The other day my nephew shared a photo online that I found to be very provocative.

Photo credit @Intheeyesofscottie
Photo credit @intheeyesofscottie

The photo was taken by a professional photographer who wanted to generate conversation around police violence against black males. The photo obviously suggests that black men are strategically targeted. When he posted it online his mother (my oldest sister) and his sisters immediately chimed in with their displeasure. No one wants to see their son, brother, nephew become a target. It was their responses that made it apparent to me that the photographer had captured exactly what he attempted to capture. In this one photo is encapsulated the vulnerability, frailties and fears of an entire people.

When I look at the picture I don’t simply see my nephew, I see my people. I see my former students who with tears in their eyes asked me, “Am I next?” I see my member who came to me to tell me her son asked her, “are the cops gonna shoot me too?” I wish…we wish, we were making this stuff up, but this is our reality. In less than a week there have been three (high profile) shootings where a black male has been unnecessarily killed by police officers. We are beyond words, but we wonder who’s next?

Nevertheless, there is still a need for a direct, concerted response. But we’re still at a loss for words. Some of us are too afraid to speak. It’s kinda like that nightmare you had as a child when you were too afraid to even scream. It’d be great to have some talking points to help us respond. A while ago we posted a piece about specific things the church can do as a response. But what shall we say? Many have taken to the streets yet again to protest. I wonder if people know their rights relating to public protests. When we protest, what are the limits? What types of protest make us more vulnerable? The ACLU has compiled an extensive resource that outlines all the rights of protestors. I’ve talked to both clergy and lay-leaders who say they’re crafting a direct and strategic response to help people engage effectively. Here’s one from Adventists for Social Justice (ASJ). Here’s another from a pastor. Here’s another from the Black Adventist Youth Directors Association (BAYDA). We’ll share others as they are released.

With all this talk about a strategic response, it became apparent to me that with all of the trauma that the black community has suffered (including some events which have involved SDA churches and SDA pastors), our GC President still has not delivered a response of his own. The irony of this is that there have been several calls for the white members to break their silence, even as recent as this week. Also, non-SDA theologians recently started a hashtag #WhiteChurchQuiet to challenge believers and explore the ideas and issues surrounding the silence of white churches amidst these tragedies. I tweeted @pastortedwilson all day, trying to help him to see this as an opportunity. I even offered to help him write a statement. To be clear, several people said, “Don’t hold your breath” given the fact that previous requests for a statement have seemingly gone ignored.   

Here’s the point. As the leader of a worldwide faith community that is 19 million strong, and made up of a majority of people of color, it’s essential that the entire church hears him speak to such a crucial social justice and human rights issue that affects people of color. I encouraged him to let the world know (among many things) that he, as our leader, is concerned about these atrocities, that there is hope, that there is still great work for us to do and that God is righteous judge who will make all wrongs right on that Great Day. I’m not sure if he saw my tweets (though the official GC twitter account did respond a couple times), but maybe that just means we should continue to request his official response.

I’ve got two nephews who live in Charlotte; minutes away from the site of the latest shooting.  My nephew in the photo is the eldest of seventeen nephews in total. I couldn’t bear the thought of anything ever happening to any of them, or to him in particular. There are several reasons for that. One reason is that, he reminds us all of my oldest brother who died when I was a kid. By some strange genetic mashup he turned out to look exactly like him. Weird, but true. As I looked at the picture I saw my big brother once again. At first glance it looked like his eyes are closed, but then I noticed that the photographer had intentionally removed his eyes in the edit for effect. It’s as though he’s saying that while we’re being targeted we’re also being blinded. The dominant group is trying to cause us to overlook the injustices that we suffer.

But this is art. Fact is, our eyes are wide open. We’re wide awake. We see what’s happening. We know what this means. We intend to #staywoke. We just need to finish getting our talking points together for an official response.

Christopher C. Thompson

Christopher C.
Thompson

Dr. Christopher C. Thompson currently serves as Communication Director for the Southeastern Conference of SDA. As a pastor, author, teacher and church resource developer who is passionate about the spiritual growth process, he works tirelessly to develop tools to aid pastors and parishioners alike. Click below to follow him on twitter or visit his website.

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