Revolution Online, December 29, 2008
The REVOLUTION On-Line Forum
The Oppression of Black People and Religion
From the editors: The REVOLUTION On-Line Forum is an arena for principled discussion, debate and controversy among our readers. It is a way to air views and thrash out the truth of the matter under discussion. We will, at times, weigh in with our thinking—but this is not seen as a question-answer format so much as a broad discussion.
The first of these forums addresses the question of the oppression of Black people and religion, in response to a recent letter from a reader. We are printing the following letter and, as a point of reference, a piece on religion and Black people that appeared in our special issue with the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA statement “The Oppression of Black People, the Crimes of This System, and the Revolution We Need” (Revolution #144, online at http://revcom.us/a/144/BNQ-en.html)
Many good points were made. How absolutely eye opening all the information on this site is. I am African-American and to face the truth....is overwhelming. Of course, this system has brainwashed us all...and me. I am a single mother, with three children. Trying to raise them in the Capitalist society is indeed...treacherous and almost impossible. I have been reduced to a beggar. However, I will beg to feed my children. I am unable to work because the children have medical issues. That backfires in my face. No one believes me. I guess black folks don't have the right to get sick or need medical care. We after all are just work mules right? When I advocate for my children in the public school systems, they flat out do not believe me. They even challenge me with the medical diagnosis staring them in the face. So I took my children out of that pitiful, pissy public education. I am educating my own children and I am seeing the most amazing thing. These children are hungry for knowledge. I can't keep up with there thirstiness. My oldest boy has been fighting the public schools because he said they ignore him. So, I have to work with him to regain his love for learning. All children have that natural curiosity to learn no matter what color. I am using material from your site in my lessons plans.
However, I must ask, do your beliefs in Communism totally exclude God? Or do you mean the brainwashing of the Churches in this system? Let me say, currently, I have yet to see humanity totally liberated. I have yet to see absolute peace. I don't believe that will be achieved without Jesus expected to return. You have heard I am sure, that he will restore perfect justice and equity, even in the air we breathe. I would like to learn more about communism, but there is no way I would give up the belief in the total revolutionary work that Jesus has and is accomplishing. Evil, will reign no matter what system is deployed. Because, evil is not necessarily the systems of government, but in the heart of the men who rule the system. Can you firmly say, that this Revolution you speak of, will be free of the influence of the human heart? It is in the heart man, where evil reigns. Can you say that there will be no more oppression, or exploitation of my people? No more deaths, murders, greed? How is this possible without a totally right person leading? A person with no error?
From “The Oppression of Black People, The Crimes of This System and the Revolution We Need,” Revolution #144—
False Paths and Dead Ends:
The Religion Trap
People say: “Our problem is that we have to ‘get right with God.’ ‘The Lord’ will provide—he won’t let us down.”
If praying to Jesus, or Allah, did any good, then the past 20 years would have been decades of great advance for African-American people—because Black people have been praying like never before! But instead, these have been two decades of horror and despair: the pumping of crack into the ghettos and the promotion of the fratricidal drug trade as the way out for the youth and, with that, the nightmare imprisonment of huge numbers of African-American youth, along with the pervasive, never-ending harassment and brutality, and the constant threat of murder, at the hands of the police; the further rotting out of the inner cities, drained of jobs and resources; the heightening oppression and degradation of women, in thousands of ways; the demonization of Black people in the dominant culture; and so on. All this praying has done nothing to prevent these horrors.
But it cuts way deeper than that. Religion is just wrong. It tells people to seek make-believe causes (“straying from the path of God”) for the real problems people face and to fight make-believe enemies (“the devil”) instead of the real-live ones who must be defeated. It tells people to put their faith in make-believe non-existent saviors—instead of understanding the world as it is, struggling to change it, and building unity on that basis. Religion, even the most “progressive” type of religion which includes a call to people to stand up against oppression, nevertheless in the end preaches to people that they cannot really understand reality and overcome oppression and win liberation on their own, but must ultimately rely on some non-existent god (or gods) to lead them to salvation, if not in this world, then in the next. In short, religion is a chain on people’s thinking.
Ask yourself this: Why have the oppressors, since slavery days, not only allowed but overall encouraged and supported the Black Church, helping to build it up as a key institution in Black communities, working with it and promoting it as a “refuge” for Black people? And why, today, are the churches being given all kinds of money to set up “prison ministries”—while the educational opportunities in prison are being cut?
On top of all that, today the ruling class of imperialists is building up a core of reactionary fundamentalist preachers, including among African-American clergy, as part of a Christian-fascist movement designed to get people to support all kinds of reactionary and oppressive actions and relations, to fight in, or to actively and aggressively support, wars against oppressed people in other countries, in the service of the U.S. empire, to clamp down further on resistance to all this within the U.S. and make this already heavily repressive society qualitatively more repressive.
Of course, many religious people do stand up against oppression, and the revolutionary movement should unite with such people. But religious thinking cannot set the terms for the struggle, and those who do understand the importance of taking a scientific approach to the causes and cures for this oppression need to step up and help people get emancipated from these mental chains. It’s time to get rid of this poisonous nonsense about “God will provide” and “Thank you Jesus” or “God willing”—time to quit saying “I’m blessed,” look reality in the eye, and recognize instead: “We’re oppressed!” And then set about joining together in the here and now to do something about it.
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