Can we talk about racism in the church?

How about now?

In the wake of one of gospel’s greats finding the strength to share his story, I wonder how much longer it will be before he receives an appropriate response. I also wonder about the kind of opposition he might be facing. I keep imagining Christian celebrities and civilians muttering behind the scenes, warning Mr. Franklin not to rock the boat.

Meanwhile, I would like to thank him for his bravery.

The way that TBN (the Trinity Broadcasting Network), the Gospel Music Association, and the Dove Awards has behaved is proof that these institutions can be just as racist and cowardly as the rest of society. The pattern is typical: Enjoy Black people’s time and talents. Delight in our worth, on a superficial level. So long as we entertain you, all is well.

Yet let us honestly discuss issues that cause us real trauma. Suddenly, we’re too much. Suddenly, we don’t deserve your support. The pain that we feel shouldn’t be expressed. Our realities deserve to be eliminated.  

If you participate in this kind of erasure, perhaps you may not realize it. But when you tell Black people to keep quiet about what we’re going through or what we worry about, you tell the truth about just how much you really care about us. In spite of your statements about being one in Jesus’ name, the truth is evident. Your love is not sincere. Your concern is not genuine.

I want to say more about racism in the Christian community. I’ve felt an urgency in our political climate, as people have begun to reveal their true colours.

Back in the day, before putting pen to paper on this issue, I felt the way I usually do whenever I’m about to write something: There were moments where I caught myself wondering if I could find the words to express what I was thinking. However, now, I realize that what I really need is the nerve.

Will Kirk Franklin’s honesty embolden me? I’m not sure. But if nothing else, I know this: The way that the predominantly white Christian church–and therefore, white Christians–in North America regard people of colour needs to change. People on the fringes of the faith have known this for years. The question is, now that racism in Christian contexts has been mentioned in the mainstream, what will happen next?

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