upper room daily devotions

Friday, July 08, 2016

Racism and White Supremacy are Killers

Two more Black men shot by police. Eleven police and 2 civilians ambushed in Dallas, 4 police and 1 transit officer dead. One shooter killed by police after failed negotiations. He was killed by a remotely triggered "bomb" on a robot. He maintained that he had placed IEDs that will eventually be found. The killings of all of these people are tragic. The situation facing the Dallas Police chief is untenable.

The murders of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling are wounds to the soul of our nation. They reveal the ongoing dehumanization of People of Color in general, and African Americans in particular. Black men and Black women have been dehumanized in different ways, but both continue to live stigmatized in our society, and live at risk of violent treatment by the very system that should protect each individual in a community. Racism is not just the institution of slavery. Racism is not only a set of laws like Jim Crow. Racism is also not only a direct hatred of Black people. Racism also can be a deeply internalized and often latent set of biases that results in heightened suspicion of Black folks' motives, exaggerated fear of Black power, and belief that Black people are somehow "different" from other human beings. These biases dehumanize and make it easier to quickly form conclusions not grounded in fact, decisions that result in the death of Black children, women, and men. Alton Sterling and Philando Castile join a growing list of everyday people who are now dead for no reason other than the color of their skin and the racism of their country.

Racism and white supremacy must be condemned, addressed, and and faced head on every day. They must be dismantled brick by brick. This is real work and it requires with commitment. Platitudes have never been sufficient.  They are especially egregious in the wake of unpunished killings of precious children of God. We must hold leaders accountable for pjustice making for our people and our communities. And we must hold them accountable when they shirk this responsibility.

mourn the losses of Tamir Rice, Sandra Bland, Freddie Gray, Eric Garner, Rekia Boyd, Jessica Hernandez, Walter Scott, and the many others whose lives were taken from them. I mourn for their families and the infinite grief they will experience every day for the rest of their lives. I stand with Black and Brown folk who worry for their children when they leave the house, drive a car, enter a store, or walk their own neighborhoods. I share in the outrage that this happens again and again seemingly without recourse.

The violence in Dallas is overwhelmingly tragic. It is part of our country's deep woundedness, a woundedness that bleeds untreated. We mourn the loss of the five officers who were killed. I hold in prayer the other officers who were wounded and all of the people walking in peaceful protest who are now traumatized. The families of the officers will mourn for the rest of their lives. All of our hearts break for them. Fellow police will grieve their colleagues. Their pain will follow them all of their days. And, it is important to recognize and honor the difficult work faced by police serving in our communities. It is dangerous work. I am grateful for police who protect and serve. For the Dallas Police chief, whose police force is now devastated, a horror unfolds. For the city of Dallas, the news is staggering. Yet, Dallas is a strong city. It will over days and weeks begin to rebound and heal. 

That said, racial tension and the white supremacy that undergirds it are tearing us apart. White supremacy is in our churches, our schools, and our families. It is bigger, more pernicious, and more persistently insidious than individual hate. It is a disease that has infected and affected the DNA of our country. The wake of pain it leaves behind touches us all. Good people are killed because of it. 

Our communities and our families will continue to mourn. The fabric of our nation will continue to be pulled and frayed and strained. Tensions between White and Black communities will grow more taught. Peace will not come. Until.

Until white supremacy and racism are rooted out again and again. Until. Until we make real changes to our justice system. Until those who kill while carrying a badge go to jail. Until. Until we lay bare the biases that cause us to suspect Black folk of a special form of malevolence. Until. Until our criminal justice system actually becomes a "justice" system. Until. Until a White person and a Black person carrying a gun in public are treated exactly the same. Until. Until we do not look upon one another as enemies, other, different. Until we create communities of trust based on demonstrable acts of good faith. Until...

It is far past time to address the "until." And Until we do, our communities will not know peace.

As the prophets Amos and Isaiah each wrote: 
Amos 5:21-26 
21 I hate, I despise your festivals,
    and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies.
22 Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings,
    I will not accept them;
and the offerings of well-being of your fatted animals
    I will not look upon.
23 Take away from me the noise of your songs;
    I will not listen to the melody of your harps.
24 But let justice roll down like waters,
    and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.

Isaiah 1:11-17
10 Hear the word of the Lord,
    you rulers of Sodom!
Listen to the teaching of our God,
    you people of Gomorrah!
11 What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices?
    says the Lord;
I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams
    and the fat of fed beasts;
I do not delight in the blood of bulls,
    or of lambs, or of goats.
12 When you come to appear before me,[a]
    who asked this from your hand?
    Trample my courts no more;
13 bringing offerings is futile;
    incense is an abomination to me.
New moon and sabbath and calling of convocation—
    I cannot endure solemn assemblies with iniquity.
14 Your new moons and your appointed festivals
    my soul hates;
they have become a burden to me,
    I am weary of bearing them.
15 When you stretch out your hands,
    I will hide my eyes from you;
even though you make many prayers,
    I will not listen;
    your hands are full of blood.
16 Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean;
    remove the evil of your doings
    from before my eyes;
cease to do evil,
17     learn to do good;
seek justice,
    rescue the oppressed,
defend the orphan,
    plead for the widow.

And yet, there is more. The Way of Christ is nonviolence. Nonviolence is a powerful response to violence. Rooted in love and not vengeance, nonviolence can lead us to the courage needed to face the "until" work ahead of us. He said, "Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt...Do to others as you would have them do to you" (Luke 6:27-29, 31). These words lead us to engage one another, and engagement is needed to dismantle white supremacy and rebuild our communities with health, wholeness, and love.

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