Michael Brown. Ferguson.

Posted: August 18, 2014 in Uncategorized

This is a partial reblog from the important By Their Strange Fruit blog. You can read about their mission here: http://bytheirstrangefruit.blogspot.com/p/about-us.html

The post is a work in progress which attempts to aggregate the events related to Michael Brown and Ferguson, MO and then provide thoughtful and challenging questions which require us all to examine ourselves.

The criminalization of black bodies plays into this.
This is reflected in fact that Michael Brown can be on trial for his own murder. That the surveillance videos can be used to imply that his murder was justified. White mass murderers can be arrested, but a black boy will be shot on sight for walking in the street. Black victims will have their criminal records examined, their academic grades questioned, their parental upbringing challenged. It requires overcoming tremendous odds to prove to public opinion that a black victim should not have been killed.

Earlier this month, John Crawford III was killed while holding a toy gun in a Walmart in Ohio (an open carry state). He called out “it’s not real,” but it didn’t matter. Meantime, white folk walk through Target with real assault rifles. And can you imagine what would happen if the protestors in Ferguson showed up like these guys? The double standard is extreme. And it’s costing lives. The media and police can’t (won’t) different between black/Brown bodies and this peacefully protesting. Will you?

White media bias plays into this.
Newsrooms are overwhelmingly white. Given well-established white undereducation about race, what makes us think they are qualified to cover these stories? Many are quick to suggest a black reporter might be biased. That itself reveals our own prejudice. Because dominant society considers a white perspective to be a ‘default’ and neutral stance, half the story is missing.

Social media is often deemed untrustworthy, but this how most of the videos, images, and evidence is coming from. When mainstream media went home, or was turned away, online is where we heard what was going on. These platforms allowed individuals to get the word out, by providing access and amplification of Black voices.

History plays into this.
All of this has happened before. The immediate reaction of the police to use riot gear and German Shepherds demonstrates the gross and callous insensitivity of the Ferguson police. And it has all been explained before (see Tupac Shakur and Malcolm X–the latter’s example played out again almost exactly in Ferguson in 2009). When Civil Rights history is glossed over in white schools and white society, the result is an uninformed, uncontextualized view of current events. We perpetuate the same violence we have been committing against Black neighborhoods for decades. This is the context. It’s this sort of police behavior that Black citizens of #Ferguson have dealt w 4 yrs. And then Brown was murdered

White silence plays into this.
If your family, community, or church has not consistently done the works of discussing and dismantling systems of racism, do not be shocked when events like these occur or when white churches stay silent. How many white onlookers felt Brown’s murder was being blown out of proportion? How many saw the protests as an overreaction? After so many calls ‘to wait for the facts,’ from sources white folks could ‘trust’ (read: non-black sources), it turned out the facts were even worse than we feared. The more we hear the worse it gets. And in the meantime the citizens of Ferguson have been struggling on their own.

Drew Hart reminds us (through Dietrich Bonhoeffer) that “the church was mute when it should have cried out, because the blood of the innocent cried out to heaven.” Instead of sanctimoniously saying “wait, wait” (as the white clergy did in Birmingham), listen to the lived experiences of black folk that tell us the reality of the world in which we live.

Read more here: By Their Strange Fruit

Debra Avery:

This is the Christ I follow: Jesus as revolutionary and organizer of a movement.

Originally posted on The ReBoot:

The murder of young Michael Brown has grieved and enraged an entire community. Many of them took to the streets in response. Peaceful prayer vigils and protests were met with armed policemen, tanks, and tear gas. Riots began to break out. The response has only gotten worse.

As Christians, we are often urged to denounce such demonstrations. This is due to Jesus’ admonition to “turn the other cheek.” Jesus is presented as meek and mild, friendly and full of compassion. And while this is not inaccurate, a vital Gospel account brings this notion concerning Jesus into question. Near the end of his life, Jesus enters into the sacred Temple in Jerusalem.[1] He proceeds to chase people out, block anyone else from bringing anything else into the temple, and flipped over the moneychangers’[2] tables. According to the Gospel accounts, Jesus cites scripture to explain his actions. He declares that…

View original 1,367 more words

On Monday, at our denominational General Assembly, the various committees had the opportunity to hear testimony from individuals about the decisions they faced. Because of my location and the concerns in my local congregation, I stood before the Social Justice Committee (#9) to speak about an overture which would move our denomination into active engagement in seeking legislation and providing pastoral care on behalf of victims of gun violence. The Presbyterian News Service reported that among other things, the Assembly’s action calls for:

  • formation of support, healing and advocacy groups for those who have experienced gun violence in their families;
  • opposition to legislation that exempts gun manufacturers and marketers from legal liability and/or financial accountability for the medical and security costs of predictable gun misuse and availability to criminals, the unstable, and the self-destructive;
  • opposition to “stand your ground” and other legislation that may entitle gun owners to shoot before taking alternative measures (such as relying on law enforcement and/or other de-escalation techniques) in perceived defense of persons or property;
  • encouraging church sessions and PC(USA) entities that own property to declare their particular premises and gatherings to be gun-free zones;
  • raising the age for handgun ownership to 21;
  • supporting legislation to ban semiautomatic assault weapons, armor-piercing handgun ammunition and .50-caliber rifles; and
  • advocacy in support of state and federal legislation to regulate ammunition.

Here is my testimony:

My name is Debra Avery. I’m the pastor of one of many First churches – mine is a smallish congregation in Oakland, CA.

I’m here because on too many Sundays somebody will share a prayer in worship for a neighbor who has been a victim of a shooting. I’m here because one of my necessary daily routines is to google Oakland shootings.

I’m here because Since I arrived on Friday, five people under the age of 35 have been shot in my city. One of the shootings about 12 blocks from my church.

I’m here because these children have been shot and killed:
A 15 year old high school girl,
an 8 year old girl playing in her front yard,
a 3-year-old boy AND his mother waiting for a bus,
a 2-year-old boy just watching TV with his mother.
All killed with semiautomatic handguns.

In May alone, in East Oakland, there were 151 shooting incidents. And though many of those incidents were victimless, the community itself is the victim of traumatic stress as parents and grandparents wonder if their child will be next. Our young people are dying. And I want my church to speak powerfully into that pain.

So many here can cite these kinds of statistics. And that might make you feel so overwhelmed that whatever the PCUSA might do is pointless…that our voice is too small…or that it’s too political…too isolated to a few urban centers…or that as a gun owner you just can’t support this work.

But for the people who worship at my church and who live in my city, what we say as a denomination matters. When my folks stand to talk about yet another shooting it will matter to them what you’ve done here this week. When they can’t sleep well because they hear gunshots in rapid succession, it will matter. I urge you to approve 9-01.