I want to thank commenter Brad for bringing to my attention an error I made in yesterday’s post White Supremacy, U.S. Citizenship, and the Body of Christ.  As he so helpfully reminded me, Patrice Lumumba was assassinated three days before JFK was inaugurated so it would therefore have been impossible for him to have ordered Lumumba’s assassination.  It was Eisenhower and not Kennedy who ordered the unsuccessful assassination attempt on Lumumba.  Eisenhower was also still president when the CIA participated in a second attempt on Lumumba’s life which was successful.

I tried to re-trace my steps to find out exactly how I got this misguided notion in my head in the first place, but the best explanation I can muster is that I somehow got my dates confused.  I sincerely apologize for misleading anyone who read yesterday’s post.

While obviously I would have worded some of my post differently had I known better, I still think there is something quite chilling about the relative apathy, indifference, or even approval shown by most white Catholics in the US to Lumumba’s assassination that suggests a failure of the baptismal imagination.  Further, even though it is quite understandable why JFK’s presidency and assassination had a deeper impact on Catholics living in the US than did Lumumba’s, we should still be troubled that white Catholics in the US in generally did  not recognize Lumumba or the people of the Congo as their own.

Again, I sincerely apologize and regret my error.  Mistakes like this are a good reminder of the importance of community and humility to moral inquiry.

5 thoughts

  1. Katie, thanks for taking my comments in the spirit in which they were intended. Your post is no less pertinent and compelling.

    To what extent do you think racism in these cases might be intertwined with nationalism? For example, to what extent does the racism you identify have the traction and power it does because it’s wrapped up in a certain vision of America that gets institutionalized, and thus safeguarded by force of arms (be they soldiers, special ops, or border patrols)? A central part of the impetus behind Lumumba assassination was the strategic fear of communism, propagated amongst the American populace as a threat to American identity. Today, I think part of the resistance to “illegal” immigration – i.e., immigration that is not processed through nationalization (and thus certain oaths like abjuring all other sovereigns–God perhaps?) – is not only a racial consideration but rather fear over changing the very meaning of America, as understood and propagated in and by certain quarters.

    1. Hello again, Brad. Thanks for your thoughtful question.

      Well, first of all, I would want to clarify what we mean by “racism.” I think the word “racism” has come to function in ways that are sometimes counter-productive. Too often, we think if racism as consciously negative thoughts aka prejudice or racial hatred. Certainly, these behaviors are a part of racism but they are not the core of racism. I think it’s more helpful to see this Jim Crow style racism as the historically specific means to maintaining the end of white power. Because these forms of racism have diminished, a lot of us therefore think that racism has diminished. Instead, I would argue that white power/supremacy are maintained through different mechanisms nowadays.

      So, if we think not so much of “racism” but of white supremacy then I think it becomes a lot easier to answer this question. Even if Eisenhower was not wanting to assassinate Lumumba “because he was black,” the fact that the US had an imperial presence in the Congo and not the other way around and therefore had the power to exert its will on Congo are certainly the result of white supremacy.

      And yes, when we think of racism as white supremacy, I think that it is very heavily wrapped up in both the ideology of American nationalism and the social and political realities of the US.

      1. I was thinking similar things myself, Katie, but I wonder to what degree we are talking primarily about “supremacy” pure and simple, which manifests itself in different racist, sexist, nationalist, statist, economic determinist, etc., structures depending on the context and upon the threats perceived by those attempting to hold onto power. I’m not convinced that “white” supremacy would get at the fully orbed nature of the power structures in question.

      2. yea, i would agree that white supremacy doesn’t capture all that is going on but is instead a key part of it.

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