Jars containing the soil from lynching sites across the American South. Each bottle has the name of the victim, when known, and the site. I took this photo on 2/21/2017 at the Equal Justice Initiative, Montgomery, AL)

Blood and Soil

The following sermon was delivered on Sunday, August 13, 2017 at the St. Matthew’s Baptist Church of Harlem, Harlem, NY. It was a response to the terrorist incidents in Charlottesville, VA on Friday evening, August 11th and Saturday, August 12, 2017.

8 Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let us go out to the field.” And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel, and killed him. 9 Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?” He said, “I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?” 10 And the Lord said, “What have you done? Listen; your brother’s blood is crying out to me from the ground! 11 And now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. ( Genesis 4:8–11, NRSV)

By now we’ve all seen the pictures, the videos, the footage detailing the white supremacists marching on the grounds of the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Virginia. No longer are these racist supremacists using the tactics and tools of their ancestors. They no longer need hoods and wooden torches while riding horses. Today in 2017, they ride up in their SUV’s, pull out their Tiki Torches purchased in bulk at Walmart and brazenly march and terrorize while declaring their rights as white citizens and demanding that all others go back to where they came from. The mindset is the same, but the tactics have changed. In the words of the late Walter Leonard, who was president of Fisk University, Jim Crow isn’t dead, he’s just changed his name to James Crow, Esquire.[1] Jim Crow, aka James Crow, Esq. is more sophisticated, more savvy. James Crow, Esq. is more technologically advanced with websites and chat rooms. Able to navigate the lobbyists of this country and to spend money and PAC funds for their own self-interests. And so yesterday, James Crow, Esq, and his white nationalists and supremacists buddied marched and chanted “White Lives Matter”, “Jews Will Not Replace Us” and “Unite the Right”. One slogan or chant stood out to me, however. One week ago, it would not have meant much to me, but upon hearing the white terrorists chant Blood and Soil over, it hit me hard due to a book I am currently reading entitled Stand Your Ground: Black Bodies and the Justice of God, by Kelly Brown Douglas. In her remarkable and powerful book, Douglas introduces the reader to the makings of the Anglo-Saxon myth. The makings of the Anglo-Saxon myth date back to the year 98 when the Roman historian Tacitus published Germania and spills over into the so-called founding of the United States of America with such “founding fathers” as Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin. In his brief work, Tacitus commended the Germans of that day (Anglo Saxons) for their brave and strong moral character, their fierce blue eyes and red hair and their racial purity.[2] Out of this reverence for the Anglo-Saxons came an understanding of the importance of land and their perceived inherent right to occupy (or stand ground) on that land. The Anglo Saxon believed in the sanctity of their blood. In other words, the perceived Anglo-Saxon’s superior capacity for morality was not an accident; they believed it was in their blood — literally — in their DNA. Morality and the instinct for freedom were thought to flow through Anglo-Saxon veins and that their instinct for liberty was genetic being passed down through generations. They felt that they were chosen, because of the supposed sanctity of their bloodline. The perceived purity of their bloodline was paramount to their existence as a people. This notion, this Western notion brought over to this country after pushing Native Indigenous People from their land was stoked by religious reformers that we learned about in grade school as Pilgrims and Puritans. We were taught that they were fleeing religious persecution in England, but they were also transporting the Anglo-Saxon myth across the Atlantic which was to be the cornerstone for the stand your ground culture maintained by white nationalists. The Pilgrims and especially the Puritans, armed with their bloodline, which they said was superior, felt that it was their God-given right to plant a colony for the glory of God in the ‘new land’ that they supposedly discovered. It is this sense of Anglo-Saxon entitlement that has driven itself into the culture of this country.

A sense of entitlement that says it’s ok for a white armed man to follow an unarmed black boy with skittles and iced tea and claim that he’s standing HIS ground — when he’s the one following young Traven Martin on a Florida sidewalk. Exceptionalism and entitlement that tells a grown middle-aged man that it’s ok to fire into a car that is leaving a Jacksonville, FL, gas station simply because he is annoyed that loud music was being played and as a result killing young Jordan Russell Davis. Exceptionalism and entitlement, where Renisha Marie McBride knocks on a door seeking help after a car accident and the white male owner perceiving her to be a threat opened his door with shotgun in hand and killed her. Exceptionalism and entitlement where Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Charleena Lyles, Phylando Castile, and how many other Big Black Men — and women, who simply look dangerous are killed? We know the stories of the police brutalities and killings. But what is it that allows common every day citizens to have this sense of entitlement that they can carry weapons and shoot unarmed black men and women and get away with it? What kind of culture breeds the understanding that it is perfectly ok for white people to gather en masse and carry guns and rifles to what they say is a “rally”? We saw it yesterday. Men and women with this sense of entitlement and exceptionalism and privilege, we saw it all yesterday…..with the chants of domestic terrorists yelling over and over “Blood and Soil! Blood and Soi!”

