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June/July 2021 - Speaking Truth to Lies

By Rev. Ronald S. Bonner, Associate Pastor of Community Engagement and Diversity and Justice, Lutheran Church of the Redeemer, Atlanta, Georgia. He is also a member of the Urban Missiology Board of Advisors.

I am dumbfounded by a quote from the current Vice-President of the United States of America as reported in USA Today. "Vice President Kamala Harris said America is not a "racist country," but the nation must "speak the truth" about its history with racism on ABC News' "Good Morning America." The vice president's comments were in response to Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C. Who gave the Republican Party's rebuttal to President Joe Biden's speech to Congress.

I agree that America must confront its racist past, but it must also face its racist present and future. I question the Vice-President's impairment to not seeing the continuation of racist policies and behaviors in this country. In a country with fewer than 10 CEOs of Color leading Fortune 500 Companies, a Senate with only two Black Senators, a Supreme Court that has had only two Black Justices, a White House that has had only one Black First Lady; does our newly-elected Vice President, believe that her election seals the notion that America is genuinely post-racial? Then I wonder how she views the number of people in the tent cities that have popped up in the Washington D.C. area.[1] Or consider the families of Black unarmed people who have been killed in the past few years, months, weeks by law enforcement.[2]

While the Maciver Institute promotes the negative stereotype that Black people are more violent and that there is a need for law enforcement to be more cautious when approaching Black subjects. This position does not explain the killing of unarmed Black people who are not posing a threat to law enforcement personnel. But, it does relate to the racist societal notion that Black people are brutes, animals, and criminals by nature. These beliefs, according to Dr. Ibram Kendi, are racist thoughts and have no basis in fact. However, the Maciver article appeals to those whose default thinking is racist and biased against Black people.

I would like to request that Madame Vice-President compose a team to investigate the poverty rates in America, the high unemployment rates, the continuation of Mass Incarceration, the impending crisis of evictions, and the issues of medical bias that has been exposed during the current COVID-19 pandemic before she states that America is not a racist country. Currently, there are over 300 bills in 47 states that are designed to restrict voter access in the United States.[3] And then there is the case of Colin Kaepernick, who lost his highly lucrative job because he dared to point out America's racism.

Let it be clear that I am not attacking the Vice-President. I just want to understand her thinking. So I have lingered in my pondering, and I remembered a Facebook post from some time ago. You may have seen it as well. A young business (looking) man is going through an airport and spots a sign for 1/2 dozen donuts on sale, so he buys a bag. After he buys the donuts, he sits down at a table where a relatively older, less successful-looking person is sitting.

He puts his bags down, and the man at the table reaches into the bag of donuts on the table. The younger man looks annoyed at the older man eating a donut from the bag, so he reaches into the bag and takes a donut. The older man smiles. After he eats that first donut, the older man reaches into the bag for another donut. Now looking even more annoyed at the older man, the younger man reaches into the bag and pulls out another donut, and again the older man smiles. There are two donuts left. The older man reaches into the bag smiles as he grabs his third donut, followed by the younger man, who now looks disgusted who takes and eats the remaining donut. The older man smiles as the younger man eats the last donut from the bag on the table. The younger man, in anger, stands to leave and discovers that his bag of donuts was on the floor beside his luggage. Sometimes we don't have all the facts before we make decisions.

I trust that the Vice-President is thinking about the upcoming midterm elections and other agenda items like reparations that she and the President will need more support to pass. I am trusting that she is being strategic and is making a moral compromise for the greater good. She is willing to risk some disgruntlement from the Black Community to accomplish promises that have never been delivered. I trust that she and the President will not be insensitive to Black people who have struggled in this nation from economic or emotional trauma. I trust that she will genuinely represent Black people in this country and make sure that our needs and demands for justice are met. I trust that she will stand in the gap for us. I am trusting because I don't want to eat out the wrong bag of donuts, thinking that I am right when I am not.

********************************** [1] [2] This not racism is the reason for the disparity in police shootings. How else could one explain this statistical anomaly: Since 2015, law enforcement officers have shot and killed 168 unarmed white people, 135 unarmed black people, and…just 74 unarmed Hispanic people. [3] In conjunction with the Brennan Center’s report on state voting proposals, below is a list of the restrictive and expansive bills that we are tracking to date. As of March 24, legislators have introduced 361 bills with restrictive provisions in 47 states. That’s 108 more than the 253 restrictive bills tallied as of February 19, 2021 — a 43 percent increase in little more than a month. These measures have begun to be enacted. Five restrictive bills have already been signed into law. In addition, at least 55 restrictive bills in 24 states are moving through legislatures: 29 have passed at least one chamber, while another 26 have had some sort of committee action (e.g., a hearing, an amendment, or a committee vote). Note that, in some cases, a single bill can have provisions with both restrictive and expansive effects.

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