Silence Sends a Clear Message When We Have an Opportunity to Act
The casket was not empty. It carried the body of a 14-year-old, African American boy by the name of Emmett Till, son of Mamie. He was from Chicago visiting his family in Mississippi when the prankster took a dare and flirted with a white woman. Four days later he was dead, murdered by the woman’s husband and brother. They beat young Emmett beyond recognition, shot him in the head, and threw his lifeless body in the Tallahatchie River. The two men walked away from the circus court scot free and his mother – that grieving, respectable, Christian woman – required an open casket funeral so “the world can see what they did to my baby.” His name was Emmett. He had people who loved him. His life mattered!
During that time, people named racism but nobody did anything about the evil in their midst. Today, the violence of racism is ever present with us but many in the church refuse to acknowledge it. There is little doubt that blacks and whites identify racism or racist acts differently, and that distinction is the very barrier that paralyzes people from acting rightly. After all, no one wants to be known as racist or considered prejudiced. Christian sociologists and authors Michael O. Emerson and Christian Smith believe it is best to refer to our current society as a “racialized” one “wherein race matters profoundly for differences in life experiences, life opportunities, and social relationships. A racialized society can also be said to be ‘a society that allocates differential economic, political, social, and even psychological rewards to groups along racial lines; lines that are socially constructed.”
In a racialized society, it is socially acceptable by some for a white, young man with a police record to receive a gun as a birthday present. In a racialized society, a grown, white man with the authority of his police badge can abuse his power and threaten a black child while pulling her hair, focusing her to the ground, and then sitting on her back in broad day light as other adults and black children stand by paralyzed in fear. This is the black experience of domestic terrorism. This is violence and I need some white male Christian leaders who are bold enough to name this sin, denounce it, and then act.
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