There’s a reason why white people—especially conservatives—are always so blind to their own racism: They view everything through a lens of whiteness.
On Saturday, a group of Black pastors, mostly from Georgia, penned an open letter to Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler and her campaign in response to recent “too radical for Georgia” attack ads against her Democratic opponent in the Georgia Senate runoff election, Rev. Raphael Warnock, and the sermons he has delivered at the historically Black Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta.
Before we get too deep into Loeffler’s attacks, let me just say that, while I’ve never been much of a churchgoer, I remember the days when my mother would occasionally drag the family out of bed to her favorite place of worship where Black pastors didn’t only preach about God and scripture, they discussed the Black community. They discussed the violence within our communities as well as the violence and injustices committed against our communities by a racially biased justice system. So it’s no surprise to me that Warnock preaches about things like slavery, police brutality and systemic racism. It was also no surprise to me or most Black people when clips of Jeremiah Wright’s “God damn America” sermon surfaced when Barack Obama was running for his first term and conservatives used his former pastor’s sermon to attack him as too radical and anti-American.
White people, on the other hand, are always shocked and appalled to learn that Black pastors occasionally preach about these things because their pastors would never. But the reason white pastors don’t preach sermons about American oppression is simple: America has never done anything to white people. There’s no history of slavery, Jim Crow law, housing discrimination, redlining, police brutality or a racist judicial system for white pastors to preach about, so of course, everything they do preach about is America-friendly.
In the letter—which was first reported by the New York Times—the coalition, which includes dozens of Black pastors, accused Loeffler of attacking the Black church in general, not just her opponent.
“We call on you to cease and desist your false characterizations of Reverend Warnock as ‘radical’ or ‘socialist,’ when there is nothing in his background, writings or sermons that suggests those characterizations to be true, especially when taken in full context,” the letter read, the Times reports. “We see your attacks against Warnock as a broader attack against the Black Church and faith traditions for which we stand.”
One of Loeffler’s campaign’s attack ads includes footage of a sermon Warnock delivered in 2011 in which he said that “nobody can serve God and the military.” Her campaign generally criticized the sermon as an attack on the troops. Warnock provided context for that sermon, according to 11 Alive.
“The gospel lesson says that you cannot serve God and mammon,” Warnock told reporters. “That a person can not have two masters. It is a spiritual lesson that is basic and foundational for people of faith. What I was expressing was the fact that as a person of faith, my ultimate allegiance is to God, and therefore, whatever else that I may commit myself to, it has to be built on a spiritual foundation. So, it’s about priorities and about how one orders your priorities so that you can live a moral life.”
Of course, Warnock’s explanation wouldn’t stop people like Fox News’ Tucker Carlson and Republican Sen. Tom Cotton from acting like his sermons and his praise for Wright and his sermons are an affront to America instead of expressions of the Black experience.
Also, I guess we’re all just pretending Donald Trump never said anything that could be construed as anti-military.
Anyway, Warnock tweeted the Times article Sunday saying that Loeffler’s “attacks on our faith are not just disappointing—they are hurtful to Black churches across Georgia.”
My faith is the foundation upon which I have built my life. It guides my service to my community and my country. @KLoeffler's attacks on our faith are not just disappointing — they are hurtful to Black churches across Georgia. https://t.co/95KlttxG0s
— Reverend Raphael Warnock (@ReverendWarnock) December 20, 2020
Without even acknowledging the pastors who wrote the letter, Loeffler responded saying, “No one attacked the Black church. We simply exposed your record in your own words. Instead of playing the victim, start answering simple questions about what you’ve said and who you’ve associated yourself with. If you can’t—you shouldn’t be running for U.S. Senate.”
No one attacked the Black church. We simply exposed your record in your own words.
Instead of playing the victim, start answering simple questions about what you’ve said and who you’ve associated yourself with.
If you can’t — you shouldn’t be running for U.S. Senate. https://t.co/j06y2mwlCm
— Kelly Loeffler (@KLoeffler) December 20, 2020
It wouldn’t surprise me if Loeffler is truly oblivious to the implications her attacks on Warnock have on the Black church in general. That’s what the lens of whiteness does; it measures patriotism according to white American standards and views everything else as “too radical.”