Blood and Soil was a Nazi chant used by Adolf Hitler and the Nazi party to promote genocidal Nazi ideology. Blood and Soil!! Blood — meaning the bloodline or the descent of their people and Soil, meaning the territory that they attach their sense of entitlement to. Blood and Soil — bloodline and territory — whether overt or covert has determined the direction of Western Society and in particular American culture.

This idea of Blood and Soil, popularized by the Nazi Regime, resurrected by the Alt-Right and the KKK and the 3 Percenters and the other racist deplorables yesterday, was evident from the beginning of time.

We see Cain the firstborn and eldest son of Adam and Eve…. Cain the one who had responsibility for the land, he was the tiller of the soil was somehow threatened by his younger brother Abel, simply because he was doing what was right in the sight of God. Cain felt that he had an entitlement because of his bloodline — he was born first. He had a sense of entitlement because he was charged with taking care of the land, or the soil. And whenever you have a sense of entitlement over something there is always the risk for abuse and neglect….whenever you have a sense of entitlement there’s always the risk of getting too comfortable — so comfortable that you abuse the system and take advantage….. that’s what Cain did, he tried to take advantage, he tried to hold back on God — felt that he could get away with being underhanded, because of his blood and his soil.

Cain has told his younger brother Abel, let’s go out to the field. And this is the first mistake on Abel’s part. Because the field was Cain’s territory. Oh, yeah, we know it was really God’s territory. But Cain had been charged with being the keeper of the ground. He was the tiller of the field. The field was his territory. And the worst thing you can do is be led from your own territory to that of the enemy’s territory and be placed in a vulnerable state. See the enemy wants to lead you away from your place and space and place you in a vulnerable state ….

That’s what happened 400 years ago when the first Africans were led or rather SNATCHED from their place and space in Africa — their physical place, their emotional space, their spiritual space. They were placed in a mind-altering and vulnerable position. And that’s what happened to Able…. He was led to the field — off of his own territory and placed in a vulnerable situation. And some of us today are in vulnerable situations. That’s what it is when you standing by and watching people of good will mowed down like grass in a field. You’re in a vulnerable situation. But just because we’re in a vulnerable situation, does not mean that we are a vulnerable people! No, we’ve always been able to rise!

But look at Cain & Able! Both Cain and Abel were worshippers. Worship was their first order of business. They both served God. They brought God their offerings to God –that’s Worship! But just because they both worshipped God, doesn’t mean that both of their hearts were right with God! Worship was on both of their agendas but does not mean that both of their agendas lined up with God’s agenda. And brothers and sisters there will be people who worship God but that does not mean that they have God’s agenda. God’s agenda is an agenda of love and respect. God’s agenda is an agenda of justice and righteousness. God’s agenda is one where everyone gets a fair share. And there are people today across this country who WORSHIP God every single Sunday. There are men and women who sit in church pews just like we do. Who read the same bible that you and I read, who sing some of the same hymns you and I sing and who profess to believe in their heart that God raised Jesus from the dead, just like you and I believe — but yet they do NOT SERVE God’s agenda!

What kind of agenda do you have when you say you’re a man or woman of God and you lay hands on a president whose finger is on the trigger threatening to start a nuclear war?

What kind of agenda do you have when you lay hands on an administration that threatens to roll back affirmative action for qualified (yes qualified) young people in need of a fair chance.

What kind of agenda do you have when you say you are pro-life, but you try to strike down health care and 32 million people would lose coverage.

What kind of agenda do you have when you pray and lay hands on a man who is at the helm of voter disenfranchisement?

What kind of agenda do you have when you pray and lay hands on a man who tears families apart and deports members of families who have lived in this country for 20, 30 and 40 years and have contributed to the economy?

