TL Putnam interviews Damon Clarke Owens

…on race in the Church and in the US:

It has been absolutely fascinating watching the reactions of Normals vs. MAGA Qhristians to members of the body of Christ like Damon and Gloria Purvis when they point out that racism is still very much with the Church. Here, for instance is an utterly typical exchange as they attempt to point out common sense for the common good and call the Body of Christ to do what is right, only to be met by MAGA fear, hostility and resistance:

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No description available.

We are not talking about some sort of bomb-throwing radicals here. We are not talking about any of the stereotypes to which conservative whites reflexively turn in order to deflect any attempt by People of Color to alert them to the fact that there is an ongoing problem in the US and in the Church with racism. Gloria is the sweetest and one of the most devout Catholics I have run across. Damon, as you will hear above, is likewise devoted to the gospel of Jesus Christ and intends nothing but the building of the kingdom of God.

And yet even they are too much for those who cannot bear to hear their obvious facts and clear warnings.

For the truth is, any discussion of racism is too much for racists.

How do you tell this is so? The same way you spot any enabler of any evil contrary to the common good: by whether they respond with interest in the common good or with the reflexive demand, “Don’t blame me! Not my fault! I didn’t do it!”

It’s the same story over and over from the MAGA cult. Mass shooting at a school? Normals respond by saying, “Dear God! What can we do to change this so that it stops happening again and again?”

Self-absorbed MAGA cultists respond. “Don’t blame me! Not my fault! Don’t touch my gun!” and don’t give a thought to victims or to the prevention of future horrors. It’s all about them.

Climate change? Normals ask what we can do to help. MAGA insist it not their fault and not their problem.

Pandemic? Normals seek to protect others. MAGA see such consideration for others and label it “fear”, boasting that they are not afraid (because its all about their heroism in the center of their own drama) and only caring about the suffering of the disease when they experience it.

Same with racism. Don’t blame them. They have not personally put a noose around a black man’s neck, so when countless people of color tell them that racism is real and they experience it every day, the sole response is “Don’t blame me and besides it’s not real. Stop playing the Race Card.” What they mean by that is that POC who try to tell them about racism are doing it as an attempt to gain power over them through guilt manipulation. In short, because everything is all about them all the time always, it is unthinkable that a person of color is talking about racism in order to try to address the issue as a threat to the common good and a wound to the body of Christ. Nope. What’s is really happening is the POC is trying to expand his power by diminishing the MAGA cultist’s power via guilt and shame. It’s an act of aggression, not a call to build the Kingdom. It’s an accusation and it’s aimed at the MAGA narcissist as an attempt to shame him.

In the Kingdom, we are called to recognize where we have wounded the common good and the body of Christ, not so that we can be shamed, but so that we can repent. When an entire demographic tells you “There’s a problem” the wise thing to do is listen to them and not say, “I know better than you what you experience is. Don’t blame me!”–especially when, as with Damon and Gloria, they aren’t blaming you. They are just telling you what’s going on.

It is thanks to witnesses to the gospel like Damon and Gloria–and to my horrified realization of the long years in which I repeated the “Don’t blame mes” and stooped down to explain to POC that racism was imaginary–that the Holy Spirit has thwacked me upside my self-involved head and gotten me realizing that it’s not All About Me, but about the common good. It took the apotheosis of the Trump Freak Show to make clear what I had been in bed with for far too long. My apologies for my years of helping to further injustice. I may be dumb, but I’m a slow learner.

29 Responses

  1. I’m not a Catholic so I can’t comment on the situation in that organization. However, assuming there is all the racism in the USA that many people think there is, how is that responsible for the problems in the black community such as crime rate 8x the rest of the population or an illegitimacy rate of 75%? I’ve never have even heard an attempt to explain these facts.

      1. Yes I have been listening. I’ve never heard an explanation of why racism causes people to commit crime and have illegitimate babies. Jews are the most persecuted group in human history and they don’t have these problems (and didn’t when there was much persecution).

      2. If you were interested in being answered, you would do a little research and find out. Racism lies in the simplistic, contemptuous, leading way you’re framing the question, your easy assumption that, if this entire long-suffering demographic group exhibits qualities you consider “bad,” then its bad character must itself be to blame, and your willingness to halt at the data points most congenial to your point of view and proceed no further. The argument that various downtrodden (non-black) races don’t exhibit the “bad behavior” black people do has been repeated at every stage of the struggle for civil rights in this nation, and merits the same response.

