Ok, so I hear many of you gasp. My question is far from blasphemy. I will not be using this post to go into the depths of the history of Christianity, however I will be discussing its relationship with racism and challenging who could be argued as truly being God.
The classic images that represent Christianity are dominated by white men – this is unequivocal. I’m in the middle of reading Jeannine Hill Fletcher’s book The Sin of White Supremacy: Christianity, Racism, & Religious Diversity in America where she draws on her expertise in interreligious theology as well as extensive research into the history of Euro-American Christianity to lay out the devastating connections between Christian theology and the ideologies of racial supremacy that underpin our current political crisis.
During slavery, you can’t help but ask, how did slaveholders manage to balance their religious beliefs with the facts of the inhumane, cruel and violent nature of the institution? According to research, the majority of slave owners identified as Christian. Christians in positions of power went on to apply supremacists views into social and economic systems which were then supported by the power of the law. Whites were positioned as intrinsically superior to others and black people were reduced the three-fifths of a person compromise. This topic is sensitive and understandably emotive. In our desire to combat racism, many black Christians would be forced to question the core of their religious foundations, which is not an easy ask.
“Between the Christianity of this land and the Christianity of Christ, I recognize the widest possible difference—so wide that to receive the one as good, pure, and holy, is of necessity to reject the other as bad, corrupt, and wicked. To be the friend of the one is of necessity to be the enemy of the other. I love the pure, peaceable, and impartial Christianity of Christ; I therefore hate the corrupt, slave-holding, women-whipping, cradle-plundering, partial and hypocritical Christianity of this land. Indeed, I can see no reason but the most deceitful one for calling the religion of this land Christianity…”Frederick Douglass
During the early eighteenth century, Anglican missionaries who attempted to bring Christianity to slaves in the Southern colonies often found themselves butting up against uncooperative masters and resistant slaves. An unquestionable obstacle to the acceptance of Christianity among slaves was their desire to continue to adhere to the religious beliefs and rituals of their African ancestors as much as possible. Missionaries who worked in the South were especially displeased with the slaves’ retention of African practices. As time went on and generations passed, religion for black slaves took on more and more of the gospel preached by their oppressors, which can be seen in this day and age but does Christianity truly rally for equality?
What was difficult for me to absorb was the fact that in the 2016 US presidential election, 81% of white evangelical Christians and 60% of white Catholics voted for Donald Trump. How could Christians vote for such an unabashedly racist candidate? Is it because in Christianity the white man is seen as the ultimate God? But let’s just discuss, where is the black woman in all of this?
With Africa being the birth of civilisation, we cannot deny the significant role that African women played in the history of the continent, therefore the history of the world. If you trace back the DNA in the maternally inherited mitochondria within our cells, all humans have a theoretical common ancestor. This woman, known as “mitochondrial Eve”, lived between 100,000 and 200,000 years ago in southern Africa. She was not the first human, but every other female lineage eventually had no female offspring, failing to pass on their mitochondrial DNA. As a result, all humans today can trace their mitochondrial DNA back to her. Within her DNA, and that of her peers, existed almost all the genetic variation we see in contemporary humans. Since Eve’s time, different populations of humans have drifted apart genetically, forming the distinct ethnic groups we see today.
So why is the black woman so far removed from the bible? Where are her images in Christianity? I’m going to throw it out there and state that the power and significance that the black woman holds is the reason for her marginalisation. If we’re going to honest with ourselves, she should really be the image of the ‘chosen one’, as her ancestry truly marks the beginning of humanity. Her respect was profound in African history and she stood high on the throne for centuries.
Here are some powerful African queens you need to know about:
- Amina the Queen of Zaria Nigeria Amina Mohamud was a Hausa warrior queen of the city-state Zazzau, presently in the North-West region of Nigeria. Her leadership skills were discovered early by her grandfather who allowed her to attend state meetings. Historians described her as one of the real rulers born in the mid-sixteenth century.
- Kandake The empress of Ethiopia The most dreaded war generals of her time. Historians said she was known to be a fierce, tactical and uniting military leader.
- Makeda The Queen of Sheba, Ethiopia Makeda was known to be a queen of incredible strength, after surviving a battle with the serpent king Awre.
- Yaa Asantewa Ashanti Kingdom, Ghana Asantewa was the queen mother of Ejisu in the Ashanti Empire – now part of modern-day Ghana. In 1900, she led the Ashanti war known as the War of the Golden Stool, also known as the Yaa Asantewaa war, against British colonials
- Queen Nandi Zulu kingdom, South Africa Queen Nandi was resilient as a mother and the hope against social pressures. She was the mother of Shaka Zulu, one of the Zulu kingdom’s greatest kings. According to historians, during the reign of her son, she had significant influence over the affairs of the kingdom.
- Queen Moremi Ile-Ife Kingdom, Nigeria Queen Moremi was a courageous queen who is fabled to have contributed to the deliverance of the Yoruba tribe from oppression.
The importance and respect of the black woman should be recognised – especially due to our low societal status. I also wanted to take this opportunity to highlight the FIVEXMORE campaign which is pushing for answers as to why black women are five times more likely to die during pregnancy and birth. Please take the time to read about and support the campaign. It’s scary to see just how much needs to be done but we will reclaim the human respect we deserve and save and preserve our valuable lives. Understand your importance; understand your history; and understand your royalty.
Together we make the change.