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Contesting Post-Racialism

Contesting Post-Racialism: Conflicted Churches in the United States and South Africa

R. Drew Smith
William Ackah
Anthony G. Reddie
Rothney S. Tshaka
Copyright Date: 2015
Pages: 237
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  • Book Info
    Contesting Post-Racialism
    Book Description:

    After the 2008 election and 2012 reelection of Barack Obama as US president and the 1994 election of Nelson Mandela as the first of several blacks to serve as South Africa's president, many within the two countries have declared race to be irrelevant. For contributors to this volume, the presumed demise of race may be premature. Given continued racial disparities in income, education, and employment, as well as in perceptions of problems and promise within the two countries, much healing remains unfinished. Nevertheless, despite persistently pronounced disparities between black and white realities, it has become more difficult to articulate racial issues. Some deem "race" an increasingly unnecessary identity in these more self-consciously "post-racial" times.

    The volume engages post-racial ideas in both their limitations and promise. Contributors look specifically at the extent to which a church's contemporary response to race consciousness and post-racial consciousness enables it to give an accurate public account of race.

    eISBN: 978-1-62674-509-4
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-2)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 3-10)
    R. Drew Smith

    Against the backdrop of the 2008 election and 2012 re-election of Barack Obama as president of the United States, and the 1994 election of Nelson Mandela as the first of several blacks to serve as South Africa’s president, many within the two countries have declared race to be an irrelevant social distinction within their societies. The formal narrative has shifted, some say, and while there are still those proceeding slowly—or not at all—into this new day, there can be no doubt as to its dawning. Witness not only historic black political and other professional achievements within the two...

  5. I. Periodizing the Discourse on Black Christianity and Race

    • A Restless Presence: Church Activism and “Post-Apartheid,” “Post-Racial” Challenges
      (pp. 13-36)
      Allan Boesak

      In this essay I propose to discuss my understanding of “church activism,” visiting historical contexts of such activism before discussing church activism in post-apartheid times. Throughout I shall argue that the “church activism” we are speaking of is not the institutional church, but what Martin Luther King Jr. called “the church within the church, a true ecclesia and the hope of the world,”¹ driven by a radical gospel of justice, hope, and liberation.

      Colonial conquest of South Africa in the middle of the seventeenth century brought with it racism, dispossession of the land, exploitation, dehumanization, oppression, slavery, and genocide. With...

    • Shape-Shifting: Cultural Hauntings, Contested Post-Racialism, and Black Theological Imagination
      (pp. 37-62)
      Walter Earl Fluker

      The 2009 inauguration of our first African American president was a proud moment for the United States of America, a jubilant moment for the world, and a surreal, fantastical, disembodied experience for most of us who live and breathe, work and think about the black church. And yet, there was a troubling dimension to this incredible passage. Something said to me, maybe to all us—thatthe ground had shifted—indicated that maybe we lost something precious even as we had gained what so many fought for, prayed for, hoped for, and died for. For some of us, the moment...

  6. II. Race, Social Divisions, and Restructured Ecclesial Spaces

    • High School Students, the Catholic Church, and the Struggle for Black Inclusion and Citizenship in Rock Hill, South Carolina
      (pp. 65-79)
      Luci Vaden

      In 1970, the United States Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ordered South Carolina school districts to terminate their dual public education systems. The school board in Rock Hill, South Carolina, located thirty miles south of Charlotte, North Carolina, responded by closing down the all-black schools in the district and hurriedly rezoning black and white students into previously all-white schools. But once in their new schools, black students were marginalized and mistreated. In response, more than two hundred black students at Rock Hill High School, in conjunction with the all-black St. Mary’s Catholic Church and Rock Hill Oratory, a local Catholic...

    • Christian Youth Activism and South African Black Ecclesiology
      (pp. 80-95)
      Reggie Nel

      The world stood in awe recently at the power of younger generations in challenging oppressive governments in North Africa, thus demonstrating that youth and student movements remain a critical force in transforming societies and faith communities. What occurred in North Africa was not a new phenomenon. The question is whether church communities and theology are willing to be challenged again.

      Steve Bantu Biko is perhaps the most well-known, inspirational figure in what became popularly known as the Soweto¹ youth riots against racism in South Africa that took place in June 1976. Barney Pityana says of Biko, “He became a figurehead...

    • White Theology amidst White Rhetoric on Violence
      (pp. 96-108)
      Cobus van Wyngaard

      Public shame associated with the explicit religious rationale for legalized racism in South Africa, and the racialized formation of institutionalized religion—particularly as found in the reformed churches—perhaps predictably led to a situation where any blatant racism is actively rejected by the white church. However, it would be naive to assume that race has been ousted from religion and theology, and as reflection on post-apartheid whiteness continues, we would be wise to also consider how theology and religion continue to manifest as markedly white, even while (and at times exactly by) actively joining in the post-apartheid non-racial chorus.


  7. III. Religious Cultural Impairments in Assessing Racism’s Social Costs

    • “They Must Have a Different God Than Our God”: Towards a Lived Theology of Black Churchwomen during the United States Civil Rights Movement
      (pp. 111-121)
      AnneMarie Mingo

      While there were many reasons—including exploitative economic gain and political power through occupation—that Europeans and others began to make their trans-Atlantic journey to the Americas in the seventeenth century, one of the most consistent justifiers for the actions that Europeans took in the coerced captivity and enslavement of Africans and the destruction of both African and Native American cultures and lives through colonization was God, or more specifically Christianity. Despite relatively minimal evangelistic efforts in the first century of African enslavement in the Americas, Christianity and God’s providence were used to support Europeans’ primarily economically driven actions. The...

