Our Dear Colleagues in Christ,
During this Coronavirus crisis we are once again witnessing the devastating racial disparities in our nation’s public health. Being born Black is a preexisting condition that continues to be criminalized and deemed worthy of a mortal neglect. This nation has caused us to conclude with the rapper Ice Cube that our skin is our sin. We have ministered to grief-stricken congregants and communities as COVID-19 has spotlighted the pervasive systems of racism and the disproportionate advent of Black death. Black people have been tested least while dying the most. We are three times more likely to die from COVID-19 than our white counterparts. The racial sickness beneath the surface of the virus’ deadly spread in our communities has made international headlines, but there have been no healing words from you denouncing the disparities; no show of Christian force to confront the fissures that allow these medical and racial viruses to thrive, especially in neglected and impoverished communities. We are horrified. We are heartbroken. Self-appointed vigilantes hunted down and killed Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia; it took months for them even to be arrested.
Breonna Taylor was murdered in her sleep when plain-clothed police used a no-knock warrant to enter her home and in discriminately end her life. They shot her eight times in her sleep. Maybe you have watched the excruciating 8 minute and 46 second video of the Minneapolis police choking the last breaths from George Floyd as the officer kneed on his neck and callously almost smiled as he did so. We are sure that you understand that many in our community are emotionally drained and in pain because of the never-ending nightmare that has unfolded during this pandemic. Our sorrow has been magnified by your appalling silence and your glaring absence from the scenes of the crimes calling for justice.
We are writing this missive wondering if your love for our Lord and belief in the Bible does not inspire and empower you to stand up for justice and speak up for the voiceless? Ralph Waldo Emerson attended a Bible Society Convention in a southern state. The convention was held in a room where the window opened on a slave market where Blacks were being auctioned off as property. Emerson describes the scene: “One, therefore heard the glad tidings of great joy whilst the other regaled with ‘Going gentlemen, going...’” The experience of Emerson illustrates the hideous hypocrisy and original sin of white Christianity in America. Those who were studying the Bible during a conference in a slave state had edited out of their biblical hermeneutic a gospel that “sets the captives free.” Worse, their belief in the God of creation did not open their eyes to the humanity of Black people. Do you not wonder why at least one of the pious conference attendees was so convicted by the liberating good news in the Bible that they didn’t run out of the symposium of saints and protest the sin and shame of slavery? No one attending the conference was motivated by the ministry of Moses to leave the comfort of the confab and tell the auctioneer and upholders of the system of slavery to “Let God’s people go.” Sadly, there was no Amos who stood up and challenged the conventioneers to “Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness as an ever-flowing stream.” Heaven and history now judge them guilty of the sin of silence in the face of inhumanity, iniquity and injustice.
Is the sin of silence in the face of the suffering of and enslavement of Black people being passed on through the generations? Has it been passed down through the spiritual genes of white evangelical Christianity to ignore injustice while being complicit with systems of racism? Honestly, it feels that way to us. It is unfathomable and inexplicable to us that the white evangelical pulpit, so visibly and vociferously present for right-wing, pro-life politicians and President Donald Trump, remains invisible and blind to the realities of racism and mute about brutal police violence that kills Black people. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. lambasted Christian ministers from the Birmingham Jail. “We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the vitriolic words and actions of the bad people, but for the appalling silence of the good people.” Your appalling silence is deafening and disappointing.
We know that you have a powerful platform and we have seen you wield great influence on politicians to advance your moral agenda. We don’t understand why your moral imagination does not include using your influence to dismantle systems of oppression and rid this nation of her original sin? We don’t understand why you have not signed up to be our allies in our battles against bigotry and brutality in policing? We are baffled because you have not used your considerable clout to stand for social change that would end racial injustice in this country. You’ve been a headlight of the vehicle of society on issues of abortion but a taillight on issues of racial injustice. Your “pro-life” agenda causes you to passionately fight for our rights before we are born but you don’t fight the death dealing culture that aborts the life expectancy of Black people in this country after we are born; when we are here, living and breathing and not breathing and dying.
The death dealing culture we speak of has exploded in uprisings across the country. As Fanny Lou Hamer said decades ago, Black people are “sick and tired of being sick and tired.” Dr. King instructed that “a riot is the language of the unheard.” You are a part of the power structure and system that has refused to hear our hearts and to acknowledge our pain. Can you hear us now? The policing system that serves and protects your white communities occupies and oppresses our Black communities. Can you hear us now?
