal to hate. But so it has tended to go as this pushback has unfolded.

In our view, this pushback against the Charleston families has often been unattractive and condescending and not hugely helpful or wise. It has also been quite widespread in the past week.

We thought of this pushback when we read Andrew Sullivan’s post about Friday’s same-sex marriage decision. Sullivan has been advocating for this issue since 1989. He described the early pushback, including that which came from “much of the gay left:”
SULLIVAN (6/26/15): Those were isolating days. A young fellow named Evan Wolfson who had written a dissertation on the subject in 1983 got in touch, and the world immediately felt less lonely. Then a breakthrough in Hawaii, where the state supreme court ruled for marriage equality on gender equality grounds. No gay group had agreed to support the case, which was regarded at best as hopeless and at worst, a recipe for a massive backlash. A local straight attorney from the ACLU, Dan Foley, took it up instead, one of many straight men and women who helped make this happen. And when we won, and got our first fact on the ground, we indeed faced exactly that backlash and all the major gay rights groups refused to spend a dime on protecting the breakthrough … and we lost.

In fact, we lost and lost and lost again. Much of the gay left was deeply suspicious of this conservative-sounding reform;
two thirds of the country were opposed; the religious right saw in the issue a unique opportunity for political leverage—and over time, they put state constitutional amendments against marriage equality on the ballot in countless states, and won every time. Our allies deserted us...Those were dark, dark days.

I recall all this now simply to rebut the entire line of being “on the right side of history.” History does not have such straight lines...
Just to be clear, there is no reason why “the gay left” or any of the “the major gay rights groups” were required to support this movement, whether then or now. Marriage equality has come to be seen as a basic right by most on the left. There’s no reason why everyone had to see things that way in 1989.

Still, we thought of the pushback against the Charleston families when we read that passage. That pushback is being disguised in various ways, as is our wont up north in our journalistic and academic circles.

For the most part, we’re framing our pushback as a pushback against “society,” or more often as a pushback against “the media.” We’re hiding behind these safe targets as we secretly ridicule southern blacks for their quick, easy turn to the Bible.

In some of her phrasing, we thought Attiah made this, our actual target, more clear than others have done. Again, we’ll suggest what we suggested last week:

In the past week, Northern liberal alleged intellectuals have been pushing back against southern blacks for all their stupid Bible crap and all their love and forgiveness. It seems to us that this isn’t the greatest idea.

Full disclosure—we aren’t religious ourselves. We hold no religious or cosmological views, aside from the cosmological view that we humans have no idea who, what or where we are or what we’re doing there.

South Carolina’s church traditions don’t belong to us—but they do constitute an important part of American and world history. On balance, we think they’re being denigrated in ways which aren’t especially helpful or smart, as is our wont up here.

We northern alleged intellectuals! Last Friday, Lizette Alvarez profiled two of Charleston’s murder victims. Early on, she let a bit of the glory out.

Good for her, we said:
ALVAREZ (6/26/15): Yet in the face of profound loss, the funerals Thursday were jubilant, the overflow crowds swaying, singing and cheering, doing the syncopated “Lowcountry clap.” Speakers recalled both women as pillars of their families and their church.

The victims’ family members have drawn national attention for the grace they have shown, offering blessings, love, and even forgiveness to the man accused in the killings—an example they say was set by the people who were suddenly ripped from their lives.

One by one, Ms. Lance’s five grandchildren stood in front of the congregation at Royal Missionary Baptist Church, where her body lay before the altar in a shimmering silver gown, and praised her spirit of generosity, which they hoped would be embraced by all. One of her granddaughters said the family wished her legacy to stretch beyond the bullets and bloodshed at Emanuel.
Alvarez cited the families’ “grace” even before Obama did! She also referred to “the syncopated ‘Lowcountry clap’ ” which animated those funerals.

South Carolina is culturally unique in various ways; this is especially true of coastal South Carolina. In principle, large continental nations can gain from the cultures which may emerge in their various corners and crannies.

As far as we know, southern black church traditions didn’t come, in the main, from coastal Carolina. That said, we were happy to see Alvarez make that lovely reference to that “Lowcountry clap.”

Our question:

Is it possible that we all-knowing northerners have more to gain from southern black culture than this one rhythmic infusion? Is it possible that our professors and journalists might gain from an examination of their own basic instincts this time?

Tomorrow: The aggressive refusal to hate