Lalita tells it like it is: the black church, Obama's speech, faith and race

Dateline: Fri 21 Mar 2008

Lalita Amos is a friend, blogger, consultant and a proud African-American woman who is sharing her reflections here regarding this week's extraordinary address on race by Sen. Barack Obama.

(His talk was the best medicine I had during a bout with "dirty little baby" illness, and Lalita's thoughts have only hastened my healing.)

Here is what Lalita has to say, with my gratitude for sending it this way:

"Barack Obama's speech and the events surrounding it are a marvelous turn of events in my opinion. Though we're not accustomed to having it (and we don't do it all that well), we're now in what can be a very important conversation about race--one where both sides are talking (though now only to themselves and not to each other).

"Finally. We're getting somewheree.

"I was thinking about what President Bush said during the last State of the Union address (I watch every one). Even in the week in which it was delivered, I couldn't quite recall what the president of the most influential nation in the Free World said about our economy and our world (aside from "the surge is working). I would assert that there are others who have a similar experience. However, we will long recall (and are now parsing out) every syllable of Senator Obama's speech. Every, single syllable.

"Mike Huckabee recently said 'we've got to cut some slack to people who grew up and were called names and (he goes on with a list of things he remembered from his native Arkansas)...people sometimes do have a chip on their shoulder and I might have one, too.' Joe Scarborough said 'I guess we've got to walk a mile in their shoes.'

"For my part, I've attended a host of Black churches in the North and the South and, there is an unsevered thread of history that connects those churches to their original missions: Helping Black people survive slavery and then American apartheid (don't like the term for our experience, then you can pick a softer, kinder, gentler one for an experience that wasn't yours). To a greater or lesser degree our pastors are quite a bit like Reverend Wright...

"and we love every imperfect inch of them.


"We don't require, as proof of their Christianity, their perfection (why we continue to sit in the pews, speaking to the pastor privately about the occasional elements of their talks with which we don't agree rather than running for Christian cover).

"I remember being a young child here in Indiana in the 60's and 70's and watching as the adults of our church discussed and prepared for the possibility of our house of worship being bombed! There were churches all over the South that were being destroyed--sometimes with men, women and children in them--and they wanted to make sure that the tableau that played itself out where the nightly news showed pictures of ambulance drivers pulling children's bodies out of the wreckage didn't happen to

their kids. That, I'm certian, was not a conversation being had in any white church anywhere in the nation. That we don't have the same Christian expression is only because many of us have had a very different life experience. I'm sure that the 'old heads' who headed up churches of other hated minorities (like the Irish, since we've just past St. Patrick's Day) can attest to the threats and jeers their parishioners faced in Boston and New York (might I remind you that they were portrayed in the mainstream media as dark skinned monkeys and hatred of them is still encoded in

nursery rhymes).

"Besides, I'm sure you never wondered why the First Baptists Churches all over the North are white and the Second Baptist churches are Black. The white Baptists, rather than having their Black brothers and sisters attend churches with them, chose to help seed these Black churches all over the nation. I've seen the original chartering documents that started my mother church over 140 years ago....and those congregations haven't spoken since.

"That--not the fact that those churches were separated--is the real pity. Even now, they worship separately.

"Psychologists will tell you that not talking about an issue, sublimating it, makes people sicker than if they spoke about it every day. For us, Black people have been the only ones doing the talking while whites have chosen to say nothing (and to consider this a virtue). Family therapists fear families where one party talks about an issue seemingly incessantly while the other shrugs 'I don't see what all the fuss

is about.' Those families, unless they can both speak and really hear each other and begin to see another point of view (even if they don't agree) are doomed. Oh, and when the other party listens...really listens...the issue tends to evaporate. Completely. There's something healing that happens when people are heard, gotten, and respected for their experiences. They can let go. They can afford to.

"Because we have an increasing number of interracial/interethnic families and greater ethnic mixing in neighborhoods, those conversations are happening at a greater rate and, blessedly, our chidren are getting more and more accustomed to each other and the differences in life experiences of those around them (caveat: Black neighborhoods and white rural areas are becoming increasingly polarized with more open hostility mounting).

"Ever wonder why there's only a 30 second endless loop of Reverend Wright's comments? Because, in his 37 years at the pulpit, there is little else for them to have found.

"Thiry seconds in 40 years.

"What I find so troubling is that Christian Conservatives are demanding that Senator Obama 'disown' Reverend Wright.

"And during Holy Week.

"Good thing Jesus didn't just work to redeem those of his followers (and others) who were imperfect. He could have chucked most of us under Golgotha... but didn't.

"What I'd like to know, as a former AA (affirmative action) officer and diversity educator with over 20 years in the business, why we want Obama to kill off a relationship that makes some of us mad, but we don't think twice about those who say actively or benignly hateful things: she slept her way into that position, he only got that deal because of AA and not qualifications, ever hear the one about....In one exercise, in a program done over several days, everyone talked about events that shaped their views of minorities and women and themselves. At every one of the dozens of sessions I lead, whites spoke, heads down, about family members who like Senator Obama's grandmother while loving, said horrible things about people who were different than them...and were told that those family members were still wonderful people who loved them.

Blacks told stories that moved the others gathered there to tears and spoke of really wanting to believe that things could be different...and being disappointed over and over, but still hoping. Others, so damaged by their lives or the experiences of those around them were never going to get off it and proudly proclaimed how Blacks or whites or gays were the root of all our national evils.

"Here's the important thing about these people: it was the members of their ethnic or gender group who pulled them aside to talk with them, taking them on as important people for them to mentor and support.

"It was magic.

"I can remember every one of those faces.

"We all have people in our past who have said things much worse than Obama's former pastor and current friend.

"If we dumped every one who didn't live up to our standards, we'd be terribly alone (and our pulpits, at least in the Black church, would be empty come Easter).

"Now, for those who suggest that Senator O live up to a higher moral standard than the rest of us--one we wouldn't dare to challenge ourselves to live up to in the glare of public scrutiny (and Youtube's Glaring Eye), well, I don't think I even have to finish that statement. Colin Powell, who many many people were eager to have make his run for president said an emphatic "No" because he didn't want his family (chiefly his wife, Alma, a gentle woman who had been treated for some of the emotional distresses that life can pile on). He was sure that a run-up to the White

House would destroy her.

"Think about it.


"Lalita Amos, CRC

Total Team Solutions, LLC"


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