Monday, July 14, 2014

It's time to listen to "those" people

I sat and listened as a group of well-intentioned religious leaders discussed ways to make a difference.  The burden of the moment began to tug at that part tired of enduring processes with no end in view.  The myriad of problems stacked on the table made it appear no way could be found to break through the massive wall of division in Columbia, Missouri.

I've been down this road before.

Only two black men sat at a table to discuss issues that impact poor, black people in Columbia and throughout Missouri. I was one of them. The people at the table brought varied levels of power and privilege to discuss ways to help "those" people. Yes, "those" people.

How can we help "those" people?

I closed my eyes one last time and prayed to remain silent.  I couldn’t. The rage linked to living and working in Columbia left me devoid of the strength to remain mute.

“Columbia doesn’t have a black community,” I said.

“Yes there is,” the people in the room responded.

“There are no blacks on the Columbia City Council.  There is no black radio station.  There is little black representation in the press.  There are no black businesses in downtown, and few that don’t cater services exclusively to blacks,” I said.  “A community within the context of the larger community is minimized when it lacks the power to impact change.”

I pondered the teachings of Paulo Freire, “the trust of the people in the leaders reflects the confidence of the leaders in the people.”

Freire was an influential leader in the critical pedagogy movement.  Freire taught that education should create space for the oppressed to regain their sense of humanity, and, through that process, overcome the conditions leading to their oppression.  Freire believed the oppressed must participate in their liberation.

“No pedagogy which is truly liberating can remain distant from the oppressed by treating them as unfortunates and by presenting for their emulation models from among the oppressors,” Freire wrote in Pedagogy of the Oppressed. “The oppressed must be their own example in the struggle for their redemption.”

It was a point that those in the room needed to hear.  Although they came with a sincere desire to make a difference for those hindered by policies and systems of subjugation, true liberation demands the input of those not in the room.

“You mean well,” I continued.  “You are here for the right reasons, but the people who need to speak are not here.”

I continued to share the consequences related to their absence.  I told them they are not present because of a lack of trust rooted in a long history of racial divide.  I told them people are unwilling to come to the table because of the process used before they arrive.  Those with power and privilege make decisions, and then come to the broken for an endorsement.

How do we break that cycle?

We must empower those who feel they hold no power.  We must equip them to take ownership and control of an agenda that will improve their condition.  They must lead the way.

Yes, we must listen.  We have nothing to say until we have adequately listened to the voices of those in need of liberation.

Steps have been taken to begin this process.  For the next few months, members of Columbia Faith Voices will be listening to the people.  We will begin with the Douglass Park Neighborhood Association.  We are asking for permission to attend your meetings.  We only won’t to listen.  Our promise is follow your leadership.

We will listen to other communities.  In doing so, we stand with you in collaboration.  We bring the power of our privilege to demand you will be heard.  We bring the power of our faith and the clout of our votes.  In listening to you, we will learn more about ourselves.  We’re asking that you teach us.  Teach us about the conditions that limit your progression.  Teach us how we, each of us, have stood in the way.

If crime is your concern, teach us how we can help.  Help us yell for you.  No, help us yell with you.  Teach us how to yell.

My vision for empowerment is simple.  I envision a massive collaboration between faith communities, business leaders, nonprofit organizations, academic institutions, county, city and state government, law enforcement and citizens.  I envision a bottom up approach to human service delivery and community development.  I pray for a work led by the people that will lead to the advancement of all of Columbia citizens.

I’m seeking a new model for community development that begins with listening. 

Columbia Faith Voices is on board.  Speak to us Douglass Park.  We are waiting on you to lead us in the transformation of your community.

Speak.

Back to silence.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Why I don't celebrate Independence Day

There will be no barbeque and fireworks for me. 

I don’t celebrate Independence Day.

I both understand and appreciate the importance of the day.  It is the birthday of our nation.  I say our devoid of hesitation. I love being an American, and believe in baseball, hotdogs and apple pies.  Well, I don’t eat hotdogs, but I accept them as part of American culture.

I don’t celebrate Independence Day because doing so would affirm a lie.  It is not my Independence Day.  I know, that’s old news, but buying into the celebration would deny years of subjugation before the signing of the Civil Rights Act in 1964.

Note that I didn’t use Juneteenth, June 19, 1865, as black Independence Day.  Juneteenth is a holiday that commemorates the announcement of the abolition of slavery in Texas.  Although it is more appropriate for blacks to celebrate Juneteenth as their date of independence, the mention of freedom from slavery did not equate to true independence until the legislation of laws to protect freedom were imposed in 1964.

