Thursday, January 31, 2013

Black Girl, Light World XV: Racism in the Church

So I haven't really spoken much about ^this^ since my first Black Girl, Light World post, and I'm probably going to rehash a little of what I said in that post but it's worth it.

So far in the Black Girl, Light World series I've talked about racism and white supremacy but I haven't necessarily applied it in a Christian perspective. There is very much a disconnect with most white people about the reality of race relations, and this is not any different in the Body of Christ, especially in the Western Hemisphere as far as I can see.

This is most unfortunate because the Church is supposed to be the entity that shows the love of God to the world by loving Jesus and each other in astounding and inhuman ways. Instead we are very much fractured along the lines of race and class, the same as the rest of the world. Until minds and hearts are changed the Church will be a very poor witness to the world of God's transforming power because we have not allowed ourselves to be fully transformed. White supremacy is as much a part of the history of the Western Church as it is the Western world and often the Church has been used by different countries and empires to spread the idea that some people 9these particular people) are better than others. Please understand that I am not denouncing the good that has been done by missionaries seeking to spread the Gospel, but the evil that has been done by the ideas that they brought along with them: that non-white people are less intelligent, more criminial, more sinful and not really apart of the same fold or on the same level of humanitySuch ideas are directly contradictory to the scripture.

So often when examined the Church, Christians act absolutely no differently from the World and it became more and more stark for as I looked for Christian anti-racist blogs. There were none. (There are some now, at least there are some Christian bloggers that talk about anti-racism; and I'll follow up this post with links later).

Maybe that's a bit of hyperbole and there are a few isolated ones that I've missed, I don't claim to be the most completely versed in the anti-racism movement but I think with the searching I would have found something a lead anything. And it tells me that Christians are in the same place as the rest of the world, Christians have conformed to the image of the world in yet another way. Eurocentric Christianity goes unquestioned, White Jesus is the standard, and the reality of "Manifest Destiny" (rape; murder; physical, mental, and social genocide) is purposefully unrecognized. The fact that 25% of Americans during the 18th c. were slaveholders and that includes many of the founding fathers. And because the past is quickly being erased from public memory, the results of the past AND the ways the past is being reiterated are ignored today.

A look at most so-called multicultural churches reveals that women of color are routinely shuffled off to positions of childcare and told that that's their place of ministry, and that the senior pastors/elders are almost always white. youth pastors on college campuses that actually have said that Black people don't worship the same Jesus. And are supposed to be the ministers for the local HBCU. When marriage season comes around in the local youth/college group the woman who are left at the end are almost always Hispanic or Black. Even though these are the same guys who claim that they are wonderful friends, women of God, beautiful sisters in Christ who will make great wives. But not for these men or their families. They're good for a back pew roll  but marriage? Kids routinely make racist jokes that they originally heard at home. Young women of color ostracized when they become pregnant, but the transgression of those in the majority go unnoticed because abortion was chosen instead.

I'm young I know, but I've watched this all happen in my short 23 years in the Church. I've watched girls treat my sisters and I with snotty condescending attitudes and not know why until months later. We were those kind of people that they "just couldn't relate to." Nothing about People walking up to me offering dap and talking "ghetto", assuming that my cousins or god-sisters are my children, the list goes on. Everything from simple ignorance to actual malicious racism, exactly the same as the world.

And for some reason Christians don't see this as sin. 
They don't see it as hatred of their brethren, they don't see it as thinking of themselves more highly than they ought, they don't see it as divisiveness, and they don't see it as having an unrenewed mind. 

They pay lip service to being sorry about slavery but are completely unwilling to part with the results of racism in the present day. Unlike Zaccheus who didn't just apologize for his past wrongs but actively sought to make retribution for those wrongs, the White Christians on the whole want to pretend that they aren't doing anything wrong and they aren't a part of the problem.

And I don't know why. Actually I do. I didn't used to know why but I think I'm starting to get an idea.

You guys know about vampires? … You know, vampires have no reflections in a mirror? There’s this idea that monsters don’t have reflections in a mirror. And what I’ve always thought isn’t that monsters don’t have reflections in a mirror. It’s that if you want to make a human being into a monster, deny them, at the cultural level, any reflection of themselves. And growing up, I felt like a monster in some ways. I didn’t see myself reflected at all. I was like, “Yo, is something wrong with me? That the whole society seems to think that people like me don’t exist? And part of what inspired me, was this deep desire that before I died, I would make a couple of mirrors. That I would make some mirrors so that kids like me might see themselves reflected back and might not feel so monstrous for it.
Junot Diaz

The girl I am and the girl you want me to be

---you can't stand to see me that way---
---no matter what I do, no matter what I say---

The Woman I Am and the Womyn I Be

"Come on, come on let's take a chance; we could fall in love"
"I want to live a pure life; I think that it's about time"

Well why is it called Manic Pixie Colored Girl? It's... I know that the media trope isn't seen as very feminist but you have to understand that-to reference Kerry Washington- it's not often that we as Black women get to be seen as beautiful, delicate, eccentric, otherworldly, and fey, even when we have those traits! So it's a step up for me to even be considered a MPDG, you know?

Seeing this thing that everyone appreciates in myself, but realizing that no one else sees it in me and also seeing this ideal and conforming myself to it. Trying erase/massage away the aspects of myself that stopped others from seeing the manic pixie dream girl in me. And I remember being 25 and walking in this park in my town after I'd gotten off work and it was the perfect place to do a photo shoot and I was seeing myself in different dresses and poses and honestly it was a lot of stuff that, at the time I felt would never happen and even if it did it wouldn't look the way I planned and would basically be an utter failure. and it just dropped into my mind that I never got the chance to be the girl I wanted to be you know I have the recurring phrase " the girl I am and the girl you want me to be" and between the girl I am and the girl you, whoever you is at the time- want me to be I never got to be the girl I wanted to be and... 

That was a hard revelation, you know? I'm 25 I never got to be the girl I wanted to be and now that chance is completely gone. Then I just thought, "well, what about the woman you want to be?" And I had to resign myself, you know, and about face. That point in my life is gone and it hurts that I felt so unfulfilled. But. I can still be the woman I have in mind, the woman I really am. And that's what this poetry collection is about; that transition from half-finished girl to a woman who is knows herself or is at least comfortable with the process of getting to know and love herself, to know and love others, and also feels free to express herself. Settling within myself that these ideals, these tropes, these expectations and the fulfillment of those expectations will never look the same on me as they do on those real or *imaginary* white girls. And that's OK.  They way I express my manic pixie carefree dreaminess is still legitimate and perfectly OK. And that journey is what this book is.