A Matter of Faith: A Presby Podcast

Repair and Reparations w/ Anthony Jermaine Ross-Allam

January 12, 2023 Simon Doong and Lee Catoe Season 1 Episode 112
Repair and Reparations w/ Anthony Jermaine Ross-Allam
A Matter of Faith: A Presby Podcast
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A Matter of Faith: A Presby Podcast
Repair and Reparations w/ Anthony Jermaine Ross-Allam
Jan 12, 2023 Season 1 Episode 112
Simon Doong and Lee Catoe

This week on the podcast we delve into the year with prayers of thanksgiving for the continual recovery of Damar Hamlin and a call out to continue to be politically involved...House Speaker Vote?

Question of the Week:
With a New Year beginning, people like to set New Year's resolutions. Have either of you set New Year's Resolutions and successfully implemented them? Have you ever set a resolution related to faith or spirituality?

Special Guest:
Rev. Anthony Jermaine Ross-Allam, Director of the Center for Repair of Historical Harms, PCUSA

Guest Question:
The term "reparations" comes from the term "repair". But what does "repair" actually mean when it comes to historical harms?

For Listening Guides, click here!
Got a question for us? Send them to faithpodcast@pcusa.org!
A Matter of Faith website

Show Notes Transcript

This week on the podcast we delve into the year with prayers of thanksgiving for the continual recovery of Damar Hamlin and a call out to continue to be politically involved...House Speaker Vote?

Question of the Week:
With a New Year beginning, people like to set New Year's resolutions. Have either of you set New Year's Resolutions and successfully implemented them? Have you ever set a resolution related to faith or spirituality?

Special Guest:
Rev. Anthony Jermaine Ross-Allam, Director of the Center for Repair of Historical Harms, PCUSA

Guest Question:
The term "reparations" comes from the term "repair". But what does "repair" actually mean when it comes to historical harms?

For Listening Guides, click here!
Got a question for us? Send them to faithpodcast@pcusa.org!
A Matter of Faith website

Speaker 1:

Hello and welcome to a Matter of Faith, a Presby podcast, the podcast where we respond to your questions and comments on issues of faith, social justice, and church life. Don't be afraid to write in and ask your question because if it matters to you, it matters to us and it just might be a matter of faith,

Speaker 2:

Whether it be faith in God, faith in others, or faith in yourself. We are brought to you by the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program and Unbound the interactive journal on Christian Social Justice for the Presbyterian Church usa. I am your host, Lee Cato,

Speaker 1:

And I'm your host Simon Dune.

Speaker 2:

Without further ado, let's dive into today's questions.

Speaker 1:

Well, hello everyone and welcome again to a matter of Faith, a Presby podcast. This is our first recording, at least for Lee and I, myself in the new year in 2023. Lee, how are you doing? How's the new year treating you? Do you feel new

Speaker 2:

<laugh>? I don't feel new. I think, I feel I have a lot of, I have some new responsibilities already. A lot of new things have already happened, but yeah, the new year is gonna be something else. So how is your new year do you feel new?

Speaker 1:

New? I don't know if I would say I feel new like you, I've taken on some new responsibilities coming into this year, which is great, but also a little stressful and just means there's more things to do.

Speaker 2:

Yeah.

Speaker 1:

And I think most people like to come out of the holidays and say, I feel renewed. I feel replenished and I do feel renewed in quite a few ways. I got to see a lot of friends, a lot of family, and that always makes me feel really good. Yeah. Uh, but I also, I didn't sleep as much as I would've expected to. Sometimes on break. You remember back when you were in college and you would lie down after coming back from a semester and you could just sleep for like a week Yes. To try to catch up. I feel like I, I still need that, but I didn't quite get that, but that's okay. The same

Speaker 2:

Way. Yeah, the same way. It was a lot. It was a lot that happened over the holidays and then you come back and it's just still a lot. So if everybody, everybody needs to know I am now the president of of an h o A board and let me tell you, it is something else I did not know what to expect and I still don't know, but the building is over 120 years old and so that adds a whole nother layer to to managing it. So that is, that is, that is a new venture that I think is gonna be very interesting and dealing with a lot of dynamics of people, you know, it's a whole ball game

Speaker 1:

Here. Yep. That sounds like a lot of politics, like personal politics, interpersonal politics.

Speaker 2:

Yeah. Which is something I'm not very good at. I'm not good at playing games,<laugh>, I'm not good at like personal politics. So that's gonna be interesting. And you know, that's, that's something that y'all will probably hear some things about my h o a experience, which you never thought that. So I'm also the president, which

Speaker 1:

Is whole the greetings Mr. President

Speaker 2:

<laugh>. Yes. If you've never seen, um, uh, murders in the building, what is it called?

Speaker 1:

Only murders in the building.

Speaker 2:

There is an h o a president called, I think her name is Bunny<laugh>. So if you've seen that show, I am bunny, I am the bunny of the building and nobody really liked Bunny that much and so that is what I'm expecting. Cuz sometimes you have to, you have to create boundaries, but you know, anyway. Yep. That, that's happening this year and a lot. Gotcha. Has already happened this year, Simon.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, A lot has happened this year already over the holidays and into the new year, there were a lot of events that happened in the world and in the US and in our communities. And I think one of the things that I just wanted to bring to people's attention news wise was, or well yes, was the, I guess it would be the cardiac arrest and the, the injury to DeMar Hamlin, who's the safety for the Buffalo Bills. I was watching the game as that happened and gosh, and people don't nece people don't necessarily need to go rewatch it. I'm not necessarily advocating for that, but just know that he made a ru what looked like a routine tackle and then suddenly just fell on his back and immediately was, um, immediately the trainers and medical personnel sort of descended upon him. And there was, it was sort of chaotic. The both teams formed a sort of circle around him while the medical team was working with him. He was mm-hmm. Taken away in an ambulance directly from the field. Uh, but he was brought back to stable condition. He has now, as of this recording since left Cincinnati, which is where the game was, and brought back to Buffalo, he's able to talk. So he is making a recovery, but it was very scary and there was also, you know, questions about are they gonna make the, are the, is the game going to continue? And eventually the call was made, the game was not going to continue, it was going to be suspended. And then they eventually decided it just will not be played at all. Right. They found another way to, to work it out so that the game didn't need to be played. And so that was just really hard to watch and to sort of monitor his progress, but grateful for all the prayers and the support for him and his family and his team because that was a, it was a scary situation. I know that made people pause when they think about playing football going into the following week for all the players.

