Posts tagged shooting
The Only Logical Conclusion

I need to open by asking for grace for the words I am typing now. I need grace because I am not super human or super woman. On Wednesday night I was laying in bed, finally getting over a cold. I was about to turn on the Golden Girls as I fell asleep when I decided to check my phone one more time. When I opened it, I saw immediately Chris Hayes describe a shooting in a black church in 140 characters. I have been through a range of emotions since that moment- grief, rage, frustration, numbness. I have wept and pounded on tables. Much of my emotional journey is all over twitter where I generally don’t hold back my humanity. I say all this to drive home the point that I am human, with deep feelings and emotions over what has transpired. I do not feel “strong”. I don’t feel “passionate”. I feel grossly, overwhelmingly human. But I don’t know what else to do besides write. I hope that my words will be helpful to someone, but please know, they just might be more for me to make sense of the world, than to change it.

I’ll start with a confession. Last night when I went to bed, I just knew by the time I woke up we would know who the shooter was and that he would be apprehended. I couldn’t believe it when I discovered the shooter was still at large. However, within just a few minutes new reports started pouring in that the suspected shooter had been captured. As various officials were interviewed there was a resounding theme. “Safety has been restored.”

“Our community can now come together.”

“Now the healing process can begin.”

“The threat is now over.”

Though I understand what these officials meant. I want to say that safety has not been restored. I am glad the suspect is in custody. I really am. I am glad for the country, but I am mostly glad for the community of Charleston and anyone that was afraid their home, church, community center or neighborhood might be another target. But my gratefulness does not extend far enough to create any sense of safety. For the next few weeks, maybe even months, black churchgoers will not feel safe because we know the threat is not over.

There have been far too many mass shootings in America. I still remember watching columbine and Virginia Tech unfold on the news screen. More recently I remember crying over Sandyhook, shock over the movie theater shooting, fear that my own mentor could have been a victim of the shooting at Seattle Pacific University. Those were frightening, awful, gut wrenching moments in their own right. They and many more ripped our hearts out, created trauma for so many families. But this is different.

Though the weapon is the same, gun violence, this is different because the driving force was white supremacy, this act the epitome of racism, the goal to kill black people. The level of terror that black people feel in America at this moment cannot be underestimated. Because when the driving force of such a massacre is the very thing imbedded in the roots of America, thriving on the branches of generation after generation, sitting in the pews unchallenged every Sunday morning in white churches- there is no reason why black Americans should feel safe.

The sin of white supremacy is thriving in this country because white Christians refuse to name it and uproot it, refuse to confess it and dismantle it, refuse to acknowledge it and repent of it, refuse to say the words

“Its in my family”

“Its in my church”

“Its in my soul.”

Every time I write about race, someone white says “just know it isn’t all of us,” believing this will bring me comfort. It is offered as balm, but fails miserably. I would much rather people say, “I see this sin in my own heart, my own life, my own church and I am working to uproot it. I don’t want to be this way, and I will do the work to submit this ugliness before Christ.” That’s what I want to hear. Creating distance from it doesn’t serve me, doesn’t bring me comfort. Because it is in all of us. White supremacy has infected all of us who know America. If I have to deal with the white supremacist notions within myself, than I don’t want to hear about how “its not all of us”. It is. It is all of us who must learn to love blackness as an equal and authentic image of God. 

Some of us are doing that work. Naming that work. Wrestling through that work.

And others are content to let it grow. And I need you to know those are the only two choices. There is no such thing as neutrality. You are either nurturing love or hate. There is no middle ground, no third way, no alternative.

There is this pervasive belief that Christians can simply choose to be tolerant, or polite, or even kind. There is this sense that as long as certain lines aren’t crossed, that you’re okay. As long as you don’t tell the racist joke, as long as you had a really good reason for moving into an all white community, as long as you never say nigger, as long as you do charity work, as long as you go on the mission trip, as long as you never do anything mean- then you’re alright. Not so.

Jesus has two commandments. “...You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your mind and with all your soul. This is the first and greatest commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matt 22:37-39). The second is like it. So loving your neighbor as yourself is like loving God with all your heart and all your mind and all our soul. Love. 1 John 4:20 says this, “If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.” Cannot.

