Yesterday, I posted a statement on Facebook that stirred a little bit of conversation. My initial point said,
“Racial reconciliation is an existential lie that pushes the oppressed to enter back into the hell they have been trying to escape.”
Throughout the rest of the day, I had conversations with many brothers and sisters, about my comment. As I pondered, upon the conversations, I started to wrestle with some thoughts about racial reconciliation. It is my sincerest hope that my thoughts will be conveyed with clarity as I attempt to unpack my line of thinking. These are not definitive, well researched thoughts, but somethings that I have been wrestling with:
First, we must understand that racism has worked. Race was never meant to be a tool to build community. The quest to identify someone as the “other” has always been a tactic to say that I am better than you. Dr. Mitzi Smith writes, “Difference is constructed in order to distinguish ourselves from proximate others. Our constructions of the other generally function to subordinate the other to us.” So, when race and the politics of race were implemented they were not done with the hope of building community. It was designed to disempower a group or groups of people that did not meet the pigmentation requirement to be white. Also, the premise of developing the concept of race was to make sure that the group designated as important always remained the important group. That is why it is extremely hard for some white people to grasp the notion that racism is a real trauma in the black, brown and Native American communities. Because, to make the claim that racism is live and active, would then force that white person to have to deal the reality that they have prospered on the backs of others. Their positions and privilege spaces were not always the products of hard work but often time engineered by what Ta-Nehisi Coates calls the “elegance of racism.”
Secondly, racial reconciliation is not an applicable reality. As I said before the concept of race was not developed to build community, it was meant to divide. Once race enters the picture the aspects of relationship start to diminish: No longer am I an African connecting with a European, but a black skinned person interacting with a lighter skinned person. The cultural beauty of our tribe or country is sidelined by color. The cultural aesthetics are secondary to color schemes.
Furthermore, if we are honest, when racial reconciliation is stated it is usually slanted to ascribe that those designated as minorities conform to the characteristics of those who are the majority. Thus, racial reconciliation usually calls for a sacrifice from those who have been the victims of racism.
Thirdly, we must be very clear that we do not confuse the reconciliation of the scripture to mean racial reconciliation. The scriptures make no room for race. They do make room for nations and tribes, but not people based upon the color of their skin. When we make efforts to force racial reconciliation into the reconciliation of the scriptures, we force God to be a racist. God has called us to “put on Christ.” (Romans 13:14) God has not called us to be black or white. We have adopted these labels and most of us live by them wholeheartedly, including me. The reconciliation of the scriptures calls for us be put back into a place where we can receive the blessed favor of God. It is not a space where we come and disrobe our authenticity, so that others feel safe. It is a sacred space where God allows us to be in community with Godself, while being in community with others and color is a non-factor.
Unfortunately, I do not think we can have that type of encounter outside of the love of God. We live in a society that promulgates the racism with ease. The hatred of anything non-white becomes evident just by turning on the television. When the safety of an ape Trumps (pun intended) the safety of a young black child, racism is real. When good Christian folks see nothing wrong with the rhetoric and politics of Donald Trump, racism is real. So for someone to believe that racial reconciliation is feasible is treading on some sticky ground. Spiritually, God makes no room for it and in reality it is just not going to happen.
Just take a look at your local congregation and that should be a good indicator of the importance of this so called racial reconciliation.
As much as we try to fight against it, theology and politics go hand and hand. We can read through the bible where the political scene collides with the theological landscape to present problematic issues for a community. ( see The Great Chasm Between Us: The Politics of Luke 16:19-31 ) The community is thus left to reconcile with itself whether the political powers are in control or is the sovereign God in control- I choose the later.
The comments stemming from the governmental shutdown are troubling yet not surprising. Many have become alarmed by this proclamation that the government has decided to shutdown, jeopardizing the financial lives of many Americans but excluding themselves from the very same plight. I presume it may be a little easier to deal with if government officials had to endure the same pitfalls, as the rest of America, but nonetheless many regular Americans will have to forgo their normal pay.