Speaker 2:

Yeah. It does make you really think about, you know, questions about whose, whose bodies are being basically beaten and torn and worn over like the entertainment of others and like all that industry and, and what that means. And so there's all those questions that are happening now that I don't think people necessarily may, a lot of people haven't been having that conversation as much and, and when they should. I mean, when I was in high school, I remember a player almost dying on the field getting hit so hard that, you know, it knocks your heart outta rhythm and to to, to get your heart back onto to rhythm, you have to be like shocked and uh, or like c p r was done. And so there's just all these questions that were having now, like how did we get here? How did so much money get poured into this? And then like the systems that, that are inter the systems that also are intersecting with race and with all those conversations of how do you get into a system like this to where, you know, your body is something that is being profited off of. I know a lot of football players make a lot of money, but at the same time they sacrifice a lot of themselves to do so and what that means. And, and yeah, it's just been,

Speaker 1:

Yeah. And kind of terrible, but in this situation it's still not, there's still details coming out about exactly what caused the cardiac arrest. Some things I've read indicate that this was almost, uh, not exactly a freak accident, but a number of things had to happen for his body to go into cardiac arrest like that. Right. And it just so happened that all those things did happen. Yeah. But it's also interesting to see the expressions and the emotions of the other players on the field. They all said, this is, you know, this is my brother, this is our brother, you don't ever wanna see anyone go through that. And this sense of community amongst the players, I thought, and the teams across the league I thought was pretty special to see that because we don't always see even good sportsmanship from Right. From athletes sometimes. So to be able to see that was really, really nice.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, yeah, yeah. And in other news where we didn't see a lot of good sportsmanship was in our government, which we all know it took forever in a day to elect a house speaker Kevin McCarthy. And that was interesting to watch as well. And it's just so happened that, you know, January 6th rolled around and we were still trying to basically get the government up and running and we all know what happened on January 6th, which is insurrection and that was just kind of a wild thing to watch and it was just very disturbing to me. And now that a certain political party is now the house majority and to see the ways in which they, they created a lot of chaos, which I think a lot of ti I think in some of that cases that's what they want to do. But it's just very interesting and I think people, especially people of faith need to keep an eye out on this like kind of stuff because it is very scary. A lot of these people are really trying to dehumanize other people. And I think that that is something that we all need to kind of take heed at. And if you don't want to get political, you can, it's, it's a moral thing and to humanize people and it was just very interesting to watch and they finally elected him after how many 12 elections and so it'll be an interesting two years I think<laugh> to see what is going to happen. And so y'all, y'all pray and work it out with your local governments and vote. So yeah, it's been something else already this year. Kind of a mockery really.

Speaker 1:

Yeah. Well with a new year you do hope things change for the better and sometimes change requires a lot of personal action to make that happen, like setting a New Year's resolution. And speaking of New Year's resolutions, we have a question written in about just that the question reads with a new year beginning, people like to set New Year's resolutions. Have either of you set New Year's resolutions and successfully implemented them? Have you ever set a resolution related to faith or spit spirituality?

Speaker 2:

I don't do resolutions.

Speaker 1:

<laugh>, you're one of those, no offense, I'm one of

Speaker 2:

Those, I am one of those people. And I say that because you know, a lot of, a lot of things that come with the new year and with resolutions, deal with your body and deal with like diet and deal with, I'm not going to eat this or I'm gonna go on this fad and I'm gonna get in shape. And a lot of those things are very triggering for me as someone who has like body image issues and someone who is, I don't like to put pressure on myself. I used to do that a lot and I was very unhealthy mentally and physically and, and so I just don't do resolutions because I, for one, I just never really kept them. And then that was a disappointment and I was like, well, I don't need to disappoint myself. I do give myself goals, not necessarily the resolutions or, um, I do sometimes want to add on some things in a, in a new year, whether it be like, for me now, like spirituality wise, I'm really trying to get back to, to the roots of like who I am and my ancestors and, and in some ways kind of get back to like a spirituality of that in like a rooted kind of way. And so I'm being very intentional about that and reading up on, I mean I am pretty much all Scottish and in the highlands of Scotland and very Celtic cri Celtic traditions that can be kind of traced back. And so like I've been reading up on a lot of Celtic traditions and which talks about nature and, and all those types of things. And so that is one thing that I'm telling myself as a goal this year is, you know, get back to your rootedness and who you are. Maybe not watch so much trash tv, but I do love it. And so I don't think that's gonna happen<laugh>, but yeah, especially because there's so much out there to watch. I mean the Golden Globes just happened this week and you know, there's a lot to watch and a lot of great characters out there and actors, you know, might be one of my goal is to meet Jennifer Coolidge, you know who that is, you ever watch Legally Bond? You know the guy, the lady who says hotdog?

