Science in Christian Perspective
WHAT DOES IT MEAN?
C. Herbert Oliver Pastor,
Westminster-Bethany United Presbyterian Church
Brooklyn, New York
Reprinted from the Church Herald, official magazine of the Reformed Church in
From: JASA 22 (June 1970): 44-45.
Black Power is both an affirmation of identity and a search for identity. It is strictly an American phenomenon, growing inevitably out of the history of the black man in America. For more than 300 years black people have found themselves surrounded by an alien culture hostile to all assertions of black individuality or black pride. Only white pride has been held up as the ideal. Black people, having been cut off from fruitful contacts with their African homelands, have been forced by all of the cultural, political, social, and religious institutions surrounding them to conform to the white ideal. But the goal is never attainable with dignity, and Black Power is the final discovery of this fact.
Black Power is not a rejection of the white ideal, but a rejection of all attempts to force the white ideal 01) black people as the only expression of black intelligence. White people may and should continue to pursue their ideal, but not with the idea that it is the only ideal for all people. Black Power is not so much a negation of white power as it is an affirmation of the worth and dignity of the black man without reference to the white ideal. Black Power has its own intrinsic value, a value not derived from its likeness or lack of likeness to the white ideal. The white ideal may recognize the intrinsic value of Black Power, but it can never create that value.
Dignity and Worth
Black Power is first of all the assertion of the dignity and worth of the black man as the creature of Cod. Such dignity and worth have been denied for many centuries by those who aspire to the white ideal. The worth and dignity were always there, but were ignored, often even by the black man. They are now, rightly, being reaffirmed without negating the right of others to their own ideal. But opposition to its expression is as strong as ever. To this very day powerful forces are at work to snuff out Black Power as something that has no right to exist. Certainly black people have a right to exist. Then Black Power has an equal right to exist.
Economically, Black Power is the discovery of the economic potential of black people and the development of that potential in ways that will enable black people to enjoy its benefits. But more than that, it is the discovery and development of the earth's economic resources in order to make life more pleasant for all of its inhabitants. Now and in the past, economic Black Power has been very real, but it has been made to serve the ends of others while black people reap the least of its benefits.
Only black people can correct this economic imbalance. No one else can do it for them. And no other ideology is more suitable to accomplish the task than the ideology of Black Power. Indeed black people are so thoroughly exploited that any attempt they make to correct the situation is met with loud cries of condemnation coupled with moves toward greater exploitation. And those who reap the most from the exploitation tend to cry the loudest.
Politically, Black Power is the development of political structures which will help free black people from economic exploitation, and which will also help create a political atmosphere that will enhance the normal growth of Black Power. Democratic processes most be given preference, but only in the light of the sacrificing of democratic processes by White Power whenever such action serves as a check on Black Power. By such sacrifices White Power forfeits its right to require black people to follow slavishly democratic processes which whites do not so follow. To follow the democratic process in America will inevitably mean the growth of Black Power, for black people are a part of the nation and are entitled by birth and citizenship to the exercise of power. Yet whenever black people achieve a position of power, White Power seeks to destroy them, first by legal means, and, if that fails, then by illegal means. By doing so, White Power gives the lie to its often spoken commitment to democratic processes, and loses its moral right to require anyone to observe democratic processes.
Black Power in its truest expression is never an assertion of one man's superiority over another. This has been the magnificent flaw of White Power, and the path of wisdom is always to avoid the flaws of others.
The failure to seat Adam Clayton Powell and the removal of his seniority is a ease in point. Black people followed the democratic process in electing their representative, but White Power denied a whole congressional district its right to be represented in Congress by the representative of their choice. Only political Black Power on a national scale could have assured the normal functioning of the democratic process in that instance. It is inevitable that economic Black Power must find political expression, just as the roots of a plant produce the stem and the flower.
Socially, Black Power is the cohesion of like-minded individuals and organizations around the ideals of Black Power. It is quite right for people of like mind to come together and work together for common goals. White Power has always forced a kind of social togetherness on black people, and has always reacted with fear when black people voluntarily unite. Away with such social manipulations of black people. Unite we must and unite we will.
But does social unity require social separation? To follow the White Ideal is to say "yes," for the White Ideal is notoriously separatist. Complaints from blacks about the dangers of separation are understandable, but not from whites, for whites have been at home with social separatism for hundreds of years, and still are. Social separateness isaracist ideology. Black Power is not racist, but it is an affirmation of the worth and dignity of black people. It is by no means separatist, but it cannot include those who are unable to affirm the soul and spirit of Black Power. One's race or nation is no bar to such affirmation. Those with a history of negating the worth and dignity of the black man will find it most difficult to make the affirmation, but the affirmation is a must for people who recognize the image of God in man. Such an affirmation makes a white person no less than a man, and a black person no more than a man.
Aesthetically, Black Power is that deep, warm feeling that wells up in the bosom of Solomon's beloved when she said, "I am black and comely, 0h daughters of Jerusalem, as the tents of Kedar; as the curtains of Solomon." It is the negation of black as fearful and evil, and the affirmation of black as friendly, warm, loving, and tender. Only circumstances make people rough, not their color. The beauty of black is as ancient as history, though it was only recently discovered by culturally isolated Afro-Americans. The effects of this discovery' will last perhaps for a few years and then we will settle down to the task of simply being human.
Unfortunately the opponents of Black Power have used every conceivable means to bring it to an end. Their chief weapon is to depict it as an ideology of violence. Sometimes violence among blacks is provoked simply to encourage the idea that Black Power is violent. What is always overlooked is that black violence is put down only by the application of more effective white violence. The black violence is depicted as evil; the white violence as virtue. The miracle of America is that black people have managed to survive the violence of white people. And the game of whites provoking blacks to wrath still goes on in America. A recent example was the stationing of thousands of police provocateurs in Ocean Hill-Brownsville in the fall of 1965. Though true Black Power is not nonviolent, neither does it rush into violence without wisdom.
The Christian Heritage
For a man to affirm his own worth is a basic element of the Judaeo-Christian heritage. To despise ones self is to violate the command of Cod to love one's neighbor as one's self. For whoever does not love himself cannot have a proper love for his neighbor. To teach someone not to have a good and wholesome estimate of himself is sinful. To seek to hinder a person from affirming his own worth and dignity is sinful. It may appear that the affirmation of Black Power carries with it an aura of superiority over others. But Black Power in its truest expression is never an assertion of one man's superiority over another. This has been the magnificent flaw of White Power, and the path of wisdom is always to avoid the flaws of others.
The affirmation of the worth and dignity of black people is not an option which a Christian may accept or reject. The verdict has already been rendered and it is not in the power of a Christian to change the verdict. The dignity that black people bear is derived from their Creator and it is not in the province of man to debate it, but only to recognize it.
WhenGod made man in his image and declared his handiwork "good," He pot an end to speculations about the worth of man. We did not create that worth. It was created by God and given its value by God. All efforts to reach the fullness of that value within the framework of God's laws are not only our privilege but our duty.
Nor is it to be doubted that we are duty bound to affirm the dignity of all people of whatever color, race, or nation. But black people in America have been denied too long the recognition of their worth and dignity. The time has come for it to he affirmed without partiality and without apology.