John Bauer’s illustration from Walter Stenström’s The boy and the trolls or The Adventure, in childrens’ anthology Among Pixies and Trolls (1915), November 1, 2005. (Thuresson via Wikipedia). In public domain.
I loved, I loved, I loved reading and hearing what Anthea Butler had to say in the wake of the Zimmerman not-guilty verdict from two weeks ago (via her piece “The Zimmerman Verdict: America’s Racist God” and MSNBC). I love the courage and strength she’s shown over the past two weeks in standing up to the trolls in social media who’ve literally called her everything except a child of God in expressing the very racism they’ve attempted to deny.
If I’ve been reminded of nothing else in the past fortnight, it’s the fact that the US has a significant reading and writing crisis. In looking at Butler’s The Things People Say Tumblr page, it’s never been clearer to me that the average American can’t write a single sentence without a significant misspelling or grammatical error, and that angry people expressing their bigotry are even more prone to screw up the English language in any form.
Yet the most ignorant thing I’ve seen beyond the indirect threats, the nasty racist name-calling and the demeaning of academia for making Butler one of their “affirmative action” hires is the sheer ignorance about religion, Christianity and the ways in which this group of (mostly) White trolls has use both to justify their vitriol and racism. On one level, it’s pretty simple. How dare this [pick any expletive and add either the N-word or the C-word] say anything to point out how some Whites use Christianity and God to support their racist world views, right?
But this simplicity belies a greater truth. That not one of Butler’s post-Zimmerman trolls understood their own religion and the walk of Christianity. They haven’t a clue as to the sheer work it would take to earn any doctorate, much less one in religious studies. These folks have no idea that a PhD in religious studies doesn’t require becoming a priest or a pastor, or sounding all high-brow and polite in the face of injustice. (Heck, I’ve met religious studies professors who are agnostic or atheists!).
They are ignorant, and willfully so. My guess is, they are a small sample size of maybe 100 million Americans — mostly, but hardly exclusively White — who wallow in ignorance thinking that this will shield them from the inexorable march toward a majority of color country that the US will be well before mid-twenty-first century. The fact is, Butler’s trolls are so scared of change that they are threatened by a seventeen-year-old wearing a hoodie with cellphone, Skittles and iced tea in hand. As well as by a University of Pennsylvania professor who they see as unqualified (a bit of a contradiction to be threatened by someone they see as insignificant, but that’s racism for ya!).
I might have worded it a bit differently, though (but then again, I’m a different writer, no?). As a Christian for more than twenty-nine years, I don’t see my God as one who represents racist Whites. After all, we are commanded to “treat our neighbors as we would treat ourselves.”
Evelyn de Morgan’s The Worship of Mammon (1909), September 7, 2006. (Shell Kinney via Wikipedia). In public domain.
But since Butler’s trolls obviously do think that they worship God, let me at least say this. If you believe in corporate capitalism and the corrections of the market, then your god is money, and the love of/lust for it. If you believe in the criminality of Blacks and Black male bodies, then your god is White. If you believe it’s okay to voice your displeasure by calling Butler a “n—-r c–t,” then your god is one that subjugates women, especially Black women. These beliefs do not and cannot represent my beliefs in God, in the life of Jesus, heck, in life of anyone who has ever spoken on behalf of social justice and human rights in history.
To misquote The American President (1995):
“Professor Anthea Butler has done nothing to you, trolls….You want a character debate? You better stick with me, ‘cuz Professor Anthea Butler is way out of your league.”