Don’t be the Last One on the Positive Side of History

11038390_859192000809257_965129213486040511_n    By Rowdy Duncan

New Flags

There has really been a lot of troubling push back to what has been some very positive developments for peoples in oppressed situations. And while there has been a great deal of hope in these developments, there has also been a lot of troubling reactions to the change.

Let’s be clear too, some recent developments offer the opportunity for freedom for those that experience less of it then most people enjoy. The current discussion about the removal of the confederate flag (specifically the confederate battle flag… more on that later) to how to respond to the Supreme Courts ruling on the legality of LGBT Marriage in all 50 states. These freedoms are going to change the lives of people in the majority, but whatever “loss” this could mean – has a twofold outcome. A change in the worldview and expectation of some things that were traditions. This is seen as the “loss”. But too often there is little focus on the “gain”, this is where we encounter new people with greater freedom, a diminished feeling of oppression, where we can meet people more free to be their true selves which we will also explore later.

First I wanted to address the controversy with these images

I have seen on the internet people correcting others on what the confederate flag actually is, this

image shows that there were many flags that represented the confederacy. The current debate is about the one known as the southern cross, or the confederate battle flag. I have also heard the “loss” what some southern people see as a flag that represented states rights and a battle against northern oppression. I have heard the flag has nothing to do with slavery, rather it was states rights and self governance. I disagree, slavery was a major part of the confederate movement.

“For example Nikki Haley stated 5 years ago: South Carolina governor Nikki Haley stated when she first ran for office the Confederate Battle Flag, “was not something racist” but was, “part of a past that people feel proud of”
Read more:

“Additionally, In 1861 Confederate president Jefferson Davis reminded his congress that because “the labor of African slaves was and is indispensable” to southern prosperity. “With interests of such overwhelming magnitude imperiled” by the election to the presidency of an antislavery man like Abraham Lincoln, he declared, “the people of the Southern States were driven . . . to the adoption of some course of action to avert the danger with which they were openly menaced.” The Confederacy’s vice president, Alexander Stephens, also acknowledged that disputes about “the proper status of the negro in our form of civilization” between North and South constituted “the immediate cause” of secession. “Our new Government,” he exulted, was founded “upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery, subordination to the superior race, is his natural and normal condition.” The new slaveholders’ republic fashioned itself a constitution that reflected secession’s central purpose. In most ways a carbon copy of the U. S. Constitution, the South’s version distinguished itself by guaranteeing that no “law denying or impairing the right of property in negro slaves” would ever be enacted by a Confederate government.”
Read more:

It is clear to me that slavery and notions of white supremacy are deeply intertwined in the confederate movement.

And Jon Stewart notes how this pall of this flag still flying over our country in places meant to determine equity and fair treatment effects us.

How can you have a flag that ALSO represents the oppression and subjection of an entire race of people flying over the places that are meant to point us toward the freedom of all? It PAST time to get the confederate flag or the confederate battle flag down from our government buildings. How can any American feel as though there will be treated with fairness and equity in a building meant to set the precedent for such decisions? Also lets be honest I don’t know that you can be proud to be an American and believe in what America represents and also want to defend the confederacy. The Confederacy was a treasonous government that meant to take our southern states from American, and clearly how a different view of what freedom represents. Think had the south won, or if “the south did ever rise again”, could we ever have had the great human civil rights gains hard fought and hard won by BOTH blacks and whites happened in Birmingham, Selma, and throughout the Freedom Rides? Clearly not because even in those times we needed to lean of the sentiments of our northern aggressors to step in and violate those “states rights” to overturn Jim Crow practices.

Next I turn to our churches and the recent SCOTUS ruling allowing gay marriage. I have yet to have hear from any church in Phoenix, and only three churches to celebrate this freedom in my network of churches

Flag comparison

Sojourn Grace Collective in San Diego

MissionGathering in San Diego

And thankfully the only primarily black church to support their LGBT brothers and sisters

First Corinthian Baptist Church in Harlem New York

Many of these churches on the wrong side of history are churches of color. They say gay marriage is an abomination. That it is against the will of God. Many times Leviticus and the Law is quoted. To me Jesus came to liberate us all from the Law. I eat shrimp, I eat bacon. And if I were gay I would hope to be able to love and not be told I my eschew love all together to be accepted into church. You cannot image the pain in my heart this past Sunday when I heard my pastor urge for sensitivity to the LBGT community and also claim legality is not equal to morality and deem this against the will of the Lord. It hurt so much because I do not feel as though this is the will of Jesus the redeemer.

