I’m most definitely not alone in my sadness and disgust at the shooting in Charleston this week. I am most definitely not alone in my dismay that we continue to have shootings and violence like this in our country, churches, schools and homes. This kind of despicably hateful racist act must be openly confronted and condemned, and so I’m glad that I’m not alone. It is a shared responsibility of all to confront such hate and denounce it, and especially so for a white male pastor like me.
The problem of white racists who use guns to kill black people is my problem, as it’s the problem of every singe white person in this country. Maybe there are many white people who don’t want the burden of that problem, but that’s just too bad and too sad, because it is part of our inheritance. To continue being silent and to ignore it will only contribute to more deaths among the black community.
Whenever and wherever we hear it or see it, racism must be condemned. No more excuses, no more indulgence and no more apathy. Please, no more shock and no more ignorance. The deaths of those nine people in Charleston are just the most recent nine souls from the black community to reach out to us in a silent plea, “Help us.” There is a constant and real thread of hate in the white community that must be acknowledge, be confronted, rooted out and removed.
Did I say silent plea? Oh my. Their deaths were not silent, but punctuated by the deafening shots of a handgun and the clink of brass shells on church tile. Their deaths were surely accompanied by their screams of pain and fear. The idea that our response to this tragedy, this terrorism, this hate, would be silence? Excuses? Denial? Apathy? No. We in the white community cannot remain wrapped in the apathetic thoughts of denial and disassociation that have plagued this nation for so long.
This week’s shooting was birthed and matured and finally realized in the context of a special racial hatred that was the law of our land until so very recently. Changing laws does not change hearts. We must still do that painful work, and we have barely begun. This was white hate. This was white violence. This was white racism.
When we see racism or hear racism, we must speak against it. Only when we take responsibility for our inheritance of systemic and legalized hatred will we be able to affect real change for future generations and move away from that hate. No father can sit idly by and let his children grow in hatred for anyone of another race, much less teach that hatred. No mother can sit by and let a child grow into a hate filled monster without response. This goes for every aunt, uncle and grandparent, brother, sister and cousin. Enough.
No more excuses about mental illness, please. Yes, there is a reality to mental illness in all communities which we need to address, but we have overused the idea that mental illness produces violent hatred, especially racially motivated violent hatred. We’ve done more to stigmatize mental illness with this excuse than to actually confront the fact which is more pertinent to our situation: living a life steeped in racial hatred produces mental illness.
No more white denial. No more white apathy. No more white excuses. This is our problem, let’s own it and do something to fix it. Speak out against racist hatred. Speak out against hate speak and hateful violence. Speak out the against racist stereotypes and generalizations we hear every single day. Speak out with grace and mercy when needed and repentance when appropriate. This is a human issue and an American issue. This is also an issue for anyone claiming Christ, the very Christ in whom scripture assures us that we are all one humanity (Galatians 3 & Ephesians 2). In the words of Paul the Apostle from Colossians 3:11, “Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.”
In Christ we find our moral imperative to stand against hatred. No matter how painful and alien it may be for you to own the hatred and violence within the white community, in Christ you can find the moral courage and strength to do so. We will not find the appropriate response in politics or political rhetoric. Put it aside and lay it down. Be broken and mourn the dead. Those who mourn will be comforted, and when we speak for justice our wounds and hurts will be healed. This is exactly what God would be doing among us, once we put aside our stubborn ways and allow it to be.
In our context and in our time the tag #BlackLivesMatter could not be more meaningful and needed. We have too much unfinished business in the eradication of racial hatred in our country to sit by and debate anything but the hate that drives so much violence against our neighbors. Our Christ demands no less of us.
P.S. There are some great clips floating around that I wanted to share here as well… John Stewart & Laci Green.
And a great clip of Larry Willmore below!!!