Racial Reconciliation is for the ENTIRE body of Christ so I’m Redefining What It Means

12 08 2015

I’m in a place of psychological shift. The way I think is being altered, and I’m happy for it. I hope that as I get older, I get wiser and I learn how to constructively question things I have believed in order to enter into new and truer forms of belief. I don’t want to believe blindly, but I want to build belief based on how I build and live my life.

For me, I believe in racial reconciliation in the church. It is something that entered my mind ten years ago and has never left. It is something that has entered my mission six years ago and has revealed itself as a true demonstration of church.

But I may be a rare being. I am a black woman highly aware of racial, gender, sexual and class dynamics. I spent a portion of my childhood, teens and early twenties in black churches (which I am sure holds its own degrees and rankings of how “black church” I am). But that has been my experience. Have I always fit into said black churches? I would argue that I never have. As a Nigerian, it is hard not to remain an outlier or to become the link back to Africa so many are desperate for they don’t realize they’re limiting what my connection with them could be because of it. So I have always been either outsider or a means to the inside, back to Africa. Neither way have I been particularly useful to or connected to the history of the black church in the United States.

But my story took an odd turn in my mid-twenties. I joined a white church in hopes to be part of the nearly impossible mission of the church to be reconciled to one another. And the area I am most interested in doing so is through race and ethnicity.

Ephesians 2:12-16 is a key text in reconciling work, but many miss its great power. It demonstrates the power of God to bend time – many overlook this and skip to Jew-Gentile relations (we’ll leave that conversation for another post). This movement is too quick if it overlooks what time is doing and meaning for the church.

Eph. 2 talks about the reconciling work that Christ has already done that we are living into in the present – though it has already been done. We are currently trying to live into the past and future in the present. We are thus trying to figure out how to live into the reality Christ has already set before us – we are trying to make what has been will be. Reconciliation is about transcending time, moving beyond the past while requiring it, living into the future all the while not knowing it that well. We need a more complex understanding of racial reconciliation – at the bare minimum to honor how time is working in our conceptualizing of it. But we stick with our simple strategies of what some (mainly white) people have guessed it should be. The emphasis on what time means to reconciliation should place our attention of what the “we” means as well.

We (majority and minority churches alike) often fail to understand how we’ve constrained racial reconciliation to moments of white solution-creating if we think (or buy into the notion, yes, even through rejecting it, that) racial reconciliation means minorities entering into white church spaces. It seems a bit offensive to reduce Christ’s redemptive work to the project of white churches assuaging its guilt of having no intention of not remaining white churches.

So this brings me to my question: If racial reconciliation is not neo-missions or neo-colonial in it being created by, conducted within and made for white churches, what is it? If all churches minority and majority became involved in constructing the articulation of its being (as it constitutes what being church even means), can racial reconciliation look different than what white churches have believed it to be which has forced many minority churches to avoid it? What if racial reconciliation is not based on a relationality of “white to everyone” else, but of “everyone else to everyone else” (Gentile to Gentile)?

Shouldn’t racial reconciliation then be steeped in the social, religious and political? If we follow a religious Lord whose purpose was to exist in a political world and overcome it and a social Lord whose purpose was to exist in a religious world and overcome it and a political Lord whose purpose was to exist in a social world and overcome it – how should we be?

Redefining Racial Reconciliation

Shouldn’t racial reconciliation, in its true form, in its only form declare, “Black Lives Matter”? Shouldn’t racial reconciliation in churches make living wage and economic equality its top agenda? Shouldn’t racial reconciliation in churches have at its forefront the issues of its women – as we are all one body? Shouldn’t racial reconciliation in churches take into account that political, social life and religious institutions can create balance or imbalance between races and ethnicities (in its denominationalism, polities, and practices) – and move to dismantle the oppressive mechanics of this? Racial reconciliation in church should influence voting, social causes, our relationship to wealth and security. Shouldn’t it challenge all of us to our cores? Shouldn’t it be a means of discipleship?