The murder of George Floyd was caught on video but we know so many others in our communities have been brutally, if not fatally victimized by police violence but didn’t have the benefit of video. Can you hear us now? White militias show up at state capitols armed with weapons of mass destruction to demand the opening of the economy so they can be served and get haircuts and they are treated with dignity. But when Black protestors express their anger and frustration the response is militarized. The Commander-in-Chief quotes this nation’s racist past when he tweets “when the looting starts the shooting starts.” Can you hear us now? We have had to console our traumatized children who have had sudden breakdowns of weeping as they reflected on the killing of Black people in “real time.” Can you hear us now?
We have heard, but we hope it is not true, that white evangelical Christians don’t stand for justice for Black people because they are “more white than they are evangelical.” Dr. Renita Weems says “Make no mistake about it: evangelicalism is white supremacy disguised as religion.” You will have to interrogate your faith walk to determine if this is true. We will just say that from our perspective it appears to be true. We do know that the original sin of the White Church in America is racism. White evangelical Christianity was complicit in the slave trade and the enslavement of our ancestors. White evangelical Christianity modeled and supported Jim and Jane Crow segregation. The track record of white evangelical Christians on issues of race and racism has been abysmal, but the relationships and Christian fellowship that many of us have with you has given us the hope that this generation can be the generation that has the moral imagination and Christian love to overcome the sins of the past. We have faith that we can create a new Church in America that will in turn (and in time) create a new America.
It is our prayer that the white evangelical church will rise to the occasion and meet the challenge of this decisive hour. We are praying that your Christology will reunite Jesus and Justice in holy wedlock. We are praying that you will catch a fresh vision of God’s will for the family of humanity. We know that you are familiar with the story of Peter and Cornelius in the Book of Acts. Cornelius was a Roman soldier, a representative of the occupying and oppressive Roman Empire. These soldiers were known for enforcing Roman repression through terror and crucifixions. However, Cornelius was one who used the power of his privilege for the underprivileged. Cornelius, a Roman soldier, had privileges he possessed because of the benefits that came with his birth as a citizen of the powerful Roman Empire. How are you using your privilege in this crucial hour? Cornelius was conscious of the privileges that opened doors for him because of his inherent affiliation with empire. Cornelius had an encounter with God in a vision. God was up to something because simultaneously, Peter had an eye-opening vision that set him free from the restrictions of his race. The vision that Peter had was an alternative to his divisive and repressive reality. The vision from God called Peter out of his comfort zone. It is worth noting that this vision was given in Joppa. It was in Joppa that God instructed the prophet Jonah to get over his prejudices and preach to non-Israelites in Nineveh. Peter engaged in doctrinal disobedience when he associated and fellowshipped with an Italian representative of the oppressive status quo. In the process, he destroyed the walls between Jews and Gentiles in the Christian family and built a bridge. Peter and Cornelius had a revolutionary vision of restructuring. Will you join us and have the moral courage to reimagine a redemptive restructuring of our nation that is characterized by justice for all. Can we reimagine an America where ALL Black lives matter?
We pray that since white people created racism and white Christianity has given cover to racism that you will take the lead to “cancel” systemic racism. Cancel culture is a modern internet phenomenon where one is ejected from influence and condemned to shame because of their questionable, if not unacceptable behavior. Cancel culture is caused by a critical mass of people who are done with a particular person; it is a final and collective judgement of the people. Just as Jesus cancelled the culture of sickness when He saw suffering, and cancelled the culture of sexism when He intentionally included and ministered to women, and cancelled the culture of hunger when He fed the multitude, we are calling on you to form a Christian critical mass and cancel the culture of racism.
You can begin to cancel the culture of racism by having the humility to listen to and learn from Black people about racism. Your whiteness does not make you an expert in racism and racial injustice. It is vital that you finally hear us. We are done with “kumbaya moments” where we join hands and sing “We Shall Overcome.” We are done with preaching in each other’s pulpits and temporarily feeling good because we have briefly escaped our respective comfort zones. You will not be able to cancel racism if you don’t know how racism operates in systems and structures. Racism is not simply about you being mean to us or calling us the “N” word. Racism is structural. It’s like going to a restaurant and realizing a “closed” sign facing those who are on the street, but you notice there are patrons inside the restaurant enjoying the food and the atmosphere. Our community has been locked out of the restaurant of privilege and justice, while you enjoy the privileges of being inside and partaking of the meal of prosperity and opportunity. Please don’t believe that just because a few of us make it in that the culture of systemic racism doesn’t exist..
