CW: I can’t avoid talking about violence today, so if you aren’t in a place to read about that right now, please tend to your heart and maybe come back later. If you’re a white woman in particular (like me), I do hope you come back, or stretch your resilience muscles to take this in now.
When I was assigned this day in the Pastoral is Political calendar rotation, I knew without a doubt I would be writing about the columbus “holiday” that is today in the U.S. I knew I would want to say something about how celebrating, as a country, a genocidal misogynist thieving colonizing slave trader is one way white supremacist patriarchy is upheld — something about how the stories we tell about who we are can either nourish or atrophy our imagination for building a just world.
Who would’ve guessed the Supreme Court confirmation process we have just endured, the process itself mirroring the assault Christine Blasey Ford had to recount – and which so many of us women/femmes have survived.
I have struggled with what to say today. How much ache can our hearts hold? How much ache can my own heart hold? There’s a part of me that says “Oh god, to we have to talk about columbus TOO?”
Except the pastoral is political.
Except my body remembers learning as a teen that no institution will actually protect you or hold anyone accountable for the harm that’s been done to you. And my body still carries the pain inflicted by police when we protested columbus when I was an adult.
Except I have heard from women of color over and over and over: If we as white women are not centering racial justice in our work to get free from patriarchy, we’re just continuing to reinforce white supremacy (and thus, patriarchy too). White women are much too willing to take the bribe whiteness offers for a place of privilege in the oppressive structure — and I do mean all of us, especially if we are middle or upper class. (See my podcast linked below for one way I’ve done this.)
So yes, we do have to talk about columbus. Especially if we are white, we need to see the direct connection between columbus and kavanaugh. The ideology columbus imposed on this continent is the same ideology that has run this country is the same ideology being defended to confirm kavanaugh: enslavement, genocide, misogyny, colonization — exploitation of bodies and land for the wealth and power of white capitalist patriarchy. And that exploitation has relied upon racial and sexual violence, acting with an impunity that rarely holds itself accountable for any harm it has done.
(Teenage me learned some important lessons, turns out).
adrienne maree brown says, “things are not getting worse, they are getting uncovered. we must hold each other tight and continue to pull back the veil.”
For us as white folks, pulling back that veil means stretching our resilience muscles to hold the fulness of white supremacist patriarchal violence that goes back all the way to columbus and is still running the show. What we are seeing is not new, though certainly frightening. But to reckon with this current historical moment we must reckon with the violence of our history on this continent, which means centering racial justice in the fight against patriarchy. It is all connected.
I want to offer a few resources for you that might be helpful for thinking about all of this.
The Zinn Education Project has tons of resources about columbus, and here’s a FAQ from the Transform columbus day Alliance here in what is Cheyenne and Arapahoe land, currently known as Denver, CO where I live. This statement from indigenous leaders draws connections between colonization and U.S. immigration policy.
And here are two podcasts from SURJ-Faith:
Last week, Haven Herrin of Soulforce offered an amazing reflection on Job, atonement, and the connection between racial and sexual violence that upholds white supremacist patriarchy: “Atonement: Reckoning With the History of So-Called Columbus Day”
A year ago I reflected on the story of the Gold Calf in Exodus and the 10th anniversary of the columbus day protest in which we experienced police violence, and what I learned about myself as a white person in all of that: “Freedom and the Gold Calf”
I finished the podcast saying this:
God keeps providing,
over and over,
Over and over, over and over,
And together, we’ll get home.
Together, we’ll feed the babies.
Together, we’ll keep each other safe.
Let’s hold each other tight. Tell ourselves different stories about what it means to be human. Sing each other freedom songs. Nourish each other and believe our stories. Over and over.
Over and over.
Until we all get free.
Rev. Anne Dunlap is a pastor, activist, and herbal warrior; the Faith Coordinator for SURJ; and UCC Community Minister for Racial Justice and Solidarity in Denver, CO (Cheyenne/Arapahoe land). She is committed to fierce love and collective liberation, working in freedom movements with folks across race, gender, and class lines for nearly 30 years. Follow her on Twitter @fiercerev. Her website is fiercerevremedies.com.
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