This week, Gaye Clarke, a cardiac nurse from Georgia, US published a blog on The Gospel Coalition (TGC) website titled ‘When God sends your white daughter a black husband’. The article was a practical guide which listed 'eight things to remember when your white daughter brings home a black man for dinner’.
If Clarke had written a confessional piece about how she was still working through her own prejudice, and what she considered a ‘trial’, her message would have been better received. Instead, her piece contained the following:
- A justification of her new black son-in-law. He was a Christian, educated, worked, volunteered – oh and opened doors for his girlfriend!
- She made his blackness a 'trial': ‘I was an open minded mom. But God called my bluff’
- She divided his spiritual stance from his ethnicity and erased his blackness: ‘Glenn moved from being a black man to a beloved son’. There was an undertone and perhaps subconscious use of duality when titling him ‘beloved son’
- She defended prejudice: ‘Calling Uncle Fred a bigot because he doesn’t want your daughter in an interracial marriage dehumanizes him and doesn’t help your daughter either’.
Gaye Clarke intended to glorify God. But in reality this piece has the undertone of a white-supremist-trying-to-be-colourblind-Christian speaking to pacify her own people.
Clarke’s good intentions were not as well received as she had hoped and due to the negative feedback, death threats to her family and an introduction to sarcastic meme culture; Clark asked TGC to take down her article and apologised unreservedly for the hurt caused.
TGC have taken responsibility for publishing the article and uploaded a great discussion that explores the theme of the article as well as responses from the public and ways of moving forward based on what they've learned from the controversy.
My initial response to this mess was an angry, fed up, laugh. When I received a call with a request to respond to this article I said something along the lines of, ‘When God sends your who a what!?’.
While I’m too young to be remember the earlier part of the 20th century when interracial marriage was illegal, I happen to be a product of interracial marriage and am twenty seven years familiar with what happens when ‘God “sends” a white daughter a black husband’. It brings challenges, is indeed a journey to a new frontier – and no one wants to eat your rice and peas.
Upon reading the article my anger was exchanged for pity. I believe that Clarke had good intentions to challenge prejudice and promote the beauty of interracial marriage. However, I believe that racism is a conditioned illness, the levels of which are often unrecognised by the host. If her daughter and son-in-law (Glenn with the dreads) both feel happy and accepted, then she has truly done her best as a parent, but perhaps is not yet qualified her to write a ‘how to’ on this matter. As Kevin Hart says ‘she wasn’t ready’ and truth be told neither were we.
Racism is a conditioned illness, the levels of which are often unrecognised by the host
We must consider ways we can move forward prayerfully and practically. Interracial marriage is very much an essential conversation within the Church and racism itself a legacy of the institutional church, traits of which are often found in the break-away 'free' denominations. For many African American and Caribbean descendants in the UK, Christianity has been one big ‘how to’ from the white man, so let’s just stop these social ‘how to’ editorials. Now.
I have found that discussing the Word of God and exploring various theological frameworks are better grounds for discourse on such matters. These types of forums create a safer space in which we can engage vital virtues such as humility and self-control as well as bringing correction in love.
For many African American and Caribbean descendants in the UK, Christianity has been one big ‘how to’ from the white man, so let’s just stop these social ‘how to’ editorials. Now.
It must be said that even within the black community we are still working out how to have these conversations. Humility and self-control must be exercised by everyone who engages with these controversial issues. Interracial marriage is on the rise and so is, once again, an overt intolerance to racism - these two factors within society and our congregations will come to a head and a ‘how to’ is not the answer. As a Church we have a responsibility to pursue justice for the oppressed.
We should protest against racism and work towards the correction, forgiveness and building up of our brothers and sisters who have missed the mark. There will be black people in heaven according to Revelation 7:9 so let us do away with colour-blindness and honour the diversity created intentionally by God.
Eleasah Phoenix Louis is a Christian, community activist and educator with particular focus on Christian pedagogy for ethnic minority groups and racial justice.