Re: Black Lives; Truth Matters
Thanks to Floyd Davis for the points he makes. Clearly the non-violence actively embraced by Martin Luther King gave his movement great power and it is a shame that the loosely organised BLM has not embraced it too. However we can hardly be surprised if in a crowd of demonstrators angered by their own experiences of discrimination some descend into violence, however much we deplore it.
The precise facts about George Floyd’s death do not affect the overall statistics of black deaths at the hands of police in the US. Is this endemic racism? An analogy with cigarettes and cancer comes to mind since smoking does not always give rise to lung cancer but we know that it is the prime cause.
I moved to Brixton as 19 year old white man in February 1981. In all the time since, I have never been stopped in the street by police. Talking to men of various shades of colour in my church, I find that their experiences have been very different. Yes we have moved enormously since the racism of the 1950s - that doesn’t mean that further movement is not required and it is worrying that Brexit appears to be moving attitudes in the wrong direction.
It has to be true that everyone is responsible for their own actions and the prevalence of violence in black communities is troubling. The question I ask is whether that violence is a legacy of the violence of slavery, passed down the generations. How can it be interrupted?
Thanks to The Baptist Times for publishing Floyd Davis’ article on Truth and Black Lives Matter. The response to BLM by the leaders of our denomination has been such that Floyd’s respectfully critical comments are much needed. It would be great if Floyd could be given a role in the (re)shaping of Baptists Together racial justice rhetoric.
In their promotion of Black Lives Matter, our leaders seems to have been caught up in the onward march of Critical Race Theory, which seeks (Marxist fashion) to make a simple division of the world into warring classes of oppressor (white, male, able, heterosexual, cisgender, Christian etc.) and oppressed (black, female, disabled, homosexual, transgender, Muslim etc.). There is, of course, some truth in this way of seeing the world as, indeed, there is a grain of truth within all successful but malign political movements. However, the theory grossly oversimplifies truth about past and present. It downplays our shared humanity and interdependence. It peddles a dream of a utopia that will miraculously be brought in through the undermining of the structures, institutions and self-respect of western civilisation. It suppresses dissenting voices by claiming that all who disagree are, ipso facto, evil people who do not deserve to be allowed to speak.
Of course, we should stand against genuine instances of injustice against black brothers and sisters. However, seeking to do this by presenting black people, history and culture as fundamentally good and white people, history and culture as uniquely in need of repentance is to guarantee a never-ending spiral of victimhood, resentment and conflict. Surely this is not the way of Christ.
Mr Floyd Davis is not a coconut; but his opinions are misguided, blinkered and frankly ignorant. Can they be supported by solid empirical evidence?
Central to Mr Davis’ whole article is whether he knows the difference between systematic and systemic. He has used the word 'systematic'. The words ‘systematic’ and ‘systemic’ are two completely different things. Since it is evident that Mr Davis is not aware of this distinction, his whole argument is flawed and I was tempted not to read the rest of his article, but I persevered.
On the one hand Mr Davis proclaims that he has not experienced racism, yet he then goes on to state that someone has actually called him the ‘n’ word. What on earth does he call that? It would be interesting to know Mr Davis’s definition of racism. It is laughable that Mr Davis is willing to accept this sort of behaviour (which he calls an ‘awkward moment’), with ‘patience and humour’. If this were to happen again to Mr Davis would he still be able to accept it with ‘patience and humour’? Is this the message that Mr Davis is instilling into his mixed heritage children – just accept racism with ‘patience and humour’? Will ‘patience and humour’ take away the emotional pain and scars of individuals or the negative attitudes of some members of society?
It is naïve of Mr Davis to just ‘hope’ that people will ‘eventually’ see the person underneath the black skin – and that all we have to do is laugh at racism. Black people have been ‘hoping’ for hundreds of years and getting nowhere. Black people have been trying to assimilate into British culture for hundreds of years; we have been rejected over and over and over again. Just ONE example. During WW1, black men from the Caribbean paid their own fare to travel to fight for the ‘motherland’. Yet these black soldiers were not permitted to participate in the victory parades that took place.
Let me move on to more recent research. Has Mr Davis heard of the Yale Research (2016), where a group of nursery teachers were asked to look out for bad behaviour from a group of 3 and 4 year olds (black and white children). The nursery teachers were adamant that they did not have a racist bone in their body. Yet, when the researchers digitally tracked where the eyes of the teachers were focussing (looking for bad behaviour), their eyes were on the black children - not the white children. This is ingrained, systemic racism. The teachers were thoroughly ashamed. They had been conditioned to have this inbuilt racism and they did not even know it.
Even more recent, during the COVID lockdown, Black, Asian and minority ethnic people were more likely to be fined for breaking the rules than white people, in some cases up to seven times. What reason would Mr Davis give for that? It would be shockingly ignorant to state that it was because more black people were breaking the rules!
I find Mr Davis's thoughts on the death of George Floyd reprehensible and very unchristian. What happened to innocent until proven guilty? Has Mr Davis not read the statistics which state how many black men in the US are killed by the police - for nothing! Even if George Floyd was proved to be some kind of petty criminal, does that justify his death? What has happened to your Christian values Mr Davis? Has Mr Davis seen the 'Amy' video? Where a white woman knows that if she calls the police on an INNOCENT black man, that the police be on her side? It’s free to all to see on YouTube. Has Mr Davis heard of the white US lawyers who state that the US judicial system is unfairly biased to incarcerate black men?
I have not addressed every point raised by Mr Davis, because I simply have not got the time or energy to expend on a position as unenlightened as his is. Instead, I will focus on those who want to educate themselves, both black and white (and of which there are many since the Black Lives Matter focus in the summer). I genuinely thank God that I have associates, friends, colleagues from the both black and white community who are asking questions and who are willing to listen and learn.
