“A man with the Bible in one hand and a whip in the other will use the Bible to justify the whip.”
By Alan Bean
It is easy to be critical of this Baptist Press story. It reflects a rather superficial understanding of racism, and is written from a distinctly white perspective (there is little interest, for instance, in learning how Black Baptists experienced the racist past of Oxford, Mississippi).
On the other hand, the apology issued by First Baptist Church is commendable and remarkably rare. Although the congregation voted to exclude non-white worshipers in 1968, pastor Hankins correctly observes that most Oxford congregations wouldn’t have felt the need to put the matter to a vote. This is a small step in the direction of racial reconciliation, but it is a beginning, and for that we should all be thankful.
OXFORD, Miss. (BP) — When First Baptist Church in Oxford, Miss., passed a resolution apologizing for its 1968 decision to exclude African Americans from worship services, it opened the door for racial reconciliation in its city.
“I had never seen a church or any organization move that seriously toward repentance and then apologize without any excuse,” said Andrew Robinson, pastor of Oxford’s historically black Second Baptist Church, a National Baptist congregation that accepted the apology and granted forgiveness. (more…)
By Alan Bean
I received this graphic from a Facebook friend. I clicked on “like”. My friend probably wondered why. I’m not sure. Something about the image appeals to me. The “conservative” is literally lionized, an invisible force for good. The “liberal” is a scavenger, an impostor, a hyena attempting, in this case unsuccessfully, to feast on the carcass when he didn’t make the kill.
I have often felt like the hyena in the picture, a hapless liberal do-gooder confronting the conservative juggernaut. Nonetheless, I feel compelled to mouth off several sentences too many.
Some conservatives would reverse the image. They see themselves as a lion surrounded by a pack of liberal hyenas.
These savanna fantasies obscure more than they illuminate. “Liberal” and “conservative”, two grand words with a goodly heritage, are now debased currency. When liberalism is associated with superficiality, debauchery, and profligate sentimentality, who wants to be a liberal? When conservatism becomes a code word for racial bigotry, intolerance and privilege, who wants to be a conservative? (more…)
By Alan Bean
You need to read Douglas A. Blackmon’s article on 20th Century slavery in the American South. The evidence, contained in thousands of letters preserved by the National Archive and the NAACP, is irrefutable. But Blackmon says that’s just the beginning.
Dwarfing everything at those repositories are the still largely unexamined collections of local records in courthouses across the South. In dank basements, abandoned buildings, and local archives, seemingly endless numbers of files contain hundreds of thousands of handwritten entries documenting in monotonous granularity the details of an immense, metastasizing horror that stretched well into the twentieth century.
We will never know how many African Americans were forced into lifetimes of unpaid servitude under appalling conditions, but Blackmon, who has researched and written a book on the subject, says the numbers are staggering. (more…)
Ken Camp with The Baptist Standard has an excellent discussion of the relationship between race and faith featuring faith leaders in the Dallas Fort Worth area and beyond. My blogging on the subject is part of the mix, and some strong words from Fort Worth pastor Michael Bell figure in the discussion. It is good to see the intersection of racial justice and Christian faith receive a thorough airing in the Baptist press. Pictures from the civil rights movement of the 1960s demonstrate how far we have come; the typical response of white America to the Travon Martin story shows us how far we have to go. Alan Bean
|By Ken Camp, Managing Editor|
|Published: April 27, 2012|
|A neighborhood watchman in Florida shoots and kills a hoodie-wearing African-American teenager. Two white suspects in Tulsa, Okla., confess to the Easter weekend shooting of five people in a predominantly black neighborhood.
Periodically, racial tensions that have simmered beneath the surface bubble up, some Christian leaders note, illustrating just how far-removed modern America is from the “beloved community” envisioned by Martin Luther King Jr.
“We can legislate fairness, but we cannot legislate love. That is up to us,” said Mark Croston, pastor of East End Baptist Church in Suffolk, Va., and president of the Baptist General Association of Virginia.
Christians must lead by example to improve race relations, he said.
“I believe that all truly Christian churches must be open to racial inclusion and human compassion. We sing, ‘Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world. …” This is true, so we must, too,” said Croston, an African-American.
Croston points to the vision in the New Testament book of Revelation of people representing every nation, tribe and language worshipping Christ. If Christians are serious when they pray, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” he said, they must “with intentionality work toward this reality.”
But the heavenly vision seems remote for many, and racial divisions remain a clear and present problem, some observers noted sadly.