I need you to know that these two verses fly in the face of the sin if white supremacy and racism. To not uproot white supremacy from the mind, heart and soul is to miss the mark on loving your neighbor as yourself and is hatred toward God. I repeat. The sin of racism is hatred toward God. Racism is hatred toward and denial of blackness as an equal and authentic image of God. Now you can let that live if you want to. You can try to wrap it up so tight that it never leaks out. You can try to bury it so far deep that no one ever knows. You can try to avoid contact so that you never say anything stupid. You can try to cover it up so that no one ever calls you out. You can try to fix on MLK day but let it linger every other day. You can talk about it once a year from the pulpit. You can remain silent and never speak of it at all. Those are all options. But it allows hate to live.

Those verses do not say:

Just tolerate one another.

Just be nice to each other.

Just don’t say anything stupid.

Just go volunteer.

Just take the mission trip.

Just don’t be rude.

Just give them some money.

Just build a center.

Just attend a multicultural church.

Just make sure you have one black friend,

Black family member

Black child

God demands love. Love toward God. Love toward humanity.

This love is a decision, and too many Christians have made their choice by simply refusing to acknowledge the power, the depths, the reality of white supremacy in America.

This shooter took white supremacy to its only logical conclusion- death. Now you might never shoot anyone, or plant bombs, or brutalize anyone. That’s entirely possible, but is that really your threshold, your standard for determining the health of your heart, mind and soul? My life might depend on whether or not you, your family, your church are willing to uproot racism and nurture love or instead continue to let the same evil that compelled this shooter to pull the trigger, to live on in your soul.

I hope you will choose love today and tomorrow and for the rest of your life.

I wrote on twitter that every church in America should be talking about this shooting on Sunday. But you know what? My real fear isn’t that churches will ignore the shooting. My fear is that churches will underestimate it. I fear that it will alter one Sunday’s plans and nothing else. I fear that the words will be reduced to one lone shooter, to one silent moment, to one prayer. I fear that it will change nothing about every Sunday thereafter, that it will inspire nothing of lasting significance, that no one will make a declaration to kick racism out of the pews. My real fear is that this moment will slip by just as so many others have, that white churches will refuse to see their own reflection. Or that they will and simply turn away.

That is the fear of black Americans because white supremacy is deadly. And people who look like me are its victims.

And despite this reality. We are still here. We still speak truth to power. We will mourn and cry and lament and wail. But we also fight. We resist. We refuse to be erased. My words here will be joined with hundreds maybe thousands of other black writers who will declare that we wont lay down, we wont hide, we wont go away quietly. You haven’t heard the last from us. We fight on. 

* this is unedited. and honestly i dont plan to edit it anytime soon. I'll do my best as i notice typos. I hope none are so egregious as to miss my meaning. If you want to tweet and know there is a mistake, feel free to fix it. Its all so raw right now. I need to take my time before re-feeling all these words. thanks to readers who have stuck with me through all of my demanding posts. welcome to new readers. get comfortable because demanding is my new norm.*



It happens every time there is an unjust and inhumane shooting of an unarmed black person. There are many posts, tweets, and status updates that are committed to giving a 'balanced view'. This usually means admitting the racial inequities in America's criminal justice system. Then to balance the other end of the teeter totter it becomes necessary to also admit that there are problems in the black community- black on black crime, fatherlessness, poverty, etc... This plank then rests on calls for love, forgiveness or peace. Done and done. 

While I understand the desire to be balanced, I need you to know that you won't get that here. This itty-bitty corner of the internet is going to be decidedly UNbalanced.  

Why? Because I believe it is fine to say, "This is wrong. Unarmed black people should not loose their lives" and leave it right there. That is enough. These complete sentences in all their unbalanced glory can stand alone. This is a singular thought. It is a thought worthy of being wrestled with all by itself. 

It is not that I am unwilling to talk about these other devastations that plague some communities of color. In fact, I welcome conversation about these realities. But you should know in advance that I don't relegate the conversation on race to shootings and incarceration rates. Racism is far to effective, conniving, and complete to define only these. So lets talk about poverty, but lets do so without forgetting about slavery, jim crow, redlining, white flight, contract sales, and the extraction of wealth from generations of hardworking people of color at the hands of government, courts, real estate agents and landlords. I'm willing to talk about fatherlessness, but not without also talking about joblessness, health disparities, incarceration rates, discriminatory sentencing, the effects of sentencing, the difficulties surrounding all things related to determining and jailing men for child support, and then I'd point to positive statistics on the presence of black men in their children's lives, despite all these difficulties. I won't go on here, but I hope I have made clear that these other issues dont magically fall outside the purview of racism, somehow pure and untouched- existing in some vacuum of black deficiency. No. They are all connected, reinforced time and again in a web of discriminatory practices that lead to hopelessness, fear, isolation and death. 

