A Guest Post
“Harry Samuels is a student at UNC Asheville majoring in Environmental Management & Policy. He’s also very much obsessed with this Jesus guy – his politics, religious sensibilities, and the implications his teachings have for existential reality. Having been born in sunny Charleston , SC and raised in verdant Richmond, VA, he has spent his life in the American South- where many less-than-flattering portrayals and ideas of Jesus seem to prevail. Still, though, he has managed to “hold on to what is good” and seeks to explore , find, and maximize the intersection that lies between following Christ, sustainability of this gem of a planet, and environmental ethics.”
Much of the talk that goes on within liberation theology involves such things as racial reconciliation and race politics – as it should. On a basic level, the endeavor of liberation theology (racial, gender, etc.) to set those free who have been oppressed mirrors Christ’s own ministry in his dealing with those who have been pushed to the fringes and have been “othered”- such is the point! When we think of those groups of people who have historically been margminalized and othered, it has been (most obviously) skin color/race and gender. So, specifically with African Americans, from the trans-Atlantic slave trade to the Jim-Crow laws & Civil Rights Era, it has been their being black that has been both the axis upon which they have been oppressed and the manner in which they grouped and assembled together in brother and sisterhood. Many reverends and clergymen of the black church ( i.e. Dr. King) began to see the implication and real thrust of Christ’s message for a group of people being marginalized for their skin. Of course, however, WITHIN this marginalized group- the axis of race, lies the axis of gender. We’ve all heard the adage, “you’ve already got two strikes against you- you’re black AND a woman”. This, of course, is something we see resonating to this day in such books as Keri Day’s Unfinished Business – where the reader is taught extensively the role of the black church in being a community of transcendence, refuge, and empowerment. Thus, many black churches , black clergymen, etc. responded to this and saw the real thrust of Christ’s ministry for a group of people who had been marginalized for both the color of their skin and their gender (See the parallel?).
I realize nothing I have said up until this point, is really all that earth-shattering/ground-breaking. However, what I am suggesting in setting up this parallel structure with the “axis of marginalization” , is to prove that we could come up with many different combinations within the black community. The title of this post containing the word, “contemporary” is to contrast those manners of marginilization which have been historically seen – racism and sexism. I am in NO WAY suggesting, however, that we are beyond this, America ( and all the world) is a far cry from being post-racial or post-misogynist. My point in bringing this up is that in all our effort to reconcile race and gender- there are more communities within the black community/church that are being “othered”. This is why I say “contemporary”. Within the black community you have those who are “othered” for their sexual orientation (homophobia in the black church is a topic of increasing concern, especially amongst black teens/youth), those who are “othered” for the fact that they’re not “black enough”(perhaps Blerds could fit into this category) –i.e. they speak proper and wear proper-fitting clothing ( this tends to be moreso within the contemporary black community as opposed to the church- where such behavior tends to looked upon favorably by black clergymen seeking to liberate blacks from academic oppression.), those who are “othered” for their complexion – (the brainless Team Lightskin vs. Team Darkskin “war”.) and many others I could spend all day listing and talking about.
Yes, being black has and continues to be a common point of oppression and insititutionalized racism. We must conintue to work towards racial reconciliation through black liberation theology. We must continue to work towards liberation of black women through Womanist theology. Much of the primary focus on racism and sexism often is born out of the especially malicious nature of those being oppressed because of being black and/or being a woman. Though, we should realize there are still other tremendous psychological burdens by other groups within the black community. All I am suggesting, is that we realize that the contemporary world has gotten increasingly complex in terms of relationships, means of communication and attitudes towards the church. Just as the black church was created out of neccessity from the racism of whites and their clergy, we shouldn’t be surprised to see something similar for other groups within the black community. The consequences we’ve seen often boil down to a forsaking of the faith in general and/or a distrust of black churches & black christians. Key to Christ’s ministry is stopping the vicious cycle since the dawn of human history of human beings being “othered”. Ensure that no one lies on the fringes.
I welcome/ would really like comments and feedback, a lot of this post is me thinking aloud!
Editor’s note: See Rod’s review of Keri Day’s Unfinished Business here.