How many times can a heart break before it can not mend?
Isabel Wilkerson’s follow-up to The Warmth of Other Suns will be released on August 20th.
She wrote an essay on July 1st for the New York Times called,
America’s Enduring Caste System
Our founding ideals promise liberty and equality for all. Our reality is an enduring racial hierarchy that has persisted for centuries.
“[Caste] should be at the top of every American’s reading list.”—Chicago Tribune
“As we go about our daily lives, caste is the wordless usher in a darkened theater, flashlight cast down in the aisles, guiding us to our assigned seats for a performance. The hierarchy of caste is not about feelings or morality. It is about power—which groups have it and which do not.”
‘In this brilliant book, Isabel Wilkerson gives us a masterful portrait of an unseen phenomenon in America as she explores, through an immersive, deeply researched narrative and stories about real people, how America today and throughout its history has been shaped by a hidden caste system, a rigid hierarchy of human rankings.
Beyond race, class, or other factors, there is a powerful caste system that influences people’s lives and behavior and the nation’s fate. Linking the caste systems of America, India, and Nazi Germany, Wilkerson explores eight pillars that underlie caste systems across civilizations, including divine will, bloodlines, stigma, and more. Using riveting stories about people—including Martin Luther King, Jr., baseball’s Satchel Paige, a single father and his toddler son, Wilkerson herself, and many others—she shows the ways that the insidious undertow of caste is experienced every day. She documents how the Nazis studied the racial systems in America to plan their out-cast of the Jews; she discusses why the cruel logic of caste requires that there be a bottom rung for those in the middle to measure themselves against; she writes about the surprising health costs of caste, in depression and life expectancy, and the effects of this hierarchy on our culture and politics. Finally, she points forward to ways America can move beyond the artificial and destructive separations of human divisions, toward hope in our common humanity.
Beautifully written, original, and revealing, Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents is an eye-opening story of people and history, and a reexamination of what lies under the surface of ordinary lives and of American life today.’ [Amazon]
From writer Eula Biss, posted on Dec. 2, 2015.
Reckoning with what is owed–and what can never be repaid–for racial privilege.
The word for debt in German also means guilt.
Only something that continues to hurt stays in the memory,’’ Nietzsche observes in ‘On the Genealogy of Morality.’
The power to punish, Nietzsche notes, can enhance your sense of social status, increasing the pleasure of cruelty.
“I read several hundred pages of ‘‘Little House on the Prairie’’ to my 5-year-old son one day when he was home sick from school. Near the end of the book, when the Ingalls family is reckoning with the fact that they built their little house illegally on Indian Territory, and just after an alliance between tribes has been broken by a disagreement over whether or not to attack the settlers, Laura watches the Osage abandoning their annual buffalo hunt and leaving Kansas. Her family will leave, too. At this point, my son asked me to stop reading. ‘‘Is it too sad?’’ I asked. ‘‘No,’’ he said, ‘‘I just don’t need to know any more.’’ After a few moments of silence, he added, ‘‘I wish I was French.’’
The Indians in ‘‘Little House’’ are French-speaking, so I understood that my son was saying he wanted to be an Indian. ‘‘I wish all that didn’t happen,’’ he said. And then: ‘‘But I want to stay here, I love this place. I don’t want to leave.’’ He began to cry, and I realized that when I told him ‘‘Little House’’ was about the place where we live, meaning the Midwest, he thought I meant it was about the town where we live and the house we had just bought. Our house is not that little house, but we do live on the wrong side of what used to be an Indian boundary negotiated by a treaty that was undone after the 1830 Indian Removal Act. We live in Evanston, Ill., named after John Evans, who founded the university where I teach and defended the Sand Creek massacre as necessary to the settling of the West. What my son was expressing — that he wants the comfort of what he has but that he is uncomfortable with how he came to have it — is one conundrum of whiteness.
