Stand Your Ground: Chapter 3 Discussion Guide


As we gather, on your own or with the person next to you, reflect on this block of text and the included questions from the beginning of chapter 3, found on page 9.

“Given the fact that America’s narrative of Anglo-Saxon exceptionalism has constructed the white body in extreme opposition to the black body, it is predicable that black bodies are disproportionately assaulted by this culture. What perhaps is not so predictable is the deadly force of this culture in relation to the black body. What has allowed this culture to become to acceptability deadly when it comes to the black body?  Why does this culture seemingly pursue black bodies with murderous intent?”

Small Group Part 1:

  1. Assign a moderator and a recorder for your group.
  2. Introduce yourself and share a 1-2 sentence summary of what you learned last week or learned earlier in our group introduction.

Small Group Part 2:  Discuss the following quotations from chapter 3: (Bold emphasis is Alice’s.)

I. On Manifest Destiny:

A.“Historian Reginald Horseman explains the underlying assumptions of American’s mission of Manifest Destiny this way, “By 1850 the emphasis was on the American Anglo-Saxons as a separate, innately superior people who were destined to bring good government, commercial prosperity, and Christianity to the American continents and to the world. This was a superior race and inferior races were doomed to subordinate status or extinction.  There was in face a relio-science to support the “extinction” presumption of Manifest Destiny.” (102)

B. “For while the phrase “melting pot” would become a metaphor for the expectation that all immigrants would be assimilated and thus transformed into “Americans,” until the early twentieth century, the usage of “melting away” suggested the expectation for the nonwhite bodies. If American was to become an Anglo-Saxon melting pot, then certain people would have to “melt away.” Nott and Glidon continue by saying that although missionaries claim to have bene successful in civilizing them, “it is in vain to talk about civilizing [the American Indian.] You might as well attempt to change the nature of the buffalo.” (103)

C. “As much as this exodus story is a story of moving out of bondage into freedom, it is also a story of invading an occupied land.  The exodus provides a theological paradigm for Manifest Destiny just as much it does for liberation….

The exodus story has traditionally provided the primary scriptural foundation for black people’s understanding of God’s movement in their own history.  This story is central to black faith.  It is the story that stirred the imagination of the enslaved and allowed them to affirmed, even as their enslavers said otherwise, that God did not choose them to chattel but to be free.  However, with the narrative of Manifest Destiny, the theological paradigm of black people as the Israelites is contested….

In the context of the Anglo-Saxon Manifest Destiny, the black body is not the chosen Israelite body.  Rather, it is more like the scorned Canaanite body. This is not the body that God frees.  It is instead a body that God allows to be destroyed.  Again, the God of the exodus becomes a God of Manifest Destiny. Such a God sanctions the “extinction” of a people.  At the least, this God subjects people to conquering violence.”( 105-106)

D. “The narrative of Manifest Destiny inevitably flows from America’s exceptionalist identity. As earlier mentioned, if a race of people believes itself to be chosen by God because it and its way of life is superior to others, then a sense of Manifest Destiny becomes inevitable. It is only right, in other words, to make the world “better” by investing it with a superior way of living, especially if that way is considered a reflection of eternal law. This is what is in the “best interest” of the world. Manifest destiny presumes to be a way to “serve the common good.” In many respects, then, the narrative of Manifest Destiny is the culmination of the numerous discourses and productions of knowledge generated by America’s grand narrative of exceptionalism. It reflects the Anglo-Saxon natural law theo-ideology that sanctions white supremacy. In fact, Manifest Destiny is an expression of that ideology as it assumes both the supremacy of whiteness, the shelter for Anglo-Saxon exceptionalism, and the inferiority of non-whiteness, a threat to Anglo-Saxon exceptionalism. This narrative further exonerates white people from taking moral responsibility for certain immoral, dehumanizing, and even deadly actions they might perpetrate against nonwhite bodies, all in the name of Manifest Destiny. Extermination, for instance, is read as a natural process of extinction, rather than the result of a violent imposition upon a people’s life. True to the constructions of the narrative of Anglo-Saxon exceptionalism, the nonwhite body becomes responsible for its own fate, even when it is a deadly fate. In effect, the narrative of Manifest Destiny is that which ultimately legitimates the deadly use of subjugating power. The narrative of Manifest Destiny is a declaration of war.” 107