        The playing field has never been level. Not now. Not ever. Not in education. Not in economic opportunity. Not in political representation. Not in housing. Not in law enforcement. Not in health care or social services. I could direct you to articles on black fatherhood, on school segregation, on disparities in every aspect of our criminal justice system. But I’m not going to expend the effort when you can easily find such things yourself.

        If you really care about this, first, put yourself in a place where you’re likely to hear. Then listen. Listen to research and journalistic investigation. Listen also to black voices speaking of their own experiences. Listen with an open mind.

      3. @ mm

        You’ve heard the explanation. You just prefer not to have to pay any attention to it. There is nothing inherent in being black that makes someone a criminal or have illegitimate babies. As the Flint Michigan studies showed some decades ago, all of the social dysfunction that you would like to attribute to race are in fact far more attributable to social economic status and class.

    1. Well, when you hear about a specific community being at a perpetual disadvantage in some way, if you don’t think there is something intrinsically wrong with them that sets them apart, then the natural inclination is to look for external and systemic factors that might be in play.

      But when people have internalized a racist perspective, even if unconsciously, they will look upon such disparities and see them as normal. That’s just the way they are. That’s just nature and evolution and genetics and culture.

      So there is no need to look at things like the types of laws that have been passed or the way they have been applied to different communities. There is no reason to look at discriminatory policies at both the state and local level, or the effects they might’ve had for generations after the fact.

      In short, for someone who’s bought into that framing, there is nothing that can be done because there is nothing that can be fixed in the first place. So much so, that when they see people trying to do something, they will view it as that group getting preferential treatment. But its akin to resenting somebody for having to use crutches after they’ve had their leg busted by a sledgehammer.

      Now, to your specific question, high criminality and low marriage rates are a reflection of a community’s socioeconomic conditions, which are a reflection of their collective opportunities to advance in society, which is a reflection of policy. However, if instead of focusing on “illegitimacy” we look at the level of parent’s involvement in their children’s lives, the black community actually rates pretty high.

      Of course, nothing of what I’m saying here is new; if you really wanted to know, you could’ve gotten much better and more detailed explanations from a myriad of different places. Now, you may not agree with the things I’ve said, and that’s fine, but at very least you should stop saying that you’ve “never have even heard an attempt to explain these facts”.

      1. The standard of living of Blacks in the USA is higher than whites in some east European countries. And if parental involvement in the lives of black children is high then that’s good and takes another supposed cause off the table.

        Spending per pupil in black schools is higher than the white suburbs.

        Why hasn’t racism kept back the Jews? No group on planet earth has suffered more than they have. In fact, persecution has been invoked as the cause of their success.

      2. You know what’s really terrifying about this? Mike Miller has said in other discussions that he used to be a prosecutor.
        Now he’s making clear that he’s a white supremacist.
        If you want to make a case about systemic racism in criminal justice, and an explanation for the much higher conviction and incarceration rates among blacks, Mike is Exhibit A.

      3. @mm

        You know, the same comments Have made about the gay community. Look at the levels of substance abuse, depression, etc. etc. etc. etc. yes, indeed, our population measures are higher than the average heterosexual population. Why might that be? For 2000 years, Christianity has attempted to turn gay people into scape goats for everything Wrong with heterosexual society. You have done everything you possibly could to suppress our natural instincts towards love and community, preferring instead to make our lives as difficult, dangerous, unpleasant, expensive, injurious, and preferably, as deadly as possible. If we lead for two lives of vice, well, that is it your fault, is it? You have blamed us for every possible social ill that we couldn’t possibly have had a thing to do with. All the while doing exactly what you’re doing now: look at how glorious heterosexual society is! Look at how glorious white society is. Bad Black people! Bad gay people!

        Got a problem with kiddy diddling priests? Homosexuals have invaded the church. Got a problem with lavish lifestyles of bishops and Cardinals? Don’t look at Ted McCarrick or Branson, look at (fill in the blanks). Got a problem with Vatican finances? It must be something besides the obvious.

        And the part that really pisses you people off the most is that we are escaping the burdens that you have laid upon us, escaped your whited sepulchers.

        In short, we are committing the crime that really gets your panties into a thoroughly uncomfortable twist: we are being UPPITY.

        When does the many things I am glad about as a gay man: it has provided me with a lens to see heterosexual society, especially religious heterosexual society, very clearly. You don’t come off so well.

