Why White Churches Ignore Black History Month
By Eric Neale Moore
I pastor in the hood in Detroit.
You can see by my picture I am a minority person. Almost two and a half years ago God directed the steps of my life to partner with an incredible group of brothers and sisters who worship together in a building located in a struggling community near the Davison and Linwood. I am their Pastor of Spiritual Formation.
During February, Black History Month, I have been blessed to hear stories of amazing black people who influenced the world. Illustrations from the pulpit, Facebook posts of my friends, conversations among leaders.
A year ago at the end of February our church held dinner after church that included a Black History Living Wax Museum. I was asked to participate! I played a key white abolitionist lawyer. What fun!!
What happened for me over time is that I am becoming fluent in both cultures! That doesn’t mean I can speak in Ebonics! LOL! It means I understand the deeper pathos and mythos of both the white and black cultures. White, conservative, majority, capitalistic-free market, Republican, suburban, Christian is my first language. Black, liberal, minority, familiar with poverty, Democrat, urban, Christian has become my second language.
So from my unique bi-lingual perspective let me ask a question. In asking this I don’t have an axe to grind or guilt to heap on someone’s head. I actually think this is a healing question…
Why do white churches ignore Black History Month?
Or more to the point, why do white Christians ignore it? They didn’t have a discussion with a black friend, they didn’t watch a documentary or check a book out of the library, they didn’t teach about it from pulpits or in small groups, they didn’t discuss it with their children around the supper table, and they didn’t patronize a great soul food restaurant like Southern Fires near Belle Isle!
The answer does NOT lay in some debate over the purpose of designating a “black history” month. Really, the answer is a much bigger matter. Ignoring Black History Month is just part of ignoring racism altogether.
Is there a racism problem in America? Are Christians participating in the problem?
Let me answer in my first language.
“Yes, there is a racism problem in America. But I am not part of it. I am not prejudice. I don’t use derogatory terms and I treat everyone the same. I feel bad for slavery and Jim Crow, etc. But I wish blacks could let go of the past and become full participants in the opportunities we have as free Americans”.
Now let me answer in my second language.
“Yes there is a racism problem in America. The persistence of this problem is not because too many people are prejudice, but because the systems of our society provide an advantage to the majority race. That’s hard to admit, I benefitted from a system that worked to my advantage. I couldn’t see this until I immersed in the minority culture and observed the inequities first hand.
“I want the richness of the black culture and heritage to enrich both society and the Church. I want blacks to thrive in the land of opportunity. I want blacks to be able to release the inequities of the past, not because they just forgive and forget, but because the future stops looking like some variation of the oppression of the past.
“I want Christians to lead the way. Through humility and honor, we can sit with each other, ask the hard questions and gain understanding. We can find Kingdom answers and break the evil stronghold of systemic racism”.
(Note: One of the important values of The Culture of Honor is to address racism. The beautiful picture of the Church is a massive crowd gathered before Jesus of every tribe, nation and language. No matter how awkward and complicated addressing this issue may be, let’s do it! For an excellent discussion on institutional racism, read Racism, the Bible and the American Dream by Detroiter Elreta Dodds.)