Casey Gerald has written a memoir, "There Will Be No Miracles Here." (Riverhead Books) Gerald was the final speaker in this year's Green Room series, a community-wide educational experiment at the Englert Theatre in Iowa City and a University of Iowa Honors Course taught by Dave Gould.
Gerald grew up in poverty in Dallas, went to Yale University on a scholarship and played football there. He then went to the Harvard Business School for an M.B.A. This led him to co-found "MBA's Across America" after his graduation. The organization is a movement of M.B.A.s and entrepreneurs working together to revitalize the country. Gerald says this year, 32 M.B.A.s comprised of 8 teams, went to 26 towns and cities to work hands-on with 48 visionary entrepreneurs. These men and women ae trying to create jobs and change lives in their communites.
Casey Gerald spoke with Charity about his memior. Gerald is concerned about America's disenfranchised, whom he can relate to because he grew up black, poor and gay in evangelical Texas. He told us the rest of America needs to realize its failure to confront the myths, half-truths and lies that relate to the success stories that the nation cherishes. He understands how the world crushes those who live at the margin.
Gerald's grandfather led a black, evangelical church. His mother disappeared frequently and mysteriously from his life. His father was a football legend who literally broke his back for the team. Our guest spoke of the "Empathy Gap" in the society today and how to bridge it, which he says will not be impossible, but will be "damn hard." He went on: "I tell young people that the only thing reasonable for them on campus is total rebellion--you've got to get out of the classroom, get out of your cubicle, cross the road and go talk to somebody. We're more alike than unlike--we're all in this together."
Gerald told Charity that we're in the early days of a "beautiful and dangerous revolution." He said on the program: "When it comes to the terms by which we live in the world, our young people are not given any quarter concerning the ideas about life that were given to them. They know something's up and they're looking for something new--and I love that!" http://www.iowapublicradio.org/post/casey-gerald-inspires-us-questi...
Albert Raboteau posits that common to many African societies was belief in a High God, or Supreme Creator of the world and everything in it. It was also commonly believed that this High God, often associated with the sky, was somewhat removed from and uninvolved in the activities of men, especially so when compared with the lesser gods and ancestor-spirits who were actively and constantly concerned with the daily life of the individual and the affairs of society as a whole.
Early travelers were quick to note that Africans believed in a High God who transcended ritual relationships with humans. Describing religion on the Slave Coast, William Bosman, a Dutch doctor, remarked that the Africans had an “idea of the True god and ascribe to him the Attributes of almighty, and Omnipresent.”
SLAVES AS BIBLE CHRISTIANS
The sermons of the slave preacher were based upon the Bible. Indeed the biblical orientation of slave religion was one of its central characteristics. Stories, characters, and images from both Old and New Testaments pervaded the preaching, praying, and singing of the slaves. Keenly aware of their inability to read the Scriptures, many slaves came to view education with a religious awe and bitterly resented the slaveholders' ban on reading.
“Dey jus' beat 'um up bad when dey cotched 'em studyin' readin' and writin',” recalled William McWhorter. “Folks did tell 'bout some of de owners dat cut off one finger evvy time dey cotch a slave tryin' to git larnin' so bad dey would slip out at night and meet in a deep gully whar dey would study by de light of light’ood torchers; but one thing sho, dey better not let no white folks find out 'bout it, and if dey was lucky 'nough 'til dey larned to read de Bible, dey kept it a close secret.”
The thirst of slaves for religious education led them to sneak lessons whenever they found a teacher. Slaves were distrustful of white folks' interpretation of the Scriptures and wanted to be able to search them for themselves. The reverence which they held for the Bible moved many ex-slaves to flock to schools set up by missionaries after freedom came.
There were slaves who did learn to read. Some planters, ignoring the law or customs prohibiting slave literacy, did not hinder their slaves' efforts to learn.
SLAVES' SEMIOTICS OR SINGIN' IN CODE AS PROPAGANDA
Thomas Wentworth Higginson, who collected spirituals from black troops during the Civil War explained “de Lord will call us home' was evidently thought to be a symbolical verse; for, as a little drummer-boy explained to me, showing all his white teeth as he sat in the moonlight by the door of my tent, 'Day tink de Lord mean for say de Yankees.'” Higginson concluded that “suspicion in this case was unfounded,” but one wonders if he noted the ambiguity of the drummer boy's smile.