    2. I… don’t believe you. I don’t believe for one second that in a media culture that is *soaked* with discussions of this that you have “never even heard an attempt” to address the connection between racism and pathologies in black communities. I call you a liar to your face and won’t bother addressing your fake question. Google exists. Use it and stop wasting my time.

      1. No. I have never heard/read a discussion of why racism against Blacks causes a crime rate 8x that of the rest of the population.

  2. For what it’s worth, Protestants are having similar discussions right now. Here is Phil Vischer of the wonderful Holy Post channel explaining why white Protestants and black Protestants vote oppositely in spite have having nearly identical doctrines:

  3. Thanks for posting that video Joel.

    It is chilling to consider that Kennedy was murdered five months after he made the commitment to civil rights for African Americans. I don’t recall that connection being made ever before.

    My family is deeply divided about BLM. Most of them won’t even consider the possibility that there are actually grievances that need to be addressed. There is nothing I can do to change their minds. They are gleefully brainwashed like the know-it-all here in the comments. But the difference between him and my own relatives is that “Mike Miller” is actually on his best behavior in front of strangers as opposed to my relatives that *know* I’ve heard them say disgusting things, and heard their children parrot things they assumed I’d keep behind closed doors. I can’t believe I turned a blind eye –not only covering for them, but allowing them to disrespect my husband in too many ways to count. I have to ask God to keep the anger from welling up and attacking my inner peace. It reminds me of a more appallingly naive period of my life when I wouldn’t listen to my aunt’s grievances because she was a “lost” feminist. I felt superior to her because of her anger and wondered if her “poor, misguided” soul would end up in hell. If my soul was at peace, it was peace at what cost? I remember giving her the autobiography of St. Therese and a small porcelain bust of Our Lady. She honored my childish faith, and never disparaged it even though I would sit and listen to her attacking the Church to my father who enjoyed locking horns with her. The bust of Our Lady stayed on her nightstand up until she died young of cancer. I probably blamed her for that too, assuming she’d taken the pill her whole life. I’d been taught to blame the victim.

    1. Well, they say that ignorance is bliss. But once ignorance is no longer the issue, then the only way people can maintain those beliefs is by suppressing their own conscience. However, once they go down that path, it rarely stops with one person or one group, or even one issue. Soon enough, everything and everyone that doesn’t fit in their increasingly narrow worldview becomes the enemy and part of the problem.

      Case in point, on another blog, I’ve been having a back and forth that has stretched on for several days. It started out as one thing, but the person kept retreating from one right-wing talking point to the next. At this point, they have stated that they don’t care about other countries, or how we’re perceived by them, or about being on the right side of history, and that they have nothing but contempt for idealists who want a better future.

      They’ve convinced themselves that becoming what basically amounts to a borderline sociopath, is somehow an ideal of sorts. Of course, true to form, they’ve also said, without a hint of irony or self awareness, that they bemoan the fact that their opinions on political matters are not welcome within polite society.

      1. “Ignorance is bliss”

        We decided as a family not to stage any kind of intervention with my mother, after she sent out her urgent “why you must vote for Trump” letter to the cousins. I feel so utterly bad for her. I would want my children to do an intervention with me if I was out of touch with reality and had one foot in the grave. She has no clue that her sentiments are hate, dressed up as patriotism and Catholicism.

        We all chose peace at all costs because her wrath is something formidable and we are afraid for her heart condition.

        Yes, it all feeds into the persecution complex of “the little flock” that thinks they are God’s favorites. My son rolls his eyes when I assert that they are literally following antichrist. It is like a horror movie playing out in real time. I’d want my kids to try to save me from such a state. I wonder if it is even my moral responsibility.

    2. If a person begins with the premise that there are no grievances to be redressed, then of course BLM is going to appear to be a neo-Marxist revolution or whatever. The problem is that premise. I have friends in real life who tell me that people of color face no inequity, and anyway if they do it’s their own fault (deadbeat dads, lack of ambition, welfare programs, a propensity to criminality, etc.). I actually had someone tell me that black men get in trouble with police because their larger testicle size makes them aggressive. This same individual tells me that BLM is Kristallnacht and the Reign of Terror, and that I need to distance myself from the protest I attended because now law enforcement has pictures of me, and also that his side has more guns and my family could be harmed in the coming purge. I’m not talking about hicks from the sticks here. These are upstanding, educated people.