It could be argued that black people continue to fight for independence.  That is a matter for debate.  It is true that many have experienced the promise of the American Dream, while others continue to grapple to overcome the grip of oppression.  Some will say the limits of some are the result of personal choices, and that institutional barriers that hinder progress have been eliminated. Again, that’s a debate for another day.

My issue relates to the validity of our claims.  Independence Day is not a day of celebration for me.  It is a reminder of the hypocrisy of our nation’s history.  It shed bright lights on the scandal of our past, and the consequences related to blacks in America.  It’s a past that shouldn’t be neglected in our quest to wave flags, eat barbeque and watch fireworks to celebrate our national pride.

As much as I would like to get over it, my love for history won’t allow me to pretend.  I can’t let America off the hook by participating in our nations lie.  We can imagine a nation ruled historically by the mandates of its constitution.  We can fantasize over the contribution of the fathers of the nation, while forgetting they were all white men.  We can conceive in our imagination a history of people bonded by an agenda for universal freedom, but all of that is a lie.

That is not who we have been, and for black people to celebrate independence, while trapped in a history of suppression, denies the pain of our past.  I can’t claim that history as my own.  My ancestors continue to cry from the grave begging me to state the truth regarding the rest of the story.  To claim national independence negates the brutality of a system that refuted the humanity of the slaves.

Yes, that is a painful past, but it remains part of our national truth.  To expect my participation under the cloak of patriotism is a position rooted in privilege.  It strips me of the part that demands to be heard and respected for surviving the journey.  It recants the stories of my great-grandparents who endured being slaves.  It tarnishes the witness of those who fought for, waited for, and died for authentic independence.

I love America.

I believe in the values expressed in our constitution.  I believe that all men, and women, “are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights.  That among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. “

I believe in the natural rights of all men and women.  I believe those natural rights exits irrespective of race, nationality, religion, gender or sexual orientation.  I believe those rights should be respected and affirmed in the face of mental and physical condition, political affiliation or past mistakes.

It is my belief in our constitution that compels me not to celebrate Independence Day.  My refusal affirms the rights of those denied, and the independence of those forgotten.  My saying no is a yes for those who seek to be protected by the constitution we celebrate on this day. My no obliges us to move past the memory of the words, and apply them in a way that includes those forgotten between the lines of hypocrisy. 

I refuse to celebrate because I love the vision of America.  I love what we can be if we uphold fully the tenants of our constitution.  I love the hope of each word written.

I refuse to celebrate because we’re not there yet, and there is a gruesome past that we sweep under the rug whenever guilt and shame show up to prevent authentic healing.

This is what it means to be created equal.

Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

For all men and women.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

A lesson on power and privilege

Illustration from BKNation.org

Every now and then I’m forced to step away from my writing and reflect on comments made by readers.  I rarely respond to what people write.  It’s a policy I implemented years ago to allow readers to go at it without my intrusion.  That doesn’t mean I’m not reading.  I do.  I laugh, sometimes I cry, and there are days I take a few deep breaths before screaming – y’all don’t get it.

My last blog about white privilege is an example of my desire to yell at readers.  To their credit, the confusion may be the fault of the author – that would be me – due to the introduction of conceptions that require a more profound explanation. 

So, let’s go to class on the meaning of privilege.  Take notes.  Be patient, and prepare to apply the teaching as you seek to embrace diversity.

To begin, privilege is not a condition of selection.  It is not limited to philosophy or political position.  Privilege is not something you can remove with effort.  It comes with being you.  As much as you regret having to claim your privilege, it comes with being born with, or acculturated within an institution of privilege.

White privilege is given at birth.  It opens doors, extends benefits and assigns merit for no other reason than the advantage of being born that way. You can’t denounce white privilege.  Association with radical positions and disassociation with extreme positions doesn’t lead to the forfeiture of privilege.  It comes with being born white, and your life is both measured and rewarded based on that privilege.

Got that? On to point two.

There are numerous forms of privilege. Some are physiological while others depend on the environment of the moment.  There is gender privilege, age privilege and heterosexual privilege.  Each weighs heavy on the way people are affirmed or marginalized in their pursuit of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  Privilege extends to attraction, mental well-being, and the lack of privilege shows up for those with mental illness and disabilities.

