Secession Balls, White Power, and Beloved Community

The South Carolina “Secession Ball” will be held tomorrow night, December 20, 2010 in Charleston. I first heard about this event on The Daily Show, and for a sardonic introduction to the evening’s proceedings, I encourage you to view the commentary from Senior Black Correspondent Larry Wilmore. Here’s a preview: “Saying slavery was the cause of the South’s secession during the Civil War isn’t politically correct; it’s correct correct.”

In the 21st century, more than a century after the Civil War and decades after the Civil Rights movement, the existence of a “Secession Ball” in my native state reminds me of an insight from Charles Marsh’s book The Beloved Community: How Faith Shapes Social Justice from the Civil Rights Movement to Today:

For years the civil rights preacher Will Campbell had complained about the civil rights movement’s priorities: why had organizers been singularly concerned with access to public bathrooms, coffee shops, and waiting rooms in bus stations? Why make these places the battlefield for racial equality? They were the last places you could expect to find the men who controlled the social arrangements. If white power was the real culprit, Campbell insisted, then stage sit-ins at the Rotary Club or during the mid-summer debutante cotillion; then seek to reform the culture of the white church. Forcing a short-order cook at the five-and-dime lunch counter to remove the “colored-only” sign was too easy a target; and, in any case, it was not going to bring electricity and plumbing to needy families, alter the subterranean world of feeling and opinion, or halt a retreat of sentiments and of white people to the suburbs. (147)

To the non-violent activists who faced water hoses and batons, dogs and jail cells, lynchings and burning crosses, calling the integration of the five-and-dime lunch counters “too easy a target” is hyperbolic. Nevertheless, the spirit of Campbell’s point is well taken. The existence of “Secession Balls” in the year 2010 and the stark separation of most black and white churches today testifies that — even with our first black President in the White House — there is still much work to do to build what Martin Luther King, Jr. called the “Beloved Community,” which is only one more name for what Jesus called the “Reign of God” or the “Kingdom of God.”

About Carl Gregg
  • Brad Evans

    SHocking! The Mainline Churches aren’t integrated! Next thing you’ll be telling me is that they’re not growing, either.


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