Cain and Abel
If whiteness is power
He is Cain
Vapors of melanin
A collective of greatness
Who’s blood speaks by faith
From the graves of the earth
Though power brings struggle
Movements and death
We are still
Our brother’s keeper
I wrote this poem last Sunday at church, while listening to the pastor teach from the theme question of, ‘Where is your brother?’ Which eventually led up to the famous question asked by Cain who had killed his brother, “Am I my brother’s keeper?”
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Since I’ve recently been waking up from a lifetime of slumber, I’ve become more aware of how deeply our world is affected by patriarchy, which shows up everywhere, especially in faith communities. And as a woman of faith who’s becoming more embodied and liberated, I realize that I feel some kinda way at the quiet boldness of whiteness.
Last Sunday, while sitting in the pews of one of the local churches that I've been visiting (one of a few in my quest for a new church home), I noticed something, for what felt like the first time, a very large, very white, image of Jesus. The beautiful art was positioned up high on the center wall that is directly behind the pulpit and choir stand. So no matter what door one entered in, that image could be clearly seen. He, White Jesus, was very purposely designed to stand out.
I’m pretty sure that I had seen the art of stained glass before, or at least I think that I had, but that was undoubtedly before I began to really live in my body. Before my body, which had been desensitized by a lifetime of whiteness assimilation, trauma from abuse and having to live in a black, female, fat body. Before I began to wake up, thaw out, unmute, feel and have some of the scales removed from my eyes.
Fortunately, I don’t struggle with my love for God. There is a cellular and spiritual knowing in my body, mind and spirit of His divine presence and love for me. I believe in Jesus with all my heart. I just wish that there were more pictures hung in churches and on the backs of church fans donated from funeral homes, that better reflected a more realistic image of Jesus. One based on his lineage and the region he was born in.
Though I try to look past those images of Jesus, they are constant reminders of perpetual whiteness.
However, I realize, now more than ever and on a much deeper level, my need for church. The place where I really needed to go this past Sunday for worship and community. To be around a handful of brown people in a building filled with white Christians. To be in a place where I could freely-yet-not-so-freely worship God.
I especially needed restorative connections, lots of hugs and touch, after being so deeply triggered by the killing of Antwon Rose. By the video being played over and over on the news & on social media.
The sounds of the gunshots from the too-graphic video, were reminders of trauma that I had experienced from past shootings in NE Portland. Like countless others, I had been in the wrong place at the wrong time, places like at home, work, Alberta Park or Woodlawn Park. Times where bullets were shot into my house, flying right between both of my sons (when they were very small children) while they slept in their beds.
I am so grateful to still be alive and even more grateful to still have my three adult children. Though I’m still mourning the death and maltreatment of too many innocent people of color.
This is also why I watch very little news.
By Angela Braxton-Johnson
All Rights Reserved * Copyright July 1, 2018