William Sinclair, whose early childhood was spent in slavery in Georgetown, South Carolina, claimed that when slave owners forbade the slaves to sing “One of these days I shall be free/ When Christ the Lord shall set me free,” they “hoodwinked the master class by humming the music of this particular song, while the words echoed and reechoed deep down in their hearts with perhaps greater effect than if they had been spoken.”
By the end of the war once ambiguous references to freedom and slavery had become clear.
The spirituals, then, were capable of communicating on more than one level of meaning. Indeed it would have been strange had they not, since much of the verbal art of West Africans and many of the folk tales of their American descendants were characterized by indirect, veiled social comment and criticism, a technique appropriately described as “hitting a straight lick with a crooked stick.”
Raboteau posits that important though it is to recognize that the spirituals sometimes expressed the slaves' desire for freedom in this world as well as in the next, it is at least as important to understand the profound connection between the other world and this would in the religious consciousness of the slaves. It was precisely at the worship and praise services in which the spirituals were so important that the contact between God and man became real for the slaves.
The slaves' community reached out through space and time to include Jacob, Moses, Joshua, Noah, Daniel, the heroes whose faith had been tested of old. From the new Testament they remembered “weeping Mary,” “sinking Peter,” and “doubting Thomas,” again noting the trials of faith through which these “true believers” had passed: Mary weeping in the garden because she did not know where Jesus' body had been taken, until he appeared to her in his risen glory; Thomas doubting that Jesus had risen until Jesus appeared to him and said, “Blessed are those who have not seen, yet believed”; Peter sinking beneath the waves of the Sea of Galilee because he was weak in faith, until Jesus, walking upon the water, reached out to save him. These were the models, the analogues, reminding the slaves to hold on to their faith despite grief, doubt, and fear.
Identification with the children of Israel was, of course, a significant theme for white Americans, too. From the beginnings of colonization, white Christians had identified the journey across the Atlantic to the New World as the exodus of a new Israel from the bondage of Europe into the promised land of milk and honey.
For the black Christian, as Vincent Harding has observed, the imagery was reversed: the Middle passage had brought his people to Egypt land, where they suffered bondage under Pharaoh.
White Christians saw themselves as a new Israel; slaves identified themselves as the old. Certainly, a great deal of the imagery and even the verses which occur in the slave spirituals occur in the white revivalist spirituals also. Particularly, to those poor whites who knew suffering, hardship, and oppression these images must have meant much the same as they did to slaves.
The media have been obsessed with white evangelicals’ unmovable support for Donald Trump. As a new poll from the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) shows, white evangelicals continue to be dedicated to Trump. His support among this group is at the highest levels ever, despite his alleged moral trespasses and lack of religious orientation.
My new book, “Immigrants, Evangelicals and Politics in an Era of Demographic Change,” shows white evangelicals are more conservative than other whites on policy issues including welfare, climate change and immigration. Their conservative reaction to demographic change is at the heart of their political agenda and perhaps a response to increasing racial diversity within their own religious community.
Here’s how I did my research
In the months after the 2016 presidential election, I collaborated with other social scientists at the University of California at Los Angeles, Baylor University and Arizona State University to conduct an Internet-based national public opinion study called the 2016 Collaborative Multiracial Post-Election Survey. We detail the methodology in a recent journal article.
We surveyed more than 10,000 respondents via English, Spanish, Vietnamese, Korean and Chinese questionnaires, including 3,003 Latinos, 3,102 blacks, 3,006 Asian Americans and 1,034 whites. While we did not “oversample” evangelicals, more than 2,000 respondents self-identified as “born-again” or “evangelical,” making it possible to examine differences in the attitudes of evangelicals from different racial and ethnic groups.
