Powered by Blogger.

Black Thoughts



It was the spring of 2007. I remember it like it was yesterday. It was winter, and cold outside. The sun had already set on the day and classes were done. Students had gathered in the cafeteria to partake of dinner before heading back to the dorm to tackle homework. I remember sitting around the table with maybe 8-10 other people; some friends and others merely acquaintances. At some point during the evening the discussion turned, as it did most evenings, to discussions of race.

We were at an HBCU (Historically Black College or University) but race was still a hot button topic. Even at an all-black college the perspectives on race were as diverse as the ethnicities and countries represented there. Blackness is diverse. There were students from such a range of places as New York, California, Texas, Atlanta, Haiti, Jamaica, Bermuda, even a few from Canada and England. And so there were revolutionaries, Afrocentrists, jocks, venture capitalists, those coming from lower socio-economic backgrounds, and middle-class backgrounds, and upper-class backgrounds.

A young senator from Illinois that came into the national spotlight at the ‘04 Democratic National Convention named Barak Obama had just announced his candidacy for president of the United States. It was not just that he was running, but there was much speculation that he actually had a chance. The conversations around the cafeteria tables, at least at those of ours who cared, were now whether or not racism was a demon of the past. “Why are all you poets and artists always crying racism?” they asked. “Racism is a thing of the past” they would say. “The only thing holding black people back now is themselves”. It was an old argument, one that I had heard before. Bill Cosby went on a tour in the first half of the 2000’s carrying this very message, blaming poor blacks for their own problems and calling them to exhibit greater responsibility.  Indeed, there is an element of personal responsibility in all things. However, this view greatly diminishes what Ta-nehisi Coates describes in his book
Between the World in Me as the “plunder” that we have systematically experienced as black Americans. This plunder was not accidental, it was not by happenstance; it was planned and it was deliberate. We have been systematically and deliberately plundered since the day we arrived on this soil. 
This was my argument that evening. White supremacy is an all-encompassing force that impacts black bodies, black minds, and black being in a potent and visceral way.  In November of 2016 everything changed. America elected a blatant bigot, an admitted sexual assault offender, and alleged white supremacist into the most powerful office in the country. CNN commentator Van Jones correctly observed and asserted that the election was a “whitelash” against the presidency of Barack Obama. Neo-Nazi’s and bigots came out of the woodwork, emboldened by the fact that their man was in the White House. This event has awakened in America a new discussion on race relations in America. It should now be accepted what many of us have been saying for years: laws may have changed (and even those were suspect), but people didn’t. 
The problem was further compounded by the fact that 81% of those identifying as evangelical Christians voted for Donald Trump (see chart below), leaving many people of color that also identified themselves in those terms in a quandary: how could their so-called brothers and sisters in Christ so blatantly ignore this man’s racism, bigotry, and misogyny and proceed to vote for him anyhow? 
 Consequently there has been an explosion of black writing, consciousness and thought around the issues of race, religion and the role that we as black Christians play in that world. This blog will be an extension of that conversation. It will be an ongoing discussion on the intersections of race, religion, theology and society. You may be wondering, “what do religion and theology have to do with the current racial climate of the country?” It has everything to do with it because the current president commanded 81% of the evangelical vote
Just look at the numbers on this chart. Protestant Christians and White evangelicals voted for Trump at a greater rate than they have ANY other recent Republican candidate! Look at the disparity between White Catholics and Hispanic Catholics. There is a religious and theological problem among White Christians in this country that allows their consciences to be remain undisturbed by a candidate that made repetitive racist, bigoted, misogynistic remarks during his campaign and who we have on tape bragging on his sexual exploits. What is it about their theology and understanding of Scripture that permits this kind of alliance? These are some of the themes we will explore in this forum. 

The past couple of years have shown that there is indeed still a need for this conversation. What should the nature of the conversation be? Should it be one of fear and hatred? Should it be one of love and reconciliation? Maybe a combination of both...As James Baldwin said in his seminal book The Fire Next Time, racism is just as cancerous to white people as it is to black people. If it is not dealt with it will destroy them and America as a whole. Therefore this conversation is really about salvation—salvation from the original sin of racism and all its effects on all of us. 

My writing will hopefully be transparent, honest and real. I welcome you all to join me on this journey. 

No comments