By: Zach Fulwood
Being Black in America is hard. It’s not coal mining or going to war hard but, it’s certainly not the easiest thing in the world to be. Outside of the obvious issues brought about due to the racist past of this country when it pertains to Black people, there’s also the issue of being Black and being a Christian.
The primary reason this issue even exists is because of slavery. Had slavery never happened and slave masters hadn’t held slaves captive in the name of the bible (falsely I might add) and fostered an image of a White Jesus that resembled their slave masters, we could all be Christians and live happily ever after. Unfortunately, these things did happen and thus, Black people are stuck having to deal with an internal crisis of figuring out whether their national identity means more to them than their spiritual identity and whether or not the two could ever coexist.
When we look at the teachings of Christianity and more specifically, what the church teaches its congregation, much of it is centered around the righteous and loving ways of Jesus and how we should act towards one another. Of course, no one would argue that treating people with unwavering kindness is detrimental to society so we can largely agree that the church is doing a good thing here. The issues come into place however, when Black people in particular, leave the confines of church and go back to living in a society where kindness is anything but easy to find.
When Black people see that their unemployment rate is higher than any other race while only making up 12% of the U.S population as of 2016 and as a result, their incarceration rate is sky high, they can’t help but ask if this is what the ways of Jesus gets us? When unarmed Black kids are being gunned down by White police officers and then exonerated of any crime by a judicial system that claims to be founded on the principles of Christianity, they can’t help but wonder if prayer really is the only answer. In a society where a Black man can’t reach into his glove department without losing his life by those sworn to protect him while a group of Neo-Nazi’s can roam the streets of Charlottesville, Virginia with tiki torches, chanting racial epithets, I can’t help but wonder if being a Christian is worth turning a blind eye to the everyday struggles of my people.
It’s enough to make Black people ask themselves what Christianity has ever done for them? This line of thinking is aided by the Five-Percent Nation of Islam that promotes Black unity and empowerment through the word of Allah. This being a religion that speaks directly to the needs of Black people, it’s easy to justify why any Black person would choose to follow it. Those within this religion among others, also won’t hesitate to remind Black Christians that Christianity was a religion that slave masters used to keep Black people enslaved and that it’s basically the White mans religion. This however, would serve as a bit of a contradiction because they also believe that the first people on earth were Black and originated in Africa where Christianity was in fact being practiced before any of the European influence that occurred in the 16th Century and on.
There’s also the Black atheists who simply can’t support any religion simply because of the feeling that faith in any God has essentially been to ignore the sense of progression that is needed within the Black community.
Honestly speaking, it’s very hard to be a Christian, believe in Jesus, and believe that he is just while watching all of these injustices happen to people who look like you. It’s not only hard because you feel helpless at times but also because your church may not even choose to acknowledge these issues going on. With respect to the fact that you can’t feasibly help everyone who needs it, how does a church regularly champion their missions efforts and all of the great things their doing in different countries when members of their own congregation are suffering? How can a Black person believe in any God that would seemingly allow an entire race to be perpetually oppressed for well over 400 years?
These are questions that I simply don’t have definitive answers for. What I do have however, is trust and faith that this isn’t as good as it gets. I refuse to believe that we were put here on this earth to be divided by our differing races. I believe that action is necessary in order to activate prayer and I believe that there is a righteous purpose for us being here and for me, that belief is rooted in God and Christianity. Being a Christian doesn’t mean you have to diminish your blackness and turn a blind eye from the daily struggle of being Black. Believing in God didn’t stop Nat Turner from revolting against slavery and it didn’t stop Dr. King from fighting for equal rights.
At the end of the day, being Black in America is to simply want a fair shake in life and be treated as equal to everyone else. Coincidentally, being a Christian is about equality for everyone. Maybe being a Black Christian isn’t so hard after all.