‘‘Tell me again about the liar who lied about a lie,’’ my son said recently. It took me a moment to register that he meant Rachel Dolezal. He had heard me talking about her with Noel Ignatiev, author of ‘‘How the Irish Became White.’’ I had said: ‘‘She might be a liar, but she’s a liar who lied about a lie. The original fraud was not hers.’’ Because I was talking to Noel, who sent me to James Baldwin’s essay ‘‘On Being White … and Other Lies’’ when I was in college, I didn’t have to clarify that the lie I was referring to was the idea that there is any such thing as a Caucasian race. Dolezal’s parents had insisted to reporters that she was ‘‘Caucasian’’ by birth, though she is not from the Caucasus region, which includes contemporary Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan. Outside that context, the word ‘‘Caucasian’’ is a flimsy and fairly meaningless product of the 18th-century pseudoscience that helped invent a white race.
Whiteness is not a kinship or a culture. White people are no more closely related to one another, genetically, than we are to black people. American definitions of race allow for a white woman to give birth to black children, which should serve as a reminder that white people are not a family. What binds us is that we share a system of social advantages that can be traced back to the advent of slavery in the colonies that became the United States. ‘‘There is, in fact, no white community,’’ as Baldwin writes. Whiteness is not who you are. Which is why it is entirely possible to despise whiteness without disliking yourself.
When he was 4, my son brought home a library book about the slaves who built the White House. I didn’t tell him that slaves once accounted for more wealth than all the industry in this country combined, or that slaves were, as Ta-Nehisi Coates writes, ‘‘the down payment’’ on this country’s independence, or that freed slaves became, after the Civil War, ‘‘this country’s second mortgage.’’ Nonetheless, my overview of slavery and Jim Crow left my son worried about what it meant to be white, what legacy he had inherited. ‘‘I don’t want to be on this team,’’ he said, with his head in his hands. ‘‘You might be stuck on this team,’’ I told him, ‘‘but you don’t have to play by its rules.’’
Even as I said this, I knew that he would be encouraged, at every juncture in his life, to believe wholeheartedly in the power of his own hard work and deservedness, to ignore inequity, to accept that his sense of security mattered more than other people’s freedom and to agree, against all evidence, that a system that afforded him better housing, better education, better work and better pay than other people was inherently fair.
My son’s first week in kindergarten was devoted entirely to learning rules. At his school, obedience is rewarded with fake money that can be used, at the end of the week, to buy worthless toys that break immediately. Welcome to capitalism, I thought when I learned of this system, which produced, that week, a yo-yo that remained stuck at the bottom of its string. The principal asked all the parents to submit a signed form acknowledging that they had discussed the Code of Conduct with their children, but I didn’t sign the form. Instead, my son and I discussed the civil rights movement, and I reminded him that not all rules are good rules and that unjust rules must be broken. This was, I now see, a somewhat unhinged response to the first week of kindergarten. I know that schools need rules, and I am a teacher who makes rules, but I still want my son to know the difference between compliance and complicity.”
Ryan Vizzions, Professional Photographer/Civil & Human Rights:
This photograph got me an FBI file, but it sure did it’s job.
Viola Desmond took a stand against racism in Nova Scotia in 1946 when she refused to move from a theatre seat that was reserved for white patrons.
Radical Tea Towel
Today, back in 1914, Viola Desmond was born in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
Rarely as explicit as Jim Crow in the US, racism against black citizens in Canada was no less pernicious.
In Nova Scotia, segregation was widespread.
The Roseland Film Theatre in New Glasgow was a case in point.
The better, main floor seats were reserved for white patrons while black customers were confined to the balcony.
In 1943, Carrie Best, a black Nova Scotian, had tried to challenge this set-up without success.
On 8th November 1946, Desmond’s car broke down in New Glasgow and so she went to the Roseland Theater to watch a movie while it was repaired.
Unaware of the segregation – it was unofficial because there were no segregation laws in New Glasgow – Desmond moved down to the main floor where she could see better.
It wasn’t long before she was asked to move by a member of staff.
