(Introduction to a resolution for the condition of the African American Community)
As I write this blog, my heart is probably heavier now than it’s ever been. I am now ready to admit publicly what I’ve been holding on to for years because of my dedication to my people and the embarrassment I have for the present state our community is in. I am now willing to say publicly what many are saying in private, but few will dare to say publicly. White people have been seeing this for years but couldn't comment truthfully for fear of being called a racist. The African American community is in a terrible crisis.
Numerous black people have been realizing this for years but won’t say anything publicly for fear of being ridiculed for airing out our dirty laundry before white people or being labeled a sellout, an Uncle Tom or a Republican. We will talk about racial issues, and some of the problems black people are experiencing, but we will not talk about the real problem, the underlying problem. What troubles me even more is that this coming Sunday morning and every Sunday morning black folks across the country will be in church shouting that “Jesus can fix it” all while our people leave our churches more broken, more dysfunctional, and without a concrete sense of faith and hope.
Two incidents this past week has brought me to the boiling point of sharing my thoughts publicly and hopefully open Macon, Georgia, and possibly all America for honest dialogue regardless of its political correctness. The first incident that troubled me deeply was the video of the police officer who was called upon to remove a female student from a classroom. The confrontation resulted in that police officer slinging the female across the floor. Honestly, I didn't have a problem with it, at least not the takedown. The second incident that was in our own city is probably the one that finally sent me over the edge. The second was very close to me in that it touched my life directly. It was the innocent killing of the African American Bibb County sheriff clerk by another young African American.
These two incidents along with many in the past have caused me to really look at the condition of the African-American community and ask three very important questions. What has happened to us? Why is it that we lead the nation in almost every negative statistic? Is the power of the gospel strong enough to change the plight of the African American community? In a publication by the American Free Press dated January 26, 2014, it stated that “Nearly 50% of all black males will be arrested by the age of 23." A 2012 study by the Department of Justice's Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention revealed that in 2010 black youths committed six times more murders, three times more rapes, ten times more robberies and three times more assaults than did their white counterparts. Similar statistics was released by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in the "Uniform Crime Reports." They determined, "In the year 2008, black youths, who make up 16% of the youth population, accounted for 52% of juvenile violent crime arrests, including 58% for homicide and 67% for robbery." By contrast, the only categories where white youths surpassed blacks were in liquor law violations and driving under the influence. Rather than just bore you or even alarm you with more staggering statistics, for I’ve only partly mentioned statistics on violence. There are plenty on violence, economic disparity, poor education, and the like, but I prefer rather seek to answer the three questions that haunt me the most.
The answer to my questions can be the foundation for rectifying the problems in most all of these areas. “What has happened to the African American Community?” Why is it that we lead in almost every negative statistic in America? Those are the two questions for which we must seek truthful, answers. Truthful answers will be those that do not pass the blame to slavery, the tremendous discrimination that followed, or racism. Truthful answers will be those that require us to look at ourselves to see what we’ve done to cause our own problems. Once we answer these two questions, the third question that constantly dogs me and have brought me to the point of confronting my faith and my community is probably the only question that African Americans have not asked or pursued with any diligence whatsoever.
This question is by far an essential question that the African American community can ask itself. Why do I say this? Let's look at where we are as a people. In the video where the police officer used "excessive force," some are upset about the “brutality” displayed by the “white police officer.” What I don’t hear much is black people commenting on the utter disrespect that the girl had for every authority in that school. She totally disrespected the teacher, the administrator, and the police officer. In 1970 if a black teacher had required that same girl to do something it is extremely unlikely that it would have ever gotten to the administrator and least of all the police officer. In the Michael Brown case, no one is talking about the fact that when the police officer told Michael Brown to move out of the street there was a total disregard for his authority as a police officer. If this had been the sixties or the seventies, he would have moved. One journalist made this quote.
“Some identifiable groups . . . commit crime at a rate that is higher than the national rate. Blacks are such a group. That is simply a fact.”
So then what has changed in the last forty years? Though the negative statistics are staggering for the African American communities and particularly in regards to black on black crime and encounters of black people with the law, as a community, we’ve pointed to the issue of racism, poverty, lack of jobs, and lack of education. We’ve avoided the much needed attention, corrective action, and true discussion about morality, decency, personal responsibility, respect for authority, respect for humanity, personal work ethic and all of those good character traits that empowered African Americans to rise out of the bonds of racism, discrimination, and inequality to prominent citizenship and contributions to America. All of these things are "Heart Issues." All of these ills are expressions of what's in people's hearts. My rationale for presenting this third question is really an indictment against the black church and indirectly all who professed to know Jesus Christ. Allow me to explain.
Jesus Christ said this in Mark 7:21-22, “For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness.” Right here in the Bible we have in our homes and preach from on Sunday mornings, Jesus Christ identifies the root of all of our problems. The root of our problems lies in the hearts of our people. The gospel addresses the heart. The negative statistics from our community that embarrass us, hurt us, and make us cringe originates in the hearts of our people. It is only through looking at our problems through the lens of the gospel of Jesus that we can ever begin to fix the many ills that plague us. I believe that we are at a point of crisis that requires effective action and the power of the gospel must be the primary instrument that we use to reclaim our communities.
Here is why. The negative things we see, called sin, are expressions of our condition. The truth is this. We are broken. We are ugly in our ways. We are increasingly immoral, disrespectful to first parents and a host of negative things. These are all expressions of the brokenness of our people. On the cross, Christ took all of our brokenness and laid it in Him. It is in Him through which we receive the power to change our brokenness. It is not through government, education, or programs though those may be necessary. As a people, we have more education than ever, even though we lack woefully behind our white counterparts. We have more money than our parents and forefathers did. We have much greater participation in government yet we are worse. The reason we are worse is that you cannot correct a spiritual problem with more money, education, or government intervention. In my next few blog posts, I want to show you why we need Jesus more than ever and how it is through the power of the gospel that we can experience real change.
Let me conclude with this quote from the Bible in 2 Timothy 3:16, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness." What does this verse really mean? God's word is profitable for teaching us what is right. It is profitable for showing us what is wrong. It is exceptionally profitable to us in these times to show us how to get right, and it becomes our tutor for staying right as we try to right the ills of our community. This verse will become the paradigm through which I answer the first two questions and then show how the gospel has the power to change our community as we identify problems and walk through corrective action.
With much love and concern for black folks.
Pastor Lawrence Robinson