A Christian, Black Man Shares His Frustration With the Absence of Outrage on the Killings of Black Men from the White Church

THINKSTOCK
THINKSTOCK

I am a Christian and a black man. My wife and I wife attend a majority white church in central New Jersey. We are not an anomaly. The few majority-white churches I’ve visited over the past several years had significant sprinkles of black folks in their pews. Our faith has served an important personal, communal and spiritual role in our lives. It is a source of strength, comfort and guidance, especially in times of hopelessness. My new church has been great at supporting my spiritual growth, however, more recently I am unable to escape my frustration with the silence on race and racism.

I have been deeply and painfully grieved by the torrent of unprovoked killings over the past several years of young brothers. The events surrounding the deaths of Jordan Davis, Michael Brown and John Crawford were some of the most ugly and bigoted things I’ve witnessed in my lifetime–from the media’s attempted shaming of the teenage murder victims by drudging up signs of “troubled adolescence” to the “I am Darren Wilson” bracelets worn by Ferguson police.

A recent New York Times poll shows deep divisions between black and white perceptions of the significance of race and racism in the death of Michael Brown and is evidence that America’s race problem is much bigger than we thought. The problem isn’t that we, as African-Americans, see race as a factor. The problem is that different lives have different value and the value of young black life is at a shocking low in the twenty-first century.

In 1963 Martin Luther King called on white clergy to take a good hard look at the violence and injustice perpetrated against blacks in America and to stand united with black Americans who were struggling just to be treated as fully human. Fifty-one years later I am calling on white church leaders to do the same thing—take a good look at what is happening to black boys in this country and a deep introspective look at your own hearts to sift through any potential biases.

Ignoring the deaths of Michael Brown, John Crawford , Jordan Davis and others in service of placating white congregants is just as dangerous and problematic as overtly racist responses. Silence inadvertently communicates to the white members that these aren’t important matters or that they are not relevant to the faith.

The Sundays after the Michael Brown shooting and the release of the video showing John Crawford being gunned down in Wal-mart, my pastor was noticeably silent on both incidents and ambiguously generic in his message. What did come across felt like an empty attempt to satisfy his own conscious by simply acknowledging that there is “division” in the country, without naming the divided parties or directing the church to support any stakeholders.

As a black member of a majority white congregation post-Michael Brown and John Crawford incidents, it is alienating when a pastor ignores these issues or half-heartedly speaks about “diversity.” It is hurtful when he talks about racism as if it is something with which both black and white people have to contend equally. It is offensive to question Michael Brown’s character or to focus on the rioting in Ferguson to passively justify Brown’s killing and the police violence.

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SOURCE: The Root
Kevin Clay

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