As I am writing this, I am listening to an emergency siren. I am in the middle of sermon prep, and I have taken a break to listen.
There are worn books, speeches, and other texts from thinkers I respect. Thinkers with whom history fell in love because they were charming, brilliant, and had no last names.
Malcolm. Martin. Bob. Bell. Angela. Angela. Angela.
As I listen to the siren in the distance, my mind wanders. I think about what made and make these thinkers great.
Some of them died before their time. Some of them died and were reborn while serving time. And some of them simply think ahead of their time.
At no time did they ever succumb to time platitudes about time, like “it’s not your time,” “time for everyone to just get along,” and “it’s time for us to stop this.”
Every thinker represented on my table has used everything within them to fight against oppression. Oppression against women. Oppression against racial and economic minorities. Oppression the marginalized.
Many of them did more for the poor and marginalized before they were 40 than the rest of the world has done in their entire collective lives.
They wanted the end of oppression. The end of racism and sexism. They all wanted peace and harmony here on earth.
But, there was no peace to be achieved by the lot of them.
They achieved no peace, unity or end to oppression, not for lack of effort. Rather, it didn’t occur because it was not within their power to achieve.
We can fight, as the wonderful leaders who have come before us have, against oppression. It is what we are supposed to do.
However, the only way oppression and racism ends is when oppressors divest themselves of the oppressive and racist mindset they have honed through the years — the one that got us to this place in our world.
Let me explain. Black African slaves were guilty of nothing more than being human and minding their own business.
It was an oppressor’s mindset that subjugated them to beatings, lynchings, rape and the worst terrorist acts of violence on American soil.
Didn’t slaves want to end their oppression?
Women have done nothing wrong collectively in this world. Yet, they are objectified, paid less for the work they do, and are relegated to the margins of our world.
Don’t they want to end their oppression?
I have read and watched with interest and great restraint, speeches and articles from my cleric colleagues worldwide about the shooting deaths of Philandro Castile, Alton Sterling, and the five officers killed in Dallas.
I have seen them call for prayer and restraint. I’ve seen them pray for peace. I’ve seen them pray for calm.
That’s all beautiful to pray for. What concerns me, are the calls for oppressed communities to learn ways they can stop themselves from being victimized — to take responsibility for reaching out to befriend one group or another.
This assumes a great deal. It erroneously assumes that the oppressed, because one troubled man has killed five police, are somehow put on the same oppressive footing as oppressors who have been at the game of oppression for centuries. It assumes that somehow the oppressed can stop oppression.
Sadly, no amount of midnight basketball games with inner-city youth, no amount of holding hands and singing together, no amount of wacky pastor selfies with a “diverse” congregation, will stop oppression.
The only way to stop oppression is to end the oppressor mindset. The oppressed can’t do that by dressing better or not resisting authority. That duty begins and ends with the oppressor.
In the documentary, “Eyes on the Prize,” a young Black man is seen asking a racist police officer to pray with him. The racist police officer declines saying that he doesn’t believe the young man’s prayers “get above his head.”
Was that not an attempt to end oppression and simply get along?
This word may not fill my pews, get me gold chains and seven-button suits, or book deals.
But, it’s the word God gave me for God’s people.
And it’s the truth.