Scientists Have Established a Link Between Brain Damage and Religious Fundamentalism This explains a lot about our current political situation.

Leave a comment

study published in the journal Neuropsychologia has shown that religious fundamentalism is, in part, the result of a functional impairment in a brain region known as the prefrontal cortex. The findings suggest that damage to particular areas of the prefrontal cortex indirectly promotes religious fundamentalism by diminishing cognitive flexibility and openness—a psychology term that describes a personality trait which involves dimensions like curiosity, creativity, and open-mindedness.

Religious beliefs can be thought of as socially transmitted mental representations that consist of supernatural events and entities assumed to be real. Religious beliefs differ from empirical beliefs, which are based on how the world appears to be and are updated as new evidence accumulates or when new theories with better predictive power emerge. On the other hand, religious beliefs are not usually updated in response to new evidence or scientific explanations, and are therefore strongly associated with conservatism. They are fixed and rigid, which helps promote predictability and coherence to the rules of society among individuals within the group.

 Religious fundamentalism refers to an ideology that emphasizes traditional religious texts and rituals and discourages progressive thinking about religion and social issues. Fundamentalist groups generally oppose anything that questions or challenges their beliefs or way of life. For this reason, they are often aggressive towards anyone who does not share their specific set of supernatural beliefs, and towards science, as these things are seen as existential threats to their entire worldview.

Since religious beliefs play a massive role in driving and influencing human behavior throughout the world, it is important to understand the phenomenon of religious fundamentalism from a psychological and neurological perspective.

To investigate the cognitive and neural systems involved in religious fundamentalism, a team of researchers—led by Jordan Grafman of Northwestern University—conducted a study that utilized data from Vietnam War veterans that had been gathered previously. The vets were specifically chosen because a large number of them had damage to brain areas suspected of playing a critical role in functions related to religious fundamentalism. CT scans were analyzed comparing 119 vets with brain trauma to 30 healthy vets with no damage, and a survey that assessed religious fundamentalism was administered. While the majority of participants were Christians of some kind, 32.5% did not specify a particular religion.

Based on previous research, the experimenters predicted that the prefrontal cortex would play a role in religious fundamentalism, since this region is known to be associated with something called ‘cognitive flexibility’. This term refers to the brain’s ability to easily switch from thinking about one concept to another, and to think about multiple things simultaneously. Cognitive flexibility allows organisms to update beliefs in light of new evidence, and this trait likely emerged because of the obvious survival advantage such a skill provides. It is a crucial mental characteristic for adapting to new environments because it allows individuals to make more accurate predictions about the world under new and changing conditions.

Brain imaging research has shown that a major neural region associated with cognitive flexibility is the prefrontal cortex—specifically two areas known as the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (dlPFC) and the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC). Additionally, the vmPFC was of interest to the researchers because past studies have revealed its connection to fundamentalist-type beliefs. For example, one study showed individuals with vmPFC lesions rated radical political statements as more moderate than people with normal brains, while another showed a direct connection between vmPFC damage and religious fundamentalism. For these reasons, in the present study, researchers looked at patients with lesions in both the vmPFC and the dlPFC, and searched for correlations between damage in these areas and responses to religious fundamentalism questionnaires.

According to Dr. Grafman and his team, since religious fundamentalism involves a strict adherence to a rigid set of beliefs, cognitive flexibility and open-mindedness present a challenge for fundamentalists. As such, they predicted that participants with lesions to either the vmPFC or the dlPFC would score low on measures of cognitive flexibility and trait openness and high on measures of religious fundamentalism.

The results showed that, as expected, damage to the vmPFC and dlPFC was associated with religious fundamentalism. Further tests revealed that this increase in religious fundamentalism was caused by a reduction in cognitive flexibility and openness resulting from the prefrontal cortex impairment. Cognitive flexibility was assessed using a standard psychological card sorting test that involved categorizing cards with words and images according to rules. Openness was measured using a widely-used personality survey known as the NEO Personality Inventory. The data suggests that damage to the vmPFC indirectly promotes religious fundamentalism by suppressing both cognitive flexibility and openness.

These findings are important because they suggest that impaired functioning in the prefrontal cortex—whether from brain trauma, a psychological disorder, a drug or alcohol addiction, or simply a particular genetic profile—can make an individual susceptible to religious fundamentalism. And perhaps in other cases, extreme religious indoctrination harms the development or proper functioning of the prefrontal regions in a way that hinders cognitive flexibility and openness.

The authors emphasize that cognitive flexibility and openness aren’t the only things that make brains vulnerable to religious fundamentalism. In fact, their analyses showed that these factors only accounted for a fifth of the variation in fundamentalism scores. Uncovering those additional causes, which could be anything from genetic predispositions to social influences, is a future research project that the researchers believe will occupy investigators for many decades to come, given how complex and widespread religious fundamentalism is and will likely continue to be for some time.

By investigating the cognitive and neural underpinnings of religious fundamentalism, we can better understand how the phenomenon is represented in the connectivity of the brain, which could allow us to someday inoculate against rigid or radical belief systems through various kinds of mental and cognitive exercises.

By Bobby Azarian / Raw Story

Posted by The NON-Conformist

 

Advertisements

Black People Are the Most Religious People In America, But What Are They Getting Out Of It?

Leave a comment

African-Americans are the most religious group in the United States, but what are they getting in return?

According to the Pew Research Center, 79 percent of African-Americans identify as Christian, as opposed to 70 percent of whites and 77 percent of Latinos. A majority of Black people belong to historically Black protestant churches, which trace their origins to the late 18th century. Smaller numbers of African Americans are evangelicals, Catholics, mainline Protestants and Muslims. The largest Black churches include the National Baptist Convention USA, Church of God in Christ, the African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME), the National Baptist Convention of America and the Progressive National Baptist Association Inc.

