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Archive for the tag “South Carolina”

On Losing That Lovin’ Feelin’

“The call for forgiveness is a painfully familiar refrain when black people suffer. White people embrace narratives about forgiveness so they can pretend the world is a fairer place…Black people forgive because we need to survive. We have to forgive time and time again while racism or white silence in the face of racism continues to thrive.” —“Why I Can’t Forgive Dylann Roof,” –Roxane Gay

Today I considered forgiveness and love and hopefulness.  I figured that the rest of America was already over our grief—ready for us to bury the Charleston nine and all of the emotional baggage that came along with it.  The rest of America is probably hoping that this last racial showdown will finally shut us up, shove us back into submission and help us shelve our discontentment with living our subpar lives.

Since Sunday’s post about why I need the black church more than ever, I’ve considered finding ways to make myself comfortable again– maybe figure out how to return to posting fun, lighthearted stuff on social media these days; perhaps explore new ways to quiet my spirit in spite of the unrest I have been feeling. After all, I had already decided to stop watching the news, limit my internet intake and listen to only gospel tunes about love, mercy, grace and forgiveness so I can, hopefully, feel some of what the Jackson, Lance, Pinckney, Sanders, Hurd, Coleman-Singleton, Doctor, Simmons and Thompson families felt when they, what seemed like, so easily went to forgive the killer of their loved ones only two days after they were murdered.  I had been trying, really hard, to wedge myself back into the “American way” of dealing with a national tragedy that wreaks of racism and deeply affects the Black community.

But then I read the piece, “Black churches taught us to forgive white people. We learned to shame ourselves,” by Creative Nonfiction author, Kiese Laymon, which was published online yesterday by The Guardian.  Laymon shares a conversation that he had with his grandmother after the Charleston nine’s family members’ apologies were publicly made and praised. Laymon carefully transcribes the stories of his grandmother, an apparent God-fearing woman who loves a good curse word every now and then, living in the state where my grandmother was born and raised.

My grandma, today an 87-year-old elder from Jonestown, Mississippi. When I visited my grandma’s hometown as a child there were barely-paved streets and shanty-roof homes in neighborhoods full of working-poor black folks who hadn’t moved North during our country’s Great Migration from the South.  My grandma, who moved to St. Louis before my mom was born and some years after she finished school after third grade, came and worked from the 1950’s to the late 1990’s doing one of the only few trades Black women learned down south—she cleaned homes for white people.

My grandmother, an 87-year-old Christian woman, who painstakingly gets dressed for church on Sunday mornings– and any other time if she could get a ride to a service— was probably not too much unlike Mother Susie Jackson who, also at 87 years old, likely went through the same strains to get to a sparsely attended Wednesday night Bible study in an old A.M.E. church in Charleston, South Carolina.

Thoughts of Mother Susie Jackson’s death among the other eight who were slain now paired with these stories from Kiese Laymon’s grandmother keep setting me back on my attempts to embrace the love and kindness and extensions of sympathy from white people across the country who would like us to grieve as quietly and as peacefully as possible. The white Christians who sang hymns and lit candles and knit shawls and wrote condolences in exchange for no riots, no uncomfortable conversations about race and a prompt return to business-as-usual in the U.S. by this Thursday, a full-week after the domestic terrorist attack.

But, in spite of myself and my heartbreak for my people, my community; regardless of my disenchantment with ideals around the words “equality” and “reconciliation;” despite this ball of pessimism towards phrases like “Love Wins” or “Love Conquers All,” I intend to find the strength to conjure up some warm fuzzies for the white people who befriend me on Facebook and are looking for me to return to my jolly-ole, social media self.  I’m going to get some willpower to applaud Christians, both Black and white, who earnestly believe that their familiar fear and damning discomfort, respectively, could be dispelled if we only seek God for guidance and resort to prayer as the sole action against injustice.  I am about to work on stretching myself even thinner, pushing my pride aside a little further, and opening my mind a little broader and see if that will do me some good. In the meantime, I hope the world will be patient with me.

Why, This Sunday, I Need the Black Church More Than Ever

Justice requires those who suffer the least to speak up the most. –Steve L. Robbins

In mere hours, people across the country will be sitting in pews. I’ve been debating if I will also attend church today– wake up as the sun warms my room, find a nice Sunday dress and go to a service to hear something that will comfort my soul.

If I had to go, I’d likely go out and find a church full of folks who look like me to worship with. Because it is at another A.M.E. church, or among some COGIC congregants or maybe some Southern Black Baptist folk that I would find some healing for my heartache after this week’s tragic events.  I don’t think there will be a Black clergyperson in America who won’t enter her/his church without pangs in their chests, lumps in their throats and a weight on their shoulders.  I believe that, this morning, all sermons that will be preached from pastors of those aforementioned pulpits will be anguish-laden battle-cries in sanctuaries full of folks who are already just as weary and fed up with fighting as they are.  And, in the end, the solution will be—as it always is—to watch and to pray.

And as much as I believe that racial reconciliation should begin among the righteous first; that the integration of our churches would be a real testament to moving towards a post-racial society; that conversations about racism, inequity and injustice should start with people of faith—I, frankly, don’t believe that there will be enough non-Black church leaders who will properly address what happened at a Bible study in an A.M.E. church in Charleston, S.C. on Wednesday night. Sure, there will be moments of silence.  Of course folks are going to offer up some prayers for the families of the nine innocent lives that were slain. Yes, they will utter petitions for God to heal our land and our hearts.

But not enough non-Black church leaders will apologize for not promptly talking about why Ferguson, New York and Baltimore went up in smoke after the deaths of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and Freddie Gray. Not enough non-Black church leaders will be sorry about not inviting open dialogue about why, for months now, African-Americans have been angrily protesting for all Americans to acknowledge that #BlackLivesMatter.  Not enough non-Black church leaders will stand in front of their congregation with their heads hanging low, a crackle in their voices and admit that, they too, struggle with racism, white supremacist values  or, perhaps, more simply, just understanding the plight of their darker-skinned brothers and sisters.  Not enough non-Black church leaders will admit that they have a hard time grappling with the idea of “Solidarity” with communities of color around issues that negatively affect our ways of life and/or obstruct our paths to achieving the American dream. Not enough non-Black church leaders will admit that they are in need of God’s love to soften their hearts towards us, their browner counterparts, in order to move past our darkness and into the Light.

In the June 19th Gleanings Section of Christianity Today, the magazine shared some words from Austin Channing Brown’s, “The Only Logical Conclusion” that were especially moving and resonated deeply for me. Here, I have shared what I’ve gleaned from CT’s snippets:

“…The level of terror that black people feel in America at this moment cannot be underestimated…Because when the driving force of such a massacre [sits] in the pews unchallenged every Sunday morning in white churches- there is no reason why black Americans should feel safe.

The sin of white supremacy is thriving in this country because white Christians refuse to name it and uproot it, refuse to confess it and dismantle it, refuse to acknowledge it and repent of it, refuse to say the words, ‘It’s in my family,’ ‘It’s in my church,’ ‘It’s in my soul.’ ” 

What will you preach about today? How will you challenge/inspire/encourage your church leaders and fellow congregants to really talk about racism in America and the church’s responsibility to address it? How can we seek to reach across the thresholds of our racially homogenous churches and create dialogue and form real relationships with other Christians who look and live differently from us?

Because it is time.

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