Posts Tagged ‘Black History’

“Hoke, you’re my best friend.  You are.”  That’s a line from Driving Miss Daisy, one of the many shows I find on the television relating to Black White relations in Black History month.  That scene comes from a turning point late in the film, after Miss Daisy hears a speech by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. about the shameful history of the south where good people were silent or apathetic about racism.

There are many parallels in Black History and Survivors’ history.  Take names, for example. The fact that Black people received the names of their slave masters as their own at the time of the Emancipation Proclamation. Latinos have a similar experience of receiving our surnames from the colonizers who abused our indigenous ancestors. Survivors received our spiritual names from the faith traditions in which we were abused. My family name comes from a place called, Rincon de Romos, (Romos’ corner), in the state of Aguascalientes, Mexico.

So, in a nation that is the middle of Black History Month, I ask, “Where do we stand in the fight against racism and white supremacy?  Are churches, temples, mosques and other faith communities seen as a valuable resource in this fight for equality and social transformation towards justice?”

There are certainly a lot of mixed opinions on the status of racism and white supremacy today. By racism, I mean the basic dynamic of prejudice plus power. In this sense, many people can manifest racism in particular contexts. White supremacy is a particular form of racism under which the world has suffered for over 500 years (i.e., since Columbus came to the Americas).

There is no question that we have made progress.  We have ended the Atlantic slave trade and slavery.  We have ended imperialistic colonialism and segregation.  We have established civil rights in the U.S. and in South Africa. We have even elected an African-American, Barak Hussein Obama, as president of the United States.

Some might be tempted to say that racism and white supremacy are dead.  Chris Matthews even (accidentally) declared recently that he forgot that Obama was Black.  Well, let’s not rush to conclusions that racism and white supremacy are dead.  We’ve come a long way, but we’ve still got a ways to go. We have made some progress regarding laws and civic policy, yet on the social and economic side, I don’t think we’re there.

Likewise, survivors may still sing with those who felt ripped from their homes and community, and sold into slavery, “Sometimes I feel like a motherless child.” No doubt, survivors of minority groups may feel the compounded impact of racial marginalization and colonization, plus the betrayal and trauma of religious authority sexual abuse.

While religious people or teachings may have told us that we are children of God, the powerful actions by religious authorities told us even more loudly that we were our experiences of abuse. As a result of being sexually abused by people who we perceived to be of God, our self was damaged, if not practically extinguished from us. We were left with our experiences of abuse, which we could not acknowledge, but which became confused with our self.

“When you control a man’s thinking, you do not have to worry about his actions. You do not have to tell him not to stand here or go yonder. He will find his “proper place” and will stay in it. You do not need to send him to the back door. He will go without being told. In fact, if there is no back door, he will cut one for his special benefit. His education makes it necessary.”

Those words were spoken by Dr. Carter G. Woodson, a distinguished author, editor, publisher, and historian, known as the ‘father of Black history.’  He believed that Blacks should know their past in order to participate effectively in society today.  He believed that Black history, which many tried diligently to erase, was very important for Blacks to build upon in order to be productive members of society.

I believe that there is a social parallel for survivors who are beginning to bring an important history, which many people would rather not have come forward, to light.  I believe that there is a psychic parallel for survivors who continue to ‘choose the back door’ of dignity, self worth, health and happiness, even when it appears that there is nothing holding us back.  I believe that many survivors must acknowledge that we have come to believe or act as if our proper place is to be invisible, unworthy, and/ or disconnected from ourselves and others, in order for us to become healthy and happy.

Likewise, there is a parallel for good people who do not speak up to challenge religious authority supremacy, who allow members of their churches, temples, and mosques to treat survivors of religious authority sexual abuse  as if we are invisible or second class citizens.  There is a parallel for religious leaders who sidestep laws that are intended to protect children and vulnerable adults and act as if the culture that promoted the system of religious authority sexual abuse is dead and gone.  After all, the pope met with some survivors. Some survivors received letters from bishops, didn’t they?

I got one of those letters. It says, in part, “I am so sorry for the very long, difficult journey you have suffered.  I apologize for the pain you and your family have had to endure.  I am ashamed at what you have suffered through.”  I might expect that from any bystander who didn’t have an integral part in the supervision and transfer of pedophile clergy. The letter didn’t say, I will work to repeal statutes of limitation related to sexual abuse. Or, I will speak out against my fellow religious leaders who resist repealing statutes of limitation in their states. Or, I will release the documents today that I have pledged to release ( under threat of bringing hundreds of cases to trial). Or, l will go to jail, as my attorneys repealed the criminal convictions of priests, scout leaders, and many other convicted sex offenders in their efforts to protect the churches’ interests.

I think it is appropriate to ask “Where do we stand in the fight against sexual abuse and religious authority supremacy?  Are churches, temples, mosques and other faith communities seen as a valuable resource in this fight for transparency and accountability that will lead towards social transformation and social justice?”

Dr. Jaime Romo is the author of “Healing the Sexually Abused Heart: A Workbook for Survivors, Thrivers, and Supporters.” http://www.jaimeromo.com/workbook


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