My threesome: Catholicism, Spirituality and Me

THE CATHOLIC CHURCH IS ONE OF THE WHITEST PLACES ON EARTH. Like so WHITE that I can’t imagine how hard it must be being a BLACK Catholic. W.E.B. Du Bois stated “the Catholic Church in America stands for color separation and discrimination to a degree equaled by no other church in America.”

UMM…YEA…The Catholic Church is really, really, REALLY White y’all.

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As a general rule of thumb I make it my business not to go to events, places, or spaces that are overtly White or representative of White supremacist ideals.

So I generally don’t go to:

  • Tennis matches. Fuck all the Serena Venus accolades and milestones(even tho I watched on television because like Issa Rae said “I’m rooting for everybody Black.”)Black folks and tennis just don’t mix.
  • Golf matches. Fuck Tiger Woods and his Cablinasian ass. Black folks and golf don’t mix either.
  • I don’t go to Opera or Orchestra performances. I mean it’s not like Imma catch Migos, Cardi B, or Meek Mill there, so I’ll pass. giphy
  • Honestly, I don’t even go to predominantly White neighborhoods. Because. Umm. You know. Get Out and the Wypipo ish that goes on there. Shit, for that matter I don’t trust White women with teacups, White therapist, or even the White pages. White Plains New York, shit I’ve never been to the White House.

I be leary thinking that imma be the only Black person in these White spaces and that Wypipo may ask me questions like, Is Tupac really dead or alive? Or Why do Black people love chicken and waffles so much?

Neither of which, I’m at liberty to divulge.

In the past, I avoided going to weddings and other overtly joyous family oriented occasions, not because I hate joy, but because these occasions often put pressure on you to attend to those things our moms expects of us in this life have kids, get married and to move out of her damn house.

Screen Shot 2017-10-27 at 6.31.23 AM.pngI didn’t need mine or anybody else’s mama wondering when I’m gonna be taking that trip down the aisle or becoming anybody’s pappy.

This all becomes more normal as you have kids of your own, or embark on the journey of matrimony; but before hand this shit terrifying.

This ain’t a game people!

Now while I ain’t the biggest fan of them, I’ve been to weddings on a number of occasions, and in fact, attended two separate ones in the past month or so. (FYI don’t invite me to anymore this year. If you plan on getting married before January, either a) don’t or b) don’t expect to see my Black ass there.

Last Friday I had the opportunity was lovingly yet aggressively forced to experience, for the first time in my life, a Catholic wedding in all of its glory, i.e. Whiteness.

Not the people. They were BLACK BLACK, just how I like it. In fact the reception was so turnt and the Dj so poppin that he had the beautiful newlyweds and their families rocking all evening.

But the space itself. YEA THE SPACE WAS REALLY WHITE.

If you have had the pleasure of attending a Catholic Church and experiencing Mass, then you know that the proceedings ain’t nothing like no Black Church. No litty gospel choir remixing today’s latest and greatest in hip hop and R&B. No old Black ladies catching the Holy Ghost mid aisle. And definitely no smooth Black Pastor or Deacon ushering the sweet word of the Lord.

Nope.

I was met with an Asian Priest giving me the word of Catholicism White Jesus, with Catholic music playing in the backdrop that was akin to music that plays during the climactic parts of the Godfather 2. Really chilling and dramatic sounding music. The space, with all its very White saints and angels on the wall was more than I think I was prepared for. It’s the feeling I get every time I walk through the halls of elite academic spaces like Columbia or NYU, with all of the statues, paintings, and other artifacts paying homage to who else but White Men.

In both the Catholic Church and these places of higher education, with all the ways in which they affirm Whiteness and White standardization, I wonder, what do the Black folks that inhabit these spaces think of this? Like how are they managing their Blackness amongst so much Whiteness? In Being Black and Catholic in the United States, writer Michael O’Loughlin explores the hurdles faced by Catholics in this country with Priest and Scholar on Black Catholicism, Rev. Bryan N. Massingale. Right off the back they talking that talk I like to hear. When asked is it possible to be Black and Catholic The Rev states:

“As long as the Church continues to operate as “a white institution,” full integration of black culture will remain elusive.”

