Why the Ferguson Crisis and the Ongoing Killing of Young Black Men is Ultimately a Battle Between the Cultures of Life and Death in the Black Community

Dr. Carl Ellis Jr.
Dr. Carl Ellis Jr.

by Carl Ellis Jr.

A quiet rage has been inside me since the shooting of Michael Brown on August 15 — a rage I kept under control as I tried to be objective and resist being manipulated by the strident and predictable rhetoric surrounding this senseless killing. However, as I watched Michael’s funeral, that rage burned hot. It brought to mind the senseless and tragic deaths of other young black men: Eric Garner, age 43 on July 17, 2014 in Staten Island, NY; Trayvon Martin, age 17 on February 26, 2012 in Sanford, FL. I couldn’t help recalling the horrifying murder of Emmett Louis Till, age 14 on August 28, 1955 in the Mississippi Delta. His body was fished out of the Tallahatchie River after being beaten and shot in the head. The image of his mutilated and bloated body is still seared in my memory.

Before you write me off for strident and predictable rhetoric of my own, you must know that these killings are not the only ones that have me incensed. I am likewise enraged by the murders of thousands of young African-American men in places like Chicago, Detroit, and Philadelphia, where the killers happened to be black. I have lost personal friends in “drive-by” shootings, simply because they happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

In the case of Emmett Till, the motive was clearly racism. The cases of Michael, Eric, and Trayvon certainly involved racism, but other important factors were involved. Racism alone cannot account for the countless black-on-black murders that happen with regularity across the country. In the final analysis, the race of the one who pulls the trigger makes no difference because the result is the same: one more dead African-American young man, gunned down for unclear reasons.

Part of what outrages me is the self-appointed and opportunistic black gatekeepers who continue to frame all of our tragedies only in terms of racism. By so doing, they cannot account for black-on-black murders because they don’t fit their “racism-is-our only-hindrance” scenario. Obviously, racism is an ongoing issue we face, but it is not the only issue. Surely we have a long way to go as a society, but most would agree that while racism is alive and well, it is not the monster it once was. The specter of the past is quickly being eclipsed by a clash of value systems.

We are in the midst of a cultural crisis amongst ourselves, and the events in Ferguson have illustrated it. Part of this crisis is today’s ongoing battle between those who are “life affirming” and those who are “life denying.” The former are pro-black because they are pro-human and the latter are anti-black because they are anti-human.

Generally speaking, life-affirmers are the dominant influence in any culture. However, lately life-deniers have gained an inordinate influence in African-American culture. Acting as wolves in “black” sheep’s clothing, they disguise themselves as pro-black, while carrying and pursuing an anti-black agenda.

The peaceful protesters in Ferguson seem to have been motivated by the violation of their life-affirming sensibilities, and rightfully so. The root of the community’s unrest was decades of frustration with the American justice system that had failed them for so long.

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SOURCE: Christianity Today / The Exchange

Dr. Carl Ellis, Jr. is the Assistant Professor of Practical Theology at Redeemer Seminary in Dallas, TX, Associate Pastor of Cultural Apologetics at New City Fellowship, in Chattanooga, TN, and serves as adjunct faculty at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, PA.

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