Pew found that more African-Americans believe in God — 83 percent — than whites and Latinos — 61 percent and 59 percent, respectively. More Black people say religion is very important in their lives — 75 percent versus 49 percent of whites and 59 percent of Hispanics. However, the number of religiously unaffiliated African-Americans is on the increase, and older Black people are more likely to be a part of historically Black Protestant congregations than younger people. These data on African-Americans and religiosity reflect a religious survey Pew conducted a decade ago.

The phenomenon is not limited to Black people in America, as Black people in general tend to be the most devout Christians, and Christianity is the most popular religion among the poor, formerly colonized people in Africa. On the continent, 55 percent of people are Christian, as opposed to 9 percent in 1910.

These statistics on Black religious enthusiasm come amid reports of a Black exodus by those, especially young people, who seek traditional African spirituality, or perhaps are disenchanted with the hypocrisy and sanctimony of Christian evangelicals, and view Christianity as a ”white man’s religion” that will not speak out against institutional racism and is stalling Black liberation. While Black young people and millennials are leaving a “stale, stagnant church” that has not grown with them and has shown hostility towards their movements, as D. Danyelle Thomas, founder and content creator of Unfit Christian wrote last year, this begs the question: What of the many people in the Black community, those who face the greatest challenges in society and continue to be so religious?

Black people generally did not arrive in America as Christians, as most were followers of indigenous traditional faiths and 10 to 15 percent were believers in Islam. Christianity was the religion of the slave master and of white supremacy. And yet, Christianity was the faith of Nat Turner and John Brown, of abolition. Faith has been an important part of Black life for centuries, for people who turned to the Bible for hope and inspiration and created their own form of worship.

Dr. Eboni Marshall-Turman, assistant professor of Theology and African American Religion at Yale Divinity School, is highly critical of the Black church. However, she also readily points out the significance of the Black church and its role in the community. “If we take the premise that African-Americans are the most religious people in America, what are they getting in return presupposes certain kinds of materiality which are at stake for Black people of faith. But I think more integral to a Black Christian project is hope,” Dr. Marshall-Turman, a Christian theologian who served for ten years as assistant minister of Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem, told Atlanta Black Star. She added that religion historically has oriented Black people to the world, “especially to a world in the U.S. that has denigrated Black life,” and has provided a “breathing space for Black people to survive and thrive” and “think about one’s own life and future outside white hegemony.”

“There is a material aspect beyond the project of hope and possibility that is part of the tradition the church. It is often one of the first places we go and the last place we find ourselves,” Marshall-Turman offered. “We will die, and a person of faith will stand over us and say final words. Whether we see ourselves related to the Black church in terms of membership, there is the lifespan in terms of our community; the Black church bookends from the blessing of babies to the funeralizing of the dead.”

There are tangible ways in which the Black church participates in the life of the Black community, the Black theologian notes. “Black churches feed the hungry, they support the homeless. They support those who may not have the basic necessities of life. They show up at court to support members of our community who have been unjustly incarcerated and find themselves in the throes if the criminal justice system,” she said. “They advocate in terms of basic necessities, housing, jobs, equal-pay services in the communities, very foundational basic matters of one’s right to life,” Marshall-Turman added, noting Black churches and mosques that go beyond offering hope and are “showing up” and serving people outside of their congregation, and handing out food on a regular basis.

D. Danyelle Thomas has a different take on the Black church and why people remain. “I would venture to say that most remain in relationship with the church because of both fear and familiarity. Even those with only a tangential relationship to church/faith, the fear of hellfire and brimstone as an alternative is enough to keep us captive,” Thomas told Atlanta Black Star, noting that hellfire, which she removed from her own theology, is not the dominant philosophy for most Black churches. “There’s also the facet of familiarity, as Black churches are more than places of worship, they offer community within community for us. Some of us still do church because it’s what we’ve always done. Like fear, familiarity has a stronghold on Black folks’ relationship with faith because interrogating the ‘why’ behind our actions isn’t always easy,” she added.

There is no monolithic Black church, and some African-Americans congregations have a long legacy or a present-day track record of fighting for social and racial justice. Black churches have fought on the front lines in resisting racism through slavery and the civil rights movement, and the AME Church was founded in resistance to slavery. A center of community life, the Black church often has been the target of Klan violence and white domestic terror, whether the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham in 1963, or the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston in 2015. However, Black religious institutions have also pacified the Black struggle. As beloved as Martin Luther King and Malcolm X are in the Black community, not everyone was with them and what they espoused when they were alive. Some Black churches have internalized white supremacy and have been accused of exploiting their congregations, and in the case of prosperity gospel, have appropriated white notions of capitalism for Black religious spaces.

Prosperity theology is alive and well, Thomas says. “The thing is, we all know we live in a system of capitalism that uses the tools of racism, sexism, classism, and the like to further hegemony. In my experience, I’ve found that the Black church is but a microcosm of the society at large. This is historically not the case, of course, as we know that the Black church was the cornerstone of the Civil Rights Movement and that faith has sustained our ancestors and living elders,” she said. “Logically, we understand that money answers all things so I don’t think people expect churches to operate for free. But, like with music and sports, churches have proved to be a fast-track to financial success with the right sales pitch — and that has, in my observation, elevated the visibility of Prosperity Theology or, as I call it, the business of church,” Thomas added.

According to Thomas, the pitch of prosperity theology is that an endless supply of wealth will be available to those who believe strongly enough. “There’s a bible verse that we’ve gleaned the idea that ‘only what you do for Christ will last’ (II Corinthians 5:9-10), and when you couple that with verses like Luke 6:38 (“Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap; for the measure you give will be the measure you get back”), the formula of spiritual gaslighting writes itself. And many folks decide to stay because they’ve been stripped of critical analysis in Jesus’ name,” she said.

