In Defense of the "Black Community"
Today I came across an appalling article penned by Darrell B. Harrison in which he discusses “The Myth of the Black Community.” The goal of this blog is to answer the numerous erroneous claims within this article, and to provide a defense for the existence, need, and function of the black community.
Without any evidence to support, Harrison asserts that the assumption most people make is that of the three definitions of community posted in his article, “number two (a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals) is the most contextually accurate.” If such is the case, then I am not most people. Just as Harrison and I have a fundamental disagreement concerning the content of this article, I acknowledge that all black people do not share common attitudes, interests, and goals. What we do share is melanin; therefore, I find commonality and, yes, a “feeling of fellowship” amongst people with melanin even when there is disagreement within the community regarding the aforementioned areas.
I am disheartened at the conclusion of his summation that this feeling of community occurs merely by “get[ting] a group of black and brown-skinned people together in one place and – Voila! – like magic – “black community”. [sic] In fact, I find it quite insulting that he feels the roots of our sense of community is found in merely being in proximity to people of the same skin color. That is NOT how the black community works…at all.
He asserted that, “The idea of melanin-based “community” is a mindset that gives little or no consideration whatsoever to the uniqueness of one’s God-give personhood.” I find this statement to be erroneous.
My unique God given personhood is not lost among the fact that I am a black man, anymore than the Apostle Paul’s personhood was lost while celebrating the fact that he was a Jew. We celebrate the fact that within our community there is diversity of ideological and philosophical worldviews. That diversity within our community is what makes us unique and beautiful.
I can walk into a room full of people from all over the world and observe, appreciate, and even embrace their differences. Yet, within that room, I know I will undoubtedly find commonality amongst the people there with melanin in their skin, even though these same people may be from different economic classes, share different hairstyles, body shapes and sizes, and express different worldviews.
I am outraged at the belief that “The idea of ‘black community’ merely assumes that to be of a certain skin color is also to be in ‘community’ – ideologically, philosophically, politically, and theologically – with others who likewise are of a similar skin color.” That statement could not be more inaccurate and disrespectful. Within the “black community” are democrats and republicans, Christians and atheists, pro-choice and anti-abortion, black lives matter, blue lives matter, all lives matter and so much more. How dare he make such a short-sighted statement such as that devoid of any research or evidence. That statement demeans the very intelligence, education, and cognitive ability of black people. The only absurdity worse that that logic, is believing its accuracy.
In my forty plus years of living on this earth, I have not met a single black person who believes that “any differences that may exist between we who are black should be sacrificed on the altar of our common skin color.” That is an insanely absurd statement. The least Harrison should do when making this type of assertion is to share an example. Add a quote, a video clip, something, ANYTHING that supports the statement. Yet, he left nothing but an unqualified and quite frankly, irrational assumption.
Harrison believes that “there are today those who, under the more commonly accepted notion of ‘black community’ have fashioned for themselves a radical Jesus who is worshiped for His “social consciousness” while devaluing the redemptive Jesus…” I contend that the Bible reveals that they are one and the same. While he proclaims others have created a different Jesus, it is Harrison who is guilty of this.
First, the God of the Bible is inherently social because He has eternally been a trinitarian God. The members of the Godhead have eternally been social in their nature; therefore, being concerned with social issues flows out of the nature of who God is. God does not have attributes which are not actions. He is socially conscious in action, because He is social in nature. It is not what He does – it is who He is!
The same Bible which reveals our God who is redemptive in nature and in actions, also explicitly demonstrates His overwhelming concern for social issues and commands that we be concerned as well. Allow me to share merely three examples:
“He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Mic 6:8 ESV).
Isaiah adds, “learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow's cause” (Isa 1:17 ESV).
David aptly notes, “Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne; steadfast love and faithfulness go before you” (Psa. 89:14 ESV).
These are a few of a plethora of Scriptures that speak to the inherent social nature of God (Lev. 19:15; Deut. 16:20, 32:4; Ps. 82:3; Prov. 31:8-9; Isa. 58:6-12; Jer. 22:3; Amos. 5:11-15, 24; Zech. 7:9-10; Matt. 7:12; Luke 4:18-19, 11:42; Rom. 12:15-18; Jam. 1:27; 1 Jn. 3:17-18).
