And This Is Why…

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I need you to take a good look at the photograph featured. I need you to read the plaque, and understand the context. Envision the person. See her story come to life in your mind.

Now…I need you to imagine that this person was compared to Kamala Harris—the FIRST Black Woman Vice President in the history of theses United States of America—by a group of Christian believers. I need you to imagine that these believers thought this comparison was done in good taste and that it was actually quite humorous. I need you to sympathize with the fact that they were only joking, and that certain people shouldn’t be so sensitive.

Now…I need you to imagine how this rhetoric made their Black and Indian Christian brothers and sisters—in the same church body—feel. They…we…failed to see the humor. In fact, we collectively felt an overwhelming sense of anger; disappointment; rage. We thought the Christian body in 2021 was better than this. We believed that our white brothers and sisters in Christ actually know what’s in between the covers of the Bible. Apparently not.

Before sitting down to write this, I reached out to my pastor for counsel, to let him know what I was planning, and the reasoning behind it. He asked me a very direct question: he wanted to know if the source of my anger was political or racial. There was no hesitation on my part. This is purely a racial issue for me. You take the politics of the vice president’s position out of the equation, and what you’re left with is still simple.

One of my White Christian brothers was insensitive enough to share this photograph on social media. Whether in simple ignorance or something more sinister doesn’t even matter. The point is, in a split second he chose to do this with no thought of the repercussions, because in his world, it was harmless. Another Christian brother was quick-witted enough to comment, “Hey, isn’t that our vice-president?” No harm, no foul, because in his world, the joke was harmless. It was a coincidence the Indian Wolf Girl just so happen to share the name and partial heritage of the black woman sitting in the vice-president seat of the White House. And there were plenty of fellow Christians who agreed with the joke, and chimed in.

And this is why the church of Jesus Christ is so divided today. Rather, this is just one of the reasons why we remain a divided body. I can’t really imagine the Apostle Paul looking at a monkey and saying, “Hey, there goes Simon of Cyrene!” encouraging laugher and jeers from the other Jewish Apostles and Disciples. Sounds completely ridiculous, right? Yet, that’s exactly what we’re doing today. We’re tearing each other down with insensitive comments in the name of humor. In today’s culture, race is a huge hot-button topic and—as the body of Christ—we need to do a better job of being sensitive to what God’s inspired Word has to say about the subject.

Now there have been “Christians” who have said things like:

  • I don’t see color; I only see you.
  • Jesus doesn’t care about color; he only cares about souls.
  • God doesn’t care about racism, so we should spend less time talking about it, and more time talking about the Holy Spirit.
  • You’re so articulate for…well…you know.

That last one, by the way, never gets old. I would argue that these well-meaning folks either don’t know what’s really in the Bible, or are misinterpreting what the Word says. Contrary to these comments, God actually does care about my blackness. He does care about the fact that racial slurs and comments—whether spoken in malice or in ignorance—do affect my heart. He does care about injustice even among His own people. It took 400 years, but He vindicated His chosen people, freeing them from Egyptian-slavery, as promised. And, I’m pretty sure that God is the author of diversity. Christianity was never meant to be painted with a Caucasian brush. The brush was meant to have multi-colored bristles. So racial jokes are never okay within the body of Christ.

There will be Christians who will read this article, and immediately go on the defensive.

  • Dude, chill out. It was supposed to be funny. Why do you have to make it about race?
  • I’m sorry if I offended anyone. That wasn’t my intent at all. It was just a cool photo.
  • Guy, don’t be so sensitive. It was coincidence the wolf girl had the same name as that lady.

These defensive rebuttals only prove my point. We have to do a better job, within the body of Christ, of recognizing what might hurt one another, instead of heal. If my brother hurts, I’m supposed to bare that burden with him, not kick him and laugh at his plight. Brothers and sisters in Christ, we absolutely do have to be intentional and sensitive to each other’s soft spots. For the Black community, some of you might not recognize it, but we’re really going through some rough times right now. The church is the only safe-haven for a lot of us; it keeps the anger suppressed and the sorrow at bay. That is, until we find out that the church body doesn’t even know (let alone care) about our concerns and struggles.

