Thus revealed, the creature buried its nose in the tire-tilled soil...
February 19, 2019
Promises from God for Men of Color. Ugh.
Category: Books … Serious

So I was in Walmart late the other night and was looking over the books on their Black History Month table, and my eyes settled on a book titled "Promises from God for Men of Color." I think I was in the mood to be annoyed or amused or confused -- or possibly, though doubtfully, enlightened -- or whatever, because it was this book that I decided to pick up and flip through.

Eventually, after finding nothing particularly arresting on the pages I found upon first opening the book, I skimmed the table of contents to see if it would point me to something more interesting... whereupon I found a section called "Positive Thinking." For myriad reasons -- many of which are related to my experience as a so-called man of color -- I do find it difficult to think positively about events. So, curious as to what advice the book might have for me on the subject, I turned to the page indicated.

Firstly, the page indicated didn't actually point to the "Positive Thinking" section -- that section was in fact two pages later. So a book that purported to communicate the promises found in the infallible Word of God to a particular audience couldn't even get the TOC right, which is discouraging but somehow apropos given the hand God's dealt men of color. Anyway, I did ultimately find the "Positive Thinking" section and settled in to read the verse expressly chosen for the subject.

It was Matthew 6:25a: "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear."

And... I think I get what the the verse is trying to say. (I'm also reminded of a recent exchange, where a friend seemed stressed and I offered "relax" and another friend pointed out that telling a person to relax never -- I'd say "rarely," at least in isolation, but I'll concede the point -- achieves that aim.) But the book also purports to consist of promises from God to men of color, and given the many ways that our society more harshly judges men of color it seems particularly ill informed. I've written more about this elsewhere, but part of the reason I continue wear ties and try to dress relatively nicely (which isn't to say that I wear particularly nice or expensive clothes, but you'll rarely see me in sweatpants or a t-shirt) despite no longer having the job that demanded I (but apparently not my co-workers, or at least not with the same insistence) dress as such is that I have experience with how people treat me when I wear more "relaxed" outfits. Given the number of times I've been detained by police or security officers and verbally abused by strangers in stores, I definitely worry about how I will be perceived; I've found that what I wear is absolutely helpful for securing me at least somewhat more positive treatment and hopefully (at least in the moment) allowing me to present as less threatening. I even worry that people in my social circles -- particularly ones with whom I'm not especially well acquainted -- will think less of me depending upon what I wear; outfit depending, I imagine it'd be too easy for them to label me a thug on sight and for that impression to color all of our subsequent interactions.

So I absolutely worry about what I will wear because it directly impacts the treatment I receive, and I feel like a book that purports to speak to the experiences of men of color should be aware of that reality. And given my focus on that particular preoccupation -- and the coincidence that *I* happened to land on that particular passage in the book -- I'm not left feeling encouraged or enlightened. Instead, I'm left feeling that this book -- and perhaps, by extension, "God" -- couldn't have joked more viciously if it had tried.

-posted by Wes | 12:53 pm | Comments (0)
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