Many people, including Black people, are in a relationship of spiritual gaslighting with their churches, Thomas argues, which lays the foundation for why many remain in churches that are not empowering or growing them. “Spiritual gaslighting is feeling like you’re crazy or bad, being taught the inability to trust your own judgment, constantly apologizing, insane levels of guilt and a need to constantly justify your normal, everyday decisions to an implacable and hyper-critical external authority,” she noted, adding that this does not mean the church is inherently abusive, but rather that certain normalized aspects of church culture are at play. “Your reason, conscience, will, emotions, culture, and even your personal relationship with God are all continually under attack by demonic forces that are seeking to deceive you. Therefore, you should be automatically suspicious of anything that comes from either yourself or from a source outside of the ideological bubble,” Thomas said.

“Those of us who stay or, at least, keep a tenuous-at-best relationship with the church WHILE transforming our theology do so because we understand the importance of not throwing the baby out with the bathwater. We also stay because we believe in the possibility of building the new community that reflects our hopes,” Thomas said, while acknowledging that some people are fortunate to be in fellowship with ministries that focus on inclusion, mental health, social justice and other pressing concerns. “The latter, creating forward-looking fellowships, is the driver behind my work with Unfit Christian. My goal is to remove all things that restrict corporate access to God, including all the negative -isms and deafening silence on sociopolitical issues.”

“I think nothing is beyond critique. Black churches are not God. They are institutions built by human hands,” Marshall-Turnan believes. “if we want to strengthen the church and pursue the church as relevant to the Black community, we have to continually critique the church. I bet those who critique the church love the church, and believe in its transformative potential,” she said, noting the institution is historically sexist, homophobic, and transphobic, marginalizes young people and engages in economic fragmentation, which explain why young people are leaving the Black church.

“I’m not really concerned about the studies that show the increase in ‘nones,’ or that Black people are leaving the church. I feel the work of Antony Pinn is so resonant,” Marshall-Turman said of the Black atheist humanist scholar at Rice University who refutes the claim that all African-Americans are theists. “The narrative we’ve been hyper-religious people is not true, and when you think about the secular movements within the spectrum of the movement for Black freedom, it is obvious that every Black movement did not start in the church. So, it is not true that everybody has been in the church,” she noted, rejecting the alarmist argument about people leaving the Black church, and adding that with mobility and other societal factors, the concept of church itself is transforming.

“As a theological educator, I see the next generation every day. I see them coming with rigorous critiques of Black churches and also deep commitment to Black churches. … I also see young Black budding theologians who are imagining new ways of doing church, and I think the Black church as a rhetorical indicator is big enough to hold all of that. So I am not too worried about that. As an older millennial, I am not worried if the church will be here tomorrow,” she added, believing it will be in the hands of Black people such as these.

“The Black church has so much great potential to do transformational work. As it relates to everyday folks living in proximity to the church. Black churches matter,” Marshall-Turman concluded. “They just do, and they’re still held in high esteem behind this spirituality.”

By David Love/AtlantaBlackStar

Posted by The NON-Conformist

When the Constitution Was ‘At War With Itself,’ Frederick Douglass Fought on the Side of Freedom A new appreciation of the great abolitionist on the 200th anniversary of his birth.

Leave a comment

This month marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of one of the greatest figures in American history. Frederick Douglass was born into slavery in Talbot County, Maryland, sometime in February 1818. At the age of 20, he made his escape from bondage, traveling north to Philadelphia, New York City, and finally to New Bedford, Massachusetts, where he would earn his “first free dollar” on the dockyards loading ships. “I was now my own master,” he proclaimed, “a tremendous fact.” In 1839, Douglass spoke up for the first time at an abolitionist meeting. Six years later, he was an internationally acclaimed orator and the author of a celebrated autobiography. In less than a decade, he had established himself as one of the most singular and influential voices in the most pressing debate of his time: the debate over slavery.
Arguing about slavery was a combat sport in those days, both figuratively and literally, and the field was crowded with skilled combatants. Among them was John C. Calhoun, the legendary South Carolina statesman who proclaimed slavery to be a positive good, fully sanctioned by the letter and spirit of the U.S. Constitution. There was also the militant Boston abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison, who burned his copy of the Constitution, damning it as a pro-slavery “covenant with death and an agreement with hell.”
Douglass would face them both down. “Garrison sees in the Constitution precisely what John C. Calhoun sees there,” Douglass observed. He saw something different: “Interpreted as it ought to be interpreted, the Constitution is a glorious liberty document.”

