Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw, professor at Columbia and UCLA Law Schools, wrote an essay about an event from the history of our country. It happened during Reconstruction, the time after the Civil War.
She writes, “On Nov. 10, 1898, a mob swarmed the offices of the Black-run newspaper the Daily Record, seeking retribution against its editor for editorializing against lynching. Then, under the guise of a ‘White Declaration of Independence,’ white supremacists took over the city’s government, expelling both white and Black elected officials and replacing them with unelected white insurrectionists.”
This was Wilmington, N.C., “…the site of the 1898 Wilmington race riots which has been recognized by historians as both a coup d’etat and a massacre of leading Black lives in the community. There is no marker there to commemorate the 60-250 lives (depending on estimates) that were slaughtered, no cautionary acknowledgment of the horrors that happen when racial aggression is manufactured by demagogues, amplified by media and ultimately erased by those who celebrated the coup as righting the wrongs of a multiracial democracy.”
This isn’t just Black history; this is US History. And those who do not know their history are doomed to repeat it. And we are repeating it. Make no mistake. And it weakens democracy. There is a lot of history that did not make it into the carefully curated versions of school textbooks, literally whitewashed for our consumption.
Christians have always had reasons to care about what happens in the public square. Christians respond to crisis at home and far away. Christians also seek to change the conditions that bring about crisis in people’s lives. It’s not because we are naïve and think that we can make the world into some utopia, though some have tried. It is because our very identity is wrapped up in the one who said, “When you do it to the least of these…” and “Love your neighbor” and, here’s the kicker, “Love your enemy.”