Having to Leave Your Blackness at the Church House Door

I’m part of the planning for some upcoming worship services. And during our planning meeting today, one of the other people involved asked (rhetorically), “how Black am I allowed to be in UUism?”

I hadn’t put it in those exact words recently, but it’s a question worth considering.

UUism asks people of color to play respectability politics all the time. There’s only so much of one’s person of color-ness that one is allowed to bring in to the church house, no matter what other marginalized identity that the person of color might carry.

So the question is…how much can UU culture change so that people of color can bring their full selves through the church house door?


In Wakanda, Stephon Clark Would Still Be Alive

I’ve been trying to come up with the words to express how I feel about the most recent state-agent killing of a Black person; Stephon Clark was killed by Sacramento police this week in his own backyard.

What I keep coming back to is…Stephon would be alive if Wakanda were real.

I know many of you are probably tired of hearing/reading me talk about Wakanda. But it is so lovely there. And it highlights how far from it we are in the “real world.”

Stephon Clark is dead because police mistook him for a man who was vandalising cars. Let me repeat that…..

Stephon Clark is dead because police mistook him for a man who was vandalising cars.

Sit with that.

A black man is DEAD over an alleged minor property crime.  (one that he was not committing, by the way)

Let’s look at the other major issue…..

Stephon Clark was shot in HIS OWN BACKYARD.

And another issue…..

Police interviewed Stephon’s grandmother BEFORE they told her that her grandson was dead.

Next issue…..

Police lied about the entire situation and only told the truth after video was released.

This is the real world.

Wakanda would be different.

Stephon Clark would be alive if Wakanda were real.

In Wakanda were real…..

Mike Brown would be alive.

Tamir Rice would be alive.

Eric Garner would be alive.

Sandra Bland would be alive.

Rekia Boyd would be alive.

Aiyanna Stanley-Jones would be alive.

In Wakanda, all the people would be alive because in Wakanda…black lives matter.


Black Panther and the War on Black Children

Pay attention to the part where the mother (with her son) is talking about what Black Panther really means. Yes, it makes me cry.

It was reported yesterday in the New York Times and other places about a study done by the “Equality of Opportunity Project” that Black male children (and Indigenous male children too) of rich families have a greater chance of being in poverty as adults than white or Asian male children. The executive summary states it this way:

Growing up in a high-income family provides no insulation from these disparities. American Indian and black children have much higher rates of downward mobility than other groups. Black children born to parents in the top income quintile are almost as likely to fall to the bottom quintile as they are to remain in the top quintile. By contrast, white children born in the top quintile are nearly five times as likely to stay there as they are to fall to the bottom.
Two things…..first, this study is specifically about Black (and Indigenous) boys. Second, this is specific about income; there is a difference between income and wealth. And the difference between income and wealth can, in large measure, explain why there looks to be such inequality between Black/Indigenous boys and white boys while at the same time not showing this type of inequality between Black girls and white girls.
What this study shows is how important, culturally, Black Panther really is.
Wakanda is not real. Unfortunately.
If Wakanda were real, then Black children wouldn’t be under constant assault from the society around them.
If Wakanda were real, then Black children would be seen as children and valued as such.
If Wakanda were real, then Black parents wouldn’t have to worry about what’s going to happen to their child in the outside world when that child grows up.
If Wakanda were real…..
What really gets me about the video above is not just the mother and what she says. What brings the tears to my eyes is the son’s total awe at being in the presence of Chadwick Boseman. Representation matters my friends. That boy’s wonder and awe matters.

The Exodus Should Not Be Quiet…Whether It’s Out of White Evangelicalism or Unitarian Universalism

I will write more about this after next week, but wanted to give some initial thoughts here.

In today’s New York Times there is an in-depth article exploring the exodus of African Americans from heavily white, but integrated, evangelical churches.

Since in the subtitle of the article mentions the word exodus, it’s got me thinking about the Exodus story.

For those of you familiar with the story, you know  Moses gave Pharaoh a number of chances to change the situation. Moses warned Pharaoh about what would happen if things didn’t change. The situation did not change.

African Americans–like Moses, whether in predominately white evangelical churches or liberal/progressive churches, have been giving Pharaoh a number of chances to change how their religious institutions work. African Americans–like Moses–have been telling Pharaoh what would happen if things didn’t change in these religious institutions.

The question is will Pharaoh be any different this time than the last time?