Speaker 1:

Yeah. Yep. Yeah,

Speaker 2:

She's on White Lotus and she won a Golden Globe and you know, you just gravitate towards some people and she's one of them and so yeah, that's an unreachable goal maybe,

Speaker 1:

But, Hmm. You mentioned, uh, trash tv speaking of which you made an appearance on some trash TV ideas, speaking, this is a of new Yes. Very, very briefs, uh, tangent for folks, but tell'em Lee,

Speaker 2:

Speaking of one of my goals, I, along with my husband Will made an appearance on the Real Housewives of Potomac. So if you wanna see us, we are in the background at a comedy show. Uh, one of the people on there, her name is Karen Hug, uh, and she did an event here and we were on the TV and we were seated in a spot that got filmed a lot because it was right at the entrance and some of the women were coming in. And so there was me and Will chilling out<laugh> right there. And so yeah, if you wanna see us, we are on, uh, I think it's the ninth episode or something of the Real Housewives of Potomac or right there. Nice. Doing our thing smiling and being ourselves. But, but yeah. And there's always goals of like, you know, go to more concerts or things like that. But what about you, Simon? Are you a resolution person?

Speaker 1:

I like to give it a go. It doesn't always work out. I think the only resolution that I can say I have successfully implemented and has stuck is a number of years ago I finally made the choice or the decision I needed to floss my teeth every day, which might sound really obvious because your dentist tells you to do it, but I just didn't do it every day. But then I was going into a new year and I was like, you know what, this is something I need to do. And so I just said, every time I brush my teeth, I'm flossing and I've stuck to that and the floss always comes with me wherever I go. That may not sound earth shattering, but hey, I did it.

Speaker 2:

D dental hygiene is important.

Speaker 1:

<laugh> dental hygiene is important. But I also think that something around goal setting and New Year's resolutions that's interesting is what kind of a goal is it? How many of them are you trying to set and how are you trying to implement it? Is it just I need to work out more because that's probably not specific enough. It's probably I need to go to the gym or I need to work out x number of times a week or x number of times a month. And when, when are you gonna do it? Like picking the exact time or how much time you're gonna dedicate to something is probably gonna drastically increase the likelihood that you are gonna be able to achieve that goal. Yeah, and that's something I do appreciate about New Year's resolutions is that it does just sort of bring about an opportunity to sort of think through all of those things. A resolution I set for myself for this year was turning my phone off before I go to bed. That way I don't just sit there and scroll before I go to sleep, burn my eyes out and then have trouble falling to sleep. So far it's been all right, but we'll see how the year progresses.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, yeah, it's hard.

Speaker 1:

Yeah. And when it comes to resolutions related to faith or spirituality, I haven't ever done this during New Years. I've occasionally had some during Lent. Yeah. Because some people choose to give something up during lent. Others like to take something on. Something that I know that someone I, that I know did for Lent was instead of giving up something like candy or dessert or something like that, instead what they did was they started a, a prayer practice where they would go for a walk three times a week and when they went on that walk, they were going to pray for one person and then every time they were praying for a different person on each walk. Yeah. Which I thought was actually kind of inspiring and kind of neat. Yeah. So maybe one day I'll, I'll I'll give that one a shot, but no faith or or spirituality spiritual related goals for this year, but in the future I could see making some and uh, yeah, and we ask you, we ask our audience, all you folks write in and let us know if you've said any New Year's resolutions and our, any of them related to faith or spirituality. I think a good resolution would be to make sure that you are following and subscribing and leaving reviews for a matter of faith, a Presby podcast. But that's just me.

Speaker 2:

Yeah. Go check us out. And another resolution or goal for all of us, and we'll get to our guests in a second, but it would be to rethink how we are doing the work to repair a lot of harm that has been done to our siblings of color, to our siblings, and to anyone who is honestly owed any kind of reparation throughout history and, and in our current time. And that's who our guest is gonna be right now. We hope that during this new year that these kinds of conversations are gonna continue with Jermaine, who will be our guest coming up. But, um, and you'll hear a lot about him, uh, in a, in a second, but we are gonna have multiple conversations with him and partners about this. And so one of our New Year's goals is to keep the conversation going about reparations and repair and doing that work ourselves and in the work that we're doing on this podcast. So now I guess we'll get to our guest. Well, joining us on the podcast today is a very special guest. We have the Reverend Anthony, Jermaine Ross all who is the director of the Center for the Repair of Historical Harms for the Presbyterian Church usa. Reverend Jermaine, welcome to the podcast.

Speaker 1:

Thank you. Thank you. It's great to be here. Yeah, we're really grateful to have you with us and to help us think through a question that is related to reparations. And so the question reads, the term reparations comes from the term repair, but what does repair actually mean when it comes to historical harms? It sounds like a very simple question, but I have a feeling it's a it's a pretty in-depth answer or response, but I'm hoping that you can help, help us think through this a bit, especially in the context of our faith. And for the, for the church,

Speaker 3:

Thank you for asking it. You're right, it's a complex question, but it's an extremely important question for the church. When we say reparation, I think it's really important to get something straight. Reparation depends on the group requiring reparations. So there cannot be one single definition for reparations that covers all of the harms, even all of the harms related to something as impactful as settler colonialism or white supremacy. So when we look for a definition for reparations, what we really should be seeking is an opportunity to listen to a community that has been harmed by something specific and we should be listening to what that community says is necessary in order for that harm to be remedied in such a way that there will no longer be a need for reparation. So for example, in the case of the Afro-American people, the people who went through this transition of emancipation without compensation reparations for has to be focused on a, on an outcome. Multiple outcomes of course are possible and desirable, but reparations for Afro-Americans has to focus on permanently closing what we refer to as the racial wealth gap. Permanently closing the racial wealth gap requires reparations on a federal level to about the tune of 13 trillion or 14 trillion depending on some particulars of calculation that is not only for the stolen ancestral wealth during the period of enslavement, but that also has to do with the failure to apply 14th amendment protections to the descendants of those people who were emancipated without compensation. And it also includes a number of other harms that come from redlining, um, specific practices aimed at disenfranchising Afro-Americans, um, at the ballot box and even in banks and other things that have to do with specific economic and even financial harms that were done to Afro-Americans on the basis of race ideology. And so to underscore it, reparations then with the capital are, has to do with solving all of the problems that stem from the period of slavery and emancipation without compensation and the sequestration of Afro-American peoples from 14th Amendment protections up until the current day. When we think about reparations outside of the Afro-American community, we simply have to look at his historic examples. You might point to what happened with, um, Japanese Americans who were unjustly interned because they were deemed to be a threat in the midst of the United States efforts, um, during World War ii and especially in response to the b bombing of Pearl Harbor. I can't say myself if Japanese Americans as a group find the reparations that they receive to be satisfactory, but I do know that we can point to that as an effort at remedying a wrong done to a distinct group within the family of US American, um, citizens. When we talk about our indigenous siblings, it is not yet determined what counts as reparations, but what is important, and I hear this from you know, our partners, um, from indigenous nations, is that it's very important to realize that indigenous nations are just that they're nations and they're sovereign nations, so they cannot be considered to be a race or an ethnic group or a minority group. And so what reparations requires for indigenous nations, of course, will be determined by indigenous nations and it will be determined in a relationship between indigenous nations in sovereign relation with the United States as well. So overall, it's very important to realize that when we talk about rap reparations with the capital R, we must attend to what distinct communities are saying is necessary in order to permanently remedy the harms that have been done to them historically.

