Surely Jesus would not have made such a powerful commitment unless he meant it. Perhaps for African Americans, this commitment is especially important. Yet, since 1619, the promise often appears late in coming. Being the most oppressed among those living in America, blacks have been (and continue) to be damned by their white neighbors. Rejected, denied, and slaughtered, African Americans remain aggressive as believers. The late James H. Cone (God of the Oppressed, 2012) called for a new approach to systematic theology; one that more fully advances black culture in all facets of Christian worship. Earlier Howard Thurman (Jesus and the Disinherited, 1996) posited the concept that the Gospel may be employed as a manual for resistance that would make Jesus a partner in the pain of the oppressed. And then there is Jemar Tisby’s (The Color of Compromise: The Truth about the American Church’s Complicity in Racism, 2019) presentation that the church contributes to (and continues) the structural racism it so often justifies and supports.
Our premise is that blacks have been rejected, denied, and slaughtered, yet they remain believers in Christ. Our premise deserves greater attention. Why have white Americans been so inhuman to their black neighbors? Why do white Americans fear their black neighbors? In Christian construction (1 John 4:18), we are advised that “well-formed love banishes fear.” Is it possible that whites cannot love? Could it be that Jesus is not with African Americans? To subscribe to the latter thought is inconsistent with the teachings of Jesus. Since Jesus is fully perfect, and fully loving, then we must have continuing confidence in his words of assurance.
However, the struggle continues for African Americans on all fronts. Churches, schools, institutions, and neighborhoods, nearly all facets of social-political-economic and environmental life, in America remain primarily segregated and maintained through systemic white oppression. Even within the context of systemic white oppression, blacks may ask the question, ‘Where is my Jesus?’ When African Americans are reassured that faith is required that Jesus’ presence is with us; even when it is not always easy to understand. Clearly, for African Americans, the challenge is holding onto faith (believing Jesus is with us always) while climbing the secular mountains of institutional white racism.