After listening and learning what racism is and how it operates, we want you to use your considerable influence and preach and teach about racism as much as you preach and teach about evangelism and discipleship and prayer. Use your connections to influence politicians to pass policies characterized by racial justice. You do know that this nation has an ugly history of passing policies that specifically disadvantage Black people. The Black Codes, The Dred Scott Decision, Plessy versus Ferguson, convict leasing system, voting poll taxes, redlining, blockbusting, and exclusion from FHA loans up until the 1950s are just some of the targeted policies that hurt and hindered our communities. Now we must repair the legacy of damages by passing policies that specifically restore the spiritual, social, political and economic lives of Black people who have suffered from such racist policies throughout this nation’s history.
Finally, we need you to show up and speak up as allies at the scene of the crime of racism. Speak up and denounce racism in policing. Speak up and castigate medical apartheid, environmental racism and food, job and opportunity deserts. Speak up and end voter suppression. Speak up when the president, you adore, uses his bully pulpit to bully us with his racist tirades and tweets. We are not asking for charity, but we are demanding justice.
We pray this letter finds you strong in the faith. We submit it to you with love and hope. Please know that we pray for you. We are praying for our sick country. We are praying for our wounded world. Let us pray and work together to end this long night of pain and division and usher in a scintillating new day of love and liberty, joy and justice.
Peace and Power
Frederick Douglass Haynes, III Senior Pastor, Friendship West
Co-Founder, Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference
Jeremiah A. Wright, Jr.
Co-Founder, Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference
Iva Elaine Carruthers
General Secretary/CEO, Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference
Dear Colleagues in Christ,
With heartbreak, yet hope, we reach out to you in the Name of our Lord and Liberator, Jesus, the Christ. It was unsettling and upsetting to witness the meeting with you, our moral leaders, and one of the most amoral persons to ever occupy the White House in the name of discussing prison reform. We are sure it must have been intoxicating to walk the corridors of power and sit at the table of governing authority. Unfortunately, those precincts of power have been infected by white supremacy and moral bankruptcy. Dr Cornel West is correct, “we are in the spiritual eclipse of decency, honesty and integrity” leaving our nation in the chaotic shadows of emboldened racism, ugly xenophobia, predatory patriarchy and unvarnished greed.”
Given your proximity to power and your “seat at the table” in this toxic political climate it’s painfully disappointing that instead of being prophetic clergy persons you became presidential cheerleaders. We could never imagine the 8th century prophets cheering the kings of Judah and Israel who were in similar political climates. We know John the Baptist wasn’t content to cheer Herod on and express his gratitude and honor for a seat at the table, declaring that Herod was the most “pro-Jewish king in our lifetime.” We need not remind you of the posture of the Prince of Peace, our Savior from the streets, when He stood before Herod and Pilate. He didn’t even pray for them. Dr Martin Luther King, Jr was quoted yesterday but not emulated. Dr King had a seat at the table at the White House but he brought the menu of a civil and voting rights agenda to presidents that transformed the nation.
It was errantly exclaimed that “this is probably going to be the most pro-Black president that we’ve had in our lifetime...” Were the fumes from the intoxicating toxins that strong? Was he being pro-Black while building his political platform as the number one purveyor of birtherism, which was fueled by racism? Is it pro-Black to label Black NFL players protesting racial injustice in the criminal justice system you were there to reform, “SOBs?” That’s what your pro-Black president did. Was he at his pro-Black finest and most eloquent when he referred to countries of color as “s-hole countries?” Was he being pro-Black when he equivocated during the white supremacist rally and violence in Charlottesville, that left one person dead and more than a dozen injured, declaring there were “very fine people on both sides?” Was he pro-Black when he appointed a white supremacist, Jefferson Beauregard Sessions (who was deemed too racist to be a judge by a bipartisan panel and Coretta Scott King) to serve as Attorney General? Did your cheerleading blind you to the fact that the policies of Sessions contradict and overrule the prison reform you were cheering for? Attorney General Sessions wants to stall a federal review of police departments where racial profiling, excessive use of force and racially discriminatory police practices have been exposed.
