Christianity and Black Oppression

Tuesday, July 16, 2013 - 7:30pm
The Brecht Forumn 451 West Street New York, NY 10014

July 16th, 2013 7:30 PM
Christianity and Black Oppression
Zay D. Green

Class schedule:

Class #1: July 16

The Moral Issue and the Status of Blacks

Chapters 1-3

African peoples are outside the American class system. Generally, when classes are alluded to—upper class, middle class, working class—they usually exclude blacks. Indeed blacks seem to have their own criteria regarding class stratification of blacks which do not conform to the classification of the society in general. (Members of a small black professional class who work primarily for corporate America and the military are hardly representative of Black America).

The outcaste status of blacks within the American society has led to comparisons with the Dalits of India who are outside the main caste system of India. Like the Dalits, Blacks have been stereotyped as mentally and morally inferior, and like the Dalits this stigma is genetic and can be transmitted. Many blacks have internalized the stereotypical view of themselves. This poses a dilemma in the light of the fact that blacks have been Christianized for more than four Centuries.


Who are the Dalits of India? Is there a valid argument regarding commonalities between the Dalits of India, and Blacks in the Americas? Do you think that there is justification for the perception of blacks as morally and mentally inferior?

Christianity is often projected as a religion that instituted high moral ideals but its history hardly reflects this as a reality. How is it that Blacks have been Christianized for more than four hundred years and yet Blacks are perceived as mentally and morally inferior?

Is it possible to have moral values without religion?

Additional Readings:

Bell, Derrick, And We Are Not Saved : The Elusive Quest of Racial Justice, New York, NY: Basic Books, 1987

--------------, Faces at the Bottom of the Well: The Permanence of Racism, New York, NY: Basic Books, 1992

Dawkins, Richard, The God Delusion, New York, NY: Houghton Mifflin, 2006.

Jones, William R, Is God a White Racist? : A Preamble to Black Theology, (Boston, MA: Beacon Press, 1998, c1973.

Rajshekar, V. T. Dalit: The Black Untouchables of India, 3rd ed, Atlanta, GA: Clarity Press, 1995 c1987.

Class #2: July 23

Gulf Between Precept and Practice?: A Brief History of the Christian Religion

Chapters 4-6

In response to the critique of Christianity as a European dominated religion, several black theologians have promulgated theologies, such as, Jesus is Black. There is also the view that there is a pristine Christianity that Europeans do not practice, but how this religious practice passed through two thousand years unfiltered no one can explain. Religion is fundamentally a product of culture, and to understand the impact of Christianity and African people one has to explore the development of European culture over two millennia through Europe’s many wars of conquest on its own people and conquered nations worldwide including the ravaging of the African continent.

Discussion: Is there a gulf between a pristine Christianity and a Christianity that was passed down to us?

The emergence of Christianity as a religion of Empire

Religion and Culture in the Roman Empire.

The distinction between the Jesus of History and the Christ of faith

Additional Readings:

Cone, James H., God of the Oppressed, rev. ed. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1997, c. 1975

Frazier, E. Franklyn, The Negro Church in America bound with C. Eric Lincoln, The Black Church since Frazier, New York, NY: Schocken Books, c 1974, c. 1973

Jones, William R, Is God a White Racist? : A Preamble to Black Theology, (Boston, MA: Beacon Press, 1998, c1973.

Lincoln, E. Eric, The Black Church in the African American Experience, Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1990

Morrison, Roy D II, “Black Enlightenment: The Issues of Pluralism Priorities and Empirical Correlation in Journal of the American Academy of Religion, Vol. XLVI, Issue 2 p. 217-240

Class #3: July 30

The Caribbean: Persistent Underdevelopment?

