I met Charles Yancey at an Italian Ice shop in Brookhaven, GA., with his beautiful family. We discussed philosophy which introduced me to the books mentioned in the title. I have read and enjoyed them.
"To many Americans, February, first officially recognized by President Gerald Ford in 1976 as Black History Month, is a time to celebrate African-American achievements, ones that were gained against nearly impossible economic, social and political odds. But there is one achievement that is rarely on the list. As a people, African-Americans forced the United States of America to look deep into its own soul and to see the moral bankruptcy that lay there.
That bankruptcy was exposed as African-Americans struggled to live under white supremacy, a system that rendered them ‘sub-persons.’ And even as we fought to make America ‘our home’ — a home that was already brutally taken from Native Americans by white colonial settlers — our black bodies were subject to unconscionable white enslavement, violence and oppression; we lived through forms of carnage, mutilation, rape, castration and injustice that will forever mark the profound ethical failure of this country. By surviving, and demonstrating that the American experiment had failed black people and minorities, we became far more American than those who withheld America’s promise.
On paper, America stood for freedom. Yet that freedom was denied to black people. White America, white people, lived in a profound form of what Sartre called ‘bad faith’ — a state of inauthenticity and self-deception. The white social critic Lillian Smith (1896-1966), who grew up in the Deep South and later wrote ‘Killers of the Dream,’ observed, ‘I had learned that God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son so that we might have segregated churches.’ She also noted, ‘I learned it is possible to be a Christian and a white Southerner simultaneously’ and ‘to pray at night and ride Jim Crow car the next morning and to feel comfortable in doing both.’ It is this bad faith, this ethical perversity, that haunts the history of white America.
And as Frederick Douglass noted, ‘Between the Christianity of this land and the Christianity of Christ, I recognize the widest possible difference.’ And in his speech ‘What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July’ (1852), Douglass said to white America: ‘The Fourth of July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn.’...