The CLR James Journal

Volume 27, Issue 1/2, Fall 2021

Decolonizing Spiritualities

Eduardo Mendieta
Pages 101-120

Decolonizing Blackness, Decolonizing Theology
On James Cone’s Black Theology of Liberation

James H. Cone is without question the most important Black Theologian of the last century in U.S. theology. This essay is an engagement with his work, focusing in particular on the shifts from European theology, in his Black Theology & Black Power, to Black Aesthetic Religious production, in The Spirituals & The Blues, to The Cross and the Lynching Tree. The core theme of this essay is the entanglement of spiritual/religious colonization with production/invention of racial hierarchies that then became the crucibles for the forging of racist imaginaries that entailed, authorized, enshrined, and sacralized white supremacy. The Janus face of this alchemy, however, was the production of a black religion of liberation that entailed decolonizing the “blackness” invented by the modern project of religious racist colonization. The essay considers how Cone’s works empowers us to think through the analogies between the process of the colonization of the indigenous peoples of the so-called “New World” and the “enslavement” of African peoples. The similarities have to do with the coupling of the colonization of imaginaries with the imposition of racial imaginaries, i.e. religious conquest is also a racial conquest, and conversely, racial conquest is also a religious conquest.