I have lost count of the number of times I’ve heard white journalists, politicians and self-described evangelical Christians express sorrow and make gestures of sympathy about the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery.
I have lost count of the number of times white people I do not know have said “Black Lives Matter” to me in recent days.
I have tried to respond to those expressions and gestures with outward equanimity.
Inwardly, my outrage has intensified every day. I suspect I am not alone.
However, my suspicion should not be ascribed to any other person of color or any other black person, let alone all persons of color and all black people.
I am outraged about the willful blindness of white moderates, progressives and evangelicals concerning systemic violence perpetrated against black people in the United States under the guise of “law enforcement.”
It offends me when people call on communities of color to respond with “calm” and “patience” whenever our relatives and neighbors are beaten, shot, strangled, electrocuted and otherwise brutalized.
Why should any person with a sense of moral decency be “calm,” “patient” and “trust the process” that tolerated the 1955 murder of Emmett Till by white vigilantes in Mississippi; the lynching of thousands of black men, women and children (some even scheduled, publicized and used as occasions for mass gatherings and picnics on church grounds and other public spaces); and almost daily accounts of state-sanctioned murders and beatings of black men, women and children by law enforcement officers?
You are right to recoil at the image of George Floyd’s horrible death under the knee of Derek Chauvin and with the complicity of three other now fired members of the Minneapolis Police Department.
Why didn’t you recoil when Trayvon Martin was shot to death by George Zimmerman and later acquitted of committing murder?
Why didn’t you recoil when Sandra Bland was violently pulled from her car by a Texas law enforcement officer and later died in jail?
Why didn’t you recoil when four Los Angeles police officers, who were later acquitted of state criminal charges, beat Rodney King?
Why didn’t the video of Tamir Rice being gunned down in Ohio outrage you?
Why weren’t you outraged at the video of Walter Scott being shot to death from behind in South Carolina?
Why weren’t you already outraged before Rayshard Brooks was shot to death from behind by an Atlanta police officer less than a week after George Floyd’s funeral?
Why didn’t your religious leaders preach about the wickedness of white supremacy and its relationship to law enforcement?
Why didn’t your Bible study leaders teach you to be righteously indignant about how your neighbors of color are routinely assaulted, brutalized and slain with impunity?
Your current expressions of outrage, sympathy and assertions of solidarity, while appreciated, come too late for the many victims of state-sanctioned murder that people of color have complained about for generations.
We complained, protested and implored you to understand that our communities are terrorized by a tax-funded occupation force.
Instead of listening to us, you’ve blamed us, told us to cooperate with terrorism by the police and insisted we join you in idolizing them.
I am unapologetically skeptical when white moderates and evangelical people offer suggestions about how to remedy abusive and homicidal law enforcement behavior.
I have no reason to trust white moderates and evangelical people to be morally and culturally competent about racial injustice and police behavior.
History shows that white moderates and evangelical people will abandon people of color when we demand that prosecutors, judges and other politicians be held accountable for shielding abusive and homicidal police behavior from being sanctioned through civil and criminal penalties.
White moderate and conservative religious leaders and congregations welcome “voter guides” that tell voters to support political candidates who will be “tough on crime.”
Your civic clubs and chamber of commerce committees have long placed greater value on protecting white claims to property over black and brown claims to life.
Your religious leaders don’t grieve with faith leaders of color when black and brown people are brutalized and slaughtered.
You don’t show up at public hearings to denounce the daily insults and constant threats people of color endure.
On the rare occasions you show up, you don’t arrive as allies to oppressed people and seek to learn from us.
I and countless other men, women and children of color constantly risk being detained, interrogated, assaulted, brutalized and slain by law enforcement officers merely because we are alive.
I refuse to be calm, patient and trust any person and process that upholds terrorism simply because white moderates and religious people have been socialized from childhood to deny and disregard my reality.
Wendell Griffen is pastor at New Millennium Church in Little Rock, Arkansas, and a circuit court judge in Arkansas. He served previously on the Baptist Center for Ethics / EthicsDaily.com board of directors.