The complex notion of sharing is something that seems far-fetched for most of our governmental officials. They have managed to turn the American governmental system into their own person sandbox and the person who throws the biggest tantrum wins. Now the sandbox is off limits until they learn how to play fair and in return no ones gets to go in the sandbox.
I have no clue what the end result of the shutdown will mean nor do I have a political side, but I do know that folks were hurting prior and this will not help that process to rectify itself. Yes, folks are discourage and feel let down, but it is a good time to refocus and refresh your attention back to fellowship with God. If you believe God is in complete control, no need to bug out… just relax and watch God do his thing.
Pray and do.
Words escape my very sense of being civil. Civility awakes to imbedded anger that is ready to engage any and all who make comical commentary about the death of Trayvon Martin. For me this extends past Trayvon’s death into my own personal world and the world of many fathers with teenage sons. The reality is that this is and could have been the very same verdict that can so easily have befalling my 17 year son.
This morning I awake to more tweets and facebook post about Trayvon. The very souls of black folks are troubled and stirred. But for the first time I read a something that I overlooked last night for good reason-negative white tweets of support of Zimmerman. Though I may disagree with their thoughts on Zimmerman I give them the space to disagree without being rude or uncivil. But reading something this morning I learned –the more- that the life of a black boy is worthless in the eyes of many. The quick comparison to O.J. is sophomoric and cantankerous.
Now 16 years later the experience of the Trayvon’s killing have me lost in a familiar place. I am stretching to understand the Why?. It is this very moment that everything Christian about me becomes contaminated with hatred. I want to find the white guy who made that racist comment about, “it is time to get some skittles.” I want to ask the jurors how could you allow this man to get off. I want to ask God how long will the injustice toward black boys be perpetrated with such calculated insensitivity. I don’t want to be a Christian and extend peace where vitriol has been leverage as the thought of the day. I have a rage that is suffocating the very essence of peace for a myriad of reasons. It is getting tiresome to watch the extreme hatred toward our young black boys. (This is just not by media and white folks but black folks as well.)
I am angered, hurt, and plain confused but not surprised. Yes, I hoped that this would be the time when we would see black boys win in the heart of the judicial system. A 17 year old boy was killed by someone who “suspected he was doing something wrong.” The defense and Robert Zimmerman keeps saying Trayvon had 4 minutes where he could have gone home when it is more like George Zimmerman had 4 minutes when he could have went to Target. Trayvon was going home before Zimmerman profiled him.
I think back to the night when Allen Love and I were stopped and the car searched for no particular reason. I think back to the many nights we were questioned by black females and white people in general about being thugs. The many times we had to defend our reputations as well as those of other brothers because of people’s perceptions of us. A 17 year old boy was killed by someone who “suspected he was doing something wrong.” Can you believe this!-killed. My son is 17 and I have had this conversation with him many times about this very thing. I would want him to protect himself if he has too or run for safety-ultimately getting home safe.
My hope is that the kid that donned the hoodie, Trayvon Benjamin Martin, when he went to the store will be a symbol of change for young boys. The tragedy that happened to Trayvon happens weekly around the country but this time it was highlighted. We stand once again asking, “Is there value for the young black male.” I answer unequivocally, Yes.
A 17 year old boy was killed by someone who “suspected he was doing something wrong.”
The question will be for churches, you can’t have a prosperity gospel anymore. The prosperity’s gone. You can’t have a chamber of commerce – religion chamber of commerce is in crisis. You can’t have a market spirituality and an imperial religiosity because the empire’s in trouble. It’s wavering and wobbling.
And the market is no longer a model, at all. So where do we go? Transitional moment. This is a moment of the interregnum. We are looking for new ways. Think of all of our Evangelical brothers and sisters who tie their Christian faith, in part, to Bush. They’re looking for other places because they know it was a form of idolatry. And we–this is something that’s a challenge to all of us, not just our evangelical brothers and sisters. -Cornel West