"A radical progressive humanism recognizes that hand-wringing about diversity—be it in education, corporate America or cultural movements—without chal...more"A radical progressive humanism recognizes that hand-wringing about diversity—be it in education, corporate America or cultural movements—without challenging the power dynamics of access and visibility, makes white supremacy a self-fulfilling prophecy." ~ Sikivu Hutchinson
After 10 years as the most prominent tool in my moral and intellectual arsenal, Ancient Future has been supplanted by the fierce effluence of ideas Sikivu Hutchinson has assembled in this manuscript. Moral Combat is easily the most extensive modern black humanist examination I have encountered as I discovered myself on this sojourn to disconnect from the spiritual yoke which held me bound in years past. A yoke that I thought essential to exist as an ethical being whose grip I pursued through Pentecostal, Rastafari, Islamic and the Black Liberation Theological construct finding no satisfaction.
The sojourn eventually found me accepting solitude as the most perfect personal practice when group formations were given to paternalism and authoritarian instruction. In that solitude, I discovered that I was gradually more open to question all manner of ritual and tradition which gave rise to a rich skepticism. The skepticism began to pervade all areas of life until I had renewed my understanding of feminist tradition, black humanist social critique, and the history of power, race and privilege. All of these topics are investigated exceptionally by Hutchinson throughout Moral Combat.
Sikivu Hutchinson, true to occupation, writes with a densely packed professorial tenor striving to make every word explode upon impact. Upon first read this can be off putting because in conjunction with the multitude of ideas covered, one occasionally struggles to keep up. But once you reach a reader's stride which occurred for me after the second chapter, you move into the space where you desire to mark a notation upon every page where language strikes a chord or spurs you toward action. As I found myself rounding the corner of chapter three, my head was dizzy from all of the various cross references that made themselves apparent in my recent reading schedule.
As Hutchinson was remarking upon the government sponsored "white flight" and reinforcement of class divisions, I was meditating on Beryl Satter's "Family Properties" and pondering how those policies took root on the local level in Chicago creating the racially stratified city that now exists in the present day. When she invokes the notions of artificially earned white social mobility, I am reminded of Ira Katznelson's "When Affirmative Action Was White". Even her critique of the white atheist obsession with lambasting "religious identity" in the privileged pursuit of scientific aims caused me to recall that a generation of Black freethinkers were lost to a certain betrayal at the hands of Communism during the period of the New Negro Renaissance.
In Moral Combat, Hutchinson provides not only a present day lesson on the most pertinent aspects of the American culture and values wars, but she also reaches deep into the historical context in order to extract an understanding of how the tree was grown from unmistakably deep roots. No person of interest is held sacred from her examination from the white atheist or feminist unaware of their own sense of privilege to the black woman complicit in her own religious subjugation to the black man whose interpretation of masculinity reinforces all of the worst patriarchal forms of an enslaved past.
Hutchinson reminds in this text that a rich and enlightening skepticism requires not simply that we question religion or government, but that we question gender roles and privilege and power dynamics and leadership. She reminds us that a deep and moving humanism must overwhelm all of our previous notions about the world which were each and every one formed in a poisoned vacuum and now need to be rebuilt from the ground floor. So grab a hammer and smash that sacred cow to your left.(less)
"As for me, I do not pretend to read God's mind. If He has a plan for the universe to the worked out to the smallest detail, it would be a folly of me...more"As for me, I do not pretend to read God's mind. If He has a plan for the universe to the worked out to the smallest detail, it would be a folly of me to presume to revise it. That, to me, seems the highest form of sacrilege. So I do not pray. I accept the means at my disposal for working out my destiny. It seems to me that I have been given a mind and will-power for that very purpose. I do not expect God to single me out and grant me advantages over my fellow men. Prayer is for those who need it. Prayer seems to me a cry of weakness, and an attempt to avoid, by trickery, the rules of the game as laid down. I do not choose to admit weakness. I accept the challenge of responsibility. Life, as it is, does not frighten me, since I have made my peace with the universe as I find it, and bow to its laws." ~ Zora Neale Hurston
This text takes an awful great deal of consideration. I had a moment of pause as I was choosing which star rating to afford it. I am generous in my system. I have rarely ever chosen and read a "bad" book though there is one current read which will be be given no leniency for overwhelming grammatical error and dialogue suited only for caricature, but this book needs pause and reflection.