So I will not be giving any balanced views over here. I believe firmly that to practice love is to disrupt the status quo which is masquerading as peace; and not only that, I will continue to call for repentance from this injustice, leaving forgiveness between the grieved and God. 

I will continue to be UNbalanced until systemic racial disparities are no more. For as long as the system is unbalanced, I will be too.   

Nice Is Not Enough

By now you have seen the pictures, watched the video or read the story of Walter Scott's murder. By now you know there were 5 shots driven into the back of a man who was running away from the officer, imposing absolutely no physical threat. You've probably heard that the officer moved evidence to support his lie that he only shot Walter because of an immediate physical altercation. By now you have experienced the shock. 

But I need you to know, the murder of Walter Scott is all too familiar. 

Its too familiar. 

Black bodies running. Black bodies scared. Black bodies falling. Black bodies in the dirt. Black bodies in pain. Black bodies silenced. Black bodies unarmed. The broken black body has too often defined our American experience. 

And its traumatizing. Every time. Every story. Every callous murder recalls the ones before it, the millions who have died at the hands of white supremacy. And it all feels so hopeless. 

If you watched the video, did you happen to notice something in the demeanor of the officer? Did you happen to notice the care he took to cover his tracks? Did you happen to notice him yelling at the man he just shot five times to put his hands behind his back? Did you happen to notice how long it took for him to check Walter Scott's pulse? And according to news, do you know what people who know the officer said? "He was so nice. I cant believe it." 

He was so nice. 

And here I sit, once again screaming at my laptop, "Your politeness will not save you from the dehumanization white supremacy wreaks on yourself and the world". 

Somebody get me a megaphone. 

Because this is all too familiar. And niceness has yet to save us from the distortions of racism. 

And it won't. Niceness will never be enough. 

Niceness will never be enough. 

Black Bodies White Souls

Much has been written about the impact of Michael Brown's death and the protests that followed. As I watched the story unfold, I just felt overwhelmed and unable to write. I really didn't have much to say. My embers of anger didn't stand a chance against the rising waters of numbness. It is my MO to go numb when things get too emotional, too hot tempered, too violent. Sometimes this trait serves me well. My delayed reaction to the emotion in a room is often what makes me a great peacemaker- not because I am so special but because my emotions are often delayed in the moment. My grief, anger, and yes sometimes even the good emotions like joy come later. And so was the case this week. While article after article popped up explaining our hurt, giving voice to injustice, calling officials to action, teaching, prodding, crying, organizing- I was trying desperately to determine what I feel.

Many of you know that smaller stories unfolded even in the midst of the larger narrative. White Christians slow to respond (if at all) + the word "Christian" being used to define all Christians when in reality only referring to white ones + genuine calls for increased diversity and commitment to multi-ethnic churches... My TL was filled with branches stemming from the events in Ferguson. I've read some good stuff. I've read pieces that I'm jealous I didn't write and pieces I'm incredibly grateful folks put into words when I couldn't find any. But the one article that has stayed with me- clanging in my soul was an article posted by @feministajones, with a link to Playboys interview of MLK. There are a great many gems in this interview, and we all would do well to read it from beginning to end, but what I found most intriguing is MLK's response to the question about his mistakes as a civil rights leader. His reply: "Well, the most pervasive mistake I have made was in believing that because our cause was just, we could be sure that the white ministers of the South, once their Christian consciences were challenged, would rise to our aid. I felt that white ministers would take our cause to the white power structures. I ended up, of course, chastened and disillusioned."

At this moment in time, I cannot confess to the same shock, disappoint or hurt feelings that MLK describes. I've read too much, been at this too long to sincerely claim that I expected the white church to finally get it right in this present moment of Trayvon Martin, Jordan Davis, John Crawford and Michael Brown. The white church doesn't have a great track record on racial justice, and what's worse, displays very little shame on the matter. (As a quick caveat I will say that I am grateful for the friends of all races, including white who sent messages, wrote posts, shared in the outrage and amplified the voices of black folks- I just wish there were many, many more of you). On the whole the story of Michael Brown and the assault on Ferguson didn't gather the same level of attention of ISIS or Driscoll. Many of the white Christians who changed their profile pictures to stand in solidarity with Christians on the other side of the world, were absolutely silent while black Christians right here in America were in turmoil. 

I am quite used to there not being enough room in the soul of the white church to care about black bodies. There is not enough room in the service, not enough room in the prayers, not enough room in the leadership, not enough room in the values, not enough room in the mission statement, not enough room in political stances, not enough room for lived experiences of African Americans. 

