Waiting For Black Jesus

Waiting For Black Jesus

Jonathan Bachman/Reuters
If you haven’t seen this image yet, you’re probably not reading this.

So much to unpack in this image.  So terribly, terribly much.  First off, Jonathan Bachman deserves a Pulitzer for this.  I understand right place, right time, perfect timing on the shutter, but this is an iconic photo.  Iesha Evans stands like a perfect statue of peace, eyes closed against the oncoming wave, arms crossed in front of her as if containing her power.  Her dress is caught ever so lightly by the breeze, giving her an ethereal, almost angelic quality, as if she’s just landed.  The riot officers, (thankfully) slowing, appear to be encountering her aura and repulsed by it.

That’s just the composition.

The reality is that Ms. Evans is about to be dragged down and zip-cuffed by two men more heavily armored than combat soldiers, men both nearly twice her size.  She represents zero threat.  No reasonable onlooker would conclude that she is armed. She is not in any way aggressive.  She is peacefully protesting, but committing the ultimate crime of blocking a thoroughfare. For this, the police deemed greater than military force was necessary.

Putting aside that I’m presented with yet another peaceful civilian being brutalized by a police force unconcerned with “serve and protect” and fattened on years of cheap military surplus, I have a different problem with this image and what it represents.  It’s almost too perfect.  It might actually work.  It might start to change public opinion about how policing is handled.  That’s great, but my question is: why this one?  Why this image? Why this woman?

Because we’re looking for Black Jesus.

These protests arose out of the general impression that minorities, particularly African-Americans, are assumed by the legal system to be guilty until proven innocent, unworthy of justice if they are, subject to summary punishment, that the system is unaccountable when it errs concerning their rights.  I could recite a litany of names here, but it would seem incomplete because there will be another one horrifyingly soon.  The largest issue is that even when the dead black (typically) man has done nothing to warrant roadside execution, the narrative always circles back to assume he somehow deserved it, somehow brought it on himself.  Maybe he was a criminal a decade ago.  Maybe he was rude.  Maybe he had a toy gun.  Maybe he was being suspicious.

In 1956, Rosa Parks was hauled off to jail for not giving up her seat on a bus.  Her’s wasn’t the first case, in fact, there was already a case working through the legal system that would successfully end Montgomery’s bus segregation.  But why were the women involved in that suit not raised up as icons of the Civil Rights movement like Parks was?  The first one to be arrested, Claudette Colvin, well, she was 15 and girl had a mouth on her.  She wouldn’t play well in the media.  She wasn’t a good face for the movement.  She wasn’t the Black Jesus they needed to show the injustice.  Similarly, all of these people who’ve wound up dead after interacting non-violently with police have been somehow less-than-holy.  Michael Brown may have robbed a store.  Freddie Gray was packing a knife.  Sandra Bland may have mouthed off to an officer.  Eric Garner was selling cigarettes.  Alton Sterling had a record.  No qualifiers for Black Jesus there.

Now we have Philando Castille, who, by all accounts, was a model citizen.  Gunned down without hesitation in his car after informing the officer that he was going to produce his permit to carry, Castille seems like the perfect person to hold up and say “this man did everything right.”  He yielded to the officer when pulled over.  He informed the officer that he was legally carrying.  He followed all of the motions, and still wound up bleeding to death from multiple gunshot wounds.

But, like Jesus, he hung out with a woman who may have been less than the Blessed Virgin Mary herself, and if there’s one thing this Christian Nation cannot tolerate, it’s someone who is not white and less than perfect.  So maybe he’s not our Black Jesus after all.

It’s possible that Iesha Evans is the Black Jesus of protesters.  Maybe not.  I’m sure we’ll hear in the coming days how she once got a B on a midterm or said a bad word once, or was in some way less than perfect, justifying her treatment in the scene in which she’s been immortalized.  But maybe we need to stop looking for Black Jesus.  Maybe we need to stop looking for that perfection and understand that we’ve already seen enough to know that there is brutal injustice going on in this nation.  Half of the country lives in fear of the law, lives with a sense that they are not equal under the law, lives with examples that they can be refused justice without repercussions.  Even if this is just a perception problem, it’s a problem.  We need to stop looking for a savior to be crucified before our eyes to start working for salvation.

Pretty Good Week, Right?

Weeks like this don’t come along very often. Victory after victory after victory, with barely enough time to breathe in between, and most of them coming from a recently suspect Supreme Court.

That’s a solid string of wins for a lot of people, and everyone who views them as losses is going to be viewed by history as backward relics hanging on to barbarism (if they’re not already).  I really can’t overstate how great these four things are – the last one, in particular, is something I will never forget reading about, something I will cherish as a defining moment of a generation. Marriage equality! FINALLY!

via Time Magazine
Five out of nine Justices agree! The other four are pond scum.

