TOWARDS AN AVENGING ASSEMBLY WE CALL CHURCH
I have often talked about the racial stereotype of the Angry Black Man, that monster black intellectuals like President Obama and Tiger Woods have tried to avoid. For many the Angry Black Man stereotype is linked forever to violence like the Los Angeles Riots in the 1990’s and gangsta rap; black men who get angry are considered a danger to the well being of society, bringers of chaos to the world order. We don’t have to go very far to see how black athletes tread the line between being passionate and wanting a friendly image. I recall a couple of years ago I presented what seemed to be from one outsider’s perspective an angry call to vengeance-filled bloody revolution because I presented on the theologies of Denmark Vesey and John Calvin, and what they meant for educating the public. Because my body has a dark brown skin tone and because I demonstrated a knowledge of my subject matter this one critic had not heard of, he assumed I was being angry Black Man and told me so, even questioning my pacifism.
Of course, anyone with good sense towards critical thinking would veer in the direction of knowing how the logic of violence and anger works and then work to understand how to cope with that rage. My rage was against institutional racism and white supremacy, things my interlocutor refuses to understand inspite of his “liberal” education.
As I was watching Marvel’s The Avengers, I observed very closely how Mark Ruffalo’s HULK was racially Othered. In fact, Bruce Banner explains to Tony Stark that he does not have a uniform or weaponized suit, but only himself, “like a nerve” he is exposed. The double-consciousness of Bruce Banner problematizes the rhetoric of freedom throughout the movie. Like W.E.B. DuBois years ago, Banner has two selves warring at each other. This is what DuBois said what it was like to be black in the United States, our histories as sufferers of enslavement struggling with the quest to become citizens in the land of the not-yet-free but always brave. The racial marginalization is further realized in the context of Nick Fury’s and S.H.I.E.L.D.’s xenophobia. One random janitor in a building Hulk has demolished asks him, “You an alien?,” which Bruce Banner exposed (literally- no clothes) quickly responds, shaking his head, “No.” When I hear this question being asked, I think about the people who currently have to hear this question, perhaps a Latino/a in Arizona who has lived here all of her life, but is subjected to questionings about her citizenship because of the color of her skin and the fact of her bilingualism.
Perhaps the Avengers can teach the Church that the raging racial minorities are needed, the iconoclasts that they are, leaving destruction in their wake. Surely temples will fall, but in Christian theology, with the fall of temples, there is Resurrection, and New Creation.
“The Lord watches over the strangers;
he upholds the orphan and the widow,
but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.”
Speaking of widows, where does this leave the Natasha Romanoffs/The Black Widows and Agent Maria Hills in the church? More to come on Gender and The Avengers. I promise.
- Joss Whedon’s #Avengers and Religion #Whedony (politicaljesus.com)