      Anyway, here’s what I’ve come to realize. Take something like crime rates. If you point out that black men are killed by police at disproportionate rates, your racist friend will say, well, that’s because they commit more crimes. They can cite *all* the stats on that. They’ve got them memorized. But they never take it a step further, and ask themselves whether *conviction* rates truly reflect *crime* rates, or how police and prosecution practices might affect that, or any of the host of other questions that need to be answered. It’s in the halting at that one stat that the racism lurks. It’s in the fact that they find it perfectly reasonable to write off a huge demographic group as violent and dissolute because of its own inherent faults, and write off any voices from within the group as brainwashed dupes.

      1. “… their larger testicle size…”

        Good grief! Does this person also think that black men are naturally better singers and sportsmen?? I had thought this sort of silly racial stereotyping was dead by the 1950s!

        Silly me 🙂

      2. They might. This kind of thing certainly hasn’t gone away, though perhaps it has become more sophisticated and genteel. E.g., The Bell Curve.

      3. I would rather that law enforcement had my photo and retain my sense of dignity.

        I’m less afraid of the police than the wrath of my own family. It’s not like I have anything to lose with the relentless gossiping about my family by writing some of them off as a complete loss and liability, but I feel like parents are in a separate category with the amount of work and diligence that goes into raising a child–and yet here I am now, a coward when dealing with the immortal soul of my own mother who gave me life.

  4. JJ, are you suggesting in implying that black people aren’t better sportsman that racial bias is the cause of black over representation is pro sports?

    1. I’m allowing this one comment, just to let folks know that you wrote this gripe over on your own blog:

      “I got suspended on twitter and now they want my phone number to reinstate me. I got suspended for the same reason I was one time suspended on facebook, because I said, rightly, that black men are incredibly violent and dangerous in society. It’s annoying because people rag on white men all the time, unjustly, with impunity, but if you mention basic facts about blacks you get suspended. ”

      Now I’m banishing you back to that blog where you can be read by your fellow racists and never comment on my blog again. Bye!

      1. There are studies that show that blacks are arrested in proportion to their being named as perpretrators in police reports and charged and sentenced at those rates as well. The high crime rate of blacks is a fact, just like the high crime rate of men to women.

        Why is it racist to point out the high crime rate of blacks but not sexist to point out the high crime rate of men?

      2. Mark, for Mike to make that comment immediately below your banning someone for racism seems like he *wants* to be banned just so he can whine about it to his fellow white supremacist buddies. Should you give him what he wants? I dunno. But my .02’s worth is that I have given up trying to reason with him.

      3. @ mike miller and pee

        I’ve been out in the wilds of Northern California with little to no access to Wi-Fi, so I really couldn’t elaborate on what I wrote yesterday. Who knew there were places without Internet access?

        So here you go.

        It’s the way it is. When somebody doesn’t like a minority, the first thing they do is start lying about them. I think it’s instinctive. If you’re a smarter, more decent person, you try to make sure you have good reason to dislike people before you actually start disliking them. It is the homage that vice pays to virtue, or at least, to hurt you.

        I have often bitterly complained about the way Qonservative Christians treat women, gay people, trans people, liberals, atheists, democrats, And if they’re really not paying too much attention, racial minorities. Never once have I ever needed to tell a lie about them. I don’t need lies, because The truth will do. I have very good reasons to criticize them. I have been listening to the bile and despite you spew for 60 years.

        Whereas when it comes to how Qonservative Qhristians treat minorities, even majority minorities like women, it’s always lies. Some People just want to hate them, But knowing that it doesn’t make them look quite so virtuous, they hide behind God. Whited sepulchers and all that. So, as with you, they don’t care in the least if they don’t actually have any good reasons to hate them. Like Jabba the Trump, they just make scheiss up.

        And It’s certainly this that makes me the maddest. This is what i say. “OK, you want to hate me. Fine. Now find a real reason to hate me, and once you’ve done that, and you present that hate with facts, logic, and experience, then I’ll admit I deserve to be hated. But if all you’ve got on me is lies, then you’re hating me just to be hating me, and you’re the one who deserves to be hated.”

        With one very large caveat. I don’t hate you. As if I were a good Christian, instead of the atheist i am, I don’t hate you. I hate what you do. I hate what you hide behind. I hate that you pretend it’s virtue when in fact it’s the worst sort of vice. The only emotions I have for you are pity, because I can’t understand someone who lives in your world, And just a little bit of fear, because I can see how you treat people that you despise.

        Let me put this as delicately as I can: your mama didn’t raise you right.

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