Still wrestling with a lot of emotions but today I am clear about my role in this discussion. I am first a faith leader who is a fully committed follower of Jesus Christ. As a public theologian I have the responsibility to interpret the present news through the lens of the Scriptures. I am an African American male who lives with the oppression and disorientation of subtle racism daily. I have developed coping skills so this does not control me but it does affect me almost daily. I am a leader in the African American community with a responsibility to address the presenting symptoms and the underlying causes of the current situation in Ferguson.
My current observations have been informed by countless new sources, countless conversations with colleagues and listening to various observations from random people at Starbucks. Yes I bought them coffee but they were no shy to share their opinions with or without coffee.
Dr. Robert Franklin wrote an short insightful article that began with his reading of the book of Lamentations. https://www.facebook.com/robert.franklin.50/posts/10152518452870949?pnref=story
“Yes… America, the crown has fallen” says Dr. Robert Franklin. This the line that summarizes the exasperation of a country built on ideals of equality, liberty and freedom.
This is juxtaposed against this line-
“Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe.” – Frederick Douglass
WEB DuBois then continues this though by stating that “Most men today cannot conceive freedom that does not involve somebody’s slavery”
America’s ideal of freedom and justice comes directly from the preamble of our Constitution.
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
The ideals are not antiquated, out dated or out of touch with modern culture. They are actually the foundation of our society in which the rest of the world aspires to attain. This is the crown that Dr. Franklin refers to that has fallen in the wake of the injustice of systematic oppression within our land. Democratically elected leaders who fight for the people and uphold the ideals of our Constitution. The mistake that many make is to make this about race or to believe that this one decision is the impetus for the current unrest and violence.
Its not about one indictment, one moment, or one death. It is about the decades of systematic oppression and racial injustice that is bound up and embodied in that one indictment, one moment, one death. Dr. Robert Brewer
The challenge is introduced with Frederick Douglass’ comments. Whether we agree with the decision in Ferguson or not years of injustice have disproportionally affected poor people of color through out America. Dr. Michelle Alexander’s work on the Mass Incarceration in her book, The New Jim Crow, super illuminates the history of systematic incarceration of African American men by the very system designed on the ideals of “forming a more perfect Union”.
Those who are Bible reading folk will quickly quote John 12:8 or Deuteronomy 15:11. The Poor will always be with us but those who love God are called in the sacred text to care for, reach out to, do life with the poor. This is different than the current modern culture of the politically conservative which seems to be “We do what is necessary to put up with the poor but not to change the system of poverty and oppression”. The liberal political culture says to “give the poor food, housing and medical care” without giving support to empower them to change their situations.
Wouldn’t it be amazing that the elected officials from both sides of the spectrum align themselves with the scripture found in Matthew . Loving your neighbor as yourself is a direct challenge to provide the same comfort, life sustaining for all who are neighbors. This is usually beyond our comfort zone if it is really going to impact their way of life. The agencies that maintain the systems that ensure poverty many times are self preserving to provide individual services rather than solving challenges and empowering the poor to change their conditions. Public education in poor communities are failing across the nation and yet charter schools in the same neighborhoods have new ways of teaching that empower the children to learn, thrive and change their situations and conditions. Many school systems have the right to veto these charter schools who are making an impact because the tenured school union teachers may loose their jobs even though they don’t want to change their teaching strategies. This is just one example of how the “agency” galvanizes it’s power that maintains the system of poverty. Education, Economy Development, Healthcare and Justice/Criminal systems can be addressed to change the situation of the poor. The church must learn to do ministry with the poor not to the poor. This will include moving ministries into the city rather than retreating to the suburbs.