At a time when the principles of the Declaration of Independence were under assault, Douglass waved the banner of classical liberalism, championing inalienable rights for all, regardless of race or sex. At a time when socialism was on the rise, Douglass preached the virtues of free labor and self-ownership in a market-based economy. At a time when state governments were violating the rights of the recently emancipated, Douglass professed the central importance of “the ballot-box, the jury-box, and the cartridge-box” in the fight against Jim Crow.
Douglass, the former slave who secretly taught himself how to read, would teach the American people a thing or two about the true meaning of the Constitution.
‘Wielded in Behalf of Emancipation’
On May 9, 1851, the leading lights of the abolitionist movement gathered in Rochester, New York, for the 18th annual meeting of the American Anti-Slavery Society. Among the items on the agenda was a resolution calling for the society to officially recommend several anti-slavery publications, including a small weekly called the Liberty Party Paper.
But William Lloyd Garrison, the powerful editor of The Liberator, one of abolitionism’s flagship publications, would have none of that. The Liberty Party Paper, Garrison complained, saw the Constitution as an antislavery document. That view was tantamount to heresy, as it clashed with Garrison’s famous judgment that the Constitution was a pro-slavery deal with the devil.
So a more congenial resolution was soon proposed: The American Anti-Slavery Society would only recommend those publications that toed the Garrisonian line.
It was at this point that Frederick Douglass stood up. For the previous 10 years, Douglass had been a friend, ally, even a disciple of Garrison’s. “Every week the Liberator came, and every week I made myself master of its contents,” Douglass later recalled. “I not only liked—I loved this paper, and its editor.”
But Douglass no longer loved what Garrison had to say about the Constitution. In fact, he now thought Garrison was dead wrong on the subject. What is more, Douglass decided that the time had come for him to say so in public. Douglass “felt honor bound to announce at once,” he explained to the assembled worthies, that the paper he edited, The North Star, “no longer possessed the requisite qualification for their official approval and commendation.” The Constitution, he told them, “should be wielded in behalf of emancipation.”
Those words went down about as well as might have been expected given the audience. There were howls of outrage, cries of censure. Garrison, for his part, accused Douglass of harboring ulterior (read: financial) motives. “There is roguery somewhere!” Garrison exclaimed. Douglass never quite forgave his old comrade for that.
In truth, Douglass agonized over his change of opinion. He came around gradually and only after much brooding. He forced himself “to re-think the whole subject,” he recalled, “and to study, with some care, not only the just and proper rules of legal interpretation, but the origin, design, nature, rights, powers, and duties of civil government, and also the relations which human beings sustain to it.”
Those studies began to produce fruit as early as 1849. Writing in The North Star on March 16 of that year, Douglass conceded that the Constitution “is not a proslavery instrument” when interpreted “standing alone, and construed only in the light of its letter.” The trouble came when he considered the pro-slavery “opinions of the men who framed and adopted it.” How to reconcile the text of the Constitution with the unwritten intentions of its framers?
A year later, on April 5, 1850, Douglass moved a little further away from the strict Garrisonian position. The Constitution is “at war with itself,” he now wrote. “Liberty and Slavery—opposite as Heaven and Hell—are both in the Constitution.” Both in the Constitution? The imperious Garrison would not like the sound of that. Furthermore, Douglass ventured, “if we adopt the preamble [to the Constitution], with Liberty and Justice, we must repudiate the enacting clauses, with Kidnapping and Slaveholding.”
By 1851, his mind was made up. Yes, the Constitution did contain certain oblique references to slavery, such as the notorious “three fifths” clause. But those references spoke only of “persons.” Neither the word slave nor the word slavery appear anywhere in the text. That textual absence, Douglass concluded, was a fatal weakness in the slaveholders’s position that must be exploited. “Take the Constitution according to its plain reading,” he insisted. “I defy the presentation of a single pro-slavery clause in it. On the other hand, it will be found to contain principles and purposes, entirely hostile to the existence of slavery.” Douglass would deploy those principles and purposes against the peculiar institution until it was finally destroyed.
‘All Men Are Created Equal’
There was also the Declaration of Independence to factor in. Was not the entire American system founded upon the “self-evident” truths that “all men are created equal” and endowed with “certain unalienable rights,” such as “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness?” Did not that noble language vanquish the case for slavery?

More from Damon Root/Reason

Jesuits, slave descendants consider how Georgetown can make amends

Leave a comment

The 1838 sale of 272 enslaved people wasn’t the first or the last the Maryland Jesuits made, but it was the largest. If Georgetown and the Jesuits commit to reparatory justice, observers say, they could embolden others to push their universities to follow suit. 

Jessica Tilson walks on soggy grass between the gravestones, rattling off names from her family tree, a thin black sweater the only barrier between her and the cold that came with a once-in-a-decade snowfall. She keeps the interwoven branches of her family in her head, along with a map of who’s buried in the unmarked parts of the Catholic cemetery in tiny Maringouin, La., – a rural town surrounded by sugar cane fields, bayous, and giant oaks.
Among those she honors by cleaning their graves is Cornelius “Neily” Hawkins, her great, great, great, great grandfather. Neily was about 13 when slave traders forced him onto a ship in Maryland and transported him to the West Oak plantation, where the sugar industry thrived through labor extracted by brutality.
The Jesuits who ran Georgetown University and plantations in Maryland had sold him, along with 271 others – including his brothers and sisters, his parents, and his grandfather, Isaac Hawkins, born just a few years before America gained its independence.

