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Cone Essay

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Cone Essay

I would like to thank you for inviting me to enlighten your group on a very current issue, Black Theology & Black Power as seen by the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Jr. and James H. Cone.

I believe the best place to start would be with an explanation of Black Power. Black Power according to James H. Cone “is an emotionally charged term that can evoke either angry rejection or passionate acceptance.” Critics see it as blacks hating whites, while advocates see Black Power as the only viable option for black people. Advocates see Black Power meaning black people are taking a dominate role in deciding what the black-white relationship should be in American Society. Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Jr. is preaching this right now. He sees that blacks need to go back to their blackness and no longer live their lives as the white society wants them to.

What these two men are encouraging can be very difficult for most people to understand. Most of us see this as a call to violence. What Cone is really saying is that Black Power means the complete emancipation of black people from white oppression by whatever means black people deem necessary. The methods to reach this can include selective buying, boycotting, marching, and even rebellion. Black Power means black freedom, black self-determination, where black people no longer see themselves as without human dignity, but as people, human beings with the ability to carve out their own destiny.

Paul Tillich’s analysis of “the courage to be” further clarifies the meaning of Black Power. He says that “the courage to be” “is the ethical act in which man affirms his being in spite of those elements of his existence which conflict with his essential self-affirmation” Black Power is then a humanizing force because it the black man’s attempt to be recognized as a “thou” in spite of the “other,” the white power which dehumanizes him. The courage they feel gives them the ability to affirm one’s being by striking out at the dehumanizing forces which threaten being, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Jr. is striking out against the dehumanizing forces he sees are threatening the lives of blacks in the Unites States. He thinks he is empowering his congregation to stand up and challenge the way white society is continuing to treat blacks.

Cone tells us that blacks would rather die than surrender to some other value. “When the black man rebels at the risk of death, he is forcing white society to look at him, to recognize him, to take his being into account, to admit that he is.” Black Power is really an attitude, an inward affirmation of essential worth of blackness.

Even after the civil war white society still saw blacks as nonhumans. Lincoln even said that he was not in favor of blacks having social or political equality with whites. He did not think they should hold office, intermarry, or vote. White society could not come to terms with seeing blacks as having as much worth as whites. Cone says that anyone who has examined history carefully can see that “all aspects of this society have participated in the act of enslaving blacks, extinguishing Indians, and annihilating all who question white society’s right to decide who is human.

Cone feels that one of the most serious charges that have been leveled against advocates of Black Power are that they are black racists. It is true that blacks hate whites but the hatred is not racists. Webster defines racism as “the assumption that psycho cultural traits and capacities are determined by biological race and that races differ decisively from another, which is usually coupled with the belief in the inherent superiority of a particular race and its rights to dominance over others.” We have not seen blacks trying to assert their dominance over others because of their belief in black superiority. The only possible exception to his would be the Black Muslims. Modern racism comes to us from Europe. It is the white man who has sought to dehumanize others because of his feeling of superiority or for his economic advantage.

Blacks can find their sense of blackness in the black church. Not the black church which is just the white church with black people but truly trying to see the scriptures and how they apply to the black community. Black need their own churches where they can worship and begin create a sense of blackness for themselves. God created each of us in his image. We should not assume that God was white with brown hair and blue eyes. We know that Jesus is God’s son and that he was born in the country of Judea. The people in Judea do not have fair skin they have olive skin or black skin. Jesus really probably looked more like a black man than a white man. We need to encourage blacks to create Jesus and God in their own minds they way they think he should be.

The scriptures tell us that we need to love the Lord or God with all our heart and mind and our neighbor as ourselves. How can we treat blacks as subhuman if we are told by our religion that we are treating them like ourselves. We do not treat other whites as subhuman unless we are talking about the poor. We are supposed to take care of the poor, sick, imprisoned, and hungry. Black churches do a much better job of following these commandments than white

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