  1. Speaking more broadly before digging into the quotation: From your time in school, what have been your impressions about Manifest Destiny?  Have you learned about this term/ movement in different ways? How do you interpret land, life and race woven into the narrative of Manifest Destiny?
  2. Reflect on the above quotations. What would you draw out?  What questions do you have?  What surprises you? What do you see anew?  What do you disagree with?
  3. How have you experienced the idea of “white supremacy?”
  4. Do you interpret Manifest Destiny as a declaration of war? Why or why not?

II.Stand Your Ground the Black Body

A. “It is no accident that stand-your-ground culture has been most aggressively if not fatally executed after every period in which certain “rights” are extended to black people, ostensibly bringing them closer to enjoying the “inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” This pattern of “white backlash” began with the emancipation. After emancipation, Black Codes, Jim Crow laws, and the heinous “punishment” of lynching was enforced. The “law and order” mandates of the post–civil rights era continued this pattern. White backlash surely is reflected in the virulent stand-your-ground reality that has followed the election of the first black president. In each instance, stand-your-ground culture has asserted itself in an effort to “seize” the rights of whiteness and to return the black body to its chattel space. Essentially, the more the black body is free, the more intense the war against its body. We will now look to see how this is the case.” 117

B. “The moon doesn’t run.

Neither does the sun.

In Chicago

They’ve got covenant

Restricting me—

Hemmed in

On the South Side,

Can’t breath free.” – Langston Hughes’s 1949 poem “Restrictive Convenants” (123)

  1. Reflect on the above quotation. What would you draw out?  What questions do you have?  What surprises you? What do you see anew?  What do you disagree with?
  2. How do you see Manifest Destiny affecting black codes, Jim Crow laws, Lynching, and the War on Drugs?
  3. How would you compare the death of Emmett Till and Trayvon Martin? (121)
  4. “Essentially, the more the black body is free, the more intense the war against its body.” How would you apply this quotation to today’s context?

C. “Today, the Manifest Destiny stand-your-ground-culture war is fueled by the presence of a black man living in the White House. There is no greater challenge to America’s grand narrative of Anglo-Saxon exceptionalism than a black president. This represents a complete encroachment upon the space reserved for cherished white property. It is no surprise, therefore, that stand-your-ground culture has asserted itself in an aggressive and unrelenting manner. All of the weapons that have been used over time have been brought to bear in the current climate of stand-your-ground culture. The “Stop and Frisk laws,” which are disproportionately applied to black and brown bodies, harken back to the Black Code vagrancy laws. Once again, you can be stopped and arrested for living black. The dismantling of the 1965 Voter’s Rights Act, as well as racialized gerrymandering, is reminiscent of the white backlash that followed Reconstruction, the first time that black people ascended into white political space. And most troubling of all, the Stand Your Ground laws, in conjunction with the Conceal and Carry gun laws, have made legal a murderous act that was extralegal, that is, lynching. Our black children are falling victims to the twenty-first-century version of stand-your-ground-culture lynching.” (130-1)

  1. Reflect on the above quotation. What would you draw out?  What questions do you have?  What surprises you? What do you see anew? What do you disagree with?
  2. Kelly Brown’s Douglas asks us this question to end the chapter. How do you respond? “What is the meaning of God’s help in the context of stand-your-ground culture that would deprive the black body of a home?”
  3. What is the role of the church in this war against the black body? How does the role of the church change depend on who attends the church? Or, does the role of the church change?

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