#TreasuresofDarkness, Day 19
1 Thessalonians 5:4–5
But you, beloved, are not in darkness, for that day to surprise you like a thief; for you are all children of light and children of the day; we are not of the night or of darkness.
Many of us who grew up in the United States have had at least a few encounters with the cartoon show Scooby Doo. From the 1960s through to the 2000s, there have been many iterations of this cartoon, captivating several generations of young ones with its mystery-solving teen quartet and dog. Old episodes of Scooby Doo flit through my mind as I read this tiny sliver of Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians. No matter which episode(s) one encountered, the structure of the story remained:
- The Mystery Team is going about business as usual.
- The community randomly discovers a problem.
- The authorities are notified.
- The authorities follow procedures to get answers.
- The Mystery Team encounters danger/difficulty in the process.
- The Mystery Team overcomes danger and persists in pursuit of the truth.
- The Mystery Team captures and unmasks the problem.
- The Mystery Team reveals the authorities underneath the mask.
-The authorities offer the final words, “And I would have gotten away with it too if it weren’t for you meddling kids!”
This structure, in many ways, mimics real life for People of Color (POC) in the ongoing aftermath of colonization. We learn early without a formal teaching that dark is bad and light is good. Cultures steeped in the effects of colonialism don’t have to work very hard to connect that negativity of darkness with skin color, creating a built-in, fail-safe method to perpetuate the lies that white folk are somehow superior to the rest of humankind. Biblical texts such as these feed into our societal constructions of religion and law. These texts are so deeply embedded in our collective minds that we rarely stop long enough to question just how not God-ordained this flawed and dangerous thinking truly is.
But what if this darkness isn’t about one’s biological variations? [Spoiler alert: this is the point I hope to make.] What if it has everything to do with the choices one makes to appear as one thing “in the light” but then does an entirely different thing “in the dark?” One jarringly obvious example I cannot shake is in the garb of the still-existent Ku Klux Klan (KKK). The robes are often depicted in bright white with pointed hoods in matching color. Personally, I’ve never tried on one of those hoods but it doesn’t take advanced science to imagine the darkness underneath the full cloak of a KKK member.
And not just in a literal way do these members choose darkness. Discovering “upstanding” members of society and even “authorities” underneath these hoods no longer surprises me as it continues to do for the Mystery Team. History has shown us over and over again that the concept of a superior white race needs to have this kind of openly hidden deception to survive and thrive. History is actively remaking itself as I type.
Increased access to technology has allowed us, in recent years, to capture and bring to light, if you will, the injustices facing a great many folk who’ve been discarded and left for dead on the margins of society. Some of us don’t need to see the videos or hear the audio of whiteness flailing violently to survive. For some, this technological evidence has been necessary to help them emerge from quietly benefiting from the protective shadows of white supremacy. And for still others, they fight to protect whiteness to the very end, accusing the truth-seekers and -tellers of “meddling,” thus reshaping the narrative and vilifying POC and others who participate in de-masking and exposing realities.
We must #Resist the constant messages that our darkness is inherently dangerous, when in reality, it is the shadows of white supremacy that kill us. This is the real poison that threatens all of life — every race and every species. To those of us who have absorbed the toxic lies that we are inherently flawed, I leave us with this word from Paul, revisited: But you, beloved, are not in darkness, for that day to surprise you like a thief; for you are all children of light and children of the day; we are not of the night or of darkness.
The Rev. Phiwa Langeni is a transmasculine genderqueer person who’s passionate about helping people understand that different doesn’t have to be dangerous. They are particularly effective in working with those whose identities align with the mainstream by helping people reframe society’s tendencies to lean into fear as the default. Their personal and academic interests are centered on the intersections of race, gender/sexuality, and religion. Phiwa is an ordained United Church of Christ minister. They are the proud parent of one daughter, who is a first-year college student. Phiwa enjoys reading, creating, music, learning & teaching, and laughing deeply.