The past few weeks have been rough. We are dying daily, and yet many of you have been sound asleep. You saw Mike Mike’s body lying in the middle of Canfield Green in Ferguson, Mo., on Aug. 9, 2014, but you did not “cry aloud and spare not.” Some of you prayed, and others recited sermons with no mention of our mass lynchings.
But this time around, you heard the alarm ringing loudly, and you jumped out of your beds, out of your prayer closets and off your knees. You probably haven’t had a chance to wash the tears from your faces, but you got up.
I have to be honest with you, though. Some of you woke up with too much pride and ego. You tell us that God “called, anointed and appointed you for such a time as this.” Churchy lingo, but this is what you believe. So much so that you have stepped over those who have been fighting for you while you were sound asleep.
I get it. Sleeping is a survival mechanism. Many of you do not know how to address the traumas that linger under your Sunday best. But there are folks who have ideas and healing tools that are not “churchy,” and yet you turn them away. The women who refuse patriarchy. The queer folks who reject homophobia. The transgender folks who disrupt transphobia. The poor folks who unsettle respectability.
From the street pulpits of Ferguson and New York City to the alley altars of Atlanta and Baton Rouge, La., the “rejects” have rejected all that does not love and affirm all black people. You reject them, but they do not reject you.
Some of you are showing up ready to fight, but you think that only cisgender heterosexual black men are the ones who face violence at the hands of police. You think that black men are an “endangered species,” and you continue to erase black women, queer and trans folks, and all the other black folks who don’t look like cishet black men.
Truth be told, you gon’ have to get with the movement or get left behind like the rapture.
This is about all black people getting free.
The movement does not need you to snatch the microphone from young black queer folks and black women. We don’t need you stealing black women’s intellectual labor and improperly crediting the creative genius of black women to cis-heterosexual black male preachers like Pastor Jamal Bryant. And please don’t suggest that we need to hark back to the civil rights era, when the black church was supposedly the central ground for pro-black protest. That’s both historically dishonest and manipulative. Y’all weren’t here for Ella Baker, Bayard Rustin or Fannie Lou Hamer. Shoot, even James Baldwin often said that he “left the pulpit to preach the gospel.”
The movement has been watching you. Some of you have publicly endorsed the white racist Donald Trump, and we wrote to you demanding that you amend your ways. Many more of you have confused Hillary Clinton’s white liberal pandering for black revolutionary fire. Oh, how quickly did you forget that she called us superpredators?
To make matters worse, you have laid your hands—your supposedly holy hands—upon the heads and bodies of folks like Trump and even on police officers, but you have failed to exorcise them of the demon of anti-blackness.
And how do you kill with your words every Sunday the queer folks who laid the foundation for the Black Lives Matter movement, then chant that “black lives matter”?
And you definitely can't advocate for black lives when you don't love black people. If your theology is anti-black, I do not expect much from your protest, and if you are slow to mourn for black people, I question which lives you think matter to God.
Indeed, “Bitter and sweet water ought not flow out the same fountain.” You’re either with evil or against it. Whom will you serve?
God chooses sides all the time. And you do, too, when convenient. Check the record. Check the text. And then check your message. Also, we got receipts.
How many times have you bashed a gay person but said nothing about white supremacy or the rapist who sits in your pulpit each Sunday?
Your slip is showing, and your pants are clinging to your socks.
Please take time to listen to the black organizers who never receive an offering.
We don't need more cops. We can't even handle the ones we got. So stop calling for more cops. And news flash: Having black cops won't put an end to internalized white supremacy. And improved police training, body cams and/or “community policing” won't stop us from being killed. We got broken-windows policing and a militarized, highly funded police state. We are also dealing with the sadistic white imagination that reads blackness as criminal, and “shoots black” before we can say “Yes, sir” or “Yes, ma’am.”
We are dealing with a rotten tree with rotten fruit. And it's time to uproot the whole damn tree. But will the church stop watering its roots?
“Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.” —Matthew 7:19
It’s in the book. And I believe Jesus is about this revolutionary fire.