When I went to college at Bowie State University in 1991, I—like many African Americans in the ’80s and ’90s—stepped into a new hotbed of identity ideologies. Many Blacks entering college at this time (historically Black colleges in particular) would be wearing some type of cultural accessory pointing out their connection to Africa, from African medallions made of leather to T-shirts depicting the continent of Africa using some African artistic pattern.
This was a significant time for Blacks wrestling with our ethnic and cultural identity. You would see brothers in the student union selling books and oils like Blue Nile, sandalwood, frankincense, and myrrh. These vending stands were filled with resources promising to fill the void of our Black minds with the truth white men had suppressed to prevent us from knowing who we were.
As a Christian who is Black, I am sometimes led to feel as if I am following the religion of my oppressors. It’s like Stockholm syndrome, a realization that everything you thought you knew to be right is wrong. There is a constant tension inherent in being Black and Christian in America, one etched into the psyche of many African Americans.
Consider the following quotes from proponents of what are commonly called “Black conscious” communities. According to Elijah Muhammad, the longtime Nation of Islam leader, “The so-called Negro must awaken before it is too late. They think the white man’s Christianity will save them regardless of what happens, and they are gravely mistaken. They must know that the white man’s religion is not from God nor from Jesus or any other of the prophets. It is controlled by the white race and ...1
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