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Ahmad Greene-Hayes | @BrothaG | with thanks to NewBlackMan (in Exile)

 

Image Credit: Funeral Procession by T. Coleman

 

 

Saturday, June 27, 2015.

 

 

Published in 1992, Derrick Bell’s The Space Traders tells the story of munificent and powerful extra-terrestrials offering the United States gold, advanced technology, clean nuclear power and a host of other benefits in exchange for all Black people living in the United States. In many ways Bell’s narrative depicts a long-standing truism in the history of Black life in the American nation-state: the dollar over Black humanity.

 

One of Bell’s characters, a pro-trade citizen, offered these words: “All Americans are expected to make sacrifices for the good of their country. Black people are no exceptions to this basic obligation of citizenship. Their role may be special, but so is that of many of those who serve. The role that blacks may be called on to play in response to the Space Traders’ offer is, however regrettable, neither immoral nor unconstitutional.” In true sadistic form, Black death, Black suffering, Black grief and Black mourning are the sacrifices that keep the god of white supremacy throned and unbothered. Forgoing commitments to justice or constitutionality, the U.S. government sacrificed Black people for capitalistic gain.

 

“The inductees looked fearfully behind them. But, on the dunes above the beaches, guns at the ready, stood U.S. guards. There was no escape, no alternative. Heads bowed, arms now linked by slender chains, black people left the New World as their forebears had arrived.”

 

The imagery of a spaceship taking away all Black people to a far away place likens to “the rapture,” or what some millenarian theologians posit as the snatching of “born-again Christians” off the earth at the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. Rapture theology is informed by popular readings of the Book of Revelation in the Bible, and in many Christian traditions across the globe, it informs believers’ life practices through a psychology of fear. Notions of “Be ye also ready” or “Don’t let [Jesus] catch you with your work undone” permeate the hearts of many.  Believers are often led to live out strict spiritual lives in order to be sinless at the point of Christ’s supposed return.

 

In fact, as a teenager, I remember being shown “Are you ready?” a Youtube.com video of what the rapture may look like. I also remember being shown “Rapture cartoons,” which made rapture theology clear to young children. I also recall being told to read the book of Revelation when I had questions about sex in my teenage Sunday school class.

 

Today, as a follower of Christ, I’m no longer convinced by rapture theology or the scare tactics that Evangelicals have used to not only manipulate thousands (including myself) but to also make thousands off of “Left Behind” books, sermons, films and lectures (see Barbara R. Rossing’s The Rapture Exposed).

 

More importantly, as a Black person living in an anti-Black racist society, the safety of rapture is undeniably reserved solely for white Christians. In fact, under white supremacist Christianity, only white people can be saved and safe, because Black people are seen as inherently criminal, diabolical, and monstrous as former Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson opined last year.

 

In the aftermath of the Charleston Massacre, where nine innocent Black lives were ruthlessly taken, I am left wondering whether the god of white supremacy orchestrates Black people’s rapture from the perilous conditions of an anti-Black world. Note, however, that the rapture that Black people experience is not a peaceful one. In fact, our Savior does not meet us, but instead our rapture is only obtained through bloodshed. This rapture is also directed at Black people—not because we are so “good” as rapture theologians would posit, but rather, because white supremacists do not see us as human.

 

Our rapture is genocide, and like all genocides, we are snatched away from our communities never to return again. This god feeds off of Black death, and accordingly, Black people are in a perpetual state of rapture. The god of white supremacy must live, even if that means that Black people must perpetually die—socially, psychically, physically, or communally.

 

To be raptured away in a church during a Wednesday night Bible study would seem logical to many rapture theologians, however, how does one reconcile the grotesque and vicious “snatching away” of Black life—not as spiritual comfort, religious reward or even as a consensual act—but rather, as a sacrifice on the altar of white supremacy? How does one make sense of the multiplicity of ways that Black people are raptured away from their families every single day?

 

Dylann Roof chose to massacre those nine innocent lives as rapture, but his ancestors and even his comrades today, use a variety of tactics—everything from lynching, rape, bombings, redlining, gentrification and poverty to police brutality, hyperincarceration, and inaccessibility to healthcare.

 

The god of white supremacy has taken one bite too many from the table of Black communal suffering. Its gluttonous ways render Black life a delicacy to be eaten over and over again. However, in the midst of the Black Lives Matter movement, and as the families of the slain lay their loved ones to rest this week, we unapologetically proclaim, “We fired up! Can’t take it no more!”

 

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Ahmad Greene-Hayes is a writer and organizer from New Jersey, discerning a call to ministry and theological study. He is also the creator of #BlackChurchSex and can be followed on Twitter @_BrothaG.

 

On Charleston: Black Genocide as Rapture

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