During the Obama (who was disparaged during the meeting to the delight of 46-1) Administration, the Justice Department began 25 investigations into police departments and sheriff's offices and resolved civil rights lawsuits filed against police departments in more than 15 cities. Sessions is stopping and reversing these investigations and consent decrees. Were you cheering for Trump and this Justice Department to continue to ignore the broken body of Freddie Gray in Baltimore, the last gasps of Eric Garner in New York, the slain body of Michael Brown in Ferguson, the aborted life of Tamir Rice in Ohio and so many others? Are you cheering for his “law and order” dog whistle calls that encourage over policing and underserving of our communities? You do know his Attorney General also has plans to restart the “War on Drugs” which was really a war on Black and Brown communities!
We are sure you recognize the importance of judicial appointments in criminal justice and prison reform. The president you cheered for contradicts real reform with his appointments of judges. While purporting to be concerned about prison reform and the negative effects of mass incarceration on communities of color, Trump’s actions demonstrate a blatant disregard for the welfare of people of color by pushing judicial nominees with disturbing records on racial equity issues into lifetime positions as judges, which will have ramifications in the lives of people of color long after he has left the White House. Of the 87 judicial nominations Trump has made, 80 are whites that have made careers in undermining civil rights. Only 1 is African American.
We understand that the stated intent of the White House has been to focus its criminal justice reform efforts on improving re-entry, rehabilitation and workforce training programs. That’s nice, but if you have a room filled with spider webs wouldn’t you clean the webs AND remove the spider? You cheered him on for removing a few webs but you didn’t prophetically challenge him to remove the spiders of sentencing reform, ending the money bail system, profiteering from prisons, and the caste system Michelle Alexander insightfully deconstructs in The New Jim Crow. One of the biggest and most venomous spiders is the school to prison pipeline that begins with expulsions of Black and Brown children from school. Expulsions push our children into juvenile court systems and they commence their passage through the pipeline to prison.
Since you’ve been selected to serve on the frontlines of prison reform, as your colleagues who have been doing this work and fighting to eliminate the spiders of injustice, we would be remiss if we didn’t give you resources for your new assignment. We encourage you to read the aforementioned “The New Jim Crow” by Michelle Alexander. We also recommend “Chokehold” by Paul Butler. He documents and declares how police officers, politicians, and ordinary people are afraid of black men. The result is the Chokehold: laws and practices that treat every African American man like a thug. The former federal prosecutor shows that the system is working exactly the way it’s supposed to. Black men are always under watch, and police violence is widespread—all with the support of judges and politicians. Add to your justice edification “Just Mercy” by Bryan Stevenson. Stevenson, another gifted attorney engaged in the work of criminal justice reform, testifies that mercy can be redemptive and offers a challenge and tools for fixing this broken system that has resulted in destroying lives, dismantling families and devastating our communities.
Our beloved colleagues, the leader of the free world you met with yesterday has a contagious narcissism that has given him a messiah complex. Please remind him of the first person pronouns that saturate the model prayer, “Our,” “us” and “we.” No one can overhaul the criminal justice system alone. Remember the wisdom of the Apostle Paul, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase.” The flowering of criminal justice reform will require all of our hands for this great work.
Our dear colleagues, the man you met with yesterday during his divisive and incendiary campaign asked the Black community repeatedly, “What do you have to lose?” In less than two years we’ve lost a lot and you have become his cheerleaders with a collar.
We are praying for you. We invite you to join us in dialogue that will prophetically challenge the poison of Trump’s politics while we work to develop our underserved communities. We are called to speak truth to power. May God give us the courage and power to tell the truth.
Peace and Power,
Dr. Frederick Douglass Haynes, III
Dr. Jamal Harrison Bryant
Bishop Rudy McKissick
Bishop W. Darrin Moore
Bishop Talbert Swan
Pastor Lawrence E. Aker, III
Dr. Wendell Anthony
Dr. Traci Blackmon
Dr. Valerie Bridgeman
Dr. Amos C. Brown
Pastor Corey Brown
Bishop John R. Bryant
Dr. Calvin Butts
Dr. Iva Carruthers
Dr. Bryan Carter
Dr. Delmon Coates
Dr. Jawanza Karriem Colvin
Dr. Marcus Cosby
Bishop Victor Couzens
Dr. Wayne Croft
Dr. William H. Curtis
Rev. Leah Daughtery
Dr. Marcus Davidson
Bishop James Davis
Rev. Jacques D. Denkins
Dr. James W.E. Dixon, II
Dr. Errol Dominque
Dr. John Faison, Sr.
