Righteousness or Self-Righteousness
On Dec. 4, my pastor Dr. Ralph Douglas West delivered a sermon on the genealogy of Jesus Christ. Anybody who knows Christian theology knows that Jesus did not come from a royal background. He came from regular folks with regular, everyday problems, but they still produced the Person who would save the world.
The story about Christ’s genealogy is the story of many Black families, including my own family. We do not always come from elite backgrounds, but that does not have to stop us from reaching elite status. Nevertheless, a form of Black elitism is rampant in our community and needs to be put in check before we lose all connection to our history and what makes us so strong and unique in the first place.
In the New Testament book of Matthew, Matthew begins his text by stating who begot who in the generations preceding Christ. Like many families, Christ had people in His family tree that were not so distinguished. Among others, there was David who begot Solomon by Bathsheba, a woman who he committed adultery with when she was married to Uriah and there was Manasseh who was as ruthless as any dictator of the 20th and 21st century.
Despite their shortcomings, God was able to use them not only to change a family or race, but an entire world. Christ came to change the lives of everybody, regardless of our past, regardless of our education and regardless of our socioeconomic status.
Nevertheless, Black elitism has made those of us who are educated, including myself, look down upon those with a checkered past. Black elitism has caused us to look down on that old matriarch, for many of us our grandmothers, who split their verbs and split your behind in two, but had more wisdom in their pinky than most of us have in our entire college educated bodies.
I recently interviewed the stars of “Tyler Perry’s For Better or Worse,” and I discussed with actress Tasha Smith, the role of Madea in the Black community. To many, Tyler Perry films and sitcoms are minstrel shows and demeaning, but in my opinion that is Black elitism at its best.
It is easy for us, with our white-collar careers, to look down upon a generation that did not have the opportunities that we are blessed with and be ashamed of them. But it should be commonsense for us to realize, if it was not for their strength and wisdom, not to mention their blood, sweat and tears, then we would not even be able to have a white collar career.
My two grandmothers could not speak correct English if you paid them, but they had knowledge of the world that made it a better place for future generations. My 101-year-old maternal grandmother was forced by her mother to drop out of school in the 10th grade, but she borrowed against her house to send her children to college. My late paternal grandmother begged my grandfather not to take her children out of school because she wanted them to be able to finish high school, even though she was forced to drop out in seventh grade.
I miss the days that I would sit by their feet and listen to the stories of the old days. Their lessons made me who I am today and I am not ashamed that they could not speak the King’s English.
Their wisdom is what characters like Madea represents, but it is a shame that Black elitism, masquerading as Black consciousness, is making us forget where we came from. Most of us, always said we would NEVER forget where we came from.
Jesus Christ came from a lineage that included adulterers and ruthless dictators and He saved the entire human race. President Barack Obama came from a polygamist from Kenya and became the leader of the free world. Many of us come from a family with Madea; in my family we call her Momo. However, it is a shame that we cannot see where God has brought us from, because we are so ashamed of what others think of our lineage.
Smith is publisher of Regal Black Men’s Magazine, a publication dedicated to the African American community.
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