    • Church Youth Activism and Political and Economic Constraints within “Post-Racial” South Africa
      (pp. 122-129)
      Chabo Freddy Pilusa

      I present thoughts here on the racial and ideological positioning of youth activism in “post-racial” South Africa. This is a daunting exercise, because my thoughts may be out of tune with present day perceptions of a so-called “rainbow” nation—although I am also sure that my thoughts resonate with the feelings of the majority of black people in our country.

      From time to time, we do experience inklings of the kind of nation we can be, for instance in the manner with which we approached the 2010 hosting of the Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) World Cup and the...

    • Black South African Christian Response to Afrophobia in Contemporary South Africa
      (pp. 130-150)
      Rothney S. Tshaka

      On the 12th of May, 2008, a chain of insurgences erupted in the townships of Alexandra in Johannesburg. At least twenty-five people were killed, and many were injured as African immigrants were targeted by the local black South Africans. Most of these immigrants were from Mozambique, Malawi, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. After the riots, these foreign nationals were displaced and in the process lost most of their scarce possessions. Soon the violence spread to other parts of South Africa, especially the coastal cities of Cape Town, George, and Durban.¹ This time immigrants from Somalia, who mostly own small convenient stores in...

  8. IV. Theology and (Re)Vitalized Race Consciousness

    • Collisions between Racism and the Truth of the Cross
      (pp. 153-170)
      Leah Gaskin Fitchue and Ebony Joy Fitchue

      This essay wrestles with a deep-seated contradiction at the heart of the American experience and at the heart of white Christian thought and practice. This contradiction refers to the problem of racism, as manifested in white Americans and their (1) pathological obsession with the lynching of black people; (2) psychological dependency on white supremacist arguments as a means of relieving doubts as to their superiority (whether those doubts emanate from themselves or from non-whites); and (3) unwillingness to acknowledge the distortions engendered by racism within American life. This last remains true even when whites are confronted with powerful reminders, whether...

    • Pursuing American Racial Justice and a Politically and Theologically Informed Black Church Praxis
      (pp. 171-184)
      Forrest E. Harris Sr.

      At the height of the struggle against South African apartheid, Archbishop Desmond Tutu stated, “Liberationis costly. It needs unity.”¹ It is particularly empowering to join with scholars and church leaders around the world in London, the heart of colonial history, to rethink global strategies against systems of domination and oppression that permeate international communities. The topic, black church activism and contested multiculturalism in Africa, Europe, and North America, provides opportunities for reflecting on new forms of racism that are manifesting globally which are, as Donaldo Macedo and Panayota Gounari assert, “exacerbated by the commonsense discourse of neoliberalism and its...

    • In Defense of “Christian Activism”: The Case of Allan Boesak
      (pp. 185-197)
      Boitumelo Senokoane

      The aim of this essay is to contribute to the ongoing discussions about “Christian Activism.”¹ I begin this discussion by looking at Allan Boesak, one of the many South African clergymen who have been activists and an outspoken opponent of the apartheid system. This essay reflects on the period when his status as a “minister of the word” in the Uniting Reformed Church in Southern Africa (URCSA) was withdrawn or forfeited because of his involvement with Congress of the People, a newly formed political party, of which he became National Executive member. The action by the URCSA General Synod Actuary...

    • Legitimacy: The Praxis of Consensing and Consenting in the Contested Post-Racial Democratic Discourse in South Africa
      (pp. 198-210)
      Vuyani Vellem

      This essay is concerned with the notion of legitimacy. In this work I am arguing that legitimacy is achieved via a two-pronged process that is validated through consensing and consenting. Both these prongs require mediation by symbols of the marginalized harnessed outside the contours of western traditional forms of ecclesiology to validate state legitimacy. In this work, I will be arguing that after the demise of apartheid there is a disjuncture between consenting and consensing in the quest for state legitimacy. It will be argued that there has been a disjuncture between the political procedures (legal) and the mystical (symbolic,...

    • In Search of a Transforming Public Theology: Drinking from the Wells of Black Theology
      (pp. 211-226)
      Nico Koopman

      It may not be pretentious to state that right through my life I was exposed to and engaged in what has, since 1974, been called public theology. North American theologian Max Stackhouse states that theologians like Ernst Troeltsch, Abraham Kuyper, Walter Rauschenbusch, Reinhold Niebuhr, Paul Tillich, Martin Luther King Jr., James Luther Adams, and Paul Ramsey contributed to the contemporary development of public theology, but that they did not use the concept or name it public theology.

      This concept was used for the first time by the North American theologian Martin Marty in an article that analyzed the thought of...

  9. V. Concluding Thoughts

    • Whither Transcendence? Framing the Contours of Transatlantic Black Unity in Contested Post-Racialized Times
      (pp. 229-242)
      William Ackah

      Three landmark struggles for freedom can be said to define the main contours of black identity in the twentieth century: the struggle to end apartheid in South Africa, the battle for civil rights in the United States, and the fight to end European colonialism in Africa. These events and the actors that took part in them proved to be an inspiration for peoples of African descent and others all over the world, providing a sense of solidarity and identity for those suffering discrimination and oppression based on “race.” This paper seeks to engage with selected theological discourses emanating from two...

    • Contextuality of Black Experience and Contributions to a Wider Debate
      (pp. 243-250)
      Anthony G. Reddie

      The questions pertaining to social justice, blackness, and the promises of transcendence that have been addressed by my colleague William Ackah are specific contextual questions that have their resonances in nation states such as South Africa and the United States of America. In contexts where racialized oppression has sadly been part of the socio-political landscape, the issues explored in the previous essay have been more than necessary. In this brief piece, I want to build on the crucial insights provided by Ackah and seek to place the discussion of the contextuality of black experience into a broader framework—specifically, placing...

  10. Contributors
    (pp. 251-252)
  11. Index
    (pp. 253-258)