Drs. Elaine and Floyd Flake
Dr. Juan Floyd-Thomas
Dr. Stacey Floyd-Thomas
Rev. Willie D. Francois, III
Dr. Terrence Grant-Malone
Bishop Sam Green
Dr. Neichelle Guidry
Dr. Cynthia Hale
Pastor Victor T. Hall
Dr. Charley Hames
Dr. David Hampton
Dr. Donte Hickman
Rev. J.C. Howard
Rev. Alexander E.M. Johnson
Dr. Jeffrey Allen Johnson, Sr.
Dr. Clifford Jones
Dr. Marcus D. King
Dr. Carolyn A. Knight
Pastors John & Maria Mallory
Bishop Vashti McKenzie
Pastor Breonus Mitchell
Dr. Joshua L. Mitchell
Bishop Paul S. Morton
Dr. Otis Moss, III
Dr. James Perkins
Dr. Zina Pierre
President Welton Pleasant, II
Dr. Phillip Pointer
Bishop Dennis Proctor
Dr. W. Franklyn Richardson
Dr. Nelson B. Rivers, III
Bishop Marvin Sapp
Dr. Shane Scott
Dr. Ronald Slaughter
Dr. Marcus Smalls
Drs. J. Alfred Smith Sr. and Jr.
Dr. Gina Stewart
Dr. Warren H. Stewart, Sr.
Dr. Frank Thomas
Pastor Melech Thomas
Pastor Robert Townsend
Dr. Alyn Waller
Dr. Lance Watson
Dr. Maurice Watson
Dr. Howard John Wesley
Dr. Ralph Douglas West, Sr.
Bishop John F. White
Dr. Barbara Williams-Skinner
Dr. F. Bruce Williams
Dr. Reggie Williams
Dr. Jeremiah A. Wright, Jr.
Dear Jerry Jones,
Oh say can YOU see? You have fumbled an opportunity to intercept a lie and use your privilege to score for justice. As a life long fan of the Dallas Cowboys, who once enjoyed season tickets, it’s heartbreaking that you have taken a stand on the wrong sideline of history. As training camp opened you used your mighty microphone to passionately pronounce that there is no room on the Dallas Cowboys for the right to protest for right during the national anthem.
Your “massa complex” has shown your boys where the “gun line” (check out the movie Life) is! And they had better not cross it! Your quarterback, who went to school in the same state where Emmit Till was lynched, Fannie Lou Hamer was brutally beaten by police, Medgar Evers was assassinated and remains a place of wicked white supremacy, vicious police misconduct, and a justice system that is criminal, knows his place and has echoed your sentiment and committed a terrible turnover for freedom. Oh say, did he see white Mississippi police officer Daniel Starks tasing a handcuffed black man for no reason?
I held out hope that given your track record as a game changing maverick and successful businessman that you would use your privileged platform to actually take a stand for what the flag symbolizes, “liberty and justice for all.” You have been fiercely independent as an NFL owner but you allowed 46-1 to punk you and the NFL while he was pledging allegiance to Vladimir Putin and Russia. Oh say can you see? Your friend in the White House has emboldened racists, put a white supremacist over the justice department (whose policies reinforce the racial injustice Colin Kaepernick was taking a knee for) and signaled to police that brutality is ok. I guess that’s why you reaffirmed your partnership with Papa John’s Pizza while saying nothing to denounce the ugly bigotry dripping from the lips of the former owner?
Colin Kaepernick took a knee during his last season as a quarterback for the 49ers because he was sick and tired of Black sisters and brothers dying, mothers crying and police departments lying. In the tradition of Paul Robeson, Althea Gibson, Wilma Rudolph, Muhammad Ali, John Carlos and Tommie Smith, Curt Flood, Serena Williams, LeBron James and others he used his platform to raise consciousness and speak truth to power on behalf of the powerless who have no platform.
Oh say can you see?
As owner of America’s team that is comprised of almost 80% African Americans did you know that “This is America” for them:
Police violence and homicide persistently and disproportionately terrorize black communities. A new study reveals the proportion of black bodies in America killed by police is significantly higher than previous research suggested.