What kind of agenda do you have when you witness the carnage, and the hate and the violence — one woman DEAD — and this man who sits in the White House, desecrating 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, the house that my ancestors built, STILL as of THIS MORNING, FAILS to condemn the racist white supremacist scum of the earth who have waged war on well-meaning people everywhere! What kind of agenda are you supporting? It’s not God’s agenda!!

I say to those who’ve been sleeping, Welcome to the Terrordome!!![3]

For BIBLE SAYS, Choose ye THIS day who you will serve!! Jesus said, you can’t be lukewarm when it comes to serving God. When it comes to fighting for justice — the word that’s mentioned over 2000 times in the bible — there is no sidestepping. There is no margin to stand on. There is no curb to rest at. There is no wall to lean on. Naw!!! There is only Blood and Soil!!! And it’s not the blood and soil that the Nazis chanted about in Germany. It’s not the blood and soil that the dirtbags chanted yesterday in Virginia! But it’s first of all, the blood of our ancestors…… black people whose blood was spilled on African soil, when they were ripped from the Ivory Coast, Upper Guinea, the Gold Coast, places we know today as Ghana, Angola, Mali, Nigeria, Togo, Cameroon — the blood that is still on the shores and in the soil of Africa! Blood in the bowels of the ships that took upwards of 13 weeks or even longer across the Atlantic Ocean. The blood, here in what Maya Angelou called these Yet to be United States of America– the blood of our ancestors that has fertilized the soil of this country from sea to so-called shining sea. The blood of Medgar Evers which rests in the soil of Mississippi. The blood of Martin Luther King Jr. that rests in the soil in Memphis TN. The blood of Emmitt Till that rests in the soil of Money,

Mississippi. The blood of those 4 Church girls going to Sunday School in1963, rests in the soil Birmingham, AL. Can’t no Nazi tell me about Blood and Soil!!! The blood of Trayvon Martin, that rests in the soil of Sandford, Florida. The blood of Sandra Bland that rests in the soil of Hempstead, Texas. The blood of Michael Brown that rests in Ferguson, MO. The blood of Eleanor Bumpers rests across that bridge down the block in the soil of The Bronx, New York City. The blood of Eric Garner rests in the soil of Staten Island. And today the blood of a white woman — Heather Heyer, who dared to stand on the side of justice, rests in the soil of Charlottesville, VA. Don’t tell me about the blood and soil. The blood of my people rests under the foundation of every brick that makes up 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Don’t tell me about the blood and soil!!

And so when God asks Cain the question, “What have you done??” The question we ask ourselves today, “Is what have we not done?” God said, Cain, your brother’s blood is crying out to me from the soil!!!

I come to remind us today that our people’s blood is crying out from the soil. But not only is the blood of our ancestors crying out from the soil…..but I believe there is a greater blood that is crying out from the soil…. It’s a blood, that dripped into the soil — — over 2000 years ago…. From a rugged cross on Calvary….. the blood that stained the head of my Jesus, when a crown of thorns was placed on it. The blood that poured from his side, when it was pierced by a soldier representing the terror of the Roman Empire….. The blood! That dripped from his pierced hands and his pierced feet…..the blood– that seeped into Golgotha’s hill. The blood that gives us power. The blood that cleanses unrighteousness. The blood, that stands for justice The blood!!! That still works today!! The blood that Jesus shed for me…..way back on Calvary. The blood, that gives US strength, from day, to day…. IT will NEVER, NEVER lose its POWER!

The blood, reaches the highest mountain — the blood, flows to the soil in the lowest valley. The blood THAT GIVES US STRENGTH…. IT WILL NEVER….. NEVER…. IT WILL NEVER… LOSE IT’S POWER!! Power to the people! Power to the People!

Black people, Latino people, Jewish people, Asian…..Native America…. gay…..queer… transgender…….no gender….. whatsthegender… idontcaregender! Power to the PEOPLE!

[1] Robert C. Maynard, “The Unborn Possibilities of the Year 2000,” Black Enterprise, August 1979, 32

[2] Kelly Brown Douglas, Stand Your Ground: Black Bodies and the Justice of God (Maryknoll: Orbis, 2015), 3

[3] Public Enemy, “Welcome to the Terrordome”, Fear of a Black Planet. Def Jam Records, Released April 10, 1990