Rev. William Barber’s conversation with Peter Laarman, here in RD, underscores an important strategic lesson for those of us who seek to be justice-makers—we cannot do this work from ahistorical and amoral perches and expect a new day to dawn that will not simply be a remix of the politics of plantation lullabies and prosperity evangelists.
We must be steely precise in naming the effects of racism and all of its kin and the ways that money positioned as a power prod takes us further and further away from genuine democracy in the U.S.
I am reminded of sociologist William Graham Sumner’s words from 1899: “[T]he great foe of democracy now and in the future is plutocracy.” We have become a plutocracy, government by the wealthy. This has happened because, as a nation, we have made it political, social, economic and religious policy to dwell in the land of false consciousness—or what I call the fantastic hegemonic imagination.
This imagination lives as if stereotypes are absolute reproductions of humanity, and then we shape our laws and our religion in their image. We live off the bitter fruits of a fantastic hegemonic imagination that caricatures and pillages all peoples—our thoughts, our culture, our religion, our is-ness.
We live in logo-ized versions of ourselves: The poor are lazy, LGBT folk are depraved, disabled folks must be pitied, Native Americans are reduced to spiritual, Blacks are reduced to hip-hop, Asians are reduced to intellect, Latinos/as are reduced to salsa, and Whites…well Whites have no culture, no is-ness. They are simply White. There is definitely something wrong with this equation, and it is doubtful that we are truly engaging in a healthy version of democracy.
As the old Black women I grew up with used to say: Ummph…ummph…ummph. Moral Monday, to my mind, disrupts this train we are currently riding and the various stops we are taking along the way—immigration/deportation/fences, gun violence, terrorism and more. It builds a movement that is, as Barber points out, “an indigenously led, state-based, state-government focused, deeply moral, deeply constitutional, anti-racist, anti-poverty, pro-justice, pro-labor, transformative fusion movement.”
It is this fusion that I find so compelling as I try to live it out in a divinity school context, as I learn how to maintain a transformational movement that is pointed for the long haul.