I’ve been thinking about my motherhood options lately. And while I have been thinking about the usual things that come along with parenthood, I’ve been stuck on the matter of church. Not whether or not they would be raised in church (they would), but whether or not I would raise them in an Unitarian Universalist church. I have come to the conclusion that in good conscience, there is no way I can raise any children that come into my life in a Unitarian Universalist church.
I know that a good deal of this stems from my childhood in church. I was raised in a wonderful black church and have more aunts and uncles and grandmothers and grandfathers and cousins [fictive kinship, not blood kinship] than any one girl should have. That church was a sanctuary to me. It was a place where I saw people who made a way out of no way. These are the people who showed me and my cousins (both blood and fictive) how to navigate being strong black people in a society that often holds us in contempt. These people showed me the varieties of black religious experience. It is because of them, and their love and care, that I came to Unitarian Universalism.
It’s dangerous for black children in America. From criminal justice to education we are being shown time and time again just how little black life is actually valued. I need the church my children grow up in to help them “pull on the full armor of God” in order to face that.
I cannot entrust an Unitarian Universalist church with the care and feeding of my black children’s souls. Most of them are not prepared for it.
The question is….will most of them ever be prepared for it?
I begin with two questions…
Was Walter Scott mentioned in your UU church Sunday?
Will Eric Harris be mentioned in your UU church next Sunday, the 19th?
With the release of the video in which one can hear a man who was “accidentally” shot in the back being told “fuck your breath” we have entered a whole new dimension of something. Something has happened so that things moved from “I can’t breathe” to “fuck your breath” rather seamlessly.
“Fuck your breath” is the denial of basic humanity. And while I know that some will try to make the case that this could have happened to anybody, it didn’t. It happened to a black man in Tulsa, Oklahoma, site of “race” riots in 1921.
Since the release of the Walter Scott tape on Tuesday, I’ve been asking myself if liberal theology and liberal religion can really say anything to the present moment. With the release of the Eric Scott tape and the news of the death of Natasha McKenna while handcuffed and shackled, I have come to the conclusion that neither one will be able to speak to this moment very clearly. The reason being that the American liberal tradition (religious and political/social), at its very heart, is paternalistic and doesn’t challenge white supremacy at all.
I thought I would be more disappointed with coming to that conclusion, but I’m not. It’s a relief in so many ways. It means that my gaining the most sustenance from liberation theology is not a betrayal at all. It’s recognizing that when some things were being thought about, people who look like me weren’t part of the equation.
What would liberal theology and religion look like if it took into account those who have had to make a way out of no way? Those who have been plundered and pillaged for generations? Those who are condemned and pathologized just because?
My dear friend Tom Schade posted the following on Twitter a few hours ago:
As has been happening a lot recently, I disagree strongly with Tom because the evidence from the last 9 months does not go in that direction.
When news first came out about Eric Garner’s death, the police story was taken at face value, even though witnesses were saying that it was wrong. The only reason that changed is because Ramsey Orta’s video of the encounter was released.
The original police story that John Crawford was waving a gun around the Beavercreek Wal-Mart was taken at face value until the video showed that no such thing was going on.
Tamir Rice was supposedly pointing a gun at everybody who was around him at the rec center in Cleveland. Video shows that Tamir was by himself in an empty section of the grounds and never pointed that toy gun at an actual live human being.
And the police story in the Walter Scott case was that he went for the officer’s taser and that there was a struggle. The video shows that this is not what was happening.
So it’s time to be honest my white friends…y’all don’t believe black people about what happens in our encounters with law enforcement unless we have video to back it up. And sometimes not even then; lest we forget the case of Kajime Powell. It should also be noted here that in the cases where black women are mistreated and/or killed by members of law enforcement, nothing happens to those officers, whether it’s on video or no.
And even when there is video, too often you look for any movement we make or words we say to justify law enforcement overreaction.
There is an assumption in most white communities that the police don’t lie about their encounters with the public. Communities of color (and poor communities) know that lie for what it is.
Without the videotape in the Walter Scott case, there may have been an investigation into the officer’s actions. That we can attribute to the protests that have followed the killing of Michael Brown. But without that videotape, there is no way that officer would now be charged with murder.