by Michael Corbin
There’s something about us.
It’s baffling, curious, elusive and mysterious. Yet it’s ultimately anointed, pre-destined and pre-ordained. What is it?
The “IT.” That’s it exactly. The “IT” is the source of the issue.
It’s as if God implanted this code within our DNA that would determine both our individual and collective experience. And it doesn’t matter if you’re President of the United States or a homeless man on the street, our high-yellow, tan, chocolate brown or blue-black experiences may have nuances, but they’re basically the same.
It’s like Hester Prynne wearing the Scarlet A on her chest, only much more profound. We cannot strip away our scarlet letters because we ARE the scarlet letters … at least from society’s point of view.
Doesn’t it feel as if we were born as enemies of the state even though our spirits have nothing but the best of intentions? And despite a heart of gold, a clean mind and a soul emblazoned with the Holy Spirit, you can still … somehow … be an enemy of the state.
The slave ships dripping with claustrophobic disease and inhumanity … the chains and shackles … the beatings … the hangings … the high-tech lynching … the profiling … the harassment … the accusations … the discrimination … the frightened stares … the clutching of handbags … the shootings … and God knows whatever else may come … It has all happened and is happening in perfect synchronicity.
And yet, as I type these words, I cannot help but think about Jesus Christ. Was He not marked and mocked the entire time? Was He not rejected and persecuted and hung? In fact, it was the worst of the worst for all of human history.
And here’s the thing … was He not also anointed, pre-destined and pre-ordained even before the Immaculate Conception?
Something is going on … and while I don’t mean to make parallels, how can you not? It’s deeply embedded in our DNA. It’s so deep that it’s swimming around in the DNA of our DNA.
It’s the thing that causes people to look at us with instant hatred or disdain, yet also idol worship. Either or … and sometimes both at the same time. Why is the reaction always extreme? Why are we always seen in terms of extremity … be it bad or good?
We’re either deep threats or saviors expected to come in like Superman and clean up the toxic waste that was none of our doing. If you’re a man of African descent, it feels as if you have a narrow choice: be a criminal or be exemplary. There’s barely any in-between.
Can we not just be seen as human? Imperfect people who aren’t further criminalized or demonized for being humanly imperfect?
Yes, you can be perfectly mediocre. But we know that for us, mediocrity is closer to criminality. Admit it. You know exactly what I’m talking about. If you’re not practically walking on water, it means you’re swimming with low-lifes and bound for the chopping block.
But let’s go back to the DNA thing for a moment. There’s something in there. If you’re high-yellow, you may have tried to escape it, but here you are. If you’re blue-black, you can give it a try, but it certainly will not happen.
So … what is it? Here’s a quick anecdote.
Long ago, I was teaching a college course in Virginia. As I walked across campus and entered the hall where I was meeting up with my students, I ran into a university administrator I had spoken to before, but barely knew.
“Hello!” I said to the guy. And in an effort to explain why I couldn’t chat at that moment, I added, “I’m trying to get to my class on time!”
“Yes!” the administrator replied. “I saw you ‘bopping’ across campus like you were a student!”
“Excuse me?” I thought.
All I could think was … “bopping?” Is THAT what I was doing? I thought I was just “walking fast” in an attempt to get to my students.
Here’s another quick story.
I once worked in a place where we’d often see the corporate executives in the building. No big deal. However, there was one top guy I’d see every now and then. Each time I’d see this guy, he’d say …
“Oh! Here comes trouble!”
Of course, he was kidding around which is fine, but it often made me wonder … is THAT how you actually see me? That’s certainly not how I see myself. If anything, I’m one of the most dependable people in this building!
There’s something about us that causes society to objectify us, strip away our humanity, label us and turn us into “things” that we’re not.
And it doesn’t matter whether you’re high-yellow or blue-black. It doesn’t matter whether you’re wearing a business suit or jeans hanging beneath your butt.
It doesn’t matter how much money you’ve got, the type of car you drive, how many political connections you have or your social strata. Sometimes, your personal conduct or disposition don’t matter either. You are marked. It’s in your DNA.
We can either hate it or we can embrace it.
When we hate it, we sink into despair and drugs and all sorts of criminality, including black on black homicide. Hating ourselves always leads to hating one another. Hating one another leads to tearing down communities … each one leads to the next.
However, when we embrace it? Ahhh … that’s a whole other story.
Embracing it means we can love it. Embracing it means we’re looking to our ultimate role model, Jesus Christ. He is the only way. He leads the way.
If rejection and persecution were good enough for Christ himself, perhaps we should expect it and continue to – dare I say – embrace them ourselves?
It feels like we could be on a very similar path. No?
If you’re a “Brother of the Blood,” there’s something that feels so familiar … something that binds us not only as brothers, but as brothers in Christ and disciples of Christ. He knows exactly what we’re going through. He’s been there!
Despite persecution, there is joy. We are a royal priesthood.
All I can think about right now is I Peter 2:4-10 … Living Translation.
“Come to Christ, who is the living Foundation of Rock upon which God builds; though men have spurned Him, He is very precious to God who has chosen Him above all others. And now you have become living building-stones for God’s use in building His house … for you have been chosen by God himself – you are priests of the King, you are holy and pure, you are God’s very own …”
And so, brothers of the blood, Peter continues on to provide what we might see as a possible explanation for our unique experience on this earth. Why is this happening to us?
Peter says …
“… all this so that you may show to others how God called you out of the darkness into His wonderful light. Once you were less than nothing; now you are God’s own.”
Despite persecution, there is joy. We are indeed a royal priesthood.