Chapters 7-9

The Caribbean emerged in a culture of violence under the various colonial powers—a violence that has persisted over the centuries through inherited and imposed legal codes, and social organization. In many of these islands, systematic genocide was perpetuated on indigenous populations. The Slave Trade, slavery, and a brutal system of colonialism were the lot of the majority of peoples in the Caribbean. Psychological force was also implemented based to a large extent on a color coded system that dehumanized the majority of African peoples.


Very little of the suffering of Caribbean peoples due, to a large extent, to the vast inequity in wealth linked to skin color coding is portrayed in advertisements that lure tourists to glistening white sands and clear blue waters.

Phase II of Colonial Exploitation: Tourism and the Further Underdevelopment of the Caribbean

What role do the churches play in the economies and social systems of the islands?

Additional Readings:

Beckford, George, Persistent Poverty: Underdevelopment in Plantation Economies of the

Third World, New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 1972

-----------,---------, and Michael Witter, SmallGarden, Bitter Weed: The Political Economy of Struggle and Change in Jamaica, Maroon Publishing House, 1982

Fanon, Frantz, The Wretched of the Earth, translated from the French by Constance Farrington, New York, NY: Grove Press, 1963.

Nettleford, Rex, Caribbean Cultural Identity: The Case of Jamaica: An Essay in Cultural Dynamics, Jamaica: Institute of Jamaica, 1978

Class #4: August 6

Christianity, the Caribbean and Resistance

Chaps 10-12

For four hundred years Caribbean peoples, such as the Maroons and the Rastafarians, have sought to resist colonial oppression. Resistance has always been met with counter repression by politicians, religious, and other civic leaders. The way forward in creating new social relations is through humanistic reform by teaching the history of struggle and greater avenues for greater participation amongst local peoples.


Why and how have Caribbean people resisted European hegemony? What have been the counter measures to resistance?

How is it that almost every denomination is represented in the Caribbean, and yet crime and poverty abound in these islands?

Why are blacks associated with poverty and crime?

Additional Readings:

Barrett, Leonard E., Sr. The Rastafarians: Sounds of Cultural Dissonance, revised and updated edition, Boston, MA: Beacon Press, 1988, c. 1977

Campbell, Horace, Rasta and Resistance: From Marcus Garvey to Walter Rodney, Trenton, NJ: Africa Press, 1990, c. 1987.

Chevannes, Barry, Rastafari: Roots and Ideology, Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 1994.

Nettleford, Rex, Mirror, Mirror: Identity, Race and Protest in Jamaica, Great Britain, Williams and Sangster (Jamaica), 1970.

Rodney, Walter, The Groundings with my Brothers, Chicago, IL: School Times Publication, 1990, c. 1969.

Class #5: August 13

Where do we go from here? : Towards Developing a Framework for Critical thinking: Humanist values for a new Millennium

Chapters 13-14

Within the Christian religion which pervades black culture and community, black history and culture are marginalized. The marginalization of black history and culture are salient to the inhibition of black critical thought which is fundamental to the oppression of blacks. To execute radical change there is the need for not only knowledge of black history and culture, but institutions that promote the heritage of African peoples including the struggle for economic, social, and mental liberation. Just as how other groups find within their history and culture principles and ethics so blacks can find within their history and culture principle and ethics for daily living and guidance. Indeed not to do so can only lead to atomization, dissonance, and despair.


Is knowledge of history and culture effective in bringing about changes?

Do we need black institutions that promote critical thinking?

What contribution can blacks make towards the liberation of all peoples?

Additional Readings:

African American Humanism: an Anthology, edited by Norm Allen, Jr., Buffalo, NY: Prometheus Books, 1991

The Black Humanist Experience: An Alternative to Religion, Norm R. Allen, Jr., editor, Amherst, NY: Prometheus Press, 2003

Woodson, Carter G., The Mis-Education of the Negro, Chicago, IL: Images, 2000, c.1933

Wilson, Amos N., Blueprint for Black Power: A Moral, Political and Economic Imperative for the Twenty-first Century, New York, NY: Afrikan World InfoSystems, 1998