When stories about racially inspired violence capture public attention, events follow a predictable pattern, said Alan Bean, executive director of Friends of Justice.
“When the status quo is threatened by systemic racial bias, the propaganda machine goes into overdrive. This normally involves the assertion that a liberal media is making excuses for thuggish behavior. If the folks on the receiving end of unjust treatment can be redefined as one of ‘those’ people, the horrific details no longer matter,” Bean, an American Baptist minister in Arlington, wrote in a recent column for Associated Baptist Press.
As the stories gain media attention, he continued, “America quickly divides into protestors claiming that the narrative du jour is a prime example of systemic racism, and debunkers insisting it is nothing of the kind.”
The church’s role
Historically, African-American churches have played a central role in providing a voice for people who have felt victimized and for exposing racism. In many cities, a particular church or a few churches continue to play a key role as ombudsman in the African-American community, said Michael Bell, pastor of Greater St. Stephen First Baptist Church in Fort Worth.
“It’s where people go for direction when they are seeking resolution of difficulties and solutions to their problems,” said Bell, a past-president of both the Baptist General Convention of Texas and the Texas African-American Fellowship.
More specifically, African-Americans know which churches are able to do something substantive about their problems, he noted.
“They go to a church where the pastor has a reputation as being a prophetic voice,” Bell said. “My church expects me to speak up. I have never received a negative email, text or letter from a church member complaining that I was too involved in community issues outside the church.”
However, in many—perhaps most—predominantly white churches, pastors do not feel that same degree of freedom, he added.
The African-American church has become even more relevant and gained increasing influence as racial tensions have heightened in recent years, Bell insists.
“Distrust and suspicions that had been under the surface have bubbled up. Racism has become more overt and evident in in the last few years,” he said, comparing racists to “roaches so bold they don’t run from the light anymore.”
A cloud of suspicion
Relations between white and blacks, even among Christians, suffer from a failure to address deep-seated issues such as the way African-Americans often are viewed with suspicion—a matter brought to the forefront recently when George Zimmerman shot and killed Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Fla., he observed.
“It’s like putting cold cream on cancer. Unattended, the malady will intensify, because it hasn’t been addressed. We try to move on without really dealing with it,” Bell said.
“We (African-Americans) have a historical memory informed by a hermeneutic of suspicion. Periodically that will come to the surface, and the obvious issues will be addressed. The symptoms will be addressed without dealing with the disease. We won’t go beneath the surface. …We fear it will take too much out of us.”
Some African-American ministers note the fear young men in their communities feel about being stopped by police for “DWB—driving while black.”
In a video on the American Baptist Home Mission Societies website, Executive Director Aidsand Wright-Riggins appeared in a hoodie to tell stories from his own experience about the cloud of suspicion under which African-American young men live.
Wright-Riggins recalled how he was stopped by police officers—once while knocking on the door of a white church member and once while approaching his own home. He also told how his son was pulled over twice driving between his parents’ home and his university dormitory.
“I appeal to all of us, as we look at the millions of persons around us, and particularly those of color—particularly black boys—that we don’t make an automatic assessment because they might be dressed differently or look different or somehow feel that they are out of place in our society,” he said, “that we relegate them to the margins or, even worse, that we assign them to the morgue.”
A troubling divide
The Trayvon Martin case illustrates “a troubling divide in public perception,” Bean wrote in a recent blog on the Friends of Justice website.
“On one side of the fault line, people identify with George Zimmerman’s suspicion of young black males wearing hoodies. On the other side, folks identify with a victim of racial profiling and vigilante justice,” he wrote.
In his opinion column written for Associated Baptist Press, Bean noted: “Real-life narratives are messy because life is messy. Victims of injustice get caught up in the mess. They don’t play their roles with the disciplined panache of a Rosa Parks. They talk back; they fight back; they come out swinging. And that’s when bad things happen. That’s when the tragedy quotient gets high enough to catch the media’s attention.”
“Why did George Zimmerman feel called to defend his neighborhood from intruders?” Bean continued. “Why did he see Trayvon Martin as out of place, an anomaly. Because he was wearing a hoodie? Because he was walking with a particular gait? Because he appeared overly interested in his surroundings?
“Eliminate Martin’s blackness from the equation, and it is impossible to imagine Zimmerman reacting as he did. Zimmerman defined criminality in racial terms. Who, or what, taught him to think this way? … Our national conversation will continue to revolve around messy narratives.”
