White churches remain silent in black social justice struggle
Do the white churches (that have attracted several members of color) have any substantial social justice receipts?
Rev. Earle J. Fisher, Special to The New Tri-State Defender | 7/14/2016, 1:17 p.m.
On Wednesday, July 6th, I wrote about the killing of Alton Sterling. I posited that a similar headline could be possible in the next few months. It didn’t take that long. Less than 24-hours later another black man, Philando Castile, was killed by law enforcement in Minnesota during a “routine traffic stop.”
Another hashtag, not even a day later. Again, I thought of Darrius Stewart.
The aftermath of Castile’s shooting was captured in real time by his girlfriend, Lavish Reynolds, who broadcasted the bleeding body of her boyfriend on Facebook live while her 4-year-old child offered her comfort from the back seat. Castile was licensed to carry and, according to Reynolds, announced this to the officer and was reaching to retrieve his license and/or permit (while in his seatbelt) when he was killed.
Another viral video of black death, pain and trauma.
I’ve suggested that the black faith community, black church in particular, is all too reluctant to embrace social justice as its primary posture. We dismiss structural violence, racism, classism, homo and transphobia, and other social ills that impact our communities and parishioners. We offer occasional lipservice that is divorced from our theologies and practices. Some try to present ourselves as more conscious and concerned than we really are. We are committed more to budgets and soul salvation than we are black lives and bodily liberation.
The black church is not exceptional in this regard. The slave code Christianity that many embrace 150 years after the Emancipation Proclamation is rooted in a white, westernized Christianity that runs counter to the ancient African religious movement instituted by black Hebrews and cultivated by the Negro from Nazareth.
The mainstream Christianity that the Black Church parrots seeks to be politically neutral and racially inclusive – but it’s not. It never has been. That’s why the Black Church in America was historically referred to as the “Invisible Institution.” White supremacy sought to render the black religious experience irrelevant and erroneous. In other words, the White Church was used to silence the Black Church. Not much has changed in 2016.
In matters of religion, race still matters. Predominately white churches all over the country (and the city) have intentionally targeted black and brown communities for membership. Many of them have purchased land in black and brown neighborhoods to build facilities, becoming “one church in two (or three) locations.” Nevertheless, when issues of structural racism, police brutality, economic exploitation, educational gentrification and other issues that disproportionally impact black and brown communities become unable to ignore, the white churches practice sacred silence and political pacifism.
White churches are filled with people who worship God and guns. They are unapologetic about defending their 2nd Amendment rights. Why have they said nothing in response to Philando Castile’s tragic killing? What has been their stance on 88 percent of city contracts being awarded to the white men who frequent their facilities? Do the white churches (that have attracted several members of color) have any substantial social justice receipts? And let’s not confuse charity work with justice work. Charity is soul cleansing but justice work requires a deeper level of physical and tangible sacrifice.