Christianity and White Supremacy (A Brief Glimpse)

Readers,

I was recently blocked on Instagram by a famous white male worship leader from Bethel Church. His Martin Luther King Jr. Day post complained about how too many people were using MLK day as an opportunity to continue to disparage Donald Trump (hereafter referred to as #45) rather than celebrating MLK and his peacefulness.

The above picture was my response. I was shocked by this worship leader’s Instagram post. Did MLK not talk about white supremacy and a need for change? I’m sure he talked about it every day of the week. Why should we not talk about the same issues that MLK fought for and was assassinated for on HIS DAY? Why is this white man telling people of color how to respond to a day for our hero, who was assassinated by a white man who didn’t like what he had to say? I did not take his comments well and therefore wrote the above comment in the picture. My comment was then deleted and I was blocked. Did I call this worship leader a white supremacist? No. I called #45 a white supremacist, which has been proven by his own racist mouth. We hear about a new racist comment from #45 almost every week. 

So why did my comment offend this man so intensely that he had to block me? Was I posting waves of comments and personally attacking him? Not at all. That was the only comment I had ever posted on his Instagram and I did not call him a white supremacist. Clearly he feels that I did, which reveals a lot, to be quite honest. It certainly shows his white fragility. I did say that we’re not going to have white people tell us how to celebrate MLK day, which he obviously did not receive well, but I still stand by that. MLK day is not a day for white people. It’s a day for us. No one can police us on MLK day. We’re already policed enough throughout the entire year.

 

Now, this post is about white supremacy and Christianity which is a deep, complex, and disturbing history. There is so much to be said and this post will not cover everything because I don’t have ten years to write on the topic. Well, not yet at least. Instead I’m going to take you through a brief glimpse of white supremacy in the Church and my observations.

First, let’s talk about how Merriam-Webster defines “white supremacy” : the belief that white people are superior to those of all other races, especially the black race, and should therefore dominate society. Keep this definition in mind as we talk about white supremacy in the Church.

White supremacy doesn’t exist throughout the global church because not every church is primarily white or exists within a white majority culture. But, for those of us who do live under a white majority system, we know that white supremacy shows its ugly face throughout every facet of our daily lives: school, work, the police, the government, the courts, and church. We’re typically only free to be ourselves at home, if we live with others who are open-minded, culturally competent, and respectful. 

Some examples of how white supremacy manifests itself in the United States are: 

1. The strategic and systematic oppression of people of color, especially black and Latino people. We see young black men shot on the street every day for simply existing. If a white cop feels threatened, they are quick to pull that trigger, ending that black person’s life. ICE officers revel in their ravenous raids on innocent Latino homes and businesses, often dragging parents out in front of their children or arresting them while their kids are at school, leaving those kids with no one to come home to. In those moments, these white officers do not see these black and Latino people as human.

2. One other way that Latinos have been targeted by white supremacists is through the calculated sterilization of Puerto Rican women in Puerto Rico and on the U.S. mainland. If you aren’t aware of the sterilization that the U.S. forced on Puerto Rico during the mid-20th century, I urge you to Google “La Operacion Puerto Rico” and read more. One-third of women on the island were forced to be sterilized because of racist ideology. Sterilizations in the U.S. have typically been free or low-cost for black and Latino women as well, so that figure is much larger, I’m sure.

3. Ever notice how many black and Latino people in urban areas live in the projects? Think it’s a coincidence or a failing of the entire people group? Dig a little deeper. Read the true history. White supremacy pushed us to the projects, gave us garbage schools, and has continued this cycle of poverty. When one grows up under this type of poverty, one cannot simply pull themselves out of it.

 

If we begin to think about church history, so many churches in the U.S. and around the world have been founded by white people. That’s not inherently bad at all. Praise God that well-meaning and passionate missionaries followed Jesus’ command, the Great Commission, and have planted churches throughout the world. Unfortunately, what has typically happened after the churches have been established is that the white Western way of doing church, understanding theology and God, and living out the Christian life has been taught and even forced on people of color.