We are not fashioning a radical Jesus; we are following a Jesus who is both radical and redemptive.
Our clenched fist has not replaced the cross as the symbol of our salvation – it is a consequence of the cross. I fully embrace my melanated skin, while fully understanding that my skin color, heritage, race, background, and culture are all absolutely submitted to the Lordship of Jesus Christ.
I did not stop being black when I became a Christian anymore than Peter and Paul stopped being Jews. In fact, Paul lamented that he wished that he were “…cursed and cut off from Christ for the benefit of [his] brothers and sisters, [his] own flesh and blood” (Rom. 9:3 CSB). Paul did not forget that he was a Jew when he became a Christian, he simply learned not to exalt his fleshly heritage above his spiritual one. The same exists us melanated Christians who understand that our proud, distinct, African American heritage is submitted to our spiritual heritage. Furthermore, the assumption that “it is no longer God who redeems us but we ourselves through our own socio-ethnic efforts” is another ludicrous statement not backed by any facts.
The social-justice movement is a consequence of the cross. We fully understand that salvation is by grace through faith in Jesus Christ (Eph 2:8). Our gospel is not works-centered nor man-centered, it is wholly Christ-centered. We do not work in order to be saved; we are saved – therefore we work. Without question we contend that racism, stereotyping, hatred,
bigotry, etc. are not skin problems, but sin problems. Harrison clearly either does not know or understand his teammates in the gospel. For him to not recognize the deepness of the commonality rooted in melanated people is fascinating and appalling. It is amazing to me that non-melanated people can see the commonality in us, but Harrison – a melanated individual, cannot.
It is correct that melanin does not shape our morality, nor does our ethnicity shape our ethics. Again, who is making these claims? What uneducated, ignorant black people is Harrison surrounded by who think these shallow thoughts? He may not see, appreciate, or understand the “black community,” but he also does not have the power or authority to erroneously declare it as a myth or mirage. The unity of our community is not rooted in our uniformity. It is only black people who are asked to concede our diversity. Not one other people group on earth has this concern.
There is a host of strong, committed, passionate, educated black men and women who are first – disciples of Jesus Christ, but also proud to call ourselves social justice warriors. If you have not, I invite you to connect with the likes of Dr. Eric Mason, Jackie Hill Perry, Dr. Sarita Lyons, Pastors Damon Richardson, Isaiah Robertson, Jerome Gay, and Blake Wilson, Nefer Nitty, Adam Coleman, Alfredo Valentin, Vocab Malone, Quentin Rodgers, Zion McGregor and myself.
Full disclosure, I was apprehensive regarding the whole “Conscious Christianity” and “Woke Christian” perspective - until I understood it.
I decided to research it. I spent my own time and money to attend the “Conscious Christianity” Conference at Pastor Blake Wilson’s church in Houston, TX as well as the “Truth Summit” hosted by Pastor Isaiah Richardson in Cartersville, GA.
With an open mind I listened to highly educated men and women like the aforementioned individuals. I devoured Dr. Eric Mason’s Woke Church (which I highly encourage you to read) in a desire to know more. I now understand what it means to be woke and conscious from a biblical perspective. Harrison is critiquing a movement which his words reveal he has not been educated on.
While in error, he remains my brother in Christ whom I love you. I will be sending this him first along with my personal contact information. It is my hope and prayer that my heart and that my words are meant to be compelling and not combative. We have one common enemy and it is fruitless to wrestle against flesh and blood. Any disagreement or point of contention I have expressed is with Harrison’s words – not his person. We may not be uniformed, but I stand together with Harrison, united in the effort of fulfilling the Great Commission and Great Commandment until the day I die, or Christ returns.
Kevin L. Betton Jr.
UPDATE: Darrell responded by saying that although he did share these words in his blog, he is not the originator of the content. Nevertheless, his share constitutes agreement with the thoughts contained therein. Out of fairness to him and operate in integrity, I wanted to include this disclaimer.
. Fleming Rutledge, The Crucifixion: Understanding the Death of Jesus Christ (Grand Rapids, MI: Wim. B. Eerdmans, 2015), 327-28 (Kindle Edition). Quoted by Eric Mason, Woke Church: An Urgent Call for Christians in America to Confront Racism and Injustice. Moody Publishers, 2018.