Privilege can exist among those accustomed to unfair treatment.  There’s black privilege when the majority in the room are black.  When that shows up, privilege isn’t about perception within a broader context, but how being the majority affords advantages that others miss.  My black privilege shows up within the context of worship in a predominately black church.  My black male privilege supports my personal agenda when a seek leadership within a black church.  My black, male, heterosexual privilege grants me power, influence and authority if I promote an anti-gay agenda within the black church.

Privilege is used to subjugate others.  This often shows up as an unconscious action.  The benefits associated with privilege are extended lacking perception.  Privilege doesn’t require participation. Advancement associated with privilege is laden in a myriad of historical and cultural actualities. Unwrapping how privilege impacts the ability to maneuver through systems is critical in advancing diversity.

Owning ones privilege is decisive in releasing the power that comes with privilege.  Personally, my list of privilege is vast.  Some of the things on my list have to be filtered through the context of a particular setting.  I hold education privilege as a person with graduate degrees.  Although my position of privilege exists within a broad community context, my lack of race privilege limits my ability to utilize the normative power associated with such privilege. My lack of normative advancement, comparative to those with white privilege, is construed as supreme privilege when juxtaposed within the context of black culture.

There is power that comes with privilege.  This is a truth that can’t be surmounted by simple will or association with groups that confront the advantages of privilege.  My willingness to listen to and embrace feminist and womanist ideology isn’t enough to counteract the advantage of my male privilege.  My being an advocate of LBGTQ rights isn’t enough to undo the advantages of my heterosexual privilege. 

The power that comes with my privilege requires ongoing introspection related to how I function as a person holding advantages.  Although privilege is something often given without demand, how I function with that privilege may limit the progression of others.  I’m constantly examining ways in which I use my privileges to hinder others.

Many would rather assume they hold no privilege.  Conceding the ownership of privilege is difficult when one considers it a function of will.  It is challenging for some to consider their advantages due to how history shows up as a reminder of ongoing negation.

All of us hold privilege. For some, there is power that comes with that privilege.

Now that we have that out of the way, take a look at your own privilege.

Class dismissed.

Friday, June 27, 2014

White privilege in Columbia, MO asserts black people can't drink

I have to be honest about a few things.  I’m new in town.  Although from Columbia, MO, I’ve been away rousing controversy in Durham, North Carolina for close to 30 years.  I don’t understand the political culture of COMO.  I’m learning.  Give me some time.

My naiveté related to the inner workings of local politics has kept me biting my lips tight before screaming loudly.  There are certain things crawling on my skin like a mosquito taking profuse bites. Yes, my last nerve has been unsettled, and I’m past wanting to put my shoe where the sun don’t shine.

So, it’s time to scream.

I attended the most recent city council meeting in hope of finding reason to believe it’s not just my imagination.  What I found left me even more perplexed than before I entered the plush room.  Given I’m here for a season, I need more than an impressive décor to give me reason to believe we’re moving in the direction of a loving, diverse community.

What I heard was a bunch of hyperbole about COMO being a nice place to live, with first class parks, a diverse community that celebrates arts, and it being the talk of the state.  Insert bull manure wherever you wish.    

Open your eyes people.

COMO isn’t the only community seduced by the rhetoric of inclusion.  All looks great when you’re standing on the throne of privilege, and control how diversity plays out.  COMO is one of the least diverse cities I have ever seen.  Diversity is not reflected in the way the news is dispersed, how power is shared, or in how public policy is administered. 

Don’t get it twisted sister, COMO is a community controlled by white privilege.

This prologue is essential in understanding my position on the plan to ban alcohol at Douglass Park.  When placed within the context of assumptions of power and privilege, it reflects how the voice of black people is minimized, controlled and relegated as no consequential.

It is assumed the complaints of blacks don’t matter in COMO.  Just give it time, and it will all go away.  It is understood that the black community’s lack of real political clout makes their voice insignificant when placed within the context of what white people think.  The response to black critique is handled by the opinion of white, liberal condescension.

You can hear the air of supremacy in the way affairs are managed.  The voice of arrogance rants, ‘they don’t know any better.’ We know what’s best for them, because we, well, we are white.

Saying that disturbs me because of the hard work I have done to undo racial tension.  My approach has been to seek common ground when confronted with tension.  The problem in COMO is the absence of common ground. Blacks are forced to accept the morsels handed them after an effort is made to be heard.  

So, with that out of the way, let me speak to the specifics related to the ban of alcohol at Douglass Park.  Ginny Chadwick, and all of her cohorts co-signing on the ban, is communicating a subtle message rooted in the assumption of white privilege.  It is a painful assertion that she, and those riding on the wagon, can’t hear because of the conventions that rule her thoughts and actions.

