As a teacher and theologian, I have taught and preached that God is good. The notion of a good God has been central to the preservation and strength of African-Americans, and has required what I call crazy faith. Theologian Carlyle Stewart has calls it "transcendent faith," and says in his book Black Spirituality and Black Consciousness that this faith has had a salvific function. Stewart writes:
When the white man defined them as beasts and animals, the black preacher called them children of God, persons of infinite value and worth. When the overseers flayed their flesh with the lash, they were given instruments of healing ...Every attempt by the larger culture to reduce and destroy the African-American's ontological value created a correlating value that affirmed them as persons and repudiated their devaluations as persons of worth. If their masters hated them, God unequivocally loved them. If the larger society rejected and despised them, God and the faith community affirmed them. (p. 56)
God's reaffirmation of African-Americans as persons of worth would make God a "good" God, a God not swayed by the evil of racism and white supremacy. This God, who loved "the least of these" and who "made a way out of noway" would of course be a good God. And it was holding onto this "good" God that would give African-Americans the strength they needed to not only survive in a racist world, but to, in fact, thrive.
God's goodness on that level is certainly not disputed, but there is a bug in the ointment. If God is good, why does God allow the evil perpetrated against African-Americans to continue? Why hasn't God stopped it? Why hasn't God cleansed the evil in the form of racism from the hearts and souls of white people?
As a child, I was taught that God was and is love. When I watched white police officers and firefighters spraying black people with fire hoses and setting vicious dogs on them, I can remember my mother saying, without batting an eye, "We are to forgive them, Susan." Before I could get my spirit filled with the desire for vengeance, my mother took the option away. "God is love," she said. "God is love and God loves us." (She said that as I was watching the people being sprayed with those hoses). "God says we are supposed to forgive, seven times seven," she continued. And so I sighed and decided that since God was good, I would do as God asked.
But in the name of that goodness, I have to wonder why God has not put a stopper in the runaway racism that is a part of this nation. And while white people always seem relieved -- and astonished -- that black people can forgive heinous acts of violence perpetrated against them, I wonder why so many white people in positions of authority and power seem more arrogant than ever, knowing they have the power meted to them just by virtue of the color of their skin to do just about what they want to black people ...and get away with it.
Where the hell is God?
Being honest, I was irritated when some of the survivors of the victims of the Charleston shootings say they "forgave" Dylan Roof; I wasn't irritated at their statements of forgiveness, as I was taught to do the same thing, but I was irritated at the white media who 1) thought it was so admirable that they forgave, and 2) in effect gave Roof a pass on the depth of his evil, saying he was a troubled young person rather than a rabid murderer.
And then, yesterday, the mother of Sam Dubose said she forgave Officer Ray Tensing for murdering her son. I again was irritated as the media posed that question to her almost immediately as she painfully made her way through her raw emotions of grief and pain in the press conference called after Tensing was indicted. I don't recall media asking white survivors and family members of loved ones killed by mass shooters if they forgive the shooter. I don't remember hearing white media asking any survivor of those shot by James Holmes in that Colorado theater shooting if they forgave him. Why is that question only asked of black people?
This nation is filled with people who walk with grief. Author Dr. Joy DeGruy calls it "post traumatic slave syndrome." African-Americans have been under attack for literally decades because of the color of their skin. They have been despised and dehumanized, have been ignored by the society whose economy they built, and yet, the abuse continues. What has happened to African-Americans has been no less cruel than was the Holocaust to the Jewish victims, and yet, America will not own her sin; America wants African-Americans to "get over it and stop acting like victims," in effect, acting like what has been done to this group of people is and was nothing. It feels like the spirit of dismissal that was given to the women who complained about having been violated by Bill Cosby. Until it was no longer possible, many held the view that the women complaining were making much ado about nothing. The victims were pummeled by many, as if the initial violation was not enough.
My struggle is not so much with humans not owning their "sin." We are often wont to do that. My struggle is with this so-called "good God," who has not stopped the indiscriminate killing of black people by police officers, who has not pricked the hearts of people who still refuse to give black people jobs or pay them a living wage, who has not done something to make white people see what their racism has done and is doing to some of God's own children.
This "good God" seems strangely absent. This "good God" allows racists to have their way. This "good God" seems not to have compassion for little black children who are receiving the bum end of the stick in every way possible. This "good God" seems to support white supremacy and turns a blind eye toward the pain and the struggle not only of black people in America, but almost all people of color, in this country and in fact in the world.
Where the hell are you, God? Please hear me, God, and do not assign me to the bowels of hell. I just do not understand.