I cannot count the number of times I have been at a Black social gathering and someone has said:
“Let us pray Jesus bless us with your mercy and spirit” because it’s assumed that if you’re African American, then you must be listening to Kirk Franklin while stomping your feet and saying hallelujah. And even the least practicing Black Christian celebrates Christmas and goes to church on Easter. After all, the Black church was the safe space for Black people during the time of slavery. The time to escape the whips of slave masters and rest their weary souls in God’s house–while praying for eternal salvation. It was also the focal point of the Civil Rights movement, where Black people planned marches and sang for Jesus’s protection under white oppression. Even now some African Americans ease their conscience and calm their souls, while clapping hands of glory to the beat of soulful songs. It is where many have come for advice from their pastors, and have built life long friendships. The Black church is where Black mothers prepared church dinners and bake sales. It is the reason for families gathering and passing platters of collard greens, black eyed peas and corn bread.
The Black church has a history in the Black community–but we are not all Christians. I am not and have never been. Oddly, because I’m Black, people expect it of me, before they even get to know me. I once met my friend’s grandmother and she immediately asked me what church I attended. I just stood there staring at her until the subject was changed. People even felt that it was okay to try to convert me because my religion wasn’t a real religion to them. To them, I was practicing a pagan religion that sacrificed chickens. Few people believed that me or my parents were born here. Most people thought my parents were from Africa. The people in school had no idea what Islam was. I cannot forget the time when a boy in my Social Studies class blurted out:
“Ain’t Islam and Buddhism the same thing?”
It was typical to hear such ignorant comments. I was even accustomed to rudeness. Black people didn’t think twice to tell me things like:
“Mohammad came from the cursed and evil line of Abraham.”
I was use to people telling me it was a “devil’s religion” because their friend had told them. I remember that in second grade a boy told me that I was “going to go to hell” because I wasn’t a Christian. Many around me felt that Christianity was the prototype for all African Americans, and anyone who was not practicing it must be doing something wrong. The minute I mentioned that I didn’t eat pork they would say:
“What are you Muslamic?”
Then they’d go about listing things they couldn’t do if they were Muslim–not eating pork being one of them. Christianity and being black are so tied together a White guy in college once told me that I learned to sing from singing in church. This irritated me because the Black church is seen through the white gaze as a place of stereotype. This pushed me further and further from Christianity because Black churches are mocked. To many non-Black people, it is a place where old women lose all inhibitions, as if drugged with the hallucinogen called the holy ghost. They foam at the mouth, sweat and scream out:
“Thank you Jesus!” and lose their language in foreign tongues.
It is depicted as the place where large black women lead choirs in boastful tones, and pastors speak with raspy voices and spend one minute repeating the same sentence and say things like:
“Let the church say amen. I said. Let the church say amen! Jesus! Jesus!”
No matter where I went, I couldn’t escape being labeled Christian because I wasn’t covering my hair and I wasn’t very religious. Christianity was always being forced on me. People would always invite me to church or offer to teach me about the bible. A friend in school use to call me a “Christian-Muslim”. She said it as a joke which I didn’t take seriously nor when a boy in high school called me an “infidel”–which he continued to call me for the rest of the year. It wasn’t just me being the bud of every joke, but also my little brother. He would sometimes come home from school and tell me stories about what the boys said to him in school. One of his classmates playfully told him they would slip pork bacon into his food and that Allah shouldn’t be worshipped because his name sounded like:
He told me that he would stop telling people he was Muslim in order to escape ridicule. This was some time ago, and he is out of school and has outgrown this way of thinking. I have also, come to terms with all my experiences growing up and accept my uniqueness. I like how I was raised it taught me to question different ideologies and to seek the truth on my own. I try to avoid making ridiculous statements based upon hearsay. I have read many parts of the Bible and just feel Christianity is not for me. I hope that people will start to take note of the intolerance of Black Muslims, and Muslims in general. I also, want to emphasize that black people are not one dimensional. We do not think the same, dress the same or pray to the same god. I don’t know anything about motherboards or the difference between a reverend, pastor, minister or a deacon. I don’t fit into the storyline of most African Americans. I want other people including our media to stop speaking of the black experience, while ignoring the variety of experiences. I urge many people to stop thinking that all Black people are living the same lifestyle as the actors they see in movies. I’m not your average Black Christian, because I’m not a Christian at all. I’m Black and an individual who is not a cookie cutter image, so don’t depict me as one.
Source: For Harriet