Three Reminders

Three Reminders

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Written by: 
Published:
May 28, 2020

Tamir Rice…

Oscar Grant…

Alfred Olango…

Akai Gurley…

Walter Scott…

Freddie Gray…

Rekia Boyd…

Sandra Bland…

Eric Garner…

Tyre King…

Terence Crutcher…

LaQuan McDonald…

Keith Scott…

Ezell Ford…

Trayvon Martin…

Jonathan Ferrell…

Atatiana Jefferson…

Alton Sterling…

Philando Castile…

Akai Gurley…

Jonathan Crawford…

Antwon Rose, Jr.…

Samuel Dubose…

Jordan Edwards…

Stephon Clark…

Botham Jean…

AhmaudArbery…

Breonna Taylor…

George Floyd…

I hope that you let each one of these names rest within you and upset you.[1] If you didn’t I want you to (and you should) go back and read them again. If you don’t instantly know who these people are, you should ask yourself why. And think of the mothers and fathers who lost their children, the sons and daughters who lost a parent, the wives and girlfriends, the husbands and boyfriends who lost their significant other. And each of these people lost their lives senselessly – unarmed victims of state-sanctioned murder.

Anyone who knows my history in this little corner of the internet knows that I have been addressing this issue for years in this space. This week I wrestled with (and truly am still wrestling with) how to talk about the only thing I want to talk about, but a subject for which I have very little new to say. In this space I have theologized, philosophized, screamed in rage, and wept. Mostly to no avail it seems. At this point I am beyond the unwittingly(?) ignorant who believe citing statistics related to “Black on Black crime” or spouting equally obtuse arguments is a sufficient rejoinder to the stench of government sponsored racism that permeates these extrajudicial murders. I am also equally beyond the one line compliments in the comments section and the sympathy and empathy of those who might call themselves allies, but whose support never leaves the screen and enters reality.

I am telling the truth. I have nothing new to say. But in the wake of these fresh atrocities I have three reminders. First, the names listed above are not just names to me. They are not random. These are my brothers and sisters. My nieces and nephews. My cousins. Like so many in the Black community, I feel these deaths personally and grieve them in ways similar to the blood family that I know. What I find fascinating is that I am not joined by those who often would argue against me. Those who would like to downplay the importance of race will say that they are colorblind, or that the only race that matters is the human race. In response to a movement that sought to remind us that Black lives are important as well, many of those same people wanted to stress the importance of every life. In so doing they expose their own logical inconsistency. If there is only one race, and if all lives matter, then we should all be standing together every time a Black life is snuffed out extrajudicially by the police. We all should be enraged and sad and hurt and angry. Every single one of us, from All Lives Matter to Black Lives Matter, should be standing in solidarity to demand that “justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.”[2] It stands to reason that if you believe in one race, then the people listed above are your family as well. If you believe all lives matter, then you should want justice done for these precious lives that were lost. Rarely do I find that to be the case though.

Second, it is important for us to reassert where the responsibility for the solution to these problems truly lies. When I speak on racism publicly, someone will usually ask, “How do we solve the problem of racism in our church/society/world?” There was a time when I attempted to answer that question. But the truth of the matter is this – the oppressed cannot truly tell their oppressors how to remove the chains of oppression. Rather it should not be their responsibility. The responsibility lies with those among the oppressor group to seek to end the cycle of oppression. Let me be more blunt – Black people cannot end the racism that is perpetrated against them in all its myriad forms. It is an insult to heap the responsibility for solving a crime onto the victims, especially when the perpetrators are so easily identified. Let me be even clearer – anyone who wants to be a White ally has one important task in addressing racism and it doesn’t involve any Black people. White allies must be willing to call out racism and racist thinking wherever they find it – even within themselves. They have to be willing to do the hard work of examining their families, friends, and co-workers. They must be willing to prepare themselves by learning about the history, forms, and modes of racism and how to identify it. And then, when they find themselves in the places and spaces where racist ideas take root and grow they have to be the lone voice of dissent that challenges the norms of a racist (and racist’s) safe space.

Finally, all racist fruit comes from the same poisonous tree. While we may be talking about levels or degrees, we have to begin to see that racism is a scourge upon the Adventist Church, just as it is a scourge on the society that birthed that church. The racism that killed George Lloyd is the same racism that told Black Adventists that segregation was the solution to a demand for equality. The racism that chased down Ahmed Arbery is the same racism that attempts to shame African-American Adventists into integration on disadvantageous terms. The racism that sent Freddie Gray on a “rough ride” is the same racism that demonizes the worship style and culture of African-Americans and the global south. The racism that killed Breonna Taylor while she slept is the same racism that sends some White Adventists looking for a new safe haven to send their children when the racial make-up of AUC or Andrews changes. The fact that our kinder, gentler brand of racism doesn’t lead to murder today will not absolve us of our sin. We would do well to remind ourselves of that as well.

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[1] A note about how I came up with this list. The names are from 2015 on and are listed in no particular order. First, I remembered 18 of the names myself. (I will admit that I am a little embarrassed by some of the names I forgot.) Then I went back into my own work to pull up names that I referenced at one point or another in the past. Finally, I scoured an online database of police shootings for names that I recognized. While this is not a complete list, I think it is an accurate one in terms of how many of these shootings broke through to the public consciousness. I hope this gives a sense of how prevalent the extrajudicial killing of African Americans is and the weight of the subject matter. Those of you who know this area well enough will notice that one name is missing. I purposely left it off because of my concern that his name mentioned amongst this list would cause some people to stop reading. Forgive me if you believe this was the wrong decision.

[2] Amos 5:24 NASB.

 

Jason Hines is a former attorney with a doctorate in Religion, Politics, and Society from the J.M. Dawson Institute of Church-State Studies at Baylor University. He is also an assistant professor at AdventHealth University. He blogs about religious liberty and other issues at www.TheHinesight.Blogspot.com.

Previous Spectrum columns by Jason Hines can be found at: https://spectrummagazine.org/author/jason-hines 

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