I am advocating that the notion of racial reconciliation be stripped from white churches as their project and be claimed by all churches as church mission and make up. Racial reconciliation should look more like the Civil Rights Movement (which the earliest black advocates and creators of the focus of Racial Reconciliation in churches were pushing for) rather than “Unity Day” at church. Racial reconciliation in church is precisely that force of good that lives primarily outside of liturgy and spills into the street, into the education system, into court rooms, into businesses and political offices. It engages any and everything that affects race – and friends, everything affects race. Thus, I want to submit my own definition of racial reconciliation.

Racial reconciliation is a movement of justice, love and community generated within but not limited to the Christian church seeking to really live into the redemptive work of Christ on social, political, economic, gendered, sexual and ethnic and racial levels (as racial includes notions of marginality). It aims to live into the new creation on earth that the work of Christ has already established, by attending to these areas that need catching up, in tangible ways towards equal and loving relationship with each other. Some could designate it as movement towards the reality of living into the Kingdom of God. In its most basic form, it is the work of beholding others in awe and majesty as the Lord does us.

Thus, to be clear: all churches should be engaging in racial reconciliation or reconciliation in general as it is discipleship. This means that some already are; but they are not the church bodies who claim it in their words. They claim it in their living. May white churches let go of their desire to have the power to name and may the entire body of Christ open its eyes to the parts of its body who have spent their lives learning how to master the art of life abundantly.

If we all don’t have a hand in what racial reconciliation means in the church, we are not the church.

From Sandra to Nicki

28 07 2015

Given the racially charged climate in the United States today, something as small as black women’s words can aggravate ego and catalyze death. What is occurring when a black woman uses her words on behalf of herself?

When a black woman speaks, believe her. Inquire what lives in her words. Something is there behind them. A work is happening. Revelation is occurring: the question becomes whether we are interested in revelation outside of ourselves.

Here’s a piece I wrote for Marginalia on why black women’s words matter in every context, including within popular music and at traffic stops.

Thanks in advance for the support and constructive engagement!

How “12 Years a Slave” Demonstrates True Life: Thoughts on this Conceptually Rich Film

20 12 2013

I am still in process of reading the book to compare points of accuracy versus artistic expression, but I want to offer a few unpolished thoughts about the spirit behind Steve McQueen’s “12 Years a Slave.”


In my mind “12 Years a Slave” is about three things:

1)     The tension and myth of white male protection and permission,

2)     The tension and myth of black male protection over the black female; and  

3)     The necessity of the black church.

And of course mixed messily in between all this is the invisibly visible black female voice.



I truly believe that if “Django” incited rage and righteous anger, revenge (fantasy) even, then “12 Years a Slave” incites despair – long, putrid, pungent, soul-shattering despair.


The narrative is beyond sad. It melancholic. The scenes are hard to watch. They do in fact breed anger, but this anger we can do nothing with. In “Django” we can celebrate that anger wins out and that (some of) the white people who caused heartache are destroyed. But in “12 Years a Slave” victory cannot be celebrated, because one man’s triumph reminds the viewer that freedom of one does not free all. It reminds the reader that freedom is an exception to the rule, and further that freedom must be handed to you. “Django” like “12 Years a Slave” still relies on white help in order for freedom to be a reality for (certain) black people. And freedom is a rare thing for many who were born into and died a slave. Freedom is elusive, a taunting myth. Solomon Northrup ultimately receives it, but in this reception, he becomes the “exceptional Negro.”


The Tension and Myth of White Male Protection and Permission

In this wonderful dialogue (from 22:55 onwards) Melissa Harris-Perry argues that at the end of “12 Years a Slave” the only semblance of justice that Solomon Northup has belongs to the American court system. He still has to seek his voice within the framework of American democracy (but unfortunately his case is not heard and no “justice” comes to the men who have wronged him). He has to work within a legal framework that admittedly chooses not to work for, read protect, him. He still must work through, within and against a system built for and by white men.


