Sunday, November 16, 2014, 11AM – Preacher
Covenant Presbyterian Church
Like so many of you, I have been particularly troubled and, I must admit, troublingly silent until now, as it relates to this most recent horror concerning the 276 African girls abducted while at school by the sinister and thieving hands of Boko Haram. I, like so many others, have joined with the mighty chorus of those imploring the arbiters of global power to #bringbackourgirls, for no other reason than because they matter as much as George; and because I know that if they did not sit at the intersection of blackness and femaleness, which, regardless of income or scholastic privilege, classes and castes them amongst the disproportionately poor – if they did not sit at the intersection of blackness and femaleness and the impoverishment, social and otherwise, that being black and female engenders in the world the atrocity visited upon these Nigerian girls would not have been a mere hiccup in the stream of global news before public moral outrage demanded more; a mere insert that blandly calls for an honorable mention in Sunday’s altar prayer or an addendum to the morning’s offertory sentences that hint at the tragedy of schoolgirls lost to pad the plate or dare I say the pockets of apostate preachers without trace history of trustworthy financial stewardship or interest in the gift of helps. This act of terrorism, this calamity, this catastrophe, this sin against the bodies and minds, and spirits of black girls is politically driven and has everything to do with Goodluck not bending to pressure from the North as it relates to the next presidential election. Boko Haram is not internal – these are external mercenaries who are tapped into a minority current presently in Nigerian government who are trying to get their way – and using black girls to do it. Thus, in the 276 we see the zeitgeist – the reality that women and girls continue to be used as pawns in the self-aggrandizing political power games of men.
As the director of the office of black church studies at Duke University, I am clear that Black women are used as pawns in the church for the political ends of men all the time and if nothing else, the kidnapping of these girls should compel those of us who are on the side of justice, and even those of us who feign the just but at least aspire toward the illusion of godliness, to sound the principal alarm of our faith that considers “the least of these” as worthy – worthy of the first, that is of a first response that draws attention to the everydayness of the hijacking of black girls lives that has been systematically executed in the tragedy of Chibok, but that is being is economically executed in black churches right now. Why have so many churches been overwhelmingly silent as it relates to the seizure and enslavement of African girls (but all of a sudden want to take up collections to sponsor a delegation to Nigeria to discuss Christian persecution)? Why have so many churches been overwhelmingly silenced by the larcenous trinity of racism, patriarchy, afromisogyny, and greed that annexes black life time and time again? Sure, I could recount a litany of social ethical hypotheses, Hartmann’s ethic of perfect submission, Townes’ fantastic hegemonic imagination, Riggs’ racialization of social construction of gender mythology…but I’ve been thinking that the real reason why so many churches have been frighteningly silent or at least responsively delayed on the matter of bringing back our girls is because the truth is that the church is too often complicit in systems and structures that are designed to steal black girls away. As it relates to black girls, African and of African descent, we are the kidnappers which is why we can so easily nod and agree when CNN and NBC and the Times tell us that it is impossible to bring them all back, that finding Boko Hiram is impractical – - – we are the kidnappers and it is easier to rest in the possibility that black girls will never be found, and that we will never be found out, than to admit our complicity in the hijacking of black girlhood and womanhood. Every time a little black girl sitting in Sunday School or the sanctuary is invisibilized by the exclusivity of masculine language for God and humanity her her-ness is dehumanized. Every time she confides that she wants to be a preacher, and is told that preaching is for men; every time she is covered up by a lapscarf so she won’t distract the grown pastor or the deacons from doing God’s work – we kidnap her, we steal her possibilities, we play her, we cut her off from the everything that she is called to be. #bringingourgirlsback in Nigeria is a first step, and perhaps the best option for collective supplication today, so yes, bring them back because they matter as much as George – but for as much as we rally to #bringthemback somebody ought to be concerned about those things that #bringthemdown and tear them away – we ought to be concerned about tearing down the strongholds of black woman hate that begins and ends with our girls; a black woman hate that masquerades globally with sacred fervor on the words of bootleg politicians, and by the authority of great prophets and the apostles. Afro-misogyny in any form is nothing more than a killer. As a girl my teacher told me, do not compromise with killers, even holy ones. So I stand with the chorus urging action in Nigeria #bringbackourgirls, and I pray that our voices might be loud enough to #bringdownsomewalls too so if and when the girls return, we might know how to greet them.
HAVE DR. EBONI MARSHALL TURMAN
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