Somewhere there is a list that includes the names of all black people who have died due to racial violence in our country. It is a long list. Too long. One name would be too many. It includes names like Addie Mae, Cynthia, Carole, and Denise--these young girls died in the basement of their church in Birmingham, Alabama on September 15, 1963 when a bomb detonated on the east side of 16th Street Baptist Church while they were in Sunday School with their friends. Why were they killed? Because they were black. It would take years for KKK activists to be convicted of this horrific crime.
That list includes the name of Edward Johnson, a black man convicted of rape and sentenced to death in Chattanooga, Tennessee in 1906. His attorneys appealed the conviction and won a stay of execution from the United States Supreme Court. Upon hearing the news, an angry mob of white men stormed the jail, seized Johnson, dragged him through the streets, and hung him from a bridge. He was later cleared of all charges and proven to be innocent.
One would think that we are beyond this kind of hatred in the 21st century. One would hope this kind of racial prejudice would have been overcome by now. Surely by now, Americans would realize that we are all human beings, regardless of the color of our skin, and entitled to be treated with respect, dignity, and equality. One would think.
Unfortunately, just this past week all Americans were reminded that we still have an insidious, cancerous, destructive, and regrettable disease among us. In fact, it is far more dangerous than any COVID-19 outbreak. From New York City to Minneapolis, Minnesota--we were once again confronted with the continued expression of racial prejudice. Unfortunately, the incident in Minneapolis added the name of George Floyd to that long list.
No one knows how many names are on the list. Well, actually that is not true. God knows. And He grieves. Lord, have mercy.
There is another list that is even longer than the first list I have mentioned. It includes the names of all the black people in our county who have been victims of racial prejudice or hatred. They may not have lost their lives, but they have been robbed of dignity. They have been oppressed. They have been enslaved, abused, neglected, hurt, rejected, beaten, ignored, and victims of a host of other atrocities. Again, only God knows the indignities experienced by an untold number of Black Americans.
There is another list that is even longer than the first two lists. This is the list that includes the names of racists who have inflicted violence and have spread the disease of prejudice throughout society. More often than not, these folks have been in positions of power and privilege in the culture. These folks have intentionally committed acts of violence, or established systems of prejudice, or enacted racist laws, or enforced laws with cavalier acts of inequity, or used their influence to hinder the social or economic progression of black people. Again--we don't know all of the names on this list. But--God knows.
There is another list that is even longer than the first three lists. This is the list that includes the names of the indifferent. These are the people who seem to be unaffected by acts of racial violence. This list is filled with the names of "good" people who just did not want to be involved. They do not consider themselves racists--and that is probably true for most of the people on this list. However, their inaction has allowed a terrible disease to exist and ravage our nation. No one knows how many names are on this list. God knows.
Finally, there is another list. This list includes the names of the people who have said, "Enough." The people on this list know that racism is evil and not only needs to be opposed but needs to be eradicated. Abraham Lincoln comes to mind. Harriet Tubman is on this list as an American heroine. Martin Luther King, Jr. -- a Baptist pastor in Montgomery, Alabama is on this list. Southwestern Seminary's legendary ethics professor, T.B. Maston is on this list. In fact, there have been many Americans on this list. And, Praise God, across our nation today, there are many of us on this list.
We must continue to speak out and act. We must continue to pray and lament. We must teach our children about the evils of racism. We must combat racist legislation and enforcement. We must challenge the status quo when necessary. I am not a proponent of violence in response to violence. However, I am a proponent of positive, thoughtful, passionate, reasoned responses to incidents of racism.
I particularly would contend this is a matter for the church in America to address. We are followers of Jesus. He has called us to be agents of restoration in society. He has empowered us with His Holy Spirit to overcome the forces of evil in our world. He has equipped us with a message of hope and peace. He has enabled us to love deeply and persevere patiently. By His grace, with His direction, through His means, according to His will, in His time, and for His glory ----- hopefully ----- we shall overcome.