Christ Divided: Antiblackness Supremacy as Corporate Vice

Katie Walker Grimes, Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2017 (344pp. eBook ISBN: 9781506438535 Softcover ISBN: 9781506427997

How do We Uproot and Dissolve AntiBlackness Supremacy?

“Reply to Objection 2: But he that acts from concupiscence, e.g. an incontinent man, does not retain his former will whereby he repudiated the object of his concupiscence; for his will is changed so that he desires that which previously he repudiated. Accordingly, that which is done out of fear is involuntary, to a certain extent, but that which is done from concupiscence is nowise involuntary. For the man who yields to concupiscence acts counter to that which he purposed at first, but not counter to that which he desires now…Reply to Objection 3: If concupiscence were to destroy knowledge altogether…it would follow that concupiscence would take away voluntariness. And yet properly speaking it would not result in the act being involuntary, because in things bereft of reason, there is neither voluntary nor involuntary. But sometimes in those actions which are done from concupiscence, knowledge is not completely destroyed, because the power of knowing is not taken away entirely, but only the actual consideration in some particular possible act.” -St. Thomas Aquinas, I-II. Q 7[1] Antiblackness supremacy undergirds white supremacy in America as white American supremacy’s foundational raison d’être. Native blacks in the United States have been dealt a multi-layered blow of exclusion from the time their ancestors were plundered from their African roots and, not replanted and reestablished culturally, linguistically and bodily in our new democracy, but sub-planted as voiceless grist, fodder and hard labor for the already re-rooted white Puritan and Catholic society. [Slaves] who now belonged to a master, first had ‘to be uprooted from [their] original social network. Why? Dislocated from ties of mutual obligation to a protective communal network, [slaves owed] nothing to anyone, but their master. And to the [master they] would owe everything.’[2] In other words, they are part of the white social structure, close to it, but suppressed and oppressed by it in their reestablishment in this new social structure, but they are totally disconnected from their own world and social context. It renders them ‘natally alienated and socially dead,’ states Katie Walker Grimes in her groundbreaking work, Christ Divided: Antiblackness Supremacy as Corporate Vice. [3] Grimes goes on to say, “Although the term ‘antiblackness supremacy’ describes a different reality than does the phrase ‘white supremacy’, it shares the other’s ethical clarity. It avoids individualizing; it places a rhetorical spotlight on the relation between racial evil and power; and it is compatible with a theory of corporate virtue.”[4] But on the other hand, I believe, it also exposes corporate sin, reification of the supreme collective self over the demonized, ‘lower’ other, the ‘black’ other to be feared as animalistic, subdued and ‘tamed’ by the superiority of ‘whiteness’ over ’blackness.’ Grimes continues, “‘Antiblackness supremacy’ in fact surpasses ‘white supremacy’ in theoretical precision because it specifies the racial [corporate] system that emerged from the attempts to preserve the legacy of slavery [suppression as tamer and the one ‘to be tamed.’]”[5] What Grimes calls corporate vice has powered slavery into this country’s racist, anti-Black culture since slavery’s introduction in the 15th Century. America has traded one form of antiblackness for another throughout its history. Slavery’s afterlife runs deep in America, obviously demonstrated in the uncensored attitudes of the present administration’s white supremacist backlash to progress in eradicating, or the chipping away at the edges of antiBlackness supremacy in the previous one. The aftermath, this afterlife, of slavery is still with us. Grimes claims antiblackness supremacy pervades our very white racist souls, and bodies. From the KKK, to Jim Crow to Rosa Parks, we have still not abolished what is so deeply ingrained in those born into white social culture. The reified evil of corporate vice is an intentional separation of the other from us, yet keeping them close, just close enough, but at arms, neighborhood or parish length. Systematically, Prof. Grimes writes how the Catholic Church in America played its part in dividing of white from black, yet being a part of the fabric of a Christian ethos. It systematically differentiated and perpetrated fear and loathing for those with black embodiment from white embodiment established as a Christian normative American Catholic sacramental ontology. “Catholic parishes enacted racial segregation not just as corporate bodies, but also for the sake of them”, states Grimes.[6] My own auto-biographical experience is intertwined in the premise and reasoning of this book, as a white woman growing up on the Southside of Chicago, a product of German/Polish-second-generation Catholic immigrants who, as Grimes maintains had more privilege than the native Blacks when my grandparents arrived here in the early part of the twentieth century. Part of our family’s flight to suburban Western Springs was because the neighborhood around 91st Street and Ashland Avenue was becoming ‘too black’! Albeit, our move was to acquire a larger house, our family was growing, but we had the advantage of making that choice because we were white. However, antiblackness taught me a lesson early in my development bringing me in direct contact with it causing my life’s ethic to combat it wherever it raises its head. In 1957, on a train trip to California, my twin sister and I began playing with two younger children sitting a few coach seats up from us. They were black. Our parents pulled us aside and told us we could no longer play with them, giving us no good reason why. I obeyed, but I knew the anti-truth in their statement of authority and understood corporate vice from that experience early in my life. One that at seven years old, I questioned, continued to question and doubt since that day. This book articulates supremely well what I did not have words for at seven; that antiblackness is learned; that racism is taught -- the horrible ‘spatial afterlife of slavery!’[7] I highly recommend this book for any class on racism, sexism, postcolonial thought and/or Catholic studies. It is innovative because it addresses the root causes of what we see acted out as racialized violence in places like Chicago and Los Angeles today. The book’s last chapter provides eight steps to counter-structurally reconfigure Catholic parishes and other institutions as Bishop Terry Steib acted in Memphis and propels Cardinal George’s partial attempt at recognizing racism in the Chicago Archdiocese further by bringing about corporate and institutional change to directly neutralize and transform antiblackness supremacy into human unified humanity.

________________________________

[1] Aquinas, St. Thomas, Summa Theologiae, I-II, Q7.

[2] Grimes, Katie Walker, Christ Divided: Antiblackness Supremacy as Corporate Vice,2017, Fortress Press, p. 190

[3] Ibid., p. 3.

[4] Ibid. p. xxvii.

[5] Ibid., p. xxvii.

[6] Ibid., p. 139.

[7] Ibid., p.198.

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