All We’ve Ever Known: Subjugation

He sat in the booth directly across from us, eating his dinner. Behind him four big-screen televisions were tuned to ball games.

The waitress brought our waters, took our orders.

He thought the man with the beard was my boyfriend, not my son. I didn’t look old enough to be my son’s mother. I get that all the time. Not because I look particularly young but because my son has this bushy greying beard that makes him look like he lives in the middle of an old-growth forest.  He purposely looks like he’s from another century ago.

Are you registered to vote? I asked the waitress. She nodded yes. Vote for Stacey Abrams then, I said. Kemp is suppressing the vote of people of color.

I’d just had the same discussion with the front desk clerk at the Atlanta hotel, and the maintenance guy there.

I don’t trust Abrams to do what she says, the maintenance guy said.

Well you can trust that Kemp is going to do exactly as he says, I replied. He intends to hurt people of color. He is already doing it.

David, the hotel clerk, laughed at that. But it wasn’t a funny laugh, it was nervous laughter. He knew that much was true. Kemp would do exactly as promised.

Here’s the thing I know for sure – men in general have a difficult time voting for women. Misogyny runs deep in the waters men drink from.

I had been at a conference at Callaway Gardens over the weekend, where I heard a writer woman, a mother, speak about how she had alienated her own teen daughter. As soon as the daughter graduated high school she moved across the country. For seven years she would not return home. She would not see her own mother.

She was hurt. She was angry. She was lesbian.

Her mother, a woman of deep and abiding faith, had been raised up in a tradition that had acculturated her, conditioned her, to believe that there was something horribly wrong with her daughter. Some sin she needed to turn away from.

So she began to treat her daughter badly. Pushed her away. Demonized her own daughter. All in the name of white man’s religion. A religion in which people of color, LGBTQ, and women have been taught to accept their roles as “lesser than” people. Taught to view each other as a community of “lesser thans.”

A faith tradition designed specifically to keep white men elevated, in power, as the ruling class.

There are six things the Lord hates,
seven that are detestable to him:
haughty eyes,
a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood,
a heart that devises wicked schemes,
feet that are quick to rush into evil,
a false witness who pours out lies
and a person who stirs up conflict in the community.

These are the things God hates. Things that are detestable to Creator God.

Missing from that list? Gays. Lesbians. Trans. Abortion.People of color.

Our current administration reflects every single one of the character traits God hates. God hates. Yes, it is true: The Creator can hate his own creation. And if these are indeed the things God hates, I have no doubt that God hates what is happening in America right now. Hates the way men in power have used religion as a battering ram against the oppressed, as a means to keep them oppressed.

Listen here, I love Jesus but I am no longer willing to be quiet about the ways in which men, white men mostly, use their positions of power to manipulate others into thinking they are “less than.”

“It’s like a rock has been turned over,” the fellow in the next booth said. And all that creeps and crawls and rots us from the inside out has been exposed.

Indeed.

His grandmother was murdered by a boyfriend, he told me. He was just a young boy, but that murder shaped the way he considered women. When his own beautiful daughter started preschool and the boys would hit her, some would tell his daughter that only meant the boys liked her.

Nu-huh. He wasn’t having any of that. From that moment on, he told his daughter that wasn’t right. Boys slapping girls did not mean boys liked girls. That was not a message he wanted his daughter acculturated to. Instead he taught her: Stand up for yourself. Be a strong woman.

She’s a teenager now. A teenager who was disgusted by the Kavanaugh hearings. A teenager who watched as a grown man bullied a woman senator. She watched as a president who has no faith in anything but himself derided a sex abuse victim, derides her still.

She saw straight through the hypocrisy of all that.  She isn’t old enough to vote but if she could, she’d be voting for Stacey Abrams. She would not vote for a white man who believes that people of color have their place beneath him.

You are a walking Facebook post, my son said as we returned to the hotel. He was chiding me about my intention to upend the rock, to expose the wrongs to the light.

Are you registered to vote? I asked every TSA employee I came across on Tuesday as I made my way to my airport gate.

Yes. Yes. Yes. They all replied.

Atlanta has the longest escalators, it’s like climbing up the Tower of Babel. Normally I ride it quietly, watching others stand quietly. For the longest time, nobody says anything unless they are yakking on a cell phone.

Shall I tell them to register to vote? I asked the man of color standing behind me.

Go for it, he replied.

So I did, right there on that silent escalator, I shouted out: Get registered to vote, Georgians. It’s your last day. And vote for Stacey Abrams!

They think I work for her campaign.

Acquitted of the murder of Emmett Till, these white men, and the women who support them, gloat.

 

They have no idea I don’t even live in Georgia. I live in Oregon, where I am working to unseat Greg Walden.To replace his haughty eyes and lying tongue with a woman, a lesbian woman, Jamie McLeod Skinner, who does not consider herself “Less than” or “more than.” She just considers others first and foremost. Something Walden has failed to do.

