equality

Why Anti-Racists Should Embrace “Being Divisive”

Why Anti-Racists Should Embrace “Being Divisive” 5184 3313 Corey Leak

Photo by Pawel Janiak on Unsplash

“I have come to set fire to the earth.” These are the words of a First Century Palestinian Rabbi and social activist. Today most people who quote this man refer to him as “Saviour” or “Lord,” and remember him as a meek hillside teacher with a long flowing head of hair, soft features, and fair skin.

Jesus told people he wasn’t trying to bring peace or unity. Yet, Black people, speaking in favor of black freedom, dignity, and liberation from white supremacy, face consistent accusations about our stance’s alleged divisiveness. For many white evangelical believers in Jesus, “you’re being divisive.” is their go-to counter-argument against anti-racist reformers.

I’ve decided to wear “divisive” as a badge of honor. If one of the world’s most famous social agitators believed that the best strategy for social change was a disruption of the status quo, why would any of us think that passive submission to oppressive ideologies is a better method of change?

I’ve come to believe what most people mean when they lob the “divisive” grenade at an anti-racist is: “I don’t like what you’re saying or doing.” The reason they don’t like it is that they haven’t wrestled with their own biases enough to support anti-racism rather than trying to debunk or resist it.

White supremacy doesn’t just punish black and brown people, but it also rewards people who learn to leverage its oppressive hegemonic arrangement. People offer implicit and sometimes explicit support for racism, and in return, our anti-black society hands them participation trophies.

Anti-racism is about disrupting commonplace ideas, structures, and institutions that have hindered Black people since the birth of this Nation. We are not trying to make peace. We are trying to bring about justice.

We are working for justice in the way schools educate Black children. We are seeking justice in how police deal with black people they encounter. We are seeking justice in the way lenders do their business with Black people, and how cities zone and resource Black communities.

However, the quest for a more just society has never come without resistance. As Frederick Douglass said: “Power concedes nothing without struggle.” Struggle connotes two sides creating tension by pulling in two opposing directions.

There is a struggle for racial justice because there are people who are pulling in the opposite direction towards more white supremacy. When we who are committed to a just and fair society pull toward egalitarian human behavior, folks content with the way things are pull back and call us “divisive.”

I imagine Jesus anticipated people considering him a divisive trouble maker, so he beat them to the punch and made the open declaration about himself. He lived in a time, like ours, where powerful people bullied, threatened, and oppressed their way to more and more power.

When secret police roam our streets capturing people using the agency afforded them by the Constitution of the United States to protest injustice, we don’t have time to defend ourselves from being called “divisive.” It’s time to embrace it so that we have the energy for the real struggle ahead.

How Bethel Church Continues to Hinder Black Salvation

How Bethel Church Continues to Hinder Black Salvation 1096 478 Corey Leak

*Editors note: After the publishing of this piece, it has come to light that the event in the youtube clip below was not at Bethel Church, but at a conference where Bill Johnson (Bethel’s lead pastor) was speaking.

Evangelicalism is the tip of white supremacy’s sword. It has other functions, such as proselytizing the world and telling the story of Jesus. However, its most profound impact in America has been thwarting Black people’s attempt to break free from racial tyranny.

In recent years no white evangelical church has been more problematic to Black people than Bethel Church, an Evangelical Mega-Church best known for their contemporary Christian music and unmitigated support for Donald Trump.

Bethel has been guilty of more than a few transgressions to the black community dating back to 2018 when Brian Johnson, one of their senior leaders, posted a noose in an Instagram post insinuating that planned parenthood was more dangerous to Black lives than the KKK.

After Brian received backlash for the post, Bill Johnson – the lead pastor of Bethel and Ben’s dad, doubled down by reposting the image and caption followed by claiming the post was ok because a black man created it. To be fair, Bethel did ultimately issue an apology for the post.

A Bethel worship leader, Sean Feucht led a band of white evangelical worship leaders to evangelize the mourners and demonstrators at a George Floyd rally in Minnesota shortly after Floyd’s lynching.

Sean followed that up by leading a mass gathering on the shores of Huntington Beach, where he professed that the event symbolized a resurgence of the “Jesus People Movement.”

And, a week ago, a black “prophetess,” on Bethel’s stage declared that God told her she could eradicate racism by enacting a ceremony borrowed from Gandalf the grey.

While posting images of nooses and referencing the KKK is obviously harmful to black people and shows at minimum a lack of cultural humility, the other incidents I mention may need a little unpacking for some.

