At times, I’m reminded of the problem people have with Black Theology being unapologetic about attaching Black to Theology. This is not an uncommon experience when one is developing black accounts of things (it is something we see often in the rejoinder “All Lives Matter!” ). “Why does it have to be a black theology,” the offended whine. Theology by itself names something universal that black disfigures with the problem of blackness–its particularity and historical contingency. In reality, we just need to recover better theology in general to confront the problem of whiteness in theology. Good theology is the antidote for bad theology (whether white theology or black theology). In response to this line of argument, I’ve been sketching some thoughts.
One cannot simply continue as though the name of theology, which has been white theology in practice, can simply be wrested back into a liberative mode without confronting and unsettling what is occluded by the appearance of universality given, without reserve, to this name (theology). The name Black theology thus marks theology (just as blackness marks existence) with the sign of excess or difference which cannot be assimilated into theology without theology becoming something different altogether–without theology experiencing an inoperativity or deconversion from its own whiteness. To simply announce theology by itself (whether it is true theology, or real theology, or better theology) as the answer to the problem of theology, is to leave theology unmarked as a problem for blackness (by which I mean existence) and untouched by the disfiguration blackness would effect upon theology. In my view, this marking or disfiguration of theology by blackness is precisely what keeps its speech theological. The repetition of arguments that claim to recover real theology are thus evasions of the problem an unmarked theology poses. Such evasion fails to take seriously both what theology names (our speech about God), what blackness names (a problem for the ontological whiteness that has made itself God), and the need to signal the radical incommensurability of the two yet, at the same time, their necessary confrontation.