In a White supremacist society, it is not uncommon to ignore racial influences within the work of White people and predominantly White spaces. Whiteness functions as the norm and the standard.
Have you ever noticed how certain products and services created by White people are marketed with assumed “universal” applicability, while those things created by Black people become “racialized?” It is as if White is not a race.
Likewise, Christianity does not magically remove racism.
The Bible does not wash away this normalization of Whiteness or racial thinking. Even if a person repeats the sinner’s prayer three times really fast, gets baptized, sprinkled, slam dunked, and do the hokey-pokey before turning oneself around on the “straight and narrow” path, most likely this person will still have conscious and unconscious racial beliefs that Jesus did not fix.
During week 45 of my year of quitting the Bible*, I had a conversation with an acquaintance that reminded me of the insidious workings of racism in our thinking and theology.
We were discussing relationships, and a book came up that both of us had read.
Although I agreed with various tenets espoused by the author, I had noticed that his underlying White racial lens was evident and did not speak to certain aspects of my experiences.
The person, an African-American woman, attempted to convince me that author’s perspectives completely applied these aspects of my life.
A pivotal moment during our friendly debate occurred when she said,
“Yes, it does. He took it from the Bible.”
I think the Spirit left me for 10 seconds before returning to my body.
“And? I am not going ignore or downplay my perspectives and what I have experienced because a White man wrote from his experiences and perspectives and, oh, by the way, threw in scriptures to support them. I am telling you from the Book of Sam 24:7 about what I live and think.”I proceeded to share with this person about the validity of self-awareness through experiences and reflection. In other words, my lived data were valid, too.
Who is the Authority?
Many of us, Black people included, have been socially conditioned into thinking that a White man with a Bible, especially who writes and teaches about the Bible, is the authority.
I am here to say:
Not even yesterday.
Along these lines, widespread indoctrination persists about the universality of White people’s experiences and perspectives, which is far from the truth. In contemporary spaces, colorblind and race neutral language supports the maintenance of this long-standing tool of White supremacy.
In churches throughout the United States, for example, a closer look at the leadership and theology will reveal the centrality of Whiteness.
Even with their multi-racial and international programs, some of these churches can be easily categorized as White churches. The unwritten religious expectation for People of Color within numbers of these contexts can be easily summarized with one word: assimilate.
The creation of sacred spaces for Black people in the past and present is ever necessary, especially with various Christians’ superficial investment in social change and deep investment in benefitting from racist institutions like the Western church. Indeed, there are Black Christians who are invested in keeping racism in-tact.
I believe White people have valid perspectives.
Different White peoples’ perspectives are neither the truth nor removed from the ways race has shaped even their attempts at objective methods.
I argue that Black people’s knowledge and experiences possess validity, too. Our lived data are valid with and without the Bible.
And the Bible does not function as a racial all-purpose cleaner that removes racial influences and even unintentional support of White supremacy within theological writings by spraying scriptures.
Christianity can be one helluva colonizing drug.
*I switched to weeks in this final stretch. Although I’m on track, I think the daily count got thrown off during Blogcation.