The past few months, I have had several conversations with White Christians surrounding Black History. In these conversations, I have shared how Africa is one of the wealthiest continents in the world due to its high volume of minerals, diamonds, gold and other natural resources. I have shared some current studies of how the struggles of my ancestors are intrinsically tied to the protracted struggles of Blacks in America today. I find myself educating Whites on how the economic engine of America was founded on the backs of Black slaves (i.e. the slave plantation). I have exhibited the interconnection between Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X and shared why Malcolm X should be honored as much as Dr. King. To my amazement, several have responded by asking, “Who is Malcolm X?” or, “How was America’s rise to financial prominence built on slavery?” As a result of this, I suspect that if White Christians are going to stand in solidarity with Blacks, Whites must know Black History. In this article, I will share a few reasons as to why White Christians must be students of Black History.
Know Who You Are Fighting With
If the story of Black people in America is not known by White people, then race relations will continue to suffer due to the lack of knowledge and contextual background that is needed in order to fight for racial equality. You cannot effectively fight for and be in solidarity with a people you do not know. For instance, in the context of White Supremacy, Black people invented the Fire Extinguisher (Thomas Marshall, 1872), Electric Lamb Bulb (Lewis Latimer, 1882), and other paraphernalia that are commonly used today. Though Blacks have struggled significantly in America, they have been noted to be pioneers, inventors, intellectuals, economic experts (i.e. Black Wall Street), entrepreneurs (Madam CJ Walker), and creative beings who have made significant contributions in the world. Possibly in every discipline, Black people have been the Hidden Figures that were overlooked and underappreciated. To this end, Whites must know that Black people are strong, fierce, conquerors. Black people are not charity cases to appease White’s political correctness.
A consistent dose of Black History will provide an opportunity for Whites to have an implanted consideration for African Americans. For instance, during the Presidential campaign of Donald Trump, Mr. Trump’s slogan was, “Make America Great Again.” This slogan had rallied many Trump supporters, particularly White Christians. While this slogan may have meant one thing for Trump supporters, it raised sociological and existential questions for minorities, particularly, Blacks. Minorities were asking, “Make America great again? For whom?” Or, “When was America great for us?” With knowledge of Black History coupled with a cognitive conscious sensitivity to their Black neighbors, Whites would have raised the same questions minorities were asking as a gesture of love and solidarity.
For Whites, I suspect revisiting a dark part of their history may lead to guilt and a consciousness that they would rather be eschewed. For Whites, revisiting Black History can be equivalent to a popular cheerleader who had an embarrassing moment. One that ruined her reputation to where she is left to hope that her classmates will forget that particular moment at their future high school reunion. In short, White people must know that many Black people are not immune to the memories and feelings that White people are privileged to avert. Black people are actually living through a history of cultural molestation while trying to return to the essence of being African. If White Christians love Black people the way they say they do, then Whites must be like Jesus and walk alongside us in this social, cultural, and spiritual rehabilitating era.
In conclusion, our history is always a part of our existence. Failure to know Black History will continue to perpetuate White silence or even appease a pseudo relief that is a result of having been a part of feel good events such as unity (multi-cultural) worship services. If White churches shy away from this call to be students of Black History, then the gospel in which the White church preaches is cheap and pathetic. To White Christians, Black History is not the story of our past, it is the story that we are currently living. If the White church is going to be in the forefront of racial reconciliation, then the White church must continue to remind themselves of Black History, which is also their history. A couple of good documentaries to start with are, 13th (Netflix documentary), I Am Not Your Negro, and The Birth of Nation, to name a few. I conclude with the words of James Baldwin: “The story of the Negro in America is the story of America and it is not a pretty story.”