Seriously, great job to everyone who fought for this, from Stonewall to today. People bled for this, please don’t ever forget that.

Does it sound like I’m leading up to a big ‘but’?

Flag of the State of Georgia
Georgia’s flag looks familiar…

Weeks like this are great, and there’s a lot to celebrate, but my fear is that the wins in these battles are so big, so earth-shattering, that they set back the rest of the war.  They take attention and momentum away from other, related battles. They drive opponents further into the trench and embolden them to fight even harder for anything they can hold on to. They make it that much harder to get with less flashy wins on even more important issues.

first national flag of the Confederate States of America
…oooh.

Great, yeah, the Battle Flag of the Army of Northern Virginia is finally being fully recognized as a symbol of horrific racism and treason, and is being pulled down and thrown on the garbage pile of history where it belongs. Even Walmart is refusing to sell it.  Of course, removing this symbol required a blood sacrifice of 9 innocents, and has become the point of focus. Not the fact that a known radical was easily able to obtain a firearm, not the fact that he was a radicalized terrorist, not the fact that an ingrained system of hatred lead to this horrific act. It was the flag that did this, and if we take it away, everything is fine!


We’ve got marriage equality now, and thousands upon thousands of people who were denied basic human rights based solely on their gender are legally entitled to those rights. But, in the meantime, there are still 27 states where you can be fired or evicted from your apartment for legally getting married to the wrong person. There are 31 states where you can be tossed out on your ear for not dressing/acting/being the person your genitals say you are.  Everyone cheered Obama schooling a heckler without a thought to the fact that said heckler was protesting the government’s horrible detention of LGBT immigrants and asylum seekers. These are issues of livelihood and shelter and freedom that are still up for debate, but now people can get married, so what more do you people want?

via National Homeless Coalition
Yeah, probably have some work to do here.

To make matters worse, the politicians that we would hope are leading the charge on these wins are simply riding their coattails.  They claim victories that they had little or nothing to do with and have actually been counterproductive toward in the past.  The very leaders we need to drive the fight forward are the same ones who would have us declare the war done.  They are, if anything, more detrimental to the fight than the vocal opponents.

These are the fights we can’t forget about. These are the issues that we need to point to and realize that the war is far from won, that there is so much work left to be done.  This was a good week. These were a lot of victories.  Don’t expect every week to be like this.

Sorry, I can’t control myself. You’ll just have to go.

Iowa’s Supreme Court earned a lot of respect when it ruled that same-sex marriage was legal and denying it was discriminatory.  However, they have decided to balance themselves out with a completely baffling ruling:  Your boss can fire you if he can’t stop thinking about how much he wants to bang you.  No, seriously.  From the ruling:

Can a male employer terminate a female employee because the employer’s wife, due to no fault of the employee, is concerned about the nature of the relationship between the employer and the employee? This is the question we are required to answer today. For the reasons stated herein, we ultimately conclude the conduct does not amount to unlawful sex discrimination in violation of the Iowa Civil Rights Act.

I just… what?

The details in the ruling are simply appalling:

Dr. [James H.] Knight complained to [Melissa] Nelson that her clothing was too tight and revealing and “distracting.”

Dr. Knight later testified that he made these statements to Nelson because “I don’t think it’s good for me to see her wearing things that accentuate her body.” Nelson denies that her clothing was tight or in any way inappropriate.

Dr. Knight acknowledges he once told Nelson that if she saw his pants bulging, she would know her clothing was too revealing. On another occasion, Dr. Knight texted Nelson saying the shirt she had worn that day was too tight. After Nelson responded that she did not think he was being fair, Dr. Knight replied that it was a good thing Nelson did not wear tight pants too because then he would get it coming and going.

In the meeting, Dr. Knight told [Nelson’s husband] Steve Nelson that Melissa Nelson had not done anything wrong or inappropriate and that she was the best dental assistant he ever had. However, Dr. Knight said he was worried he was getting too personally attached to her. Dr. Knight told Steve Nelson that nothing was going on but that he feared he would try to have an affair with her down the road if he did not fire her.

The court held from previous precedents that since favoritism in the workplace based on sexual relationships did not rise to sexual discrimination, then therefore, the opposite was also true. Melissa Nelson had not been discriminated against because of her gender, because Dr. Knight only ever hires women.

She was discriminated against because of her looks, which is apparently legal.  More to the point, she was ogled by a lech who was afraid he was going to try to coerce her into an extramarital affair or be otherwise sexually inappropriate, which is apparently legal in Iowa.

Mind boggling.