In a very early draft, I noted the church — both the Negro church and the white church cannot fully reconcile their racial differences because at the heart of their differences exist capitalism. It was capitalism that transformed the Negro church after 1970 from an agent seeking radical change to one procuring materialism. And because churches love capitalism, they continue to fall short of being revolutionary change agents. Capitalism promotes racism and divides the black and white working class from an achievable world. The white church fails at transforming the weak, poor, and oppressed in their space. While “some” provide food and shelter, they have yet to challenge the status of oppression that keeps the soup lines open. Others have conformed to blaming those who struggle, giving in to the solution of liberalism, as a measure in which capitalism favors them and their paternalism.
The 21st century church must disavow its complacency and promulgate equality through radical preachers who love people more than capitalism, and who will subscribe to what Psalm 82: 3-4 notes: “Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.” Black academic and radical organizer Melvin Tolson once noted, “Jesus didn’t believe in economic, racial, and social distinctions…. You talk about Karl Marx, the Communist! Why, don’t you know Jesus was preaching about leveling society 1,800 years before the Jewish Red was born?”
Melvin Tolson above discussing Jesus as a radical.
After Martin Luther King Jr. gave his “I Have a Dream Speech” in Washington D.C., Malcolm X stated:
“The Negroes were out there in the streets. They were talking about how they were going to march on Washington…. That they were going to march on Washington, march on the senate, march on the White House, march on Congress, and tie it up, bring it to a halt, not let the government proceed. They even said they were going out to the airport and lay down on the runway and not let any airplanes land. I’m telling you what they said. That was revolution. That was revolution. That was the black revolution.”
Malcolm X was able to capture the ears of many who grew frustrated with America’s lack of political and economic progress. Moreover, with that heighten sense for change, King started to see his voice silenced within the black community. The recent film Selma showcased this well. However, earlier king would write in his Letter from a Birmingham Jail:
“You speak of our activity in Birmingham as extreme. At first I was rather disappointed that fellow clergymen would see my nonviolent efforts as those of an extremist. I began thinking about the fact that I stand in the middle of two opposing forces in the Negro community. One is a force of complacency, made up in part of Negroes who, as a result of long years of oppression, are so drained of self-respect and a sense of “somebodiness” that they have adjusted to segregation; and in part of a few middle-class Negroes who, because of a degree of academic and economic security and because in some ways they profit by segregation, have become insensitive to the problems of the masses. The other force is one of bitterness and hatred, and it comes perilously close to advocating violence. It is expressed in the various Black Nationalist groups that are springing up across the nation, the largest and best known being Elijah Muhammad’s Muslim movement. Nourished by the Negroes’ frustration over the continued existence of racial discrimination, this movement is made up of people who have lost faith in America, who have absolutely repudiated Christianity, and who have concluded that the white man is an incorrigible “devil.”
King was aware of the challenge Malcolm X and other Black Nationalist groups presented; his voice was soft and passive, though he was a powerful and articulate speaker. Blacks’ sense of Christianity was one of division. Why follow a church and a God that allows such hatred to take place — many contended. King feared the evils of materialism and comfort as many who made up the black bourgeoisie became comfortable with their status in life. As I stated before, today the black middle class is far more conservative than many realize. In part — this comfort is an indictment of the failures of the civil rights movement.
I have thought about what Santa teaches kids. Santa is pure, and is white as snow — just like Jesus — who too is portrayed as white. Santa brings toys to good kids, just like the white Christ in a white “Christian” nation, who also brings the only hope for salvation. The white man must save the darker races since the darker races cannot have such a God — because they are brown. Thus those brown Muslims God must be dark and evil. Folks elected a man who wants to ban them because their God is dark and evil. This is where innocent white folks fail to capitulate their internal racism. But Santa is always white. We can say Santa’s race should not matter — but let us think about long-term implications on a kids development. Santa cannot be black. Black people are bad people. They march demanding equal rights, arguing that their lives matter, asking for protection from police brutality, etc. Oh, and capitalism paints black folks as pimps, pushers, and thugs. So — to a white suburban kid living in a white world — Santa must be white. For a black kid living in a black community — Santa must be white. That is what the world tells us.
I like this because it is true for black people in general. We are faced with the daily realities of code switching — particularly to get a job. It is okay to be black — but you better not be too black. Oh, and I am talking about white liberals here.
“More than malice, Matthew says, “what I’ve found is that there are codes and habits that faculty of color don’t know about because those unwritten practices are so subtle as to seem unimportant until something goes wrong, and then the assumption is that the person of color is incompetent, lazy or lying. In my case, the assumption was that I was dishonest or disorganized, though neither of those things is true. The fact that I am a black woman played some role in that tangled-up process, and I still see the same patterns that were in play in my reappointment and tenure reviews whenever I am assessed. More important, I now know that those patterns are at work all over the country. It’s not just me. It’s not just us. This is happening everywhere.” See here for more.
I am excited about chapel today. My friend and our school minister is sharing a thought — as well as our Black Student Union leaders, who have organized a talk on why Black Lives Matter. Listening to them rehearse was inspiring. Our black student leaders wrote:” [a]s Ralph Ellison noted in his Invisible Man, we have seen our invisibility — which is why we are seeking to be seen and heard.” We are a diverse community seeking to enhance the voice of those who are often marginalized.
Above: My show of solidarity
I have partnered up with fellow historian and social activist Richard Pendleton, in presenting this film and conducting a post-film discussion regarding it, the black power movement, race in the 21st century, as well as Black Lives Matter.