Even Northrup’s misperception (which, in the same dialogue, bell hooks calls a “naïve” one) is that his good master will protect him from the bad overseers. He thinks the good white men, or the ones who treat him as decent as one can treat a slave, the ones who think of black bodies naturally functioning as property (and thus they must keep their property in good shape), will protect him from the ones whose hate is not so subtle.


He thinks that the master who tried to buy him, and Eliza and her children, is good – for at least he tried and when Solomon was lynched for days at a time on this master’s plantation, he heroically comes in on a horse to cut him down.


Northrup thinks the hired hand who treated his whipping wounds and struck up a conversation with him would actually deliver a letter on his behalf because he gave him his word (in exchange for his money). He thought he was a good one.


He even thinks that the men (including the judge – which is an interesting concept to imagine, the judge liberating him/Christ as judge) who come and rescue him at the end are good. But What Northrup fails to realize that his freedom must first pass through white flesh, white help, white permission, white protection. Through another hired hand (from Canada, not America, who happens to be played by Brad Pitt whose own family aesthetics are interesting in itself) Northrup is granted his freedom. He obtains the right white permission to exist as a man, as a free black person.  


His freedom only is because (certain) white men allow it.


Given this reality, his freedom is a myth, a choice for the white men in his society to grant or not. Northrup as a black man has no control over his life. And he also learns while in slavery, that unlike his perceived situation at home, that he has no ability to offer any protection to the black woman as well.


The Tension and Myth of Black Male Protection

Black female autonomy seems nearly non-existent in this film. Outside of Northrup’s wife, black women are portrayed as slaves who never escape. So where does autonomy rest for the black women? In their choice to be, to exist, to (choose to) live in their own way, not solely as chattel, not solely as slaves.


The opening scene where Northrup is fingering a fellow female slave is disturbing. But even in its disruption (of how the viewer is used to a film opening), we know something important is happening. What it is, we are not sure, but I hope to offer my best reading and frankly, guess, of what is happening in it.


The woman Northrup engages in this sexual manner craves sexual contact. And by his participation, it seems that he craves the same (and to be clear, there is a distinction between participation and refusal language that is important. Another classmate read that moment as him being sexually used, and if a black woman were in his position, it could be read as sexual assault. So I think it important to think of his role as a participating one rather than one that was not resistant). Northrup gives this unnamed young slave sexual contact that she initiates, that they both want, and then she turns around and cries when she/he/they is/are done.


Perhaps she is disturbed by their (necessary) sexual interaction. He is disturbed as well. No words are exchanged. They don’t need to be. They are in the frightening throws of slavery. Her crying signals this in a few ways. But her crying is also a disruption, a disturbing revelation of what her life will not be. The actuality that she is slave by her body alone is concretized. Her crying is disturbing because it contains words, her tears are her words. They speak to the reality that her body is something that is owned now – and perhaps this silent sexual moment was the last moment where her sexual choice was her own – and it was with a complete stranger. And she weeps as this is a sad reality.


Black women’s tears litter “12 Years a Slave.”


Northrup’s first encounter with a mourning black woman is in their holding cell (prison: the modern day slave ship?). He experiences Eliza, a young mother who is separated from her children and sold into slavery with him. Separated from her children, she enters into a perpetual state of grief, sadness and longing, mourning that Northrup can only identify with so much.


