My dissertation: The Wal-Martization of African American Religion and much of my work talks about the social construction of identity, racism, sexism and the power of brand®ed identities and celebrity. I keep seeing images and hearing those WORDS or sound bites of Donald Sterling—owner of the Los Angeles Clippers. His “racist” WORDS kept playing over and over in my head. Donald Sterling, the owner—or maybe the former owner—now banned for life—fined 2.5 million dollars—alleged adulterer—and an alleged racist.
Paula, you have to write about this and add to your literary and scholarly canon. Then suddenly, like the burning bush in the Exodus narrative and the call of Moses, I started asking questions of myself and whether I am worthy to write these words. Dr. McGee, “What WORDS are academic, yet popular enough? “ More importantly, “How does this fit into your research?” You want your blog to be on the top of a Google search tomorrow, when the thirty-something and under crowd find the right combination of WORDS to pull you into the browser of their lives. Your last blog was about Preachers of LA. How perfect. Your second blog, Reverend McGee will be about billionaire racist WORDS, alleged mistresses, rich ex-wives, and black basketball players. WORDS, WORDS, WORDS, WORDS!
The canvas is set. This is better than any episode of Basketball Wives and Basketball Wives LA. How do I organize the blog? What is the lead paragraph? Reverend Dr. McGee, former athlete, retired jersey at USC, feminist/womanist, preacher and public theologian, you have to say something. As the scribe, prophet, and commentator what do you have to say?
The problem with writing about this drama is that there are just too many colorful characters and players for such a short blog. I consider myself to be a pretty good writer, but even Shonda Rhimes and the writers of Scandal aren’t talented or creative enough to write and structure this narrative.
Oh yeah, that’s right. Let us not forget that this is not a reality show, nor is it a scripted weekly drama. Your WORDS, Ms. McGee, will frame YOU as much as they frame or “socially construct” the REALITY and IDENTITY of all of the characters—all of the REAL people in a concrete REAL world. You actually know Magic and Doc Rivers. You can leave out Doc, but you have to mention Magic, who was included in the racist rants. However, my feminist and womanist lens, is warning me not to only talk about the men. The politics of respectability—asserts thatas a black woman, I have to make sure that the black men are also presented as strong and powerful, and not just as another updated version of Skip Gates’ New Negro or as 40 Million Dollar Slaves.
I want to talk about the women: complex subjectivity, intersectionality, androcentrism, and the silencing or invisibility of women. I want to move away from the focus on the CEO/owner(s) and the millionaire athletes. I want to talk about the women. But, how do I tell the story without making the women into more of the same sensationalized REALITY TV versions that reward them with fifteen minutes of infamy or fame? Then, out of nowhere more of the epiphany. The Red Sea parted. I remembered that I have the power of the pen. I get to tell the story. Because of the work that I have done and will continue to do in the world—I have a space to speak—to decide the protagonists and the villains, the oppressed and the oppressors. Again—more revelations!
There it is—that false, old structuralism and modernism—that problematic objectivity and assumption that I, as a scholar and thinker, can construct the cyberspace characters or persons that can stop or be stopped in the middle of their concrete lives, in order for me to capture the truth. I am supposedly equipped with the right academic jargon and popular rhetoric to decide who deserves to be labeled as the good and the evil, the right and the wrong. Amen and Ashe’.
The epiphany for all those who dared to keep reading after the first 200 WORDS:
REAL LIFE that is LIVED with REAL PEOPLE does not fit into a media sound bit nor a blog. Life is rarely only in the black and white of dualistic categories. Life has a host of categories, concepts, characters, myths, and colors. We, for just a moment, are able to see the complexity of institutional and personal identity (vocation, gender, race, class, and wealth). Life continues. We, who have this great opportunity to speak truth to power—and to write—we are perhaps called to be vigilantly aware of the POWER OF OUR WORDS. We must remember that we too, are socially constructing the myths and wordview(s) of tomorrow—the stories that will be worth telling and remembering. So as any good scholar and preacher—I say:
Speak, speak, speak, and write, write, write, but do not forget the POWER of the WORDS.
Paula McGee is scholar, preacher, writer, and inspirational speaker. She has a Ph.D. in Women’s Studies in Religion from Claremont Graduate Universityand is an ordained Baptist preacher. Her dissertation, The Wal-Martization of African American Religion: T.D. Jakes and Woman Thou Art Loosed (download the PDF), explores the relationship between African American churchwomen and their pastors in post-civil rights America. She is a role model and an advocate for women. Her personal mission is “to inspire others to recognize, accept, and fulfill their call to greatness.”