Black Man Searching for Peace

The pressure to write words that preferably I would rather just speak, haunt my soul.

The ever- pressing need to release some level of truth becomes the cathartic peace for the moment.

What I know is that life has places that instruct but it also has places that reshape love –a love that calls for resembling default of authenticity.

Where do I find peace?

I find it: trapped in the brown and black skin of my people.

I find it: laced in the syllables of the words of the elders.

I find it: in the genius of the welcoming known as a pound.

I find it: in the soft kiss of my dark queen.

I find it: through the love of a young daughter’s call of Daddy

I find it: seeking wisdom from brothers who have walked the path of manhood

I find it: in the beat of the drum- Dilla, Premiere, and Coltrane

Where do I find peace?

Honestly, most of the time, peace finds me…God.

How do I feel?

I was asked the question: How do I feel? My response…

There is no unity or peace in spaces where my blackness is not appreciated; in a nation where Christianity is the summation of white, rich men who deem it their responsibility to make (a)merica safe. I awake every day with a crisp “Fuck You” on my mind which is manifested as a serene “Lord Have Mercy.” Knowing that most Christians will feel offended by use of f—k but have little concern for how folks are getting f—ed. We live in such a cynical world, “where cynicism is an unpleasant way of telling the truth.” But Maria Popova enlightens us that:

“Critical thinking without hope is cynicism. Hope without critical thinking is naïveté.”

So, we are stuck in this cynical moment of reality, where hope is constantly being attacked by white supremacy. A time when the church has found pleasure and refuge in tropes and colloquial sayings while refusing to attend to the needs of the people. We find ourselves in a posture of resistance with the ever-present stench of fear looming: a fear entrenched by a hope that a racist country will do right by the people. We are not defeated but understand the road is less traveled; it is a road that is spoken about but very seldom walked upon.

How do I feel? I feel more like saying, “Fuck Trump” rather than saying, “Let’s pray for him.” There is no debate on whether it is right or wrong, you decide. But it is honest.

Brothers In Conversation About Race (Part 8)

Religion is a space where the boundaries of God are fortified through tension and reified through reformation. It avails itself to a strong critique while offering solutions that are filled with active love. Oftentimes, this is not the picture that is painted by the Christian church. Walter, in part 7, introduced the notion of a space where Black people are given the freedom to be, inextricably, themselves. One of the few spaces where black people can relive their liberation is the black church. The black church has provided black folks with a liberating space where their visibility and presence is honored. Racism loses its power within the midst of this fictive kinship.

Racism is a retardant that hinders sound judgement from processing. The oppress are influenced to look past their oppression and reinterpret it as security, instead of seeking freedom. Racism discourages freedom because freedom fuels intellect. Consequently, it is hard to keep intelligent people oppressed. No longer can the plight of white power and white privilege be held as doctrines of a constructed god, who dehumanizes and beguiles black people into believing that oppression is acceptable and godly. When the oppressed start to rebel against the oppressor, their words against oppression are labeled as radicalized hatred.  James Baldwin declares this is when

“white power is broken.”

Baldwin also proclaims that when this white power is broken:

“an English man can’t tell an African what it means to be African and he believes it; a white man can’t tell a negro what it means to be a negro and he believes it, anymore.”

The black church has been the space where our humanity is unquestionable. It has been the sacred site of resistance where beauty emerges in spite of pain and trauma. The black church, constantly reconstructing herself as the avant-guard against this constructed, neo-liberal god that sanctions racism. The black church is a complex institution, constantly on the front-lines fighting against racism. It is a creative space where black genius reclaims the identity of Jesus. A Jesus that racism refuses to accept or serve.

Why am I in the ELCA?

The road to integration is an unforgiving assault on the hearts and minds of black clergy that serve in predominately white denominations. The continuous reshaping to make one’s authenticity fit into another’s warped shape of the Gospel becomes a perpetual task that tries to hijack one’s sense of being. The tragedy of being present, in spaces, where my humanity is only confirmed by my acceptance to assimilation is a solidarity to injustice, which I refuse to accept.

It is clear that the many within the ELCA camp voted for Donald Trump. (Lenny Duncan wrote a good piece about it) I am left to wrestle with this problem, “Why I am in the ELCA?” Why do I continue to connect with people who are so opposed to equality, equity, and justice? I used to say it was a sense of calling to the mission fields of whiteness but now I stand bewildered beyond reasonable thought. The constant awareness of having to explain your presence is insulting. I was assisting with the officiating of a funeral at the church. It was a very small funeral so there were no ushers. I took the liberty to greet friends and family as they arrived. Well, as I was opening the door, a lady comes to the door and says, “I almost ran when I saw this big, black man standing at the door.” Why am I in the ELCA?

Every day, it feels like the very essence of my being is sucked out of me. There are a lot of good people in the ELCA but there is no emotional safety. The task of naming and eradicating racism has been co-opted as racial reconciliation: the place where Black and Brown must become like us (white) instead of us becoming like them.

There were moments, when I thought that being in the ELCA was an honorable journey. I understood that it would be a hard road ahead, but I never considered the theological racism that masks itself as legacy and doctrine to be such a high mountain to climb. My faith has run out of faulty forgiveness that amounts to more opportunities to be dehumanized. I am tired of hearing that this is just how Lutherans are…The truth is that a Lutheranism that is still steeped 1517 rhetoric and liturgy never really had me in mind from the beginning.

Why am I in the ELCA? Well….

Brothers In Conversation About Race (Part 6)

Walter spoke about the need to cross racial borders in order to produce some form of reconciliation. Honestly, that would be the end result of any conversation about race –we come to a resolution where everyone is humanized. The Gospel calls for such revolutionary actions to be normalized. But, borders are instituted by people when they do not want others to enter their space. So when we think about the possibilities of reconciliation, especially, when considering crossing racial borders, we must be extremely clear of the danger of entering into spaces where your skin color has been weaponized and framed you with a malicious intent. I would pose the question: Does our need to be reconciled have to come at the price of being harmed?

Therein lies the issue of race that appears to reshape the conversation. For black people, there are no spaces of safety in a narrative controlled by racism. The narrative called (a)merica has redefined the humanity of people of African descent, and any time some of us enter in to what Kelly Brown Douglas calls “cherished spaces,” we must assimilate or risk being terrorized.

 I am not as hopeful as Walter that these places for border crossing will ever happen in (a)merica. Authenticity must be foundational for reconciliation to be probable, and I am not sure how authentic people can be when their power is on the line.