White Christian Indifference in the Age of Black Lynchings

It is frustrating that the White American church – particularly Evangelicalism and post-Evangelicalism – is silent about racial injustice at home. Not just in sermon topics, but particularly in forward-leaning post-Evangelical blogs. The spectre of racism is banished in favor of Christian Celebrity Culture and a very specific form Purity Culture (from a largely White, Middle Class perspective – often ignoring how the same culture affects or views the bodies of black and brown women, for instance). Homophobia is often brought up, but in a pretty narrow category – that of marriage between (usually white, usually cisgender) same sex partners. Other intersections and violences are largely ignored.

I wrote two articles last week about Michael Dunn’s mistrial – or should I say Jordan David‘s mistrial? Because, let’s face it, 21st Century White liberalism is similar to its forbearer, 19th Century White liberalism – a philosophy that believes in the inherent goodness of people and that education can truly change people from bad and barbaric to enlightened and civilized. This is a problem of not being the target of radical, ongoing, and systemic evil. White liberals tend to think that people are overall good and society is nice and the only problem are those dang Republicans. They tend to understand racism as something Paula Deen or that One Hit Wonder/Cat Scratcher/Machine Gun Hunter says. Racism and sexism and classism and other oppressions are Othered – something that we are not responsible for and can’t quite possibly beWe’re good people. They don’t tend to see the deeper issues of racism and other oppressions and how they affect non-white people in a post-Euro-colonized world.*

I would expect White Post-Evangelical Christians to be a bit better, though, in addressing this topic. For we understand sin and evil. We can name it; it’s part of our lexicon. Sin and evil are integral parts of our theology even when we aren’t as focused on it as in our Fundamentalist and Evangelical days. Furthermore, we’re intimately familiar with the story of an innocent man brought up on false charges and made to die for it. Our Christ, our center, our Sweet Jesus was lynched due to the sins of the world as theologian James Cone points out in The Cross and the Lynching Tree*.

What happened to Trayvon Martin and what happened to Jordan Davis and what happened to Renisha McBride are modern-day reenactments of the “strange fruits” from the Reconstruction through the Civil Rights era of the US South. What happened to Emmett Till and Marie Scott and James Chaney happened to Jesus. There is a genealogical tree stretching from Jordan Davis sitting in a car, his body pierced with bullets, and Jesus of Nazareth hanging on a tree, his body pierced with nails.

The violent, ruthless occupying force sentencing Jesus to die for his uprising was the Roman Empire in the first; for Jordan Davis it was White Supremacy.

Image from Wikipedia

Image from Wikipedia

Jesus was killed for acting out of line – for speaking up against the power structure. For being rebellious. Michael Dunn told police he shot and killed Jordan Davis because Jordan –a black teenager – dared defy his White Man orders. The Roman Empire and its surrogates have been replaced by White Supremacy in these United States. And crucifixions have been replaced by the Lynch Laws of Stand Your Ground.

And White Christians are silent witnesses of modern-day crucifixions. There is an assumption here that, in our own land and through our political and social leaders and in a power structure that benefits us white Christians, somehow we are not responsible. Somehow, we can ignore this…

Emmitt Till’s birthday was last week. Trayvon Martin was shot down two years ago yesterday. What are White Christians doing about this tomorrow? Rarely do we, White Christians, talk about the violence and sin that we are complicit in in our own backyards.

Because there will be deflection about “black-on-black crime”, I offer this from Ta-Nehisi Coates to remind that White Christians are responsible for this travesty too:

Spare us the invocations of “black-on-black crime.” I will not respect the lie. I would rather be thought insane. The most mendacious phrase in the American language is “black-on-black crime,” which is uttered as though the same hands that drew red lines around the ghettoes of Chicago are not the same hands that drew red lines around the life of Jordan Davis, as though black people authored North Lawndale and policy does not exist. That which mandates the murder of our Hadiya Pendletons necessarily mandates the murder of Jordan Davis. I will not respect any difference. I will not respect the lie. I would rather be thought crazy.

The blood of Jordan Davis is upon us. Take this bread, it is his body. Take this wine- it was poured out for us.

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*For this, we’ll focus on racism.

** My partner-in-crime, h00die_R aka Rod aka Political Jesus, is writing an ongoing series on Cone. You can read the first part here and the second here .re .

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Unequal Access to Immoral Laws

Laws are not essentially moral. They do not always need to be followed – indeed some need to be specifically broken often and with impudence. That’s a tenet of the pacifist and justice movements – whether laying down in front of a deportation holding center or planting peace gardens or occupying privatized parks or soon-to-be privatized schools or foreclosed homes – that demands to push the written and codified law to the breaking point in order to flash a light on the great injustice that is being protested.But even if we followed all the laws and all the codes of conduct written and unwritten, some of us will be specifically targeted.

The Stand Your Ground laws are immoral and need to be broken. But how to protest such a law? If the Zimmerman trial didn’t show the fundamental racist injustice and unnecessary violence of this male-supremacist set of laws (face it, any legislation that justifies violence and killing will always favor the White cis-male) because it was fundamentally broken and racist itself, what options do we have to show how horrible this law is? If the hunting and murder of a youth carrying candy and tea didn’t shine a forcible light into the conscience of White America, what will?

Will the law be overturned only when white men are regularly gunned down as black men and women stand above them in entitled defiance? Oh, that doesn’t ever work. The black man must have instigated it. The woman must have shot him in cold blood. The black woman, that’s a double damn. No, she can’t even fire a warning shot in Florida even when she has good reason to believe her life is in imminent danger from her raging husband.

Trayvon Martin shooting protest 2012 Shankbone 10

Let’s face reality in White Supremacist America: Black males are killed by police or their stand-ins every 28 hours. But what’s particularly troubling is the consistency from pre-Civil War to Jim Crow to the so-called post-racial US that has elected a black man to the Oval Office twice is:

 the sheer lack of accountability for these killings. Thus far, less than 9 percent of those responsible for the deaths have faced charges, almost all of whom are security guards or vigilantees and all of which have yet to be determined. Despite the fact that an overwhelming number of the victims were definitively unarmed, only 3 percent of officers officers responsible for the deaths have been charged: “3 for vehicular crimes stemming from their crashes, 5 for manslaughter—the killers of Remarley Graham, Wendell Allen, Dane Garrett Scott Jr, Christopher Brown, and Bobby Moore Jr.”

And the justifications are almost always the same: “I felt threatened”, “he reached for his waistband to get what I thought was a gun”, “he was acting suspiciously”, etc. All are based on personal perceptions that are no doubt influenced by racial stereotypes, given that every American is surrounded by a culture that conditions them to fear the “criminal black man”.

Image

An original by jasdye

A lesson for us USians among the many horrible lessons from the Zimmerman case (and another may be that it wasn’t Mr. Zimmerman on trial but Mr. Martin by default of his blackness and, ergo, his level of presumed guilt and threat) is that any practice that presumes guilt and defends for it using violence is going to target those already on the margins of society and will, usually, in a court of law maintain and sanction that targeting.

How we overturn this targeting, well… right now I don’t have a lot of trust in us. Maybe after I get some sleep and I see some movement, I will.