Across the country, black men are over three times more likely to be killed by police than white men, according to a study published in the American Journal of Public Health. In an analysis of all male homicides between 2012 and 2018, 8 percent occurred at the hands of police, who serve and protect YOU, researchers found.
Of nearly 6,300 reported deaths during the six-year count, almost 1,800 were black. “This is America.” Oh say can you see, Jerry? Police killings are highest among black men across the United States. Lead author Frank Edwards is sadly correct when he interprets, “Police operate completely differently in different places,” he said. “How police operate is often determined by the race of the person they’re interacting with and the racial compositions of the places they work in.”
Oh say can you see?
The vast majority of your players live in this America. Yes, their contracts may have allowed them to move into nicer neighborhoods but their black skin still means they are seen as suspects who pose a threat.
Sadly, your son Stephen, seconded your motion and brazenly declared if you want to be a Dallas Cowboy you will stand for the national anthem. This is one instance where the blatant hypocrisy of your organization just may exceed your racist insensitivity. On America’s team you can brutally beat your wife, girlfriend, or kids. You can drink and drive, you can take drugs and steroids, but if you peacefully protest, you cannot be a Dallas Cowboy!?
Oh say can you see!
It’s evident, Jerry, that you never had to give Stephen “The Talk” and tell him how to behave in the presence of police officers, have you Jerry? Ask your black players about “The Talk.” Oh say can you see and have you noticed the news accounts where black people have the police called on them for breathing, going to Starbucks, lounging in the university common area where they are enrolled, selling water as an 8 year old, eating at Waffle House and doing community service as a sorority. The brilliant actor, Ving Rhames shared his terrifying experience with racism that resulted in police putting a gun in his face at the front door of his own home in Brentwood, CA because a neighbor called 911 saying that he was breaking into what is his own house. Have you or Stephen ever had the police called on you because of the color of your skin? Have you or Stephen ever been stopped by the police and worried that you wouldn’t come out of the stop alive? Oh say can you see, Jerry?
I wish you had the courageous empathy of the gifted Anne Hathaway. She gets it.
Hathaway is outraged by the fatal stabbing of 18-year-old Nia Wilson by a white man. The Oscar award-winning actress used her privilege and prestige to dedicate an Instagram post to honoring the life of the young black woman. Wilson and her sister, who survived the attack, were stabbed at the BART MacArthur Station in Oakland, Calif., on July 22.
But Hathaway’s post was more than a passive tribute to Wilson — it was a wake up call and a courageous critique of those who are oblivious to black pain and hide behind their “white privilege” and fail to take action in the face of violence, injustice and racism.
Describing Wilson’s murder as “unspeakable,” the Ocean’s 8 star acknowledged her own privilege while calling for white people to get off the sidelines of indifference and privilege and step up. Oh say can you hear her, Jerry?
“White people — including me, including you — must take into the marrow of our privileged bones the truth that ALL black people fear for their lives DAILY in America and have done so for GENERATIONS,” she wrote. “White people DO NOT have equivalence for this fear of violence. Given those givens, we must ask our (white) selves — how ‘decent’ are we really? Not in our intent, but in our actions? In our lack of action?”
She ended the message with the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag, as well as #AntiRacist, #NoExcuse,
#SayHerName, and #EarnTheRightToSayHerName.
Jerry, she’s a winner. Anne Hathaway is truly free and brave. She is doing what the wisdom writer said in Proverbs 31:8-9:
“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves;
ensure justice for those being crushed.
Yes, speak up for the poor and helpless,
and see that they get justice.”
Oh say can you see, Jerry!
Peace and Power.
Former Cowboys fan and NFL follower,
Rev. Dr. Frederick Douglass Haynes III
10/17/2017 1 Comment
Dear Pastor Jeffress,
Grace and peace.
I greet you in the Name of our Lord and Liberator, Jesus Christ. I have been moved to write you this letter because our country – which Maya Angelou aptly called “these yet to be United States” – has accelerated her descent into destructive division. A spiritual eclipse of decency, honesty and integrity has left this country in the frightening darkness of emboldened racism. Hate and greed have grown bolder.
Recently, you used your significant platform as a guest contributor on Fox News to throw gasoline on the fires of racial conflict. You drew a dangerous connection between the NFL controversy and North Korea – whose leaders have engaged in a war of words with our president.
