You know how, when you read a headline you hope is not true, you kind of squint while you click the link because you only want to half-see the details waiting on the other side, just in case you don’t like them? That was me last week, wanting not to believe that Tina Campbell, half of the gospel sangin’ duo Mary Mary, was reportedly a Trump supporter. Wary from an inauguration week of Chrisette Michele trying to one-up her own absurdity and wondering if she’d been a Black girl lost the whole time I’d been a fan, I rebuked the disillusionment of yet another one of our celebrities and gave Campbell the benefit of the doubt—until I read what she had to say for myself. It’s not so much that she supports Trump, because she doesn’t outright state that she voted for him. It’s that she slid behind her Facebook pulpit to pen an open letter about why she was going to intercede on his behalf, essentially absolving him from accountability for his actions because, hey, he’s prayed up by proxy.
I spent half an hour of my own life scrolling through Campbell’s social media posts, searching for a time since Election Day when she’d issued a similar political statement or made mention of any urgent social issue because, especially as of late, there have been plenty at the fore. There are pictures of her kids and gushes about her husband, promos for her solo events and shout-outs to her church family. There was not one offer of prayer for people devastated by the loss of the first would-be woman president and the legions of voters who placed their hope in, not necessarily her politics, but her position as an antithesis to The Great American Nightmare. Not a message of encouragement for a community that has been victimized and triggered by the Trump-inspired culture of hate spewing and surges of violence. Not one hedge of prayer protection around frontline protestors, grassroots activists and women’s march participants who offered their physical selves up to demand the continued rights she enjoys as an American. Not one criticism of the Muslim ban, threat to reproductive rights or the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, which all effect millions of people, many of them financially vulnerable.
That Campbell chose to use her platform and her singular moment of publicized political enlightenment to speak on behalf of Donald Trump and his presidency is a bigger waste of time than every inboxed chain letter and “repost if you love Jesus” message combined. She said—and this makes me mad all over again every time I read it—“I believe that no creed, nor color, nor class, nor status of people are better than the other, but we are all valuable; we are all necessary. I believe that all people and all lives matter, including that of Mr. Donald Trump and his family. I believe that the leaders of this nation should protect the opportunity for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for every single one of its citizens. And, I choose to believe that Mr. Donald Trump shares this same belief.”
Did she say “all lives matter?” Did she go so far as to call that man “mister?” Lord today. Is she sure she’s unshackled? How, dear, can Trump share that lofty belief when nearly every other president before him has historically had zero to little interest in solidifying those basic elements of American life for Black folks, for brown folks, for women, for LGBTQ folks, for refugees, for anyone who does not look like or live as a standard-issue, straight, Christian White man? In less than two weeks, he has made a photo opp out of obliterating existing orders and instituting new ones that work against everything good, right and just. So naturally he—who has not even accidentally demonstrated any of the Christian principles on which those values were built—is not only more determined to outdo his predecessors just for pure shock value, he’s got vested business and personal interests that won’t allow him to operate with integrity.
Some Black church folks are so heavenly bound, they are no earthly good.
Campbell’s amen corner ate that statement up, verbally high-fiving her in the comment section and congratulating her on getting a word dropped down from the Lord on high. (From what I could see, she only responded to the people who agreed with her, which is precious.) I’m not the in business of saying who does and doesn’t hear from God. But I will say that the God I know, the Lord I’ve seen at work, is not for the strategic disenfranchisement of any people. You can’t celebrate the God in a system of marginalization and oppression because God ain’t in that. So you can’t celebrate the God in the marginalizer and oppressor because God ain’t in that, either. I’m not saying it can’t be called forward. There’s a little piece of something good in the worst among us. But that’s not what we should hang our hope on. When confronted by an attacker holding a Glock to your face, do you pray away his will to kill or do you pray up your power to protect yourself?
The Bible is the bedtime story of choice for Black Christian folks who have been rocked to a deep, sound sleep by platitudes and rhetoric. It’s not all of us, of course. Kirk Franklin recently made headlines too, but for quite a different reason. He’s a gospel artist and a man of God, but when a Twitter troll clapped at him over the Muslim Ban, Franklin clapped right back—in Jesus’ name.
Still there are too many of us playing the sidelines and, on the occasion when they are jarred out of their REM-level slumber, they try their best to pray away the unpleasantries of life without acting to change them. There was never a time in history when a Black person had the luxury of being complacent. But if the last 11 days have been any indication of the chaos that Trump and his hand-selected cadre intends to visit on our community as a whole, there ain’t one coming up any time soon. While Campbell and her ilk are on bended knee to lift up prayers for the predator and create a fortress of protections around a man who is an enemy of his own state, I’ll be sending mine up for the people who need to be shielded from his unique kind of crazy.
Janelle Harris is a writer and editor based in Washington, D.C. Follow her on Twitter @thatgirlcanwrite