Viola immediately knew what was going on – she’d faced anti-black racism in Canada ever since being barred from beautician training as a young woman in Halifax.
But on that night in Nova Scotia, she took a stand.
Viola refused to leave her seat until she was forcibly thrown out of the theater, injuring her hip in the process.
She was then arrested and spent the night in jail on the absurd claim of a tax violation.
Back home in Halifax, Desmond was convinced by her Baptist pastor, William Pearly Oliver, to challenge her arrest in court (as in the US, the Baptist Church was at the cent re of black civil rights activism in Canada).
Supported by the Nova Scotia Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (modelled on the American NAACP) and Carrie Best, who had by now set up a newspaper, The Clarion, to advocate for black Canadians, Viola Desmond took the Roseland Theater to court.
She didn’t win, but that’s not the point.
In the atmosphere of 1946, when many Canadians believed they’d just fought a bitter war to overcome racist Nazism in Europe, Viola Desmond’s act of defiance sparked new life into the Canadian civil rights movement at home.
To some in countries like Canada and England, it’s a tempting delusion to see anti-black racism as a ‘US problem’.
This thinking tries to brush histories of white supremacy under the rug, but it also buries the inspiring stories of anti-racist resistance.
From Viola Desmond in Nova Scotia to the Bristol Bus Boycott of 1963, the epic of black power and black liberation extends well beyond the United States.
Black lives matter – all over the world.
‘The tragedy of nations is perhaps this: that even the best rulers use up a piece of their people’s future.’ –Rilke
4th of July
‘There is only one true flight from the world: it is not an escape from conflict anguish, and suffering, but the flight from dignity and separation, to unity and peace in the love of other [people].’
-Thomas Merton, Seeds of Contemplation
What Dorothy Day called ‘a revolution of the heart’ is blossoming in our streets, where revolutionaries seem confident America can spend less on war and police, make the 1% and corporations pay their fare share and ensure healthcare, living wages, etc., for all. -Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II
Frederick Douglass’ Descendants Deliver His ‘Fourth Of July’ Speech
How can you watch and not weep? 4th of July belongs to all of us. It must.
‘In this short film, five young descendants of Frederick Douglass read and respond to excerpts of his famous speech, “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?” which asks all of us to consider America’s long history of denying equal rights to Black Americans.’
Douglass Washington Morris II, 20 (he/him) Isidore Dharma Douglass Skinner, 15 (they/their) Zoë Douglass Skinner, 12 (she/her) Alexa Anne Watson, 19 (she/her) Haley Rose Watson, 17 (she/her)
Love will rise above all.
Sun Valley, Idaho.
A rose by itself is every rose.
And this one is irreplaceable,
perfect, one sufficient word
in the context of all things.
Without what we see in her,
how can we speak our hopes
or endure a tender moment
in the winds of departure.
What does it mean to be good?
What would you die for you?
What mosts interests you? Name three.
What is the last thing you did with your whole ♥
“Now when I am old my teachers are the young.” -Robert Frost
! ! !
Remember his name. Say his name.
Yes. Absolutely. #Justice for Elijah. And with every thought, every chant, every protest, remember, Elijah should still be alive. He was 23.
His mom: “He was a responsible and curious child … who could inspire the darkest soul.”
In the weeks following Elijah’s death last summer , his mother, Sheneen, would sit in her car and cry for up to three hours at a time. Now it’s down to an hour and a half. ““The wind will blow, and I’ll think about him.” [Denver Post]
Elijah was known as a gentle soul, a massage therapist who played violin for shelter kittens on his lunch break in his hometown of Aurora, Colorado, because he thought the animals were lonely. He taught himself to play. “He was ‘quirky, a pacifist, a vegetarian, enjoyed running, and known to put a smile on everyone’s face.’