Although suffering through his own grief of not being with his family, Northrup screams at Eliza to pull it together. He has an angry exchange with her about hiding grief as a survival tool. But black women teach Northrup a lesson about life and living: it is not about survival. It is Eliza and later Patsy, who remind and show Northrup that how they are “living” as slaves, is the epitome of despair, that to live, one has to feel, one has to own their interiority, which for them was spelt out in grief. These women are not afraid to admit where they are. They are in deep despair. They see the maltreatment of themselves, or the lack of treating them as human beings, as the definition of despair. They remind Solomon that if he can’t tap into that, he is not living, but surviving – merely existing. They give him an ontological lesson in being a black human being, for be a black human being in slavery is to acknowledge what their human condition is. It is one of despair. To be a black human being who is forced to be a slave requires feeling human emotion. They in a sense, remind him to be human and not livestock. They have to remind him that to be human requires being and not simply doing. They show him that slaves survive but wronged black people, despair for despair keeps them human in a system that aims to dehumanize them. They ask him to choose the lesser of two evils: to live as a black person in despair rather than function quietly and obediently as a slave. For to enter into ontological slave territory is to believe the myth that one can be re-shaped, re-formed, re-named, by this new Adam, who of course named everything but humans. To be a black person was to sit in the throws of despair and as humans, feel it intensely. Eliza and Patsy remind Northrup to live and do so in the present. And his present was a despairing one (which brings up some connections to JanMohamed’s The Death Bound Subject)


This lesson of “life” or “death” is also concretized in the initial ship scene with Solomon and the two other slave men, one advocating for rebellion, mutiny and freedom, the other for putting your head down and succumbing to the reality that they are slaves (but only in order to survive). The former dies in an act of resistance, of protecting a black woman from white sexual contact. He refutes and he dies. This scene alone is the microcosm of the lesson of life. The cautious and survival-advocating slave lives. He is freed as his master finds him and takes him back. He biologically continues life but as a full-fledged slave. His social life is death even though his physical life still keeps him. The former dies and as they are throwing him over board the cautious slave says that it is better that way. This man’s refusal for himself and others to be treated as a slave allowed him to die and thus live. He was no longer bound by the social structures that rendered him inhuman. His death became a choice to live whereas the slave who lives lives only as chattel, lives as object, as inhuman. He knows not real life.


Near the end of the film, Solomon has about 5 second scene where he stares straight into the camera in deep hurt and pain. It is in this moment that I believe he is allowing himself to enter into despair and thus feel human in his context. He embraces the tension that Eliza and Patsy taught him – rest in moments of despair. Don’t leave them too quickly, for they teach you what life feels like, even if it is one of pain. Nevertheless, he wrestles with what they teach him about black life, and struggles about what they teach him about his black male power.


Northrup learns the painful reality that unlike his wife, he cannot protect these black women he encounters. As Eliza’s grief consumes her and ultimately gets her in trouble, she is removed from the plantation not to be seen again. And in the mixture of her grief and his deep powerlessness, Solomon cannot protect her. She is dragged away to an unknown fate – after weeping, after despairing too much – during the weekly church service. As she approaches her unknown fate, Eliza screams Solomon’s name, but he is powerless to do anything lest he risk losing his life.


Northrup unfortunately cannot offer much to another young female slave at his next plantation. Patsy is at the mercy of her white master and his jealous wife. But she seeks solace through Northrup, even in a dark form. When she offers him a deal: a gift in exchange for her request for him to murder her, Northrup obstinately refuses. He thinks her proposition a disgusting one as he is transfixed on surviving so that he might one day be free. But what he fails to recognize is that survival takes on a masculine form in this film. The tension is between survival (discussed on the ship by black males) and despair (learned in slavery through black female words, weeping and singing). But survival participates in the work of enslaving and dehumanizing him.  


Northrup easily enters into survival mode (at each plantation seemingly getting dumber) because he has something to survive for. He has a future that he built in the past waiting on him – he has his family. Patsy only knows plantation life, thus her future is sutured to continuous physical and verbal abuse, rape, and mental denigration. Patsy has nothing to survive for. She has nothing to live for. She does not have free papers (not necessarily freedom) like Solomon has. All she has the plantation and “life” as a slave. To her, freedom is death. Solomon fails to see this connection.


