The Unbearable Whiteness of American Lent

During one of the airless afternoons I spent in St. Rita Sunday school, our teacher gave us the exercise of drawing the indulgences that we would give up for the upcoming Lenten season. Peering at the kids around me all sketching out their favorite snacks and most-beloved toys, I stared at my bright yellow construction paper at a total loss. When the time came to stand up and explain our choices, my paper was still blank and I became increasingly nervous as all of my white classmates proudly … [Read more...]

Breaking Faith

The culture war over religious morality has faded; in its place is something much worse. Over the past decade, pollsters charted something remarkable: Americans—long known for their piety—were fleeing organized religion in increasing numbers. The vast majority still believed in God. But the share that rejected any religious affiliation was growing fast, rising from 6 percent in 1992 to 22 percent in 2014. Among Millennials, the figure was 35 percent. Some observers predicted that this new … [Read more...]

Lessons About Our Democratic Republic

There are lessons we can take away from the 2016 National Presidential Elections about our American Democratic Republic. First, every vote and every no vote counts in the General Election. The Primary Elections are the opportunities to vote for the candidate who is your first choice. If your candidate wins and becomes your party’s nominee, you have a second chance to get your candidate elected as President of the United States. Second, if your candidate fails to win the primaries and is not … [Read more...]

Angels Are Everywhere: LA’s Homeless Army

Angels are everywhere. You can find them working at your local restaurant, sleeping in cars along the street, and huddled in the shadows on notorious Skid Row. You can find them in local colleges, graduate programs, trade schools and even in your own neighborhoods. Yes, angels are everywhere in this city of angels, but their wings have been clipped. Los Angeles is filled with angels but we often call them homeless, unemployed, underemployed, and the working poor. In Los Angeles, the rate of … [Read more...]

The Painful Truth: “I Am Not Your Negro”

"The story of the American Negro is the story of America. And it is not a pretty story." - James Baldwin am old enough to have encountered James Baldwin and his writing when I was still a student. Many of us back then read Baldwin's A Fire Next Time in much the same way that college students today read Ta-Nehisi Coates' Between the World and Me. Yet despite the passage of more than five decades, white Americans as a whole have remained as clueless as the white "innocents" whom Baldwin both … [Read more...]

The History the Slaveholders Wanted Us to Forget

Writing in 1965, the distinguished British historian Hugh Trevor-Roper argued against the idea that black people in Africa had their own history: “There is only the history of the Europeans in Africa,” he declared. “The rest is largely darkness.” History, he continued, “is essentially a form of movement, and purposive movement too,” which in his view Africans lacked. Trevor-Roper was echoing an idea that goes back at least to the early 19th century. But it wasn’t always this way. When the … [Read more...]

Never Have I Ever

So, there I was standing in front of a room full of cops trying to explain how this is an era the likes of which I have never seen in my life…not as a journalist, professional political observer, or a preacher. Among those who have sworn to “serve and protect,” a few heads were nodding in agreement. But, too much like the country right now, a few others verbally disagreed and exposed the severe divide that defines the United States in this infant moment of Trump. I could not help myself as I … [Read more...]

Integrated into a Burning House?

A Pre-Inauguration Conversaiton with Rev. Cecil Murray If you met Cecil “Chip” Murray without knowing anything about him, you’d still get immediately that you were in the presence of a real preacher man. The mellifluous cadence with which he speaks, the way he can’t help but gesticulate excitedly with his hands—this is someone in that most serious business of saving souls. Though he’s now been retired from First African Methodist Episcopal Church of Los Angeles, the city’s oldest AME church, … [Read more...]

Make America Great

What does it mean to “Make America Great Again?” Some people suggest it is actually code for “Make America White Again.” But, when was the United States white? Never! Was there ever a time when America possessed and presented the characteristics of a “great nation?” If so, when was that time? We may turn to the so-called founding documents of this nation as evidence of a “great” society; but upon full examination and honest assessment a true and clear realization is that the words … [Read more...]

Martin Luther King Day With Trump

April 8, 1968, Representative John Conyers, from Detroit, marched through downtown Memphis with Coretta Scott King, Ralph Abernathy, Harry Belafonte, and thousands of people who had come to that city from across the country. Four days earlier, Martin Luther King, Jr., had been shot and killed there, on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel, and a fugue of disbelief and despair hovered over the crowd as it continued down the road that King had travelled. The march served as a momentary validation of … [Read more...]