Church and State: Blackface, Over It and Outrage

Church and State were in the news last week. Virginia featured  photos if elected officials in black from photos from the 80s and 60s. I am not surprised, I am over it. Pope Francis admitted nuns have been sexually abused by priests and bishops. I am not surprised. I am outraged. The politicians are jumping into the fray in Virginia, voicing an opinion and joining in the chorus of they need to step down. Maybe this furor has been so loud, I didn’t hear any demands of the Catholic church. What made headlines was the Virginia governor support of abortions versus the news of nuns being forced to have abortions by the church.

The photos in questions in Virginia were taken at a time when Gene Wilder donned blackface in the movie Silver Streak¹ with Richard Pryor and C Howell Thomas donned black face in Soul Man² with Rae Dawn Chong. I am not surprised these photos exist. The photos confirm what I felt as often being the only black person in the room, most likely I was being mocked or a brunt of joke. For that, I am a little disappointed, but, I have to give a pass, this is the generation coming off of blatant Jim Crow and segregation. I was often the first or only  black person my peers knew. The photo is history, not ongoing, not criminal, and not a pattern. Can we move on?

The Catholic church, decades of sexual abuse of children and nuns worldwide. Were there any calls, investigations this week in the US. Seems like the last time politicians got involved was last fall after the Pennsylvania grand jury report.

Bishops and other leaders of the Roman Catholic Church in Pennsylvania covered up child sexual abuse by more than 300 priests over a period of 70 years, persuading victims not to report the abuse and law enforcement not to investigate it, according to a searing report issued by a grand jury on Tuesday.

This is just one state; there are 50. Add the sexual abuse of nuns to this. This is current and continuing,  it is criminal and it is a pattern. Are we not alarmed by the systematic sexual abuse of women and children?

We can react to everything with a like, dislike, or on social media; but, should we? The blackface photo triggered me. I had an incident with the Klu Klux Klan in 1979 and the photo was uncomfortable. I fast forwarded to Charlottesville, VA last year when Unit the Right marchers chanted ” Jews will not replace us.”  and the car attack that killed Heather Heyer. That was my trigger, my rabbit hole to climb out of. This revelation from the past did not reflect the present. It was a reminder, we need to calibrate. Is past history a current mode of operation? Is it dangerous, is it criminal, is it a pattern?  In case of church and state: the Virginia governor in blackface, get over it; the church’s sexual abuse of women and children is an outrage.





¹ Silver Streak 1976

²Soul Man 1986

³Tropic Thunder 2008



One comment

  1. Appreciate your observations. I share a similar concern in that a lot of people, enabled by social media, are looking for the racist at every corner. I grew up in Georgia during the 60s and 70’s, we were aware racism could flare up at any minute.

    I get we have a generation of people not accustomed to the racial indignities of Jim Crow we grew up with and survived.
    But I like to be focused on what I can do, racists (real or imagined) be damned.

    My biggest fear is that this racism-mania will drive people to not do anything out of fear The Racist Boogeyman will hang them from a tree or stop them from entering the school of their choice, George Maddox style. It’s almost like we’ve gotten soft.

    It’s hard to tell people not to express their 1st amendment right of freedom of speech. And racism still exists and should be dealt with. But just like the boy that cries wolf, when the real thing happens nobody will pay attention.


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