“These players ought to be thanking God that they live in a country where they’re not only free to earn millions of dollars every year, but they're also free from the worry of being shot in the head for taking the knee like they would be in North Korea,” you said to Fox & Friends host Ainsley Earhardt. Of course, “earn” is the operative word, since they haven’t been given any money, and clearly you think these players aren’t free to think for themselves and to protest.
“And I think tens of millions of Americans agree with President Trump when he says they ought to be called out for this,” you continued, arguing there is "a better way to protest social injustice without disrespecting our country.” Unfortunately, like most who make that claim, you didn’t tell us how. That suggests there are no preferred methods of protest from your privileged perspective. Protests for justice and equity are always disruptive because, as Martin Luther King, Jr., reminded us, social change does not “roll in on the wheels of inevitability.” Change takes place through discomfort. Protests, even peaceful ones, are uncomfortable.
Sadder still, you didn’t cite the reason for the protests you denounced: the slaughtering of unarmed Black folk by cops. You didn’t call these actions evil or disrespectful. The courageous athletes who take a knee don’t disrespect the flag or the national anthem. The flag is disrespected when we fail to honor our pledge of allegiance to “liberty and justice for all.” The flag is disrespected whenever Black bodies are unjustly haunted and harassed by officers in blue.
Your words hurt. They are morally irresponsible. They border on blasphemy. You fail to see the fundamental contradiction in your argument. You would be shot in the head in North Korea for taking a knee to pray and preach your version of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I would not want that for you. Don’t you see that Black people don’t have to go to North Korea to be victims of state sanctioned murder? Unarmed teen Jordan Edwards will never earn millions of dollars in the NFL. He wasn’t in North Korea when he was shot and killed by a cop in Balch Springs, Texas. Neither was Clinton Allen there when an officer of the law in Dallas shot him. Twelve-year-old Tamir Rice was nowhere near North Korea when he was shot and killed less than three seconds after an officer of the law exited his vehicle and executed him in a park. Walter Scott was running from a police officer who shot him in the back and manipulated the scene to cover his crime. Yet another brokenhearted Black mother lost her son; still more devastated Black children lost their father. Scott wasn’t shot in North Korea, but in North America. I could go on and on. I hope you get the picture by now. Killing black people in the name of the law has aborted – a word I know you appreciate as a pro-life advocate – Black lives at an epidemic rate.
The policing system serves as the frontlines of a criminal justice system that is often criminal, racist and unjust. This unjust system has made America – not North Korea – the most incarcerated nation on the planet. The NFL players you viciously attacked are protesting racism and social injustice, particularly in the police use of the outlawed Chokehold, a powerful new book by Paul Butler you should pick up. They are speaking out against the spread of The New Jim Crow – an instant classic you should read – of mass incarceration that keeps America from becoming a “more perfect union.” No wonder Dr. Michael Eric Dyson articulated our heartbreak in his great book Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon to White America. Please read it.
Our nation is now reaping the whirlwind of social turmoil that it has sown in the wind of unrepentant racism, systemic injustice and white supremacy. Too often white churches have been complicit in this tragedy with their appalling silence. Modern day prophet Jim Wallis says that’s “because they’re more white than Christian.”
Several years ago you graciously accepted an invitation to be interviewed on my radio show, Freddy Haynes Unscripted. I was sincerely shocked when you affirmed the rightness of the civil rights movement at the end of our conversation and declared that had you been around you “would have marched with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.”
Now I’m wondering which Dr. King you were referring to? It must have been the sanitized myth of the “apostle of nonviolence” that America created in order to fit her narrative of exceptionalism. Were you speaking of marching with the Dr. King who thundered “I Have A Dream” at the great March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom? That’s usually the convenient Dr. King that Americans are comfortable with. I would remind you that before he eloquently articulated his dream, he
narrated our nightmare as a “drum major for justice.”
Do you recall this section of his prophetic poetic proclamation? “There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, ‘When will you be satisfied?’ We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality.” If you would have marched with Dr. King then, you should be standing with our courageous athletes now against the “unspeakable horrors of police brutality.”
