June 29, 2016
In referring to religion as a "hustle," BET Humanitarian Award winner Jesse Williams offers a particular challenge for restoration-minded Christians.
Kim, I read this and think it's a good article, I would like to know exactly what needs to be done? You say forgiveness is a start, but not enough, so what would be enough? I'm asking this in all honesty. I've read and studied the bible for some time and I pray that true forgiveness is enough, but if I'm missing something please tell me. Also please let's not say Christianity is problematic or terrible, but maybe some of the people in it, right?
“The God whom we worship is not a weak and incompetent God. He is able to beat back gigantic waves of opposition and to bring low prodigious mountains of evil. The ringing testimony of the Christian faith is that God is able.” —Martin Luther King, Jr.
Reconciliation is the non-negotiable in Christ. When His people begin with legacy arguments, sowing to bitterness and guilt and all else that keeps our focus off radical obedience to Christ, don'twe go nowhere but round and round with the lens of self need. Yes, reconciliation in and FOR Christ requires a deep visceral lifestyle commitment to recognizing /standing up against deep seeded institutional and systemic injustices....but they are to be confronted for the Living Christ in His strength,for His honor alone. Our destination and reference point is Jesus.
Great article. Well said. I think it's especially important for the Church to be racially reconciled so the world may know Christ fixes even the unfixable.
And here's a suggestion for where to start for white folks like myself:
Do not speak to your black and brown brothers and sisters and tell them that they should stop whining about the past. Do not tell people they need to get over it, as if any racism magically lingering from the bad old days were their fault for being "bitter."
In William's phrase: sit down.
Here's another step. Listen. Whose voices tell you about the world? Do you seek out the authoritative testimony of those of minority ethnicity? You should. They can tell you what it's like to live in the world as a black or brown person.
When you do, remember this. It's no one's job but yours to teach you what you've been missing. And when you have to cry and wail and gnash your teeth about how terrible it was and is--because you will--don't go to a black or brown person to lift that emotional cost from you. What do you think they've been carrying? Bear it.
And then, if I may suggest, something that white folks can do is to educate other white people where possible, and stand up to other white people where it's not. Another avenue is to get involved with your local black-led ministry or social action group--you're there to support and learn and not to lead. You don't know what you don't know. You're going to have to learn about your own privilege before you can be an effective helper. And you're still gonna screw up because it's a long process. Help anyway.
One of the most helpful tools I know of is the IAT, a test of sorts that helps point out your unconscious bias. Everybody has some. Racism is often a quiet, insidious thing. If you're breathing the same air I am and live in the same world you've been affected by it--infected, you might say, one way or another. Go take the IAT and start taking steps to change your gut level reactions to people. It's a start. Learn how to take criticism. Learn how to be open to other people teaching you.
Here's the address for the IAT:https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/takeatest.html
To blankedly accuse, in general, all of Christianity is ignorant. This is no different than stereotyping all African Americans. As I study to complete my degree in Biology and head towards medical school, I hear the comments of many students blaming the church for wars through out history. Having written a research paper, proving that most wars have not been due to religion, I then follow up with the comment, "My church has not killed many in wars, I don't belong to that church."
I stand as the only Hispanic Bishop in a college with 200 African American Bishops in my organization.
My birth certificate never even properly identified my race. It says white, when I am clearly Mexican. While there were water fountains for white and blacks there were none for us. There is still mistreatment for Hispanic field workers and their children. My parents grew up working in the fields and we still see field workers in border towns.
Frankly, all lives matter. I see racism coming within races and from direct directions.
The Greeks were slaves of the Romans for a thousand years. There is no animosity between us at all. When a person comes to Christ all is forgiven and A new life begins. The old is passed away , all has become new! During the years of slavery in America even the freed men took to buying their own slaves to work the fields. We are all guilty of something And our lives as they are are a gift from God to Love our neighbors and respect and honor them as made in His image. Too many people are making Too much money on propagating the past sins of others. They keep healed wounds bleeding for their monetary benefit on the backs of us all. Now is the time to come to Christ and be truly forgiven and making your life a shining light to all whom you love!
Thanks for your comment, David. Just to be clear, *asking* for forgiveness is a start. It's also important for those who want to reconcile with those who have been oppressed to not rely on those who have been oppressed to teach them how to reconcile. We don't know what your experiences have been with people of color. We don't know your relationships. That's where it all begins really, with encountering people who don't look like you and building relationships with them. Don't put the burden on us.
Another way to start is by understanding the true nature of racism in this country and acknowledging that the systems of oppression still exist. White privilege is a thing (Google is your friend) and until people who have it recognize that, we will not move forward.
And, yes, I meant American Christianity, as s system of oppression, not just individuals.