Speaker 1:

So reparations then are contextual for the specific communities that, that we're talking about then. It's not like reparations is the same for all. It's not a, there's not a one size fits all solution in the same way that the, the initial problem that creates the need for reparations is not the same for each of these communities.

Speaker 3:

Absolutely, and I would add to that, that what is also unique to reparations is the group or the entity that is responsible for making the reparation. It's not difficult to acknowledge that a wide range of human beings on this planet have suffered as a result of their exposure to white supremacy. At the same time, we have to acknowledge that it's impossible to have something like reparations for the experience of white supremacy and actually be saying something coherent. And that's a difficult thing to grasp because how can you deny the suffering of white supremacy against a wide range of human beings on this planet? But the important thing is to realize that you can't have reparations if it's not possible to point to an entity that is responsible and capable of paying those reparations that might be about something else. But that's not what reparations is about when we're really getting down to brass tax and being serious about reparations. And so we can point for example, to Belgium for example. I don't know the details on this, but I can imagine that human beings who are the survivors of atrocities that were committed against people who live in the nation now known as Congo, would be looking toward Belgium to determine who must pay reparations for a wide range of crimes that took place previously. The people of Haiti were forced to pay reparations to the nation of France because in their successful effort to rid themselves of slavery, they deprived French people of future earnings from their practice of slavery. And they were forced to pay reparations to the French for depriving them of themselves,<laugh>, which was their own enslaved human lives. And so when we think about reparation, then we must think not just about the general and profound experience of white supremacy, but we also have to think in practical terms about who is owed reparation and what is the entity that can be identified as responsible and capable of paying. And that's where a genuine conversation about reparation starts. And I think we have to be really clear about what reparation is and what it's not. Lest we fall into this temptation of congratulating ourselves too quickly for doing the right thing. And as Presbyterians, of course, um, we know all too well that we have a proclivity toward self-deception. And I think sometimes when we are not careful and when we don't pay adequate attention to correctly defining problems, then we can deceive ourselves regarding whether or not we are currently a part of a viable and real

Speaker 2:

Solution. And, and it seems that there's this, there's also this connection between what is happening in the local context, what whatever that may look like of repair or reparations, but also in the national conversation in, in like a national level of conversation when it comes to law and when it comes to the government about what it also means as an an an entity in a bigger sense to, to do reparations. How are we also connecting those things together and how are we also doing that work to say, you know, it's not just about your local, but it's also about how we change things in the legislation. And it's not just about the things in the legislation without it having to be a local thing. So do you, how do you see those things also being connected?

Speaker 3:

What you just named Lee is a really important contemporary challenge and opportunity. And I think it's important that we get this right because of recent events and because of some older events, there are a large number of people and entities, congregations and other organizations throughout the United States that are engaging in efforts to repair some aspect of white supremacy legacy. And many people are referring to what they are doing in their church and in their state and in the, and in their municipality as reparations. And I think it's very, very important to be really careful here. And I think we have to distinguish very sharply between local acts of repair and reparations with a capital R. And there are several reasons why we have to be very careful and make the right distinction. And I say this um, with some caution that I might sound a little bit pessimistic and I don't mean for it to come across in a pessimistic way, but there's no some total of local actions not by states, not by congregations that will ever do what reparations must do. And in the case of the Afro-American people, reparations has to close the racial wealth gap permanently and set the nation on a path such that exposure to the social and economic relations of race no longer determines economic and health outcomes for the people who are the descendants of those who were emancipated. Without compensation, there's nothing that a single state can do or even a collection of states much less a municipality or a city or congregations or denominations, no matter how heartfelt and earnest people are in those efforts. At the same time, it doesn't really make a lot of sense to tell people who have the capacity to do something now to stop doing what they're doing and instead, uh, let's just wait for the government to do something that wouldn't make any sense either. So the current challenge right now facing the reparations movement wri large, is to find a way to organize all of the repair work that is currently being done in the name of making racism, white supremacy and race ideology a thing of the past. There's gotta be a way of organizing that work that's being done so that it becomes part of a ground swell that will then signal to people, um, like one of our former US presidents that now is the time for reparations because middle America now has signaled that it will not tolerate a politician who refuses to put reparations on the national agenda. We're not at that place right now in our culture. And so it creates an atmosphere where a wide range of politicians can engage in reparations denial based on their assumption that their constituencies simply won't, won't have it, they won't hear of it. What we are hoping to do is to change that scenario so that in the future when another president of the United States, for example, is asked about reparations, what they will say instead of saying, oh, the working class middle America contingent of our nation won't go for it. What I want to hear later on is someone say, we're simply not going to be able to get anything done if we don't prioritize reparations in a major way. So again, I think it's important for us to realize that while we know that white supremacy has wreaked havoc on communities in this country across generations, we need to do something now. But at the same time we have to avoid creating an unfortunate and false impression. And that unfortunate and false impression is one that will lead people to say, oh, I thought we had reparations already. Isn't that what you all were doing back in the 2000 twenties? So in order to prevent that from happening, I think what has to happen now and some of these plans are underway in a few different circles is to figure out how do we combine what we are doing in our cities, in our states, in our churches and other organizations so that everything points to the need for national reparations legislation and not national legislation for people of color or for minority groups or some other broad and disbursed ill-defined, but instead reparations according to what indigenous nations have demanded reparations according to what the Afro-American people have demanded, et cetera, et cetera. So the key I think is to do what needs to be done and what can be done right now, but to do it in such a way that it constantly points to the need to support a national agenda for reparations and a national agenda for reparations. Also must respect distinction as a function of solidarity. We don't want to blur together reparation demands on the basis of some affinity like hair texture, nose width or skin color or exposure to white supremacy in general. And the reason why we don't want to do that is because we will then play into an old trick of white supremacy where you will cause a bunch of so-called minoritized communities to then engage in a bunch of oppression Olympics and compete with one another for white philanthropy and the dollars that come from the guilt of white people. If that takes place, then what's going to happen is that if I can just say white supremacy writ large will get away with consolidating a debt and only paying pennies on the dollar and leaving the vast majority of peoples who have reparations demands that need to be heard, it will leave them in more or less the same place or in a much worse situation. So this is the distinction between repair and repairative acts and reparations with the capital R is an extremely important and fundamental dis distinction that we have to

