In the midst of the anguish taking place in Baltimore presently, the National Black Presbyterian Caucus has issued a powerful and clear statement. I affirm their message, which is printed below, and share it with the larger church and the world for thought and action.
The Reverend Gradye Parsons
Stated Clerk of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
Watching the news coverage of the situation in Baltimore, memories of the days following Martin Luther King Jr’s death and the riots that followed in Washington, D.C., resurfaced. Those are memories that one would rather leave in that time span, but how can one leave it behind when it feels like “here we go, again?” The pain of watching this happen once again is overwhelming! Why would anyone choose to steal, burn, and destroy in the midst of a painful situation? While raising this puzzling question, the feeling to want to lash out; to get the pent up frustration out of our systems is understandable. Yet, it is puzzling to try and understand the desire to destroy at the expense of ruining one’s own communities. That factor in the Washington riots has never been understood.
So “here we go again,” facing a similar situation in one of our major cities where people still suffer from poverty, lack of decent living wages, unsafe streets, quality education, violence, and so much more that seems to place them in situations that require more than average enthusiasm to survive.
What is the answer? The answers don’t come easy. However, we are all challenged to get involved and stop standing on the sidelines with our arms folded. We know what the issues are! They are not only present in Baltimore, Maryland; we have cities all over our country with the same issues and the same potential to be the next Baltimore. Churches and individuals must step forward and begin to address the underlying causes of such actions as we have seen in Baltimore.
We are aware of the racism and injustice that still exists in this country and the denial by those who say there is no longer any racism. The need to address the issues related to the residuals of our slave conditions has never fully been addressed and it has caused much of the anger that has been passed down from generation to generation. God has to be tired of us! The violence, racism, and injustice have to stop! And, it is time to stop talking about it and face it head on! Until we address the underlying issues and are willing to discuss them and take action, the violence that erupted in Baltimore will erupt in other places.
Too many black boys have died prematurely and needlessly. Too many of our black boys are in prison! Too many black boys and girls have suffered due to parent’s inability to provide a quality life for them because they can’t even earn a decent wage. Too many have given up on the values we were raised to honor. Too many of us have abandoned the church and our faith that has been our solid foundation. Too many of us have given up and are leaving the responsibility to someone else.
We must pray with sincere hearts, but we must also learn to unite our efforts and stop the bickering, jealously, and crablike actions that cause division among us. In order to make a difference in the lives of the generations to follow, we must come up with a solid strategy and stick with it until we accomplish the mission. Despite our fears and even opposition, we must continue this journey and learn to live together in harmony and peace because I believe our failure to do so has brought us to the place we find ourselves in today.
Yes, there is much work to be done and it is time for us to get serious about it.
Arlene W. Gordon
President, National Black Presbyterian Caucus