Today We Woke Up and the Living Nightmare Was Repeated

1 Comment 18 June 2015

On Wednesday night, the traditional night of Bible Study in many Black churches across the country, a terrorist entered Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church and sat for an hour among those gathered to study the text so sacred among Blacks in America. During that time, he likely heard prayer, likely heard testimonies of praise, heard scriptures, heard the sounds of human beings reflecting on how Christians ought live out their faith even in the midst of trials and suffering. During that time, he watched the ministry of a pastor who loved God and loved all people, a pastor who believed being a politician was an integral part of responding to the call God placed on his life. The terrorist also watched Black men, women and children, he saw them breathe, saw them nod their heads affirming what was being taught, saw the children likely playing near their parents. But none of this moved this killer to abort his mission of hatred. Dylann Roof aimed his gun and even as worshippers pleaded with him for their lives said, “You rape our women & you’ve taken over our country. You have to go.”

“Our.” With that one word, this terrorist spoke not only his thoughts but the thoughts of those who raised him on this venomous pabulum and the many white supremacists living in America.

I could write a book discussing white supremacy and its longstanding activity across the globe. I’m leaving that for some white scholar who is really concerned with understanding why some white people continue to hate Black people. As we say in the Black church, “That is not my ministry.”

My ministry today and my concern is about the emotional state of Black people across the country. Black people have more religious adherents than any other group of people in the country. According to the last Pew Research study 87% of us claim some religious group and even if we are unaffiliated, most Blacks identify as religiously faithful in our prayers and spiritual practices. When they could have literally been killed for doing so, slaves gathered without the white slave owners’ permission at what is now called the “invisible institution” to worship God. Our fore parents had to sneak away to the southern brush harbors to pray. When we were allowed to worship it was only with authorization. At the white church, we sat in the segregated area called “nigger gallery.” This is where the trustees desired Richard Allen and Absalom Jones go as they were kneeling in prayer at St. George Methodist Church in Philadelphia. Richard Allen is the founder of the AME Church. Absalom Jones founded the African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas and was the first African American ordained to the priesthood in the Episcopal Church.

I write this because I know Black people are thinking of this religious history as we hear the incendiary language that flowed from this terrorist’s lips. I also write knowing that some are wondering where in America are we safe to walk or to worship. The Black Church has been the fabric of our communities. We may critique it but it is of us and we will not stand by and fold our hands as terrorists seek to destroy us as we gather there to worship.

Unfortunately, I fear that in the weeks to come no lone white man or woman will enter many of our Black Churches without coming under immediate suspicion. I do not like it but it seems a realistic probability.

To fear for your life while worshipping in the church is also part of Black history. This is not the first time a white terrorist has killed Black people as they sat in their churches. There is a reason we sing, “We have come treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered.” It is because we as Black people have long known that #BlackLivesMatter. When the majority of white people across America accept this, live this, without negative rejoinder then and only then may we be able to live just one day in this country without experiencing brutality against our bodies and spirits. Until then, please don’t ask us to give an account for our allegiance to this country or our desire for justice. That account must be given by a people who do not know the sting of pain and grief at waking up knowing members of your race have been murdered because of their race, while attending church.

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1 comment

  1. Vance P. ross says:

    Thank you. Bless God!

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