Saturday, October 8, 2011

Black Americans & Their Influence in the World

The following post is from a dear friend of mine who is African American. Currently he has just moved from Yemen to Ethiopia & has spent this past year living in Turkey & Saudi Arabia. He has been to 20 different countries.  Since I can relate to his passion in his post, I felt like his exhortation NEEDED to be shared. It is truthful & it is BOLD

Ethiopia has been amazing so far. American culture is big here too. I went to an international church here to hear them play Kirk Franklin's "Imagine Me" and also to worship with the choir singing Tye Tribett's, "Chasing After You". Even this church did the "Holy Ghost dance". On Ethiopian TV, they play classic American sitcoms, like 'Sanford & Son' and 'The Jefferson's' , I see posters of Beyonce, 50 Cent, Kelly Rowland, Rihanna, Lil' Kim...

But how many black Americans have I met actually making a direct long term impact on Ethiopia -- learning their language(s), culture, helping fight against poverty, education, etc... answer is 0. How many black Americans do I estimate who are doing this kind of work here, probably less than 1% of the foreigners here. How many black American Christians who I have met or know who are serving here in Ethiopia... 0. How many black American Christians would I estimate who are serving directly Ethiopia for a number of years... less than 1%.

Is there is something wrong with black Americans that we think that it is everybody else's job to be a part of the international scene while we sit back complain about foolishness in America? Why do some black Americans call themselves 'African American' when it is apparent that more white people care and serve Africans and other continental groups exponentially more than blacks? It is easy to make music, write a book, give some money, or claim some mystic and foreign African heritage than to actually care and be a part of global solutions especially in Africa. But when Africans look to black Americans for inspiration, all they get is us on poster boards, movies, TV screens and the majority of that is us being absolutely foolish and self-centered. Wake up black America---you have a global responsibility and NO you aren't oppressed and NO you aren't really that poor. 

I know that God is in charge. But as seeing the lack of response from black people even on this post is the reason why I and others need to speak up and highlight the absence of black Americans in anything important internationally (and cross-culturally in America) and how self-centered and insular our outlooks and culture can be. Even amongst black American Christians there is a lack of international consciousness and desire to be a part of solutions and representing Christ to other people cross-culturally. I believe God is sovereign but it doesn't keep me from acting, speaking up, and praying.

[I] just had an interesting conversation with an Ethiopian man and his view and his understanding of Ethiopians' views of black Americans. WOW! I do have a question for black Americans out there: what are some reasons why black Americans are largely absent in the international community? Can you give some insight? Do you think it is ok that black Americans are largely absent? Do you think that black Americans have a responsibility in the world besides music videos, staring in movies, books, limited tourism, US governmental service? I really would like someone to speak on this.

And to clarify, the background is so much more than this thread that I have posted. I have spent years doing what you have said in your previous post and also I have made it an issue of prayer a number of times in my past. I don't mind your rebuke, but if you did understand my heart and walk with the Lord, maybe your insight would be different. Since I grew up in the black church, been to 20 countries, served in many places and areas, also serving in the inner-cities of LA and SD, along with being a member of a black church in LA for the past 3 going on 4 years, I think my words aren't too critical or out of place, especially this being the first time I have publicly spoken up (second time outside of my church 3 years ago) about this issue. I will be praying about it more, but my words are necessary and really conveys the heart of matter.

Then there is my response to his post:

I completely understand how you can be misunderstood. Living abroad- as an expat- really does change you. It changes your perspective. For me, it changed the way I viewed Christianity. I see an American version of Christianity that is VERY superficial when looking at the rest of the world & seeing what Christianity is like. I share the same passion as you Randy- wanting to wake people up. Speaking up- for me though, I feel like challenging christian traditions- traditions that were mad made & church enforced. In fact, I've kind of developed a type of resentment towards the American Christians. I'm not saying that's good- I'm just saying that's what happened. All of a sudden I find myself wanting to challenge what someone says- sometimes in a hostile attitude because they just don't know! I had to refrain myself several times from snapping & checking my attitude. It's not that I feel I'm 'better' or more 'spiritual.' On the contrary- my views on life have changed SO DRASTICALLY that I went from being a political conservative to what you would call a liberal. I haven't been in fellowship in over a year and the only church I can get is if I can make it to a chapel service on the military base while I'm on the clock working.

I just.... I just KNOW how you feel and I can't even finish writing out how much I can relate b/c I feel like I can't put anymore words....I know where you're coming from, I know how you feel, and even though I am not in fellowship & my political views have changed, living abroad- specifically in the Middle East or Muslim countries, changes you because you end up seeing reality. So to me, "just pray about it" sounds like a lame cop out when there is actually something that CAN be done. Not that prayer isn't important, but it's what's more convenient for a Westerner. Meanwhile our brothers & sisters are treated as 3rd class citizens, slaughtered, raped, abducted, & are a minority.

His reply to me:

thank you so much for your words. Living abroad really does change things and I am so glad that we have been abroad roughly for the same amount of time.... we can relate! Yeah, I get outraged at injustice that simply pervades society here in the Middle East/Muslim world. And it is so true about not being in fellowship, largely I had to be my own fellowship really digging into the word, praying, being my own accountability, and pursue God on my own.. Being abroad really forces you in the ME/Muslim world either to really press into God or get lost into something else. The West has done a lot, but there is so much more to be done. For me as a black American Christian abroad over time the issue of the scarcity of black Americans doing anything for people who do/who don't look like them began to develop. I am typically the only one. Saudi Arabia was the only place where I saw a number of black Americans and 99% of them were there for religious reasons and were completely blind to the fact of injustices which were so prevalent in Arab society---especially towards black Africans (and lower class black Arabs) historically and today, South/Southeast Asians and poorer Arabs such as Yemenis.

It is so true when you say, "Meanwhile our brothers & sisters are treated as 3rd class citizens, slaughtered, raped, abducted, & are a minority." I always here black Americans fantasizing about Africa and talking smack about America, but in Africa where Christians live either in secret (Somalia), significant minority (Egypt), or at least 50% of the population (Ethiopia, Nigeria) there is not one black American Christian voice. It is like the struggles of Christians and even oppressed non-Christians are largely absent from a black American, especially a Christian. But let there be a PERCEIVED injustice toward a black American----then we speak up and then we are concerned and then we use our influence to garner world attention, and then the black American Christians develop an opinion and stance against injustice, then we are praying, then we demonstrate both black and white and everything in between.. best point in case: TROY DAVIS from Georgia.

So I am not bitter, but my world view accounts for much more sin, human depravity, and injustice than many people from my ethnic group back home. Black Americans have so much influence in the world, but most of us still walk around as we are oppressed and lack the ability to gain resources. I know that maybe this is the case for some, but I don't believe that it is for all. When black Americans get successful, they go and imitate selfish idiots like rappers or the Jones (a well-to-do American-dream family). Some of us do go back into the inner-cities help, but our responsibility isn't just black people but the world seeing how much status and influence we do have in it. In the words of Jesus, "Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more." (Luke 12:48). Wake up black America! May the Lord mature us so that we can be able to help to the poor, oppressed, and abused in the entire world and not just inner-city America. Amen.

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