Even as I read back over some of my favorite passages, new insights arrive to me while studying the words of such brilliant humanist social critiques as Zora Neale Hurston's "On Religion" from her biography Dust Tracks on a Road or Langston Hughes' "Salvation" from The Big Sea. They display remarkable journeys not simply from the religious to irreligious, but a journey from seeking to enfold oneself in the shroud of faith to a full and emboldened to desire to know and engage with a wider sphere of humanity. Their own writing speaks to this artistic instinct. I think the artist is better equipped than most other professional (or personal) endeavors to recognize the breadth and depth of the human experience and the need to transcend any aspect of one's own personal inflexibility if you wish to engage this broader audience.
They are not the only stars here. One in particular whom has become my personal icon is Hubert Henry Harrison, a most remarkable thinker, theorist, lecturer and educator during the period of the Harlem Renaissance whom greatly influenced the intellectual arc of the Messenger Group as initiated by A. Philip Randolph and Chandler Owen. Incidentally, he also influenced Garvey which is odd since the two groups later went on to become rivals. His legacy is a most unfortunate victim of American nativism and the numerous "Communist/Red Scare" periods into which American has fallen. Harrison was a Socialist and while it seems that most other nations can accept even begrudgingly that there are individuals who don't ascribe to the greatness of capitalism in the modern world, we still find need and desire to suppress these ideas lest they become a populist roar for a new way of working.
Even when I found myself disliking an essay, as was the case with "Richard Wright: Beyond Naturalism?" by Michael Fabre which I found far to technical for its own good, I could not deny that I had at least learned something novel about the subject in question particularly that Richard Wright was/is an incredibly complex figure and it is no wonder that Baldwin needed an entire book of essays to exorcise those demons of a "Native Son". The construct of race in our culture has created a confusing number of formalities and ways of dancing around discussions of race. Wright was a son of this era and Baldwin was determined not die in that same box.
In fact in that first section of essays, I must not forget to note the philosophical arc which runs stray through Frederick Douglass, W.E.B. DuBois and Hubert Henry Harrison. All of those men understood that under natural and equal human conditions there would be no need of separate action on the part of Black people, but until their White contemporaries could prove that there was not a created a distinct set of disadvantages to being Black, no one was in a position to offer criticism of their methods. An exciting and enlightening read through and through.(less)
To be curious and black is not to be anomalous any longer. No. This was an intriguing assemblage of tales of the journey from a spectrum of belief thr...moreTo be curious and black is not to be anomalous any longer. No. This was an intriguing assemblage of tales of the journey from a spectrum of belief through various stages of agnosticism, atheism, and humanism. I am fortunate enough to have a group of individuals in Chicago with whom I gather where we may discuss all of the various aspects of freethought that occur amongst us and how we might use these aspects to improve upon the world and the city around us. The most exciting part of our coming together I found was in the telling of the story of the journey that each of us undertook to reach our present circumstance.
Read this book if you have questions. See the process of personal analysis and critical thinking at work. Allow yourself to give into the curious if for but a moment and you will find yourself expanded beyond measure. But don't stop at religion. Question social hierarchies, class structure, individual relationships, workplace conditions, and allow your questions to lead you through to a new understanding of humanity. If we are to be skeptics, we must not only be skeptical of religion or government, we must allow our skepticism to pervade in the truest sense, every aspect of our human lives.(less)
Hawkins is a quiet gem of the Renaissance era. His selection "Here and Hereafter" is perhaps poetic theme music for my present life journey. I am deli...moreHawkins is a quiet gem of the Renaissance era. His selection "Here and Hereafter" is perhaps poetic theme music for my present life journey. I am delighted to have found it. I came by his work first in a John G. Jackson lecture on the history of freethinkers in the black community. There was another version of "Here and Hereafter" which had been referenced as being written for the Poetry Corner in "The Messenger" magazine as printed by A. Philip Randolph and Chandler Owen. What great delight befell me when I discovered that this text, Chords and Discords, had been made available to the public domain and subsequently digitized by Google Books as I was anxious to read more of his work.
This text which is ostensibly the only one ever compiled by Hawkins seems to be a collection of all of his writings at that point in his life because one can sense the forward journey through artistic engagement with the supernatural and then sudden bursts of expression where he declares firmly his adherence to no creed or manufactured system of beliefs. These bursts lend themselves to great moments in freethought literature such as the aforementioned "Here and Hereafter", "Too Much Religion", "A Festival In Christendom", and "Evolution". In between, we find moments accented by other standard poetry fare such as selections on love, childhood, longing, and self exploration. In all, it is a delightful and brisk read for any one interested in the freethought literature of that era.(less)