For White Pastors Who Want to Plant In Wakanda

“I think you’re wrong. But I love you, so I’ll take it down. 
But you don’t think Wakanda is for white people. And you need to own that.” 

White Pastor

That was one of the last texts I received from white pastor friend of mine after I asked him to take down whimsical snap announcing a Wakanda campus of his church. I thanked him for taking it down and because I didn’t want there to be any misunderstanding on my thoughts about white people and Wakanda, I addressed his suspicion of my underlying feelings. 

“I own it completely: I don’t think Wakanda is for white people.” 

And I don’t. Because it’s not. And let me say it one more time for the people in the back (who in this particular case are the people in the pulpit): Wakanda is not for white people. 
Look, I get it. Black Panther is what’s hot right now. And not for nothing. It is not only a stunning piece of cinema (a “marvel” if you will), but with Black Excellence on display from top to bottom, it is a moment. We can all see that. And we can (and should!) all enjoy it – multiple times, by all means. But we can’t all own it. 
Wakanda Forever. But not for everyone. 

As a Black person who lives in and loves a country that, historically, has not loved me back and still refuses to fully admit to its injustice and inequity, past and present;  Wakanda is a fantastic vision of an alternate timeline – not where white people don’t exist, but where they have not encroached.  And yet my friend’s first instinct, as a white pastor, was to immediately inject his leadership and write his name on something there.  Nah homie. Or in the words of Shuri: 

Don’t sneak up on me, Colonizer. 

So for white pastors who would love to plant in Wakanda or just want to talk about it sensibly from the platform, I’m going to ask you two questions and then give you one suggestion. Ready 

1. What is it that you like about Wakanda? 
a. Its technology 
b. Its Black leadership 
c. The Dora Milaje 
d. All of the above 
e. Other: ________________________________ 

Okay. Cool. Now… 

2. How would your presence improve whatever your answer to #1 was? 

What’s that? Yeah… that’s what I thought. It mostly likely wouldn’t, right? Because you don’t want to go to Wakanda for Wakanda’s sake, you want to be there for your sake. And whether it’s to learn from or straight up take what you like for yourself, there’s a word for that, several words actually depending on the severity, but at its most basic level it’s appropriation. And if nowhere in your burning desire to get to Wakanda or to speak about it from your platform is there any recognition for the significant role that the absence of white people played in the magnificence of it all, then you’re not actually ready to be there. So consider yourself travel banned for now. 

But it’s not all bad news. Look again at that list in question #1 – Wakanda might be fictional, but not everything on that list is. Why not try incorporating the real things you liked about Wakanda in your church here and now? Because I know it wasn’t just the technology that you liked…  So ask yourself the hard questions about where people of color find themselves in world of your church. Think about your congregation – the mix of races, ages, genders, life stages, etc. – who do the decision-makers around your leadership table more closely resemble: your congregation or you? You don’t have to answer. I can take a pretty good guess at the answer for your church, White Pastor that I don’t know. 

Wakanda, for a good many Black people, is a vision of escape from the day-to-day reality of the otherness, disdain and disregard that we face in the real world. And functioning as it should, as an imperfect preview of Heaven, the church should already feel like Wakanda on some level. But this all sprung from a social media post on a social media platform that I don’t even use. Sent to me by someone who attends my pastor friend’s church and was upset by it; because the sad fact is that his church, (and most likely your church), as great and diverse as it may look on the surface, and as wonderful as it may be for some, is nothing that we’d want to see in Wakanda. And nothing that Wakanda needs. Praise the ancestors. 

Want to ponder this topic some more? You should check out… 
This Article. A Quiet Exodus: Why Black Worshippers are leaving White Evangelical Churches  
This Book. The Divide: Spoken Word Unspokens on Racial Rifts 
This Book. The Politics of Jesus 


Tell your friends.

Janice Lagata was born in California, but born for New York. A writer, fighter, igniter and matron saint of cats; smirking is her favorite. She’s just a girl feeding herself to the world and asking it to love her – that’s a lyric from a song she wrote, you can probably find it and lots of other things she’s working on by asking the internets (insta/twitter/soundcloud/spotify/youtube/your mom) for @jani_the_cat.

Lowlights

“When they go low, we go high.” 

The Sainted Saint Michelle of the House of Obama

I can almost still feel the righteousness of that moment. The cheers, the admiration, that feeling that the darkness before the dawn was actually a great sign – proof that the dawn was coming. Because, as we learn from fairytale endings and carefully curated MLK quotes, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that.” And light always wins. Right? 

What? You’re really going to have to speak up, because I can’t read lips in all this darkness. 

And I can’t stop thinking about Stephon Clark. Minding his backyard business, in the dark. And I wonder if he even knew what happened to him or did he find himself standing before God trying to figure it out, “I was in the backyard and then there was some noise and light…” 

Light. We all keep waiting for it to win, because that is the right and natural progression of things, right? But we keep forgetting how unnatural our lives are. When was the last time you went to bed because the sun went down? Or woke up because it was rising? I have blackout curtains in my room to keep the sun from bothering me; but guess what? I don’t live in darkness. I live in the artificial light of my choice. We all do. But we keep quoting Dr. King as if we haven’t harnessed light and made the natural irrelevant in our preference for the artificial. 

So how is any of this supposed to work now? It may be better to light a candle than to curse the darkness, but how much good can a candle do in a culture lit by white supremacy and fragility? When we’re standing here with candles and they’re rushing at us with tactical flashlights? Or worse – we’re standing here with nothing but the natural light of our humanity and they’re flooded with the illumination of certain News networks and the entire racist history of America that lights us as less than? 

Do we have a problem with darkness? Absolutely. This is a dark time in a dark nation with a dark history. Darkness is seeded into our roots and at the root of all of our problems. But we can’t even get close to dealing with it, because we can’t stop turning on lights. “And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light.”(2 Corinthians 11:14) 

You know what I would love? I would love the option to curse the darkness. For us to stand in nothing but the truth of our humanity and our brokenness and light candles together. We’d all be much safer if we were just in darkness. Stephon Clark was. Until he was flooded in too much artificial light and extinguished. In darkness, lit by centuries of distorted light we’ve been trying to rise above. 

On paper, going high when they go low sounds noble, but honestly, I don’t want to go high anymore. Not if taking the high road means just hoping, praying and waiting for truth and light to somehow burn through everything we’ve spent generations building to harness, temper, dampen and supersede them. So what does it actually mean to go high in a battle of lights? 

Darkness can’t drive out darkness, we know that; but is there anything that can drive out false light? Because the artificial can’t kill the natural – the sun will keep rising and people of color will always be resplendent – but it can override them. One of the prophets once asked “What’s a mob to a king, what’s a king to a god, what’s a god to a non-believer?” And I’d like to add: What is darkness to a candle? What’s a candle to the sun? And what’s the sun to a fool on the other side of a blackout curtain?


Tell your friends.

Janice Lagata was born in California, but born for New York. A writer, fighter, igniter and matron saint of cats; smirking is her favorite. She’s just a girl feeding herself to the world and asking it to love her – that’s a lyric from a song she wrote, you can probably find it and lots of other things she’s working on by asking the internets (insta/twitter/soundcloud/spotify/youtube/your mom) for @jani_the_cat.