Racial discussion is happening all around me today. President Obama is appearing on town halls. TV pundits are weighing in on their views of race. Even athletes and entertainers are adding their two cents. However, one attitude that I sense from many whites galls me, condescension. I’ll be the first to admit that they probably are not intentional in their actions; however, lack of ill will does not excuse their behavior. For some reason, many white people think that it is perfectly fine to be offended by something that another group, in this case, Black, says and to demand that they change. This might be a reasonable attitude if white people were the object of the other group’s misstatements; however, this reaction surfaces even when white people are not explicitly or implicitly mentioned.
In 2008, when President Obama was running for president, America discovered that he was a member of a church with an unusual statement of mission, “Unashamedly black and unapologetically Christian.” This mission statement of Trinity United Church of Christ caused a massive furor in the press and online. I noted the furor but have not been able to understand what the fuss was about. I am Black. God made me that way. My God does not make mistakes. No Black person should ever be ashamed of being Black. To be so would make someone guilty of the fundamental heresy of accusing God of making mistakes.
Trinity United Church of Christ was formed for middle-class blacks who aspired to worship like white people. It’s denomination, the direct descendants of the Puritans, was not trying to form an authentically Christian expression among Black Chicagoans but to facilitate the worship of blacks who sought to assimilate with white culture religiously. Initially, their strategy worked; however, when the emergence of the Black Power movement coupled with the rise of the Black Muslims made that strategy untenable, another approach had to be developed. A pastor, Reuben Shears II, coined the motto “Unashamedly Black and Unapologetically Christian” to encapsulate a new direction for the church. The “Unashamedly Black” refuted its initial goal of only being for Blacks who sought to adopt white cultured styles of worship. The “Unapologetically Christian” addressed the myths being promulgated by the Nation of Islam and Afrocentric Blacks that Christianity is a white man’s religion. As such, this motto laid stake to the fundamentals of Christian faith for a Black man. He, like every other human being, is created in the image and likeness of God and there is only one way to be reconciled to God and that is through Jesus the Christ.
Currently, there is another phrase by the Black community that is raising the ire of many whites, “Black lives matter.” This is a positive statement. It says nothing but state a fact which should be obvious but, has not been a truism throughout American history. Black lives did not matter when slaves could be killed and it did not count as murder. Black lives did not matter when Blacks were routinely lynched. Black lives did not matter when whites rioted against Black success in Tulsa, Oklahoma; Durham, North Carolina; Rosewood, Florida; and East Saint Louis, Missouri. Black lives don’t matter today when the enforcers of American laws too often take the lives of Black citizens that they are sworn to protect and often only make a half-hearted effort to solve crimes when the murder victim is Black. Of course, there is too much Black on Black crime; but, that is not the focus of the statement. It merely states that those who are supposed to protect all lives act like Black lives matter as much as anyone else’s life. That is not anti-white. That is not anti-police. That is simply a request that there be fairness and impartiality in the administration of justice with regards to Black people.
White people who have angst about things that have nothing to do with them annoys me. We live in a country that at least for now is majority white. However, that does not mean that white people are material in any discussion or statements by Black people. It annoys me that many white people seem to expect that Black people filter any of their statements to ensure that the statements don’t seem offensive to white ears. It doesn’t matter what the intent is. It doesn’t matter what the intended audience is. The expectation seems to be that Black statement should pass the white offense test before being aired. I am not anti-white; however, I do not believe that God left white people in charge. All of us should be free to express ourselves. We should not malign one another but some of our honest expressions may be both true and offensive to someone at the same time. That’s just the way that it is.