The large segment of those in America who persistently deny the African American experience, the pain, and the reality, came to light for me, once again, when a white Presbyterian pastor, (and “FB friend”) living in Wyoming, a state that has less than 1% African Americans as part of their population, responded to an article by Elon James White EJWhite article where in it he sadly lamented the police arrest video of two real estate agents who were waiting to begin a business meeting in a Philadelphia Starbucks as being an unremarkable regular occurrence in America. The pastor began his response to the article by stating that racism, for “those who live it, because of their skin color, it must exact a price and is emotionally draining.” I actually thought this pastor was “listening!” However, my thought was quickly dashed as he joined the chorus of those in America who persistently practice/preach negation/minimization of what is the day to day experiences for African Americans throughout the United States. He continued by stating his “worldview” that racism is mostly historic and not contemporaneous, that African Americans are over-sensitive causing us to misread our experiences, that African American parents one-sidedly emphasize race to their children and finally suggesting the matter of race is an individualistic matter and attitude instead of systemic and rooted in the “DNA” of every aspect of American culture, thinking and reaction. Essentially, the pastor concludes racism is not prevalent, is anecdotally individualistic and not systemic, non-consequential and it is the distorted reaction and mindset of the African American who are trapped in the history of our ancestor’s enslavement.
It’s time to acknowledge that Race(ism) is a construct established to provide advantage and opportunity based on skin pigment to some while at the same time legitimizing violence, injustice, inequality, murder, falsified supremacy, anxiety and terror on others. It is an evil and sin that flies in the face of the Creator who made only the human race. Far too often white pastors are unwilling to even acknowledge that “race construct” is a sin – some even say it is a God-given advantage. The unwillingness to call the “race construct” a sin allows pastors, their flock and the larger population who they are supposed to evangelize, to deny that its execution, called “racism,” is a sin and a damaging deadly evil as well. The contemporaneous existence of racism allows many to manufacture “other explanations” rather than face the ubiquitous outcomes of this evil called racism. An executed, contemporaneous racism, that puts African American lives at danger beyond the “pet political and social rhetoric” of abortion or gang violence, is:
When African American babies die at almost 4 times the rate of white babies;
When the current DOJ presiding Attorney places US black protest groups on terrorist lists; yet says he does not see why Nazi, KKK and white nationalist groups should be placed on such a list;
When African American unemployment is double that of white unemployment and it is boasted about and acceptable;
When African American women/men who are unarmed are disproportionately killed by police for “fear of their lives” when overwhelmingly it is white males who violently murder police officers;
When imprisonment was the solution for African Americans who possessed and used drugs; and now that drugs are ravishing the white community, medical help and non-imprisonment is the answer;
When African Americans call the police for crimes against them by whites and there is a presumption of innocence of the accused suspect; while the presumption changes to a dangerous and deadly outcome, when a white person calls the police regarding an accused African American suspect; and
When an African American can experience questioning and violence from police officers whether doing their job as a utility worker, entering their own house, working in their own yard, sitting in a café waiting, walking down the street of their own neighborhood, driving their own car, playing golf or sitting at a trial bench as the lawyer representing a client or walking up the US Capital steps as the elected senator of the 17th largest state in the country, and much more.
I have intentionally listed many and varied examples. I did so in order to lay out the case that – Racism is ubiquitous. Racism is prevalent. Racism is contemporaneous.
The recent protests at the Philadelphia Starbucks whose local management called the police on “suspicious” African American real estate agents that has gone viral and has drawn the attention of the public, points to the other side of racism. Racism is designed to provide economic and social advantage based on skin pigmentation. The inability for the Baptist and Presbyterian church leaders and their oversight bodies to call race and racism a sin while contorting theology to support slavery, Jim Crow and continued other racial bias was economical. The Bible teaches the love of money is the root of all evil. Race and racism being called sin would have driven a dagger through the economic heart of America. The rapid wealth growth by individuals and this country was through the free labor extorted through the violent and brutal institution of slavery backed by the theory of white supremacy. This love of money drove our country into the most deadly and brutal war on American soil — resulting in the loss of 600,000 lives. After the war, in order to maintain economic (and social) advantage, all types of racially biased laws and practices have been developed and continue to be developed in order to maintain these advantages.
