By Carrie Jarrell Tuning
First, in the event that this article may one day be read by anyone who has lost loved ones at the hands of police brutality and or racist bullies of “thugocracy,” I would like to offer my sincere condolences for your loss. My heart is grieving at the struggle for justice and I am really sick and tired of being sick and tired of so many senseless deaths.
As an African American woman, a mother, a veteran, a Christian and a pastor, I have endured injustice and racism from privileged white people for over six decades. I wish I could honestly say that these privileged white people did not include individuals who profess to worship the true and living God that I worship.
In school, I learned about the Declaration of Independence. Yet, just like my other African American brothers and sisters, I also came to realize at an early age that in practice it did not apply to us. It was supposed to guarantee all people, not just white people “the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Dr. Martin Luther King in his August 28, 1963 I Have a Dream Speech, quoted portions of the Declaration of Independence and said, “It is obvious that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, American has given the Negro people a bad check; a check which has come back marked “insufficient funds.”
The Bible teaches in Deuteronomy 32:4 that God is a God of justice. The blood of those lost to racial injustice is on America’s hands. When a white Christian, and especially a leader in the church, can be comfortable with the modern-day lynching of our African American men, women, boys and girls, it makes me wonder if we are really reading the same Holy Bible. One can be a biblical scholar, skilled in Greek and Hebrew, possessing the expertise to exegete Scripture to the highest degree, but remain silent and unwilling to practice what one preaches. Yes, I know this is not new—that those who profess to be Christians are sometimes willing to turn and walk away from the hard issues of life. This is exactly what is recorded in Luke 10:29-33 regarding the parable of the Good Samaritan. Looking for a loophole, the lawyer asked, “And just how would you define ‘neighbor’?”
Jesus answered the lawyer by telling a story. “There was once a man traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho. On the way he was attacked by robbers. They took his clothes, beat him up, and went off leaving him half-dead. Luckily, a priest was on his way down the same road, but when he saw him, he angled across to the other side. Then a Levite religious man showed up; he also avoided the injured man. A Samaritan traveling the road came on him. When he saw the man’s condition, his heart went out to him. He gave him first aid, disinfecting and bandaging his wounds.”
When will you become sick and tired of pretending that you do not see? How can you remain silent about the senseless murders of African Americans by police officers and other white people?
It’s wrong on so many levels. I wonder if you recognize the fact that your silence, along with your words, exposes your alliance with a system forged in white supremacy and perpetually unwilling to do the hard work of atonement. These senseless murders have included individuals such as Aiyana Stanley-Jones, age seven, who was shot in the head and killed by police in Detroit; Dontre Hamilton, age 31, shot 14 times; Eric Garner, age 43, killed after he was put in an illegal chokehold for 15 seconds; Trayvon Martin, age 17 and Michael Brown, age 18, shot and killed; Ezell Ford, age 25, a mentally ill man, shot three times, including once in the back; Dante Parker, age 36, died in police custody after being repeatedly stunned by a taser; Tanisha Anderson, age 37, died after police slammed her head on the pavement while taking her into custody; Tamir Rice, age 12, shot and killed by police after they mistook his toy gun for a real weapon; Walter Scott, age 50, shot by a police officer while running away from a traffic stop for a broken taillight; Sandra Bland, age 28, found hanged in a jail cell; nine people killed by a white shooter during a prayer meeting; Philando Castile, age 32, shot after he was pulled over in a traffic stop; Ahmaud Arbery, age 25, shot while jogging, Breonna Taylor, age 26 shot eight times by police in her apartment; George Floyd, age 46, killed on the sidewalk by police with a knee on his neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds; and far too many others, only to miraculously have voices and videos to surface just in time to condemn these terrible atrocities.
Now is the time for our white brothers and sisters in ministry to stand with African Americans against racism and injustice. I find it very difficult to understand how some white evangelicals worship at the altar of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and are more loyal and devoted to Donald Trump than to God. Let us remember what is written in Galatians 6:7: “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” And please remember what Jesus said in Matthew 25:40: “And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”
When will enough be enough? How long will you continue to pretend that you don’t see the wrong against African Americans and other people of color? When will you become sick and tired of being sick and tired of pretending that racism doesn’t exist?