Thanks for your comment, Curtis. I'm not sure how you can equate the Greeks and Romans with slavery in America, particularly because race in this country is socially marked and because of the legal systems of oppression that perpetuated racism in this country for a century after Emancipation. Moreover, there are still systems of oppression in this country that harm African Americans. But, OK.
Moreover, the freed slaves that you write of who owned slaves most often gained freedom and bought their family members (wife (if they were even allowed to marry), parents, children) to give them some measure of freedom, because it was not in their power to grant freedom. It wasn't legal.
Furthermore, there is such a thing as internalized racism, wherein those who have been oppressed gain some type of power (or don't) and oppress others who look like them.
Your final argument is just what I wrote about--the whole racism is a sin problem, not a skin problem. I won't engage with that.
Conrad, thanks for your comment. I'm not sure where I accused all of Christianity, as I specifically wrote that abolitionists also used scripture to support freedom for enslaved Africans. I also wrote in a comment of American Christianity being a "system" so please don't "not all Christians" here.
Moreover, Mexican is not a race but an ethnicity, which is why the U.S. Census has boxes for "White" then "Hispanic" and "non-Hispanic." You are blessed to know which country your ancestors hail from. The closest I've been able to find is through DNA analysis.
Please also don't equate field workers and slavery or even share cropping (which my ancestors also did). This is not the oppression Olympics.
Finally, this article is not about you; it is about black people and the Black Lives Matter movement. Of course, all lives matter, but right now we are talking about Black people. Don't derail.
Paul, there are deep psychological wounds from the scourge of slavery and Jim Crow that have not healed. There are people walking around who were forced to sit in the back of the bus, who couldn't go into places because of the color of their skin. There are people who have been treated unequally and unfairly every day. Racism is an ongoing struggle that did not end with Emancipation. No one is bitter. We are healing and trying to make sure that our country, that our system is fair.
Melissa, thank you for your comment and for doing the work, and for showing others how to do the same.
“Now, what we’ve been doing is looking at the data and we know that police somehow manage to deescalate, disarm and not kill white people every day,” Williams said in his speech.
Well, yes they do. But if anyone thinks that policemen look down the barrel of a gun pointed directly at them, and in that slip second, think it's OK or not OK to shoot because the perp is one race or another, they're delusional. They shoot because they're reacting to a life or death situation and they want to go home at the end of their shift. The take away should be to never point a gun at or be a threat in any way to a police officer. There are plenty of instances where people of all races are killed in these circumstances. This should be a lesson for ALL races. Point a gun at a police officer-expect to die.
As far as I'm concerned, because he associates himself with a movement that advocates violence against the police, he himself brings nothing to the table and not only should sit down, but shut up.
I read a lot of scared defense and angry offense in the comment section here. A lot of panicked attempts to close the door and shut down the conversation. Where is the desire to understand, to examine ourselves, to love our neighbor--and in doing so, honor God?
God requires more of us. Past and current racism is a poison in our society. We need to admit that we're sick and get some healing. Don't be like the guy that says "I'm fine! I'm just gonna be positive!" and so avoids grappling with how sick he is, avoids doing what needs to be done to get well.
The Good News is that the Kingdom of God is coming--that it is here. That Jesus rules over every institution, every country, every person, and that he is the great Reconciler. He's setting things right. If we are his followers that means we need to pitch in where God is at work.
Here's our work, Church.
Hi Gordon, thanks for writing. So, if your response to the actual data that shows that blacks are more likely to be shot and killed by police (even unarmed blacks) is that it happens to everyone and they don't do it on purpose, you are sticking your head on the sand. Moreover, there are many instances where blacks (and people of other races) are not armed and are, in fact, running away from the police) when they are shot and killed.
Also, what is your explanation for the fact--the actual data-driven fact, that blacks and Native Americans even more so, are statistically more likely to be killed by police? Is that just happenstance? Is that just something we should throw our hands up and say, "Oh, well!" No sir.
Again, aa Williams said, if you have a critique of our resistance with no record of critiquing our oppression, have a seat.
In Reply to Melissa (comment #28539)
Took Harvards test and to my surprise I passed. My family is mixed race. Most black folks fail the test as often as whites. More white unarmed people are killed by police. 320 million people in this country and every hoodlum that gets shot makes the news. How many are suicide by cop?
There is REAL racism in this country but BLM focus on the police is wrong. Brutal police, brutalize everyone. We need real civil rights leaders who teach, how to document racism and then you go after racists the same way they went after the KKK. Hit them in their pocketbooks.
As Christians, we need to submit to Christ, own our history, ask for forgiveness, give love, kindness and understanding to those hurting. Even when they are wrong, their pain is real. Today there are more black slaves owned by black men and mostly women, in the Middle East, Asia and Africa today then the entire history of slavery in the USA. SADLY IT IS HORRIFIC. Sadly it is rarely discussed.
