Segregation Through Vocabulary Lynching

In America, segregation has always been with us. Segregation is about power. The more powerful tell the less powerful what they are worth. They tell them how to feel about their bodies, their labor, where to eat, where they can live, or who they can marry.

We perpetuate racial abuse we when allow racial segregation to shape-shift without consequence.

A most insidious example of this is at the forefront of the trend to disallow race-related education in public schools. Texas Lt. Gov Dan Patrick has proposed to ban what he calls “CRT (Critical Race Theory)” from any publicly funded school or university. Professors who include race-related information that makes white people feel uncomfortable stand to lose their jobs.

Let’s pay attention!
Patrick is using a disingenuous rhetoric technique to obfuscate meaningful conversations about U.S. history and racial issues. This is no accident.

Conservatives are actively lynching words from civic discourse.

Lisa Colón DeLay

By commandeering certain words, assigning them new meaning, and making them anathema, many Conservatives successfully dispossess their opponents of democratic participation through dialogue. It’s the democratic and representative process where we come together with our various viewpoints and cooperate to solve our societal problems to benefit all of us.

By hijacking public discourse through lynching certain words they keep their power. By attempting to pass laws that ban uncomfortable content from white students (read: white parents), segregation takes a new shape, not just in Texas, but all over the country.

According to an article by contributors Char AdamsAllan Smith, and Aadit Tambe, at least 21 states have introduced a bill or passed a law banning textbooks and discussions that include topics of racism. Many bills or laws include language that deems “teaching of historical racism and its impact on modern U.S. society divisive or racist.”

Using the power of racism, subtle but potent white supremacist claims and language lynching, they claim racism is being inflicted on the more powerful by the less powerful. With a dumbfounding ignorance, various governing bodies around the country are making similar statements without sensing the irony.

A common vocabulary lynching tactic that powerful whites use to silence and dominate others is used by Christopher Rufo. He is a senior fellow at a Conservative think tank called the Manhattan Institute. From his publicly posted messages we learn about his desire to vulgarize and quash views which do not align with his white-centered ones.

Cynically, he refers to any other viewpoint as “a brand”. Then, he labels most articles or opinions by a concerned non white person as CRT (Critical Race Theory). He claims to have “successfully frozen their brand,” and be “steadily driving up negative perceptions (of any race-related conversations),” so that his group “will eventually turn it toxic (in the cultural lexicon)”.

Rufo and his ilk do move closer to his goal each day. He made this public statement: “The goal is to have the public read something crazy in the newspaper and immediately think ‘critical race theory’. We have decodified the term and will recodify it to annex the entire range of cultural constructions that are unpopular with Americans.” (read: white Americans, like me)

America is not morally guiltless when it comes to issues of race. Not in the past and certainly not now as white supremacists secure their stranglehold and limit information in classrooms or the greater civic conversation.

My focus in these matters eventually narrows down to concerns of our spiritual formation—individually and as a culture. I want to invite us to something more. A better future. Greater healing and wholeness that must move beyond the maddening bridge to nowhere where various forms of segregation always take us.

It may be that our country’s inability to reckon with the fullness and truth of our history is rooted in shame and collective immaturity. Individually, in our families, and in our community, it makes a difference when we take responsibility for our mistakes or admit the mistakes of our fore-bearers and seek ways to put things right.

Pretending the sordid parts of the past didn’t happen doesn’t lead us to healing and wholeness. These injustices haven’t stayed in the past. Trauma, whether collective or individual, lives in the present. Divided whether in language, in location, or in spirit is not my hope for this world and not the world I want for my children and those I love.

Additionally, our resentments and divisions about how we move forward continue a kind of collective segregation. A segregation and segmentation of our common soul. That which knits us together in a deeper reality cannot be separated. It is from our ultimate unity that we derive what can seem like miracles. These are the very things we need to live together well: honesty, humility, forgiveness, love, and grace.

By Lisa Colón Delay

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