When Patsy goes into town to get soap to clean her body and her master flies into a jealous rage, Northrup is made to whip Patsy. Instead of taking the punishment on his own flesh, he allows the white sadomasochistic master and wife duo to watch her physical suffering being inflicted on her black flesh. Patsy even yells “I’d rather you do it Platt.” She would rather be beat by a black man, than by her white sexually abusive master. This is the black female’s plight – she’d rathr be hurt by her own than by the other.


Unfortunately, after Platt gives a few lesser whippings, he is forced to inflict harsher ones. But he stops. And it is his stopping the whipping, that opens to door for greater torment. When he stops the white master comes in and whips her anyway (while the white mistress watches). In this moment, Patsy, the black woman, demonstrates the ongoing, deep plight of the black woman – she is victim of the black male, the white male and the white female (the onlooker). Unfortunately in that moment, we see the slave who is worst off. Solomon cannot protect her; no, he can only contribute to her plight. He can only make her plight worse.


Even in the house, Patsy is non-protectable flesh (shout out to feminism!). She’s constantly physically abused by the white mistress, but Solomon can do is stop doing (playing the fiddle) and stand by watching open-mouthed. When she is whipped after his initial attempts, he stands by unable to help, outside of cursing judgment upon the master. When he is freed, he cannot do anything but embrace her and then embrace his own freedom. Every man for himself. Every male for himself. Every male, quick, back to survival mode!


Northrup’s character is complex. He enters into ebbs and flows of despair and survival, ultimately seeing (or perhaps failing to see) that despair does greater “survival” work in the end. He allows himself to feel, he allows himself to bury feeling and thus being and solely function as a doing. Then he allows himself to feel and be again. But ultimately gains his freedom and switches back to survival mode. He cannot free Patsy. There is no point in trying. Although Eliza and Patsy teach him how to keep his humanity, how to feel, how to live in despair and feel one’s own cries, as well as the cries of others – the original notion of survival wins. He has to escape. He neglects the new form survival takes in despair where the community becomes important to him, where other slaves, functioning as best as they can as black people should matter.


Ultimately we see Northrup’s inability to hold on to despair, to being human, even in his freedom. He imitates a certain type of maleness in solely seeing about himself (which he cannot be blamed for). The reality is survival can only take one form for him; his approximating a white man, through his freedom does not leave space for notions like despair, and thus holding the pain of the entire community, for that would make him responsible for the Patsy’s and the Eliza’s – and he has no capacity or power to hold them, and thus free them. He has no capacity to survive on a deeper level than what he had known earlier.


Northrup can do nothing for these women, and it is obviously a place of torture for him. At the end of the movie, when Northrup is reunited with his family, he does something curious, he tries to embrace this notion of despair he was taught to unapologetically live in: he apologizes to his wife. In this moment it can be inferred that Northrup is not apologizing for not being home for 12 years, he is not apologizing for his absence to his family, but he is apologizing for being an absent presence and proactive protective force to black women. He is apologizing to all of the black women he encountered in slavery that he could not protect. He apologizes for not knowing how and not being able to ultimately embrace despair into a new reality of black being (together). He apologizes for not being able to feel himself, feel the community, and thus free the community. He apologizes that he can ultimately, only, and somewhat protect himself (through white help).


The Necessity of the Black Church  


*I confess, this section is rushed and needs deeper thought so there may be further edits!*


For me, “12 Years a Slave” proves the necessity of the black church. It is not only a space of survival, but it a place of being human. Like Patsy and Eliza encouraged Northrup to do, it was a place for black slaves to feel and be human. They had space for their emotion, for their interiority, for interior and psychic life. Worship gathering gave them space to make noise together, to feel in that noise, and to, in swift and religious moments, affirm each other’s humanity.


Their gathering had something to do with belief in God, but it more to do with black people having a space to communally function and to rename each other (through weeping, through song – the language of black women in this film) as God’s human creation.