That 1838 sale wasn’t the first or the last the Maryland Jesuits made, but it was the largest, and some Jesuits opposed it at the time, despite their mounting debts. The names of the men, women, and children transported to various parts of Louisiana were recorded, and they have since become known as the GU272.
Now, Jesuit leaders are coming here for the first time – and Ms. Tilson hopes they will visit such sacred spots and hear the stories she’s unburied.
For many who hail from Maringouin (“mosquito” in French) and other parts of Louisiana, this December meeting will be their first opportunity to talk with representatives of the religious order that enslaved and sold their ancestors.
It’s another step in a reckoning that’s been unfurling in slow motion. For nearly two years, the connections between the 272 and several thousand living descendants have been emerging, impelling new relationships and debates about how best to address the modern-day legacies of slavery.
Unlike other historic American universities that held slaves and have since shed their religious identities, Georgetown “had to deal with the moral component of it, the way that it actually challenged Georgetown’s identity as a Catholic institution … committed to the Jesuit sense of social justice,” says Craig Steven Wilder, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and author of “Ebony and Ivy,” a book on universities and slavery.
“The human dimensions of the story” are unavoidable, Professor Wilder says, because “descendants of the sale of 1838 have put an extraordinary human face on these historical facts.”
Those descendants hold a diverse array of ideas about what should happen next – everything from modest requests to memorialize forgotten sites in Louisiana to a hope for a $1 billion foundation to address racial disparities, assist descendants with education, and support racial reconciliation.
“Although slavery in the United Sates ended many years ago, there has been a continuum of racial oppression…, and we have to heal those racial tensions in order for this country to move forward,” says Karran Harper Royal, the New Orleans-based executive director of the GU272 Descendants Association, one of several organized groups.
***
It’s a Saturday afternoon and descendants are arriving at the modest rectangular parish hall next to Maringouin’s Immaculate Heart of Mary church. Many of the 272 maintained a Catholic identity despite years in which they were deprived access to priests, in violation of the terms of the 1838 sale.
Those ancestors “believed in God despite everything ungodly around them. I’m still humbled by that kind of faith,” says descendant Lee Baker, before the meeting that he helped organize gets under way. He needed resilience – which he now sees runs in the family – when he helped integrate Catholic institutions in the 1960s. Now he teaches at a Catholic high school near New Orleans.
One tall man saunters in wearing crisp denim overalls, another a three-piece-suit, until about 80 people are assembled in metal folding chairs. A table covered with a white cloth is set up in the front, where the Jesuits will sit.
For the older generations, especially, slavery isn’t something people talk about much here. But today’s conversation has been 179 years in the making.
Georgetown’s dependence on enslaved African and American families wasn’t a secret. But a few years ago, student journalists, activists, and a working group appointed by the university started questioning why people such as the Rev. Thomas Mulledy, S.J., Georgetown’s president in the early 1800s, were still honored on campus buildings despite their role organizing the 1838 sale.
Alumnus Richard Cellini became curious about what happened to the 272. When he heard that they had all died of fever in Louisiana, his incredulity led him to search in Google and quickly connect with a descendant. Later he started the nonprofit Georgetown Memory Project to assist with genealogical research.
The family trees have blossomed as people analyze DNA and dig into archives. So far, nearly 6,000 direct descendants (living and deceased) have been identified out of what could eventually rise to 15,000, Mr. Cellini estimates.

Last spring, Tilson and several other descendants attended a ceremony at Georgetown to replace Reverand Mulledy’s name with Isaac Hawkins on a now-residential building. President John DeGioia and representative Jesuits offered apologies during a “Liturgy of Remembrance, Contrition, and Hope.”
These were some of the steps recommended by a working group the university had appointed before they knew any descendants.
Now, several descendants are attending Georgetown, which has offered “legacy” admissions preferences.
Many descendants say they are grateful for what’s happened so far, but that it’s time for the process to become less Georgetown-centric and more inclusive of their voices.
It’s still unclear whether these large institutions will be willing to hold themselves accountable in ways that go beyond symbolism, that actually involve shifts in power dynamics or substantial monetary investments.
The next step is “talking about reparation,” says Adam Rothman, a history professor at Georgetown who served on the working group. “What would be an adequate gesture of repair? That’s a lot of what people are debating.”
It has often seemed like the Jesuits wanted “to have their act of contrition, skip right over penance, and go straight to forgiveness,” says Sandra Green Thomas, president of the GU272 Descendants Association, who attended the Georgetown ceremonies, as well as a morning meeting with the Jesuits in New Orleans on this same December day that they’ll be visiting Maringouin.
She wants the outcome of talks to be action that benefits people beyond those who can attend Georgetown, but she also points out the irony that her two children now there will graduate with debt, despite financial aid, while Georgetown students once had tuition subsidized by the enslaved.
“My hashtag is #OurTuitionHasBeenPaid … with the blood, sweat, and tears of our ancestors,” Ms. Thomas says.
So far, institutions have been “reluctant to put dollar amounts on their acknowledgment of a debt,” Wilder, of MIT, says. If Georgetown and the Jesuits commit to reparatory justice, they could embolden others to push their universities to follow suit.

The Maringouin meeting has just gotten under way when Tilson scurries in. A single mother of two, she fits her visits to Maringouin in between shifts at two grocery stores in Baton Rouge, where she recently finished her bachelor’s degree in microbiology at the historically black Southern University and A&M College.
After Mr. Baker, the descendant, offers an opening prayer, the Rev. Timothy Kesicki, S.J., president of the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States, stands to introduce himself.
Of his Jesuit predecessors who both baptized and claimed ownership of slaves, he asks, “How is it that they received the same sacraments, prayed the same prayers,… and failed to see themselves as equal before God?”
The room is quiet as he continues solemnly, “I am sorry to you, the descendants, but I also say before God … that as Jesuits, we have greatly sinned in what we have done and in what we have failed to do…. I come [here] to understand what are the next steps in reconciliation, what are the next steps in healing this gaping wound.”
Tilson leans against the wall, in jeans and a Georgetown sweatshirt, recording with her pink cell phone.
The Rev. Robert Hussey, S.J., provincial of the Maryland Province Jesuits offers apologies as well, adding, “Healing … is about concrete actions…. We want to explore with you what would be the most meaningful way … to be part of things that can create new life and new opportunities for people.”
For the next hour, local residents and those who have traveled from as far as Ohio and California rise to share their thoughts.
Some focus on the joy of discovering new family ties and answers to questions that always puzzled them: Why didn’t their families speak French or cook Creole?
Others offer specific ideas for how the Jesuits can make a difference.
Tilson strides up front and places a mason jar filled with black soil on the table, a dark blue ribbon tied around its neck, explaining that it is from Georgetown.
“What I would like for the Jesuits to do is to take the soil … and go to West Oak and give our ancestors a proper burial…. The ones who died before the church was built … we don’t know where they at,” she says, her voice rising in pitch as the emotions rush out. “They could have been thrown in holes over there, they have alligators back there…. So you guys owe our ancestors a proper burial.”
Fathers Hussey and Kesicki look up at her with compassion. They’re taking notes and holding off on responding until the end.