By Alan Bean
Richard Land, the voice of the Southern Baptist Convention, is in hot water over a recent rant against the Black pastors in connection with the Trayvon Martin story. Land’s comments have angered Baptists like Arlington’s William Dwight McKissic as much for what they implied as for what was clearly stated.
The following quote from Gerald Schumacher appears in the comments section of Pastor McKissic’s website. I have corrected the spelling, but otherwise this verbatim:
I am not a great fan of Richard Land, but If Mr. McKissic thinks what Richard Land said was racist then this is going to knock his socks off.
Richard Land spoke the truth originally although he has back peddled because of pressure. For that I do fault him. The truth is that if the black community would start training their children to live a productive moral godly lives instead of what a large percentage become and stop living in the past using the race cards this nation could heal a lot faster. Blacks make up about 13.6 percent of the population but about 40.2 percent of those in prison are black. The problem is with the black community not racism and it is way past time for the black pastors to start dealing with it in their congregation as well as communities instead of pointing fingers.
How many Black parents would have to quit their lowdown ways before Black pastors get the right to address racial injustice? If, say, the teen birth rate dropped by 15 percentage points, would that do it? Or are Black pastors relegated to the social sidelines until Black and White incarceration rates are the same?
This argument is of ancient origin. Slaves shouldn’t be freed because most of them can’t read and write and lack experience handling money. Jim Crow laws should remain in force because crime rates in the Ghetto are higher than the national average.
Now the mass incarceration of young Black males precludes Black Southern Baptists from questioning their White betters.
This was the kind of logic that put Tulia, Texas on the map. It didn’t really matter whether undercover agent Tom Coleman was telling the truth, if his targets had kids outside of marriage they forfeited their civil rights.
Tragically, this Alice in Wonderland logic drives the criminal justice system. It is also one of the big reasons why the Black incarceration numbers are so skewed and why so many of the men and women exonerated by DNA evidence are African-American.
This morning I had coffee with Anthony Graves, a Texan who spent 18 years in prison, twelve on death row, for a crime he didn’t commit. The indignities didn’t end when Graves stepped back into the free world. The following is from a Houston Chronicle article published a year ago:
After he was freed in October, the Texas comptroller’s office refused the compensation provided by law for those who are unjustly convicted.
Then the Texas Attorney General’s Office began garnisheeing his wages for child support that a judge decided Graves owed even though he was on death row at the time. But when they blocked payment of the $250 fee he earned for a presentation to students at Prairie View A&M University, it was too much.
Graves’ attorney accused Texas AG Greg Abbott of being a vindictive monster. Maybe so. But Abbott had little reason to fear a public backlash. Most influential Texans think a lot like Gerald Schumacher, the guy who thinks Dwight McKissic should go mute on racial justice until every Black parent has his or her act together.
Fortunately, the Schumacher doctrine doesn’t always win out. Anthony Graves finally received restitution money for his near-death experience, the Tulia drug bust was overturned, and, massive White support notwithstanding, Richard Land still has some ‘splainin’ to do.
By Alan Bean
Update: Richard Land has issued an apology for the remarks referenced in this post.
Southern Baptist leader Richard Land says he is the victim of a media mugging. First the Nashville Tennessean characterized Land’s incendiary comments on his own radio show as a “rant”. Now a Baylor-based blogger claims that the Baptist ethicist’s rant was plagiarized.
Many of the words that he uttered during his radio show were taken VERBATIM – yes, WORD-FOR-WORD – from a Washington Times column penned by conservative commentator Jeffrey Kuhner. Kuhner’s column titled “Obama foments racial division” was published on March 29.
Land has apologized for failing to give proper attribution, but continues to lash out at the liberal media. This brief excerpt from an article in the Nashville Tennessean will tell you what the Southern Baptist spokesman is so upset about.
Some consider statements made Saturday by the convention’s top policy representative on his national radio show a setback. On Richard Land Live!,Land accused black religious leaders — whom he called “race hustlers” — and President Barack Obama of using the shooting death of an African-American teen in Florida for election-year gains.
“This will be vetted in court, not in a mob mentality that’s been juiced up by Al Sharpton, who is a provocateur and a racial ambulance chaser of the first order, and aided and abetted by Jesse Jackson,” Land said on the show.
And, on Obama’s statement that, if he had a son, he would look like Trayvon Martin, the 17-year-old victim, Land said: “The president’s aides claim he was showing compassion for the victim’s family. In reality, he poured gasoline on the racialist fires.”
The Rev. Maxie Miller, a Florida Baptist Convention expert in African-American church planting, was incredulous when he heard about the comments.