Believing that in America economics or really the love of money is the attendant root evil of racism — many have called for economic protests as a way to defeat and call attention to the systemic race conditions in America. This is not a new call. Elders, revered ancestors, and economists today seeking equality and justice for African Americans like Booker T. Washington, Elijah Muhammed, Hubert Harrison, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X (el-Hajj Malik el-Shabazz), Dr. Claud Anderson, Dr. Julianne Malveaux, Dr. Boyce Watkins to name a few have all advocated in one way or another that our thinking and protests against systemic racism has to be about economics. The brutal invasion, genocide, conquering and colonization by the British Empire and other European nations across the globe was about economics. The “colorization” through race categorization by these nations was about economics. Even the so-called granting of independence, to conquered countries around the globe, is about economics. The cessation of slavery was about economics. And a very dear friend of mine always reminds me that the cessation of racism will only come about through economics. Laws have helped minimally. Large religious institutions and their leaders have helped minimally.
My late Mom, used to remind me that with everything affecting the human condition, there are two sides. One side is the spiritual and the moral and the other side is the practical. Race and racism, as constructed in America, from a spiritual and moral perspective, must be called what it is: sin and evil. Because such construction goes against the fact that the only race is “human” as God intended, race/racism is sin and evil. Its attendant evil is the “love of money” and the desire to hoard it, greed — (such evil, uses race: to categorize by skin pigment, who is supreme and better and/or who will be advantaged and who will not).
On the other side is the practical perspective – an American construct driven by capitalism – whereby economic strategy is the most impactful change agent – changing an intended course, and correcting an intended outcome, when it comes to race/racism. The decision to not patronize those enterprises who knowingly and intentionally, or even through careless and unthinking inadvertence, support systemic racism is a way to drive a dagger through this insidious root evil of America. Quite recently, comedian Kamau Bell, recounted a story where he was told to “scram” by a white waitress of a Berkley, CA Café while with his wife who happens to be white. The waitress assumed that he, a 6’4” African American male with an Afro, was a danger and panhandler and shooed him away. In this case the police were not called because his white wife immediately intervened and chastised the waitress and demanded an apology. Following this incident there were economic protests against the café, some believing that it may have resulted in its shutdown.
No one of any intelligence or thinking believes or says that every white individual is racist (as many white people say defensively); although every white person is a participant in a system of racism some knowingly, others not so. A system that allows you, as a white person, to live most of your days believing: that racism is not prevalent, that the majority of African Americans are poor and live in poverty by choice, that incidents of unarmed killings of black women, men and children by the police are isolated events and you react with “what about…” statements with unverifiable attendant statistics, that you hold no special privilege (because of your color) not having to worry that a police contact could go deadly awry if you choose to question or challenge the police, and that an African American does not have to be more careful and fearful in white spaces and places, than in a gang ridden community – makes you a complicit participant to the sin and evil of racism — especially, since your life-long beliefs evoke no compassion to help overturn wicked and criminal practices that dispossess, dehumanize and demoralize human beings who are not in your color category.
Change can come. I believe that. Here are three clear calls to action now:
There must be an acknowledgement and confession by church leadership that America’s race construct and racism is evil and inconsistent with Christianity and science;
Further, there must be acknowledgement that the love of money, resources and desired preeminence over others who did not share the same skin pigment, motivated more strongly social constructions, than obedience to Christ; and
Where and when doing the right thing, where race/racism is concerned, is not the common behavior and practice, economic protest by cessation of patronizing the service or product until measurable and discernable change is evident.
This ubiquitous and systemic disease in America called racism must be challenged (combated) until change comes — Challenged through acknowledgement – and Challenged through economic and consumer moratorium on institutions, stores, products and services that participate in systemic racism and race-based practices.