Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Thank You Black Women...Again

Black Women are constantly rescuing Americans. From Mahalia Jackson shouting to Martin Luther King, Jr. "tell 'em about the dream" when his speech was becoming awkward, to Aibeleen and Minny "helping" Skeeter get a good job, to Beyoncé buoying Eminem's latest single, Black Women lift others. Black Women, in their knowledge, courage, and solidarity, are magic. Last night in Alabama's special senatorial election, Black Women did it again, with 98% voting in favor of Democrat Doug Jones. did an awesome job capturing this glorious moment. Warning, there are numbers ahead.

Doug Jones - 49.9%
Roy Moore - 48.4%

Black Women were 17% of the vote which means Jones only received around 33% of the entire voting bloc outside of Black Women. Doug Jones' campaign got virtually ALL of black women votes. Not only Black educated Women or Black Women who watched The Real or Black Women who rode horses (yes, I know I'm being petty). Black Women didn't vote against their own interests or against one another in the voting booth (looking at you 2016 white women voters). But Black Women, in a near unanimous decision, pointed their finger toward the white guy in the blue tie and said "we want that one" and Alabama took him off the shelf.

The moral and spiritual repugnancy is that Black Women continue to HAVE to save the rest of us from ourselves. True, this time Black men voters listened to their nanas, mothers, sisters, and lovers, voting overwhelmingly for Jones too, but the overall race was this close for an alleged pedohile? A xenophobe? As a warm-blooded, medulla oblongata-having mammal, if eight women said they were abused by someone, that person would immediately become disqualified as a candidate. A company wouldn't hire a CEO with those kind of accusations. A PTA wouldn't let that person bring paper plates. Yet, 48% of Alabama voters chose him to be the CEO and paper plate-bringer of their state. We can't forget whiteness, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia and more are still at their American best.

This highlights the more salvific nature of Black Women. They continue to keep rescuing us. It was Black Women who
voted overwhelmingly against this current president. A Black Woman risked her career without a hashtag movement behind her to tell us sexual harassment in the workplace was real (#AnitaHill).  In this Advent season I'm also reminded that a woman of color first received the word from the angel that the messiah was on the way - through her. 

Now, it's time to vote for THEM. To put up Black Women candidates and give them the kind of support that Black Women have often given to others. Hopefully, we are ready to listen. Ashley Gilmore, another notable Black Woman who I am grateful to be married to, said it to me this way today, “Listen to Black Women. It will save your life.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Why Everyone, Especially Christians, Should Celebrate Cardi B

Earlier this week, I posted on FB about Cardi B having the #1 single in the country, “Bodak Yellow”. This is notable, as she is the first woman rapper to hit #1 without a featured artist since 1998. The truth is, sometimes, when I hear Cardi B, the minister part of me cringes. She’s so loud, raw, uncouth, and vulgar. Then I hear the beat and remember my hometown of East Chicago, Indiana. I remember the people I grew up with who gave me joy. I remember my sister who is loud and full of life. And then I root for Cardi. I think, “Gon girl, keep doing your thing. Go as far as you can!" In a text conversation with my play big-sister (Hi!), we talked about why Cardi B should not be villainized because of her past and in fact, should be celebrated by everyone, especially those who desire to follow Christ.

  • INTERSECTIONALITY- Any critique of Cardi B should occur alongside a discussion of intersectionality (the ways gender, class, race, sexuality and more complicate our identities). Cardi's identity influences how we receive her and her music.
    • Gender – Male rappers/artists ride their scandalous pasts to musical glory constantly. Many male rappers flaunt that they’ve shot people (50 Cent), sold drugs (Jay-Z), done drugs (Chance the Rapper), dropped out of college (Kanye West), and slept with strippers (J Cole, Drake, too many to name) and they are celebrated widely, even by Christians. We are quick to lift up men who struggle and then thrive, but women have to be “pure” to be redeemable. This feels like a false equivalency that illuminates our bias against women.
    • Class – When Beyoncé dresses in near nothing, she is the epitome of Black women uplift. When she cusses, she is strong. When she bashes a car window in, she is empowering. I believe this is because Beyoncé also represents a certain class (or desirable class) of Black America. Beyoncé is married with three children, a churchgoer, and worth nearly half a billion dollars. Beyoncé is friends with Michelle Obama and Oprah (and notably, Cardi B). Most people do not mind revering Beyonce (or other Black women who fit the middle-upper-uber rich class status). But Cardi is not in this class. Cardi is unmistakably and unapologetically, hood. She constantly reminds us of this, she is not trying to be Grey Poupon, she is bright yellow mustard with the label off.
    • Race – Race is always a factor in how we relate to one another. Cardi B (Belcalis Almanzar) is Dominican, Trinidadian and from the Bronx. She is a product of Afro-Caribbean diasporic culture. She does not fit neatly into the Lauryn Hill “Everything is Everything” box, the JLo "Jenny from the Block" box, or the Luis Fonsi “Despacito” box. She is not easily categorized and therefore society struggles with how to label her.  At one point in an interview, she emotionally names the way she is viewed racially - "What am I considered?" Because we cannot categorize her race quickly, it may be easier to dismiss her - this treatment is also connected to the insufficient way Americans (and Christians) have responded to the Caribbean hurricane victims.

  • WWJD? - In John 8, when Jesus saw the woman about to be stoned for committing adultery, he said whoever is without sin, cast the first stone. I wonder what would happen if that woman wrote a song about her experience, her freedom to make other choices, and her current struggles. The Jesus I worship would see her as an unfinished product. Not quite at where she might be, but a world away from where she used to be. Outside of Christ, there are no perfect people to aspire to (even aspiring to be Christ can be problematic when you consider that Christ’s perfection makes him an imperfect person to aspire to because it is impossible to be him - We can only be LIKE Christ, we can never BE Christ.) Cardi B too, is imperfect. As a teenager, she was dancing for money, stripping to go to college, and in an abusive relationship. Now, at 24, she is traveling the world with a number 1 song. She is paying her mama's bills and deciding what to wear and for whom. Christians, especially Black Christians (intersectionality remember?), know something about our heroes starting in the slums, the ghettos, the barrios, the fields and becoming someone great. David was a forgotten boy who became a king (and committed adultery as a king). Moses was a murderer who became a liberator. Rahab was a harlot (prostitute) who was the ancestor of Jesus.

I’m rooting for Cardi B (and all of the Cardi B's in EC and the entire world) to continue to grow, develop and expand. But I don’t need her to be a perfect heroine. I also don't need her to be a TV personality. I only hope she continues to be herself. She’s got my support. (Oh, and her birthday is the day after mine, so yeah, there’s that).  As she grows, maybe she will reach some elusive Christian standard of acceptance. If she never does, I believe Jesus and Jesus followers should celebrate her journey and if you can, nod hard to that beat.