Other speakers bring up broader needs in descendant communities – prenatal care, assistance with college expenses. Among Maringouin’s roughly 1,000 residents (the majority descendants) the per capita income is $15,000.
“I feel like this is going forward and then two steps back. We are out here. We are looking for something to happen,” says Matthew Mims, a local aspiring dentist who recently graduated from college. He’s not the only one for whom patience with ceremonies and conversations is wearing thin.
But this is an opportunity for descendants to ask something not only of the Jesuits, but also of the large extended family seated before them. It’s a chance to challenge the institutionalized racism that slavery and Jim Crow left in their wake.
This is an area where notorious slave traders are still honored in whites-only cemeteries, where families still hold memories of lynchings.
Michelle Harrington, who long ago moved away, says she’s disappointed that in the church, blacks still sit on one side and whites on the other. “Sit on the other side,” she pleads. “Make somebody uncomfortable. We cannot be enslaved any longer.”
***
One of the last speakers to step forward is Johnnie Pace, tall with silver hair, glasses, and a black jacket. He’s married to a descendant of Isaac Hawkins, and shares how warmly he was welcomed at Georgetown during a recent unannounced visit.
“Granted, we can’t change history…. But we can change the future and we can change today. I am 74 years old,” he says, pausing and pounding his fist to hold back tears. “I never thought that I would live to see the descendants of slaves, the descendants of slaveholders, come together in love.”
Kesicki and Hussey stand and respond, briefly but earnestly, to what they’ve heard. They share how they’ve hired archivists to ensure that more church records are made accessible online, how they want to spread awareness of this important story.
They assure the group that they will follow up soon about setting up a process for further dialogue.
While there will be no official ceremony today, they do pay a visit to the cemetery with Tilson and a few others after the meeting. She points out the small, broken headstone of Lucy Ann Scott, her great, great, great, great aunt who was sold in 1838 and was buried near the graves of Tilson’s own sister and son. Maybe they could supply a new headstone for Lucy, she suggests.
Standing on the grave of another relative sold in 1838, she barely takes a breath, sharing as much as she can fit in before twilight. Hussey shakes his head and smiles. “Astounding,” he says.
In the years leading up to 1838, “Y’all supposed to send us back to Liberia, but y’all didn’t,” Tilson says without a hint of bitterness.
In the distance, a train rumbles by. It’s slow, like the building up of trust.
The air grows colder by the minute and Kesicki and Hussey head out before darkness engulfs the rural roads.
“I’m happy because I got an opportunity to show them what happened,” Tilson says. “That child you sent to Maringouin, this is their spot – this is their resting spot.”

By Stacy Teicher Khadaroo/ChristianScienceMonitor

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Israel Is Exposing Africans to Danger of Slavery

Leave a comment

You’ve probably heard that right now, in the year 2018, African men, women and children are being sold at slave auctions in Libya. What you may not have heard is that Israel—the recipient of more United States military aid than any other country in the world—is putting tens of thousands of Africans at risk of torture at the hands of those very slave traders. How did these refugees come to find themselves in Israel to begin with? And why is Israel now expelling them all?

First of all, Israel is connected to Africa—northeast Africa. And as African people flee the dictatorships oppressing them and ethnically cleansing them, they flee in every direction, including northeast, to Israel. Those that have fled to Israel believed its claim to be a democracy, and thought that a state supposedly established to provide a safe haven for refugees would understand them and grant them asylum.

But they were wrong. In 2012, Israel built a high-tech fence on its border, cutting the country off from the rest of the African continent, to ensure that no more refugees could enter. And once it was completed, the government worked on forcing out the 65,000 African refugees that had already made it into the country. At first, Israel feared what the world would say if it sent these refugees right back to the tortures they had fled. So instead of outright deporting them, it announced an official policy to “make their lives miserable” in order to drive them all out.

Hundreds of Israeli chief rabbis issued a joint religious edict decreeing that it is a sin against God to rent apartments to African refugees. Israel’s political leaders baselessly accused the Africans of being incorrigible criminals and of spreading diseases. And for years, the government outright refused to examine African refugees’ asylum requests. When it finally did, Israel earned itself the distinction of having a higher refugee rejection rate than any other country in the world, over 99 percent.

And then the government built the largest detention center in the world, and rounded into it thousands of refugees off the streets of Tel Aviv and other Israeli cities. All this in order to “make their lives miserable,” so that they buckle to the pressure, grudgingly relent and agree to self-deport back to Africa. In this way, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu managed to ethnically cleanse the country of between a third and a half of all African refugees in just five years.

All this was bad enough. But now an old-new evil spirit is sweeping across the globe. Buoyed by a worldwide wave of white supremacy, Netanyahu now realizes that it’s no longer necessary to coerce consent from these African refugees in order to deport them. Netanyahu’s new plan is to simply round up the remaining 35,000 African refugees, and physically force them out of the country. If any refugees refuse to leave, Israel will jail them for life. In December, the measure passed in the Israeli parliament with a large majority, and the country’s Supreme Court gave the policy its stamp of approval.

Netanyahu is beginning to boast about Israeli xenophobia, and trying to convince some European Union allies to adopt its racist policies—and purchase its high-tech fences to keep refugees from reaching Fortress Europe. If Israel is allowed to expel its remaining African refugees, it will send a clear message to the EU that it’s legitimate for any country to adopt anti-refugee rules and keep out black and brown people that are fleeing for their lives—without even a sense of shame.

Let’s not pretend that Israel is some kind of safe haven for black folks. In recent years, the government’s racist rhetoric has led to lots of vigilante violence against this community. African refugees have been murdered by Israeli lynch mobs across the country. Even the babies of African refugees have been violently attacked by Israeli racists: In Tel Aviv, a kindergarten was firebombed, and a 1-year-old baby was stabbed in the head. No Israeli has ever been sentenced to jail for any of these savage hate crimes.

