I’m tired of white tears.
Let me be more specific: I’m tired of white tears taking center stage of any conversation that deals with racial reconciliation. I’m tired of Black pain being put on the back burner so we can dry white tears and massage their fragile feelings.
“Conflicted” Black Pastors who don’t know how to call truth to power in these moments under some guise of being fair and balanced when in reality all they are doing is centering their ministry around whiteness? I’m tired of it.
Black Clergy who never once opened their churches or minds to #BlackLivesMatter who rush to show how much they love the police via hugs, foot washing and other over the top means? Exhausted from it.
Offering up our emotional and spiritual space for crucifixion, hoping for a resurrection of white love and respect? Exasperated with it.
What do the scriptures say about racial reconciliation?
I know some negro clergy is gonna read this and argue that we are to forgive and work to be reconciled with our brother. They are gonna drag poor Jesus into this and talk about his commandment to forgive your brother even if he falls seventy times seven. They are gonna ask what does scripture say. Well it’s funny you should bring that up. The first place the text takes us is Matthew 18:15-17;21-22 (NRSV). Jesus instructions his followers on how to reconcile with a fellow member. Here Jesus states:
If another member of the church sins against you, go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone. If the member listens to you, you have regained that one. 16 But if you are not listened to, take one or two others along with you, so that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 17 If the member refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if the offender refuses to listen even to the church, let such a one be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector… 21 Then Peter came and said to him, “Lord, if another member of the church[g] sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?” 22 Jesus said to him, “Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times. (NRSV)
But haven’t we done all of that?
Did Jesus really describe Black America’s relationship with White America and its accompanying institutions? Haven’t we done all of this, plus some stuff Jesus ain’t think of? Doesn’t this affirm that we don’t have to spend our time and energy drying white tears?
Do we really need more witnesses to prove that we are being slaughtered, both internally and externally, because of white supremacy? How many times do we have to stand before the church, the courts, the country and state that Black Lives Matter only to be met with a qualifier? If there was ever a people that tried to live out Matthew 18, it has been Black folk. Yet somehow, only white tears have been dried.
We’ve historically placed white discomfort above Black pain.
If I can put on my Black Studies hat for a second, I think we as a people seem to have always struggled with how to be authentic because it makes white folks feel some type of way. We want to be “free” and at the same time not hurt their feelings. Throughout our time in the diaspora, mostly everything we’ve done has been to elicit some type of white response to our plight in hopes of earning some measure of grace, mercy, or equality. Just look at the early attempts at respectability politics advanced by Black leaders after emancipation through the early part of the twentieth century. White comfort was paramount even in our decisions of civil disobedience, like the choice to utilize Rosa Parks over Claudette Colvin during the civil rights movements.
And we have no signs of stopping.
Despite evidence to the contrary, we continue to court white approval. From countless posts on social media about good cops being the norm as some counter narrative to Black Lives Matter to the policies of HBCUs as it relates to what students can say, wear, or do. Oh come now, you know those policies that continue to this day like Hampton’s ban on natural hair and locs. There is no greater struggle of Black Authenticity than in the face of White Gaze. It seems that our authentic suffering makes us feel uncomfortable because it makes white folks really uncomfortable. Hell, if we want to take it there, we can talk about how vocal Black churches have been in their political homophobia but not about the Black lives that fill their collection plates each Sunday because these churches don’t want to lose face in front of their white evangelical counterparts.
This is why in times of tragedy for Black people, all Josh and Becky has to do is start crying and we suddenly forget we have issues and commence to drying eyes and giving out hugs. We watched it play out with the subversion of the deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile by the Dallas Shootings. Even in our own pain, we began to worry more about the pain of mournful Whites than our own. I submit this is a form of spiritual abuse and manipulation and it has got to stop.
But what if we chose to change the path?
Imagine, if you will, had Black folks acknowledged the pain present in Dallas but refused to change the conversation. Imagine if these reconciliation Pastors would offer workshops on how white folk should engage Black people but not the other way around. Imagine if Black clergy held symposiums on how the police should engage the community not the other way around. What if these leaders simply embraced the idea of liberation as opposed to weakly trying appease white discomfort?
What a wonderful world it would be.
Jesus was clear about who he wanted to reconcile with.
It was evident in his life and ministry. Jesus did not operate in the middle. Jesus was not drying Roman and Jewish Elite tears. Jesus was not trying to make the ruling class feel good. Jesus was not interested in the other side of the story with the woman who was about to be stoned. He was clear with whom he stood. Perhaps it’s time we demand the same thing of our clergy. You can’t help folks draw closer to Christ all while you’re drying the tears of your oppressor who’s mad they have to let go of their privilege.
Years ago, I was told by Ms. Murray, a Black studies mentor, to never sacrifice Black truths for white lies. I have never forgotten this lesson. Every time we allow ourselves to be manipulated by the white lies that follow white tears, we surrender our truth. We lose our story. This hinders our healing and progress and it must stop.
We can no longer afford to allow white tears to silence Black Pain.
In Love and Liberation,
Terrance L Thomas
Terrance is a Father, Chaplain, Minister, Liberation Theologian and Lover of whiskey. Follow him on Twitter @MrBlack1914