Once again, I find that we begin at the wrong place and subsequently, we find ourselves amazed where we end up, which is usually a worse place This article was posted on facebook and received many "likes." I will articulate from the "eraseraces" viewpoint. I pray that you would think this through and attempt to understand. Once again, the original article by Yolanda Pierce is in the black color font and my response will be in red. Here we go:
After several years of teaching at a large state school, where my academic work had always focused on race, racism, and religion, I entered into the theological academy. (A brief interruption: After all of those years of study in the field of "race," I wonder if she ever pondered the thought that the concept of "race" might itself be invalid.) I was making a personal decision, a vocational decision. Nearly ten years ago, I prayed: “God, make me an instrument of your peace.” God answered with a new assignment.
Too often we have demanded that men and women of color teach us both about their own history and about white racism. We have long insisted that unwilling faculty members or church members be teachers when we are too lazy to do the historical and theological work of understanding how racism functions in Christendom. We have cried for more conversation in order to facilitate our understandings of each other, even while always demanding that people of color disproportionately carry the load. But I chose this work.
The problem here Ms Pierce is that the demands themselves are misplaced. I surmise from your writing that you believe that we need to understand how "racism" functions in Christendom and therefore we make a demand that "people of color" teach us this. You then say "we" ask for more dialogue in hopes that "we" understand each other. Who is the "we"? Who do "we" ask for this dialogue? Is someone an expert on "white" racism and does there also exist a "black" racism with its own authorities? Is either group the authority on how "racism" functions within the various parts of our society? These questions hit at the one unasked question that we need to hear, which is, why do we have "race" at all? We need not spend any more time trying to understand the "ism" that comes out of the flawed concept of "race."
I chose to go into predominately white spaces–sometimes all white spaces–to teach from my areas of expertise. I offered myself as a professor and a mentor, trying my very best to create an atmosphere where tough issues around race or gender or sexuality could be discussed. Some days I succeeded and some days I failed, but I kept trying. More importantly, I traveled this nation, speaking almost everywhere I was invited, but particularly at white churches and schools. I have written for popular media, facilitated workshops, preached, lectured, appeared on television and radio–all in my quest to be a bridge-builder within the body of Christ.
"White spaces?" Is that a school where you were a minority so they should be defined as "white spaces?" I grew up on the campus of Prairie View A& M. Does that mean I grew up in "black spaces?" In this country, we are all responsible for the segregation that we create in our society. How could we have created "black" and "white" spaces and then revel in amazement in the way that we relate to each other? Do we understand that we have mentally segregated ourselves?
Because I don’t believe that you can live your faith on the sidelines, I entered into spaces I knew weren’t hospitable. I’ve lectured at churches that don’t ordain women, despite being an ordained clergywoman. I’ve spoken to congregations that don’t support LGBT rights, despite my embrace of them. And I’ve been a guest speaker at far too many places that were deeply suspicious of my frank talk about racism and white supremacy in Christian spaces.
My guess is that there are many people in our country who treat all human beings with kindness and respect, without regard to color, but others are simply blinded to it because they do not believe such people exist. These others want suspected "racists" or even the more inanely "ignorant" to confess their unacknowledged feelings of "racism" and show public repentance by falling prostrate before the world while crying, "I am a racist." We can not imagine that perhaps they are not.
Some invited me back, some did not. Some embraced me as a sister in Christ, some probably considered me a heretic. But I’ve been doing the work to which I’ve been called. And I am grateful for the students, colleagues and friends who support me along the way. I am grateful for my welcoming home in the Black church that has sustained me all my life. The work hasn’t been easy, but sometimes a “thank you” note arrives in my mailbox and I weep in my office.
The fact that we still so freely use the term, "black church" is a sad commentary on our country's progress toward reconciliation since reconstruction.
My years in theological education were at the forefront of my mind while trying to understand the outcome of this historic 2016 election, in which over 81 percent of white evangelicals and born-again Christians voted for the president-elect.
Here we highlight two problems. Problem 1: The idiocy of capturing statistics by skin color. We might as well keep statistics by hair color or eye color. It really is just as ridiculous. Problem 2: "White" evangelical and born-again Christians"? What kind of grouping is that? Are there "black evangelical and born again Christians? Perhaps I missed the report on how they (black evangelicals) voted. I wonder if they think/voted like the "white evangelicals." If not, I think that we have a bigger problem than the fallacious concept of "race."
Last week I watched as 81 percent of white evangelicals and born-again Christians voted for someone who, on tape, mocked a journalist with disabilities, and who, also on tape, lied about mocking that journalist.
I watched as 81 percent of white evangelicals and born-again Christians voted for someone who admitted to sexually assaulting women and gleefully affirming that he would face no consequences for doing so.
I watched as 81 percent of white evangelicals and born-again Christians dismissed his affairs, adultery, multiple marriages, participation in porn subculture, refusals to release his tax returns, failure to donate to charities to which he promised money, mockery of his own supporters (including their wives and parents), participation in racist lies about President Obama, stereotyping of African Americans, Mexican Americans and Muslims–and still voted for him.
I watched as 81 percent of white evangelicals and born-again Christians voted for someone who lies about even the most trivial things.
I watched as 81 percent of white evangelicals and born-again Christians voted for someone who conveniently “found religion” just in time to court a voting bloc, but who could not answer even baby questions about this newfound faith.
I watched as 81 percent of white evangelicals and born-again Christians voted for someone who in his acceptance speech did not mention “God.” Not one time. Not even to thank God for his victory or to suggest that “God bless America.”
