When Our Truths Are Ignored: Proslavery Theology’s Legacy

Dream of Destiny encourages the intentional fostering of ethnic diversity by Christian leaders both in our churches and other organizations as well as in our own personal lives.  For leaders to truly be successful in this regard – going beyond surface acquaintances and into real, deep relationship – we must be willing to have hard conversations.

Today’s post is introduced by Rob Daniels, Executive Pastor of Westbrook Christian Church a growing, vibrant multi-ethnic church in Bolingbrook, Illinois. Below, Rob shares his first-hand experience with a subject that unfortunately has its roots in our nation’s history.

Having recently joined the staff of a dynamic new church plant, I was eager to dive into my new responsibilities. One of which, was weekly attendance to our all staff team meeting.  Since we had no facility yet, we met offsite at a local restaurant. After arriving a bit behind schedule I pulled into a parking space next to a woman seated alone, already in her car. As I glanced in her direction and she glanced in mine, the woman proceeded to reach across the empty passenger seat and  slam her hand down on the lock of the passenger side door. It just so happened to be the same door closest to my driver’s side door.

I immediately knew why this white woman, who saw a black man, had done this. When I shared the incident with my new ministry team partners in our staff meeting, they dismissed, shrugged off and down played my racialized experience and told me I was being too sensitive and that I had no real proof that this incident had anything to do with race. It is important to note, of the entire staff I was the only person of color.

A similar scenario has occurred too many times to count in our nation’s sordid racial history. The racialized experiences for millions of people of color are frequently (and historically) only as valid or as truthful as white Americans will personallypermit them to be.

This article linked below gives incredible historical background to this all too familiar occurrence. Even more disturbing is the role that Christian theology had played (and still plays) in perpetuating the myth of “whiteness validating black truthfulness.”

This excerpt is provided with permission from Religion & Politics. The full article can be read by following the link.

When Our Truths Are Ignored: Proslavery Theology’s Legacy

Written by Yolanda Pierce

For an African American writer during slavery, there was an expectation that a “white envelope” framed the “black message.” For autobiographers like Frederick Douglass and Harriet Jacobs, or for poets like Jupiter Hammon and Phillis Wheatley, this convention dictated that their written work feature a statement of authenticity from a white voice, proving that the black writer had indeed crafted the message. And so, white abolitionists, lawyers, prominent citizens, and sometimes even former slaveholders, wrote a letter or a preface or an addendum to the works of the black author, certifying that what was contained therein was truthful, authentic, and crafted by the  author. In other words, whiteness was necessary to validate black veracity.  Read more.

About Rob Daniels

Rob Daniels

Rob Daniels serves as Executive Pastor of Westbrook Christian Church. Having grown up in an ethnically diverse community and having a multi-ethnic family has shaped a unique perspective on issues related to race, ethnicity and faith. In addition, having served on the staff of churches in Calgary, Alberta, Canada; Naperville and Carol Stream, Illinois and Indianapolis also has provided a wealth of practical insight on leadership issues in the local church. Rob also served as a member of the Executive board for the 2003 and 2010 North American Christian Conventions.

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