By David Patterson
One of the things that tends to incense Marva (my wife of 28 years) and I, because we are unapologetically Christian civil and human rights activists, and have been for about 20 years, is the cringe-worthy thought of the early colonialists committing acts of theft and murder under the pretense of Christian faith–a faith they falsely aligned with a campaign of blatant savagery.
The doctrine they claimed to hold sacred never co-signed these heinous acts. The murderous, vile, and lecherous atrocities exhibited by these so-called Christians were in reality, the acts of degenerate, greedy individuals who used scripture and false piety to loot, kill, and steal the land from American Natives, subsequently enslaving Africans in order to build an empire that neither of these groups would realistically ever benefit from.
That seed of white supremacy has blossomed into an American empire whose tentacles affect every aspect of American life in some way.
To offer a bit of context, let me share a juxtaposition, the idea of American Christianity, placed side by side with what Frederick Douglass called ‘Christianity proper.’ This is relevant because it is the perspective of one of the most revered statesmen of his day who saw the correlation personally. As written in chapter six of my book The First 400, the Color of Profit, Persecution, and Perseverance, Douglass made this proclamation: “for between the Christianity of this land and the Christianity of Christ, I recognize the widest possible difference. So wide that to receive the one as good, pure, and holy, is of necessity to reject the other as bad, corrupt, and wicked. To be the friend of the one, is of necessity to be the enemy of the other. I love the pure, peaceable, and impartial Christianity of Christ. I therefore hate the corrupt, slaveholding, women-whipping, cradle-plundering, partial, and hypocritical Christianity of this land.” The differences couldn’t be more glaring.
Keep in mind George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and even Patrick Henry were slaveholders. I write in the book about how we couldn’t realistically expect leaders like FDR to invite an Olympic legend like Jesse Owens to the White House to shake his hand after winning four gold medals and destroying the myth of Nazi Aryan supremacy if the founding fathers owned slaves and condoned treating blacks as lesser, could we?
They say slavery ended with the Emancipation Proclamation, but when you examine it a bit closer it’s not so cut and dry. When you consider the fact that the 13th Amendment allowed for slavery to continue via criminal conviction just months after an enormous amount of land (the real 40 acres/mule story) was taken from freed slaves and given back to slaveowners, did the practice really end or is it just a matter of nomenclature? The foundational principles of America tend to hitch white supremacy to the white conservative political and evangelical bandwagon, which even serves to reel in many black conservatives that believe the “kingdom over culture” stance justifies the suppression, and even state-sanctioned murder of blacks, as long as they are predominantly on the lower end of the economic ladder.
(This narrative is an excerpt from a Zoom forum held on Tuesday October 13, 2020. This virtual event was sponsored by Cleveland Peace Action and can be seen in its entirety via their link.) Click Here to see.