Racial Tensions are High. Now’s the Time for Gracious Words, But Not for Mincing Words.

By Michael Brown Published on July 10, 2016

As America stands at the precipice of deadly, coast-to-coast, race wars, this is not the time to mince words. I would rather speak the truth in love, even if it means offending some, than avoid confrontation out of fear of offense. In return, I expect others to be just as candid with me.

I also recognize that, if racial tensions escalate in our nation and more blood is shed, the ones who are likely to suffer the most (and perhaps the longest) are black Americans. And so, I write this column because I do believe that black lives matter.

Prof. George Yancey, himself an African American, has also urged for open, candid conversations, writing, “Maybe now with people on all sides of the political and racial arguments feeling such pain, we can begin taking the necessary steps to move towards real racial reconciliation.”

It is in that spirit that I write this column, fully aware that I’m not addressing the concerns of Hispanic Americans, Asian Americans, Native Americans or other minorities in our midst, but that is the nature of this article. I trust all readers will understand.

Although I am a white American (more specifically, a White male, identifying more specifically as a Jewish believer in Jesus), I’m not speaking of “us” and “them” in this column. Rather, I’m addressing all of us together.

Let’s proceed.

1) White Americans sometimes do not see racism when it is there; Black Americans sometimes see racism when it is not there. If we will take the time to hear one another out, filling in each other’s blind spots, we can move from perception to reality.

2) There is a real reason for black frustration and anger. When whites minimize the pain of blacks or, worse still, claim that they are just being pawns of the media or political leaders, they deeply insult their black brothers and sisters. Most Whites really do not understand what it is like to grow up as a minority culture, and they cannot relate to the historic suffering of blacks in America, a history which is not as far in the distant past we would all like it to be.

3) All black lives matter, not just the lives of blacks who die at the hands of white cops. White critics have rightly asked, “Where are the rallies and protests when a three-year-old black child dies from random, inner-city gun fire? And what about the disproportionate number of black babies killed in the womb, not to mention blacks killed by other blacks?” A black man named Richard wrote on Facebook, “We cannot pick and choose when we decide to make a stand. We’re either all in (we must address black on black crime in addition to the murder of innocent blacks) or we’re not in at all. We can’t let these race-baiting politicians further divide us; if you haven’t noticed they want a race war. We must stand up and unite, both black and white and whatever other ethnicity and re-claim our freedom.”

4) Rhetoric that leads to violence, let alone that calls for violence, must be categorically renounced and repudiated. Not a few leaders in the Black Lives Matter movement need to do some serious soul searching in light of the intentional, targeted shooting of cops in several states this past week. (Yancey characterizes Black Lives Matter as “a group that pushes its own racialized agenda and expects compliance instead of communication.”) Their irresponsible rhetoric can easily lead to bloodshed.

5) Everyone must work together to address injustice and inequality wherever it raises its head, be it in the courts or on the streets. Blacks would be greatly encouraged if they saw their white colleagues standing up for their cause rather than always taking a defensive posture. Do whites automatically give the benefit of the doubt to other whites, assuming black claims of injustice are illegitimate?

6) It is social suicide to launch a war against our law enforcement agents. The police do a good, important, often thankless, frequently life-threatening job, and without their sacrificial service, our nation would descend into chaos. The few bad cops who are out there are the exception to the rule (and they must be held accountable). Law and order is a good thing, not a bad thing, and as one black caller to my radio show noted (he was a career cop), when the bullets started flying in Dallas last week, the crowds ran from the shots; the police ran towards them to try to take out the killer(s).

7) It is important today to state that All Lives Matter. I understand that if a black man is bleeding to death on the side of the road, having been shot without cause by an irresponsible white cop, it is insulting to say, “Yes, he’s dying, but let’s remember that All Lives Matter.” But when white policemen lay dying in the streets it is insensitive not to say All Lives Matter.

8) There is no comparison between a policeman overreacting and killing someone and another person intentionally targeting policemen for death. I do not believe for a second that white cops get up in the morning and say to themselves, “I hope I can kill a black person today!” Sadly, a black man decided last week that he would murder as many cops as he could. There’s no true comparison between the two, whatever the skin color of the victims or perpetrators. An actual parallel to the evil the black Michael Xavier Johnson reportedly committed in Dallas on Thursday is the mass murder last summer that the white Dylann Storm Roof confessed to committing at a black church in Charleston, South Carolina. In each case, an apparently evil, twisted, racist young man targeted innocent people of another race and murdered them in a cold, deliberate, premeditated fashion.

9) The elephant in the room is the breakdown of the black American family. This was stressed to me by another black caller to my show. The disastrous, generational effects of fatherlessness are well-documented, and with illegitimacy in black America at an almost unimaginable high of 74 percent, this is not simply a black crisis; it is a national crisis. We got into this situation together, and we can only get out of it together.

10) There is far more that unites than divides us. We are, after all, one race, with each of us equally created in God’s image and equally loved by our Creator. And all of us as Americans have the same right to “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” It is the devil who wants to divide and destroy us and the Lord who wants to unite and strengthen us. Let us work with the Lord, not against Him.

Speaking now as a white American to my black American brothers and sisters, I say from the heart: America cannot be great unless you are thriving, and my own life will not be full if your lives are not full.

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  • SeriouslyChristian

    Michael Brown is a true “peacemaker” (Matt 5:9). His writing always exudes the love of God and seeks to bring reconciliation and peace whenever there is conflict. Keep ministering Michael!