Black Panther Theology Syllabus

I’ve been working on a theology syllabus that might help people understand things that are going on in Black Panther/Wakanda, and it has been enjoyable and frustrating at the same time. It’s frustrating because how does one look at the theology as it relates to a place where the scourge of white supremacy didn’t infiltrate from a place where white supremacy is in the DNA? (and please, don’t tell me that Wakanda is not real. if people can write about the theology in Harry Potter, it can–and should–be done for Black Panther/Wakanda)

So I’ll be setting up a Black Panther Theology syllabus page soon.

But….the first book on the list is “Souls of Black Folk” by W.E.B. Du Bois. (you should read this just because, anyway)

I’m still debating how to handle Killmonger. He is less theology and more sociology and psychology; as such, he might get his own page–or section on the main page.

The Black Black Blackity Black Joy Of, and For, Black Panther

It has now been a little over a week since Black Panther officially opened in theaters and I am fresh off seeing it yet again. And, if the information is correct, the movie has made over $700 million at the box office in the 10 days since its release. Plus, it looks as if the movie will hit $1 billion (yes, billion-with-a-B) in less than a month from date of release.

It really should surprise nobody that the reaction to the movie has been this positive and strong.

Black Panther is a movie with a Black protagonist that isn’t about U.S. chattel slavery, the modern-era Civil Rights Movement, or some magical Negro who saves the day for white people.

Black Panther is a movie in which ALL of the main characters are Black and nobody is a drug addict, a pimp/prostitute, an incarcerated person, a formerly incarcerated person, a con artist, or any other stereotype that America has perpetuated for time immemorial.

Black Panther is a movie in which Black people are living normal lives. (strange to say that about a superhero movie, but it’s the truth)

In short, Black Panther is Black people being able to be Black without the white gaze.

And damn, if that ain’t something joyous.

So if you want to understand why Black Panther is breaking records all over the place, know that the reason we say #WakandaForever is most people of color never get to see ourselves without the white gaze mediating it. It’s truly something special.

more on what Wakanda has to tell Unitarian Universalism later.

Can the U.S. Have an Honest Conversation About Guns and Mass Shootings?

Are we ever going to get to the point in the conversation about guns and mass shootings to point out a few things…..

1. The vast majority of mass shooters (and all of the school shooters) are white men. So this is not just a problem of toxic masculinity, it is an outgrowth of white supremacy.

2. The history of guns in this country is HIGHLY racialized.
Let’s look at the Second Amendment, shall we? Here is the text of it:
A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.

Wanna know what that well-regulated Militia was for? The suppression of slave revolts. In fact, all white men in the colonies (and then, later, the states) were required to have a gun in order to be a part of a Militia which would be activated if there was a slave revolt.

3. The history of gun control in this country is HIGHLY racialized.
Just look at what happened in California after the Black Panthers open carried in Sacramento. Gun control in this country has always been about controlling Black people’s access to guns (and by extension, controlling Black people’s access to self-protection).

4. Armed people in schools will not stop these kinds of shootings.
What they will do it get more people killed. And children of color will be targeted in the officer’s downtime.

Until this country is ready to deal with its history (and present) with guns, nothing is going to change.

That’s it. I’m going back to Wakanda now.

Getting To Write Your Own Story?…..Priceless (Black Panther, Wakanda, and Unitarian Universalism)

What would Unitarian Universalism look like if people of color were allowed to write the story of it?

One of the reasons that Black Panther and Wakanda are such a phenomenon in many circles is because of the story it tells. The story of a people and a land in Africa that was never touched by the “colonizer” (aka white people and white supremacy).  The story of a people and a land in Africa that was allowed to developed on its own and to keep its resources.

Of course, that’s why Black Panther and Wakanda are fantasy.

The colonizers did come to Africa.

The colonizers did rape and pillage; both the land and the people.

And that is why, dear friends, so many people of color are coming out of the movie saying some form of, “Know what…Killmonger had a point.”

What does this have to do with Unitarian Universalism?

What would it mean to look at Unitarian Universalism as a colonizer religion? How would that change the story that gets told?

What if the story of Unitarian Universalism was told from the perspectives of Killmonger; those who have been left behind or ignored or pushed to the side?

What would the story of Unitarian Universalism be if people of color got to tell their stories without fear?

As St. Paul says, “think on these things.” (Philippians 4:8)