(White and black church are used as terms of identification not for separation identifiers.)
The need for a dialog about racial reconciliation is long overdue. The Trayvon Martin Trial (I use the Trayvon Martin Trial because he appeared to be the one on trial not George Zimmerman) brought an end to the entire premise of post-racial. The margin between black and white became extended with intensified reluctance from both parties in a search for a common place of peace. Even my own perspective highlights this point as well. Yes, I believe Trayvon was murdered because he was a young black male with a hoodie. There are others who believe Zimmerman was honestly trying to defend himself. But opposing views are highly based upon race. At the end of the day the only person who knows the real truth is George Zimmerman.
What this case has done is bring light to the racial disparity that this country has never really dealt with and probably never will deal with. But to add insult to injury the church has done an even poorer job of the very same thing. We have replaced reconciliation with silence and a theological stance of providence. We have not brought our prejudices to the table with clarity and boldness in order to develop a comprehensive plan of attack in our local context.
Here are my three points to ponder;
1. There must be an honest understanding leveraged by the white church that denotes that racial divide is a direct reflection of their behavior. There would not have been a need for a black church if everyone was treated equal. Black folks wanted and needed a black church to worship without feeling the need to still be in a submissive status to the slave master. (Even today many older black folks raise one figure up when leaving the church.) This was sign to the master that they need to excuse themselves and the finger was their form of asking permission. The maltreatment of black folks in church produces an AME church, National Baptist Convention, Progressive National Convention, COGIC and many more.
” America’s sin of racism has never even been confessed, much less repented for. Repenting for past sins against each other and being reconciled to one other” — Jim Wallis
2. The Black church is really not interested in having that conversation or a meaningful fellowship in white mainline denominations. These organizations have developed a theology and precedent that they are not ready to release in order to make white churches feel comfortable. They have carved out a sacred space that places them in preservation mode. There are traditional practices that have become emblems of progress and change that the black church will never relinquish just to be considered diverse. To allow the white church to infiltrate that would resemble something remotely close to a Trojan Horse ethos.
3. Most pastors will not engage this topic for the simple fact that it might expose them as being the main culprits of the act. There is not that type of honest introspection being done by most because they live a box with people who look like them. There is an escapism mentality that calls for the problem of racism to be overlooked. It is Derrick Bell who quotes a friend when he says,
“People looking to escape are not worried about solutions.”- Derrick Bell
This is something to start the dialog. There are a lot of things flowing in my mind but I think this gets it going in a right direction.
Dr. (William Augustus) Jones, in his book, God in the ghetto, argues quite accurately that one’s theology, how I see God, determines one’s anthropology, how I see humans, and one’s anthropology then determines one’s sociology, how I order my society.
Now, the implications from the outside are obvious. If I see God as male, if I see God as white male, if I see God as superior, as God over us and not Immanuel, which means “God with us,” if I see God as mean, vengeful, authoritarian, sexist, or misogynist, then I see humans through that lens.
My theological lens shapes my anthropological lens. And as a result, white males are superior; all others are inferior.- Dr. Jeremiah Wright
Is there ever a better time to embrace my blackness? Some would and have cautioned me to slow my intentional broadcasting of my blackness. I then caution them that my blackness in no way sidelines my understanding and love for diversity. It is within diversity where honest dialog can transform a community. True informed dialog will prove useless if all parties are unwilling to be honest to themselves or have a lack of personal introspection.
It is James Baldwin that shapes my thinking when the topic of diversity in on the table. His ability to speak with such honesty about the plight of black folks in America but yet move within many white circles was epic. He never coward away from an issue because of it would prove uncomfortable for his audience. Though he spoke with an unwavering intent about his love for the black community he still had a love for diversity. It is uncommon today, especially in the church, to see folks who can make this type of transcendence.
Many times a false theological approach is used when the topic of race comes to the table. The attempt is to draw attention away from hard topics instead of drawing them to it. In his famous “I Have a Dream” speech, Dr. King says,
“So we have come today to dramatize a shameful condition.”
That is what the black church has to do many times in order to spark change in evangelical circles; they have to incite and infuse the issue into the masses by all means that are viable. The evangelical circles many times dismiss this as false doctrine and then cover it with focus on pseudo- “Jesus talk.” In a bigger scheme of things the Jesus talk would be warranted, -salvifically- but in this case it is more of a smokescreen-a intentional practice to draw the attention away from any issues.
The value of black skin is minimized in society so the need to address any concerns about black skin becomes good missional talk but bad practical methodology. So you get evangelical circles that will provide missional efforts to the continent of Africa but have turned a blind eye to the African descendants (blacks in America) around the corner from their church. This is problematic and highlights how our perspectives guide our engagements with others.
As much as we try to hid behind the myth that racism is dead, the realities are inescapable. If you scan the local headlines you see the impact of racism everyday thus proven its permanence.
As I sit and ponder,“What does it mean to be black in America,” racism sits as a constant identifier of/for change. To be honest you cannot even answer the question without making the connection of racism and black people. Sadly, the make-up of many blacks is shaped and warped by the insidious impact of racism.
