“Throughout time black folks in circles exchange disaster stories like a competition of a high stakes poker game…”
The story of Job is the worse bible reference in the world for black people. Job’s story is the go-to comfort reference in times of black tragedy. It is the Robitussin of problems, the ginger-ale of mental health. Through rainy days, funerals, employee layoffs, and all other black disasters, the story of Job is often brought up as an offbeat attempt to bring ease to pain. In case one may be unfamiliar with this green alcohol black antidote, here is the short version:
So one day in the office, God the HNIC asks his angels for the daily report on his favorite guy Job. Satan, an angel at the time, was already heated because he was passed up for a promotion felt he deserved plus pissed he had not received a raise since the days of Adam and Eve, said:
“Job , he ok, but he’s only faithful to you because of all the riches, great family, and endless land you supplied him with. Let me rain down on his parade, and I guarantee son will hate your guts!!!”
God, who was annoyed by Satan, was never a fan of his smartmouth, especially in front of the other angels:
“Alright, Satan, I’ll tell you what. Go ahead and do what you want with Job, take away everything I’ve given him EXCEPT his life, and I promise he’ll still love me. Deal?”
Satan, at the moment, was winking at Mary, looked up at God, and said:
So moments later on the west side of a town called Uz, Millionaire Job was sitting on a mountaintop with his wife watching the sunset and talking about how good it feels to be rich when his servants came to tell him some terrible news. First, all his cattle died from drinking water that the local government had poisoned, then all his kids had heart attacks and died from eating too many fast-food fried chicken sandwiches, and lastly, climate change lightning with no storm present struck from above and burned down all his crops. Job immediately rips off his All-Saints-Matter t-shirt, shaves his head bald, and drops to his knees to praise God.
But, but, but wait it gets worse!!!
Later, Job gets infected with large skin sores all over his body, which caused his wife to suspect he had caught an STD from one of his lady servants. Job’s friends from college Eliphaz the Hotep, Zophar who is always asking for money, and Bildad, who is lowkey crushing on Job’s wife, all try to convince him(Job) to admit what he did wrong to God so life can get better. Plus, Job’s wife has been pressuring him to curse God out loud. Job recognizes to everyone that he was in bad shape but refused to still go against God, who at that moment showed up to praise Job, telling him how everything was just a test, and as a reward was given new riches and made his wife deliver more kids for them to love. All was right in the world because God felt good knowing he showed Satan, who was REALLY in charge. The end.
This story is horrible!!! So is everything supposed to be ok now?!! Job’s wife, who already gave birth to 10 kids, is just to supposed to roll over and give birth to 10 more?!! Plus, Job is now dealing with severe PTSD and walked the rest of his life with a high degree of paranoia. And who knew God had an ego?!! So God being God who is all-mighty and powerful, needed to prove a point to Satan, knowing he’s a hater who he’ll one day literally throw out the gates of heaven soon?!!
Somehow, the lesson is supposed to be about how the faithful are rewarded even through the darkest of tragedies. However, what this has created for black people, in general, is a dialogue of acceptance that drama was somehow meant to make them stronger. Tragic biblical stories were the recipe of comfort for the African American slave that has been past down throughout generations. Job’s story is the symbol of a man who tragically had everything taken while never challenging nor questioning his superior and was rewarded ultimately for his loyalty. Sound familiar?
Throughout time black folks in circles exchange disaster stories like a competition of a high stakes poker game. There is very little listening as each “I lost my mom last month,” is met with a “Well, I just lost my mom, dad, grandad, and dog this morning!!!” Voices start to yell as everyone competes for the sadder storyline until, ultimately, everyone bows down to the tale of Job.
These habits prevent real action from taking place when it comes to mental health, emotional well being, and the process of mourning. The real gift of a confidant is their skill to listen, not to bring up another self tragedy as a sign of warmth. Life has nor never will offer a one pill solution to its misfortunes. Still, there is no solace in an overused/outdated myth that promotes a false narrative that tragedies are destination lessons because once upon a time, some rich guy was made to suffer because an egomaniac boss dice roll his fate with a disgruntled employee.