It is time for a wider conversation; silence is no unity
Wellington, June 7, 2020
When (US President Donald) Trump called Mexicans “Murderers, Rapists, and Bad Hombres,” I cringed. When he called the neo-Nazis and white supremacists who marched in Charlottesville carrying torches and shouting about racial purity that ended in the murder of Heather Heyer, “Good people,” I screamed in pain and anguish.
When Trump called El Salvador, Haiti and African nations “s***holes,” my screaming and cringing turned to anger. When he called athletes taking a knee “sons of b*****es,” I remembered (former South African President) Nelson Mandela say; “If you deny me the right to live out my humanity, you make me an outlaw.”
Contempt for Human Rights
When Trump was caught on tape expressing his vulgar tendencies towards women saying, “Grab them by the p***y. You can do anything. I did try and f*** her. She was married. I moved on her like a b***h,” I despaired at the religious fraternity who embraced him and made him their King.”
When Trump warned of “letting loose vicious dogs” as per the slave owners on fleeing slaves following the protest as a result of the murder of George Floyd by the knee of a white Policeman on his neck, he made it clear that he had no empathy for the plight of his black citizens.
He amplified that with his contempt for human rights statement at Rose Garden of the White House, giving George Floyd 20 seconds and fascist vitriol 20 times longer.
No place for looting, arson
I agree with him on one thing: there is no place for looting, pillaging and destruction; and I firmly condemned those elements who have engaged in behaviours that turned peaceful protests into riots that dilutes the message of black oppression.
However, when this spewer of hate then strolls across the road and poses with a sacred Bible in front of a Church for political and narcistic motives, I say, ‘Trump’s Fascist God is not my Jesus.’
If he has ever bothered to open the Bible, he would see throughout, and especially the minor prophets, “That my God is on the side of the poor and the marginalised.”
If he ever opened the Gospels and read the life of Christ, he would have seen true sacrificial love and a commandment to “heal the broken hearted, set the oppressed free and bring good news to the poor.”
The question for me as a flawed and imperfect follower of Christ is how I channel my outrage into actions of Love and Grace.
Firstly, I must acknowledge that anger and rage are normal, but how I act on it is what should set me apart as a follower of Christ.
Secondly, I must understand why I am angry. In context, I must understand that after 400 years of slavery and oppression, Black Americans are tragedy fatigued. This is not just about the public lynching by a white smirking policeman with his hands in his pockets on the neck of a black man.
A human being putting the knee on the neck of another human being (handcuffed, faced down, crying for his dead mother) is a matter for humanity.
It is not just a Black Issue – Humanity, where am I? Christianity, where am I? People of faith, where am I? Yes, I see the many of us responding, knowing why we are angry.
Grace and compassion
Then I must act with Grace and compassion as did the good Samaritan to the Jew who would not normally associate with him. I must bind the wounds; I must heal the broken hearts and ensure that they are cared..
Finally, I must speak truth to power. I must say to my universal Church family, it is time we had this wider conversation…. silence is not unity.
How do we heal the broken-hearted and set the oppressed free without discussing not just the good Samaritan but the Priest and the Levite? The religious and legalistic fraternity who always cross over to the other-side and walk on by while the lynching is happening on the pavement? Or to quote former President George Bush, (that’s right, George Bush): “This tragedy — in a long series of similar tragedies — raises a long overdue question: How do we end systemic racism in our society? The only way to see ourselves in a true light is to listen to the voices of so many who are hurting and grieving.”
Lord please help me, Gregory, to act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with my God (Micah 6) and yes Lord, I know that it is hard but that includes praying for and loving Donald Trump and his followers.
Gregory Fortuin is National Director (Education & Employment) of Salvation Army and former Race Relations Conciliator. He lives in Wellington. Email: email@example.com