When a demonstrably tender and sweet soul like Elijah McClain is killed from a police encounter and no wrongdoing is found, it’s long past time to examine the rules that govern the entire system. No one in their right mind can say this young man shouldn’t be alive right now, playing violin for lonely kittens on his lunch hour. [Upworthy]
Gov. Jared Polis ordered Attorney General Phil Weiser to serve as a special prosecutor in a new investigation into Elijah’s death.
Elijah’s last words.
‘I lack the peace of simple things. I am never wholly in place. I find no peace or grace. We sell the world to buy fire, our way lighted by burning men, and that has bent my mind and made me think of darkness and wish for the dumb life of roots.’
[Sun Valley, Idaho]
[Photo: Regina H. Boone]
U P D A T E
WASHINGTON POST/Thursday, June 25th
State health departments reported 38,115 new infections on Wednesday, the highest single-day caseload in the United States since the pandemic began. As for the total, true number of infections, CDC Director Robert Redfield said Thursday: “Our best estimate right now is that for every case that’s reported, there actually are 10 other infections.”
The new spike was caused by a rush to reopen without proper safety measures in place, infectious-disease experts say, and the push to do so, even as cases climb, sends a dangerous and inaccurate message.
‘A nationwide crisis, made worse by a vacuum of political leadership, threatening to overwhelm hospitals.’
The pandemic is getting dramatically worse in almost every corner of the U.S., Axios health care editor Sam Baker and visual journalist Andrew Witherspoon report.
- ⚡ This is the grimmest map in the eight weeks since Axios began tracking the state-by-state change in new cases.
- Nationwide, cases are up 30% compared to the beginning of this month
- Dramatically worsening outbreaks in several states are beginning to strain hospital capacity — the same concern that prompted the nationwide lockdown in the first place.
- Over half the country — 26 states — has seen its coronavirus caseloads increase over the past week.
Trying to unpack this logic:
Governor Brad Little, (R) Idaho, will not mandate masks because “compliance would be terrible.”
Boise (Ada County) COVID numbers, like in Arizona, California, Texas, and Florida, continue to exponentially increase.
From Boise State Public Radio [KBSX] reporter Heath Druzin:
On the day the governor says Idaho is not meeting its #COVID19 goals, and in the midst of a local outbreak, just saw a @CityOfBoise employee pull up in a city car and walk into a gas station store with no mask. So that’s how seriously we’re taking the pandemic right now.
More from Heath:
Idaho saw its highest number of lab-confirmed COVID-19 cases in a single day Wednesday, with 223 and another 20 probable cases. There was also an additional death, bringing the state’s total to 90.
Wednesday’s total includes 101 cases in Ada County, which is in the midst of a spike, with some tied to downtown bars where patrons did not practice physical distancing. In response, Central District Health has ordered bars in the county to close again and the county to return to Phase 3 of reopening.
There have been 908 cases over the last seven days, representing by far the worst week for COVID-19 infections in Idaho since the pandemic began in March. In addition, Idaho Gov. Brad Little announced the first confirmed infection of an inmate at an Idaho correctional center.
Vacation bookings are up in the Mountain West with folks looking for outdoor escape from their own dramatically increasing COVID numbers. Guides report a record increase in bookings. From Eye On Sun Valley:
Silver Creek Outfitters’ three dozen fishing guides have seen a record number of requests for guided fishing outings this summer from out-of-state visitors eager to escape coronavirus lockdowns.
While grateful for the extra business, it does present a conundrum for some.
“Terry Ring has put a whole lot of precautions in place and fly-fishing is an activity in which you can social distance,” said fishing guide Bob Knoebel. “But, while I feel confident with most of the people in the valley, I’m not as comfortable with people from outside the valley because I have no idea where they’ve been and who they’ve been with.
From CDC website. (A reminder to consider the source.)
“Do we need to get a flu vaccine earlier this year (i.e. July/August)?
While the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices has not yet voted on the flu vaccine recommendations for 2020-2021, CDC does not anticipate a major change in the recommendation on timing of vaccination. Getting vaccinated in July or August is too early, especially for older people, because of the likelihood of reduced protection against flu infection later in the flu season. September and October are good times to get vaccinated. However, as long as flu viruses are circulating, vaccination should continue, even in January or later.
