My least favorite thing about nonspoken forms of communication is the room for misunderstanding that comes from not being able to detect the tone of a person. Please allow me to minimize the possibility of a misinterpretation by first outlining exactly how I feel.
I am angry, disappointed, slightly confused and fully embarrassed.
But this isn’t the type of hurt or anger one can achieve without having some sort of personal connection to the “offender.” This is more that type of hurt and anger that I always assumed served as the catalyst for Michael Eric Dyson’s essay about Cornel West. It’s the level of anger that comes when a person you hold (or previously held) in high regard does or says something so offensive that you feel compelled to respond. Only a person with whom you currently have an emotional connection can evoke that level of emotion from you. Who else would have that sort of power?
I have spent a significant portion of my life with you. By “you,” I am referring to black pastors in African-American churches. While I may not have attended any of your specific churches, as a black Christian I regularly attend African-American services and have developed a respect, love and appreciation for the office of pastor. So by default, this respect was extended to you as well—that was, until I watched the media coverage after the meeting with Donald Trump.
A public endorsement of a man who is blatantly racist and willfully ignorant and has a political agenda that does not seem to include the very people who selected you as their pastor? None of this makes any sense. It is perfectly clear why Trump would consider it beneficial to blast this meeting that would include, as he stated, “endorsements from 100 black pastors.” Yet it is unclear why you would allow him to use you in this ridiculous ploy. To be frank, pastors, it makes me question your motives. In fact, it’s making many people question your motives and speculate about exactly how many building funds were paid off in exchange for your Uncle Ruckus “Mr. Trump sho is a good man” verdict.
I could hardly stand to watch the coverage, and I certainly don’t have the stomach to continue to follow it. I’m not sure how the members of your congregations feel, but I, personally, am embarrassed. And to be clear, the notion of wanting some form of political influence that might benefit the black community isn’t lost on me. I understand that.
What I don’t understand is how any form of endorsement of Trump would help ensure this. Again, I suspect that this is also clear to you, too, which reiterates my original point of questioning your motives. In the interests of still honoring the office of pastor, I won’t go any further with that statement.
But still, the fact that there was a large gathering of black pastors who came together and agreed that Trump is “misrepresented by the liberal media” is stunning. Getting any large group of heterogeneous people to coordinate their schedules and operate in agreement is no small task and requires effort. Yet you were able to pull this off.
This is probably the part I find most disappointing as a social-justice advocate. Getting many influential community leaders together and organizing around a substantial cause has historically yielded positive change in our community. It is what helped birth such profound changes in the fight for civil rights, and it is the very thing that could help continue the progress of the Black Lives Matter movement. Pastors, could this same level of organization and agreement not have been more impactful if redirected to actually address how victims of police violence are always misrepresented by the conservative media? Or perhaps to even display a similar level of intolerance for injustice that the very Jesus you teach about often demonstrated?
I ask these questions without honestly expecting a response; I don’t have the machine of the Trump campaign and the power that provides. I am asking in hopes that it may plant a seed that will produce a shift in your thinking that will be reflected in your future actions. Maybe—and this is a big maybe—I will see all of you surround the families of those who were victims of police violence, and champion for them the way you did for Trump. But again, those families also lack the machine of the Trump campaign behind them.
As I close, I sincerely hope that the rationale for such an emotional response, and the intent of this letter, were fully conveyed. More important, I hope that the suggestions noted above will be considered. And if my prayers are answered, maybe some of them will be applied.
Finally, pastors, please remember that I did not write this from a position of an authority figure seeking to condemn you. I wrote this as a person with a genuine emotional connection to the black church and a keen understanding of the power it has within the community—a community that is often neglected by the candidate you publicly support. This community deserves better that that, and you deserve more than to be reduced to a silly political ploy. If nothing else, I hope that this letter reminds you of what I never forgot—which is how instrumental your leadership has been when it wasn’t for sale, and used only to advance our people, not a political agenda.
Shanita Hubbard is a mom, writer, social-justice advocate and Nas stan and is also the lover of a great twist-out and good books. Follow her on Twitter.