What White People Can Do About the Killing of Black Men in America

Published on Huffington Post/The Blog, by Paul Brandeis Raushenbush, Aug 13, 2014.

… I spoke to Rev. Tony Lee who is an African-American pastor at Community of Hope AME Church in Prince George’s County, Maryland. Rev. Tony and I went to seminary together and he has been a colleague I trust to speak the truth to me about race in America. He called the recent deaths ‘disturbing but not surprising.’

“The reason people are responding so strongly is that these are examples of daily antagonisms felt by black people on the street. This is part of a wider school-to-prison pipeline and the ghettoization and de-humanization of black bodies. Social media gets the word out much quicker and people are responding to dead black men on the streets in LA, Ferguson and NYC by saying ‘wait, that is going on in our streets too.’”  

But social media is part of the problem according to Rev. Lee. “The challenge is for this to become a movement not just a moment. People are expressing outrage with hashtags but they are not organizing. Movements need organizing.”

Given that we are both pastors, I asked Rev. Lee what the church should do and he offered some very practical steps, including becoming advocates for police training, holding police departments legally accountable for deaths, and connecting with the efforts at a community level. Rev. Lee also pointed out positive organizations that are doing great ‘movement’ work like Black Youth Project that churches should be supporting and partnering with.

Rev. Lee was quick to mention that his church has positive relations with the local policing because they have been proactive in creating encounters where police can meet the community and the community can meet police — not only in crucial moments when tensions are high – but also during normal times when the two can see the best of each other.

According to Lee, the church also needs to reclaim and proclaim the narrative about the worth of black lives in the face of the criminalized depiction of black people on TV, movies and in music. The wider church should be involved in the celebration of the breadth and richness of the black experience.

I asked Rev. John Vaughn, Vice-President of Auburn Seminary, what kind of response he would like to see from white Americans. Rev. Vaughn responded via email that he hoped his white friends would be vocal and articulate why these killings are not ‘yet another isolated incident’ and ‘explore the premise that racism is not a thing of the past.’ Perhaps most importantly: “Listen to your friends and colleagues of color about their experiences and analysis of racism in America.”

I also pressed Rev. Lee on what he would like to tell white Americans on how to show solidarity. I was humbled by his response:

We need to lock arms amidst all of this. If the police feel they are above the law with any one group, they will feel they are above the law with others. We need to learn from the civil rights movement. It wasn’t just black folks, it was everybody, because it wasn’t a black problem it was a moral issue. We are remembering 40 years after the Freedom Summer. That wasn’t just black people risking their lives, it was a community that went down to Mississippi because they knew that when any group within the nation is marginalized then we can’t be the nation we want to be.
The way I translate Rev. Lee’s generous invitation is ’show up.’ White people need to get off the computer and get involved with our voices, feet, votes and resources to help make sure that this epidemic of black deaths in America ends. This is not a ‘black problem it is an American problem and it will take all of us working together to solve it.

Diashow (51 pics): Michael Brown Shooting Demonstrations.

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Related Links:

  • LAPD Shoots, Kills Black Man During Investigative Stop, on Huffington Post, by Cavan Sieczkowski, Aug 8, 2014;
  • Eric Garner Death, on Huffington Post, by Paige Lavender, July 28, 2014; It Only Took 2 Weeks For This ‘Daily Show’ Segment On Police Brutality To Be Relevant Again …;
  • Urban rebellions and social change, on Socialist Worker.org, by Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, Jan 25, 2013: Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor explains how the urban revolts of the 1960s injected urgency about the conditions of Black America into the political discourse of the time …;

Special Ferguson:

African-American History:

Other Links:

The Dinosaur from the Sixties, on The Peoples Voice.org, by Phillip Farr5uggio, Aug 15, 2014;

Trade Is Not Meant to Boost Economies, on Global TResearch.ca, by John Kozy, Aug 14, 2014;

Egypt: Acts of remembrance, on Al-Ahram weekly online, by Michael Adel, Aug 14, 2014: on the Coptic Church’s commemoration of the sectarian attacks that followed the ouster of Mohamed Morsi and dispersal of Muslim Brotherhood protest camps in Cairo …;

Egypt: Anything is possible, on Al-Ahram weekly online, by Reem Leila, Aug 14, 2014: President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi’s official trips to Saudi Arabia and Russia were his first since winning the presidential elections in May …;

Russia’s investment in Africa: New challenges and prospects, on Pambazuka News, by Kester Kenn Klomegah, Aug 13, 2014: Russia’s presence in Africa remains marginal, largely due to historical reasons. But this could soon change. Several delegations from African states have visited Moscow in recent months and the Russian government appears determined to strengthen ties with Africa …;

African non-state ethnic networks: Social capital or social liability? on Pambazuka News, by Patience Kabamba, Aug 13, 2014: Examples of non-state structures and social networks that carry out political and economic tasks in DRC and Nigeria, in the absence of an effective state, suggest a more diverse and inclusive concept of shared power in African societies that goes beyond the simplistic Western conceptions of a rational state with the monopoly of power …;

The Real First World War, on Global Research.ca, by Bhaskar Menon, Aug 11, 2014;

Death Penalty Worldwide: Presentation of the Hands Off Cain 2014 – Report – and “The abolitionist of the year 2014” Award, on No Peace Without Justice NPWJ, July 18, 2014;

… and this:

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