Will there be changes in how and where flu vaccine is given this fall and winter?
How and where people get a flu vaccine may need to change due to the COVID-19 pandemic. CDC is working with healthcare providers and state and local health departments to develop contingency plans on how to vaccinate people against flu without increasing their risk of exposure to respiratory germs, like the virus that causes COVID-19.
Some settings that usually provide flu vaccine, like workplaces, may not offer vaccination this upcoming season, because of the challenges with maintaining social distancing. For more information on where you can get a flu vaccine, visit www.vaccinefinder.govexternal icon.”
The National Institutes of Health has been fast-tracking work with biotech firm Moderna on a potential vaccine to prevent Covid-19, which has infected more than 6.28 million people worldwide and killed at least 375,987, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
Dr. Anthony Foci said earlier this month that the biotech company expects to enroll about 30,000 individuals when it begins a phase 3 trial in July. He said there are at least four trials for potential vaccines that he is either directly or indirectly involved in.
Fauci said that by the beginning of 2021 “we hope to have” hundreds of millions of doses.”
When asked whether scientists will be able to find an effective vaccine, Fauci said he’s “cautiously optimistic,” adding that “there’s never a guarantee.” He cautioned “it could take months and months and months to get an answer” before scientists discover whether the vaccine works.
U.S. officials and scientists are hopeful a vaccine to prevent Covid-19 will be ready in the first half of 2021 — 12 to 18 months since Chinese scientists first identified the coronavirus and mapped its genetic sequence.
It’s a record-breaking time frame for a process that normally takes about a decade for an effective and safe vaccine. The fastest-ever vaccine development, mumps, took more than four years and was licensed in 1967.
However, scientists still don’t fully understand key aspects of the virus, including how immune systems respond once a person is exposed. The answers, they say, may have large implications for vaccine development, including how quickly it can be deployed to the public.
Dr. Fauci stestifying earlier this week in Washington D.C. on the federal pandemic response.
A Call for Reparations: How America Might Narrow the Racial Wealth Gap
Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones on the racial wealth gap — and why she believes it’s time for reparations. Her new piece published in New York Times magazine.
The killing of George Floyd has ignited protests and inspired conversations — and changes — across the globe. But New York Times Magazine writer Nikole Hannah-Jones says more needs to be done to address America’s racial wealth gap.
“Very few Americans have created all of their wealth on their own; it’s passed down through generations and then built upon,” Hannah-Jones says. “Black Americans never really had a chance to do that.”
Hannah-Jones traces the wealth gap to slavery, and the fact that enslaved people were not allowed to own property. She notes that the legalized segregation and racial terrorism that followed slavery exacerbated the problem and “prevented generation after generation of Black Americans from acquiring the type of wealth or foothold in the economy that allows you to live a life that is much more typical of white Americans.”
Hannah-Jones won a Pulitzer Prize for creating the 1619 project at The New York Times, which tracks the legacy of slavery. Her latest article for the Times Magazine, What is Owed, makes the case for economic reparations for Black Americans.
Very few Americans have created all of their wealth on their own; it’s passed down through generations and then built upon. Black Americans never really had a chance to do that.
There are stories of mass starvation of Black people after they had been freed, having to leave the plantation and find shelter in burned out buildings, trying to forage for food in burned-out fields. It was a devastating period for Black people. This country decided that it was going to do nothing, that it owed these people nothing.
Bruce Springsteen’s Playlist for the DT Era
“I don’t know if our democracy could stand another four years of his custodianship.”
by David Brooks
Contributing writer at The Atlantic and columnist for The New York Times.
This is a moment of tumult, anger, hope, and social change. At moments such as this, songwriters and musicians have a power to name things and help us make sense of events—artists such as Kendrick Lamar, Janelle Monáe, Tom Morello, Nina Simone, Marvin Gaye, Bob Dylan, and Bruce Springsteen.
