When I was a child, Grandma and I spent hours in Concord Baptist Church in Forest, Mississippi, at revival, in Home Mission and in Sunday school, hoping that we’d learn to walk with Jesus and protect our insides from what white folks had done, were doing and would do. But in far way more ways than either of us want to admit, in our healing spaces in Concord – the place where we were taught to love, honor and remember humungous parts of ourselves – we were also taught to become the world’s biggest fools to and for white folks and white supremacy.
We members of Concord were supposed to love white folks because they knew not what they did. We were supposed to heal them because they knew not who they were. We were supposed to forgive them because salvation awaited she or he who could withstand the wrath of the worst of white folks. We were supposed to pray for them, often at the expense of our own healthy reckoning.
Grandma and her church taught me that loving white folks in spite of their investment in our terror was our only chance of not becoming them morally.
Many of us have made a life of hoping to get chosen for jobs, chosen for awards, chosen for acceptance from people, structures and corporations bred on white supremacy. We’re hoping to get chosen by people who can not see us. Knowing that they hate and terrorize us doesn’t stop us from wanting to get chosen. That’s the crazy thing. Everything about this country told Grandma, a black woman born in Central Mississippi in 1920s, to love, honor and forgive white folks. And this country still tells me, a black boy born in Mississippi in the 1970s, to titillate and tend to the emotional, psychological and spiritual needs of white people in my work.
I told my Grandma that we should have chosen ourselves. I tell her that we should have let us in. We should have held each other, and fallen in healthy love with each other, instead of watching shame make parts of us disappear.
Like good Americans, I told Grandma, we will remember to drink ourselves drunk on the antiquated poison of progress. We will long for “shall’s” and “will be’s” and “hopes” for tomorrow. We will heavy-handedly help in our own deception and moral obliteration. We will forget how much easier it is to talk about gun control, mental illness and riots than it is to talk about the moral and material consequences of manufactured white American innocence.
– Kiese Laymon, “Black churches taught us to forgive white people. We learned to shame ourselves.” The Guardian, June 23, 2015 (h/t Alice).
Read the whole thing, seriously.