James Baldwin and the Problems with Respectability Politics

“I may or may not be bitter, but if I were, I’d have good reasons for it.” – James Baldwin

I Am Not Your Negro brought up a lot of feelings that I’ve been contemplating for a while. Feelings that initially left me guilt-ridden when I experienced them because “loving my enemies” has been ingrained in me since childhood. Feelings that motivated me to remove myself from the westernized Christian church because I no longer wanted to be associated with the doctrine that was (and is) used to oppress my people. I often think about how, in the words of Stokely Carmichael, “the missionaries came for our goods, not for our good” when they arrived in West Africa hundreds of years ago.

The organized church hasn’t done a whole lot for me for some time now. In my experience, black churches often take their cues from white churches, and as Baldwin mentioned in the film, “ I cannot afford to trust white churches. You want me to make an act of faith on some idealism that you’re sure exists in America that I have never seen.”

At this point, someone proclaiming their Christianity leads me to raise an eyebrow more than anything else. It’s sad, really. The majority of my Facebook friends who support Trump and his racist, xenophobic and sexist policies are former classmates from when I attended Christian school.

They’re also the ones that post “All Lives Matter” when our black brothers and sisters are slain in the streets and their lifeless bodies are paraded through every major media outlet. They use biblical scriptures to justify their views and refer to our country’s “founding fathers” (quite literally for black folks in the cases of Presidents Washington, Jefferson and Jackson) as men of God. They then proceed to post photos of white Jesus. I’m sick of white Jesus. And I’m even more nauseated when the photo is posted by a person of color.

These feelings have been boiling up inside of me.

“The tragedy is the people that say they care about it, do not care. They care about their safety and their profits.” – James Baldwin

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Source: Blavity | Maria Ivy