I loved the slavery billboard and thought the message was clear and good – but Sikivu Hutchinson argues that even when the message is understood, the imagery is unwelcome and that we have badly misunderstood the audience.
On the subject of the billboard and whether or not it is racist, I’ll concede that there’s apparently enough contention that it’s the sort of image we should avoid.
I look at that billboard and I’m outraged – but I’m outraged at the source that sanctioned and supported slavery, not at the individuals who are pointing this out. To me, the billboard is the equivalent of saying “Look, they sanctioned slavery, is this what you want to associate with?”…and that’s the sort of statement that one wouldn’t expect to be contentious.
Perhaps Sikivu is right. Clearly there were some who were more than a little upset about the imagery. I’m not even sure I can comment on that, as my own privilege might be preventing a clear understanding. At the end of the day, though, if the billboard isn’t conveying the intended message and achieving its intended goal, then it failed and we need some other message.
I don’t get to decide what someone else finds offensive, and I can’t easily put myself in someone else’s shoes…so I’ll simply agree that the billboard turned out to be a mistake, no matter what my personal impressions of it were.
But when it comes to the religion in question, I won’t be giving an inch of ground away.
She included this line, in her blog post:
“Douglass prefaced his critique by contrasting the corrupt Christianity of a slaveholding nation and the so-called benevolent “Christianity of Christ” practiced by African slaves in liberation struggle.”
Douglass was, if I’m understanding this summary correctly, wrong.
There’s nothing “corrupt” about a Christianity that endorses slavery. The Bible supports it, in both testaments and Jesus never says a word against slavery. That’s part of the reason that the billboard chose this message and one of the reasons that I continually use it as my go-to point for condemning the Bible.
There were plenty of Christians who were critical to ending slavery, but they were acting in opposition to their own religion; cherry-picking the verses that supported their desires and ignoring the ones that didn’t.
One could argue that this is true for all Christians, which would make it very Christian to come up with one’s own interpretation – and that’s true: there are probably as many Christianities as there are Christians.
But, when one’s holy book explicitly sanctions an act, in great detail and never explicitly rejects that act – those who do reject it are on exceptionally weak footing as long as they’re citing the same book as a primary source for their beliefs.
Slavery, in the United States, was ended by people. Religious people and secular people – working toward an ideal that directly opposes the Biblical view. Implying that slavery was a perversion of Christianity simply isn’t true.