7 Reasons Why My Faith, Not My Race, Comes First

By Laurel J. Davis
Originally posted in The Reluctant First Lady

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My two young Black male sons, ages 23 and 20, have been called "nigger" too many times in their own neighborhood for me to be indifferent to the fact that racism is alive and well in America. I have before and will continue to "pull the race card" (as it's called) whenever it's truly warranted. I've picketed, boycotted, stormed the castle, and held up signs about "Equal Rights for All" just like my maternal grandmother did during the Civil Rights Movement before me.

I get righteously indignant at hasty judgments against the nuances of Black American Culture that I identify with and find downright endearing. See just one movie, any movie, with a mostly Black audience, and you'll understand what I'm talking about. While the less hateful may still complain, "Why can't they just act normal?", I celebrate what makes us unique. We are normal. Normal for us. And what's normal for us is far beyond, far deeper and far richer than what's portrayed in the media. (Except the baggy pants thing. Besides being unattractive, showing your underwear in public has its roots among prison inmates for signaling an invitation to fornicate. I'm just saying.)

And while I respect that many well-meaning non-Blacks have their own perspective on 400 years of American slavery; Jim Crow laws; job, housing, education and economic discrimination; racial profiling; so-called "white privilege;" and why we Blacks can't just let it go, I wish there was more equal respect for our perspective on these very same things. I wish they knew (without having to experience it) what it feels like to have to sit your boys down when they're barely teenagers to tell them what to do if they're ever confronted by a cop, or an angry group of skinheads, or a vengeful White ex-girlfriend.

None of these have happened to my boys, thankfully, except for skinheads shouting pure hate out of moving car windows in our neighborhood. But we had to have that talk with them nonetheless. Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown and Oscar Grant III are three young Black males — three too many — who have been shot and killed while unarmed. They did not deserve the death penalty, regardless of what some people have said to the contrary. To the extent that it's in their control, I don't want my law-abiding, educated, smart (please stop calling us "articulate" or "well-spoken") and well-mannered sons to ever be mistaken as "just another angry Black thug" by someone with preconceived notions and a gun.

But, as I say all of that, I am a Christian. And I am a Christian before I am Black.

Yes, obviously, I was literally Black first because I was born that way, and 22 years passed before I became a Christian. Plus, it's kind of hard to say I'm a Christian before I'm Black in light of my maternal grandfather, the patriarch of my extended family, who has fought racial discrimination all his life. He is approaching his 100th birthday soon and still had on his own "I am Trayvon Martin" hoodie at protester rallies. At his age, it's quite extraordinary that he has actually lived to see the first Black President of the United States through not one but two terms in office. (Don't tell my grandfather I didn't "vote Black" either time.)

In spite of all that, my faith in Jesus Christ comes first. As important as it is to me personally to stand for my earthly heritage and culture — and it is very important because #BlackLivesMatter and #AllLivesMatter in this life — it is much more important to me to stand for my Lord and Savior because #AllSoulsMatter for the afterlife to come. Including (if not especially) my proud, healthy, mentally sharp, Black grandfather who is also a 100-year-old agnostic/atheist. Sigh.

Here are seven reasons why my faith, not my race, comes first in relation to what's most important between the two.

Faith Before Race Reason #1: What Defines Me
I am defined more by my faith than my race. People may see the Black in me before they see the Christ in me, but I hope what they walk away with after that is indeed the Christ in me more than anything else. Being Black is certainly part of what defines me in this life. But being a Christian defines me in this life and in the life to come, a life that's going to last eternally longer.

Sure, I'm a child of a Black mother and a White father, and a Jewish step-father, and I'm proud of my mostly Black-slash-multi-cultural heritage. But nothing, absolutely nothing, makes me more proud and grateful than being a child of the Most High God.

It may be semantics, but Black is part of what I am, while Christian is all who I am. To me, it comes down to a matter of skin versus soul, because I am much more than my skin and my culture. So, the degree to which you see me or don't see me participating in social justice activities like public protests, marches, picket lines, sit-ins, die-ins, boycotts or Trayvon Martin hoodies has nothing to do with my Blackness (how "down" I am) and everything to do with my faith (how Christ-like I am trying to be).

Faith Before Race Reason #2: What Saves Me
Race doesn't get me into or keep me out of Heaven. Neither does social justice or injustice and the degree to which I do or don't take corresponding action. What gets me into Heaven and keeps me there forever is the grace of God through His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, in whom I profess my faith.

I believe by faith that Jesus is God manifested in the flesh, who lived a perfect life and ministry, shed His blood on the Cross for my sins, three days later raised Himself from the dead while He was dead, later ascended into Heaven to the right hand of God the Father, and is coming again to gather up His people and establish His eternal kingdom. That's why, by the grace of God, I'm going to live forever in Heaven.

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Published on 7-13-15