When I first started making my way back to Christian faith, hip-hop helped. It wasn’t necessarily because part of my background is black and the men I was listening to were black. It was because they talked about faith and I could move my feet to their jubilant praise. Listening to Lecrae, Trip Lee, KB, and others gave me hope that the Good News wasn’t just for perfect people in perfect churches but for sinners and those who like an up-tempo beat. Lecrae especially inspired me because he said his goal was to reach those who everyone else gave up on, namely the gang bangers who may have reached the depths of depravity and despair. It wasn’t the gangs I related to, it was the Isaiah like understanding than we humans can become incredibly dark, yet true light is available to even the street killers. If that isn’t a message of hope I don’t know what is.
In Lecrae’s song ‘Violence’ he gets to the heart of the matter:
No wanna listen, no reason for livin’
We bought the lie we can’t be forgiven for all our sinnin’
Killin’ is the religion, services in the prison
Ignorance got a slave and our name in the mentions
War, pain, violence should stop.
Like our Lord’s visits to the tax collectors and drinkers, I appreciated that Lecrae highlighted the very people who like you and I, need Jesus. The imperfect people who think they’ve gone too far to ever have a chance at redemption. The killers, rapists, haters, hypocrites, and criminals could have a place at the proverbial table too, provided they believe and change. Lecrae made music that wasn’t for everybody, but for those who like rap and love the Gospel, his music not only kept me dancing, it helped me continue to turn again and again back to a higher love.
Since his album Gravity, I’ve listened to Lecrae less and less. Anomaly did nothing for me and his latest I haven’t bothered with. Why? The racial politics. I get that he’s becoming “woke” but I’ve been on that wide road and can say unequivocally it was a highway to hell and yes I fought for that best seat. Racial identity development work is a made up academic psychological construct that is basically a ‘stages of race identification’ theory. The main catalyst is stage II, an experience of racism that apparently makes someone say “well by gosh I’m black” and propels them into wearing Dashiki’s and eating grits. Lecrae writes in his new song “Facts”
Hope you know that I’m black black
Traded my Smart Car for a Cadillac, can you handle that?
Been in the ’burbs for quite some time
But I still might hit the gas station
For the Lemonheads and the pork rinds
Huh? With all due respect to my brother in the struggle, what does pork rinds and Cadillac’s have to do with blackness? These lyrics to me are racist and sadly defeatist. My father who suffers from Sarcoidosis, an autoimmune lung disease effects mainly black men, is not helped by talking about smart cars and Lemonheads. Dad can barely breathe but at least he can be assured of his race if only he got a Caddy. My pop doesn’t need Colin Rand Kaepernick to kneel during football anthems or rappers and Michelle Obama to talk about fried chicken as a ticket to blackness. He needs black men who will fund research to help him walk more than a city block. And my father needs prayer. He needs hope. He needs Jesus.
Just the other day I was in a car with an acquaintance. She is a white woman and true advocate for the sick and homeless. She’s also a card-carrying liberal. As we headed downtown listening to NPR in her car I was grateful our family has our own car where I can listen to Michael Berry in peace. At one point this woman was sharing a story about a homeless client when she said “I was talking to this woman…this black woman…woman of color, and she didn’t know anything thing about homeless people and her area and I was like ‘come on!'” This acquaintance who as I mentioned has a kind heart made a completely racist and judgmental statement. Why? She equated being a minority or double minority with having some sort of inherent knowledge or sympathy for another minority or downtrodden person. In other words this woman of color surely identifies as a victim because of her sex and race and therefore should be “down” regarding other victims.
There was no need to rebuke her because quite frankly I know she’s not a racist but she made an ignorant statement that reflects Lecrae’s short-sighted view of what it should mean when you’re a minority. No, women of color don’t need to know about the plight of the homeless just because they’re brown and Lecrae isn’t black just because…you know…pork rinds. The idea that racial identity/justice can be achieved by racial stereotypes is more than insulting, it’s absurd.
Everyone is racist, sexist, homophobic, or whatever to some degree. That’s never going to change. As long as there are people there will be injustices around many corners. Pretending to be on some anti-racist pedestal by sheer fact of being of color is nonsense as is white folks believing they can absolve themselves of their racial sins at the alter of social justice. No one will ever be “woke” enough to not be a jerk at times. Surely my pal this week knew not what she did and it’s not my job to make her change. It was disappointing to her words but…she is flawed like me, and in a way, it is a blessing to know I’m not alone in sometimes making erroneous assumptions.
My hope is this phase Lecrae and our country is in will be grown past soon because the things that are most important; family, health, faith, and freedom of thought (hello book censors I see and am tracking you) is being relegated to the Church of Identity Politics. I want my friend Lecrae to know I once worshipped there too and all it gave me was bitterness and separation from Christ. In attempting to be black enough I temporarily lost my mind and yes even some of my soul. I hope he remembers these words as he finds his way home…
Plus, we get bombarded by all these images of bravado
You ain’t really a man [or black] if you don’t follow these models
But the weakest ones follow, the strong reconsider
You can forgive much if you understand you forgiven
Photo credit: http://www.unprofound.com/