Ripping up the brown paper bag.


I was thinking about Clarence Thomas, Colin Powell, Condi Rice, Mia Love and yes, Stacey Dash (now I’m thinking, ‘Which one of these do not belong?’). They got me thinking of other Black folks who break rank in their own ways, determining to do their own thing.

For example, while most Blacks in this country are Christian or Muslim, many aren’t. Like Shirley Woodard who has been a practicing Buddhist since 1974:

“What attracted me to being a Buddhist was that I tried it and I saw it working in my life. It’s something that I just said, “Let me try.” And once I tried it and I saw how it was something that I could use for my daily life, that I didn’t have to die and go to heaven — ‘cause your heaven and your hell exist right here — it made me very conscious of causes. Whether it be verbal, mental or whatever type of causes you may do, you get an effect from it.

… I don’t believe in a God outside myself, like the Baptists. In Buddhism, there’s no beginning and no end, it’s a continuous cycle. And when you chant and you fuse with the gohonzon [wooden planks covered with Chinese and Sanskrit that detail the life of the true Buddha, ‘Nichiren Daishonin,’ and function as the object of worship], you develop the Buddha nature within you, and therefore it leads you to enlightenment. And this is for your daily life. You don’t have to worry about somebody outside of yourself as a god making decisions for you. You’re responsible for your own self. You don’t pray outside of yourself for the knowledge and stuff that you need.”

Then there’s Mark Hatcher, who despite being raised Catholic, is now an atheist:

“What really clicked for me was when I started learning about — I hate to say it — evolution and the origin of the cosmos. [It] was, I think, the last thread holding the whole God thing in place for me. Look around. Why is there something rather than nothing? With the very elegant solutions that evolution by natural selection provides, it’s a very simple, very natural way of getting from point A to point B. Then we have to think about the origin of the cosmos. We can explain how there’s zero total energy in the universe and how things can’t have come from nothing, because nothing really isn’t nothing but a boiling, bubbling brew of a bunch of stuff. At that point I thought about it and I said, “You know, if there’s a God up there, then he’s bored. He got nothing to do.” He’s redundant at best.”

There are even Black Scientologists. Really!:

“Patricia Gore, 63, is the director of community relations for the Washington Church of Scientology. She has been a member for nearly 30 years…

Scientology is an applied religious philosophy, so it’s ‘How do you use this in your daily life?’ It’s not a belief system. There were things I could do, and after I started doing it, I could see the results. I think I was a little bit taken aback by the fact that there were so many white people, and so few black people, as I saw it. I still had my antennas up just to see how this could relate to me. I kept looking for [racism], and I kept expecting it … but I didn’t [experience it], and that was kind of weird ’cause I grew up with it, and here were these happy people that were treating me very, very nicely, and I was like ‘Okay, what do they want? They’re still being nice to me…’ So it was pretty cool…”

There are Black Rockers. Black Country singers. Black Opera singers. There are Black Irish singers. Black ballroom dancers. Black Mormons. Black nuns. Blacks in NASCAR.

My point is, there needs to be an end to this reverse brown paper bag test whenever a Black person seems to break with the perceived (or real) pack. There is strength in diversity.

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