Let’s begin with the white Saviour trip to the site of George Floyd’s lynching. In the wake of George Floyd’s brutal lynching, advocates for black lives took to the streets to cry out for justice. They were grieving. They were lamenting injustice.

At the height of their grieving and crying out, Sean showed up with his guitar and band of merry worshippers to evangelize the crowd with bright smiling faces and contemporary worship music.

Not only did Sean not join what was already happening in Minnesota, but he tried to interrupt black lament and grief. White Saviours don’t allow space for Black people and our allies to mourn injustice. There is always an attempt to refocus our attention on something else.

In showing up in Minnesota the way he did, Sean Fuecht showed his commitment to the white evangelical brand of squelching Black agency and Black resistance of racial injustice.

Now to Sean’s subtle erasure of Black history on the beautiful Huntington Beach shoreline. Sean references the “revival” he witnessed on the beach as a second coming of the Jesus People Movement of the 1960s.

Why wouldn’t a “revival” taking place in California be reminiscent of an older revival that took place 45 years earlier than the Jesus People? That revival was Azuza street, and it was lead by a black preacher by the name of William Seymour.

The “spirit-filled,” pentecostal way Bethel and other charismatic churches practice worship has its roots in the Azuza Street Revival movement. And while failing to mention Reverend Seymour may seem like an innocent omission, it’s consistent with Sean and Bethel’s disregard for Black culture.

Lastly, the Gandalf incident… (Below for anyone who hasn’t seen it)

In the past, I’ve written about how many white evangelical leaders rely on trite, symbolic gesturing as their only answer to racism. Unfortunately, Black people who have received the baptism into a faith tradition rooted in white supremacy participate in these shenanigans all too often.

Symbolic gestures hold substantive change to racial hierarchies at bay. They keep people of faith who long for a racist free society from asking their leaders the tough questions about power and agency.

By standing on stage and declaring that racism was over because they chanted Gandolf’s words from Lord of the Rings, Bethel once again proved what we should’ve already known. They are an evangelical three-ring circus incapable of helping society move toward salvation.

Bethel’s leaders seem to believe that we find salvation in irrational belief, cultish practices, and mystical rhetoric. None of those help to protect future black people from suffering violence at the hands of white supremacy. Any salvation that doesn’t defend Black futures is no salvation at all.

Bethel’s black prophetess believed she was doing the work of God, and Bethel was all too happy to have a black shield to hide behind again. This moment during a church service is not just cannon fodder for memes, gifs, and remix videos. The moment is also indicative of a culture that ignores, opposes, and trivializes Black America.

3 Things You Should Ask Your Church To Find Out How Committed They Are To Anti-Racism

3 Things You Should Ask Your Church To Find Out How Committed They Are To Anti-Racism 6000 4000 Corey Leak

Chances are your church is on week two or three of a brand new series on racism. Some of you have seen more black faces speaking at your church over the last few weeks than you’d seen in the previous three years. 

Perhaps you’re on this journey with your church with guarded optimism – hoping that you and your church will find yourselves on the right side of history.

Or maybe you’re expecting all this race talk in the church will be over soon, and you can get back to listening to expository sermons on the book of Acts. 

No matter what your disposition is on the stance your church has taken lately, there are three ways to know that your church plans on committing to anti-racism for the long haul. 

Ask someone in senior leadership about President Trump.

Churches and Christian leaders tend to take apolitical stances. It’s one of the reasons so many churches are only recently engaging in extensive content on the subject of race and racism. Race talk has a name – “identity politics.”

It may be challenging to get a direct answer from someone in senior leadership at your church about their personal feelings on the president. Try anyway.

Men and women of the cloth shouldn’t tell you who to vote for, but they should be able to articulate the moral ineptitude of the president with great clarity. 

A church committed to anti-racism will have leaders who can recognize the racist statements and policies this president has put forth over the last four years and the overt racism that plagued his business affairs from years before he became president. 

Certainly, no church committed to becoming anti-racist would ever endorse this president to their congregants. That should go without saying, but you never know. 

Ask about church oversight and leadership.

The pastoral staff and board leadership lead churches.  *Dr. James Cone said: “there is no justice without power, and there is no power with one, two, or three tokens.” Email your church and find out who makes decisions.

If your church is going to be about racial justice, then there should be black people and other non-white leaders at both the board and directional leadership tables. 

There can be no serious progress toward anti-racism if there is no such leadership in place and no clearly articulated plans to place voices of color in leadership roles.