The owner of the Pho restaurant where I ate last night told me he was voting. “I have to,” he said. “I own a business.”

Technically nobody has to vote, but I knew what he meant. His vote matters. Who he elects will make decisions that affect his livelihood, his life.

Greg Walden was the man Trump entrusted to gut Obamacare, I said. He does not believe in health care for all. Only for the rich and entitled.

White men oppression today comes in the form of tax breaks that millionaires like Walden benefit from. He could care less whether women and kids, and particularly migrant workers have healthcare or not. He cares about giving away tax dollars to his richest friends. White men oppression is a real thing, y’all.

Vote for Stacey Abrams, I told the two ladies in uniforms standing together at the gate. Oh, yes ma’am, they replied. We swapped tales, the three of us did, about the plight of politics in America. You ain’t the first white woman to stop and say these things to me, one of the black gals said.

She seemed genuinely surprised that so many white woman care. We have been acculturated to building walls between blacks and whites, between men and women, between the God-fearing and the Godless.

This lying, haughty president knows that people have been raised up to see heaven as a gated community. A place where the unsavory people are kept out. He knows that the richest live in those gated communities. He has always lived apart from others, behind such walls. These are mostly always white communities. Communities that they falsely believe will keep them away from people they view as rapists, murderers, gang members and such. All the while, they pledge allegiance to a president who spews hate all over them at public rallies, a president whose heart daily devises new ways to stir up dissension, a president who gloats over his own wickedness.

They are blinded by his ill-begotten gains.

He is their golden calf. The idol they worship.

He embodies all the things God hates, but they cannot see it.

They have been raised up to never question. To never doubt. To accept their plight under the rock.

God has anointed him, they insist. God put his feet in high places. Of course, they did not say this about the black man who was president. No, they did not honor that man. They demonized him. They mocked him. They demanded to see his birth certificate. Even now, they believe him to be a foreigner.

They are like the slaves who refused to leave the plantations even after the war was over.

Being oppressed was the only life they had ever known. They had grown accustomed to it. While it didn’t offer much hope, much in the way of a better life, there was a familiarity in the suffering.

They had grown acculturated to being bossed by rich white man.

Subjugation to the will of the rich was all they had ever known.

It is all millions among us have ever known, yet.

Karen Spears Zacharias is author of CHRISTIAN BEND: A novel, Mercer University Press.

Karen Spears Zacharias

Author/Journalist/Educator. Gold Star Daughter.

3 Comments

Jeanette

about 2 weeks ago

Men of color also suppress women.... about 99 percent of the pimps we arrest are black, just sayin...

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Karen Spears Zacharias

about 1 week ago

Maybe the question you ought to consider is why are 99 percent of the pimps you arrest black? That may be a commentary on the profiling and targeting of blacks.

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AF Roger

about 1 week ago

Perhaps it was in a college sociology class, or perhaps it was Eldridge Cleaver (Soul on Ice, 1968), that shocked me with a thought that had never dawned on me before. [Forgive me, but it's been 50 years!] What thought? That in terms of status and power, our society was quite stratified by race and gender. In descending order, we were: 1) white men; 2) white women; 3) black men; 4) black women. I had the good fortune of taking the first Black Studies course offered by the University of Nebraska when I was a senior in 1968-69. Still, so much was beyond my grasp at the time due to simple lack of experience with the world and parts of our country very different from white rural America where I had grown up. I didn't know a single black American by first name or on a conversational basis until I enlisted in the USAF at age 21. Fortunately, I saved the books and have gone back to re-read them all within the past five years. Before we can even begin to talk about race, violence, sexual violence, profiling or targeting, we simply need to consider the question of power. Who has it? What kind of power? What does it do? Who gains and who loses? And why? And when there is not enough power to go around, what do human beings do? Share power to lift everyone together? Or stand on the back of anyone weaker, even if that means doing harm to the group as a whole? Until we know other people very different from ourselves, it becomes default to assume that we all start from the same place in life. I know people who believe that! If that's too theoretical or philosophical to take apart, a simple bit of research (Washington Post story from 2017 would do) on the average net worth of U.S. households: black, Hispanic and white. We can ponder causes, ponder effects, or both. But it comes back to this: dollars are power. If dollars alone are that unequal, what else might be? Wendell Berry comments that America has never really figured out how to settle this land in terms of sustainably supporting ourselves with food, clothing and shelter that do not use up all the soil, water and creatures that live(d) here. I think he's right. We also haven't figured out how to be a people together with our neighbors in a way that is not a zero-sums game. When we have mostly white male leaders (power brokers) who seem to have ONLY zero-sums concepts, is it any wonder that we are where we are?

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