Three leading experts spoke Wednesday evening in a roundtable discussion about the topic of anti-blackness and Christian ethics. The speakers spoke about forms of anti-blackness in both the Church and American culture, and about the Christian ethical principles that can combat the problem.
Open to the public, the event, which was co-sponsored by the Institute for the Liberal Arts, the theology department, and the African and African diaspora studies program, attracted myriad BC students, graduate students, faculty, and staff, as well as many others. The speakers captured the audience’s attention through the panel-style discussion, in which audience members had the chance to ask questions in the last 20 minutes.
The conversation began with opening remarks by Gregory Kalscheur, dean of the Morrissey College of Arts and Sciences. He began by stating how in need the world is of the resources of Christian ethics, and he emphasized the profound importance of having a conversation about race and Christian ethics.
The dialogue with the panelists began with a request from moderator Vincent Lloyd, an associate professor at Villanova University.
“Reflect for a few minutes on the way that your own scholarship speaks to the anti-racist organizing that we’re seeing flourish these last few years,” Lloyd said.
The first to respond was Ashon Crawley, assistant professor of ethnic studies at the University of California, Riverside. His areas of expertise include black studies, performance theory, and sound studies.
He began with a story about a white mother who wrote a blog post attempting to reconcile her daughter’s interracial marriage with the fact that all are beloved children of God. Her acceptance of the marriage was based on the fact that her son-in-law had moved in her mind from black man to beloved son of God.
“We are in a moment of post-intentional racism,” Crawley said.
Crawley ended by reconciling the ideas of ethics, blackness, and Christianity. He emphasized having a Christianity that responds to and anticipates anti-black racism.
“We need to cry and to mourn and to grieve and to let our hearts and souls be ripped open because then we will find the internal motivation to say, excuse me, this shit’s got to stop.”
—Bryan Massingale, a faculty member at Fordham University and a Catholic priest in Milwaukee
Next to speak was panelist Kelly Brown Douglas, a professor of religion at Goucher College, as well as a priest of the Episcopal Church. She is also the author of Stand Your Ground: Black Bodies and the Justice of God, an examination of stand your ground laws that seeks to explain the shootings of unarmed black men like Trayvon Martin, who was killed in Florida in 2012.
Douglas began by examining the anti-black nature of American identity. She explained her mission of trying to discern the very movement of God. Douglas examined the modern political climate, examining current politics through the lens of anti-blackness. She contrasted the nature of the Black Lives Matter movement and the Make America Great Again narrative of Donald Trump, explaining that America is grounded in “Anglo-Saxon exceptionalism” designed to cherish the idea of whiteness and what she calls white possession of black bodies.
Douglas brought Christianity into the matter by raising the question, “Where is God?”
“God is in those places where we are disrupting things where they are,” she said.
Bryan Massingale, a faculty member at Fordham University and a Catholic priest in Milwaukee, was the last panelist to speak. He is one of the world’s leading Catholic social ethicists and scholars of African-American theological ethics, racial justice, and liberation theology.
Massingale explored the idea of blackness as the antithesis of holiness. He focused on the Catholic Church, and its response to the modern Black Lives Matter movement, explaining that the Catholic Church is characterized by white aesthetics. He called for an extension of dialogue, emphasizing that we need more justice structures to prevent discrimination.
Massingale incorporated Catholic spirituality into the matter by stating the transformative power of lament. He said we need to mourn so that we will find the motivation to demand an end to racial violence and discrimination.
“We need to cry and to mourn and to grieve and to let our hearts and souls be ripped open because then we will find the internal motivation to say, excuse me, this shit’s got to stop,” Massingale said.
Featured Image by Julia Hopkins / Heights Editor