Don’t settle for a picture or a list of names. If you’re committed to investing your time and resources into a church, find out what influence Black people an non-black people of color have at your church. 

Ask about the plan for creating an anti-racist culture beyond Sunday. 

The music, preaching, announcements, and kid’s programs are all part of the Sunday morning experience churches provide, but they are not the totality of what makes a church function. 

Every church has an organizational culture. They have values, language, and expectations for what behaviors will receive rewards and which behaviors cause them to part ways with employees. 

Ask your church what actions they are taking to address the climate of their work culture. Ask them if their staff is going through any implicit bias training or any other practices to ensure an anti-racist work environment. 

How your church responds to these three questions should give you a glimpse into how committed they are to anti-racism. 

The work is a marathon, but it’s reasonable to expect your church leadership has considered these questions before presenting racial justice talks if they are serious about long-term sustainable change. 

Photo by Edwin Andrade on Unsplash

*The Cross and the Lynching Tree by James Cone 

How Well-Meaning White People are Killing Their Black Friends

How Well-Meaning White People are Killing Their Black Friends 2500 3750 Corey Leak

Photo by Shamim Nakhaei on Unsplash

America is a cesspool of trauma for black people. Beginning with slavery, through Jim Crow segregation and now a despotic dictator who literally uses white evangelicalism as a sword to demonize black and brown people – this country crushes the soul of black people.   

Anyone with a conscious must concede that America is anti-black and historically a dangerous place for black people. Black citizens like Emitt Till, Fred Hampton, Martin Luther King Jr., Alton Sterling, and George Floyd were all assassinated by whiteness. 

We recognize the weapons used to kill them as dangerous, but there is a subtler way that white America is killing black people. And this killer is unaware of its lethal effects on black bodies. 

Well-meaning white people awakening to the heinous realities of our white supremacist state pose a clear and present danger to the black people they are attempting to show empathy.

Would-be allies, eager to learn what they can do to bring change to this country and attempt to show their support, are not allowing black people to grieve. 

Many of us want to help. Many of us have been putting effort into educating the public about anti-blackness and white supremacy, and we will continue to do so. But right now…

We are tired! We are worn down! We are bogged down with grief!

We are living in a country that doesn’t love us, and every day of our lives is emotionally taxing. We carry ancestral trauma in our bodies and the daily emotional tax of continually looking over our shoulder for anti-black aggressions. 

Add to that trauma, the grief of watching black citizens murdered and lynched publically on social media and in the news with regularity. We are vexed! 

We have high blood pressure, anxiety, and depression as a result, and now well-intentioned white people are asking for us to help them understand racism and process their grief.

You are killing us. 

When people experience death in the family, most sane people give them space to grieve. People offer meal trains, money for food, thoughts, and prayers. They don’t typically ask them to explain the circumstances that lead to the death of their loved ones. 

I know that white people want to show solidarity and offer help, but at this moment, the best way to do so is to show the same support people show those grieving a death in the family. 

Allow black people to grieve. Round up the white nonsense in our social media feeds. Connect with the work that many black people have published to help educate white folks on these issues on your own. Check on Black friends without asking for anything in return. 

Now is not the moment for Black friends to help safeguard white people from appearing racist. It’s not appropriate for Black people to carry the burden of more free labor in the service of America. 

The men and women who have curated content under the weight of dehumanizing conditions are doing so at considerable personal risk to their mental and physical health. 

Black leaders should be paid for engaging in anti-racism education in the current National climate. Any organization or individual looking to solicit the time of a black thought leader or friend should do so with a willingness to compensate them. Those Black leaders and friends deserve hazard pay. 

Spineless – Why Black Pundits are Failing Colin and All of Us

Spineless – Why Black Pundits are Failing Colin and All of Us 480 285 Corey Leak

I’m not sure if I’m supposed to do this or not, but I am anyway. I’m writing angry. I’ve spent a week off of social media to give myself a break from the back and forth about Kanye, impeachment, and all the white cat memes – though I did miss the memes, they are hilarious. 

I came back to social media just in time for Colin Kaepernick’s long overdue “opportunity” to showcase his talent for NFL scouts. After three years of being denied the right to perform a craft he has proven to be one of the best in the world at doing; he was finally supposed to get his chance. Only, he didn’t. 

