As the United States convulses at the murder of yet another black person, my thoughts return to a recent opinion piece in the New York Times (“Ahmaud Arbery and the America That Doesn’t Exist”), written in response to the murder of Ahmaud Arbery earlier this year.
Written by theology professor and minister, Dr. Esau McCaulley, the piece is a searing condemnation of a country built on the foundation of slavery and oppression. I strongly encourage others to read the whole thing, but here are some excerpts I find particularly powerful (emphases mine):
Black folks need more than a trial and a verdict. Our problems are deeper, rooted not in the details of a particular case, but in distrust of the system charged with protecting us and punishing those who do us harm. This cynicism is well earned, arising out of repeated disappointments. To begin to heal this distrust we need this country to take responsibility for its devaluation of blackness and its complicity in violence against black bodies.
There is no bigger rebellion or miracle in the history of these United States than that of the black Christians who saw in the very book used to justify their oppression a testimony to a God who disagreed. There is no greater audacity than their use of that Bible to construct, almost from scratch, a Christian anthropology that demanded a recognition of black worth. That struggle continues.
In the end, the question is not whether this country will finally fully value black lives. America doesn’t get a vote in the matter. It lacks the competence. The question is whether this country will continue to find itself in the dangerous place of having policies, customs and laws that oppose the will of God.
My work, as a minister of the gospel, is not to fix America, but to remind it of what it is not. It is not the kingdom of God, our great hope. Indeed, far too often God has looked upon us and our notions of justice and found America wanting.
I remember, too, the biblical case for lament, although that is not the only thing needed at this time. We need action, too. Lord, help us.