Category Archives: Race

When African American- led churches are burned to the ground, what is in question?

Gerald Herbert (AP)











This little light of mine, I’m gonna’ let it shine.

This little light of mine, I’m gonna’ let it shine.

This little light of mine, I’m gonna’ let it shine.

Let it shine! Let it shine! Let it shine!

Recently, three historic African American- led churches were burned to the ground in Louisiana.  Yesterday, a suspect was arrested.  He is the sheriff deputy’s son and in the neighborhood.  Before the arrest, persons feigned ignorance as to why someone would do this and what it meant.  It could be a hate crime but they would wait for more evidence.

Exhibit A: St. Mary Baptist Church

Exhibit B: Greater Union Baptist Church

Exhibit C: Mount Pleasant Baptist Church

Why else would someone burn a church?  What other list of reasons do persons have for the destruction of holy spaces frequented and led by African American people?  The burning of African American- led churches is not new and neither is the rationale.  These churches were targeted to terrorize, to stoke fear within African American communities and to maintain the lie of white supremacy.

How many times does this need to be said?  How many books and articles need to be written?  Interviews scheduled and given?  How many classes offered and taught?  How many papers written, exams taken and presentations made?  How many degrees in African and African American history earned?

How many movies and PBS specials are needed to document this truth?  How many times does this need to happen?  How many more exhibits and examples of churches burned do we need to see?  How many more Black History Month highlight reels before Americans accept the realities of race?

Our feigned disbelief and continual willingness to locate this fire starter outside of us is part of the problem.  It is why the fires spread.  The sheriff deputy’s son, he is one of us and closer than we think.  That a relative of a law enforcement official brings the past and present together is too close for comfort.

Still, what will it take for Americans to admit that churches are being burned as a sacrifice to the idol of race?  And he is not alone in his worship.  Holden Matthews is not the only member of this body of believers.  He is not the only one with a gas can in his car or a match in his hand.  No, this little light of mine

Race who?











“If a question can be put at all, then it can also be answered.”

| Ludwig Wittgenstein

Most persons feel compelled to answer to race and to question those who don’t.  “Who does race say that you are?”  Skin deep, the epitome of superficial meaning, we speak as if its value is apparent, a parent and second creator.  It is a rebirth, a remaking, a new creation made in the image of whiteness.

A social righteousness, we pray, “Make my skin light, lighter, lightest of all.  Amen.”  We baptize our skin in bleach, hoping that chemicals will straighten out the tangled mess our hair has made, that our noses won’t get in the way, that our big mouths won’t get us into trouble.  We wrestle with flesh and blood in hopes of being pinned with this prized social perfection.

Blue ribbon skin.  Trophy flesh.  First place in the race contest.  It is faith in skin filled in, in skin that fills in for our faith.

We believe that race makes us or breaks us, that it all comes down to our physical appearance.  We talk of race as if it is the only way in which we fully identify, that we cease to exist without these colored words, that our flesh fails us unless it is colored in.   In race, “we live, move and have our being.”

We behave like we all fit into these boxes, that everyone has to go into one of them: beige, brown, black, red, yellow or white.   Get in.  Squeeze in.  We’ve all got to fit in.  And we say this while espousing the belief that we are buried with Christ.

Still, race gets up and in our faces.  We cannot look away.  Picking at our flesh, we feel that this is real.  We open our mouths to answer to it.

But, why?  Instead, question it.  Race does not tell you who you are and if it does, you should wonder why.  I mean have you ever met Race?  The relationship is superficial; it only knows your skin.  You don’t have to let it in.

Instead, leave it on the outside of you.  Peek through and ask, “Race, who?”

We can’t leave the ministry of reconciliation


It is so tempting to close ourselves off after deep wounding, after failed attempts to come together as people of faith.  We might ask ourselves, “Why isn’t this working out?”  Still, we must believe that God is at work, that while we want to throw our hands up in despair, God’s hands are still in.  All in.

God has not pulled away.  God still believes that we can be reconciled, that we can pull off this fellowship.  Two feet in.  When we walk by faith, we don’t take any steps back.

Because our faith is not in us but in Christ and his bloody hands are still extended.  We don’t have the option of withdrawing as his cross is an open invitation and an ongoing reception.  It’s not over until Jesus gets a hold of the one that left all ninety- nine of us (Matthew 18.12).  Jesus is the gate so we must remain open… like the Lord’s Table (John 10.7, 9).

This is why the Lord’s Supper or Holy Communion is so important.  Every month or each week, we are called to come back to the table– but not back to the drawing board.  All is not lost.  Still, “It is written…”

No matter what the newspapers print and despite all of our reporting on separations, splits, divisions and disagreements, there is still a report from the Lord.  Lean forward and listen out for it.  It won’t get as much attention.  God’s voice is still and small.  Still, we are called to “be still and know that God is God” (Psalm 46.10).

