Silent Killers: Racism and the Church in Greater Milwaukee Pt. 2

rac·ismIMG_racism_pt2

ˈrāˌsizəm/

noun

  1. the belief that all members of each race possess characteristics or abilities specific to that race, especially so as to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another race or races.

MUSIC IS A HUGE DEAL

I’m by no means a rockstar when it comes to singing, music, bands or leading audiences in song during Sunday church services. But I have done all of the above for 15 years plus and have picked up some insight along the way.

Music in a church context is a huge deal. In many places, whether a follower of Jesus or not, it’s what gets people in the doors and oftentimes coming back Sunday after Sunday.

This was the case with my childhood church. At the time, we had arguably one of the best Black choirs in the State of Wisconsin. The choir professionally recorded several times, opened for the Milwaukee Brewers several times and backed up various internationally known music artists. Sunday mornings, people would come to hear what new cover songs the band and directors would skillfully add creative arrangements to.

STYLE MATTERS

But as I began to listen to and experiment with a wider range of musical styles, I realized that not everyone appreciated that great style of music. I even began to realize that what I felt was a superior form of music, was not even listened to by people of other ethnicities.

As I visited predominately White churches, I saw the same thing.

I sometimes experienced when churches would have a “special time” of music and butcher songs that were from an unfamiliar style…only to go back to the “normal” type of music the next Sunday. The heart may have been right, but is that the best way to do it?

So this brings to mind a few questions as we consider the racial and cultural impact that music has on uniting people:

  • Because music is so important in creating a welcoming environment …would churches do well to expand the types of music they play, if their intention is to see more diversity come in the doors on Sundays?
  • If someone is coming into a church from another background, do we expect them to “get with the program” of what we think is the superior music choice?
  • Is it inclusive and does it promote racial unity when the songs sung are all by majority culture artists?
  • Finally, does it send a message that music that is appreciated in other cultures is irrelevant or not spiritual enough if time is skillfully play songs that are appreciated by other ethnicities?

DIFFERENT FACES SAME FLAVOR

I have been in some environments where bridging racial divides was the goal. But in those cases, only one type of music that connected with one culture was being played. There may have been different color faces…but the songs were only one flavor.

Now I realize that the following list may not be familiar to some reading this blog. But as a research experiment, feel free to YouTube some of the groups/artists below. Is one group/artist better than another?

Hillsongs
Sons and Daughters
Bethel music
House fires
Hezekiah Walker
Kirk Franklin
Tye Tribbett
Ricardo Sanchez
The Katinas

A DIFFERENT WAY TO GO ABOUT IT

Maybe a good way to move forward in creating environments where multiple ethnicities feel comfortable would be to not have “special music” Sundays. But actually begin to introduce music that connects with multiple ethnicities on a consistent basis.

This one area would go a long way to help integrate churches in Greater Milwaukee. A particular ethnicity’s history, struggle and triumph is wrapped up in the music that they create. When you allow time in a sacred space to appreciate other’s music, you say that their story is valued.

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