Bibles have not always been translated to the native tongues of the people groups served by the white church. Therefore it has been easy to interpret the Bible for these various people groups and push their own white ideology on them. William Carey, a famous missionary to Kolkata, then known as Calcutta, was an excellent missionary who translated the Bible to various Indian languages and committed his life to India. But, he’s also the same white man who had no respect or understanding for Indian culture and said that Indian music is disgusting. See what I mean?

Singing in their native tongue and dancing their culture’s dances has also typically been prohibited in many white-established and operated churches around the world. So with all of the best intent that these missionaries had, some missionaries inadvertently, or intentionally, pushed a white way of being a Christian onto these people of color and have created a hierarchy of race, in a place where no such hierarchy should exist. In Christ, we are all equal. All of our opinions should be heard. We should be open-minded and receptive to how others worship, see God, and live our their Christian lives. White people cannot assume that they know best.

Throughout my short life, I’ve witnessed a few micro-aggressions when it comes to white supremacy in the Church. No one has outright stated that they know better than me because they’re white. In fact, I’m sure that white people hardly ever do that. The supremacy that exists in their minds is more subtle and they may not even be aware of its existence and its manifestations. 

I’ve attended multi-ethnic churches that stick to the popular contemporary white worship music and seem to have a rigid worship environment, not allowing for various worship expressions. I’ve never attended a church where I felt that I could dance for Jesus without getting looks for “being too emotional” in church. Why don’t we sing in different languages in our churches? If our church family consists of multilingual people, we should consult them regarding musical worship and make sure that people from every ethnic and cultural group feel welcome.

Most of the churches I’ve attended, save for the one I currently attend, have been led by white people, especially white men (that’s a whole other story, readers.) If we only have leaders from one ethnic or cultural group, we’re missing a fuller picture of who Christ is. Christ exists and shines in our differences. He teaches us all different things. Some cultural groups, like Latinos and blacks, deeply resonate with the suffering Savior picture of Christ and singing of His redemption of our souls brings us to overflowing joy, because we know what it means to be shackled. Perhaps white people resonate more with the joy that Christ brings and His provision, because they’re more accustomed to living in a country that favors them.

White people have shaped Christianity in this country and around the world for far too long. There is a true Christianity out there that we will never fully get because we’re sinners, but buying into white Christianity and letting them dictate how we live our Christian lives is very damaging.

 

I want to live out my Christian life in a church that celebrates diversity of thought, worship practice, language, and theological understanding. I’m not sure we’ll ever get there, but I have hope that it’ll get better once we realize we’re all sinners and the only one who knows best is Christ Himself.

 

 

P.S. Jesus isn’t white.

 

Blessings,
Gabrielle G.

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She Saw Me

Hey, readers.

Since I’ve been here in Georgia, I’ve noticed how contentious my Black Lives Matter shirt can be. In NYC, multiple people would exclaim their approval of it whenever I left the house with it on. But, here, oh no. I get stares and scoffs from old white men and approving looks from young and old African-Americans. It’s rare that an African-American openly applauds my shirt here in Georgia.

This morning, after church, I stopped by Mary Mac’s Tea Room in downtown Atlanta for lunch with my mother. We sat at the bar and enjoyed southern classics: fried chicken, fried green tomatoes, macaroni and cheese, and peanut butter pie. Black southerners have given us amazing food, have they not? Lord have mercy!

In the restaurant, I noticed that all around me were people of various backgrounds, but mostly black and white, segregated. That’s right. While segregation isn’t technically legal anymore in this country, people will still segregate themselves. In the room, there were several full tables with black families and one table with a white family. While eating lunch with my mom, I noticed that a young white lady, probably early 20s, kept glancing over at me. Immediately I ran through the possible reasons for this:

  1. She sees my shirt and disapproves. 
  2. She thinks my mom and I are being too loud.
  3. She’s a racist.

I’m not happy to admit this. I think I assume most white southerners are racist, but God has been showing me otherwise. You know, when she came up to the black waiter in the room, I immediately assumed she was going to complain about the black family next to her. Maybe she thought they were seated too close to her? I don’t know what I thought. But I prepared myself to verbally defend them, if she was going to complain. But, she didn’t. She just asked for a peach cobbler.