So we must keep our ears open, our eyes open, our hands open, our hearts open and our mouths open.  We must be ready to give and receive the blessing of belonging, to be reminded that we belong to and with each other, that we were all made for each other.  In the end, it will all, we will all come together.   Being reconciled to God through Christ Jesus, we are right where we need to be (Second Corinthians 5.18).

God’s still pulling it all together, still pulling us all together one heart string at a time.  Give it time because it is all in God’s time anyway.  God’s will be done.  All called and hearing the same command to love and hope and trust, we can’t leave the ministry of reconciliation.


When fighting, leave race out of it

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“America is in trouble, and a lot of that trouble– perhaps most of it– has to do with race.”

| Michael Eric Dyson, Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon to White America

This is between you and me, us and them, us four and any more who want to join us.  Pick a side and put up your dukes!  Take your best shot!  Let’s see what you’ve got.

Let’s get it out and in the open.  Let’s say what we mean and how we really feel about each other.  Let’s fight hard and long.  Let’s raise our voices and invite others to sing along.  Let the shouting match commence.

Let’s go back and forth about who’s good and who’s bad, who’s in and who’s out, who should be first in line and who wins every time.  There are no boundaries and no comment will be considered out of line.  Speak freely and over each other.  Don’t beat around the bush.  No fig leaves, there is nothing to hide here.

Come out swinging.  Let’s fight all night until the morning.  Let’s come up with everything that is wrong with each other.  Let’s fight with no breaks, no naps and no excuses.  Let’s fight like we mean it and hold nothing back.  Let’s fight without an end in sight about the beginning.  Let’s fight about how we met and how you never got my name.

We never got off on the right foot.  John Rolfe saw “twenty Negroes.”  But, I saw next of kin.  They called them animals; I call them people.  Slave is not a pet name.

And they were kidnapped before race was invented.  This was made up as they went along.  Race didn’t make you do it though as time went on, we claimed that race introduced us.  But, race didn’t pick a fight because it wasn’t even there.  So leave race out of it.

Bootstrap or slaver’s lash, how did America become so great?   We never got our story straight.  Rope around their necks, this was not a match made in heaven.  And so they fought like hell.  They were not happy to be enslaved or to be far away from their homeland.  That is a lie and repeating it constitutes fighting words.

So let’s fight every dotted i and every crossed t, about everything and over anything.  Let’s fight tooth and nail over every physical feature, every scrap of land and sea, who’s right for the world and whose wrong innately.  Because it was only made for one “race” of people, right?

Let’s fight ’til the end and to the death of our consciences.  Just do me one favor.  Leave race out of it.  Because I have heard it said on many occasions, that if we no longer had race, we would find something else to fight about.  So, what is the fighting, the endless duel of cultures really about?

Answer this and I think it will take the fight out of us.  Because it is not about flesh or its hues.  But of course, you might want to fight me about the answer to this too.

Saying, “I don’t see color” is not the answer to racism

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I am not blind and I am certainly not color- blind.  That’s not what the race-less gospel means or aims to accomplish.  I am not hoping that the world will turn a blind eye to the different physical appearances of human beings across cultures and the globe.  Please don’t tell your eyes that they are lying.  They see color.

In a recent CNN townhall, former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz said, “As somebody who grew up in a very diverse background as a young boy in the projects, I didn’t see color as a young boy and I honestly don’t see color now.”  He is also seriously considering a run for president of the United States of America.  But, he really can’t be serious.  In a move that made my stomach turn and made me turn down my usual tall cups of Starbucks chai tea latte,  two African American men were falsely arrested at a Philadelphia Starbucks while waiting for a friend before ordering beverages.  They both later settled with the company with a symbolic $1 each.  In response to the fall out, Starbucks closed its doors for business to solve the issues of race, prejudice, stereotyping, profiling and racialized preferential treatment in four hours.

Clearly, they needed more time if Schultz can’t see color.  I think that it was better said that as a young boy, he did not see race.  Race is a social system based on the hierarchy of flesh,  skin tones specifically.  The lighter, the so- called whiter you are, the higher you go up the ladder and in the eyes of society while darker complexions are kept close to the ground.  This social agreement is explained and agreed to over time.  Schultz was too young then to enter into this social arrangement of relationships.  Saying he does not see color does not make it go away.

I am not blind.  I am also not color-blind.  But, what I can see is that the amount of melanin or the lack thereof in a person’s skin as a determinant of inherent worth, undeniable beauty, unearned economic privilege and social status and the inalienable right to live with dignity and to be treated with respect is wrong and unjust.  We are literally prioritizing people based on their flesh.  Consequently, when I see a person, I don’t see their socially constructed race and treat them according to its prejudices.  Because I don’t agree with that.

I also don’t find race to be a credible or unbiased witness to our shared humanity.  Pretending that color is the problem and not the way that we use color to make some human beings a problem is what must be acknowledged, addressed and changed.  Saying, “I don’t see color” just backs away from the conversation.  It’s not a response and it is not the answer.