First off when we look at marriage and what was ok and not ok in the Bible is complicated. A man could rape a woman and pay the man’s 50 coins to marry what was seen culturally at the time damaged goods. A man could marry more than one women in the old testament. A man could choose to marry his deceased brother’s wife and have more than one wife. The old testament refers to concubines – aka sex slaves. In the new testament Jesus talks about things that were “legal” according to the law, marrying many women (at the time 13 and 14 year olds) and then men just issuing certificates of divorce whenever they wished so they could be free to marry another. Also some words used in the new testament my Paul are also troublesome for same sex relationships but when one reads the quotes closer you see Paul main argument is about Lust, not Love, and that at the time many same sex relations were done with little boys, sex slaves, or for temple prostitution to honor other gods.

Many specific words that Paul uses are not completely in line with Jesus or Gods will – but he had the language of the oppressed to express himself. And was limited by the cultural norms of the day. for more on this I HIGHLY recommend my Christian brothers and sisters listen to the following podcast

No where in the Bible is same sex marriage even mentioned – or loving committed relationships with one another. Jesus loved all who were oppressed, and truly further he loves all people. This in my view includes the LGBT community and our churches need to embrace this community – especially communities of color who all too well know the sting of oppression and the pain of outsider judgement.

For more on the Bible and same sex marriage I recommend:

We see too much a willingness for people to hold onto the comfortable world of yesterday no matter who it hurts today. For example it can look like an unwillingness to recognize their history or heritage is not the experience of another group of people. I doubt anyone loves the confederate battle flag with the same level of pain and hurt as those who have been treated as less than human and hated for who they are, Any happy memories you have of this flag one can clearly understand this emotion is not as strong as the feeling represented in this picture.

This is cut and dried as I can make it. If you loved the confederate flag or confedate battle flag you should have fought harder against the racists, neo-nazi, and white supremacists who made it, and have used it before and since the civil war to hate people of color. Only 13% of white people ever owned slaves. Roughly 10% of white people actively fought against slavery.  That left 77% of white people who never chose a side.

Today we can be not just personally not racist, but Active Anti-Racists. A good friend Dr. Matthew Whitaker quoted says,

“The absence of racism is not the presence of anti-racism. We need more than good intentions. We need Whites to, as Mahatma Gandhi urged, “be the change you wish to see.” Racism will not go away until we eradicate it, and you must be as invested in its demise as people of color for this to happen.”

See more at:

We need to be willing to be the first people on the right side of history. I loved my church but being an active anti-“ist”, means I had to leave church that day. I was the only person I noticed leaving that day. Meaning I might need to be in a space to find a new place to worship, or I will need to work within the church to make it an inclusive space. But I refuse to be on the wrong side of history. Is it painful to need to find a new place of worship? Yes. Did my heart hurt Sunday, Absolutely.

But I care too much about my fellow people who have been marginalized for too long. I want to be among the first among those on the right side of justice and on the positive side of history. Even in my own pain at church I am blessed to live in a space where at least I can find places open and affirming to all people. My hero Bayard Rustin was a member of the civil rights movement and openly gay at the time. He had no open and affirming church to go to at the time. He chose to spend time around people that hated him to attempt to inclusivity for all people.

Which is my second point, when those of us with power and privilege are willing to change. When we are willing to give up some of our power and privilege and stand up for justice – other people are free to be their whole selves. We create coalitions of people working to end oppression and create freedom for all people. We are all oppressed in some way, we are also all privileged in someway. When we recognize that face we can finally move forward together for the betterment of all people and truly become a beloved community where our definition of family can include those who we used to fight with in the past, to be a Change Agent for positive social change.

Never give up being an Inclusive Activist.


11 thoughts on “Don’t be the Last One on the Positive Side of History”

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