One of the things that has always bothered me about the PC(USA) divestment debate and our wider discussion of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the unacknowledged hypocrisy of criticisms leveled against Israel. I agree that Palestinians are suffering and I hope for the eventual creation of a viable Palestinian state as part of a negotiated two-state solution. Critiques of Israeli occupation and settlement policies are legitimate and necessary.
But how can Americans criticize Israel for “stealing” Palestinian land when our nation is built on land stolen from indigenous peoples? If we demand that Israel return land to Palestinians, should we also be required to return land to Native Americans?
How can Americans call Israel an apartheid state when we live in one of the most segregated nations in the world? How different are “new Jim Crow” policies from apartheid?
After these frustrations were once again stoked at GA221, I attended the Wild Goose Festival and heard Jim Wallis begin his talk on “Racism is America’s Original Sin” with this line he penned back in 1987:
The United States of America was established as a white society, founded upon the genocide of another race and then the enslavement of yet another.
That pretty much sums up what I’ve been trying to articulate. I would go a step further and say that America is an apartheid state.
So one of the things I’m taking away from WildGoose14 is a commitment to studying and naming the many unresolved issues of American colonialism, racism, and apartheid.
Here is a sample of articles and books I’ve already come across in this past week of thinking about this:
- “The Case for Reparations,” a cover story in The Atlantic, has been causing quite a stir. The web version has powerful videos and interactive maps. (Check out an opinion piece and video about the article on CNN.com)
- American Apartheid was written in 1993 by Douglas S. Massey and Nancy A. Denton. (Read the Chicago Reader review of it here.)
- Great American City: Chicago and the Enduring Neighborhood Effect discusses the ways that our geographic location shapes our lives in my very segregated city of Chicago.
- The New Jim Crow describes ways in which we still perpetuate a racial caste system in the United States, especially through mass incarceration of African Americans.
- Carl H. Nightingale’s Segregation: A Global History of Divided Cities explicitly compares segregation in Chicago and South African apartheid. (It is mentioned in this great Chicago magazine article.)
- Yesterday on WBEZ I heard this fascinating story about voting rights on the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act and the unfinished business of racial equality.
I’ll be thinking a lot more about what this trajectory means for my life and ministry, so stay tuned.
In the meantime, how do you respond to the claim that America is an apartheid state?