At Forward Progressives, I talked recently about the drowning level of White Supremacy all across the political board, not only with conservatives and moderates, but also progressives and leftists, those parties I most closely identify with. But I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out how deeply entwined my particular faith background is tied to White Supremacy as well. And I say this out of love. Not out of love for the controlling and domineering aspects of Evangelicalism, but for the movement as a whole, and particularly for the people, my family. It has been my nursing mother and where I learned what it means to love and be protected. But it is not a safe place for all, even when it feels welcoming and freeing.
First off, as much as Evangelicalism says that it is based on the teachings and words of the Bible directly, in reality, it is founded and enacted through its present cultural reality. And its cultural reality is patriarchal and hierarchical with WASP, middle class, male-gender normative practices at the top of the pyramid. This is why author Don Miller can get away with acting like a Christian David Brooks, as if he’s above the fray while those silly black people are being emotionally blinded. Only an objective intellect like his could remain above the emotional, illogical fray. According to him. Because he is above it all, he doesn’t need to “fill in the truth gaps.”
And, as to be expected with such a post by a beloved White author in a White environment, Miller was laudably praised with chants of “Finally someone speaks the truth!” “Finally someone gets m!.” They can say this because they are also level-headed and not-emotional. But really because they are white and don’t need to consider what it means to be stalked for the color of their skin. Any consideration that Zimmerman may have actually been guilty is whitewashed out – you were not there; there is no way for you to know; don’t be hasty. Dismissal is fine, as long as it’s not “emotional”. Again, the humanity of affected people are denied. The victim of domestic violence is not allowed to be “emotional” but to be “calm and rational.” The abused acts out of unclear anger. The oppressed are supposed to write a treatise paper fully bereft of emotion and submit it to the oppressive class. The oppressor will let the submitters know what they think about their proposal when they get around to it.
This “Middle-of-the-Road” approach works well if you don’t feel personally threatened by White vigilantes or Black “thugs”. If you do feel overtly threatened by Black “thugs”, though, you go to the page of a Black preacher mourning the loss of Trayvon’s life and his own recognition in the case and you try to silence him, complaining that all black youth are thugs in training. This is what happened to The Gospel Coalition writer Thabiti Anyabwile when he tried to carry a personal reflection and even proposed a type of color-blind society to work towards.
It wasn’t enough for White Evangelicals to appreciate a different experience from their own culture. They could not allow that transgression to stand, so they kicked it. In the days following the post, the overwhelming majority of comments were overwhelmingly negative, treating Anyabwile like a fool led by Black instigators. The comments are not for the weak at heart. But neither are they of the same misanthropic, unrooted antipathy one finds in Youtube comments. One comment compares him to Southern Apologist foil, Rape Apologist and uber-misogynist Douglas Wilson because he implies that justice was not carried out by the Zimmerman sentencing. The commenter then follows that up by begging Anyabwile to re-word his blog so that it’s more clear that justice was indeed carried out by declaring Zimmerman not guilty.
These are regulars within TGC with posted names, people who would have had a chance to read the article through the massive web of TGC’s sharing (constantly counted as the majority of the most clout-y Christian bloggers according to some polls). I will post a few excerpts just to give an impression of the type of unhinged racism displayed against Black people as an entire group (Trigger warnings abound. So I’ve taken a page from my friend, Sarah Moon, and end each section with a link to a cute panda):
Please stop. This is not about race unless you allow Sharpton to make it about race, and you are enabling him.
A violent, drug-using teenager committed aggravated assault on an armed Hispanic man, who then defended his life with his legally owned gun. The police didn’t arrest or charge him because there was no crime. Not until Sharpton and the media declared him “white” and a “racist” did things pick up…
It is tragic that he caused his own death by committing aggravated assault on an armed Hispanic man…
The reality is that white people must now live in fear. We aren’t allowed to defend ourselves or our families against attack from black people. If we do, we are racist. (Panda)
So yes; think twice before you defend yourself and your wife/kids against an attacker. Consider the attacker’s race before you act. There will be different consequences depending on the attacker’s race…
What about the black culture in America? What should we be saying about a culture that brings 75% of its children into homes with no father, fails to discipline them, and basically abandons them to the streets? Whose responsibility is that? (Panda)
You quoted Pres. Obama’s statement, which blames the gun instead of the family who launched Trayvon into the world. (Pandas)
And from an avowed fan of Pastor Thabiti:
More articles like this one does nothing to help any race relations which many Americans are getting sick of hearing about. The heavy leaning liberal media along with the “reverends” have worn that race card out. (Pandas)
This is what happens when one is tokenized. TGC, despite its numerous in-roads to Black and Brown populations – it sponsors and supports several cross-cultural and hip hop acts and seminars – is rooted in several layers of hierarchalisms. When a rapper affiliated with TGC, Propaganda, rapped that he couldn’t praise a theologian or pastor who owned slaves, TGC blogs were ablaze with White pastors and writers angry at him (Anyabwile, again, to his credit, takes on this daunting task). Yet, in this environment, Thabiti serves little more function than as a face of a diverse population that does not really accept him. They accept his color as a token that they are diverse and tolerant and not-racist, and his voice as long as it is in concert with theirs – but as soon as he goes off-script to the dominant narrative of White Supremacy, he is silenced. His contributions are not welcomed.
His skin color is welcome, but any experience commiserate with it but not agreeing with the White Supremacy script is not.
To contrast with these two, there is Eugene Cho – a pastoral pastor and also a person of color (Korean American), who like Miller is from the liberal-ish Pacific Northwest. Cho is usually thoughtful and compassionate, as one would expect a pastor of a church comprised of real people to be (yet, how few pastors in a public role provide that role?), and particularly so with this issue, asking his audience to mourn with those who mourn and listen. In fact, his blog title is basically the epitome of hospitality, what should be a hallmark of Christianity, right? “If our black brothers and sisters are hurting, can’t we at least listen, seek to understand, and mourn with them?” And that’s enough to set off the unhinged angry White Supremacist responses.
While a slight majority of comments are positive, a significant minority not only brought up the racialized beast tropes, but also the underlying current in the ugly belly of the ugly beast of White Supremacy of: “We do not need to listen to them!” The very first question is “How does this post build up the Body of Christ?” suggesting, as is often the case in conservative Christianity, justice is not required, but divisive (as if Jesus didn’t bring a sword between family). What is required is to not shake the boat, to not upset the status quo. Recognizing the humanity of Black folks is not an acceptable reality if that means some White people are upset. And clearly, some white people are upset.
And that’s the point, isn’t it? As long as Jesus and the Bible are interpreted by much of Evangelicalism through an Anglo-centric view, the realities of People of Color are not enfleshed for them. Maybe we should look more at Black Jesus. He makes more sense than Surfer Jesus.