Speaker 1:

Maintain. And as those distinctions are being maintained, I think it's pretty easy for folks to be caught up in sort of, uh, certain amounts of emotion. There's a lot of emotion in this conversation and we've seen emotion that has caught that has sort of created momentum pushing for reparations or pushing for, or an increased emphasis on things like racial injustice. But there's also kind of this danger that comes with some of that emotion because sometimes emotion fades depending on the the person who who has the emotion and is pushing for that. But I think there's also something that we've seen where it's kind of like a, a phenomenon where for some folks you're never doing enough. And to other folks they're like, why are you doing this? As you said, didn't we solve this already or is this even really an issue? What about this, what about that? So how do we kind of avoid that kind of a, a trap or getting ourselves caught up in that cycle as well because that creates, I think a layer of, it adds a layer of complexity and a lot of busy work that prevents us from getting to sort of the heart of the issues and some of the hearts of the solutions that you've been describing.

Speaker 3:

It's an excellent question and I, I think it's important to acknowledge as you did that emotion is a very important aspect of social justice work and a lot of us really need to hear the truth spoken in an uncompromising way with a lot of prophetic fire in order to wake us up out of whatever dream we were in before we realized how badly, you know, the other people on the planet need us to pay attention to what's actually going on in our collective reality. At the same time though, I think it's important that we think about the phases of social justice work and organizing more generally. And I acknowledge that very recently what happened with George Floyd, the way that he was murdered and recorded being murdered in public and also the murder of Breonna Taylor, those are things that are not new to a lot of people who have, who come from community subjected to that kind of violence. But there is something new about mainstream media making images and making reportage about those incidents. Something that you find on the mainstream news. I think it's important to say that the thing that woke you up out of your slumber is almost never the thing that's going to give you specific instruction about what to do once you've been browsed out of your sleep. And so as many people say, no one can live at a fever pitch, much less get meaningful and transformative work done when you are always sort of in the throes of prophetic fire. It's important for us to remember that as us Americans, a lot of our moral tradition comes from the Puritan tradition, the speeches of Frederick Douglass, which are just classic works of not only social justice rhetoric but rhetoric in the English language wri large, that is in part a product of the Puritan tradition. People were accustomed to hearing someone stand behind a pulpit or on a soapbox and denounce the culture for the ways that the culture has turned. Its back on godly ways. And so antislavery rhetoric and abolitionist rhetoric in particular was always a rhetoric that intended to alarm people about the danger of slavery to the soul of the nation. And there were other aspects of the abolitionist tradition and the abolitionist campaigns that used fiery rhetoric and very inflammatory rhetoric in order to wake up a sleeping conscience. And I think it's important that we see that for what it is, it is necessary. But I think we have to also discipline ourselves to expect a shift, whatever it is that woke you up, whatever it is that opened your eyes to the sufferings of other human beings. It's necessary to calm down and to relax for a period of time so that you're able to figure out who you are, what needs to be repaired, and what role you could possibly play, and making sure that those repairs take place. And in addition to that, it's equally important to play the numbers game, so to speak. And I think sometimes we forget that social change is also about numbers and it's about being political as well as being spiritual. And I say it this way to myself, um, in those moments where I'm tempted to take prophetic fire and just<laugh> incinerate, you know, an entire context because of my feelings about some atrocity that's taken place or just the persistence of white supremacy in our culture. And so what I tell myself is that I need to make sure that I never do anything that reduces the number of people who are willing to solve a problem that needs to be solved. Maybe you need to do something that will allow the number to stay the same sometimes, but I think it's important to have a commitment to adjust your attitude and to adjust your rhetoric in such a way that you never reduce the number of people who are willing to work on a problem that needs to be solved. And to put it another way, we also have to make a commitment to never add to the number of people who are enemies of other human beings while we are focused on ourself and our need to be pure and our need to feel as if we have appropriately woken up. And I think when we focus on those numbers in that way, it helps us discipline our rhetoric and it helps us think about what forms of human relationship is necessary, what forms are necessary in order to bring more people into the group of human beings who are trying to make white supremacy a thing of the past or heteropatriarchy a thing of the past or rogue capitalism a thing of the past. So I think we have to make a distinction, you know, are we engaged in kind of a literary theoretical project where we simply need to say the most correct sounding thing? Are we engaged primarily in a rhetorical campaign where we simply have to satisfy ourselves so that we can say at the end of the day we said the harshest and the sharpest and the most uncompromising thing that we could possibly have said? Or are we really focused on creating a working environment where the people who have come to work on a problem can bring their best and stay long enough to get the work done? And are we working in such a way that the working environment that we create is so attractive that we reduce the number of reasons people have to stay on the sidelines so that we're always attracting more and more people to permanently decide