But the fate that awaits these refugees if they are forced out of Israel will be far worse. Israel has bribed the government of Rwanda with tens of millions of dollars to agree to take in the refugees that Israel expels. But the refugees aren’t granted status there. Instead their documents are confiscated, and they are quickly forced to leave the country and begin their search for safe haven all over again, from scratch. While seeking protection in Europe, they are falling into captivity in Libya, where they are tortured and raped, mutilated and murdered.

By David Sheen/truthdig

Posted by The NON-Conformist

2-footed tackle: Man United fans accused of racism over Lukaku penis chant

Leave a comment

2-footed tackle: Man United fans accused of racism over Lukaku penis chantManchester United’s Romelu Lukaku © Andrew Yates / Reuters

The story is so insane and “incredibly” racist. Their is a long history that corresponds to this and the type of behavior that goes along with it. The ancestor Dr. Francis Cress Welsing taught about this only to be scoffed at. she was always ahead of the curve, so to speak.

Manchester United have been confronted by equality campaign group Kick It Out, which has slammed the team’s fans chant about star striker Romelu Lukaku’s penis as “racist”. Opinion on social media has meanwhile split.

The song is sung to the tune of ‘Made of Stone’, a hit for Manchester band the Stone Roses, with the lyrics instead paying tribute to Lukaku and the supposed abnormal size of his penis. It’s believed to have first been first aired at Old Trafford during United’s 3-0 Champions League win over Basel.

The inclusion organization, which works to challenge discrimination in football and is funded by the English Football Association (FA), has contacted the club to ask their supporters to stop singing a chant referencing Belgian forward Lukaku’s member.

“Kick It Out is aware of footage of alleged racist chanting by supporters of Manchester United that emerged on Wednesday evening (13 September),” the organisation said in a statement, emailed to RT Sport.

“The lyrics used in the chant are offensive and discriminatory. Racist stereotypes are never acceptable in football or wider society, irrespective of any intention to show support for a player.

“We have contacted Manchester United regarding the issue and will be working closely with them and The FA to ensure that it is addressed swiftly. If we receive any reports relating to the discriminatory chant, those will be passed on to the governing body and the perpetrators can expect to face punishment.”

The issue has split opinion on Twitter, where some fans believe the chant is an unimaginative ditty that should not be given the attention it has received, while others agree it is offensive and should be stamped out.

Suggestion: maybe we could sing about Lukaku being a mint footballer instead of racial stereotypes about his dick http://therepublikofmancunia.com/why-united-fans-should-bin-the-new-lukaku-chant/ 

“Most black people wouldn’t care about this.” Ok. Thanks for speaking on behalf of most black people, Mr White Male.

No place for racist chanting in football and in my view a fans’ song about Lukaku’s manhood is RACIST! Join me from 10 on @talkSPORT.

It’s great to see the fans unite and put a stop to the Romelu Lukaku chant. I’m sure we’ll come up with a much better and censored one 👏.

From Russia Today

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Rethinking Removing Confederate Memorials: Why This May Not Work Out As Planned

Leave a comment

In Virginia, emotions are running hot. Following the death of one and the injuring of 19 after a car plowed into a group of counter-protesters at a white nationalist protest in Charlottesville, the conversation has turned from understanding what happened to preventing it from happening again.

During a contentious city council meeting on August 21 — where an expedited plan to remove the city’s Confederate memorials was agreed upon — many city residents asked why the police maintained such a subdued presence during the protest. In recent months, Charlottesville has become a hot spot for white nationalist protests and gatherings.

Elsewhere, the ACLU has called for legislation that would overturn the Virginia state law protecting war memorials, the NAACP has called for the renaming of two schools currently named for Confederate leaders, and there are talks about renaming Virginia streets honoring the Confederacy.

“Virginia’s monuments and memorials to Confederate war figures must go,” the ACLU said in a statement. “Regardless of origin or historical context, today they are inciteful symbols of hatred and bigotry to which white supremacists are drawn like moths to a flame.”

Historically, acts of violent racial hate have galvanized public opinion in significant ways. Televised coverage of police brutality toward protesters during the civil rights movement helped create the groundswell that led to the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Voting Rights Act of 1965, for example.

However, there seems to be a disconnect today. The popular push to remove the symbols of racial hate may have surpassed the push to address the effects of racial hate. Increasingly, the national conversation has swung from addressing race-based discrimination to discussing race-based symbolism, to the detriment to the former.

“From the inception of this nation, white supremacist ideology was used to justify genocide and slavery. And so, the problem of collective memory extends far beyond Confederate memorials,” Crystal Marie Fleming, associate professor of sociology and Africana studies at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, wrote for The Root.

“Removing memorials to white supremacy in the United States is not simply a matter of knocking down statues of Robert E. Lee. It’s relatively easy for some to see the Confederate flag as an emblem of hatred and white supremacy. But slavery, lynchings, Jim Crow, mass incarceration and centuries of systematic racism all happened under the star-spangled banner.”

Understanding Racism Today

Discussions on racism today have become a political quagmire. Attempts to address major concerns regarding the equitable treatment of individuals based on race tend to move into one of two choke points. At one end, there is the argument that racism today does not exist, is no longer a significant concern today, or is limited to extremists.

At the other end, there is the argument that racial discrimination persists because policies that promote or encourage “victimization” is allowed to continue unchecked. “The MSM [Main Stream Media] spends too much time on cop-on-Black crime and not enough time on the systematic racism of socialism and welfare perpetrated by the same Democrats who used the KKK to enforce Jim Crow and suppress Blacks for decades,” Pablo Solomon, artist, designer, and a regular conservative commentator, told Atlanta Black Star.

