Dear White Evangelicals,
For the last three years, I’ve been trying to figure out what it means to be a black woman in America — more specifically, what it means to be both a follower of Christ and a black woman among a dwindling white evangelical America.
Unfortunately, this dwindling has uncovered America’s undergirding of racism and white fragility—a fragility that justifies a Trump presidency and that is in its nature hostile toward my body. I have come to the realization that to be black in America is to be owned by whiteness because whiteness created blackness.
Recently, Michelle Alexander, a civil rights lawyer, quit her job as a law professor at Ohio State University to join Union Seminary as visiting professor. She explained her move in a later published Facebook post: “[Race] is not simply a legal problem, or a political problem, or a policy problem. At its core, America’s journey from slavery to Jim Crow to mass incarceration raises profound moral and spiritual questions about who we are, individually and collectively, who we aim to become, and what we are willing to do now.”
On November 8th, Eighty-one percent of you spoke and your message was loud and clear—Donald J. Trump is who you are and who you aim to become.
On the morning following the election, battling complete hopelessness, I splashed water on my face, smeared some makeup on, put on a casual outfit, and went to teach my 7:00 a.m. and 8:00 a.m. freshmen composition courses that are made up of predominantly people of color (out of fifty, only two of my students are considered “white”). During my classes (like many educators), I lead my brown students in an unfortunate discussion—a discussion about how Donald J. Trump was elected for the most powerful position of power on the planet, about how black and brown and female bodies are in explicit danger. During both discussions, I looked at my beautiful brown students and said, Your lives matter.
For the last few years, an array of white evangelicals have told me that my position on civil rights—on basic human rights—is unbiblical and inconsiderate of white life. However, following the atrocities of recent years, I’ve come to realize that white life has always been inconsiderate of black and brown life. In his book Between the World and Me, Ta-Nehisi Coates writes, “[H]ow do I live free in this black body? It is a profound question because America understands itself as God’s handiwork but the black body is the clearest evidence that America is the work of men.”
Although Coates is a professed atheist, his statement hints at something that’s close to the heart of the Christian God—the holiness of the body. In the first ten days following the election, The Southern Poverty Law Center documented 867 Trump-related incidents of harassment or intimidation. Muslim women have had hijabs ripped from their heads. Women have been groped by strange men referencing the President-elect. Black Americans have been called niggers, threated with re-enslavement, and burdened with death threats. And just two days after the election, the Klu Klux Klan—hoods and all—celebrated Trump’s victory in a public parade.
To be honest, I’m tired of talking about race in America. All that can possibly be said about race has been said by far more qualified secular and religious voices than my own. Still, most of civil discourse surrounding race has decomposed as prompted by the recent election. And my white brothers and sisters in the church fail to consider that as I advocate for marginalized bodies, I am attempting to obey my God’s command—to seek justice, to love mercy, to walk humbly with Him. My own brothers and sisters fail to see that I choose to glorify and obey my Lord by loving Him first and secondly loving my neighbors—my oppressed Black American neighbors, my oppressed Native American neighbors, my oppressed Latinx American neighbors, my oppressed female neighbors. This is God’s greatest commandment.
White evangelicals, people of color and women are in danger—and eighty-one percent of you helped elect an administration that can and probably will do away with millions of bodies. And just because Trump is not a direct death threat to your body or your spouse’s body or your child’s body, you do not have the right to ignore the blood that’s been shed by your ancestors and the current wailing of black and brown peoples. History repeats itself, and the days of the Trump administration will not be okay for many of us.
White evangelicals, remember that your God became a marginalized human and advocated for marginalized people. Remember that whatever you do to the marginalized—you do to Jesus (Matt. 25: 31-46).
Pray to the Lord for wisdom,