Simply, congenital heart disease is a problem with the heart’s structure, present at birth. Most recently television star, Roseanne Barr’s show was canceled because of a racist, xenophobic tweet she made about an African American women, Valerie Jarrett. The ABC television network decided to revitalize the show, Roseanne. Roseanne was the show about a white woman and her working-class family from the Midwest, from the “heartland.” During the most recent Presidential election, as with previous elections, much of the campaign focuses on key parts of the country and how the results in those areas, typically the heartland. Iowa, Michigan, Iowa, Ohio, and Wisconsin are a part of what’s called the “swing states.” The states are also a part of the heartland of America.
In the early morning hours on Memorial Day 2018, the main star, Roseanne Barr, tweeted, “muslim brotherhood & planet of the apes had a baby=vj,” in reference to Valerie Jarrett. After public outrage, she tried to delete the tweet and apologize, later blaming the comment on her use of the sleep aid, Ambien. Even the pharmaceutical company clapped back stating that “racism is not a side effect.” It was too late, the damage was done, ABC canceled its most popular show, citing her comments were inconsistent with the values of the network.
I would love to think that this is an isolated incident, but Roseanne Barr is a part of the base of supporters of this administration that have felt emboldened to say and do whatever, under the guise of freedom of speech, etc. Even the President stated that ABC’s executive did not call him to apologize for comments made against him on the network, under the guise of defending Roseanne’s freedom of speech rights. This all follows on the heels of both the President and Vice President both endorsing the NFL’s new policy to “silence” the silent protest of the NFL players during the playing of the national anthem.
I present all of this to ask the question, “does America have a heart problem?” Partisan politics has increased the divide in our nation, highlighted by the intentional targeting of people of color. Whites have called law enforcement on people of color for being in the common area of a university they’re enrolled in; for waiting in a coffee shop for a business meeting; and even for barbecuing in a public park. Are the sensitivities of some people so offended by the thought of others sharing the liberties entitled them under the founding documents of this country? Like one of our great freedom fighters, Reverend Dr. William Barber has noted, we don’t have a Republican or Democratic problem, we don’t have a Liberal or Conservative problem, we don’t have a black or a white problem, America has a heart problem. I would like to add to that diagnosis that we have a congenital heart problem, considering we were born with this defect. Our country was founded on the backs of the slave trade and even in its founding documents, claimed that fellow human beings are only 3/5ths of a human. I don’t remember reading in the Hebrew Bible about the Creator creating 3/5ths of a human being. I do remember reading that Elohim created humanity in their own image, deeming all of humanity worthy of the status of “human being.” So what do we do in the case of congenital heart disease? In its worse case, a heart transplant is required.
First of all, our focus in America needs to shift from the “heartland” to the heart of America, to the margins, to embrace those living in the margins. The most densely populated areas of America are the heart of America; the complexion of America has changed, has darkened, not from climate change but by forced migration of peoples due to wars, starvation, and lack of opportunity.
We need to move from denial to accepting our diagnoses. Systemic and institutional racism courses through the veins of America, like a bloodborne disease. Xenophobia and Islamophobia are like mental illnesses causing America to behave with deep, dark paranoia. Sexual and gender discrimination are like cancers, having spread to the bones. Forced deportation is like an autoimmune disease, attacking our own country, illegally detaining those that “don’t belong” and separating children from their families in the process.
We spend too much time talking about solutions in racial reconciliation conferences and seminars. Racial reconciliation is a false construct. Since race is a myth and the root cause of racism, I believe we need to stop trying to focus on reconciling a problem and focus on creating a covenant.
Covenantal relationships in the Bible had three main components. The covenant is more than transactional, it is relational. First, the covenant is between two people or two parties. Second, the conditions of the covenant present a level playing field for both parties. Third and finally, the covenant contains consequences for either party defaulting on their part of the covenant.
It is time for America to enter into a covenantal agreement with its peoples. The very nature of covenant fully acknowledges the humanity of all involved. This is how we fix our heart problem. This is how we show intentionality in our relationships. This is how we root out the ills of this country set on dehumanization, oppression, and marginalization.