It is oft repeated that 11 am on Sunday is the most segregated hour of the week in America. It is repeated, because it is as true today as when Martin Luther King, Jr., first said it. For many black Americans, grieving is inextricably tied to worship. So, if our ways or worship remain foreign to most Americans, so, too, will our ways of grieving. Watching black folks get spiritual, as many did during Whitney Houston’s funeral service, becomes an opportunity for cultural tourism.
I suppose we should be grateful that Houston’s service was a Christian one. Because popular culture generally turns African-influenced religions like Vodun or Santeria into evil and perversion or fodder for silly ghost stories. And a black Islamic service or an atheist remembrance may have been too much for America to bear.
If knowing and understanding a people is the first step to accepting them, then I fear we may never see a post-racial America. Because if reactions to Whitney Houston’s memorial and African-inspired ways of worship are any indication, hundreds of years after black folk first landed on these shores, our cultures remain foreign to our fellow Americans.