As April 4 approaches—marking the fateful day when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated 49 years ago in Memphis, Tennessee—it is clear that time has not healed all wounds. For many black families who feel excluded from the American dream, Proverbs 13:12 rings true: “Delayed hope makes the heart sick…”
To advance better understanding across racial lines, one must listen in and consider the black experience. Seven recent events have given trauma or hope, and sometimes both, to minority people resilient in standing for justice.
1. Racist Shooter Who Killed Nine Black Members of Charleston AME Church Sentenced to Death
“We find the defendant Dylann Storm Roof guilty,” the jury foreman said 33 times on December 15, 2016, ticking off a long list of criminal charges in a South Carolina courtroom.
A young white man, Roof entered the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston on June 17, 2015 and killed at gunpoint nine black members gathered for a prayer meeting. He confessed his racist intent to the FBI two days later, in a video released during the trial.
For victims’ families this legal conviction was “a powerful statement against a person who wanted to start a race war by coming to Charleston and snuffing out the futures of nine amazing people,” said Senator Tim Scott, who knew one of the victims personally. Earlier this year on January 10, the jury handed down the death penalty to Roof for his crimes.
2. Family of Justice Roger Taney Delivers Moving Public Apology to Descendants of Dred Scott
Few events in American legal history left deeper scars than the 1857 court case Dred Scott v. Sanford, when the Supreme Court led by Chief Justice Roger Taney stated that no person of African ancestry could claim U.S. citizenship. After having lived free for four years, Dred Scott, his wife, and children were again declared the property of a white man.
On March 6, 2017, descendants of the infamous U.S. judge took an important step standing next to the great-great-granddaughter of Dred Scott at the Maryland State House. “We offer our deep apology to the Scott family, and to all African Americans—for the injury caused by Roger Brooke Taney and this decision,” said Charles Taney III.
Lynne Jackson, who now leads the Dred Scott Heritage Foundation, replied: “On behalf of the Scott family, and all those African Americans who have the love of God in their hearts, we accept your apology and I thank you for it.” She stated later in an ABC interview: “This is about relationship-building and trust.”
3. New Movements Launch to Advance Racial Healing in Church and Society
In an unprecedented election year, one Atlanta rap artist and black spiritual leader publicly disavowed both major candidates—because they failed to champion what he terms “redemptive justice.”
Sho Baraka linked up with other young leaders to launch The AND Campaign in 2016, “a movement of folks who protest both police brutality and abortions” as he stated in Christianity Today and Rapzilla. Meanwhile, in St. Louis, Jonathan Tremaine Thomas convened prayer leaders for the birth of a Civil Righteousness movement.
Seasoned Christian leaders also recognized the urgency for reconciliation. The King family, invited by The Reconciled Church and UnitedCry, proclaimed forgiveness at the Lincoln Memorial on April 9; Latasha Morrison of Be The Bridge hosted grace-filled public forums on race issues; Pastor Tony Evans released a video series free online entitled Oneness Embraced; and Lou Engle led hundreds of thousands in a cry of “God, break racism!” both in Los Angeles and on the National Mall.
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SOURCE: Christian Headlines
Josh M. Shepherd