After a black man is killed for minding his business, I often ask God why. I plead with him because I don’t get why he has allowed black people – my people – to be mistreated for 400 years.
Often, I go to Exodus Chapter 2 where Moses “saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his own people.” His rage incited him to kill the Egyptian. I felt that rage after watching the video of Ahmaud Arbery being shot in broad daylight. I don’t get it, Lord. Why?
This time, as often, the Lord reminds me that killing people of color is an American tradition. The nation was built upon the pillaging and murder of indigenous people. American prosperity and so-called progress also required the enslavement of Africans. It was a necessary evil, justified and accepted as the norm for the sake of the economy. With it came a narrative – a Christian narrative even – that God stained black people and they were inferior. This was their lot in life.
Somehow, this lot included brutality and death for non compliance. Compliance to whiteness was an American mandate. No compliance = you die.
And so it happened in Brunswick, Georgia in 2020 like it happened in 1820. Two white men, convinced a running black man is guilty of something, stalked, ambushed, and killed him. I thank God those men have been arrested, and I pray justice is served.
Meanwhile, what does God want from Christians at times like these?
First, white Christians should grow in empathy and outrage. Until you see race-based injustice as our common problem, it will not be solved. Until you wrap your mind around the weight of being black in America, you will not be able to minister to your black brothers and sisters. Bryan Stevenson describes that weight this way:
The presumption of guilt generates suspicion, staring, and distrustful glances when African Americans are in a store, in an airport, or in a neighborhood that is not their own. Many African Americans have been coping with this burden for generations. https://eji.org/presumption-of-guilt/
I have seen an incredible uptick in concern about racism from my white friends. Thank you. At the same time, those who rage about the senseless deaths of black unborn are silent about the senseless deaths of who those black babies grow up to be. Where’s the march on Washington by white evangelicals crying out on behalf of all black lives? I ask you to remember that senseless killing is in the nation’s DNA. It didn’t start in 1972 with the passing of Roe v Wade. It began in 1619 when the nation decided to devalue people with brown skin.
Secondly, black Christians must anchor ourselves in what God says about us. The narrative of our inferiority is a lie from hell. It’s a tool of Satan to compel us to live in fear and bitterness. Don’t get me wrong. I am not saying our fears are not real. I grew up in a family of runners and my brothers were stopped while running in a wealthy neighborhood. My oldest brother was detained while in college because he “fit the description” of a rape suspect. My husband was followed by the police one dark night when we were the only blacks living in a particular neighborhood. He says he purposely smiles on elevators to reassure white riders he won’t hurt them. It’s a sad narrative about our nation, but I’m glad he does it. I don’t want to be a widow-by-racism.
At the same time, we must choose to believe the truth that we too are made in God’s image. And we must remember that God heard the groaning of His people and turned the rage of Moses into a powerful deliverance. God is at work in America righting wrongs. If you are reading this blog, it is proof that you are the answer to a slave woman’s prayer.
My daughter Sara shared this song with our family yesterday. I encourage you to listen to this song and find energy and comfort from it.
Finally, we all must remember God’s greatest commandments: Love me. Love your neighbor. America needs to get this memo. We are a violent nation, and we always have been. In America, we have permission to violate God’s law in the name of gun rights and self-defense. Christians must be more forthright in distinguishing between what God allows and what America allows. They are not the same. They never have been.
The Israelites groaned in their slavery and cried out, and their cry for help because of their slavery went up to God. God heard their groaning and he remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac and with Jacob. So God looked on the Israelites and was concerned about them. Exodus 2.23-25