Saturday, the NFL proved once again that they are not trustworthy. From the unusual waiver they presented that Colin’s lawyers advised him not to sign, to the prohibition of media – the NFL revealed Saturday that they weren’t interested in dealing in good faith or transparency. So, Colin took matters into his own hands and wielded his own narrative by setting up a public workout, open to the media where he could display his talent, which, incidentally, was never really in question. The NFL seems to have a never-ending agenda to keep Colin and his advocacy for black people away from their product, but that’s not why I’m writing angry. 

I’ve come to expect powerful white people in America to act unjustly. I’m not shocked that the NFL acted in ways that are consistent with their character. They set up a work out that seemed like a valid opportunity that was, in fact, not what it appeared to be. They wanted to appear to be doing the right thing while maintaining the power that allows them the position to continue to do the wrong thing. They behaved just like the powerful white men before them who “abolished” slavery only to create an industrial prison system that continues to incarcerate black men at an inordinate rate. They behaved themselves in an untrustworthy manner and unjustly towards someone whom they have had a history of treating unfairly. Duh.

I will, however, never accept or stop being appalled at the sight of – black people undermining the cause of other black people courageous enough to fight for justice. I watched an Instagram clip of an ESPN personality, well known for his theatrics, yell into the camera of his phone about how disgusted he was that Kapaernick opted to tell his own story rather than leave it to the NFL. That same personality throughout the weekend and into this morning has been promoting the idea that black people need to accept injustice to survive while condemning the young black men at the center of this struggle. He also seems extremely reluctant to center the NFL as the real perpetrators of evil in this situation. 

The sinister result of growing comfortable with injustice is that we start to call evil, good and good, evil. 

We all know that we live in a world where black people don’t receive just treatment. Black people know that there is a certain degree of unfair and unethical treatment that we have to learn to come to grips with. That doesn’t mean that we should EVER look with contempt on the brave souls that refuse to accept the status quo and dare to challenge it. Instead, we should all get behind prophets like Eric Reid and Colin Kaepernick. They are not gods and are subject to criticism like anyone else, but they have earned the right to be trusted when they take a stance. And at minimum, we should offer them the benefit of the doubt when something seems strange or off-putting. 

Black people, since day one of our struggle in America, have argued with one another about the best route to our freedom. But history has shown that we have to drive ourselves there. At no time in human history has a revolution been carried to fruition by the very oppressors responsible for the need for that revolution. Why is today different? Why are so many people ready to trust that the NFL was acting in good faith when it came to Colin’s original workout? White people aren’t as interested in black freedom as black people are. Insert Maya Angelou quote here… 

Colin believed the NFL the first time. He saw, as all of us watching see, that the issue has never been about his arm talent, speed, strength, or readiness. The issue has ALWAYS been about his activism. One white sport’s personality said this morning that “Colin is still an activist.” He said it as an indictment. As if the cause for which Colin and Eric are advocating for is no longer valid. 

People keep saying that if Colin wants to play in the NFL again that he should capitulate to the NFL’s terms so that he can continue his advocacy from the inside. The people saying that are missing the more significant point, and therefore failing to recognize the moment we are witnessing. 

THIS IS BIGGER THAN FOOTBALL! I speak for myself when I say: who cares if Colin ever plays football again if it means that he has to betray the very ideals and human beings he stands/knelt for. I’m disappointed that one fifty-year-old sports reporter, in particular, is missing this broader point. What he is either blindly or more dastardly, purposefully overlooked with his comments, is the cost of change. 

No change that humankind has ever witnessed was without brave men and women refusing to play by unjust rules.  

I’ve watched a perilous trend recently. I’ve seen people conflate common sense and acquiescence – comparing what black parents have to tell our children about encounters with police to Colin doing whatever the NFL asked of him to get his job back. 

I hope that seeing the two written out side by side can help you recognize the problem. Life is precious. Every human living in a world that threatens their existence should learn to do what they must to keep living. But what is life without freedom and equality? We black people are encouraged to keep our hands at “ten and two” when in the presence of the police so that we can live to see or bring about total justice for our brothers and sisters of color. We aren’t alive to continue to beg “Massa” to grant us our freedom and dignity. 

Colin proved once again that he can play. Professional sports are supposed to be the ultimate meritocracy – where the best talent gets the opportunity to compete every day to stay employed as athletes. He shouldn’t bear the additional burden of laying down his deeply held mission of advocating for the rights of black and brown people to get his shot. 

