Black pastors to White pastors: 'We want action.'
In the Sept. 25 "Beyond Words: Count Us In" event, Spokane's Black pastors spoke to White pastors and lay people seeking to confess and repent to the Black pastors for failing to stand alongside them in the fight against systemic racism and racial injustice in this city, state and nation.
Acknowledging the good intentions of the planners, they said that "by failing to consult or consider the impact it may have on the community most affected by racial injustice and police brutality, this event is in itself yet another act of cultural insensitivity and white superiority."
The Black clergy and faith leaders questioned the authenticity of the repentance, as John the Baptist questioned the the Pharisees' confession and then recommended they examine their own hearts and "Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance." (Matthew 3:8)
We, the Black clergy of Spokane have circled this wagon of reconciliation for many years at many planned events. We have joined our White brothers and sisters of faith on platforms and stages in the arena and several churches to make public confessions and sign covenants in agreement that racism is sin and should not be tolerated nor allowed to sit comfortably within the pews of the Christian church.
We have prayed together, broken bread together, marched together on MLK day, and rode on buses together to Promise Keepers events. Despite this, we observe many White brothers and sisters return to pulpits forgetting to keep the promise.
We witnessed this racial complicity as far back as "Mission Spokane," where the succession of an African American pastor into the role of President was denied by White pastors who were clearly uncomfortable having a Black leader. We continue to witness tokenism and using gifted Black Christians to symbolize diversity and equality with no real pathway towards executive leadership, as well as unethical, self-serving efforts to undermine the mission of Black-led initiatives, while attempting to claim them as your own visions and ideas.
Our history is littered with stolen rights from our homeland to a strange land, from being a man, to being told we are only three-fifths of a man. From slavery to chattel. From running for freedom to freedom riders. From a document that declared us free, to a Jim Crow that locked us up and threw away the key.
From civil rights to voting rights. From housing rights to educational rights. From the right to sit anywhere we choose on a bus, then you cringe when we shine the light on what's happening to "Just Us."
From laws of discrimination that lead to mass incarceration. From a war on drugs which you used to label us as "Thugs." We watch as you then legalize and capitalize off of the very thing you once criticized. From historical lynchings and backlash whippings, to domestic terrorism of Tulsa, Greenwood and Rosewood. From white hoods to blue hoods, to then have the audacity to tell us we are from the hood!
Legalized lynchings, street executions, Black lives minimized, shot dead, then dehumanized. Criminalized by and in the media by a past that has nothing to do with the present act.
From the hoodies of Travon Martin, to the "I Can't Breathe" of Eric Garner. From the six shots until I drop of Michael Brown, to 16 shots, three while standing and 13 on the ground of Laquan McDonald, I can still hear the sound. From Tamir Rice, wait it's just a toy, only two seconds, I'm just a 12-year-old boy.
From Walter Scott, shot cold in the back, to Freddie Gray, what a day, what I thought was a Paddy wagon transformed into my hearse. From Sandra Bland's mysterious jail house lynching, to Alton Sterling, he shouldn't have been reaching.
From Philando Castile and you say we just need to comply, to Botham Jean's mother, I still just want to know why. From Elijah McClain's own cry: "I'm just special, I don't hurt anyone," to "I can't breathe," Officer are you done?"
From Atatiana Jefferson playing a video game in her own bedroom, to Ahmaud Arbury you mean I can't even jog while being Black.
Breonna Taylor you think that's something. Have you ever gone to bed in "Peace" and woke up to "Still No Justice?" And now here we are, eight minutes later, and you still got your knee on our necks George Floyd.
"We Still Can't Breathe" When does it stop?
As Ben Franklin once stated, "Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are."
Therefore, we the Black clergy of Spokane, Washington pen this letter, not only to the White clergy of our city, but to all those who are reading this, whatever the location.
We say, as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. penned in his letter from the Birmingham County Jail to the white clergy of his time: "In the end it will not be the words of our enemy that we will remember, but the silence of our friends."
You say you are "Beyond Words." Then we say, "We are Beyond Talk. We want action!"
Copyright@ The Fig Tree, November, 2020