General CBF / racial justice / Racial Reconciliation

Dear White Christians

By Natasha Nedrick

Dear White Christians,

Natasha Nedrick

Natasha Nedrick

You cannot hold comfortable and traditional worship services after you witness unarmed black men and women being murdered in the street and still call yourself an ally.

I woke up early Sunday morning to intentionally observe how white churches across the country would respond after bearing witness the grotesque and excruciatingly long murder of George Floyd. Can you guess what I discovered?

Far too often absolute silence. As thousands of people across the country risked their own health in the middle of a pandemic to protest and seek justice for George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery, it was just another Pentecost Sunday for many churches.

Isn’t ironic that on the Pentecost Sunday, the day we celebrate the act of God pouring the Holy Spirit on all people, an act of inclusion, so many churches couldn’t muster the will to adjust their services to include the voices of my people who are pleading for our very lives and crying out “I can’t breathe.”

Your silence is deafening. In the words of Martin Luther King Jr., “In the end we will remember not the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends.”

To be fair, every congregation wasn’t silent. Several pastors directly addressed America’s Original Sin. White Christians, I commend to you two sermons: Pastor Steve Wells of South Main Baptist Church in Houston, Texas and Pastor Alan Sherouse of First Baptist Church in Greensboro, N.C. While I applaud churches that these boldly proclaimed the true gospel, very few white churches stood with them.

As well intentioned as many congregations tried to be, most still fell short. These congregations used indirect and veiled language, referring to “systems of terrible oppression” without the courage to directly name neither the oppressed nor the oppressors. Other congregations called for “justice” without naming unjust actions or calling for restitution. And yet others prayed to “end violence” without repentance for participating in a system of sin that allows unarmed black women and black men to continuously be publicly executed by police officers or people who just find black presence threatening.

To be honest, these prayers were disappointing.

But those weren’t the prayers that pissed me off. Some congregations first appeared to be allies. They named our pain: racial injustice, police brutality, education inadequacy, valuing property over humanity and violence that causes both suffering and suffocating. I honestly thought, yes they get it.

Until they closed their prayer by saying, “Lord, send help.”

At that moment, I literally lost my breath. “Lord, send help.”

When white Christians are ready to serve in international missions, they are more than willing to be hands and feet of Christ. However, when they watch life being suffocated out of a black body for 8 minutes and 46 seconds they pray, “Lord, send help.”

What a cowardly and weak prayer.

Dear White Christians, who are you waiting for Lord to send? As if you have no power. As if you have no privilege. Sisters and brothers, I know you have the power to fight against racial profiling, mass incarceration, police brutality and so much more. The real question is “Are you seriously willing to risk and sacrifice your comfort, reputation, and money to recognize the Imago Dei and the humanity of African Americans?

If you are, the prayer should not be “Lord, send help”.

The prayer should be “Here am I, Send me.” (Isaiah 6:8)

Dear White Christians, if diversity is truly an aspiration you must do better in both word and deed. You must unequivocally and immediately denounce hate and injustice both formally from your pulpit and informally in conversation. These words should not be prompted from black friends or black churches.

Dear White Christians, if you intended to faithfully address racial justice, your actions matter. Many of your churches know more firsthand accounts of struggles from cultures around the globe than firsthand accounts of struggles of African Americans from the other side of town. Partner alongside local civic organizations and community organizers who are fighting for racial justice in your own backyard.

Dear White Christians, if you sincerely feel called by God to fight for racial justice put your money where your mouth is and form financial partnership with black churches, black owned businesses and banks, and Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

Dear White Christians, we have the power to make a change. The question is will your prayer be “Lord, send help” or “Here am I, send me.”

Be like Pastor Wells and Pastor Sherouse and pray the latter.

“Here am I, send me.”

Min. Natasha Nedrick is a member of  CBF’s Pan African Koinonia and an Associate Minister at Greenforest Community Baptist Church in Atlanta.

3 thoughts on “Dear White Christians

  1. I can understand why you would feel the heartache the pain felt by any tragedy of this sort…and not being black, I know I cannot entirely feel the punch in the gut it is when you hear of something like that. But that doesn’t change the reality is that these incidents have not just been declining over the years – but radically declining. That doesn’t take away any individual tragedy which occurs. But the contention that it is systemic and on the rise is simply not a factual statement. There is no disproportionate use of police force against minorities in the present day. Your comment “a system of sin that allows unarmed black women and black men to continuously be publicly executed by police officers or people who just find black presence threatening” is simply not true – period. You can find no data which supports an argument that it is…none – because it isn’t true. Harvard has done studies on this. the CDC has data on this. Again, when a tragedy occurs that is a major injustice, bringing this reality up to a grieving family is no comfort – because it did indeed happen to them. But using a tragedy to promote an overall narrative that has no basis in fact does not promote the cause of unity and justice – indeed it fosters the opposite result.
    Holding those accountable who do the injustice accomplishes this – blaming everyone else collectively who had nothing to do with anything for the behavior of others does not…because it is simply not true that it has been an increasingly widespread problem. It doesn’t change the it does exist, but your goal must be to address it – not just spread a narrative.
    It is not “America’s Original Sin” – the evil institution of slavery existed long before America ever existed both on our shores and off them before any white Europeans showed up here – it was a nearly universal evil in the world…unique to no one race or nation. One of the things unique about America at the time of its founding is that there was significant opposition to it right from the very beginning and it was a point of contention. We must recognize evil as being evil in all cases – not just when it fits any certain narrative…and that is how we promote the cause of unity and justice.

    • Zee, you state, “There is no disproportionate use of police force against minorities in the present day.” This is incorrect. The Harvard study you refer to states in pertinent part:
      With these caveats in mind, this paper takes first steps into the treacherous terrain of under- standing the nature and extent of racial differences in police use of force and the probability of police interaction. On non-lethal uses of force, there are racial differences – sometimes quite large – in police use of force, even after accounting for a large set of controls designed to account for important contextual and behavioral factors at the time of the police-civilian interaction. Interestingly, as use of force increases from putting hands on a civilian to striking them with a baton, the overall probability of such an incident occurring decreases dramatically but the racial difference remains roughly constant. Even when officers report civilians have been compliant and no arrest was made, blacks are 21.2 percent more likely to endure some form of force in an interaction. Yet, on the most extreme use of force – officer-involved shootings – we are unable to detect any racial differences in either the raw data or when accounting for controls.
      Fryer, R. (2017) An Empirical Analysis of Racial Differences in Police Use of Force, pg. 39.
      The study found there were, in fact, racial differences in non-lethal use of force by police. On the issue of shootings, the results were inconclusive. It is important to note the language of the study – shootings, not killings. George Floyd’s death would not have been included in the data for shooting (or Sandra Bland, or Freddie Gray, or any other person who died in police custody, but was not shot). The study also points out that one of the serious limitations of the study is the fact that data from police departments is not consistently documented, and is almost entirely from the point of view of the officers. Before we can declare police departments race neutral, we will need police departments to document their interactions with civilians more precisely.

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