“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., “Letter from Birmingham (AL)Jail”, April 16, 1963.
The video shows two men struggling, tussling over a gun, one white and one black, shots rang out and the black man dies. Two months later, the nation becomes aware of the murder. The nation also becomes aware of the cover up. Incidentally this black man was out for a jog, a run, a bit of exercise. The video shows a black man handcuffed with his hands behind his back in one frame and in another is pinned to the ground by a police officer with his knee on the black man’s neck. “I can’t breathe. I want my mama.” would be some of, if not all of, his final words. Then, the black man dies. The video shows a white woman with an unleashed dog being asked by a black man to put the dog on a leash, but instead of complying (which is the law), she dials 911 and plays the victim rather than the perpetrator. Her reason for calling she said, “I was afraid”. The black man was not wearing a hoodie, he did not brandish a weapon, he made no sudden lunges at her, he was not verbally abusive to her, but was out and about in the park bird watching. Thankfully this last incident ended without another black man dying.
I am not an avid Facebook user but I do sign on to post and read what is going on. This one particular instance, I signed on and I read a post that simply said, “I’m tired”. The post was in regards to the incident involving George Floyd and other black men killed in the custody of law enforcement or falsely accused of wrong doing by private citizens. My response: “I am tired, too”. I ask, why are people (human beings, not animals) being treated this way (only the ones we know about)? When will it stop? When it will end?
I grew up in Blackshear, Pierce County, was educated here and moved back to be used by God to be a blessing to the community at large. But to be perfectly honest with you, as a black American, black pastor, black husband, black father, black veteran and black citizen of Pierce County and someone with a measure of face and name recognition, there is an uneasiness about me at times when I venture out in public.
It’s not caused by this invisible enemy, COVID-19 (coronavirus), but this visible enemy, “apathy”. Laws may change behavior but only Christ can change a heart. If I had to give an answer to my questions, (Why does this happen? Why are people being treated this way? When will it stop? When will it end?), I would have to say, it will all begin to change when the body of Christ stands up, speaks up and says “enough is enough”. Not just one segment of “the body” but the entire body of Christ – those who look like Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd and Christian Cooper (black men) and those who do not. Paul said in 1st Corinthians 12:14, “For the body is not one member, but many”. Is it true there is only one segment of the body that concerns itself with injustice against people of color, whether that injustice is senseless killings (murder), nepotism and systemic discrimination in hiring practices, political corruption, apathetic and immoral leadership? May I submit that if injustice concerns Christ, it concerns “The Body” and not just one segment of The Body, but the entire Body of Christ! The silence from one part of The Body is deafening! Paul goes on to say in 1st Corinthians 12:26: “And whether one member suffers, all members suffer with it; or one member be honored, all the members rejoice with it.” A segment of the body is suffering right now. I wonder if all the body suffers with it?
Dr. Martin Luther King said this: “So often the contemporary church is a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound. So often it is an arch-defender of the status quo. Far from being disturbed by the presence of the church, the power structure of the average community is consoled by the church’s silent – and often even vocal – sanction of things as they are.”
After hearing Dr. King’s words, can we hear from more than one segment of the Body of Christ concerning the injustices perpetrated across our country against people of color?
Clergy let’s talk, seriously, let’s talk!
• Morris Pate is the Pastor of Fourth Mount Olive Church in Blackshear.