“A civilization is not destroyed by wicked people; it is not necessary that people be wicked but only that they be spineless.” – James Baldwin

Why “Harriet” Is Epic Story Telling

Why “Harriet” Is Epic Story Telling 737 491 Corey Leak

Last week my family and I went and saw the movie, Harriet. I LOVED it. But, I was surprised to learn how many black people felt some kind of way about the movie. I walked out of the theater convinced that black folks would almost universally love that film. The story features a black screenwriter, a black director, and black leading actors. How could anyone not like it?

After leaving the theater, I saw black folks on twitter talking about how historically inaccurate it was as well as people griping that it featured too many white saviors. But the critique I’ve heard most prevalently is the complaint about the movie presenting a black bounty hunter who helps round up runaway slaves.

I understand the criticism, and I know that there is a distrust of Hollywood when it comes to getting black stories right, but there are three tactics that Harriet used to tell this story that I believe are incredibly compelling. They are why I spent half the film with tears in my eyes, and why we all clapped when it was over.

History

Image result for harriet tubman

Harriet undertakes the monumental task of telling the story of a beloved historical figure for the black community. I consider it a win anytime I can watch a giant screen that’s featuring the images of black women doing iconic things with my daughters – especially if that story is about a historical figure like Harriet Tubman. 

The film is set in an actual place and time in American history. It doesn’t do a deep dive into the horror of slavery visually, but I like that. I felt like the focus of the movie was on the heroic actions of Harriet. We have seen plenty of movies that show the graphic horrors of slavery like 12 Years a SlaveAmistad, and even Django Unchained, to name a few. The use of slavery as a contextual background for Minty’s epic speeches and actions in the film served this particular story very well. 

Legend

Image result for harriet tubman art

Documentaries are supposed to be strictly based on verifiable historical facts, but great storytelling utilizes more than facts to get the message across. Great stories, the stories we remember and tell other people about emphatically, use legend.

The tall tales of our heroes – the epic tall tales that we repeat to each other over and over are all stories of legend. They aren’t meant to be factual. They are just meant to help us understand the character, challenges, and ultimate victories of our heroes.

Legend is also what gave a lot of people tension about this movie. The criticism I’ve seen universally of the film is that it’s historically inaccurate. People were up in arms about the use of a black bounty hunter and other characters that were made up to serve the story. I chalked those things up to legend. They could be the offspring of stories told about Harriet by people who never met her and didn’t know her, but to them, she was larger than life.

When was the last time you heard a great fishing story that used the actual weight and length of the fish the fishermen caught?

Myth

Image result for harriet tubman visions

While the use of legend will make a two-foot, seven-pound fish ten feet and seven hundred pounds, myth makes that fish a sea monster that has terrorized the sea for thousands of years. Harriet uses myth to move the story forward by overdramatizing her visions. 

It is legend that she prayed and God gave her visions of the future. It’s myth that she was alerted to danger like Peter Parker when the Green Goblin is near. Still, the use of mystical power and supernatural imagination served to give the audience an image of Harriet Tubman that centered her as the iconic hero she is.

I don’t intend to minimize anyone’s feelings or objections to the movie. As I said, I loved it. And again, the movie’s screenwriter, director, and lead actors are all black.

Criticism is fair game for any content put forth for public consumption, but I think it’s vital that black folks are less bullish on publically tearing down our own stories. 

Why I Can’t Stop Talking About Race

Why I Can’t Stop Talking About Race 849 557 Corey Leak

No one in the history of humankind was born to be a person who speaks out about race. I’ve never heard a first grader say that they want to be an activist when they grow up. People admire revolutionaries like Dr. King, Gandhi, Mother Teresa, and Malcolm X, but no one wants to BE them.

When I was in elementary school I wanted to be a doctor, and by the time I got to high school, I just wanted to grow up and be rich. As a junior in High School I knew that I was supposed to be a public servant of some sort. In my Christian tradition we would say I got the “call” to ministry. I knew I was destined to share good news with the world about the benevolent nature of Divinity, but I also didn’t want to be poor. Little did I know that some day clergy would be some of the richest people in the world. Go figure.

Even though I knew I was uniquely wired for being a religious leader, I would never have imagined that I would be in reality or perception – an activist.

I’m not sure there is a day that goes by that I don’t have at least one conversation about race or racism, and I wouldn’t say that’s an enjoyable place to be. Perhaps you’re thinking: “Why don’t you just stop talking about it?” That seems simple enough. I could choose to not bring up race at all in conversation, in my podcasts, or in my writings, and that would….

