I’m having to work hard to control my passions on this one. I’m having to contain nothing short of fury.
While we celebrated the confirmation of the first Black woman to the Highest Court in the land, the usual suspects came to dampen the celebration. Again it came from a pastor. He bemoaned the celebration, pointing out how far we have “fallen” from the dream of Dr. King, in celebrating someone because of the color of their skin, despite the “baby-murdering” content of their character. It wasn’t long before the Baptist choir was saying, “amen,” as they mocked the celebration of something as trivial as the color of a person’s skin.
It was the way they said it. It was just melanin, just skin color, they said. It was said so audaciously casual; so absent-minded of skin color’s historic power to be the identifier for harm.
Skin color has been driven deep into the souls of black people. For generation upon generation, it has been the sole and lone reason for mounds of suffering, rejection, and alienation. The mental anguish Black people have faced, straining to comprehend why so much injury and dehumanization could come from something as insignificant as the color of one’s skin, had nearly driven us mad. The only means of sanity, to relieve the intellectual tension, has been to accept the immense power of this thing called, “skin color.” And so we did. And we survived. And grew strong.
Now, to hear it trivialized, with this incredible hubris, paternalism, and mockery, tossed so casually back into the meaningless role skin color should have, by people of the same injurious spirit that gave unspeakable power to skin color to begin with, is near enough to drive us all mad again.
Do you think we don’t remember the historical context of Dr. King’s Dream Speech? Do you think we don’t know what was happening that made that speech so particularly powerful for us? Do you think we don’t remember why Dr. King knew he would not get there with us? It was because of his skin color; melanin.
We do remember. We remember that every generation of Black people in this country since 1619 have been daily and often painfully reminded of their skin color. Long before it was our identity, it was our identifier. We couldn’t even find our identity in Christ beside you in the Lord’s house because of our identifier; our skin color.
So, no sir. You don’t get to mock us on a day that we celebrate having overcome something as deeply connected to our being as skin color. We know our identity is in Christ. He has been our dwelling place in all generations. He has led us through slavery, Jim Crow, convict leasing, mass incarceration, segregation, and discrimination, all directed at us because of skin color. That we have not been driven mad because of skin color, is a testament to the glory of God. So our celebration is not our shame, but that you don’t celebrate may be yours.