“But whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant.” Mark 10:43
To say that August 2017 brought us two terrible events would be an understatement. On August 12th, white supremacist groups boldly proclaimed their lives matter more than others and on August 25th, Hurricane Harvey made landfall on the Texas Gulf Coast. Both events have a lesson to teach us: Humans play a significant role in bringing to the surface that which lies below.
White Lives Matter
When we look at the events that happened in Charlottesville, we can't look at it as something that happened overnight. We must see it as a response to a system prompted by political leadership that sent signals that hatred is tolerated and our political systems are unstable and racist at their core.
The White Lives Matter protesters are responding to the same fears that mounted for white men during the Post-Reconstruction era: fear of an inability to compete in the labor market. In America, we have an economic arrangement in which capitalists are the purveyors of such labor and quality of life issues. They can only see ethnic and racial groups as the problem because this country indeed was made for white males to dominate – at least that's the pot of gold that folks like the White Lives Matter protestors are sold, and hence their rage when they feel that it’s slipping away.
So, beneath the surface of the White Lives Matter is a long history of a capitalist system that has made the masses of white workers believe that other groups are sucking up resources that they are entitled to, resources intended to help them live a middle-class lifestyle, without interruptions.
Working Class on Hold
As I watched the devastation of Harvey on every news outlet, I couldn’t help but become infuriated as I saw some of my Facebook friends provide biblical responses to havoc wreaked by Harvey, while others seemed insensitive to the suffering of people (confession: I follow some evangelicals just to stay abreast of white supremacy and black self-hatred in real time). When we look to Scripture to understand why natural disasters happen, we find ourselves missing capitalism as the culprit. We miss the fact that neoliberalism, not sin is to blame. Texas is a business-friendly state that prides itself on being a business-friendly state, Attracting businesses with tax incentives means less money for the public good.
The question becomes where do we get revenue to build an infrastructure for an evacuation plan? How do you collect revenue, so we don't have to depend on developers and their massive projects that contribute to this mess? When we don't allow the wealthy and corporations to pay their fair share of taxes, the government must make tradeoffs that typically hurt poor and working and working-class folks most.
Beneath the surface of Harvey is a system that is not designed to serve particularly, poor and working-class black and brown folk. Why? Our state and local government prioritizes business interest, thus putting their faith in trickle down. No amount of trickle down, philanthropy, or FEMA will help the masses rebuild after already having their backs against the wall.
Do I Have Hope?
Just when I feel like I’m going under, Matt and Cleve go beyond modeling the beauty of improbable friendships to finding the best minds - Jessica Davenport and Rachel Schneider - to continue Part 2 of Race & The Christian Imagination, to design a curriculum that equips people to form unlikely alliances, leading to the transformation of oppressive systems and structures.
Just when I feel like I’m going under, people like Brandi Holmes and Secunda Joseph of #BLMHTX answer the call to take care of the people and rally others to join them. In addition, organizations like projectCurate and St. Paul's UMC share their network to help Brandi and Secunda get resources to be of benefit to the community. I could go on and on about how my hope has been restored through human creativity and God making it clear that he will make sure the most vulnerable are cared for, no matter how ugly and skull-daggerous capitalism may be and the tenacity of neoliberalism
My hope is not only for the coming of Christ, but those who are on earth heeding his call every day under oppressive systems and structures.