The following statement was born from conversation in community about race and violence during the 118th Lott Carey Annual Session that convened 12 August 2015 in Greensboro, North Carolina, USA. We offer this statement as a resource for contemplation, conversation, and a call to engagement.
The notion of race is among the most destructive ideas in history. It prevents living harmoniously and sustainably. Rather than contributing to our capacities to generate ideas, create beauty, analyze problems, and produce solutions, the contemptible notion of race, having no science to support this approach to differentiating human beings, constructs barriers that separate and segregate people. It hinders us from engaging in relationships that strengthen and sustain. The construct of race is manipulative and malevolent.
Human beings are created in the image of God. This gift grants us amazing capabilities for creativity and community. We achieve our highest possibilities when we support and share with one another. Communities of collaboration and compassion enable us to live fully and productively. Working together, we help each other to become more of what God made us to be. Tragically, however, we frequently fail to live as we are intended. We regularly retreat behind boundaries of race – a product of human imagination gone horribly wrong. Our notions of race can cause us to sin before God and to injure one another.
Racial injustice has plagued people in the United States from its beginning. Exploitation, manipulation, and oppression have been inflicted upon so-called racial minorities on this continent from the time of its earliest European migration. Displacements and massacres of Indigenous Nations, the enslavement and murders of Africans, and the dislocation and internment of Asian Americans are horrific examples of racial injustice enabled by religion, government, and customs established to privilege people of European heritage.
Violence has characterized racial injustice in the United States. Physical, psychological, and sexual violence have been used to terrorize and dehumanize people of color. The conscious or unconscious perception of racial supremacy by people of European heritage is accompanied by the privilege affiliated with this erroneous assumption. Erroneous beliefs of racial supremacy and white privilege are advanced through economic, political, educational, religious, and media systems to project these worldviews as normative. This toxic mixture of wrong beliefs and manipulative power has contributed to increasing occurrences of violence against people of color, particularly African-American males, by law enforcement. These hideous abuses and fatalities, with rare accountability, are repulsive to and destabilizing of civilized society. How can people support institutions that threaten, abuse, and murder them?
The Lott Carey global Christian missional community calls for an immediate end to violence against people of color by law enforcement. Further, Lott Carey calls for accountability from law enforcement, the criminal justice system, US communities, and communities of color.
Concerning Law Enforcement
The privilege of wearing a uniform and carrying a weapon imposes the duty on police officers to use good judgement. Officers who fail to exercise judgement that seeks to defuse potentially volatile circumstances, but who, instead, react violently toward unarmed citizens of color must be held accountable. Police departments, law enforcement fraternities, governmental oversight structures, and the communities they serve must ensure that the law enforcement personnel who serve them receive appropriate cultural training to counteract pervasive racial prejudices in this country. Further, these entities must ensure that policing personnel receive the skills training necessary to ensure that they can function effectively in high stress situations. This training will help officers avoid erroneous decision-making that may cause danger and even death to members of the public at large and especially those within the minority community.
Concerning the Criminal Justice System
Data shows that people of color are arrested, prosecuted, and sentenced at a much higher rate than white people in the United States. Incarceration disadvantages convicted persons when pursuing employment opportunities, limits civil engagement like voting, destabilizes families, and contributes to financial fragility and poverty. United States criminal justice systems must remove the profitability of incarceration, and we must provide sufficient financial resources to invest in quality education, job creation, and community viability which will benefit the whole of society rather than enriching a few through criminalizing people of color.
Concerning the Impact of Racial Injustice
Throughout the history of the United States, racial injustice, blatant or subtle, has helped to create environments in communities of color where crime, drugs and violence flourish. Guns are not manufactured in communities of color. Drugs are not grown in communities of color. Communities of color do not redirect economic development and community investment funds away from their neighborhoods. Corporate and government entities collude to limit investment in schools, neighborhoods, and public amenities which leave vacuums that become filled with destructive activities and enterprises. Fiscal and governmental leaders must fairly restructure their approaches to investing in communities that are most vulnerable. These investments will create income, generate wealth, and contribute to safe, stable, and strong communities, cities, counties, and commonwealths.
Concerning Communities of Color
Communities of color, though traumatized by centuries of racial injustice and various forms of violence used to oppress them, cannot use bigotry and inequity as excuses for failing to create strength among themselves. They must organize to promote engaged citizenship, community strength, societal uplift, and neighborhood vitality. They must exercise good judgement in spending their money with businesses that will reinvest in their interests. They must cast their votes for people who will be accountable for responsible governance in relationship to their needs. They must teach young men how to defuse rather than incite potentially volatile situations when engaged by a police officer with a badge and a weapon and who is clothed with government authority. An ill-treated citizen cannot win a confrontation with law enforcement in the moment. We must train young people to use discernment, discretion, discipline, and documentation so that they can live long enough to win in court or through arbitration. Racial injustice is unfair and injurious, but people of color have survived and thrived despite slavery, segregation, and oppression. They can and they must do so in the 21st century.
The Lott Carey global Christian missional community is committed to making peace and ensuring justice. We oppose violence based upon race, gender, religion, nationality, and vulnerability. We support life – nurturing, flourishing, thriving, and affirming life. We are committed to life because we are committed disciples of Our Lord Jesus Christ who was crucified but raised to life eternal. We work for and long for the day when all people will know the love, hope, and joy that is offered from God and in the power of the Holy Spirit. We call upon people of faith and people for life to join us in this journey to end violence and ensure the well-being of all the human family.
Authored by the Discernment Team of the Conversation on Race and Violence:
Dr. Alyn E. Waller
Pastor, Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
President, Lott Carey
Dr. Gina M. Stewart
Pastor, Christ Missionary Baptist Church, Memphis, Tennessee
Second Vice President, Lott Carey
Justice Cynthia A. Baldwin (ret.)
Pennsylvania Supreme Court
Associate Justice Cheri Beasley
Supreme Court of North Carolina
Dr. Arlee Griffin, Jr.
Pastor, Berean Baptist Church, Brooklyn, New York and Raleigh, North Carolina
Dr. Anthony L. Trufant
Pastor, Emmanuel Baptist Church, Brooklyn, New York
Dr. David Emmanuel Goatley
Executive Secretary-Treasurer, Lott Carey, Landover, Maryland
Lott Carey is a global Christian missional community organized in 1897 to help churches extend the Christian witness throughout the world. Through prayer partnership, financial support, and technical assistance, we come alongside indigenous communities engaged in ministries of evangelism, compassion, empowerment, and advocacy. Together, we are touching lives with transforming love.