One of my young black brothers said something to me this morning that was pretty profound. He said, “It’s like we’re considered to be one family, but a separate body; a body whose opinions are seldom considered.” Man that was a bitter pill to swallow. In diverse churches, are we really diverse? Are we being fair? Are we treating each other with decency and respect? Or…are we simply tolerating one another, in the name of Jesus? These are hard questions, I know; questions some might not be ready to address; questions some might even find offensive. But this is where we are today, as the church body.

Before I close, I want to go back to the beginning. Back to where this article was planted. Kamala the Indian Wolf Girl bares no likeness to Kamala Harris, Vice-President of the United States of America. Whether you want to see it or not, the comments and the post itself invited racism into the Christian circle. Sorry if this offends, but that is what it is. That type of “humor” has no place within the body of Christ. We need to do better, and to accomplish that, we need to behave like Christians at all times. What does that look like? Work out your own salvation with the Lord. Draw closer to Him, and He’ll let you know whether your actions represent Him or the enemy. Of course, if you’re not spending any real time with Him, you won’t hear His voice whispering the difference between right and wrong.

To CaVar, Kofi, LaDon, Ricky, Nehemiah, Zechariah, Isaiah, Nakita, Tanesha, Malinda, Jewel, Jada (just to name a few) and all the black brothers and sisters of our church body, I’m sorry this happened…again. It gets old; it gets tiring; it gets frustrating when people don’t see “us” for who we really are. I wrote this tonight to bring it to the attention of our church family, and to all church families claiming to be diversity-minded. This type of rhetoric hurts us; your black church family. See us for who we are: an intricate part of your body. We—the church—have to confront racism in all its forms, and we have to do it boldly together. Otherwise…we fail Jesus. It’s that simple.

I will no longer be silent.   

There Is No Title

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I think the best thing about having a blog is the spontaneity and honesty of a post. I’ve been told by a lot of really good writers—including a few professionals who shall remain nameless—that serious writers never print anything without thinking it through. Personally, I don’t believe that. Sometimes, my best work comes out of whatever happens to be on my heart in the moment. It took me years to build up the courage to share my personal thoughts with the general public, and now that I am comfortable with expressing who I am through my writing, I try not to follow the advice of what others may think. I also try not to care too much about how my message is received. You can’t please everyone, after all. Someone’s bound to be offended by what’s written or said. And with that, I’m ready to talk about it. You don’t really need to ask what “it” is.

By now, if you don’t know the name George Floyd, you’re in a coma in some hospital; or you’re part of the problem whether you want to believe that or not. Yeah, it’s really that simple. Even the Amish know who he was, and are actually showing support. Racism isn’t new to this nation. It’s always been here, since the first colonists arrived, and forcibly took the land from its original owners. Facts…as the cool kids like to say today. Chances are high that if you are a man or woman of color, you have or definitely will experience some form of racism—subtle or blatant—in your lifetime. Racism didn’t just magically appear with the murder of George Floyd. The sad reality in the black community is that he’s the latest high profile victim. That statement doesn’t diminish the importance of what happened; it doesn’t blanket the significance of the impact on Mr. Floyd’s family who have to go on with life without him. It doesn’t soften the hurt of an entire race of people who have to once again bury their collective feelings and get on with the business of life. No…that statement is our way of life. It keeps happening. I don’t think a lot of my white friends and family truly understand that kind of hurt. It.Keeps.Happening.

The first time I was called a nigger, I was too young to understand the pride of my skin tone. So when it happened, and because I was surrounded by so many peers who were the same color as the kid who spouted the slur, I felt ashamed. I never told my parents. I buried it. Just about every time after that one, when I faced racism, I buried it…deep. But I want you to understand I didn’t just get it from white people, you see. Over my lifetime, I’ve been called many things by my own people, because of my wife’s skin tone. I’ve been told I wasn’t black enough; or I hated myself so much, I had to go out and get “one of them”; or (this is the one that NEVER gets old) I’m the whitest black person ever. The point here is that racism isn’t exclusive to the white community. People of all races believe in it. People of all races wield it like the weapon it was designed to be. It happens to hurt me personally as a black man, living in a country built on it.

