Stalk and Kill: It’s the American Way

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

6 thoughts on “Stalk and Kill: It’s the American Way

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  1. Mary,

    Would that we could mull over these matters and a cup of tea.

    You have touched on many things here. I am on the same page with most of what you have said and at variance with others.

    Yes, I agree that YAH’S notions of justice and righteiusness and America’s are not in sync.

    Yes, I understand why your husband smiles to suppress White fears about him as a Black man. And I understand the safety that you sense in those transactions. But I would challenge the behavior and necessity of it had we the privilege of a private conversation.

    I am not suggesting that Black people scowl or hold and express feelings of anger, bitterness, resentment, and unforgiveness, or in any way contribute to White angst..

    We can use Moshe’s as both a model of righteous indignation and zeal gone wrong.

    I doubt that Moshe ever smiled to accommodate Egyptian abuse and persecution of his people (even as he was raised in the elite company of a pharoah’s household).

    What IS clear about Moshe’s character is that he was vulnerable to anger and rage: revengeful killing, throwing stone tablets (written by YAH, no less!), smiting a rock instead of speaking to it. And these character flaws cost him dearly: rebuff by the very people he sought to help, flight and a self-imposed 40-year exile of hiding from Eyptian retribution, and ultimately denial from entrance into the Land of Promise. So no, uncontrollable rage is not an appropriate response.

    But I would submit that accommodation is equally destructive. And sometimes that accommodation expresses itself in soliticiting White allies to care and be proactive in the fight against racism.

    I have come to realize two things that are informed by my experience and which I hope guide my present and future thoughts and actions. They are:

    1) I should not carry the heavy lifting of appealing to the conscious of White America. To do so places an unnecessary burden on me. Black people have carried that unnecessary weight for far too long. And such behavior enables or sustains racism. (Boy I wish we could have that private talk). Furthermore, accommodating behavior is enabling behavior and does damage to non-Blacks.

    It is the work of the Almighty to stimulate and shape sensitivity to racism in non-Black folk. And there is great benefit for them in allowing the LORD that access to their hearts.

    Why would I (for whatever meritius reasons) deny Whites the spiritual growth that would benefit them?

    2) Those non-black people who ARE allies against racism are so because it is in their spirits to be so. No prompting, convincing, or consoling is necessary., it is a gift of God. Such individuals become the most effective and influential allies.

    So I took issue with the order of your suggestions.

    I would like to suggest that a much needed focus for Black people is to ask the question that you posed about WHY black folk are disdained and oppressed.

    The lie of the Hamitic myth is merely a White supremist invention, no less damaging than the ideas of a Manifest Destiny or The White Man’s Burden. Can you sense me rolling my eyes? 😆).

    But if Black people will focus on THAT question, the Most High will certainly answer.

    And BTW, as you know, race-based hatred and bigotry are not exclusively American qualities. We just have a lingering history of doing it better and longer than anyone else. Afterall, we became a world power because of it.

    But in reality, wherever Black folk may be found, they have been the oppressed or what Franz Fanon called “the wretched of the earth”; what the Bible calls a by-word.

    Why, indeed, why?

    If we seek the answer to THAT question, we will be answered. Yeshua promised that seeking yields findng. James said that YAH would provide wisdom without “upbraiding ” to anyone who sought it. David used the Psalms to encourage seeking wisdom. Solomon followed suit in the Proverbs.

    So if we will go to the Father to seek the answer to the ‘why’question, not only will we be redirected and transformed, but there will be healing for the nations as racism dies.

    Of course, this is the work of Messiah which may only be fully realized upon his return. Still, we have work to do-a preparing “the way of the Lord” if you will.

    Maybe we can have a virtual Zoom tea to further this conversation.

    God bless you and your readers.

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    1. Thanks for these inputs Linda. I think each individual person has to decide for him/herself what allows them to feel safe, whether smiling, avoiding certain places, or clothing, whatever the case. What feels like a senseless burden to one, is another’s preferred way to navigate the racist world where we live.

      I know another black man who says he always changes out of athletic clothes and puts on khakis when shopping alone. “I don’t have time to be stopped in the store.” Convenience and efficiency rule his decision on the matter.

      There are so many ways to slice anti-racism work. It is definitely the Lord’s work.

      Happy to talk by Zoom anytime!

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  2. Mary:

    Thanks for this powerful, needed piece. I hear Bryan Stevenson speak in Charlottesville a few years ago, and his message (and yours) is so important. White folks need to hear and read reflections like these. We may say it is “difficult,” but not compare to what people of color have had to endure for so long. Thanks for your courage to put this out there and your willingness to share truth, always.

    Like

    1. Kevin, I appreciate this feedback. I can remember the first time I posted on race about six years ago after really only writing about family. I think I started it with “Y’all, I don’t want to go here, but ….” Turns out many people are glad I went there, and continue to share my heart. We all can learn from each other.

      Like

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