Oh you don’t say? He goes on to state:

“many US dioceses are reluctant to embrace worship styles that stray from “European aesthetics” in music and theology, leading to “alienation” for many black Catholics. Many black Catholics, he said, already have one foot outside the Church, about to leave for good.”

Wait y’all surprised?

Wanting more context on racism in Catholicism the Google delivered unto me The Painful Resilient History of America’s Black Catholics.

Screen Shot 2017-10-27 at 6.31.37 AM.pngDid y’all know there was a damn Black Catholic Congress and did y’all know that they are one of the oldest Catholic communities in the U.S.?”

Their aim: “to promote the evangelization of African-American communities and improve their spiritual and physical conditions.”

READING IS FUNDAMENTAL YALL.

The Black Catholic Priest out of Philadelphia, Fr. Stephon Thorne, describes the resilience and continued commitment to faith that Black Catholics demonstrate, even in the face of hateful and unpious discrimination from their White counterparts. He lists the different ways newly freed and still imprisoned enslaved Africans came to find were forced to convert to Catholicism by their White masters.

You’d think this to be a space where early Black Catholics could thrive. You know that whole separation of church and state thing.

Screen Shot 2017-10-27 at 6.31.48 AM.pngSideBar: Thanks Zen for reminding me that writing and drinking makes me forgetful of historical events. If my mind was lucid writing that line I’d never be foolish enough to forget that,  “Wypipo got us fucked up over religion something awful. They literally used the Bible to rationalize enslaving and torturing us and we still cling to that White Jesus and Heaven in the sky mess. We worship while they reap.” 

YOU’RE AWESOME! My editor is better than yours.

The same White supremacy that plagued this nation was able to find its way into the Catholic Churches in America; with some parishes segregated and others trying to “Rosa Parks” their Black parishioners by having them sit in the back of Mass.

Like Really dawg?

The relationship between the Catholic Church and Black people is a tumultuous one filled with oppression and segregation.

I’m trying to figure out why the hell Black people even wanna be Catholic?

Like why would this beautiful Black couple want to celebrate their union in a space that, at least to me, doesn’t affirm their Blackness at all.

Disclaimer: this is not in anyway a shot at Black Catholics here in America or abroad. I understand the sanctity of one’s own religion and simply seek to understand the intersections here. This was by far one of the most beautiful weddings I’ve ever attended and for the couple to commemorate their special moment in front of their family and their God; I’m sure will undoubtedly add to the strength of their matrimony.

All these Wypipo White-peopling Catholicism led me to conclude that White Catholics have to talk about race and admit their racism.

Zen dropped more science: “I think we just win at being better Christians than wp because our connection to the spirit is so strong that even when they stripped us of our ancestral rituals, we still clung to spirituality albeit through the self destructive lies of religion forced on us by colonizers.”

Lately it seems that everything in my personal and professional life has been coming together perfectly. For the first time in a long time I can honestly say that I am happy, which is nothing short of a miracle. Still though, I’ve been missing a spiritual connection to a divine entity that most people get from organized religion, and lately I’ve been wondering what that connection could mean for me, my larger purpose, and the work of liberation for our people.

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I’ve been reading pieces of literature filled with ideas that speak to the ancestral and communal nature with which diasporic people connect to the spirit world through a lens that is indigenous.

Two books that I’ve read this year, Anthony T. Browders From the Browder files: 22 essays on the African American Experience, and The Spirit Of Intimacy: Ancient Teachings in The way of Relationships; are amazing texts which have helped me to expand my desire to want to learn about spirituality and religion, and if you haven’t I’d advise that you all take a look at these two texts.

So what exactly was this all for?

Whenever I speak of the work of education and liberation I am always quick to point out that this is SOUL work. That you have to be committed, dedicated and in it for the long haul because this work is exhaustive and wears down on you emotionally. As I become more connected to the work I am doing on a everyday basis and grow in my understanding of what it means to work towards the benefit of diasporic people, I am realizing how important it is to be grounded both in the realities of the work ahead, but also having some type of spiritual underpinning from which to draw on when times get hardest.

As I grow to understand my own spirituality and Blackness, the one thing I know for sure is that an overtly White religion, where Whiteness is praised as it is in every other space of our White supremacist reality, with White Jesus and his Whiter saints just ain’t for me.

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Don’t be good my people, BE GREAT.

Posted in Holidays and Celebrations, Intersectionality, PRIDE.

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