Lord forgive me. I try not to be too hard on myself when it comes to this, but it’s difficult.

Before leaving, this young white lady approached me, tapped me on the arm, and said,

” I just wanted to say that I love your shirt.”

“Oh, thank you so much!” I exclaimed, stunned!

“I’m a huge supporter…” she said, her eyes telling me that she wanted to say, “I totally think the police are racist and no one understands that racism still exists!”

“Oh, wow. Thanks! I really appreciate that!”

She sat back down with her family and we waved at each other before I left.

 

While walking back to my mom’s car, several thoughts ran through my mind. Wow. First of all, wow. This young white lady came over to me, pointed out my BLM shirt, and verbally agreed with me. But, she was doing so much more than offering up a compliment. She stood by me. She saw me. She acknowledged my struggle and the struggle of my PoC brothers and sisters. She became an advocate, standing alongside me, a young black Latina woman. 

Thank You, Jesus, for showing me that there are people who will stand by me, even when I don’t expect them to. Forgive me, Lord, for stereotyping white southerners and expecting the worst from them. They surprise me every day.

 

Blessings.

 

Gabrielle G.

Black Lives Matter – Bianca Roberson

Living in post-2016 election America has been interesting thus far. I find that I tend to bash the President and his followers on an almost daily basis. But, lately I’ve noticed that even mentioning his name, which I refuse to type here, is almost like when you experience acid reflux. It comes out of nowhere and burns you. So, I won’t mention him in this post. However I will preface this post with this fact: the President incites violence against people who are “other” almost every day with his hateful rhetoric and idiotic tweets.

Now that we know this is the climate we live in, let’s continue…

Recently, a young black high school graduate named Bianca Roberson was murdered by a white man on the street. According to various news articles, they had miscommunication about who was merging when and as a result, this white man experienced intense road rage. What did he do with his road rage? He shot her in the head.

Yes. He shot a young lady in the head because of “road rage.”

The news may call it road rage, but I say let’s call a spade a spade. It most likely had to do with the color of Bianca’s skin. Maybe he thought, “Who does this black girl think she is?” Only God knows what was in his heart, but I suspect this is true.

In his mind at the time, and probably before, Bianca’s life did not matter. He felt that he had the authority to pull the trigger on her existence, ending forever what beauty could have been. In that moment, he deemed that he was superior to her and that he could determine that her life should end, and end violently. When you shoot someone in the head, you shoot to KILL. I will say this until the day the Lord takes me: NO ONE has the right to take another human’s life, or even their own life. God is ruler over all. He created us and breathed His breath into our lungs. HE determines how and when someone dies, not us.

While reading news articles on Bianca’s murder, I’ve come across a few that state, “He was a good kid.” “He usually was calm and cool.” Enough of that.

 

Let’s discuss what we know about Bianca:

  1. She had JUST graduated from high school and was looking forward to attending college in the fall.
  2. She was coming back from purchasing college things with her family.
  3. She enjoyed playing basketball and had a joyful disposition.

 

Friends, the primary issue humanity has is that some people do not see other groups of people as equally human. We refuse to see the humanity in those who are different than us and as a result, we murder them, steal from them, rape them, and ignore their needs.

When we begin to see each other as equally human, equally valuable, equally special, things will change. But this value does not come from our accomplishments, our color, our language, etc. It comes from the fact that we are all created by God and made in His image. When we understand that we are image bearers of God, we will extend the arm of empathy, compassion, and justice toward each other.

 

Life is precious. Life is sacred. Life is holy. Respect and honor it, no matter what.

 

Black Lives Matter.

 

 

Gabrielle G.