I am convinced that the soul of the white church has yet to be ashamed. It is not ashamed of slavery- it only dismisses it. It is not ashamed of Jim Crow- it only claims credit for ending it. It is not ashamed of incarceration rates- it only excuses it. It is not ashamed of ghettos- it pretends to have nothing to do with them. It is not ashamed of segregation- only silently benefits from it. There is no shame for who America has been. I believe that until there is collective shame for who white America has been to people of color, white America will not choose to be something else. If it is fine with who it is, it will continue to do what's always done. 

Far from being offended by its own actions, instead white America- Christians included- remain offended by black bodies.  This is what killed Trayvon and Renisha and Jordon and Eric and Michael. How dare black bodies resist the white will. How dare they fight back when a stranger chases. How dare they knock at 4am. How dare they not turn down the music when told. How dare they sell some cigarettes. How dare they walk in the middle of the street. How utterly offensive for black bodies to disobey whiteness.

Most children growing up in black households know this. It's why I was told never to put my hands in my pockets while shopping, even when I replace items back on the shelf. My parents knew a store owner by thinking I might be stealing could cost far more than prosecution- it might cost my life. It's why black boys are given explicit instructions on how to behave when pulled over by the police- right or wrong. Not because our parents are trying to instill some deep values but because they knew our lives would be at stake. And so our list of how not to be offensive grows-  pull up those pants, don't wear a hoodie, keep your ID on you, cut your hair, be careful of the pictures you take with friends, smile a lot, turn the music down, be a good negro and maybe your life will be spared. But the list can't save us. It never could because the culprit is something we cannot change- our bodies. 

And though I list here offenses that seem only secular- I assure you the white church is no less offended. Sometimes I wonder if they are most offended since God and whiteness are too often synonymous. We sense the offense of our bodies all the time. When Gospel songs are used in service and folks complain. When MLK weekend is the lowest attended weekend of the year. When teaching on race and folks walk out, or worse attack the teacher. When the thought of reading a black theologian never enters the psyche. When black folks have to make a case for discussing injustice. When our way of being is strange, stand-offish, exclusive, unwelcoming, toxic, or the result of groupthink. These moments remind us that our very existence as autonomous human beings is in itself offensive. And so when White folks strike a nerve, or embody a pet peeve- with one another the result is rarely violent. There is too much respect for self and others. But embody that action in the form of a black body and all bets are off. Death is always possible.   

And that is the reality black folks have lived in since arrival on America's shores. Resistance to the white will could result in death. So I'm not giving white, Christian adults anymore easy answers. If you want to know what to do, my answer is this: risk death. Risk the death of your reputation. Risk the death of close ties to your family. Risk the death of your dream home and "safe" neighborhoods. Risk the death of a large congregation. Risk the death of your big donations. Risk the death of your worldview and perspective on American history. Risk the death of your comfort in majority, dominant spaces. Risk the death of your leadership role, of your speaking engagement, of your writing opportunity. Risk never being invited back to the conference. Risk the death of your social and professional circles. Risk what we risk just trying to live. 

Choose a new church home and sit under the teaching of a black preacher for two years.  

Choose a new neighborhood where your fate is intimately tied to the fate of people of color.  

Go back to school and take a history class from a black professor where your academic success lies in his/her hands.  

Choose to be mentored by a person of color every week. You do what they say, when they say it. No excuses.

Choose to go places where you see the stories behind the statistics, where someone can connect history to the present for you. 

Send your kids to a black or brown school.

Need the wisdom of people of color to survive.

If you want to be committed to racial justice, you must do more than read a book at home alone. You must do more than add people of color to your social media lists. You must do more than attend an MLK service or a Ferguson vigil. These are good things. You will benefit from them. But buying our books and reading our blogs and sharing our posts were never intended to BE your journey. These things are to aid you in a much larger commitment to justice and reconciliation in the world. 

Reclaim your soul. Risk death to your comfort. Place yourself under the authority of a person of color. Connect history to the present. Make some lifestyle changes. Root out the offense of the black body from your heart and mind.

Maybe... Maybe we won't have to post pictures of this week alongside some new ones in another 50 years.

I do not believe that racial justice will come only if the white church finally gets it right. History has proven otherwise. Nonetheless, this is an opportunity. A new generation could speak out. A new generation could make a difference. A new generation could turn over laws, vote what's best for black/brown communities, could dismantle systemic racial injustice. A new generation could reclaim the soul of the white church long mired in the mud of power and supremacy. This is your chance. You can join, or you can sit this one out. But as the community of Ferguson showed us- we will stand with or without you.