Monday, August 18, 2014

Strange Fruit that Hangs from American Seminaries: A Letter from a Black Seminarian

Strange fruit currently hangs over many seminaries in the United States of America. Though unity and solidarity are extolled as corporate virtues within their hallowed halls, many seminaries are governed by a racial hegemony that has historically been indifferent to the narratives of minorities. Indeed, there is a functional impotence in regards to issues that besiege minority communities. Though many days were spent discussing how the Hobby Lobby verdict would forever change the landscape of religious liberty, I have yet to hear the atrocities of police brutality or gentrification openly discussed in a lecture hall. I firmly believe that, for many, the murder of Mike Brown may very well be the drop of water that breaks the proverbial levee that, as of right now, holds the anger of many seminarians of color at bay.

When I first learned of the murder of unarmed Mike Brown, I thought that, perhaps, many of my white colleagues and professors would join me in empathizing with the Brown family and would, collectively, discuss what measures could be done to show solidarity with this lamenting community. I expected the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Committee to offer words of condolence to those who were grieving. Though I did not expect anyone to go on record decrying the actions of the officer in question, I did expect those who profess unity and solidarity to image it forth during a time when so many souls are in need of consolation and empathy. Needless to say, I was gravely disappointed. Tragically, I am not the first black seminarian to be disappointed by the indifference of his white colleagues.

My anger over the silence regarding Mike Brown is only buoyed by the recognition that seminaries have historically been silent on issues pertaining to minority suffering. For instance, how many seminarians and professors stood silent in the fall of 1955 when Emmitt Till was brutally murdered in Mississippi? How many professors and seminarians spoke out against the brutal murders of James Chaney, Michael Schwerner, and Andrew Goodman in the summer of 1964? How is it that these custodians of the gospel of peace were too busy studying Greek syntax and Hebrew exegesis to notice black bodies being hanged beneath the shadow of their seminaries? Is this an ancient phenomenon or has the sins of the fathers poisoned their offspring.

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