by Ms. Obakeng Kgongoane Profiles in Catholicism
In a society where systemic injustices fall against Black individuals, it is not only valid but essential that we talk about and try to understand God from our positions of what feels like hell. With the rise, spread and mainstreaming of the Black Lives Matter movement, attention has been brought to the fact that the lives of Black people are not so important to those who are important – even to God who seems to turn a blind eye to the Black and dying. Daily, more and more black bodies are exposed as the target of white supremacist violence through structures such as policing, court systems, policies and, the grimmest reaper: white privilege. More and more, as things seemingly go unchanged, like Job, we may find ourselves crying out to God in anger: “In the city the dying groan, and the souls of the wounded cry out. Yet God does not treat it as disgrace!” (Job 24:12).
The painful reality begins to sink in. It has been over three hundred years of living in a world where there have been pro-white systems, anti-black violence, and injustices. Injustice and oppression have become a chronic part of the Black experience not only in America, but across the world. These racist global happenings, sometimes too great for our understanding, have either pushed us to silence, or have us asking the same question as theologian William R. Jones, Is God a White Racist?
Please do not think that I am unaware of what some people might think about where this is going. I am not victimizing Black people, neither do I assert that all Black people have the same experience of victimization even though we might share that same history. I further do not wish to incite what I believe are prejudicial attitudes that respond to the issues raised by Black communities as another litany on their long list of complaints, as people who are comfortable in their laziness and self-victimization, and as people too dependent on racist apartheid narratives and welfare governments to take responsibility for their own lives. Black people also do not all look to the sky to blame a Higher Power, or even witchcraft, to evade taking ownership where due for their consequences, or the direction for their lives.
Firstly, such responses to human affliction are not just being committed by impoverished Black people; they are therefore not a ‘black’ problem. Furthermore, these attitudes toward Black people are anti-black. They are anti-black because the effect is to silence black voices until what is said makes sense to ‘white’ reasoning; and the result is the continuation of social inequalities. Such attitudes have more to do with maintaining the order of white privilege, and to alleviate white feelings of guilt, than they have to do with fairly questioning the capacity, and level of independence black individuals can have in a white supremacist world.
Such sentiments do not consider that the democracy and constitution we enjoy in countries like South Africa today are the fruits of Blacks’ ability to mobilize, strategize, and fight for Black independence. Black people, without the power, resources, comforts, and access given to white people (even our allies), took responsibility for their nation, for their people and for their freedom to the point of death. Black power and action, not their supposed ‘perpetual’ self-victimization, ushered the way for an equitable society. When considering this, the statement made to the world should not be that Black Lives Matter, but that Black lives are valuable – they have always been.
Borrowing from the wisdom espoused by Black theology, I look to God’s incarnate body. When “the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (John 1:14), God, in His Wisdom, took on the form of humanity. More powerfully, God did not choose to confine His power to the body of a European white man. Jesus was not white although many popular depictions and ideologies paint Him thus. God instead took on the body of a Palestinian Jew, the son of a humble Jewish teenage girl, adopted by a merciful, and modest Jewish carpenter.
Yes, what is important for us to take away is that God oppressed Himself into a human body, but it is remarkable that the God who holds all Knowledge (Isaiah 40:13-14), who has a plan for the present and the future; a plan that reveals His foreknowledge and perfect judgment (Judith 9:5-6); a God who can make no mistakes, did not just choose anybody. God precisely and perfectly chose a Black body to offer salvation to the world. And, it is in Christ that we find our being (Acts 17:18); it is through His Black body that we are given eternal life.
God-on-earth, in many ways, aligned Himself with oppression and injustice – those same experiences we still face as Black people. But God experienced all those things on earth to powerfully turn it on its head. God came to give us insight into the end. God, in Christ’s Black body, came to give the world a chance at liberation by dying on the cross. And in this era, and in this part of history, it is our black bodies; our pain and death that are being used by God in His final plan for freedom.
BLM’s fight for equality, justice and liberty seems to give direction to an aimless world; purpose to a hopeless world that glorifies randomness and coincidence; a necessary hope for the future. And because of that, every black body impacted by racism – dead or alive – is a valuable part of the direction of the fulfillment of God’s plan. Our Black lives do matter to God. God is not a white racist who has forgotten us; He has not forsaken us. Instead, God emptied Himself to become one of us.