A simple task of escaping the concept of race has proven many times over to be an endless task. The very essence of life in America is interwoven with the heighten sense of racism. It has become a booming business scheme as well as a financial tool to manipulate wealth.
I submit that this is not a senseless cry of foul play,-but a honest look at my blackness. A blackness that is wrapped in an authentic sense of self awareness and love for other blacks who endured the same. A blackness that has reconsidered the position of others in spite of their heinous treatment. A blackness that is steeped in the love that beacons upon God to define why suffering looks to be the norm. A blackness that has a definition that is articulated and developed by everyone except those locked in this very blackness.
To be black in America is to deal with racism from the stance of normal rather than being surprised when encountered. Blackness is taught to be ignored even if you are black.
We have adopted the term minority but cringe at the very notion of be called African.
Americanism is a subtle subtitle for a systematic process that results in the power structure that has managed to marginalize the black.
What does it mean to be black?
It means to have tears that are labeled as shame rather than righteous indignation. A smile that is reduced to an evil smirk because fear has been embraced by onlookers-misunderstood. Being black means to relinquish certain aspects of your authenticity in order to provide a sense of moral uplift for others.
Blackness can be defined many ways with many different terms, but one thing is sure- many want to experience the black but do not want the black experience.
Just my thoughts.
first appeared in Thyblackman
Any time you meet a payment. – Good Times.
Any time you need a friend. – Good Times.
Any time you’re out from under.
Not getting hassled, not getting hustled.
Keepin’ your head above water,
Making a wave when you can.
Temporary lay offs. – Good Times.
Easy credit rip offs. – Good Times.
Scratchin’ and surviving. – Good Times.
Hangin in a chow line – Good Times.
Ain’t we lucky we got ‘em – Good Times. -(Theme song of Good Times)
I am convinced that the government, the folks with the most and those in charge have lost touch with the real world. As I peruse through the catalog of Good Times, I am reminded of the immense level of poverty that the nation faces in its totality. To be called the greatest nation in the world with a mass proportion of the children without adequate healthcare is a “mockery at best.” High schools are more in line with gateways to prison instead of bedrocks of knowledge. The people are losing hope with the leadership due to uncompromising positions with the mythical elite.
I raise this struggle from the perspective that the show Good Times sends a rally cry from the beginning of its syndication. This show proved to America that a black family could manage and maintain, though positioned in the ghetto. It displayed the power of a father who himself was uneducated (from an academic setting) but yet yielding the best guidance for his three children. A mother with a firm, maternal love and positioned with a pragmatic faith, that was always visible to others. The motif set from the story is a principle of survival with a supreme outlook of love.
The problem comes when the cynical world invites Darwinistic perceptions to overshadow the plight of the marginalized. (The people with medical benefits, start to tell the people without benefits that there is no money for medical benefits for them.) The schools at best are minimally equipped to serve the children which then leads to systemic poverty. So it is no wonder that the ghetto or the “projects” continue to have patrons. Understand the projects were never intended for those who lived in them to actually leave. In the words of Cee –Lo Green, “were the gates meant to keep us out or keep our ass in.”
I’m in a zone….. Continue reading “Good Times in a Cynical World- Thoughts of a Frustrated Nigger…”
Yesterday, I had the opportunity to read one of the great letters/essays ever written, Letter from the Birmingham Jail by Dr. Martin Luther King. Now this was not my first time ever reading this letter but as usual it had a lasting effect upon me. The stark reality that engulfed my thoughts was the seriousness and devotion from which King writes-the tension between sacred calling and civil disobedience vs. human respectability. King denotes how different perspectives has a major impact upon how you see society in general and at-large.
What we find with King’s letter is also a connectedness to a theology that’s usable. He uses his theology to define a movement that changed the landscape of America. Through a Letter from the Birmingham Jail we have the chance to see the in some aspects how the Apostle Paul viewed his surroundings from jail. Though the audience and occasions may have been a bit different the intensity and mood were similar. As we bring it in to the new millennium, we see Public Enemy give us a another perspective as Chuck D shares his letter in Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos. Entrenched in all of this presentations is a look into the lives of folks who were devoted to a call but put in places that tried to stifle their voices. But with tenacity and a fight for justice, they prevailed to freedom and implementation of change.
Dr. King and others in the Civil Rights Movement did not balk at the challenge to change a country. They stayed the course for change and wrestled with their own inequalities. But it was only through the help of others that they were able to attend to the challenges that were before them. It was Bayard Rustin that held the Civil Rights Movement together. He was the glue, he was the great organizer behind the great speeches of King. It was a great Barnabas and Timothy that walked with the Apostle Paul. It was the S1W’s that would come to the aid of a wrongly imprisoned Chuck D. (watched the video Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos)It was a team of folks that would enable great leaders to initiate change.
I do not liken myself to Dr. King but I do see a need to surround myself with great people. It is with the help of others that we build and change societies, communities and cities.
Just my thoughts of the moment…