 The Problem with Symbols

The argument of removing the memorials to an ‘enemy combatant’ is an important one. As Ta-Nehisi Coates pointed out, regarding HBO’s decision to green-light a Confederacy-revisionist themed series, Confederate, “The symbols point to something Confederate’s creators don’t seem to understand — the war is over for them, not for us. At this very hour, black people all across the South are still fighting the battle which they joined during Reconstruction — securing equal access to the ballot — and resisting a president whose resemblance to Andrew Johnson is uncanny.”

The problem in using the removal of racial symbolism to address racial hate lies in the fact that racial hate does not come from racial symbols; focusing on the removal of the monuments is akin to addressing the symptoms and not the disease. In a way, focusing on removing the monuments is another choke point, effectively drawing conversation of racial inequitably to a politically drawn tangent.

“While the removal of Confederate symbols of white supremacy is completely justifiable and repulsively long overdue, it is also important to recognize the fact that the flag of the Union — and, indeed, our current, actual flag — is an emblem of white supremacist racism, too. The nation that existed prior to the Civil War was racist. That country is still racist today. It has never not been racist,” Fleming added.

What is Racial Hate?

This does not diminish the fact that Charlottesville happened. To understand the violence that happened there, one has to look at the nature of racial hate.

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, there are 917 hate groups current active in the United States. This number represents a marked increase from the 794 there were in 2014 — the end of a three-year decline due to a transitioning from on-the-ground extremist protesting to Internet-based activities. The resurgence of the extreme fringe was influenced by reports of demographics change — which suggests that this nation will be minority-majority by 2040 and that many states are now minority-majority due to Latino immigration.

However, many feel that the extreme fringe’s reemergence had a singular flash point.

“[Trump] kicked off the campaign with a speech vilifying Mexican immigrants as rapists and drug dealers,” Mark Potok, writer and expert on the Radical Right and formerly a senior fellow with the SPLC, wrote. “He retweeted white supremacist messages, including one that falsely claimed that black people were responsible for 80% of the murders of whites.

“He credentialed racist media personalities even while barring a serious outlet like The Washington Post, went on a radio show hosted by a rabid conspiracy theorist named Alex Jones, and said that Muslims should be banned from entering the country. He seemed to encourage violence against black protesters at his rallies, suggesting that he would pay the legal fees of anyone charged as a result.”

Trump has argued against the removal of Confederacy monuments, stating that it is a slippery slope that will eventually lead to the demand to remove monuments of slaveholders like George Washington and Thomas Jefferson.

While the Trump presidency cannot be fairly blamed for creating the bias that is being seen today, it can be blamed for granting license for it to be expressed openly. In the first 34 days since Election Day 2016, there were 1,094 incidents of racial hate. The highest concentration happened on the first day after Trump’s election.

Among the groups that have emerged in the Trump era are anti-Muslim hate groups, which have seen steady growth for the last two years, and neo-Confederate groups, which were in sharp decline before Election Day due to the collapse of several Ku Klux Klan groups in the United States. Anti-government or “patriot” groups, which dominated the alt-right during the Obama administration, have fallen off due to a co-opting of their platform by Trump.

 Growing Hate Means More Discrimination

With the decline in white birth rates and the growth of the Latinx community, means that the numbers of foreign-born American residents currently in the US is at levels last seen when the restrictive Immigration Act of 1924 was introduced. At the same time, the shell-shocked global industrial base has opened up, allowing for the outsourcing abroad of entire economic sectors that once made up the bulk of America’s non-college graduates’ career options.

In conversation with Atlanta Black Star, the psychologist Jerry D. Smith Jr. argues that racial hate is the application of fear in a system of racial discrimination. While racial discrimination comes from the human mind’s tendency to categorize things similar to itself the same way it categorizes itself, racial hate comes from a fundamental rejection of not only what is different, but what is threatening because it is different.

“The causes of this fear may be numerous, but often comes from a fear of losing one’s status, power, or station in life — as is often seen in some from majority cultures,” Smith noted. “It also may come from the fear of never-ending abuse — as may be seen among some from minority cultures.”

“When the fear factor is introduced, those in power (particularly, social and political power) often feel the need to protect themselves and their status by identifying and attacking the thing (i.e., group) that triggers the fear. In order to attack someone, there has to be an emotional detachment from them and the easiest way to do this is to denigrate and dehumanize them. When you have successfully dehumanized someone in your mind, you can engage in all kinds of violent actions toward them without remorse.”

The fact that hate has hijacked the conversation has grave consequences for a conversation on how racial discrimination impacts Black lives on a day to day level. An impact that won’t go away just because the obvious symbols of hate are removed from our streets. The realities of race inequality means:

  • That for the majority of poor Blacks, it is easier to get a Big Mac than a fresh apple, as many low-income Black neighborhoods no longer have a supermarket or a green grocer;
  • That the average Black family would have to live twelve lifetimes to have the same wealth as the average white family;
  • That the average Black person is six times more likely to be sentenced for a drug-related charge, despite no difference per capita in drug use;
  • That there are more African Americans that rent than own their home, that pay more than thirty percent of their take-home income as rent, and that lives in substandard housing — compared to whites;
  • That a white child is twice as likely to be raised in a home that has at least one parent with a bachelor’s degree, is nearly twice as likely to get a bachelor’s degree or better for himself, and is more likely to have been read to, told a story, taught letters, visit a library, or do arts and crafts with other family members;
  • That a Black person is more likely to be killed by the police;
  • That a poor Black person can get better healthcare in Cuba than in the United States; and
  • That an African American is more likely to be born in poverty, live their entire life in poverty, have children that are born in poverty and will die in poverty, and have grandchildren that were born in poverty and will die in poverty, than their white counterpart.

The tragedy of racial hate and the focus on racial symbol is that because they are monopolizing the national conversation, no one is talking about what it really means to be discriminated against.

By Frederick Reese/AtlantaBlackStar

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Older Entries

%d bloggers like this: