Let me state 2 facts you may not be consciously aware of:
1.) Almost everything in the United States is catered to White culture, conveniently named simply “American” or “Popular” culture. This is why there is no preface for things targeted towards White audiences. There is no White Entertainment Television (opposed to BET), or Historically White College/Universities (opposed to HBCUs) because in the United States everything can be assumed White unless otherwise specified. The United States is not as inclusive as you might have been led to believe. For the same reasons, every minority has the disclaimer of the hyphenated “American” except for White people. They are simply American. In America, even though I am many generations removed from Africa, I am and may always be referred to “African-”American.
2.) Every minority group must adopt White Culture, but not vice versa. What I mean is most White people do not have to interact with minorities if they do not wish. If they do, it’s almost always on their cultural terms. However, avoiding White culture is virtually impossible for minorities especially if there is desire to advance in a career or any other platform. And like snowcapped mountains, the higher you go, the whiter it gets.
So what does this mean for me as a Christian? Through the atoning sacrifice of Jesus, those who believe in Him have been adopted by God (John 1:12). Thus, regardless of culture, we are family and there is an expectation of unity (Galatian 3:28). However, because of the nurtured white ethnocentrism of the United States, relationship unfortunately and unintentionally inherit this expectation as well. I often have the unspoken obligation to consciously consider what my white brothers and sisters will relate with to maintain conversation. The inverse is rare. There may be some attempt to try to relate to minority cultures, but if the cost is too high, there is quick disengagement. On a small level, this is why if my small group has a movie night, it will almost never be a movie I identify with. Most of my jokes and allusion fall flat, unless specifically catered to the culture.
There’s also a short tolerance for cultural deviance. Metaphorically speaking, other cultures are great accessories, but never worthy to be the main outfit. This is how Black Lives Matters turns into All Lives Matters. Another people group holding the spotlight exclusively for an extended period of time violates White Supremacy and it is met with extreme aggression. I’m often pressured to abandon my culture because “Christianity” in the United States has become White ethnocentric and any challenge to the culture can be mistaken as challenges to the faith itself.
For similar reasons, Christianity has been handcuffed to political conservatism, U.S. patriotism, and Republicanism. It seems like disrespect to the United States is taken as blasphemy to Christ Himself. People are eager to burn Colin Kaepernick’s Jersey for not standing for the National Anthem, but Bruce Miller jerseys stay intact after being arrested for allegedly beating an elderly person.
Surprising fact: The United States has been catastrophically evil toward Black people since being brought here in chains. America, today, is the best this country has ever been for Black people, so understand why “Make America Great Again” terrifies me and why I have criticisms of those who identify with the phrase or the political stance behind the phrase. For this reason, I have a REALLY hard time trusting White Evangelical Conservatives. Some of the most historical evil things done toward Black people has identified with this group. Some of the most racist, hateful, uncompassionate things I have seen have identified with this group. I’m off Facebook because my heart can’t take the onslaught of hate that is ubiquitous on the internet toward Black people from people who identify with this group. I’m anxious passing churches in small towns and rural areas. I sometimes envision crosses burning on front lawns of black families right after Sunday service. I think, “What would happen if I walked through those door”. Sadly, I’m unsure if I would be greeted as a brother, or another one of “those” that makes this country not so great.
I face the tension of having to tip-toe around racial political issues with evangelical friends with strong conservative affiliations because I risk them becoming defensive of criticisms of the consistent racism and conservation of White Supremacy in the Republican party. Despite countless historical accounts, I am met with an enthusiasm to defend a political system and party that has perpetuated the mistreatment of Black people. Among other Black people, I don’t have to be coy when I say people who vote for Donald Trump have lost their mind! Among most Black people this is “preaching to the choir”, but my honesty is reserved among loyal Republicans, making Trump a viable consideration for them. Unity with me means dealing with Black problems. Black problems mean facing the ugly political historical and present practices of the Unites States, especially in “conservative” systems.
Political tension does not end with the struggle with conservatism. I’m also hated by extreme liberals because I’m unapologetically a Christian. Feel this tension with me for a second: I’m hated by extreme Republicans because I’m Black and hated by extreme Democrats because I’m a Christian with varying degrees of disdain toward me along the spectrum. I argue there is no specific political party for Christians, but this is especially true to the Black American Christian.
My pastor asked me the question “How do you think the Gospel should impact our understanding of race and how can the church engage in racial reconciliation?” If I am honest, my answer really depends on who I am talking to.
If it is to my fellow Black brothers and sisters, the Gospel acknowledges our backgrounds, and in the same sentence minimizes it in light of our new race made in Christ. So there is no need to become like our oppressors and deify arbitrary attributes such as skin color or heritage. Your skin color and heritage is rich, bountiful, and beautiful, but it does not give you your worth. We are all equally valuable being made in the Image of God. That said, without Christ’s atonement for our sin, we are all equally condemn in the eyes of a holy God that shows no partiality. Let the fight for social justice be a catalyst to preach ultimate freedom through the Gospel. We can practice forgiveness because our Savior suffered a similar corrupt system like our own, but He sacrificed so that we can be reconciled with Himself. Go and do likewise.
To my White brothers and sisters, as you attempt to do the same, PLEASE do not be willfully blind. Acknowledge how your skin color has been deified in the world. Many things you believe to be normal has been rooted in White Privilege. Tragically, scripture has been used in horrible ways to keep this status quo. Use your privilege to right these wrongs as they are MONUMENTAL stumbling block for Black people. Do not feel guilty for being White. Your culture, too, is something to be cherished. Use it to fight for political social justice of all people. Be willing to cross cultural bridges to be able to relate to minority brothers/sisters in meaningful ways, even at high costs. Have a loose grip on your political views, and be willing to challenge them.
I’ll be honest. Racial reconciliation may never happen on this side of Heaven, but we’re foolish not to still fight for it. You can’t love God without loving your neighbor (1 John 4:20-21). So as the Church, let us show the world the passion of a just God who loves us all with no reservation.
Grace & Peace family,