The Thinking 

The Squandered Spirituality of Blacks

January 14, 2010


In a review at Frontpage Magazine of Precious, a new Lee Daniels film about a black welfare mother, Kidist Paulos Asrat writes:

At one time, black Americans had the edifying art of Negro spirituals, infused with religion, with which to escape the trappings of undignified lives. Now they have mediocre films and stories that moralize, but fail to inspire. If Daniels had let Mary sing “Motherless Child,” instead of performing her grotesque confessional, the magnificent spiritual would have transcended her grievance.

The spiritual’s prescription is to “Git down on [your] knees and pray” to prevent this existential loneliness from hardening into self-destructive cruelty. Beseeching to a higher being allows the possibility for redemption by forsaking the inequities and traps laid out by the likes of Misses Weiss and Rain, and their endless stream of affiliated agencies. In Daniels’s film, all we get is the false liberation of a trapped young girl, who will very likely repeat some of the same transgressions as her mother.

                                                                           — Comments —-

Lydia Sherman writes:

Miss Asrat’s point about black music is something we have often observed in our home. We listen to what is known as black vocal harmony groups from the 1930’s and 1940’s. There is nothing quite like it today. Long before affirmative action and public assistance, these remarkable people grabbed hold of their freedom and found a way to use their talents to earn money. Many of them remembered parents who talked about slavery. They rose up from it and created a culture unlike any other. These groups did not just support themselves. They became entire industries that supported many other people, including whites, and they contributed something unique and good to American culture. No parent would have to be concerned about the influence of this music as it built up the human spirit, rather than tore it down. 

Click on this photograph to see a Negro group singing for a white audience in Nebraska, and observe the dignified way they were dressed and the way they are sitting and standing.

Thank you so much for writing about this.

Rita writes:

I was disappointed when I learned Tyler Perry was involved with this film. He has made some very uplifting films with definite Christian overtones featuring mostly Black casts and I’m disappointed to see him teeming up with Oprah for a hopeless film like this. I guess the money and fame he has achieved (thanks to his mostly Christian audience, no doubt) has gone to his head, or maybe he just doesn’t need his Christian audience anymore.

I’ve read the book Push, by Sapphire on which the movie was based and was disgusted at how graphic it was and how pointless. Also, all of the white people in the book were portrayed as unfeeling jerks.

To me, this is just one more story ( and a fictitious one at that) promoting white guilt. I won’t be shelling out $9 to see this movie.

Regarding black spirituality, I’ve often commented to my friends that black people with Christianity are some of the most awesome people on earth. They put some of us to shame with their piety and enthusiasm. Without Christianity however, blacks are some of the worst reprobates on earth.  Sounds pretty judgmental but this is what I’ve observed.

Laura writes:

Blacks are a chosen people. I don’t mean they literally have a covenant with God, but they have their own spiritual attributes. There are still many blacks who keep this way of being alive, but their influence has been overwhelmed.


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