This Weekly Reader features links to articles that grabbed my interest or tickled my fancy as we move into the beginnings of the Biden Administration. I hope you find something that makes you laugh, think, or cry.
Lift Every Voice and Sing is the sine qua non each year in our parish celebration of the life and work of The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. I’ve written about how I came to respect and, yes, love this song, which is also known as the Black National Anthem. This past Sunday, as I thought about how African Americans turned out to vote in 2020 in ways that saved our democracy, I cried. The song’s second verse — and the thought of the weary feet of millions of voters — especially gripped me. What follows is my favorite 2020 rendition of Lift Every Voice and Sing.
“Stony the road we trod
Bitter the chastening rod
Felt in the days when hope unborn had died
Yet with a steady beat
Have not our weary feet
Come to the place for which our fathers sighed?
We have come over a way that with tears has been watered
We have come, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered
Out from the gloomy past
‘Til now we stand at last
Where the white gleam of our bright star is cast“
This Weekly Reader will begin the pivot beyond a singular focus on the atrocities of the past four years. Unfortunately many of the issues that rose to the surface of our civic life during the turmoil will remain for us to grapple with in the years ahead. Several are covered in this week’s post.
Axios has in-depth reporting in a multi-part series entitled Off the rails: Behind Trump’s post-election meltdown that is very much worth a read.
“Beginning on election night 2020 and continuing through his final days in office, Donald Trump unraveled and dragged America with him, to the point that his followers sacked the U.S. Capitol with two weeks left in his term. This Axios special series takes you inside the collapse of a president.“
If you haven’t watched the video put together by Washington Post reporters Dalton Bennett, Emma Brown, Sarah Cahlan, Joyce Sohyun Lee, Meg Kelly, Elyse Samuels, and Jon Swaine entitled 41 minutes of fear: A video timeline from inside the Capitol siege please do so.
“At 2:12 p.m. on Jan. 6, supporters of President Trump began climbing through a window they had smashed on the northwest side of the U.S. Capitol. “Go! Go! Go!” someone shouted as the rioters, some in military gear, streamed in.
It was the start of the most serious attack on the Capitol since the War of 1812. The mob coursed through the building, enraged that Congress was preparing to make Trump’s electoral defeat official. “Drag them out! … Hang them out!” rioters yelled at one point, as they gathered near the House chamber.“
You will see how close we came to losing our government on January 6th. All because of a premeditated and delusional lie.
Cristina Beltrán, an associate professor of social and cultural analysis at New York University, writes a thoughtful piece in the New York Times about the idea of multiracial whiteness and how that concept helped support the racism of the past administration.
“Rooted in America’s ugly history of white supremacy, indigenous dispossession and anti-blackness, multiracial whiteness is an ideology invested in the unequal distribution of land, wealth, power and privilege — a form of hierarchy in which the standing of one section of the population is premised on the debasement of others. Multiracial whiteness reflects an understanding of whiteness as a political color and not simply a racial identity — a discriminatory worldview in which feelings of freedom and belonging are produced through the persecution and dehumanization of others.”
“In the politics of multiracial whiteness,” writes Beltrán, “anyone can join the MAGA movement and engage in the wild freedom of unbridled rage and conspiracy theories.”
Leonard Pitts, Jr., in his column in the Miami Herald, looks at the last four years from the perspective of a person of color and writes that President Trump is one lucky guy. He wasn’t born Black, otherwise, well, you know …
“As the Trump administration stumbles through its final hours, it seems a proper time to offer a summation of the era just past. Ordinarily, this calls for analytical heavy lifting. One seeks to reconcile a mosaic of accomplishments, failures and compromises into a single coherent portrait.…
Unlike his predecessor, whom (Republicans) so extravagantly loathed, the decent family man who didn’t embarrass himself and his country every time he opened his mouth, Donald Trump had the foresight to not be Black.“
Pitts outlines the many shortcomings of Donald Trump, and then ends with this.
“After exhorting the rioters to action, he watched the melee on television. Seeing an assault on government, knowing lawmakers from his own party were in harm’s way, he did not send help and later told the rioters he loved them. It was an unspeakable betrayal of his country, his office and his duty. In other words, it was a Wednesday.
Trump leaves behind him an America in chaos, divisions deeper than living eyes have ever seen. But he was not Black. So one presumes you’re satisfied.“
As historians begin to assses the outgoing administration, you may be interested in this long and thoughtful piece by Tim Naftali ,a clinical associate professor of history at NYU who served as the first director of the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum. Natfali writes in The Atlantic that Trump is the worst president in history.
Just in time for Black History Month, Travel + Leisure magazine’s Jessica Poitevien notes that The First-ever Museum Dedicated to African American Music Will Soon Open in Nashville.
“Nashville is already known as a country music destination, but now it’s getting a bit more soul, gospel, and R&B, thanks to the addition of a new museum focusing on African American music. The National Museum of African American Music will host a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Jan. 18, 2021, with the space officially opening to the public on the 30th of that month.“
What may not be apparent to many is that African American music is not limited to areas we all recognize, such as soul, gospel, and R&B. African Americans were part of early bluegrass and country music, for instance, where their impact is not well known or recognized.
As banjo player Rhiannon Giddens told the International Bluegrass Music Association, “The question isn’t ‘How do we get diversity into bluegrass?’ The question is, ‘How do we get diversity back into bluegrass?’” That’s the challenge for the National Museum of African American Music, which seems to be off to a good start with its dedication to educating, preserving, and celebrating more than “50 music genres and styles that were created, influenced, and/or inspired by African Americans.”
On the same topic, you may wish to check out Margaret Renkl’s piece in Monday’s New York Times, Black music has a new home in Nashville.
And to end with something completely different, Bill Murphy, Jr., writing for Inc.com, suggests that People Who Adopt These 7 Verbal Habits in 2021 Have Very High Emotional Intelligence.
“Did you ever realize the perfect thing to say to somebody — only it’s too late, because you already said something less effective?
I hate when that happens. One way to have it happen less often is not to rush into saying things before you have to. A short pause can be sufficient — even just counting to five before replying.
I’d recommend saying this quietly to yourself — although if you do it out loud intentionally, you’ll certainly send a message to the other person in your conversation.
In short, silence speaks volumes, and when you’re not talking, you’re most likely thinking or even listening. You’re also not digging rhetorical holes. So the five-second pause can be a powerful tool.“
Enjoy the readings this week.
More to come…
Sunrise Image by Franz Roos from Pixabay