Music is quite important in “12 Years a Slave.” All the songs sung in the fields and the songs sung in black worship gathering (funerals) are started from the throats of black women, for they get it. They understand that tears and song are their voice. And they share this, quite generously, with men.


Solomon has a conversion moment into an ebb of despair at the death of a fellow slave. Song is struck up. Emotions are felt. And Solomon is captured by it, raptured even. He sings with vigor. He closes his eyes. He lets the words matter to him. He lets the event and process of singing sorrow minister to him.


This is why the black church is important. It is a place of mattering and ministry. Its humanizing ministry must not be obliterated in the name of reconciliation. It must be allowed to be a leader to all churches, white churches especially. White people must see that this black church is the real church, for in this space, perhaps they too can learn what it means to be, and to be, what Dr. Jennings invokes in the mere existence of a black church, a miracle.  


It is true for the slaves: Jesus really is the way, truth and the life. But what “12 Years a Slave” does is show us the complexity of what this “life” even means. It muddies it and challenges every single Christian to dare to use Christian-ese or general language and concepts in its presence. It dares Christianity to be something else other than a religion of despair, of feeling, of truth.  

Jesus Did Miracles, Why Can’t Dr. Miracle?

13 09 2010

The Commercials

Take a look at this commercial: http://www.youtube.com/user/drmiracles#p/a/u/1/-AyHvYWpINM

Now this one: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d7V4G_87iOE

And now this one: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1oblcI5uqck

What do you see?

The Message

In twenty seconds or less, each of these advertisements narrate something profoundly common and yet distinctly disturbing: kinkiness, nappyness, unkemptness in black hair is unacceptable. In twenty-seconds or less, a frightening pattern of a white aesthetic is pitched and fed to a black woman by, get this, a black man, or rather a black-man-arm. A black arm (and deep voice) miraculous emerges from a mirror (or from behind a plant) with the solution, the miraculous product that will perform the magic of straightening out her hair which in turn will straighten out her life. It is a miracle that will eliminate the hair problem and pronounce beauty on the former victim now turned victor. What’s worse is that this white aesthetic is additionally affirmed by black men and black women alike. Both parties agree that the black woman’s hair needs to be and look a certain way for it to be acceptable and beautiful; and both agree that this product from Dr. Miracle will get this poor, lost woman to her aesthetic destination.

What these commercials don’t narrate is the well-known and unknown message being sold: straight hair is a miracle and Dr. Miracle the said miracle-worker. Dr. Miracle’s products pronounce a continuation and perpetuation of performance by black women, egged on by this mysterious man; this is the aesthetic norm that many black women are captive to, a norm that relegates her hair, her look, her natural aesthetic encouraging her to buy into a different aesthetic.

Even if this is the first time you’re seeing these commercials, I can tell you where to find a steady stream of them. If you’ve ever watched the Black Entertainment Television (BET) network long enough, it’s inevitable that you’ll run into one of these Dr. Miracle Hair and Skin Care commercials. Curious about the origin behind this product I went to the website and could not find a picture or any information about the founder, president or CEO…nothing.

I had to do some Google-digging and came across some interesting stuff. According to the New York Times, Dr. Miracle was founded by Brian K. Marks; this is what he looks like.

He’s white.

The Structure of Mediation

This complicates the aesthetic picture just a bit, or perhaps allows the Dr. Miracle narrative to fit into the natural mold of the white-male mediated beauty aesthetic. Beauty is mediated by the figure behind the product. The Caucasian male determines what beauty is through shaping the aesthetics of Caucasian women and deeming that the norm. This norm is inherited by the African-American male. He may prefer lighter skin, smaller hips, longer and straighter hair on his female companion. What choice does the African-American woman have but to cater, to adjust, to deviate from her norm in a rash attempt to look pleasant, beautiful, a bit more white?