Wait… what would that do? Would it eliminate race from being a topic of discussion for me? Let’s see… If I stopped talking about race today…

I would still have people asking me about race and racism. I would still have friends, family, or otherwise cracking jokes about me being the “radical race guy.” I would still have black children who come home and share their exhaustion with being black in the suburbs. Lastly, I myself would still be a black man in America. The luxury of being insulated from race conversation is simply not afforded to me.

Talk to any activist, civil rights leader, or clergy person of color about why they are outspoken about race, and they will tell you that they have no other choice. The bell can’t be un-rung. What has been seen cannot be unseen. Racism/Injustice is a menace to society. We who recognize it as such know that it is not only an existential threat to us people of color, but it is a threat to all human beings – privileged or not.

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. – Dr King

There are lots of reasons I started and continue to talk about race and racial injustice. Here are three of them.

  • We still live on unjust soil.

If I were to sneak into your house in the middle of the night, take the only pictures you have of your parents off your walls, eat all your food, and dump all the medicine in your medicine cabinets in the toilet – leaving you sick and one of your children dead, how often would you talk about that? How often would your surviving children? How would you feel when you saw me or my children healthy and thriving out and about?

America’s most vile racist acts of injustice are not in the ancient past. People who are alive today witnessed and experienced lynchings, segregation, and state-sanctioned assassinations of Black leaders. These actions happened here on American soil, on the streets we live on, in the hallways of the schools our children attend, and at the hands of people still alive today.

  • Society screams “White Power”

I’ve talked with several black people who work in corporate America. Every one of them has told me that they are the only black person in the room over 90 percent of the time that they are in high level leadership meetings. Each of them face micro-aggressions. Each of them have felt that they had to work twice as hard due to being black. Each has been passed over for promotions by less qualified white people with lesser performance ratings.

Think about the wealthiest, most influential, and powerful people in the world. Are most of the names you’re thinking: Bob, Bill, Mike, Chris, Steve, Rich, Don, Frank…? Why is that? Do you believe that is coincidence? Is it a benign happenstance of natural selection?

I would argue it’s the result of an intentional strategy that has been successfully doing its thing for generations. And, as long as we have the construct of white power, none of us will live in a just society.

  • The source material for my faith is justice themed.

Evangelical churches don’t talk about race that often. You might be hard pressed to find an evangelical church that talks about justice. I sat in, volunteered in and worked for many an evangelical church not realizing that justice was the central theme of the Bible. I thought that when the church talked about a social issue like race, even tho I am in fact black, the church was diverting from the Bible to talk about society.

It wasn’t until I went on about a 3-year journey into the context and history of Biblical texts and narratives that I began to realize how central justice is to the ideas, poetry, stories, and principles of Biblical literature.

After realizing that the Bible has a historical context and that that context has strong political, social, and ethnic implications, I began to feel like I had Divine backing to engage in social conversations. And not only did I have backing – I had a moral obligation to use my platforms to lift up the plight of the marginalized in society.

I guess you could say I’m fulfilling my “calling” after all. It is exhausting to talk about race and racism. It is not fun. It does not often feel very rewarding, but those of us who talk about it know that if we stop, future generations will suffer for it.

I wish we lived in a world where racism wasn’t a systemic issue that plagues the primary structures of our communities. I would love to live to see a time where no one talks about it because there is no need, and I’m doing my part to get us there – one conversation at a time.

Amber, Hugs, and Forgiveness

Amber, Hugs, and Forgiveness 760 428 Corey Leak

There have been so many great perspectives shared about Amber Guyger’s trial, sentencing, and absolution. I’ve been challenged, annoyed and conflicted by some of what I’ve read, so I will be using the N-word quite a bit throughout this piece. I need to warn you about that at the outset of this blog.

I’ve written like 1000 words about this and then deleted them. I’ve struggled to find a creative flow for my thoughts, but I said I’d answer those of you who asked for my thoughts. So, here you go. If you didn’t ask, here you go as well.

My Thoughts:

I don’t believe her story entirely. I’m confused about how her trial was so quick. Her trial ended with more unanswered questions than Game of Thrones. I mean, “Where did Drogon go with Daenerys?” pales in comparison to “How did she not know she was in the wrong apartment?”

We don’t know what justice looks like. We understand vengeance, rage, and punishment, but not justice. How could we? We’ve never really witnessed it. Justice is a divine concept that we will never get right until we slow down long enough to allow ourselves to imagine a new way of being that is beyond our punitive concepts of restoring peace.

Amber Guyger deserves to be forgiven. She’s a human. What Botham’s brother did in hugging and saying he forgave her was commendable. It was his grieving process. It’s not any of our place to judge the validity of how any other human chooses to grieve.