Black people can’t drink.  White people can, but not black people. Underage white people can, but grown blacks hanging out in a city park can’t.  Local clubs make it easy for white students to drink, but that’s different in the mind of those who are white, privileged, and completely unfamiliar with the nuances of black culture.

Her position makes that claim. Sadly, she fails to understand how paternalistic her crusade comes across.  It’s reminiscent of the goals of imperialism – to stampede into a territory, take control and teach the people how to live honorably. 

White people can drink.  Young white people can drink, but blacks can’t handle the consequences of their drinking.  When black people do it, the result is a public health issue. The white liberals have to rescue black people from destroying themselves before it is too late.

Insert your favorite super hero.

So, forgive me for speaking.  I’m sorry for divulging my feelings regarding COMO’s all-white city council and nearly all-white press.  Forgive me for chastising COMO for failing to take diversity seriously, and for making assumptions rooted in all of that privilege.  I haven’t been here long, but I have a long list of concerns that comes back to the same truth.

Black people aren’t welcome at the table.  We’re simply asked to show up to watch white people eat.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Chadwick flip-flops on Douglass Park alcohol ban

Ginny Chadwick’s fight to ban alcohol at Douglass Park has taken a new twist.  She’s communicating a desire to ban alcohol at all city parks while giving the impression doing so has been her intent from the beginning.

Chadwick confronted the controversy surrounding her plan to ban alcohol at Douglass Park with a press release communicating a plan to ban alcohol at all city parks.  Chadwick is also pushing to ban alcohol at university parks.

The language of the recent press release diverts attention from a policy perceived as racially driven.  Tyree Byndom confronted Chadwick about banning alcohol at Douglass Park, and was told to prepare for a battle (http://rev-elution.blogspot.com/2014/06/ginny-chadwick-wants-to-ban-alcohol-at.html)

Chadwick’s recent position should be considered within the context of her previous position on this issue.  Records of her input during the June 2 city council meeting reveal her plan to ban alcohol exclusively at Douglass Park.

The details of that meeting were recorded by The Columbia Heart Beat. http://www.columbiaheartbeat.com/index.php/news/headlines/857-061214

"One thing I did see that continues to be an issue is alcohol," The Columbia Heartbeat reported Chadwick saying.  "I would like to look into an ordinance to make that park alcohol free."   

The issue was presented to the city council in February by Fred Schmidt, former 1st Ward councilman.  Schmidt was advocating for the ban at only Douglass Park, a position supported by Chadwick.

"The use of alcohol in that park is not like it is in other parks," Chadwick said.   "Do we have the drinking issue in any other park like we do in Douglass Park?   It's a perpetual thing that people are drinking in that park."   

The Columbia Heartbeat’s reporting clearly reflects Chadwick’s desire to ban alcohol at just Douglass Park.  Residents should press her to discuss why she flip-flopped on the issue.

Chadwick’s new position is easy to endorse, but her claim that this has always been her goal is disingenuous.  Tell us you have reconsidered based on conversations with residents living near the park.  Tell us you have listened to the criticism and altered your position after accepting the racist undertones related to your previous stance.  Tell us you have done research on alcohol usage at other parks, but don’t insult the intelligence of your critics by presenting a press release that claims a different position.

That may cover up the mistake you have made, but it fails to address the character of one who just played a game when the heat in the kitchen got too hot to bear.  Citizens are willing to accept an apology.  They understand when a person brings a perspective devoid of an understanding of how a certain group may respond.  We all make mistakes, and there is always space to grow.

But don’t pretend you’ve always seen the bigger picture.  In the words of Samuel Dewitt Proctor, my former mentor and teacher at Duke, that dog will hunt.

This hound dog smells what you are doing.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Ginny Chadwick wants to ban alcohol at the only park in Columbia, MO's black neighborhood

It hasn’t taken long for Ginny Chadwick, Columbia, MO councilwoman representing the 1st Ward, to prove she’s out of touch with the black people who live in her district.  Chadwick is set on leading efforts to ban alcohol at Douglass Park.

Black folks in Columbia, we call it COMO, consider Douglass Park one of the few places to gather in a way that reflects our rich cultural particularity.  It’s the one place black people can chill, be real, put some meat on a grill, pull out the side dishes, talk trash, shoot hoops, listen to some R&B, and, for better and for worse, drink some beer and liquor.

