A few weeks ago, I wrote about our present moment being what I’m calling “The Tyranny of the Now.” And, this weekend, several white nationalist groups descended onto Middle Tennessee. I am lamenting this reality. I am lamenting that we live in an anti-black world that makes brown people indifferent and normalizes white as the dominant expression of humanity. I am lamenting that our institutionalized religions are motivated by empire and in turn live out theologies of empire. What this has done is make our interior motives one about power and control that shapes our social practices as it mirrors imperial living.
This past week, before white nationalists showed up to Middle Tennessee, BLM Nashville wrote a statement that I think clearly articulates what is happening and what we need to be doing. As my professor, mother, colleague, and pastor, Dr. Ruby Sales advises me, we need not to chase the white supremacists around this country to their rallies. We need not to try to react to his vitriol. As I think about how this past weekend went in Middle Tennessee, I think about two things:
1) what do we do when white nationalists show up in our community?
2) how do we mobilize against the structural racism that enables such blatant of hegemony & hate?
These questions sit with me as I travel around the country teaching and preaching. I am often reminded by my elders that leadership looks different these days and women of color teach me about being self-determined and about rooting myself in community. Leadership needs to emerge from the depths of community, and we must learn to tell the stories that help us all get free. So, how do we address these questions?
I don’t have hard & fast answers to these questions, and I don’t have answers that feel concrete. Part of the work is living the questions and not chasing after particular normative outcomes or concrete answers, because doing that is further investing in a culture of whiteness. In many ways, part of my lament this week during the Tyranny of the Now is the fact that there are no hard & fast answers on how to dismantle logic that is dealing dealing. And, yet(!) I find the comfort of lament during this time to be prophetic.We grieve our reality; we lament the ways that white supremacy continues to be emboldened.
The answers we need during moments of lament begin with the question: who am I and how do I know?
If we know ourselves to be deeply grounded in community, then we will begin to see new contours of leadership to emerge, not from credentials or degrees, but from the places where we begin to understand, as Dr. Ruby Sales speaks of, the places where it hurts.
Dr. Ruby Sales asks the critical question: “where does it hurt?” The reason this question is so critical is that this question creates a linkage between the lament and the prophetic wisdom of our communities. When we are holding together these complex realities, we can begin to participate in the entanglement of prophetic resistance and prophetic grief. This work helps model new forms of leadership, so that we can begin to shape and shift our theological and moral imagination, so that the impact is one of emancipatory praxis. When we begin to align our interior life with our social practices, the question, who am I and how do I know? begins to be nurtured by our commitment to growing roots with those who have been on the journey toward collective liberation.
My hope is that we all engage in productive moments of lament that creates conditions of possibility for prophetic resistance and prophetic grief to further root our faith and values.