“At no time have I been embarrassed of being a Southern Baptist or a black Southern Baptist,” Miller said. “But I’m embarrassed because of the words that man has stated.”
Richard Land claims he should be immune from charges of racial insensitivity because he had a large hand in drafting the SBC’s official apology for slavery and Jim Crow. According to the Associated Baptist Press, the 1995 statement read in part: (more…)
As I suggest in this Associated Baptist Press article, your average white pastor will have little to say about the killing of Trayvon Martin. Pastors are expected to serve as prophets, priests and politicians, roles that don’t always mesh easily. The national debate over racial justice is driven by messy narratives that raise uncomfortable questions about America. Neither white pastors nor their congregations are negatively affected by the criminal justice system and, if they are, they keep it to themselves. The possibility that people of color face risks that white folks can scarcely imagine is deeply disturbing. White preachers who speak of such things are playing with fire. So we turn our attention to other things. There are always plenty of other things to talk about on Sunday morning. Important things, holy things, inspiring things. Why trouble the faithful with the tragedy of Trayvon Martin?
White churches on sidelines of Trayvon Martin outrage
Associated Baptist Press
SANFORD, Fla. (ABP) — The killing of Trayvon Martin has sparked rallies in black communities nationwide and is now leading to questions about why white Christians aren’t more visibly involved.
Pastors of both races offer a number of theories about the anemic white interest, including an inability to identify with the social disparities faced by blacks to an aversion to associating with controversial African-American religious leaders.
Some white pastors “haven’t been asked” to attend public vigils for the teen shot Feb. 26, while others “are not taking the initiative,” said Alan Brumback, senior pastor at Central Baptist Church in Sanford, Fla.
And yet others “don’t want to be associated with Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson,” the white Southern Baptist preacher said.
But that hasn’t kept Brumback from getting involved. He was the only white pastor to take the stage with Sharpton and other black ministers at a recent Trayvon Martin rally in Sanford, where the killing occurred. He has also led his multiracial congregation in intercessory prayer for the boy’s family, the city and police. (more…)
In the New York Times opinion piece below, former narcotics cop Neill Franklin discusses the need to end mass incarceration and the failed war on drugs. Franklin, now the executive director for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, was a police officer for 34 years with the Maryland State Police and the Baltimore Police Department. Alan and I had the pleasure of hearing Mr. Franklin speak at the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference this February. MWN
by Neill Franklin
If we have any hope of healing the deep wounds of race in this country, we’ve first got to stop the bleeding caused by mass incarceration and the other ill effects of the failed “war on drugs.”
Thanks to our ramped up “war on drugs,” when I walk in my old neighborhood I see houses where one or both parents are behind bars or on probation or parole. It didn’t use to be that way.
Our prohibition policies, and the “us vs. the man” mentality they have caused in our communities, have badly damaged how young black men are perceived — and not just by white people. As an African-American narcotics cop in Baltimore, even I fell victim to fear and apprehension when I encountered a group of black teenagers on the street. Making drugs like marijuana illegal has made them incredibly lucrative, and it’s not hard to see why many teenagers choose to enlist in the dope game and play for the chance at moving up the chain and raking in tax-free money rather than donning a McDonald’s uniform.
Even if our drug policies aren’t successful in reducing drug use, they are successful in turning whole communities into criminals. Nearly one in three black men can expect to spend time behind bars. For many black teenagers, getting arrested is a rite of passage.
But it wasn’t always this way. (more…)
By Alan Bean
I have never met Lisa Sharon Harper, but she’s been reading my mail.
Why, she asks, was Franklin Graham unwilling to apply the term “Christian” to president Obama?
Graham has trouble seeing the president as a fellow believer, Sharon Harper argues, because white Christians are rarely forced to wrestle with systemic injustice and are therefore uncomfortable with Christians who make this issue front and center.
I have a few minor quibbles with the argument below.
Many, perhaps most, black evangelical churches are just as fixated on personal salvation as white evangelicals. Martin Luther King didn’t enjoy the enthusiastic support of most black Baptist churches in the South, and his social gospel remains suspect in many corners of the black church.
Secondly, Franklin Graham’s daddy, the iconic American evangelist Billy Graham, wasn’t quite as racially advanced as this post suggests. True, he did open his crusades to black worshippers before most white evangelicals were comfortable with integrated evangelism, but as Darren Dochuk points out in his excellent study of California evangelicalism, Graham realized that segregation was becoming an embarrassment in America and thus an impediment to evangelism. (more…)