The judge acted emotionally and inappropriately. I understand that she was caught up in the spirit of the moment and felt compelled to suspend her official role as judge and move into what she believed was the compassionate role of Christian, but that wasn’t her place.

I agree with many of my colleagues who have pointed out that white America wants to project Brandt Jean’s forgiveness onto all black people as an example of how to get over the past.

I’ve often said that gesture has become the white evangelical tool for dealing with racism because it’s easier and less messy than accepting the end result of contrition – the vacating of privilege.

Turning the other cheek is admirable, but it can never be demanded of oppressed people by their oppressors. Too often black people are asked to be the express image of Jesus by white people looking for cheap absolution.

I hope the irony is not lost on you that black people get asked to show white people what the love, compassion, and forgiveness of Jesus looks like even though every mainstream image of Jesus depicted in art or film is that of a white man.

Forgiveness is beautiful on the inside, but often hard to look at from the outside. Even the Christian idea of mercy for which a bloody cross is the symbol shows that forgiveness is painful and ugly. No wonder so many people were upset at the notion of Amber receiving mercy from Brandt.

Black people are not obligated to forgive Amber Guyger simply because two other black people hugged her in a court room. Forgiveness can’t be demanded, it has to be granted.

So, there are my raw thoughts about Amber, hugs, and forgiveness. I’m sure there are things you agree with and things you don’t I’m sure some ideas I shared seemed like I was taking “both sides.” I did warn you that I would be using nuance quite a bit.

Rest in power, Joshua Brown. Say his name.

About My New Podcast – Existential

About My New Podcast – Existential 1944 1944 Corey Leak

My new podcast (Existential) will be debuting in just a few days from now! (Tuesday 9.3.19) I hope this isn’t your first time hearing about it, but if you are…MY NEW PODCAST (EXISTENTIAL) WILL BE DEBUTING IN JUST A FEW DAYS FROM NOW!!! There, now you’ve heard about it twice. Before you listen to the podcast, I want you to know why I’m doing it and why you should listen to it.

Two years ago I was working at a large evangelical church. I would describe my job as the gatekeeper for how the church communicated its message on a macro and micro level – the former being each weekend service and the latter being who the church was and what it was about through web and social media content.

I’m not sure that’s how they would describe the job, hence one of the reasons I no longer work there. But, that’s a story for another day perhaps.

If you’ve heard the story I’m about to tell before, bear with me. I often forget who I’ve told stories to and who I haven’t.

I remember sitting in the auditorium of the church on a Saturday night and getting a text from my oldest daughter. She was 15 at the time. She texted me to see if I had heard about all the “Charlottesville” stuff people were talking about on social media.

She was relatively new to twitter, and she would pretty regularly send me funny videos from “black twitter” I initially assumed that there was a huge festival that featured some of her favorite artists performing and she wanted me to know about it. I wish it had been.

I honestly don’t remember what she said about what was happening, but I do remember that whatever it was made me get on Twitter during the sermon I was listening to in church that night. Who am I kidding, I was probably going to get on Twitter during the talk anyway.

You’ve done it too.

When I opened the twitter app, I was aghast. I’m not sure if I was more bothered by what I saw happening in Charlottesville or the fact that my 15-year-old teenage daughter had witnessed it. I don’t need to tell you what happened. You know.

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From that day on, I had this burning desire to talk about the stuff that was happening in the world around me. I wanted to say things and be part of discussions that were directly related to issues that affected people daily, especially the things that directly affected POC.

I would find myself sitting in church services and having my mind wander off to issues of gender, human sexuality, race, and the guy in the oval office. Did you catch that? My mind would “wander off” to these issues from my seat inside a church building.

I was starting to realize that I needed to find another platform to speak about the social issues that mattered to me. It seemed as if the church was focused more on heaven than it was on earth, and I couldn’t unsee what I had seen.

So I began to use my social media platforms to make statements and engage people in dialog about issues that mattered to me.  It seemed from the response that this stuff mattered to more people than just me.

After about six months of feeling this tension and dipping my toes into cultural conversations online, I found myself sitting in the head pastor’s office with the executive pastor, who was my boss. The meeting began with words I’ll never forget. “Get ready for a tough conversation.”

In that conversation, I learned that I would need to find another place to work because it wasn’t working out with me in my role. From a job performance standpoint, I was surprised, but I can’t say that I was surprised from a relational perspective. It was time. They just initiated goodbye before I dared to say it myself.