It’s been 20 years since Springsteen wrote “American Skin (41 Shots),” a powerful song about the police killing of a black man. I thought it might be a good idea to check in with Bruce, to get his reflections on this moment and on music in this moment. Here’s a slightly edited transcript of our conversation, which took place on June 9.
“…at the heart of our racial problems is fear. Hate comes later. Fear is instantaneous. So in “American Skin,” I think what moves you is the mother’s fear for her son and the rules that she has to lay down so he can be safe. It’s simply heartbreaking to watch a young child be schooled in this way.
The Democrats haven’t really made the preservation of the middle and working class enough of a priority. And they’ve been stymied in bringing more change by the Republican Party. In the age of Roosevelt, Republicans represented business; Democrats represented labor. And when I was a kid, the first and only political question ever asked in my house was “Mom, what are we, Democrats or Republicans?” And she answered, “We are Democrats because they’re for the working people.”
Woody Guthrie- This Land Is Your Land
Image Credit: Una “rete” di rami all’Arte Sella (Wood and Art in the Forest of Italy)(detail), 2008, Arte Sella, Trento, Italy.
Fr. Richard Rohr:
My friend and fellow CAC teacher Dr. Barbara Holmes has the ability to bear witness to the expansiveness of the cosmos, the major systemic shifts taking place in society, and the small and sacred moments of daily life—all at the same time. Her writing is a poetic and prophetic call for us to wake up and pay attention to everything that is happening around us.
It is time to awaken to self, society, and the cosmos, for none of us has the luxury of sleepwalking through impending cultural and scientific revolutions. In the last sermon that he preached before he was assassinated, Martin Luther King Jr. urged us to “remain awake through a great revolution.”  . . .
Up above our heads, there are worlds unknown and a canopy of grace, light, air, and water that supports our survival. Without realizing it, we expend massive amounts of energy to block out the vastness of our universe. This is to be expected, for, in its totality, this information can be more than human systems can take. However, by riveting our attention on the mundane, we filter out the wonder that is available with each breath.
Although we have a fascination with space and the possibility of life in other realms, we steadfastly refuse to respond when the universe invites us to broaden our lines of sight. We are beckoned by blazing sunsets and the pictures returned by powerful telescopic lenses, yet, on any given day, we court a busyness that beguiles us into focusing on the limited perspectives in our immediate space.
Today, scientific information about the universe is increasing exponentially while ethnic and racial balances within the United States are shifting radically. In the scientific realm, the epistemological foundations for hierarchy, dominance, and rationality are crumbling, while proponents of gender, class, [racial,] and sexual equity have found their public voices. . . .
We are not hamsters on a wheel, waiting to fall into the cedar shavings at the bottom of the cage. We are seekers of light and life, bearers of shadows and burdens. We are struggling to journey together toward moral fulfillment. We are learning to embrace the unfathomable darkness where God dwells with enthusiasm that equals our love of light. Physics and cosmology have metaphors and languages to help us awaken to these and other possibilities. . . . We are not just citizens of one nation or another, but of the human and cosmic community.
Awareness is the moment when we rise with eyes crusted from self-induced dreams of control, domination, victimization, and self-hatred to catch a glimpse of the divine in the face of “the other.” Then God’s self-identification, “I am that I am / I will be who I will be” (Exodus 3:14) becomes a liberating example of awareness, mutuality, and self-revelation.
Barbara teaches us that “everything belongs”—from moments of personal awakening, to mind-bending discoveries with the potential to change everything. Growing in awareness of a “Christ-soaked universe” helps us to awaken to wonder and see the divine in all things.
 Martin Luther King, Jr., Sermon at the National Cathedral, Washington, D.C. (March 31, 1968). See A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr., ed. James M. Washington (HarperCollins: 1986), 270.
Barbara A. Holmes, Race and the Cosmos: An Invitation to View the World Differently, 2nd ed. (CAC Publishing: 2020), 42, 43, 57.