Whose “Bad” Was It? Whose “Bad” Is It?

And there are people still in darkness, And they just can’t see the light. If you don’t say it’s wrong, then that says its right.
Solomon Burke

1917: The Labor Union in East St. Louis who, after the strike ended, told its white members, ”Drastic action must be taken to retard this growing menace,” (referring to Negro immigrant coming from the south and those who “are already here.”) thus causing 39 blacks to be killed, a two-year old to be shot and thrown into a burning building, 100 plus black people to be shot or maimed and 5000 to be driven from their home, would not have incited the riot if black people who wanted and needed to work had not allowed themselves to be hired into union job. Right?

1920: The racist white mob who carried out the “Black Holocaust, “by burning every home, business and church and murdering children, women and men would not have done so if Black people with an entrepreneurial spirit, had not, through self-determine and faith, responded to segregation by making the Tulsa, Oklahoma Greenwood District so successful it was known “Black Wall Street. Right?

1954: The White people who burned crosses in front of a house, shot through the house ten times with a rifle and finally, because the family refused to accept what they called “reasonable offers to leave”, bombed the house.  But the White people would not have had to do this if the Black family had not moved in the White suburb of Louisville. Right?

1955: Missippissians, Roy Bryant and J.W. Milam who gouged out Emmett Till’s left eye, shot him in the head, bashed his face in and threw his body in the Tallahatchie River would not have done so if this 14-year old Black boy had not said, “Bye Baby” to a white girl as he was leaving the store. Right?

1958: The State of Virginia would not have had to sentenced the Lovings, Mildred, a black woman and Richard, a white man to a year in jail for violating its 1924 Racial Integrity Law that prohibited marriage between “people classified as “white and people classed as black” if Mildred and Richard just had not fallen in love. Right?

1963: The Ku Klux Klan would not have bombed the 16th Street Baptist Church and killed four little girls if Dr. Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks and other has not campaigned against racial injustice and fought for civil rights. Right?

Keep in mind that these are just six examples of race-related atrocities rooted in America’s “one-drop of blood” rule. This rule ranked Black Americans lower than White American thus giving White Americans permission to enslave, beat, murder, lynch, rape and deny our pursuit of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” without fear of meaningful consequences.

So whose “bad” was it? Ours for having that one drop of blood or the individual whose hand was stained by it or the society that provided the towel to wipe it off?

It saddens me that these  questions have to be asked but when people imply the gunman who killed 45 people and seriously injured 53 more would not have done so if two men had not been seen kissing or if LBGTQ people would simply avoid PDA (public display of affection) or if “those people” would “stop disobeying the Word of God, the questions  must be asked and some attempt made to answer.

Robert W. Fuller, in his book, Somebodies and Nobodies. Overcoming the Abuse of Rank, provide some answers for me. Fuller would, I think, say the gunman “suffered” from Rankism which according to Fuller is a claim to superiority.” It allows us to see our group as somebody and other groups as nobodies. Rankism justifies  “maltreatment, discrimination, disrespect, discourtesy, disdain derision and condescension. It is the “Mother of all isms” because it is the sources from which all forms of discrimination gets its “lifeblood.”

in my opinion, the Orlando terrorist attack is an example of how rankism “Erodes the will to learn, distorts personal relationships, taxes economic productivity, strokes ethnic hatred and why it causes “dysfunction and sometimes even violence, in families, schools and the workplace.”

Given that, I visualize a Sexual Preference Rankism Ladder. Those who identify as heterosexual, rank higher than a homosexual. A heterosexual Christian ranks higher than a heterosexual who is not Christians. A Christian heterosexual who also believe homosexuality is a sin, ranks higher than all the others. And, the highest rank belongs to the Christian heterosexual who believes it is his or her responsibility to assist God in executing “great vengeance” on homosexuals. The gunman and those who, whether they intend to or not, offer justification for his actions are high up on this ladder.

Your rank on this ladder makes you a more deserving “somebody” than those on the rungs below you. This is how you acquire your sense of somebody-ness. Like so many things, once you get it, you want to keep it so you conform to beliefs touted by  the people with whom you are ranked.

In The Science of Fear, Daniel Gardner, calls this “pooling information. “One person knows only what he knows, but thirty people can draw on the knowledge and experience of thirty, and so when everyone is convinced there are loins in the tall grass it’s reasonable to set aside your doubts and take another route to camp.” The problem comes when all you do is just take another route. There is no attempt to verify the facts – Did you see lions? How many were there? Who did they attack? What happened at the time of the attack? But there is no space in rankism for independent thinking. That is what makes it so easy for ranked people to treat rhetoric that makes no sense as if it is an inarguable fact as plain and simple as one plus one equals two.

Thomas Merton (No Man is An Island), reminds us that “one of the moral diseases we communicate to one another in society comes from huddling together in the pale light of insufficient answers to a question we are afraid to ask.”

Pooled information breeds empowerment. Armed with information sanctioned by those with whom you are ranked gives you the authority to practice “Rank-based discrimination.” Rank-based discrimination breeds what is thought to be justifiable violence. Its purpose is to remind the lesser somebodies that they are nobody compared to you and those with whom you are ranked. And, what is the point in being on the top rungs of this ladder if you cannot demonstrate to the world your willingness to fulfill your moral obligation to keep the nobodies in their place by any means necessary at any time and any place.

And so on June 17, 2015, 21-year old Dylann Roof, empowered by his rank, walked into a prayer service at the Emanuel African Methodist Church. sat for an hour, then shot and killed nine black men and women because, “You rape our women and you are taking our country.” And, consistent with the arrogance rank-based discrimination can breed he “let” a woman live because he wanted her to “tell them what happened.”

So the man who, on June 12, 2016, carried out, as President Obama called it, an “Act of hate” that has altered all of our lives forever, cannot be understood for anything but his hatred. This 29-year old killer and coward who used his pool of contaminated information to spray his hatred in an Orlando night club is no different than the killer and coward who sprayed his hatred in a place of worship in Charleston.

As Fuller points out, we have all been “No-bodied” by somebody and if we are to tell the truth, we have from our perceived rank, “no-bodied somebody else. And most of the time, we can offer an apology and it will be accepted. But when we even think about justifying the actions of a man whose beliefs allowed him to openly identify with a hate group who ranks itself so superior that its members reportedly throw people identified as LGBTQ (self or assumed to be) off a roof, there is no apology long enough or strong enough to undo the destruction to which we are contributing. So If we want to rank ourselves superior to people whose lifestyle and life choices are different than ours, we can do that. We just have to remember, what history has shown us, Rankism, in the final analysis is about power – about lording it over somebody you have convinced yourself is a lesser somebody than you. And, we’ve been living with the results of that for how many year now?

So we can place the burden of the Orlando “Bad” on the shoulders of the LBGTQ community or we can embrace Solomon Burke’s wisdom: “We got try to feel for each other, let our brother’s know that we care. Got to get the message, send it out loud and clear.”

3 thoughts on “Whose “Bad” Was It? Whose “Bad” Is It?

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