Two weeks ago we saw a very large and public display of racism in Charlottesville, VA. A problem that has plagued this country from its beginning.
I am a black woman who was born and raised in America. Racism- both discreet and blatant- is nothing new to me. But for some reason, the events in Charlottesville had me SHOOK. I couldn’t even look at let alone speak to any of my coworkers that Monday morning. I was emotionally drained and my anger was at a boiling point. So I put my headphones in, worked my 8 hours, and then went home without saying a word.
There have been many times when I wanted to call in black to work. The back to back murders of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile last summer took an emotional toll on my psyche. I barely made it to work on November 9th. I literally wanted to stay home and ignore the world- just for one day. But somehow I managed to get up, go to the office, and handle my business despite the uncomfortable silence.
But what happens when you go to church and find that same uncomfortable silence?
“…the most segregated hour of Christian America is eleven o’clock on Sunday morning.”
I grew up in a denomination that is still officially racially segregated. Yes, you read that correctly.
I won’t get into the structure and bureaucracy of the Adventist church but to put it simply, there are black conferences and there are white conferences. This was literally voted on 70 years ago and still firmly remains in place today.
So despite being a member of one of the most diverse Christian denominations in the country (and the world), I go to church with mostly black people.
But guess what? I’m not even mad about it.
For too long many white Christians have enjoyed the privilege of stoking the flames of racism in America…or they completely ignore it.
Unfortunately, the same rings true in my church. Some members even take it a step further and declare that we should not be involved in fixing or even talk about such “nonsense”. According to them, that is nothing short of apostasy and amazingly, there is a substantial number of black Christians who agree.
I watched in slight horror as black Adventists literally begged the church leadership to say something about the events in Charlottesville. Days passed before there was an official response from some of the higher-ups. Some might still be waiting for the president of the Adventist church to make an official statement.
Me? In the words of Maxine Waters, I am reclaiming my time.
This is not the first time I have witnessed black Christians beg others to speak out against racism. And based on the response (or lack thereof) I’ve seen, you won’t catch me asking.
I refuse to beg my church to listen to and care about me.
I refuse to take on the task of educating people about the history of racism in America.
I refuse to explain to other Christians why we should be leading the fight against white supremacy.
That is not my job.
When Christians are ready to address this issue head on, I will be ready to lend my voice.
I will know they are serious when they can offer more than, “The devil is busy”, “Jesus is coming soon”, or “Just pray”. I will know they mean business when they produce more than just a carefully worded statement. I’ll know they’re ready for change when desegregating churches no longer means small white conferences taking over the much larger black ones.
Until then, I need a few moments. To reaffirm my humanity. To remind myself that my life does matter even though my church refuses to say it. To retackle the fact that my blackness and my Christianity are regularly in conflict.
Today I am calling in black to church.