Does making America great again include arresting, convicting, trying and executing African Americans on the streets of America? Or is making America great again denying poor people and people of color access to adequate healthcare? Or is making America great again continuing to provide substandard education to the poor? Or is making America great again realizing that your lament over vandalized property and the losses of insured big box retail stores is more important than the steady stream of senseless killings of unarmed African Americans? Or is making American great again, pretending that you truly believe there isn’t any truth regarding “white privilege”?
Is making America great again believing that it’s okay for white supremacists to storm a federal building (the Capitol) in Michigan with assault weapons during a pandemic because they want tattoo parlors, bars and tanning salons reopened and have it viewed as a peaceful protest? Or does making America great again involve having our African American brothers and sisters hunted like prey and arrested, convicted, tried and executed within seconds and or minutes on the streets by police officers and racists? Or, are we making America great again when we exercise our right to engage in a peaceful protest on public streets and the National Guard, the park police, the state police, the U.S. Border Control officers, the Bureau of Prisons officers, TSA, ICE, DEA and the “secret” police without names or badges which could very well be the “very fine and good people” who traveled from near and far with their assault weapons that murdered Heather Heyer in Charlottesville, Va.? Or is making American great again tear-gassing peaceful protesters and clergy in the nation’s capital to make possible a photo op using the Bible as a prop? Or is making America great again turning blind eyes to theocracy and democracy and adhering to the “thugocracy”?
Let us learn from the peaceful protests taking place all over the world for the injustices, the senseless murders of African Americans and the much-publicized murder of George Floyd shown all over the world like “murder porn.” I am reminded of the words of President John F. Kennedy who said, “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.”
In Dr. King’s A Time to Break Silence speech on April 4, 1967, he reiterated President Kennedy’s words this way, “He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it.” After riots in the streets, after militarizing our nation’s capital in violation of the Insurrection Act of 1807, after over 40 million are unemployed, after over 111,000 dead from COVID-19, after traveling and staying for one night at a luxury golf course resort at the expense of taxpayers (which, by the way, is more than the annual salary of the average working class family), are you finally sick and tired of being sick and tired of pretending that you do not see?
Some of you are probably saying, “That was a long time ago; it’s time for you to move on.” But that is not the case. I have two children—a daughter, Careka and a son, Lucas II. My daughter is the first person in my immediate family born into this world with all of the rights due a citizen of this country, at least on paper. Yet survivor tactics were instilled in them at an early age through the “Black Talk,” made necessary simply because they were born African American. All African Americans receive these survivor tactics because we know we have to utilize them until the day the Lord calls us home.
My fellow white brothers and sisters, I hope by now you are able to understand our pain and why we say that we have to be twice as good to be considered half as good. I pray that the scales of deceit that once blinded you are no longer there and that you too can say that you are sick and tired of being sick and tired of the injustice and racism of thugocracy toward African Americans and other people of color. Further, I pray that we can sit down and engage in an intelligent dialogue on ways to move toward fulfilling the promissory note which was written by our founding fathers in 1776 so our check as African Americans will no longer be stamped “Insufficient Funds”. Now is the time to do what’s right in the eyesight of God. Please check your moral compass based on the word of God and not on “thugocracy.”
The following are few recommendations in the hope that prayerfully one day we as African Americans will have “Overdraft Protection”.
- Support the “Black Lives Matter” movement in response to anti-Black violence and structural inequality.
- Collaborate with the African American community and establish a relationship to build movements which create the conditions for long-term success and transformation as provided for global missions.
- Lead initiatives that build real power for Black communities by helping people respond effectively to injustice in the world around us.
- Support ending the “Police Secrecy Law” which keeps the public in the dark about officer misconduct.
- Support Consent Decrees.
- Support H.R. 40 – Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African-Americans Act.
- Encourage members of your church to support and participate in the National March on Washington, D.C. on August 28, 2020.
Rev. Dr. Carrie Jarrell Tuning is a member of CBF’s Pan-African Koinonia Steering Committee and church starter of HOPE Christian Fellowship Baptist Church in Roanoke Rapids, N.C.