A month after the “tough conversation” I started blogging, and without the need to preserve my standing with a job at an evangelical church anymore, I started being more candid about issues of justice, faith, and culture. I’ve continued to share candidly to this day, and now the next phase of tough conversations will be in the form of a podcast.

I’m calling it Existential because the podcast will be conversations with humans about human stuff. Every issue we have within religion, politics, or race all begin with humans.

Often the reason we fail to find our way to real justice in the world is that we lose sight of others and even our selves as human. Existential aims at reminding us that we are all human.

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I’ll have conversations with you and other friends of mine about how the issues that polarize us affect us as wives, fathers, mothers, brothers, husbands, sisters, friends, neighbors, and co-workers.

Each episode will explore issues of justice, faith, and culture from the human perspective. We will condemn racism, xenophobia, homophobia, and all forms of bigotry. I’m not trying to heal the world by making all of us blind to the realities we face.

I hope that we find ourselves more willing to see the humans on the other side of the issues, agendas, or arguments we all feel so strongly about and that we can contend for a better world together – one conversation at a time.

Why Sit-Downs With Oppressors are Overrated

Why Sit-Downs With Oppressors are Overrated 660 440 Corey Leak

There continues to be a lot of talk about Jay-Z’s partnership with the NFL. People are going round and round about whether it’s a good thing or a bad thing for him to have sat down at a table with Roger Goodell and the NFL.

Some people, like myself, believe that any partnership with the NFL that is aimed at addressing social justice issues that doesn’t include Colin Kaepernick is disingenuous at worst and suspicious at best. Others believe that the partnership is a well-conceived plan by Jay-Z to do good for the black community. Only time will honestly tell.

I’ve heard people compare J to prominent civil rights leaders of the past sitting down with racist government officials to advance the cause of Civil Rights for POC – the argument being that social change isn’t possible if we aren’t willing to sit down with the powers that be to affect that change.

Similar arguments were made over a year ago when a group of black clergy, most notably John Gray, visited the white house to discuss prison reform with the President.

People then and now are asking the question – “how can we do any good for POC if we don’t have a seat at the table?”

While I agree that there are a time and a place for POC to have a seat at a white man’s table, I can’t help but wonder if the idea is overrated. If we look at the actions of history’s most prominent agents of social change, how often do we see them sitting at the table with oppressors? Was that a significant component of their strategies?

If I were to ask you to name five revolutionary leaders of social change movements who comes to mind immediately?

I won’t presume to know all five names on your list, but I feel like I can say with high confidence that MLK, Malcolm X, or Jesus were among the names that came to mind when you read the question.

Since these are people universally recognized as people who brought about monumental change, it’s only reasonable that we look at their actions/in-actions as examples of methodology that brings about systemic reformation.

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Malcolm X famously said:

“As long as you got a sit-down philosophy, you’ll have a sit-down thought pattern.” 

Try doing a google search to see if you can find images of Malcolm X sitting down at the table with white men who were resistant, reluctant, or undecided about the equal rights of black people. I can save you the time – there are none.

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Similarly, there are no images of the sit-down between Dr. King and Bull Connor because no such meeting ever occurred. And while Dr. King is known for his diplomacy, he was also sharply critical of presidents whose approach to equal rights was to slowly and sparingly dole out freedoms to black folks.

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None of the gospel writers who tell the story of Jesus’ 30 plus years on earth write about a face to face meeting he had with any Roman authorities in a strategic effort to liberate the Jews from the oppression of Rome. Luke writes that Jesus, in the face of being threatened that Herod would kill him for talking about a Kingdom of equality, called Herod “that old fox” – a far cry from trying to sit at a Roman table to bring about change.

When people tell you who they are believe them the first time – Maya Angelou 

Many of the sit-downs POC have attended have been little more than publicity stunts and photo opportunities that allow oppressors to hide in plain sight from the liability of their participation in systemic racial oppression.

The league that Roger Goodell represents is still blackballing Colin Kaepernick. Donald Trump tweets and says racist things with impunity on the regular.

If POC sit down with these men and don’t also condemn their racist words and behaviors, why should we expect to see change come of their sit-downs?

When people with a history of complicity with racism invite POC to have a discussion, isn’t it reasonable to expect some contrition from the inviter before the invitee agrees to talk?

There is a time to take a seat at the table. That time is when the people who own the table have shown through their deliberate action a sincere desire to dismantle the system that allowed them to own the table you built for them.

 

Please feel free to share your thoughts below or comment on social media.