O Lord, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not listen? Or cry to you “Violence!” and you will not save? Why do you make me see wrongdoing and look at trouble? Destruction and violence are before me; strife and contention arise. So the law becomes slack and justice never prevails. The wicked surround the righteous—therefore judgment comes forth perverted. Habakkuk 1:1-5 NRSV
Anyone that has ever been in a position where their voice was silenced can understand the prophet’s lament; could fathom the kind of super power it takes to stand-up to those who hold all the power and ask, “How long must I cry for help and you not listen?” How long must I, as a queer person of color with the potential of birthing children into this broken world, listen to well intentioned privileged people tell me how to respond to the abuse and killing of black and brown bodies. Why should I have to hold my head higher and not ball my fist when justice “comes forth perverted.” Before I dive much further into my commentary, I think it is necessary to borrow words from the Rev. Dr. Otis Moss III when I say in order to fully understand the position at hand we have to have the Grace of the back-story, both mine and Habakkuk. As I stated, I am a queer person of color that was born into a female body but who also just so happens to not buy into the gender binary. To complicate this matter further, I am also seeking ordination in PC(USA); one of the whitest Christians denominations. I say this not to demean or diminish the role the Presbyterian Church has played in racial reconciliation within the United States but mainly as a means of illustrating my current social location. Now for The Prophet, Habakkuk, he is one of the minor twelve with very little known historically about them other than what is written in their book. The only other major time Habakkuk is made mention of is in the story of Daniel. There is a consensus that Habakkuk came into prophethood around the time of the Chaldean rise to power, and was most likely a temple priest charged with carrying the discontent of the Jewish people and handing it off to God. It is important to note that Habakkuk appears to be all but done with God. The anger, sadness, and fear are on full display; I even dare to say Habakkuk had the gall to question the Almighty, as if to say “are you God only Almighty in name and not action?” Now that I have hopefully given you, the reader, a better understanding of my social location and my understanding of the prophet I ask that you keep your heart open and your ear attuned to my voice.
I refuse to be kind. I choose to take liberties when speaking with God and humanity. Much as the prophet there have been times when I felt as if I personally, because of the color of my skin, was charged with carrying the calamity of time. There is the understanding that it become the sole responsibility of the prophet to carry the weight and sin of their fellow peoples and offer that pain and agony onto God. God was expected, in turn, to move outside God-self to provide kindness, forgiveness, and mercy for those who corrupted the law as to fend off impending destruction. Deus Ex Machina style. With that said, what if I told you I believe this dialogue between God and their prophet was not as civil as I made it out to be? I say this because I have lived this. I have been in situations where my voice was silenced. Asked to be the more righteous one as to not come off as the angry black woman. Each time this happens I hearken back to lament of the prophet who probably felt the same way I do every time a privileged person asks how I – the only noticeable person of color – feels about the death of another of my kinsmen. “How Long?…..How Long” play over and over in my mind, much like when I watched the last few seconds of Eric Garner’s arrest video, where there is nothing but the visceral response of I can’t breathe. Habakkuk probably asked the same question day in and day out, and the Lord would not save them. While it is true Habakkuk played the role of the prophet whose sole purpose was to call Isra’el back into the fold of following the Torah, this person is strikingly different from the other prophets both greater and lesser, who only talk to God on the behalf of the people. How does this relate back to my present state? Reference earlier when I stated, “Why could I not ball up my fist?” or “why do I always have to care about making you feel comfortable?” Even still “why, Lord, do I as a person of color have to be the one on the moral high road, and forgive for abominable acts of killing in the name of racism?” Unlike the prophet, I am done beseeching God for the ill deeds done in the name of US idolatry. I understand judgment will come and it will be swift. In that same vein I am done being kind to people who refuse to see the kind of god-like strength it takes to be an unkind black person in an era of Wrongful Black Death.
Quantisha Mason is a second year student at McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago, IL. She is one of the founding members of the Center of Faith and service housing at McCormick, with a hope of starting a new student movement toward a theological education as a means of social change.