President Johnson Ponders Dr. King and the process of getting the Voting Rights Act of 1965 worked out. On reflection, this is more of the Deja vu we are experiencing.
As this generation walks through the social-political minefields of our day we pass anniversaries of notorious race-based mob attacks, riots and massacres: Tulsa’s Greenwood, election day at Ocoee, Wilmington, Rosewood, the infamous Red Summer, and many others. The land is stained with innocent blood. But, how many of today’s issues have we seen, never remedied, and must deal with again and again?
Confronted with factual atrocities, many respond, “That’s all in the past, a tragic, uncomfortable conversation without any relevance, because we are not racists now.” Thus, we deflect and conceal so much that contributes to our present condition. Some don’t want these things remembered or taught in schools. But why are we threatened by facts? Isn’t our denial and ignorance of facts why some saw fine people in Charlottesville, but thugs in Minneapolis?
A devout, but misinformed white friend told me Black leaders lie to their people, “to keep them blaming and hating whites.” He said he could not be a racist, as he has mixed-race grandchildren and a Black friend, a billionaire he golfed with, and if what I said was true, his friend would have told him. I assured him no matter what his Black friend drove, if stopped by the police, his life was in danger.
God famously cares about the poor, the oppressed, the widow and fatherless, all through the Bible. The retort, “God loves all people,” is true, but used as a deflection, it misses God’s loving, protective intent. It sounds like the lawyer who tried to justify himself by asking Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
Critical race concepts and liberation theologies, at the root, are cries of suffering people, oppressed by fraud and force. We should hear them. God hears them and does not forget. Jesus shocked Nazareth when he read from Isaiah, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me…to set at liberty those who are oppressed.” Deal with that truth before rejecting it.
When we have done disturbing things, a reasonable mind should be disturbed. So, is being “woke” wrong? Is hearing those cries wrong? No! Ignoring them is wrong. Defending the indefensible is wrong. Awakening us to righteousness is a work of God’s Holy Spirit. Otherwise, how else can we own and fix these things? Stop listening to people who attack to avoid exposure and conviction. When prophets and trusted ministers cover sin with talking points, discard those liars. Why? Truth matters. Truth illuminates and frightens thieves, rapists, evil doers and all who leave victims in their wake. Truth can also set America free from our repetitive cycles of greed and injustice, oppression and violence.
Look at old news accounts as US schools were desegregated, as voting and civil rights were protected. Look at the faces of those who objected. Read or listen to their words. Those who oppose equity and suppress voices and votes today? Their faces and reasonings are the same; hostile and aggrieved, hiding fears and violated conscience. But more than faces and words, look at the white knuckles that desperately grasp to control the table, to conserve power for a few. Such “freedom” is so dishonest, so disrespectful, so far out of balance, it offends God.
The Bible tells us that David’s son Absalom burned the field of military commander Joab because he ignored Absalom for two years. Joab’s burned crops affected him economically, got his attention. When Minneapolis was screaming for justice, it echoed across the land. Did America hear? Did we?
This subject, injustice, these killings and abuses are like an old vinyl record that skips and keeps skipping, so one hears the same bit again and again. Someone must lift the needle and move it forward. We must. Some may not hear you or me, but will be troubled in a good way if we engage. Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice,” and that gives me hope.
by Frank Robinson