My Black Rage Sensibility

(This is part of a larger work entitled, “Perspectives of a Black Rage Sensibility: (Reshaping) God Through Spaces of Blackness”)

Albert Pero classifies blackness or the black experience as “a certain dark joy” that “celebrates the triumph of human beings over a social order which would degrade.” [1] This very same “dark joy” fuels my own Black Rage. My reaction of a lifelong struggle to be recognized; my Black Rage sensibility governs every facet of my life. I search daily to find sectors of safety.  My Black Rage sensibility carries the weight of waking up as the face of America’s perceived problem and waking up as a Christian with the “absurdity of a people who claimed to be Christian” but live in proverbial contradiction.[2]  When the black body is assumed as a prescribed conclusion of criminality and ungodliness, the quiet assent of racism profoundly sanctions the annihilation of the black body and safety is a major concern at all times. For others and myself, Black Rage, ultimately, becomes a strategic defense mechanism against human fears that have been weaponized by the media. In response, anyone who loves the black body becomes anti-American, which is merely, anti-white. This reaction results in further marginalization efforts and consent to remove the presence of black bodies.

Being a student at a Lutheran seminary and simultaneously being a member of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America prompts me to consider Black Rage in a context that is not filled visibly with black bodies. The constant need to reaffirm my blackness perpetually lives in the front of my mind. In this context, I did not have the ease of familiarity, but rather the brisk interplay of racism that goes undetected. I heard the quarantined compliments of how intelligent I am, and the over the top appreciation for my articulation, that are part of the complex-simplicity that monopolized many conversations. Black Rage cannot be expressed in my life without the awareness that the Black body was infiltrating a sacred space of the church, an official place that some may have seen as off limits; a place where fear of difference and diversity appear as negative quantifiers. I was becoming a candidate for Lutheran orders, in a denomination least integrated in the South and in the Midwest.

The impression of Black fear is not one that is placed in Black bodies, but a fear that it thrust upon Black bodies. This constant Black fear that in some fashion or form, Black bodies will enter into this designated white spaces. This is the fear of the “undesirable strangers” or “unloved strangers,” who enter into places their privilege has not been availed to them.[3] This ill-informed identifier, instantly places Black bodies in danger. James Baldwin’s use of the “unloved stranger” illuminates the hatred that is levied on the backs of Black bodies in America.[4] He believes that all Blacks experience this “paradoxical adjustment” where we must come to grips with the unalienable fact that we are dark, dangerous and unloved strangers –simply niggers.[5] For Blacks, this is not a personal identifier, but denotes his perception of what he believes white people perceive, when Black people enter into sacred white spaces. As these “undesirable strangers,” Blacks are brutalized at the hands of the very people who are charged to protect and serve citizens. Joy DeGruy explains that the impact of extreme racial systems have left a mark on the minds of Blacks as well as whites. She denotes that these racist power structures have constrained the life of Black folks with little “time to catch our collective breath.”[6] Categorically, an intrusion of the “undesirable stranger” in the sacred white space alerts fear both in the stranger and the entered communal space, that “makes for a dangerous situation because white people are compelled, by divine law nonetheless, to protect their space from intruders.” [7] Black fear is the direct result of a societal racial lens that equates Black with crime. Khalil Gibran Muhammed accentuates this point:

For white Americans of every ideological stripe—from radical southern racists to northern progressives—African American criminality became one of the most widely accepted bases for justifying prejudicial thinking, discriminatory treatment, and/or acceptance of racial violence as an instrument of public safety.[8]

Kelly Brown Douglas equates this criminalization of Blacks with a heighten sense of awareness that for the American whites, the Black body does not have the “presumption of innocence” that is afforded to whites. [9] Black fear is a learned and manufactured emotion that serves as another example of the numerous ways that the Black body is continually is danger.

 

[1] Albert Pero. “Black, Lutheran, and American,” Theology and the Black Experience: The Lutheran Heritage Interpreted by African and African-American Theologians, Edited by Alberto Pero and Ambrose Moyo, Minneapolis: Augsburg Press, 1988, 161.

[2] Otis Moss III, Blue Note Preaching in a Post-Soul World: Finding Hope in an Age of Despair, Louisville: Westminster John Know Press, 2015.,23.

[3] See footnote 161

[4] Ibid., Baldwin, Notes of Native Son,42-43.

[5] Ibid.,42.

[6] Ibid., DeGruy , 107-108.

[7]In a previous paper, Reflective Thoughts On Kelly Brown Douglas’ “Stand Your Ground,” I go into more detail about this subject.  Kelly Brown Douglas, Stand Your Ground: Black Bodies and the Justice of God, New York: Orbis Books, 2015.

[8] Khalil Gibran Muhammad, The Condemnation of Blackness: Race, Crime, and the Making of Modern Urban America, Cambridge: Harvard University Press.,4.

[9] Ibid., 86.

 

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