The truth be told It’s the only spot within a city designed to keep blacks in their proper place.  It feels intentional at times.  Yes, Douglass Park is like other parks in the "hood" across the nation. It’s a spot that has garnered a reputation because of the people who go there.

The truth is covered by the fiction, and that fiction is rooted in fear.  That fear is molded by ignorance, and that stupidity is supported by an unwillingness to jump outside the comfort zone.  Chadwick, and anyone willing to drink the unspiked Kool-Aid, is building public policy based on a mound of assumptions.

She needs to check herself before taking the big gulp.

Even worse than her misguided crusade to ban drinking at Douglass Park, is her lack of respect for the man who was on the ballot against her. Chadwick’s bold indifference for Tyree Byndom’s input may be a sign that she lacks the ability to comprehend, or simply doesn’t care about the people begging to be treated with respect.

“The Blacks in the 1st Ward have one social space that they go, and that is Douglass Park. They don't feel wanted or culturally accepted most other locations,” Byndom wrote in a message he reposted on Facebook. “If I hear that this is an effort that you are actually going to go through with, I want you to know that you will have major opposition from me and my allies.”

Byndom’s message was simple – don’t go there.  To her credit, Chadwick didn’t deny her plan to ban drinking at Douglass Park.

“Thanks for your input Tyree. Yes, I am working to make Douglas alcohol free,” Chadwick wrote.

“Cool. Get ready for a fight,” Byndom responded.

“Didn't take the job because I wasn't up for fights. Change is a struggle, especially towards public health issues,” Chadwick said.

“That's fine. Be well. See you on the battlefield,” Byndom said.

You have to respect a woman on a crusade, but what is Chadwick thinking? Is she willing to disregard the opinion of a person with one ear to the ground? Is she completely insensitive to the concerns of those who frequent Douglass Park? Has she formed an opinion based on her view from her car as she drives by the park?

There are two problems with Chadwick’s push, and both reflect a deeper issue related to how race and racist assumption impact public policy.

The issue isn’t banning drinking in a city park.  There is merit to enforcing that policy.  The problem is with limiting the ban to the only park supported by black people.  Forming a unique policy for Douglass Park is at the core racist.  It targets a set population in a way that stereotypes them as being predisposed to alcoholism and illicit behavior caused by excessive drinking.

Second, and even more incommodious than the first, is Chadwick’s unwillingness to press Byndom to share his concerns.  She cites her position without persuading Byndom to state his case. She fails to ask him to explain his opposition.  She simply states her position, and willingness to go to battle.

It’s this type of insensitivity that I remember about COMO before leaving close to 30 years ago. I’m told that things have changed, but Chadwick reminds me of why it was easy to leave with no desire to come back home.

If you’re against drinking in city parks, ban it at all parks.  You simply can’t go after the park where the black citizens spend their time.  If you do decide to ban drinking at that park, show some sensitivity toward those who oppose your position.  Listen to the citizens you represent.

Chadwick’s refusal to listen is striking one of those bad nerves.  I plan to call her soon to give her a chance to respond.  I’ve decided to write this first to introduce her to me and my work.  Be warned.  You might think that’s the way business is handled in COMO. If that’s true, take some notes.

Take some time to listen before you go on the battlefield.

You don’t want this battle.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Jamal Bryant is not the first pastor to call women "Hoes": Countering Hoeology

It’s not appropriate to call a woman a garden tool.  It’s a point that has been fought by women bent on revising the language of Hip-Hop music.  It’s been a long battle to end the fascination with bitches and hoes.

So, we’ve become accustomed to the sexism and misogyny in Hip-Hop music.  Byron Hurd exposed issues of masculinity, sexism and homophobia in his documentary Beyond Beats and Rhymes, 2006. http://www.pbs.org/independentlens/hiphop/.  The battle to terminate the garbage talk about women coincides with efforts to kill and bury the N-word for good.

Both are hard to destroy.

Hip-Hop may not get it, but I have an expectation that clergy communicate in ways that reflect a deeper consciousness. 

Pastor Jamal Bryant, of Baltimore’s Empowerment Temple, is the second high profile pastor to get caught using that garden tool to label women.  In June, Pastor Andy Thompson, of World Overcomers Christian Church in Durham, NC, posted a message on twitter that sent women and sensible men into a frenzy.

“Ladies, if you want to be the only woman your man looks at, shine it up. Don’t let the Hoes he comes across out shine you,” Thompson posted.

Thompson apologized on YouTube with a message that attempted to place his comments within a plausible context. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZssVLbA9t3o

Sorry, it didn’t work.