to stay awake and permanently get work done until we have permanently solved some of these problems that we've told ourselves for a long time? Oh, just can't be solved because it's human nature or it's mere tragedy. Your question also makes me think of an Afro-American mathematician who in the early part of the 20th century wrote about what I think can be characterized as a cycle of outrage. This is Kelly Miller. And Kelly Miller was reflecting on the phenomena of lynching and the difficulty in bringing about federal anti-lynching legislation. And he was writing an editorial in Outlook magazine and he described a cycle of outrage as it concerned lynching. And the characteristics of this outrage cycle simply involved white northern Christian or humanitarian philanthropic types hearing about atrocities against Afro-Americans taking place in the south. And then there would be a flurry of speeches and some editorial saying how horrible it is and how terrible it is and how uncivilized those people down there are. And then he concluded his analysis by saying that heated moment of outrage was always followed up by a cold shutter after which people didn't have much to say anymore about lynching and other atrocities against Afro-Americans until the press created another opportunity for people to get heated and outraged and speak in public about the terrible atrocities going on with Afro-Americans. And I think Kelly Miller's understanding of that cycle of outrage is very instructive for us because you know, in our, in the past 15, 20 years, I think many of us can actually acknowledge, you know, these cycles. Now we can look at Breonna Taylor, Trayvon Martin, Philando Castile, and so many others and we can see the flareups in media and in social media we can see the trend induced responses that come from religious communities who then make new pronouncements about what must be done, begin to have debates about what kind of signs to put out in the front lawn of the church, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. Only then for the media to lead people to get fired up about some other issue that deserves attention. And then later on some other issue that certainly needs attention. And so I think if we can acknowledge these cycles, we can avoid cynicism by simply realizing, fine, something terrible happened and media friends, whomever brought it to my attention. You go through a period of wanting to do something. There might even be periods when you think that you hate your tradition, you hate your country, you hate your parents because of X, Y, and Z. But then there needs to be a moment of clarity where you say, am I willing to work to bring this problem to an end? Or am I simply in it because I need to make other people listen to me, express myself and see me express outrage? It's okay. I think if a person can acknowledge that, you know, there's a little bit of narcissism afoot and you are just trying to get attention and having a somewhat parasitic relationship to other people's atrocities is part of how you show up on the map in your family or in your institution. But if you acknowledge that, then it's a good moment to say, okay, let me press pause and I would ask that person to press pause again. Cause I want that person to ask, am I adding to the number of people who are enemies of the people whose treatment has me outraged? Or am I adding to the number of people who are willing to work on this problem until we bring it to a solution? And I think a lot of us have to take a pause and raise that question. Otherwise I think it's also helpful for people to say, okay, fine. I'm no longer as angry as I was last week or last year about what happened to Breonna Taylor or about the atrocities that continue to happen to indigenous nations in this country. Now I'm in a phase where I'm willing to decide what it is I must do and what it is that I can do. And I think we have to say it's okay to be in a cool phase of activism and in a cool phase of organizing because that's when you realize that this is something that you can do for the long haul. And I think that's important for our spiritual health and our physical health and also for the health of organizations. We don't want to be hotheaded all the time because that doesn't last. And then we kid ourselves into thinking that we're serious when actually we're damaging those people and those issues where we once want it to be of assistance.

Speaker 2:

And and do you see kind of that like that hot headedness also is also expels a lot of energy and all at once. And I know like if I'm gonna sprint<laugh> or if I'm doing like a workout that's like high impact and I'm exerting a lot of energy all at the same time, you know, the trainer's always like burn yourself out. Like it's awful<laugh> and, but at the end of it you completely cannot do anything else. Even if you try to do something, you cannot do anything else. And sometimes it's also self-deprecating. And I've even seen, you know, people who, who who are into this work al also are also self-deprecating, whereas they give all of themselves so much so that it is burnout or all of themselves, so much so that you know, the authenticity of self is, is covered up within the work or you deny who you are. I've seen that in some cases too. And I like, I I like the idea of like the number game because are you doing the work interior too to add yourself to that number? Are you creating an enemy of your own self<laugh> within your own psyche, uh, to do right this work? And I've seen it so many times to where we deny, like I'm from the rural south and I am a white person from the rural south and I've seen so many people that are white rural people do this work that completely are ashamed of where they're from and completely will deny where they're from and they will cover up their accent and they will do everything they can do to just erase all of that and that authenticity because of the, because of the, the, the nature of the south and the dynamics there within this work too. And I just find it very interesting that, that all of these systems, they're harming all of us in a way in multiple ways and we're all kind of adding to that number of, of on the side of white supremacy and racism even as we're doing this work of trying to do repair. It's, oh, it's just a lot to kind of like think about all at once too.

Speaker 3:

It is a lot. And I mean you bring up a really good point about doing social justice work. I think we have to make a distinction between like the forms of, of communication that are necessary to help wake people up versus the way that you actually conduct yourself in relationship with human beings who are all trying to get necessary work done. And and this is a tricky thing to say, I mean because I come from like the, the black radical tradition and there's no shortage of, of heated and passionate rhetoric in our tradition. And that's in part because we are constantly trying to ward off the temptation to just accept things as they are. And so there's a reason to raise your voice and to get up and shout and to speak in an uncompromising way because it's part of how you just shake off that temptation to give up and it's part of how you let the voice of your ancestors move through your body. So I don't want to denigrate any aspect of that tradition for sure, but I'm always a little bit wary of people you know, who don't come from the same tradition who may take on some of that rhetoric and make it into a kind of superficial affectation, if you will. And in the process they don't know how to speak in a respectful and effective way to those people who I don't have a relationship with. So for example, you know, if as a white person someone is just really angry at their family tradition and the truths that they were not told and the lives that they were told, okay, fine, you're mad, you know, you're really angry and you're frustrated, maybe even depressed. And there may even be a aspect of temporary self-loathing. But again, when we think about the numbers game as an Afro-American, it doesn't help us for white people to enrage other white people for the sake of black people. It just, it doesn't help because you're, you're wearing people out, you're showing your superficiality and you're adding to the numbers of people who have multiple petty and emotional reasons to, to reject reparations claims, to be reparations deniers and to do whatever they can do to frustrate the efforts of Afro-Americans and other communities who are trying to throw off centuries of exposure, um, of white supremacy. And so I think it is helpful for, for people to really check themselves and ask what is my role in any social justice work? And oftentimes I think it's necessary to realize it's not my job to, to pretend that I'm someone that I'm not. You know, and I'm just thinking of names here, but I don't know why, but Cornell West and Angela Davis come to mind cuz they're such proud, um, such proud elders in our tradition. But there is also, you know, a soccer mom in Minnetonka who might hear Angela Davis or Cornell West speak and all of a sudden realize something needs to change and that there's work to be done. But it's probably the case that the work that needs to be done is not that, that she automatically starts to talk to the people closest to her as if she's behind the microphone trying to stir up prophetic fire. There may be a moment of that though, but the majority of the necessary organizing work is not, is not the Jeremiah, but instead the majority of organizing work is to figure out who you are, what is the appropriate work for you to do, and how do you add to the number of people who are willing to stay at work on problems that need to be solved. And I think if we can think of it in that way, then our social justice movements become a lot more practical and they become more attractive to a certain type of person. Otherwise, I think we run into a problem with self-loathing and self-hatred masquerading as a kind of righteousness and there's something extremely put about that and counterproductive and there's a certain type of human being who will be attracted to a group of people regardless of their self-loathing and self-hatred. But there are really interesting, useful and helpful people who will never, ever allow themselves to become a part of a group of people who pretend that they hate themselves, that they hate their country, that they hate their families, even as they thoroughly enjoy all the privileges that come with being a member of a certain family in a certain country and having a certain, uh, skin tone. So I think the dishonesty that some people go through is a real problem in our social justice movements. And at the center of repair, what we really focus on is the process by which we put some of those counterproductive features off to the side and we try to create an environment where any person who has something to contribute to repair and reparation will gain the instruction and the training that they need to become a permanent part of these, of solving these problems until each one of these problems that require repair are actually complete, which means paying attention, you know, to your emotional hygiene, asking yourself, what am I really in this work for? And knowing when you need a break, knowing when you need to, you know, sit it out for a few months so that you can calm yourself down or take care of other things, knowing that the work is important enough to bring your best self, but also know that there are plenty of people at work in repair and reparation, that it's not necessary to burn yourself out in other people, um, rather than take a break when you need to. So I think all of that, that is a really important part of realizing the fact. And the fact is simply that the United States is ground zero of a global white supremacist project. The solution is, is there, this is not a problem that can't be solved, but it's important to realize that the problem can't be solved simply by wearing ourselves out and engaging in a kind of revolutionary suicide. There are aspects of this work that require cool headedness and even tempered ness, and that doesn't mean that we reject the other more fervent and emotional aspects of the work, but it's just that we have to figure out what is the right arrangement that allows the dynamics that woke you up to be in a functional partnership with other dynamics and other frames of mind that help you keep steady at the work until the work is done.

Speaker 1:

And so where do we see, or where do you see the church's role in all of, and all of this process and all of this work that has to be done. Is there something in particular unique or special that the church and people of faith bring to the table in this repair work? Not necessarily that other folks don't offer, but is there something in particular that, is there a particular part of our calling or is it a particular perspective or something else that you think the church brings into this work?

Speaker 3:

Absolutely. I don't know if this is the first thing in terms of what's the most important, but the church brings responsibility. In particular European American Protestantism is responsible for engaging in the slave trade, for engaging in land theft from indigenous nations. And it is also responsible for falsifying Protestant theology in such a way that people were led to believe that slavery was natural in some cases or that the servitude of one group of human beings and the master hood of other human beings was somehow part of divine providence. And later Protestant theologies in the United States were also responsible for giving aid and comfort to people who thought nothing could be done about what happens to the descendants of the enslaved people and that it was simply a good policy to let nature take its course. So I think Protestants have an enormous amount of responsibility that makes them natural partners in the work of repair protestants also have a very proud and significant legacy in opposing slavery as well. And that should be, that should always be included. I forget to mention that sometimes because I'm focused on solving the problem. But I do think it's important that we are now still in the neo abolitionist phase of her original abolitionist period Protestants in the United States and others who are not Protestants, others who are not people of faith in the 19th century and beginning in the 18th century did what was necessary to collaborate to bring slavery to an end. Um, that happened because in part of the work of abolitionists that happened also because enslaved people decided to leave plantations and take their liberation into their own hands. It happened in part because of politicians who didn't necessarily have the best interests of freed people at heart. And it happened because some politicians did have the best interest of freed people at heart. But subsequent to emancipation, a substantial number of abolitionists, I'll just put it that way, dropped the ball and did not finish the work of abolition so that we are now in this period that I think w Eeb dubois was the first person to call it neo abolition. I think if churches realize that we are now in the neo abolition period, then churches will be able to say, we got something started, or we helped get something started in the late 18th century and in the 19th century, but we have not finished the job and we've made it more difficult for people who have never stopped working at this<laugh> work to do what they can do. And so I think there is an acknowledgement of the church's abolitionist past that will remind churches that there is still work to do now so that that work can finally be finished. At the same time, the church is a moral institution and the church can hold itself responsible to do the morally correct thing simply because it is the morally correct thing to do. Other entities and other institutions in the United States don't have that same relationship to itself and to the rest of the nation. And so I think if we really took ourselves, or if we continued to take ourselves seriously as as a series of moral communities, then we will be reminded that finishing the work of abolition is directly within our wheelhouse. And I would say even further that the church understands spiritual discipline and spiritual discipline, we often forget was a major part of what Martin Luther King Jr. Brought to the Civil rights movement. Some of the spiritual discipline that M l K brought into the Civil rights movement was derived from another religious movement or a series of religious traditions that we refer to as Hinduism. And I think that also cannot be forgotten. And the reason why I talk about spiritual discipline is because we have to have a certain disposition of mind in order to take the part of our ego out of the way that would, that would prevent us from doing what needs to be done. That doesn't mean that you stop being yourself in order to do social justice work, but there has to be a moral community that has spiritual discipline somewhere in its d n a to help you understand that your anger and your outrage and your disgusted at Injustice doesn't put clothes on anybody's back and it doesn't put food on anybody's table and it doesn't return, ill-gotten gains to anybody's bank account. It just doesn't. And so we need spiritual discipline to be able to allow ourselves to have righteous anger when that's appropriate. But we also need spiritual discipline to help us understand when and to understand how to push anger to the side and simply say to the anger, thank you very much. You have helped me understand what needs my attention. And now I need a different set of emotions to help me carry out my responsibilities. Churches are in a position to do that theoretically. As a side note, I actually had to go to a Buddhist monastery in Northeast Minneapolis called the Gutto Wheel Monastery in order to really figure out what was already in my Christian tradition, which is to say I had a monastery couple blocks away from the place that I lived in Northeast Minneapolis. And they allowed me to come in and listen to some of their lectures and to sit in some of their meditation sessions. And it was there that I was actually able to be quiet long enough to actually see what responses were available to me outside or behind, or sort of beside the point of simply being outraged at a problem that I was tempted to think was simply a permanent part of our society and our culture. I think if churches were to take full advantage of the wide breath of the Christian tradition that begins, I mean even earlier than the Desert Fathers, but even right in the life of Jesus in the midst of the disciples. I think when we go back to that tradition and then we read our way all the way back, you know, to our moment in the 21st century, we'll realize that we absolutely are called by God to do the right thing and to speak in an uncompromising way against un injustice and evil, but that we are also called to form sustainable communities of human beings that know how to love each other, know how to show each other grace, know how to take a break, know how to share work so that no one has to be burnt out. I think all of that tradition, um, especially the monastic tradition in the Orthodox tradition and in the Catholic tradition, all of those traditions I think have something to tell us about how to live together as a community of people who are reforming ourselves and also helping our society recover from a very unfortunate beginning as ground zero of global white supremacy.

Speaker 2:

Well, I just wanna say that this is not gonna be the only conversation that we have about this. We do plan to kind of have multiple conversations about repair and reparations specifically in different contexts. We, we alluded to this earlier a little bit, but how this definitely is a global and international conversation as well that we don't often talk about and how we also connect with that. And so I just wanted to mention that before we close out, because I want people to kind of have the expectation that, yeah, this is not a one-off, nor should it ever be. And we are doing our little part to continue to have the momentum behind these types of work and not simply live into kind of the, the heat of the moment in some cases, but also just continuing the conversation that needs to be continued. So I wanted to mention that, but I also wanted to invite you, Jermaine, if you have any other closing things that you would want to, to offer us before we close out.

Speaker 3:

I'm not sure if this is closing, this might be a little bit more opening, but I wanted to make sure that I named the communities who really helped to forge my spiritual backbone. I think too often we forget, you know, to name those communities that made our entire ministry possible. And so I make, I wanna make sure I don't do that. But my spiritual imagination and my spiritual backbone were both forged in the black church tradition, beginning it in Conroe, Texas at Emmanuel Seventh Day Adventist Church, where my memory of ancestors came alive by listening to stories of faithful elders, expressed the contours of their faith and their experience in the Christian life according to the conditions that they were forced to live through in the Jim Crow South and beyond. And that gave me a spiritual background that allowed me to continue to move forward in my Christian faith, while also taking very seriously my responsibility to the Afro-American people to pick up where many of my ancestors' work was cut short by discouragement and violence. And my experience with the black church was absolutely fortified and expanded by my time period at Kwanza Community Church, which is now Liberty Community Church, P C U S A in North Minneapolis in Minnesota. Um, the Reverend Doctors Ralph and the Alika Galloway, who are like my spiritual like mother and father, you know, guided me through ordination and worked with me as I co-founded the 21st Century Middle School Academy in order to serve, um, the community there in North Minneapolis. And I just wanted to say that it's really important to highlight the work of these communities because these are the communities that keep a legacy alive that stretches, you know, back beyond Henry Hyland Garnet all the way to gay Rod Wilmar and Katie Cannon, to produce leaders who can take civil rights, justice and Christian faith in the United States seriously enough to really shine a light into the future that we can all follow. So I wanna make sure that I mention that

Speaker 1:

Well, we are grateful for the work that they have done and the, the, the passion and inspiration that they have instilled in you and the work that they continue to do and that you continue to do as well, and the work that we can continue to do together. So Reverend Jermaine, thank you again so much for coming on the podcast and we'll, we'll definitely be having you again soon.

Speaker 3:

I look forward to it. Thank you so much Simon, and thank you Lee for inviting me. This has been wonderful and I look forward to more.

Speaker 2:

So thanks everyone for listening to this week's podcast. We hope this conversation really inspires you to get to work and to do the work of repair and reparation. Again, we are not just having this one episode about reparations and repair. We are gonna have a multitude of those this year. That is our goal for 2023 and beyond and continue to do this work. So we hope you join us in that and we hope you continue to, to join us each week and to subscribe and to leave us reviews and to send us in questions. We hope you all had a very good New year and continue to have a new year. And whatever you do, resolutions are not, just know that you're enough, no matter who you are. So we are sending you love, and again, we will talk to you again next week.