And surely Ms Pierce, you watched as millions of Americans chose one imperfect American citizen over another imperfect American citizen. Need there be a list of Hillary's imperfections as we reiterate how 90% of blacks voted for _________ fill in the blank with her misdeeds and imperfections. We have got to get away from "us/them" characterizations. He ran, she ran. He won; she did not. I hate to quote the late Rodney King here but seriously, "can we all just get along?"
I lament that, for white evangelicals, my brothers and sisters in Christ (some of whom have joined me in the work of racial justice), the very real lives and experiences of black and brown peoples, Muslims, immigrants, and so many others were apparently not on their radar. People whose highest commandment is to love God and then love your neighbor.
It is always wrong for believers to think that because others have their zeal in a different place that they are wrong. That is why it is the body of Christ. Ms Pierce perhaps they have been showing their love to their neighbors in ways unknown to you. Of course that attitude requires us to think the best of others rather than the worst.
There are real people on the other side of these lies and racism and misogyny. There are Muslims who face physical assault because of an Islamophobia that is being embraced and celebrated in this country. There are women who are raped or sexually assaulted, and who will never seek justice, since sexual assault has been reduced to merely “locker room” antics.
People are always hurt by the misdeeds/antics of others. However, a "phobia" is an exaggerated fear. Because a person identifies that we have faced unprecedented terrorist attacks by Muslims in the past decade, hardly qualifies for an "exaggerated fear." As for sexual assault, we must all remain vigilant against such and not rely on Bill Clinton or Donald Trump to set the standard for conduct that we find repulsive.
There are children who will endure bullying, and potentially consider suicide, because of the president-elect’s public behavior of bullying and demeaning those with whom he disagrees. There are African Americans living in fear when someone shouts “Kill Obama” during an acceptance speech and the president-elect fails to shut it down–because black folks know we serve as surrogates for racist rage directed against the president.
"Black folks know we serve as surrogates for racist rage...? I did not get the memo. I live in a predominately "white" town and teach at a predominately "white" school and I've never faced the "racist rage" talked about. I also know that if we have anyone contemplating suicide, it is because of the way we in this country demean people with whom we disagree. That has no color on it. It happens across every spectrum of our society; dems and republicans, conservatives and liberals, educated and uneducated, rich and poor, the south and the northeast, 5th circuit and 9th circuit...etc. This list could go on forever. Is anybody preaching "unity?" Yes we are here on eraseraces.com.
As my election night tweet clearly shows (tweet stated: "White evangelicals:you've decisively proven that you love your whiteness more than you love your black & brown brothers & sisters in Christ.", I am left with a crisis. How do I continue to build bridges across racial divides with those who have demonstrated, in overwhelming numbers, that they will partner with a person endorsed by the Ku Klux Klan? Or with those who affirm someone who continues to insist, after eight years, that our current president is not a citizen and is therefore illegally occupying office?
To answer your question about how do you build bridges...? For starters Ms Pierce, I would say to begin relating to the suspect group that you call "white evangelicals" as Christians. Likewise refer to black and brown brothers and sisters in Christ as Christians. Stop the stereotyping you accuse others of doing. Then try to find out if there is a distinction to be made between them on matters like the election of a president. Can they have different views and still be Christians?
How do I continue to be in Christian fellowship with those who embrace a man still calling for the deaths of five innocent African-American men acquitted of a crime by DNA? How can I believe that racial justice is possible when dealing with those who are quick to forgive the president-elect’s egregious moral lapses, while simultaneously supporting his contention that black and brown youth are inherently criminals deserving of constant surveillance?
I would say that the only reason that you can remain in Christian fellowship with people who seem to disagree with you is because your Christianity is a tighter bond than "the other thing," whatever it is. If the other thing is bigger or more important then the Christian bond will not hold.
As a descendent of enslaved persons my ancestors have been in the United States longer than almost any other group besides American Indians. I am not going to leave the country my ancestors built with their blood and uncompensated labor. And I am a Christian–a faith that was birthed in an African cradle. I am not going to leave the faith bequeathed to me by my foremothers and forefathers. But I will always speak truth from my lived experience as an African American living in a nation in which the structural sins of racism, sexism, and other forms of oppression are clearly evident even in the body of Christ.
Ms Pierce I think that you've only said here that you and I live in an imperfect world. The viewpoint from which you live out this experience is yours to choose. I live mine out as a Christian. I am not a black Christian and I am not African-American, but instead first and foremost, one of God's people doing His work here. That is how I view my experience here and I love it. I live in the America that I want others to see. I know American people who defy the stereotypes and generalizations and who choose to live in fellowship one with another and care little about skin tones and backgrounds. I endeavor to show that world to others. That is my contribution to making the world a better place.
Yet I do not know as I write this whether the work to which I have given my career can continue. I do not know if I can continue to pay the cost of being a peacemaker and a bridge-builder with those who refuse to see how their actions have so deeply wounded minority communities. Something has been broken for me; a fragile hope that the work of racial and gender justice will be embraced by the larger church.
Hate to seem trite in my response Ms Pierce, but I can say, brokenness is a good place for it is only in our brokenness that we see our need for Him. As for the larger church of whom Jesus Christ is the head, let there be no doubt that hope reigns eternal. Justice here will be done as His followers submit to His Lordship and if we ever believe that it is not happening now, we must remember, his timetable is not ours. The scales will balance.