Honestly, I believe the church is struggling to deal with this. Don’t get me wrong, and don’t take anything out of context. I believe a lot of good pastors out there in the world are really trying their best to address the issue of racism using God’s Word, as they should be. They have a difficult task ahead of them. I pray for my own lead-pastor constantly, because he’s the shepherd of a diverse congregation. I can see how many pastors are overwhelmed or frustrated with the continued division plaguing the world despite their best efforts. “How in the world did the church of Antioch do it,” I imagine many of them asking God. The problem isn’t God obviously. I think it may be difficult for some pastors to truly understand how hard it is for some of their congregation to find—and hold onto—faith when they (the pastors) haven’t lived the life of someone perpetually discriminated against because of the color of their skin. It’s hard for them to fully empathize with our—my—deep hurt. While I understand the message of “Give it to Jesus, and He will heal” that message doesn’t always know how heavy that burden really is for some of us.

This past weekend, I watched DJ Jazzy Jeff do his usual live set, from his home studio. But this session was different. Jeff labelled it “Resist” and for the first few moments of the set, Jeff simply sat behind the turntables, played a Donnie Hathaway song, and broke down in tears right there on camera. Man…I felt that. Thousands of miles away from this brother who doesn’t even know the name Ennis Smith, I really felt his pain. That pain was deep. As I wiped my own tears away, I remember thinking, “I’m so tired of this happening to us.” In that moment, I remembered the first time I was called a nigger; and I remember the first time I physically fought back. From my own basement, I was with Jeff. Jeff was with Dr. King in that moment spanning time. Dr. King was with Malcolm. Malcolm was with Colin. In that one moment in time, every black man who has ever experience some form of systemic racism throughout time’s history was with Jeff; was with Ennis; was with LaDon; was with Steven; was with Eric; was with Maurice; was with Dave; was with Shunbe; was with Marlon; was with Van Alan; was with Kovan, was with…∞

Family, we can’t just turn it off, and bravely hand it over to the Lord. It’s exhausting. It’s especially hard for us, because when we try our best to give that pain—that deep pain—to the Lord, we’re quickly reminded of its continued existence with another fresh incident. And just like that, the hurt is back in full color. Do I now have to seriously worry about jogging in my predominantly white neighborhood? Do I have to worry about the validity of the $20 bill in my pocket? Do I have to even reconsider participating in any form of a civil and peaceful protest? I don’t personally doubt the Lord; let’s get that straight. I just find it extremely disappointing that I have to see, hear and experience another instance where a man who looks like me is treated less than his peers of an opposite color. It gets old. Jesus’ timeframe is not the same as my own. I don’t doubt Him. I struggle with patience.

The irony of the backlash of the George Floyd incident is that just a few short years ago, Colin Kaepernick used his celebrity platform to stage a personal protest against this very issue, and America at large refused to listen. America at large labelled him an uppity negro; a spoiled and entitled NFL Superstar who should be thankful for his place in the world. He was cast out of his profession because he stood up for and against the very oppression that killed George Floyd. Today, social media is flooded with photos and stories of some of those very same people who shunned him for his stance, now kneeling in agreeance with his original protest. Instead of joy over this turn of events, I feel anger at the fickle behavior of the born-privileged. This newfound disdain for racism is suddenly appalling to many folks who have never experienced it before. It’s not new to me, or to people who look like me. The photos are nice. They make for good fuzzies. But the question beckons, are people—ALL people—finally ready to do something real about erasing it? Or is this just another thing for people to get behind for the moment.

One more thing. America, since you’re now on the bandwagon, you owe Colin a sincere apology.