Saturday, December 17, 2016
Jesus Loves Racists, Too (Part 4)
How Black Churches Teach about Race
Growing up attending a predominantly Black school was a very different experience when it came to what was taught in history class. We learned Black history throughout the year, not just in February. I remember watching Roots in the 3rd grade. You might be reading this thinking, “I’m not sure I would show that to a group of 7 and 8 year olds.” I probably wouldn’t either, but the bigger point I would like to make was that I likely would have never seen it in the predominantly White school I later attended. Once we moved, I do not really recall learning any Black history. Black people were so far off the radar at the school to which I moved that my dad had to petition for Martin Luther King Jr. day to be recognized as such, rather than just being labeled a “school in-service.” (As a complete and irrelevant side-note, MLK and I share a special connection. We’re birthday buddies!) Despite the lack of cultural awareness present in my new school, my education about Black history did not disappear. Although some was lost in school, I continued to learn in church. Every year, my church would have a cultural awareness day where the children (and some adults) participated in a Black history play. We would learn about Black historical figures, participate in plays, or recite a speech from famous Black poets. My church experience was not an anomaly. According to W.E.B. DuBois, “historically, the Black church was a way in which African Americans preserved and maintained their African culture in slavery and emancipation” (Yang & Smith, 2009). This remains the case in many Black churches. In addition to preserving culture, Black churches also have historically and continue to play a role in the resistance of racism (Barber, 2011). I recently went home for Thanksgiving, and while at my parents’ church (the church in which I grew up attending), my pastor, in his sermon, made the statement that “Racism will never go away because it is in America’s DNA.” His sermon was not about racism, but that moment was teaching about it. This statement was just an example, amongst many, that he gave as a part of the overall message that he was preaching about that day. If this happened in a school, Ladson-Billings might call it an example of culturally relevant pedagogy (1995). Banks (2007) would call it content integration. I am calling it a sermon illustration that I would likely not hear at most PWCs because White people are not regularly negatively affected by racism, and it is something most are uncomfortable talking about (CNN, 2012). You may now be asking yourself, “If White people do not like talking about race, then it must be a non-issue in predominantly White churches, right?” For the answer to that question, I direct you to watch the YouTube link that is in the references section, but more importantly, to read the next entry in this blog: “How White Churches Teach about Race”.
Banks, J.A. (2007). Multicultural education: Characteristics and goals. In J.A. Banks & C.A. McGee Banks (Eds.), Multicultural education: Issues and perspectives (6th ed.) (3-31). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.
Barber, K.H. (2011). “What happened to all the protests?” Black megachurches’ responses to racism in a colorblind era. Journal of African American Studies, 15(2), 218-235.
CNN (2012, April 2). A look at race relations through a child's eyes. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GPVNJgfDwpw.
Ladson-Billings, G. (1995). But that's just good teaching! The case for culturally relevant pedagogy. Theory into Practice, 34(3), 159-165.