White evangelicals are uniquely conservative politically
Many news outlets have reported that whites were the only racial group in which a majority voted for Trump in 2016. But polling data shows us just how different evangelicals are from other whites. For instance, according to Election Day exit polls, 80 percent of white evangelicals supported Donald Trump. Among all other – nonevangelical — whites, 59 percent voted for Hillary Clinton.
That is true in part because white evangelicals are more conservative on a range of issues. According to our survey, for example, 27 percent of white evangelicals don’t believe the federal government should pass laws to combat climate change – while 20 percent of other whites hold that position. More than 25 percent of white evangelicals oppose more federal spending on the poor, while that is true for about 14 percent of all nonevangelical whites. And about 50 percent of all white evangelicals believe immigration is bad for the economy, compared with about 33 percent of other, nonevangelical whites.
White evangelicals are much more conservative than Latino, Asian American and black evangelicals
Even among evangelicals, there are wide racial divides on political positions. It is true evangelicals of all racial backgrounds hold more conservative views on issues such as abortion and same-sex marriage than does the general U.S. population.
Aside from these issues, evangelicals are very politically different by race. White evangelicals are markedly more conservative than Latino, Asian American and, perhaps not surprisingly, black evangelicals on climate change, federal funding to aid the poor and taxing the wealthy.
White evangelicals are more than twice as likely as any other group of evangelicals to oppose government funding to combat climate change or policies to tax the wealthy. No more than 10 percent of black, Asian American or Latino evangelicals oppose government regulation to combat climate change. Less than 15 percent of any of these groups oppose a tax increase on the wealthy, compared with about 30 percent of white evangelicals. White evangelicals are also more conservative on racial issues, whether those are attitudes about Black Lives Matter or the U.S. apologizing for slavery.
White evangelicals are much more conservative on immigration than nonwhite evangelicals. Fully 50 percent of white evangelicals in our survey agree that “immigrants hurt the economy,” compared with 22 percent of black evangelicals, 25 percent of Latino evangelicals and 21 percent of Asian American evangelicals.
I find these patterns from other surveys at various times since 2008. These patterns show up no matter what else changes in our approach or what other demographic factors we consider: different survey methods (phone vs. online), as well as factors like socioeconomic class, party identification and general beliefs about the role of government.
What’s behind political conservatism among white evangelicals?
The findings might be somewhat surprising, given the growing diversity of the evangelical community. For instance, Latino and Asian American evangelicals now make up about 13 percent of all evangelicals. Perhaps more important, they are one of the only sources of evangelical growth — given that white evangelicals are declining steeply as a proportion of the population.
But this demographic change appears to be fueling racial and religious anxieties among white evangelicals. Rank-and-file white evangelicals have the most negative attitudes toward immigrants of all U.S. religious groups. That’s true despite the fact that conservative white evangelical leaders strongly favor a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.
My research indicates white evangelical conservatism correlates strongly with their perceptions anti-white discrimination, even after taking into account economic status, party, age and region. Fully 50 percent of white evangelical respondents to our 2016 survey reported feeling they face discrimination that’s comparable to, or even higher than, the discrimination they believe Muslim Americans face. Those who hold this perception are more likely to hold conservative attitudes on issues as wide-ranging as climate change, tax policy and health-care reform.
Here’s what is not behind these beliefs: economic anxiety. Like PRRI and political scientist Diana Mutz, I find economic anxiety isn’t a primary reason for supporting Trump. Rather, white evangelicals fear losing racial status. White evangelicals’ perceptions they’re the targets of discrimination – more so than other groups — influence far more than simply their votes for Trump.
Yes, 80 percent of white evangelicals supported Donald Trump in 2016. And the racial fears and anxieties that underlie their support for the president will probably remain the driver in their political views long after he leaves office.
Janelle Wong is professor of American studies at the University of Maryland, College Park, and author of “Immigrants, Evangelicals and Politics in an Era of Demographic Change” (Russell Sage, 2018) https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage/wp/2018/06/19/white...
But oppression was not slavery. The slaves' historical identity as a unique people was peculiarly their own. In the spirituals the slaves affirmed and reaffirmed that identity religiously as they suffered and celebrated their journey from slavery to freedom.
END OF PART TWO