Without hesitation, even with a sense of severe urgency, she takes the product from the black arm and black voice with no face. In that exchange is a contract co-signing her ugliness. In that exchange she confirms that her body is an emergency that needs some serious help. She accepts the solution from a faceless figure seeming to have all the answers. What she does not account for is the body of the arm. The arm and voice may be black, but the body of this “Doctor” is a white male’s body. And this body purports this extension of white aesthetic. What she doesn’t see is that her being is a market; she ingests the message that there is plenty on and about her body that “needs” to be fixed, changed, shaped, re-sculpted. What she doesn’t realize is that her “look” is being handed down to her from a Caucasian puppeteer (perhaps a subtle re-emergence of black face) capitalizing off of her insecurity and pressure to appear beautifully white.

The “doctor” character on the product packaging is a black man signaling this hierarchical mediation from white male to black male and ultimately down to the black female. The product  packaging is only a means to ensure safe delivery. Certain concepts of normalcy infiltrate the black female consciousness about her own body using her own kind.

Strangely enough her insecurities are solidified by other black women who have also conformed to the same norms and now deem her as ugly if her hair is not relaxed or straightened like their hair is. They have both bought into the product that advertises against their natural look and advocates another look. The solidarity is somewhat awkward and misplaced, with traces of self-rejection, self-importance, competition and unity under a contradictory cause. The black women in these commercials do not affirm beauty outside of straightened hair, but the solidarity rests in the assimilation to straight hair. They both fall into a space of beauty that only whiteness can truly inhabit so they powder it on their face, and rub it in their hair in a desperate attempt to be as white as possible until the next time they need it. They fight off everything black about them until they need the product one more time. They change what they can. In solidarity tied to rejection, labeling as ugly (or reverting to their natural hair texture), and desiring to be sexually acceptable to the black male, these black women nervously (and even confidently) adopt self-hate and subtly spew it on one another.  

The black woman is introduced into the aesthetic that a Caucasian man has set, pressured to look unlike her natural self and perform into a white female aesthetic endorsed by the black male, and peer-pressured into maintenance of this aesthetic from similarly conforming black females.  

It’s a tough job, but somebody’s gotta do it.

Oh yeah, Jesus

This entire Dr. Miracle campaign is showing us that we’ve moved dangerously far away from what Jesus wanted us to value. The black woman falls into their downward spiral where she doesn’t know that she’s accepting a message that her transformation into a white aesthetic is a miracle that only a white man disguised as, then through a black man can work. She falls into a religious trap that prompts her to worship in order to receive her miracle. Thus the white man becomes her miracle worker, a savior of sorts, a god.

Jesus wouldn’t approve of this savior guy. As Dr. Amy Laura Hall would say, “that job’s been taken.”

I’m no expert, but I don’t recall Jesus performing any miracles on hair, or nails, or make-up. He never invited a prostitute to the table to eat and fellowship with Him in order to extend an ambiguous hand to her and in His best Barry White voice, explain how this product will work wonders on her hair.

Jesus certainly performed bodily miracles like healing (my favorite parable is in John 9), but the purpose extended a bit deeper than looking or even feeling good. He gave people back their lives and introduced them to a new life centered on believing in Him. He never wanted the focus to be the miracle itself, but the provider of the miracle. He wanted the people He encountered and loved to focus on Him.

He did not advocate focusing on one’s “problems” or “shortcomings” in order to fix them for three weeks at a time or one $800 sew-in at a time. Jesus never miracled a relaxer or a hair weave.

Jesus advocated love outside of the normal understanding of aesthetic. He lived a new aesthetic where things like love and charity, mercy and grace were the trends people were in awe about and in need of. He painted pictures that had no picture except through human action and genuineness.

Dr. Miracle does miracles, and Jesus does miracles. I guess the difference between them is that Jesus jumped over the hoops instead of jumping through them (or perhaps Jesus destroyed the hoops that have been re-constructed by the greedy platform of the black hair market). Plus He didn’t have money to gain. Plus He loved us so much, black women and white women, black men and white men alike that He only cared what our souls looked like and not our hair.

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