Had it been something that happened during Reconstruction or the Jim Crow era, I could chalk it up as a piece of our sad racist history. However, in 2015, a white man entered a black church and killed a pastor and 8 others during a mid-week service. This could have happened anywhere in the nation, including my home town of West Point and even my multi cultural parish in Hampton!
All but two of the nine who were martyred.
To be fair, every predominantly white Protestant denomination has publicly repented for the sins of white supremacy including slavery and segregation. The Southern Baptist Convention has even had an African-American president. And we must also acknowledge that Barak Obama could not have become the President of this nation had it not been for a significant number of whites voting for him. The average white Christian is not a murderer. Indeed, many an African-American can relate to a white who has treated them better than a “brother” or “sister.”
But, here is the problem; white racism and black backlash are too deeply rooted in this nation to be easily erased with a few decades of saying, “I’m sorry” no matter how sincere the words and actions are. From colonial Virginia to the Civil Rights Movement, there were laws in place that made blacks second class citizens. With a few exceptions, every white denomination has supported such laws from slave codes to Plessy vs. Ferguson. Even among those who did’t support such laws, it was generally believed that the African was less human than the European. So, with 240 years of slavery (1619-1865) and about 69 years of segregation (1896-1965); we have had over 309 years of legalized bigotry. White in the North as well as the South were bitter and resentful toward the freedmen during the Reconstruction period and were not comitted to black equality. So, add another 31 years of undermining any efforts of progress our ancestors tried to make after the Civil war; That is 340 years of legal and illiegal activities designed to keep black people down in this country. Are we to imagine that the demon of white supremacy would disappear in a mere 50 years? Apparently not!
Not only are we sick with that demon, many blacks have developed a justified yet toxic sense of mistrust of anything white and a willingness to ignore the crimes we comitt against ourselves yet raise our voices when whites attack us. There was no national outcry from the NAACP or any other Civil Rights organization when four students at the historically black Morgan State University were stabbed by a “brother” a few weeks before the death of Freddie Gray while in custody of the Baltimore Police. Rev. Al Sharpton did not come to Baltimore when a 16 year old girl was raped and murdered by two “brothers.” Local ministers may hold a march or prayer vigil. But, rarely is there a nationwide call to struggle against the outrages we commit against ourselves as we do when the perpetrators are blonde haired and blue eyed, and (even more so) policemen. When black preachers speak out against the wrongs committed within the community, they are routienly ignored and sometimes called, “sell-outs.” But, let him “speak truth to power,” and he is honored as one who fights for the people.
Whites see this and use it as an excuse to hold on to their bigoted attitudes. Sure, the great majority of them will never pick up a gun and kill blacks in an AME church. But, white Christians will share especially degrading comments and images of the President and other blacks on social media and private conversations. We blacks can tell the difference between purely political opinon and blatant disrespect. Thus, it is not unusual for African-Americans to stop trying to be good Christians and join the Hebrew Israelites or a Black Muslim religion that teaches an equally racist doctrine that whites are demonic beings.
As I said in my previous post (https://desertfathersdispatch.wordpress.com/2015/06/16/some-sunday-morning/), the only solution to America’s racial division is humble repentance from both blacks and whites. Only when we put aside our fears and stereotypical notions of each other can the perfect love of Jesus Christ infuse our hearts and minds with grace. But as long as we let conservatism vs. liberalism and black vs. white keep us among “our people,” we should not be surprised whtn things like this happen.