As far as BLM, the murder rate for young black men is sky rocketing.... I hold them responsible. Yes, address real racism but blaming the police is just grandstanding!
The article appears very biased against Christianity and ignores the actual history. Christiaan pastors and churches led the movement to free the slaves. This happened not only in America but also Great Britain. A Christian parliament member, after some 30 years or so, finally got Britain to abolish slavery.
True, there have been some churches that were very biased but certainly NOT the majority.
Williams doesn't appear to mention that it was the blacks who enslaved the blacks and sold them to America. In addition, the first legal slave owner in America was a black man.
Yes absolutely black lives matter and so do white lives and yellow and brown and red lives.
Andrea, if you can watch the video of Alton Sterling being shot and killed by police or the video of the aftermath of Philando Castile being shot and killed by police while he reached for his wallet and believe that police--that the *system* isn't also a problem, you are burying your head in the sand and you are propping up a system of white supremacy that cannot stand.
Of course, we know that there are problems within our community, just as there are major problems in the white community, but right now, this article and BLM is a movement seeking to address the killings of black and brown people at the hands of police.
Dixon, please read more closely. This article specifically talks about America, particularly the American South, where the vast majority of Christian churches supported slavery and then black codes and Jim Crow.
Please also read the point that I made about Christians using scripture to support abolition.
This article and this movement is about Black lives because police--those who are supposed to protect us--kill us at a disproportionate rate than other races.
Do you also go to sites about heart disease and heart attacks and write "strokes matter" and "the brain matters?"
What specifically is the call of Christ in this ? For this discussion to uniquely challenge us to glorify Christ, what is that we---all who seek to honor the Living Christ as our reference point---are being asked to consider?
Paul, if you have read the entire piece, you would see what the call is. Ask for forgiveness, acknowledge the history of Southern churches, especially, in propogating racism and acknowledge that racism exists. Listen. Reconcile.
Kimberly...Not everyone does what is right. We live in the South and my grandmother, for instance, helped raise a black girl. Other folks in the South may have done wrong things, well not maybe, some did do wrong.
What is important is that we do not live in the past but learn from it and move forward .
No lives are more important than the 50 million plus babies that have been killed by abortion. Why don't we hear and see more about those lives?
Not all police do right.
Dixon, this is not the last. This is very much the present. And it is ongoing.
As for abortion, no. You do not get to derail this conversation.
...thank you for how your writing and heart creates conversation and provokes thought.
Please consider being careful..."if I had read the entire piece" implies that I did not. Might you have asked why would I ask such a question if I had read the entire peace, thought a lot about it, especially when you believe that the piece answered my question?
It did not....hence my question. It both misses the challenge to Christians altogether and establishes a framework that is fruitless if reconciliation and confronting racism is actually the goal.
I am deeply , personally engaged in this issue. I daily experience how the depth of both black and white prejudice feeds and is itself emboldened by identity politics. This is a poison that poses as righteous when in fact it simply makes even sicker the disease of racism.
The challenge to Christians is the Gospel: discovering and living out "for real" a new identity by His strength and wisdom ---in Him. My Black, Caucasian and Hispanic brothers and sisters who embrace this are earnestly leaning into each other, often against a system of identity politics that thrives both on the language of reconciliation AND division. This internal conflict of identity politics---so evident in this piece---leads us away from the very challenge that is most fundamental.
A lifestyle of Christ centered reverence forces all parties to confront every dimension of and the mutuality of racism ---and to act in very tangible, grounded and often sacrificial ways for His honor . To image Him by His Spirit ---the very purpose for which we are created. It embraces the historical and present fact that power systems in our Western culture that have blessed whites are used to destroy the dignity of people. It also confronts the lens of bitterness that left unchecked ironically destroys the very same dignity to which He is committed.
The feeding of identity outside of Christ has but one path: the deepening of the sickness of racism. Therefore, one of the challenges to Christians is to reject identity politics and, in real time and real life, yield to His call and His ways of reconciliation.
I linked to and listened to Jesse Williams entire "speech."
It struck me that Williams and Donald Trump are quite similar in terms of their apparent strategies. Both have points but the legitimate points tend to get lost in the hyperbole and "outrage" they exhibit when talking to their "base." And their base eats it up, ignoring the hyperbole, with great applause. In each case, one of the results is an increased societal division.
I would hope and pray that Christians would have the sense and sensibility, in both cases, to separate the bit of grain from the chaff in each case, and to reject the hyperbole. It Christians can't do that, they won't be salting anything. And right now, this nation badly needs some salt.
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