Mr Davis needs to do a whole lot of research and have empirical data to hand before writing even one more word about anything connected to racism. His words have done untold damage. He needs to educate himself.
In his article Mr Davis stated, ‘…some people will label me ‘coconut.’ I however, have no desire to do so as the coconut’s water gives sustenance, its flesh brings a richness to any meal and its shell offers protection. Mr Davis’ article offered none of these to those who desire to be recognised as people who matter. Indeed Mr Davis’ first paragraph reads as if the hatred spewed towards BAME is simply an unfortunate misunderstanding which hopefully, will eventually end. I wish the same level of care and understanding was conveyed to his black family.
Truth matters: Black success should be celebrated but most BAME have to fight for positions of power. Where is the empirical evidence of blacks receiving preferential treatment? They still get passed over for promotion. They certainly have to be better than ‘extremely able’ to get any real recognition.
It’s wearisome challenging the institutional stereotypes: too slow, always late, too aggressive, etc. Jokes about such things or about black physiology are really not funny. Good for Mr Davis that he can find ‘humour’ when a ‘hostile’ stranger calls him ‘Nigger.’ I wonder if he could continue to do so if he worked under the burden of the side-word glances and ‘humorous’ remarks on a regular basis.
Truth matters: Access to education does not necessarily equate to a good education. Too many young black students have to argue for a fair and just grade in the classroom. There is a petition for our school curriculum to substantively address the many contributions made to science, invention, history and The Arts by people of colour….in 2020!!
Truth matters: Throughout the article the implication is that black families do not parent well. Contrary to what Mr Davis suggests, black families do not ‘Indoctrinate’ their children into believing the police are the enemy. Rather, they seek to infuse their children with life patterns of decency and care. Not only are they law abiding but are generally extremely gracious, even in situations of racial profiling.
Truth matters: It matters not that Africa and other countries were complicit in slavery. What matters is that the Transatlantic Slave Trade impacted the enslaved and the slave owner in very different ways, which subsequently, informs our behaviour today. The trajectory of privileged behaviour that accompanied the ingrained mantra of white supremacy against the horrors which exhorted the insignificance and dehumanisation of black life, is historically mapped. Mr Davis fails to recognise the evidential, far reaching sociological and psychological attitudes/consequences that slavery had on both sides. These will take longer than the 200 years, since slavery’s abolition, to be eradicated.
Truth matters: BLM and black-on-black crime are two different things.
It is exhausting having to constantly address the argument that the BLM protests are hypocritical because black-on-black (as does white-on-white; Asian-on-Asian) crime exists, with no community protest.
Many groups/individuals within black society are engaged in dealing with the multifaceted issues surrounding black crime. The BLM protests, which, contrary to Mr Davis’ article, are by-en-large peaceful, are seeking to specifically address the inequalities towards BAME within our society. This is not a black-on-black injustice.
This BLM march in ‘unity,’ is young so mistakes may happen, but, hopefully, in the Spirit of Christ, such mistakes will be forgiven.
Truth matters: Mr Davis states that BLM is a, ‘damaging egocentrism that judges all….and condemns some based on the colour of their skin.’ Advocating ones basic worth does not make one egocentric. Highlighting black peoples’ oppression is NOT an ‘obscene injustice to others suffering,’ neither is it ‘judgemental.’ Suffering is suffering; dehumanising and emasculating.
Truth matters: Black Theology is an aspect of Liberation Theology, under the umbrella of Christian Theology, that looks at a God who stands on the side of the suffering, oppressed and the marginalised and seeks their liberation from all aspects of injustice. It is not a dangerous tool engineered to divide and segregate the church. It draws from certain scriptures and themes found within the Bible (eg. Amos 5:24) that connect to people and that passage/ theme/ exposition, addresses their experience or their point of need.
Truth matters: Mr Davies writes,’If people harbour hate - it’s their burden, not mine.’ However, the Bible tells us that we are our brother’s keeper, therefore, changing mindsets, establishing fairness and speaking against injustice is at the heart of what it is to nurture friend and foe. It is our collective burden, and this truth certainly matters.
Re: Covid conspiracy theories
I thought that the article about fanatical Covid conspiracy theories was realistic, balanced with much needed common sense. It is concerning that social media shows increasing fanatical views by a part of the Christian church worldwide. As someone who was caught up in similar extremism in my youth, I can only say that the mental health of people can suffer with long term effects. Those extreme views expressed from many pulpits, are in my experience little more than false and sadly they influence church members minds who sit under such preaching week by week. Furthermore, the messages in the name of prophetic utterings can so easily be accepted by many without question, meaning that false messages can spread rapidly throughout churchlife.
Given my past , one can understand why I view Covid as an extremely concerning happening and nothing more. My heart remains compassionate and I carefully question with the common sense I was born with. After much therapy I am gradually recovering -it can takes years. It's awful that extreme teachings can do so much harm. Thankfully many churches maintain balance and lives are supported. Yes there is more need to discern between what is Godly and what is unhealthy fanaticism.
Re: 'I believe we can make our churches true sanctuaries for everyone'
Our 3 commitments to helping those with mental health problems:
1. We make sharing stories from people going through difficult times a priority. We often hear testimonies where God has answered the way we’d like - do we celebrate perseverance and often as we celebrate success ?
2. We make it “ok not to be ok”
Sometimes this about deliberately and regulating creating safe places for sharing in private.
But we also do so by modelling - so leaders share their struggles publicly and sensitively.
3. We recognise that some difficulties are long term - we continue to stand with people beyond their initial crisis .
Karen Gray (via Facebook)