Weekend Reads: New book ‘White Too Long’; Forced sterilization in U.S nothing new; Whence “White Jesus”? and more

In this blog:

  • Interview with author of ‘White Too Long’
  • Forced sterilization: The long, disgraceful history of American attacks on brown and black women’s reproductive systems
  • How Jesus became white
  • Standing Rock protester Red Fawn released from prison after 4+ years

Interview with author of ‘White Too Long’

NPR’s Terry Gross interviews Robert P. Jones, the author of the new book White Too Long, which examines “the legacy of white supremacy among Southern Baptists and other Christian denominations.”

In his youth Jones was raised in, and committed to, the Southern Baptist Convention. He never learned about the church’s history — “including the fact that Southern Baptists split from the North around 1844 because the Northern Baptists opposed slavery.”

Jones says the Southern Baptist Convention tends to focus on each individual’s interior relationship with God — and “essentially screens out questions of social justice.”

“I cannot remember a single sermon calling attention to racial inequality, racial injustice [or] the struggle for civil rights,” he says.

Jones is the founder and CEO of the Public Religion Research Institute.

Forced sterilization: The long, disgraceful history of American attacks on brown and black women’s reproductive systems

South Carolina statue honoring J. Marion Sims, father of gynecology. Photo: Jus10y

Writing in The Intercept, reporter Natasha Lennard says the recent news of forced sterilizations of immigrant women held in U.S. detention is nothing new, but “as American as apple pie.”

According to the story:

The man dubbed the “father of modern gynecology,” J. Marion Sims, conducted experiments on enslaved Black women without anesthesia, but was nonetheless lionized in the 19th century with statues around the country. Only now are some of them being taken down — the mere beginning of a long overdue reckoning. …

(Englishman Francis Galton coined the term “eugenics” in the 19th Century. It’s the idea of using genetics to improve the human race.)

In the 20th Century, 32 states (including Minnesota) had federally funded eugenics boards to sterilize women — and sometimes men — deemed “undesirable, the article said. “Tens of thousands of forced sterilizations were carried out nationwide last century.”

“In 1927, the Supreme Court case Buck v. Bell upheld a compulsory sterilization law in Virginia,” According to Wikipedia:

In the 1960s and 1970s, the Indian Health Service had a practice of sterilizing Native American women, often without informed consent. A U.S. General Accountability Office reviewed of four of the 12 Indian Health Service Areas from 1973-1976. It found 3,406 Native women were sterilized, “including 36 cases where women under the age of 21 were sterilized despite a declared moratorium on these sterilizations.”

How Jesus came to resemble a white European

Warner Sallman’s Head of Christ, 1940. Image: Christian Book

As protests raged about removing Confederate statues, activist Shaun King went further, “suggesting that murals and artwork depicting ‘white Jesus’ should ‘come down.’”

Art historian Anna Swartwood used King’s statement as a jumping off point to look at how an olive-skinned Jew from Nazareth got converted to a white-skinned European. The short answer: White Jesus sold really well.

Swartwood writes in The Conversation:

As a European Renaissance art historian, I study the evolving image of Jesus Christ from A.D. 1350 to 1600. Some of the best-known depictions of Christ, from Leonardo da Vinci’s “Last Supper” to Michelangelo’s “Last Judgment” in the Sistine Chapel, were produced during this period.

But the all-time most-reproduced image of Jesus comes from another period. It is Warner Sallman’s light-eyed, light-haired “Head of Christ” from 1940. Sallman, a former commercial artist who created art for advertising campaigns, successfully marketed this picture worldwide.

For another take, see History.com’s The ongoing mystery of Jesus’s face,which says:

We know Jesus was about 30 years old when he began his ministry (Luke 3:23), but the Bible tells us virtually nothing about what he looked like―except that he didn’t stand out in any particular way. When Jesus was arrested in the garden of Gethsemane before the Crucifixion (Matthew 26:47-56) Judas Iscariot had to point Jesus out to his soldiers among the disciples―presumably because they all appeared similar to one another.

Red Fawn released from prison after DAPL arrest

Red Fawn Fallis, Oglala Lakota, just finished a 57-month-long federal prison sentence for her activities opposing the Dakota Access Pipeline at Standing Rock, according to an email sent out by Phyllis Young, a Standing Rock organizer and member of the Lakota People’s Law Project.

According to the email:

Red Fawn was the person incarcerated the longest after our NoDAPL stand. She didn’t deserve that. A well-loved Oglala activist, she served as a medic at our Oceti Sakowin protest camp before being targeted by intelligence operatives and falsely imprisoned.

As with Chase Iron Eyes, Red Fawn was singled out by law enforcement at Standing Rock — and, sadly, she wound up bearing the brunt of police and state anger over our resistance. Of course, we know the real criminals are the oil companies and those in government and law enforcement who aid and abet their destruction of Mother Earth.

According to an account in Indian Country Today:

[Red Fawn] pleaded guilty in January 2018 to civil disorder and illegal possession of a gun by a convicted felon. She was accused of firing a handgun three times while resisting arrest during protests in North Dakota against the oil pipeline in October 2016, according to the Associated Press.

The Intercept reported in 2017:

… the gun [Red Fawn] was accused of firing belonged to an FBI informant named Heath Harmon who had developed a romantic relationship with [Red Fawn] in the weeks leading up to her arrest. Harmon told state and federal investigators that he met [Red Fawn] at the water protectors’ Rosebud Camp after being tasked by the FBI with serving as an “observer” of the protest movement. He said he had been recruited by his brother, Chad Harmon, a Bureau of Indian Affairs police officer.

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