American Poverty

“According to the Census Bureau, nearly 41 million people in the U.S. live in poverty. That’s second-highest rate of poverty among rich countries, as measured by the percentage of people earning less than half the national median income.” ~ Carlos Ballesteros, Newsweek

This week, the United Nations is reporting on third world poverty and disease right here in First World America.

So I’m thinking that instead of some quilt assuaging, economy-disrupting, seed packaging, give-away to an impoverished country, maybe some of the mega-churches in this country could tend to the impoverished right here in America.

“Tell those rich in this world’s wealth to quit being so full of themselves and so obsessed with money, which is here today and gone tomorrow. Tell them to go after God, who piles on all the riches we could ever manage—to do good, to be rich in helping others, to be extravagantly generous. If they do that, they’ll build a treasury that will last, gaining life that is truly life.” 1 Timothy 6: 17-19, MSG

Inhale Do Good, Exhale Poverty…
Inhale Help Others, Exhale Poverty…
Inhale Give Generously, Exhale Poverty…
Just Breathe

#JustBreathe
Reflections with Renita

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Fake Christianity…

Why are we even paying attention to those who call themselves Christians but ignore what and who Jesus paid attention to? Why do we continue to give credence to those who claim Christ but don’t reflect Christ in their attitude or actions? Why do we allow the amplification of “Christian” voices that spew separation and fear?

“What kind of deal is it to get everything you want but lose yourself? What could you ever trade your soul for?” Matthew 16: 26, MSG

Inhale Peace, Exhale Poverty…
Inhale Passion, Exhale Poverty…
Inhale God’s Promises, Exhale Poverty…
Just Breathe

#JustBreathe
Reflections with Renita

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American Exceptionalism

This summer, I participated in a curated discussion exploring the black experience through television. After watching ‘black-ish” the exceptional creation of Kenya Barris, one of the white male participants voiced his objection to the Johnson’s acting white. When pressed, he couldn’t quite explain how they were acting white, except they live in a nice house, in a nice neighborhood, drive expensive cars and wear fabulous shoes.

I saw his reaction as a demonstration of the way Americans equate wealth with whiteness. So ingrained in the American psyche is this idea of white wealth and, conversely, black poverty, that whole black communities have been destroyed by whites, indignant that blacks would possess material wealth reserved ONLY, they believed, for whites.

Today, that same sentiment is expressed in the extra security for people of color shopping in swanky stores, the harassment, even arrest of non-whites trying to deposit big checks and of course, the consistent assumption that people of color couldn’t possibly afford first class.

And since we know that any escalation will probably end badly for us…’cause racism… we resort to recording the woman who thinks she should board the plane ahead of us.

Inhale Deeply, Exhale Anger…
Inhale Slowly, Exhale Hostility…
Inhale Fully, Exhale Escalation…
Just Breathe…

#JustBreathe
Reflections with Renita

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American Rights

I spent the entirety of my last visit to the National Museum of African American History and Culture in the art gallery on the 4th level. The relentless nature of racism so palpable throughout the museum is present in this space as the catalyst for uniquely American art.

The piece that haunted me, “Increase Risk with Emotional Faith” by Kevin Cole, looks innocuous enough: wide, colorful ties intertwined in a haphazard even whimsical fashion. But the chilling inspiration for the piece was the artist’s grandfather’s story of a lynching tree in Tarry, Arkansas and the memories of black men, lynched for trying to vote, their ties wrapped around the noose as a warning to other black men.

Especially in the states of the confederacy, people of color fought and died for the right to vote in this country. I pray it’s a right we take advantage of before it is lost to all Americans.

“You have to tend to this garden of democracy, otherwise things can fall apart fairly quickly. And we’ve seen societies where that happens…so pay attention and vote.” ~ President Barack Obama

Inhale Commitment, Exhale Complacency…
Inhale Vigilance, Exhale Complacency…
Inhale Action, Exhale Complacency…
Just Breathe

#JustBreathe
Reflections with Renita

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Melting Pot…?

I watched some of the PBS series on Italian Americans last weekend, and I was struck most by the fear this new group of immigrants generated in the European Americans who were already established in this country. Like the Irish who had come earlier in the century, Italian Americans faced negative stereotyping, discrimination and violence.

I was reminded that the struggle to live up to the ideals of our founding has existed since America came to exist. I was also reminded that the achievement of ‘whiteness” available to these groups seems to have robbed them of their collective memories of prejudice and distrust experienced by their ancestors.

If they remembered, would that change their attitudes?

“Struggle is a never-ending process. Freedom is never really won; you earn it and win it in every generation.” ~ Coretta Scott King

Inhale Acceptance, Exhale Abhorrence …
Inhale Immigration, Exhale Marginalization…
Inhale Humanity, Exhale Antipathy…
Just Breathe

#JustBreathe
Reflections With Renita

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Traumatized

Scholars like Dr. Joy DeGruy have theorized that white supremacy has traumatized black AND white Americans. “Black people are afraid of a government which has not and will not protect them; white people are afraid that perhaps their injustice, or complicity in the dispensing of injustice, will come back to haunt them.”

That fear of retaliation is at the core of the gun debate…it’s why hate groups have found a safe haven in those institutions initially created to hunt slaves and why the FBI has never referred to the KKK as a terrorist group but recently labeled those peacefully protesting the violence against black bodies “black identity extremists” and warned that police attacks on black Americans could spur “premeditated, retaliatory lethal violence” against the police.

It’s a fear that’s rooted in fantasy, not reality, and yet has resulted in real oppression, real harassment, and real deaths.

“What a world this will be when human possibilities are freed, when we discover each other, when the stranger is no longer the potential criminal and the certain inferior!” ~ W. E. B. Du Bois

Inhale Reality, Exhale Fantasy…
Inhale Compassion, Exhale Complicity…
Inhale Justice, Exhale Guilt…
Just Breathe

#JustBreathe
Reflections With Renita

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Distracted

While people are using social media to protest Dove’s awkward attempt at “representing women of color thoughtfully” (their words), #45’s FBI has apparently launched COINTELPRO 2.0 to target and discredit what they’ve labeled “black identity extremists.”

The FBI has a history of targeting activists fighting for equality and social justice; in this latest move, the Bureau has “conjured’ extremists from peaceful protestors, who they say pose a growing threat to law enforcement.

And while it may not have been intentional, the Dove ad is just a distraction.

“All we say to America is, ‘Be true to what you said on paper.’ If I lived in China or even Russia, or any totalitarian country, maybe I could understand the denial of certain basic First Amendment privileges, because they hadn’t committed themselves to that over there. But somewhere I read of the freedom of assembly. Somewhere I read of the freedom of speech. Somewhere I read of the freedom of the press. Somewhere I read that the greatness of America is the right to protest for right.” ~ Martin Luther King, I’ve Been To The Mountain Top, April 3, 1968

Inhale Focus, Exhale Distractions…
Inhale Protest, Exhale Discredited…
Inhale Freedom, Exhale Denial…
Just Breathe

#JustBreathe
Reflections With Renita

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