By Aswad Walker
Disclaimer: One Black Man’s Opinion
Ed Young, go sit down.
Without getting into the “details” of the recent sermon delivered by Second Baptist’s pastor, in a few words, he nearly covered all the racist bases, hitting an inside-the-park home run of white nationalism. Here’s the pitch.
First Base: Preaching Alternative Facts as Gospel Truths
Young never preached about the federal crime of insurrection. Neither did he call for “throwing those bums” (GOP elected officials) who instigated, organized and supported the Jan. 6 coup out of office. And there are mountains of evidence to show who was guilty of attempting to overthrow American democracy. Hell, the guilty are still calling for the same crimes daily.
No. Young was silent about Jan. 6, but chose to loudly and erroneously declare Houston “the most dangerous city in America to live in” because of the “bail scam” run by the city’s liberal/progressive leaders. Even though US crime stats show Houston doesn’t even crack the Top 10 most dangerous cities according to a MoneyGeek survey or the Top 20 as reported by Money.Inc.
Fun fact: according to data compiled by MoneyGeek, of the 12 safest large US cities, over half of them are in cities the GOP considers “liberal/progressive” hotbeds, including New York City, Austin, Texas and four cities in, God forbid, California.
Houston and Harris County officials do have to answer for some decisions that have allowed violent offenders to be released. But what’s being ignored by Young and others is the University of Pennsylvania’s Quattrone Center for the Fair Administration of Justice report that shows that the Lina Hidalgo-led bail reform has decreased recidivism (re-offending) for both misdemeanor and felony offenses; facilitated drops in crime for several subgroups, including 26-40-yr-olds with prior criminal records; and reduced pre-trial detention rates and plea deals—two things that absolutely screw over people of color and the poor. But apparently Young doesn’t concern himself with the poor. He leaves that to Jesus.
Second Base: The Blame Game
Saying crime is a problem and blaming it on the “Dems,” the “liberals” and the “progressives” (i.e. the Blacks) is basically the Haiti technique. Whenever the country of Haiti finds itself in need of aid, politicians, certain media types and conservatives of all bents cascade the island nation with dismissives that categorize the people as lazy, irresponsible, corrupt and at fault for their own horrendous economic condition, basically declaring the Haitian people as “less than.”
But what’s left out of their holier-than-thou scolding is a little thing some like to call historical facts for context. They purposely leave out that Haiti is still, in 2022, paying France reparations for having the audacity to win their freedom from enslavement in 1804. Yes, Haiti is paying their former enslavers for having the nerve to fight for freedom. But dig this, the USA colonized Haiti from 1915 to 1934 (roughly 20 years), destabilizing Haiti’s banking, economic, educational and agricultural systems and diverting all “profits” to American pockets. And if that weren’t enough, every western power (the US, France and all their European allies) colluded to embargo and divest from Haiti to purposely leave the country in economic and political shambles. So, when Haiti stands in need after a natural or political disaster, those same western powers blame the victim for its challenging state of affairs.
What does all this have to do with the Second Baptist pastor and H-town? If you’ve been paying attention, violent crimes have been rising nationally, especially in states that have made it easier for anyone to get a gun (Hello, Texas). And so many of the economic supports and programs that have a proven track record of increasing employment and reducing crime have been summarily defunded by Republican state legislatures (Hello, Texas) who also handcuff local governments from enacting other measures to offset the madness. In other words, they do the Haiti thing—create the conditions for “failure,” then turn around and blame the folk who have to live with the impact of GOP policies.
Third Base: Coded Language
As many know, President Richard Nixon in 1971 declared a “war on drugs” that fueled America’s mass incarceration addiction while doing little-to-nothing to stop the flow of dangerous drugs into the country. What most don’t know is that top Nixon aide, John Ehrlichman admitted that the supposed “war on drugs” was literally a war on Black people.
“You want to know what this was really all about,” Ehrlichman said, while beginning his confession. “The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and Black people. You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or Blacks, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and Blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did,” he said.
In 1981, Republican campaign consultant Lee Atwater said the same thing, but in more direct language (which is ironic, since he was talking about the power of indirect or coded language), when he said, “You start out in 1954 by saying, ‘Nigger, nigger, nigger.’ By 1968 you can’t say ‘nigger’—that hurts you, backfires. So you say stuff like, uh, forced busing, states’ rights, and all that stuff, and you’re getting so abstract. Now, you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is, Blacks get hurt worse than whites.… ‘We want to cut this,’ is much more abstract than even the busing thing, uh, and a hell of a lot more abstract than ‘Nigger, nigger.’”
Don’t let the pastor position fool you. When Young blamed rising crime on liberals and declared Houston “the most dangerous city in America to live in,” he was participating in the same tradition as Nixon, Ehrlichman, Atwater and far too many white Christian pastors to list from 1619 to today—using coded language to call out Black and Brown people.
And what’s so beautifully insidious about this is, even though like Atwater and Ehrlichman admit, they know exactly what they’re doing, they absolutely enjoy playing the victim by declaring anyone racist who calls them on their racism. And they do such a convincing job acting as if they’re outdone by the accusations, they deserve #OscarsSoWhite all around.
And what’s even crazier is that even though US politicians and media outlets have done a masterful job of implanting into our subconscious the face of crime being Black, official US crime statistics tell a totally different story.
According to the FBI’s Uniform Crime-Reporting data, whites are the largest perpetrators of robbery, assault, aggravated assault, arson, murder, prostitution, rape, gang violence, drug selling, drug dealing, auto theft, etc. But in a world where facts don’t matter, with Black being the face of crime, the use of coded language like “Dems,” “liberals,” “progressives,” etc. being the cause of rising “crime” paints a very specific and purposeful (i.e. not accidental) picture for whatever congregation you’re preaching to.
Home Plate: Christian Fault Lines
As stated, the white “Christian” church has forever demonized Black people. That’s nothing new. And it’s never stopped. Young simply followed a longstanding tradition when he preached his recent comments. But what’s crazy is, anti-Blackness was nowhere near the founding of the faith. How could it be, since Christianity traces its roots back to Africa, and a message of “liberal” and “progressive” and, dare I say, “revolutionary” social change?
Truth be told, Young cannot be held accountable for what has become standard operating procedure in modern “Christian” circles; to ignore (shun) the faith’s origins for a radically altered origin story that focuses on being apolitical, solely obsessed with one’s soul’s destination after death and centered in a Eurocentric paradigm, aesthetic and worldview. But that doesn’t erase the fact that when Young denounced “progressives” and their attempts to confront very real social issues rather than wait for their rewards in heaven after death, he was as far away from the origins of the faith as Trump is to “truth.” So, whether he meant to or not, Young’s message and version of Christianity celebrated those who believe in the myth of white supremacy and demonization of all others.
So, to Pastor Young and all those who said amen during his diatribe, I leave y’all with the mantra made famous by Defender legend, the late Max Edison, who, if he were here today, would tell you, though you may have hit a white supremacist homerun, you need to “Go. Sit. Down.”