Sam, the Recipient of Crumbs

I sat there in the office all morning and only a few Negroes came in, although the teenagers on the streets with ballot boxes were having better luck… The longer I sat there, the madder I got… If Negroes truly wanted to vote, they would have come in the office and done so. “They know it’s just a freedom vote,” I thought. “They also know Aaron Henry is a Negro. After three weeks of walking and talking until we were collapsing in the streets, these are the results we get… Until we can come up with some good sound plans to help the Negroes solve their immediate problems – that is, a way to get a little food into their bellies, a roof over their heads, and a few coins in their pockets – we will be talking forever. They will never stop being scared of Mr. Charlie until we are able to replace the crumbs that Mr. Charlie is giving them. Until we can say, ‘Here is a job, Sam. Work hard and stand up and be a man.’ Not until we can do that or find some way for Sam to do that, will Sam stand up. If we don’t, Sam will forever be a boy, an uncle or just plain Sam, the recipient of crumbs.”

~ *’Coming of Age in Mississippi’ by Anne Moody

Good intentions, the best of intentions = not worth much when people are hungry, or homeless. A person’s dignity cannot be realised when they’re unable to provide for themselves and their family. I am reminded of Thérèse of Lisieux – I can’t remember the exact quote and I can’t recall which book it’s from(!) but she wrote that, although every one of us is sinful and broken, we have a God-breathed dignity that means that we can stand before Him (and before the world), small as we are, without shame. We should treat one another in the same way, especially those who are suffering. God gives some of us more than enough so that we can share – and I don’t just mean handouts, I mean treating one another with the respect that a God-imbued dignity deserves.

*’Coming of Age in Mississippi’ is an incredible book. It is the autobiographical account of a young woman’s life in rural Mississippi as a black, abused child, and how she grew up into a strong, determined woman who decided to take a stand against injustice. I’ve been the victim of abuse (though not racism) so can relate to an extent, but the fact that Anne Moody chose to put herself in harm’s way to advocate for the rights of black people in Mississippi and elsewhere is nothing short of amazing. She is no saint – and paints no one else as saints either, just as the complex beings that we all are, even when we have the best of intentions. That makes this book all the better! It is an honest, detailed account of one person’s experiences in the mid-20th century and imho should be required reading for anyone who thinks they understand what constitutes racism and/or misogyny (especially if they have, by default, experienced neither). 

Painful Truths

‘The truth is, there were Christians on both sides of the American slavery debate… I have no doubt that many of the people who opposed abolition, interracial marriage, protection of indigenous people, black civil rights, women’s suffrage, etc. believed wholeheartedly that God was on their side and they were simply being faithful to God’s Word.  While blatant hate and racism certainly motivated plenty of our country’s past oppressors, blatant hate and racism aren’t nearly as effective at sustaining oppressive systems as uncritical acceptance of the way things are.’

From The Slaveowners and Me: On Nurturing Empathy for Oppressors

Rachel Held Evans (underlining is my own)

A powerful, thought-provoking post on Rachel Held Evans’ blog today. I don’t always agree with Rachel’s conclusions, but I am so thankful for someone who has the both the intellect and the guts to question the status quo, who is not afraid to look at herself, and those around her, with honesty and an earnest, unquenchable desire for Truth. Click here to read more; it will open in a new tab.

Also, before anyone points out that as a Briton it’s easy for me to point the finger at those across the Pond, I’d like to ask my fellow British readers if they are aware of our country’s complicit past in the slave trade? Did you know that the transatlantic slave trade was responsible for the deaths of millions of Africans – let alone the horrors of slavery for those who survived – and that our own great Industrial Revolution was funded by cash directly linked to slavery in the Caribbean? Also, fellow Britishers, are you aware of the level of exploitation and plundering of entire nations that existed under the British Empire? I’m not accusing anyone with these words – just pointing out that we cannot look upon the here and now without reference to the past, especially to past injustices perpetrated by our ancestors and especially where we have ourselves benefited, however unwittingly, from them.