  • Kathy Verbiest Baldock

    Per #1, 3, 7, and 9 – read “The New Jim Crow” and get educated beyond your paradigm.

    • Ken Abbott

      Then you can go further and get educated beyond Michelle Alexander’s paradigm (the author of the following is Scott Johnson; this was posted on his blog about a year ago):

      As I noted a while back, if you want to get a handle on this particular assault, you must acquaint yourself with Michelle Alexander and The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness.. Published in paperback in 2012, the book is now in its eighteenth printing with a new foreword by Cornel West. In his foreword, West declares it “the secular bible for a new social movement.” This is one bible to which Obama subscribes with all his heart.

      What social movement is West talking about? It’s the one we’ve seen on display in Ferguson and Baltimore and elsewhere across the United States over the past year. It’s a social movement that has taken root in the White House and the Department of Justice.

      Alexander’s book represents the state of the art in the assault on law enforcement in the name of racial disparities. The American Civil Liberties has placed itself at the heart of this movement for at least 20 years. Alexander’s work on the issue originated in her work for the ACLU; Alexander served as director of the ACLU’s Racial Justice Project in northern California.

      Alexander now pursues her assault from within the academy as an associate professor of law at Ohio State University. She holds a joint appointment at the Kiran Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity. She clerked for Abner Mikva on the DC Circuit Court of Appeals and for Harry Blackmun at the Supreme Court.

      As you might expect given her background and her appointments, the book comes in a scholarly wrapping. It footnotes assertions of facts and data with citations to sources in the traditional style of legal scholarship, but the footnotes frequently fail to support the text. Moreover, and more to the point, basic scholarship that contradicts her theses goes missing. Following David Harris’s tack in Profiles In Injustice, Alexander’s scholarship is a pretense.

      Alexander’s husband — Carter Mitchell Stewart — is an Assistant United States Attorney. As such, he has first-hand experience in the operation of the criminal justice system. If one were to take the book seriously, one would conclude that Alexander’s husband is instrumental to “the new Jim Crow” that she decries. She is literally in bed with an enforcer of “the new Jim Crow.” In her acknowledgements, Alexander graciously notes: “As a federal prosecutor, he does not share my views of the criminal justice system.” Alexander apparently doesn’t even take herself seriously.

      Alexander’s book is not itself a work of scholarship. It is a polemic. It is, more accurately, a work of obfuscation in the service of political propaganda. As propaganda, it is an unsavory piece of work at that.

      If one attempts to take it seriously, one will find it a source of frustration. Alexander announces in the first sentence of her preface: “This is not a book for everyone.” It is one of the few genuinely truthful sentence in the book.

      Alexander’s book has gone mainstream. It spent 35 weeks on the New York Times paperback best seller list. The book deserves serious critical attention.

      Some knowledgeable conservative scholar needs to attend to Alexander’s book. It is a deeply false and pernicious work. To my knowledge, however, the closest we have to such a necessary critique is the Spring 2008 City Journal essay by the invaluable Heather Mac Donald: “Is the criminal justice system racist?”

      Mac Donald’s essay predates the publication of Alexander’s book, but Mac Donald anticipates and refutes Alexander’s essential theses. Students of rhetoric, I believe what we have here is a sweet case of prolepsis.

  • Sigfreid Bunisclierre

    It’s well documented by scholars that The “breakdown of the black family” was intentionally done by white slavemasters to get blacks to submit faster and to breed the strongest slaves. This was past down for generations, this did not spontaneously happen like Dr Brown implies.

    Also Dr Brown keeps making false equivalency of racism. Due to the Fact that whites hold 90% of all power and influential positions, assuming blacks and whites are equally racist, blacks will suffer far worse consequences due to them being a minority position.

  • O’Pinyon

    Thank you for your stand, Dr. Brown.
    We are all imperfect, but trying to build, rather than tear down, is a good thing.

  • Cowboy

    Thank you for the challenge to love everyone regardless of race, color, or anything else that makes us different,

  • Patrick Cohen

    Well the point is that as long as there is white supremacists, such as neo nazis and kkk is the police as it happens to be the case in many states we have to face the reality that they would be white cops getting up in the morning and say to themselves, “I hope I can kill a black person today!” ..The same way this black full of anger resulting in hatred did ….So we cannot say we do not believe white cops get up in the say to themselves “I hope I can kill a black person today”….The same they used to do it as you not long ago they are still doing it …It is the same spirit that did not die with the time ….It is the heart of the human full of of hatred jalousie etc …But there is hope in Yahshuah our righteousness , the prince of peace reconciling people of all races and tongues in His body(congregation, assembly) His people .

  • Emilie Wolf Elizondo

    I agree with your points, and am glad you voiced them. Except I don’t totally agree with #4. People simply speaking truth in an attempt to right a wrong bear no responsibility for a radical person’s sinful actions. Yes, if certain people are calling for violence against others, or otherwise verbally trashing the very existence of another person or group, those people need to change their rhetoric. Just be careful about putting responsibility on an entire group of people for the extreme mess of a few. After all, it is similar logic that has driven many to blame Christians for the Orlando massacre and violent crimes against abortion clinics (faulty logic with which I disagree.)

  • I am working on a lengthy response to this but until then, this entire piece is built on White Privilege. You are sitting on a high seat looking down on Black people “America cannot be great unless you are thriving, and my own life will not be full if your lives are not full.”
    Sounds sincere however within the context of your article that operated out of blame, it is condescending.

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