“These Hoes ain’t loyal,” Bryant said during a sermon. http://youtu.be/6DcT_0H2EnQ

Like Thompson, Bryant advised critics to consider his words within the context of the sermon.  He is correct to assert that there is more to his message than a 30 second sound bite.

The problem with both Thompson and Bryant are the fundamental theological problems with their message beyond the reference of Hoes.  More disturbing than their usage of the garden tool is the acceptance of certain assertions among those who attend church each week.

Assumptions of Compartmentization and Dichotomization

Both Thompson and Bryant relegate the role of women to marriage.  Marriage is postured as a competition between those with a husband, and those seeking to claim the husbands of others.  Thompson and Bryant use Hoe to brand unmarried women.

Bryant examines the attack on black men.  He uses ample historical evidence in exploring how public policies have been used, by the enemy, to keep men down.  In keeping men down, the family suffers.  Bryant’s claim is that men are needed to bring stability to the family.  The attack on women is ultimately an attack on black men. 

Women and men are placed in set terms.  Women are, by design, emotional.  Men are intellectual.  All infrastructures suffer when men and woman are placed outside their God ordained positions.  This is an argument that demands female submission to the leadership of men.  Bryant argues that men function devoid of favor without a woman to point him toward his purpose.

The vision of the woman is to support and promote her husband.  Yes, Bryant suggests men should listen to their woman, and this, on the surface, appears as a progressive concept.  There is no discussion related to men supporting the vision of women.  Men and women are dichotomized based on God mandated roles.

Assumptions of Masculinity

Both Thompson and Bryant assert conceptions of masculinity that blames women for infidelity.  Thompson imputes wives for falling to “shine it up” while those Hoes are lurking to steal their husbands. Bryant mentions the side piece as a distraction from the vision God.  “Hoes” are used, by the enemy, to keep men from their Godly agenda.  What about the conventions that presumes a form of masculinity that makes cheating a God created virtue?  What about the application of notions that “the enemy” uses those Hoes to sidetrack men?

The demonization of women, as Hoes, creates space for the rationalization of male flirtation.  Any departure from God’s purpose is blamed on a certain type of woman.

Assumptions of Sexuality

“The feminized black church is comfortable for sanctified sissies,” Bryant said.

Bryant spews a homophobic laced diatribe that faults the “enemy” for an assault on the black man.  Bryant attacks the black church for being overly emotional while men are, by design, intellectually driven.  Men demand structure and a place to assert their vision, while women are needed to keep men on track.

Bryant concludes that the emotional agenda of the black church has led to the rise of homosexual boys and girls.  The lack of male presence in the family has led to the onslaught of more women in the church.  As the family suffers, the church suffers.  As the church suffers, we see more and more of the societal dysfunction that is destroying the black community.

Assumption of Theodicy

Bryant uses “The Enemy” to illustrate the ongoing quandary of the human experience.  Bryant, and many ministers, fails to adequately define the full nature of evil, and how the enemy shows up.  His inability to clarify what or who the enemy is, and how evil shows up, leaves those listening to make assumptions on their own.

The question of theodicy, the defense of God’s goodness despite the presence of evil, can be traced back to Augustine of Hippo (AD 354-430). Augustine argues that God created the world as good, and that evil is the consequence of the fall of humanity. Augustine blamed natural disasters on fallen angels, and claimed moral evil are deviations of goodness.  Augustine argued that God does not create evil, but humans have chosen to deviate from the path of perfect goodness.

There is a long historical debate related to the question of theodicy.  What does Bryant mean when he uses the “enemy” in discussing the attack on the human will? How does this apply to the question of genetic disposition of evil?  As easy as it may be to blame everything on “the enemy”, what is implied theologically when we make such a claim?  Even more important, what are we teaching the people regarding evil and the providence of God?

The Theology Behind Hoeology

Given the lack of theological clarity in using “the enemy” to outline the complexity of problems facing the black community and the black church, Thompson and Bryant tempt us to conclude that those Hoes are the enemy.  I call this Hoeology –the construction of a theology that blames women for the evils facing men.

My conclusion is simple; it’s not the fault of Thompson and Bryant that the garden tool was used to illustrate a point within their sermonizing.  Hoeology is deeply rooted in the fabric of black dogma.  It has been constructed from the circumstance of black, female enslavement, and has found a home within the common culture of the black church.

Those Hoes are behind broken marriages and compromised dreams. 

In the words of Flip Wilson’s Geraldine, “The devil made me do it.”

Translation: a hoe in a bright red dress.