By Caenisha Warren
On a Sankofa Journey, I remember walking through the Birmingham Civil Rights Institution with a deep sense of emotion and fear. I looked at the photos on display that recounted this time in our history, and I couldn’t believe the faces of hate in the pictures as acts of yelling, violence, and obstruction were taking place. It disturbed me to know that in that time, those faces would be looking at me, yelling at me. Seeing visual footage of the present 2016 presidential campaign, I see similar images. My fear reignites from this knowledge that our nation still has so much to undergo towards change.
I recognize the truth in what Rev. Liz Mosbo Verhage articulated about faith and politics as inherently part of worship. However, it doesn’t change my dislike of politics. I see politics as a performance taking shape through power, influence, and affluence. The suave, savvy, charismatic banter of a politician (any politician) does not build any lines of trust, truth, or faith for me.
It seems counterintuitive for a candidate to openly share exactly what they feel, due to a constant concern about, or a sway for, support from their constituents. It feels as if you are always reading between the lines and thinking beyond the words for what one may read or hear. But Trump is a remarkable contrast to the typical political candidate. He speaks his mind without caution. He throws out a slew of hate, vulgar statements, and violent propensity.
Even if Trump is employing perhaps an effective tactic to achieve success, it doesn’t remove the steady stream of followers that are responding to his candor. More than what his campaign is saying about who Trump is, what scares me is the receptivity that this kind of speech, behavior and character has gained from supporters. It tells us about the state of our union around issues of xenophobia, race and culture. This truth and reality about our nation, though not quite unfamiliar, confirms that there is still work we have to do. Whether I look back to the time of genocide and acculturation, to slavery and plantations, to Jim Crow and white supremacy, to internment and immigration laws, or to the present inequity and ignorance, race matters.
The irony plays over the reality that people who look like me, are the future majority of this nation. And yet, it is perhaps this reality that our nation is struggling with. Dr. Christena Cleveland writes about the subtle and more common reactive “Trump Tantrums” – the distress and disruption that comes with this race and power shift away from white, male, hierarchy, for which she says “prejudice serves as a buffer and a way to manage”. Her call to Christ followers is the example of Jesus who inverts power structures in order to make all things new.
The passive, covert culture of the Pacific Northwest hasn’t prepared me for a country to revert upon itself. This movie of life is becoming a scary nightmare, as hope may be hard to see or feel. But revelations from this campaign experience illustrate that Christian organizations and leadership, and the church are not exempt from the realities of race in our present either. When the campaign season ends, whether Trump is elected or not, we still have to do life together. We will still need to evaluate, eradicate, or make new, our systems of power, privilege, education, politics, economics, and religion from the impact of white supremacy and racism.