Since it is impossible for you to march with Dr. King, you should take a knee with former San Francisco 49er star Colin Kaepernick, and Seattle Seahawks star Michael Bennett, who are taking a stand against the “unspeakable horrors of police brutality.” Sadly, and sinfully, these unspeakable horrors have terrorized our communities since the birth of this nation. The slave patrols, Black Codes, the Convict leasing system, Birmingham Public Safety Commissioner Bull Connor and Selma Sheriff Jim Clark reflect the use of policing as a weapon of oppression.
I will share something with you that I never talk about. My best friend, the late Rev. Dr. Marvis P. May, and I, both graduated from the now defunct, but never dead, Bishop College in Dallas, TX. We decided one year, while attending summer school at Bishop, to visit your prestigious First Baptist Church, then considered the largest church in the United States. First Baptist’s pastor, Dr. W.A. Criswell, had pastored and preached to presidents. He had also at one point been a staunch defender of segregation. Fortunately, he changed his theological stance. This was the summer of 1981. Marvis and I were warmly welcomed and received by the greeters and ushers. We enjoyed the experience and were happy to say that during our college matriculation we had visited the historic First Baptist Church of Dallas.
After the benediction, members of First Baptist continued to bless us with their kindness and engaging fellowship. After exchanging courtesies, Marvis and I went to retrieve the car we had borrowed from a fraternity brother. When we exited the parking lot we mistakenly turned the wrong way down a one-way street. We immediately corrected our course and drove in the direction of the impressive gothic structure. That's when a police siren from behind us arrested our attention. Through the rear view mirror I could see the police officer pointing, telling us to pull over. I intentionally parked in front of First Baptist hoping that this would be a pleasant and not deadly stop.
The officers got out of their vehicle and aggressively approached us. Both of us were nervous. We were told, in rather vulgar terms, to get out of the car. No, they didn't ask for my license and registration. Immediately, we were handcuffed and bent over our car. The officers weren’t satisfied. We were moved and told to get on the sidewalk face down. Honestly, we were pushed to the ground. I still recall the pain I felt from the knee of the officer in my back. All of this was taking place in front of the church where we had just worshipped. Marvis asked, “Why are we being held?” The
cops ignored our question, and instead barked at us, “Shut up until I tell you to speak nigger.”
I was hurt and humiliated. Embarrassment and anxiety clouded my emotional skies. Surely they wouldn't do anything to us in front of this church. I grew angrier by the second. There were still worshippers filing out of First Baptist. They didn't allow our predicament to interrupt their walk to their cars. People we had just worshipped with simply glanced at us as they continued on their way. Marvis and I were both dressed in suits, but, contrary to the advocates of respectability politics, our fine clothing didn't stop the police from making us "eat the sidewalk.” Our sharp dress didn’t cause our fellow worshippers at First Baptist to stop and intervene in the sweltering sun of a Dallas July summer afternoon. Like the priest and the Levite in the parable of the Heroic Samaritan – I refuse to say “good” Samaritan as if all the rest were bad, similar to how we have more recently pitted “good” Negroes against the masses of bad Black people – folk just passed us by “on the other side” without helping.
In hindsight, I wonder what conclusions were drawn by those we had worshipped with, those who had warmly received us, as they passed by on the other side? What did they see when they saw us, dressed in suits, fresh from worshipping in their sanctuary, but handcuffed with our faces to the hot sidewalk? Did they see our humanity stamped with the image of God? Did they see the Imago Dei, or the Imago Negro?
And what do they, and you, see now? What do you see as Terrence Crutcher is killed by an officer even though his hands are up? As angry as I was at the cops for stopping us because we “looked like we were up to no good” – yes that is the “scientific” rationale offered to us by our violent pursuers – I was most angry at those I had just worshipped with who passed by on the other side.
Thankfully, a courageous and kind gentleman emerged from the worship facility of First Baptist and decided to ask what was wrong. He proceeded to tell the police officers that we had just worshipped with them. The officers were shocked. They asked, “Are you sure it was these people?” The man firmly said “yes!” The officers, attempting to justify what they did, responded, “Well, maybe they just look like someone we were looking for?” They helped us up from the sidewalk. Our suits weren’t nearly as dirty as our worship experience had become; our spirits were now stained by this embarrassing experience. The man who was kind enough to put his privilege on the line for us went back into the sanctuary. We got in our borrowed car and silently drove back to campus.
I am sharing this humiliating and heartbreaking episode from my life because it offers you a metaphorical choice with real ramifications. Will you choose to pass by on the other side and pontificate from your perch of privilege about athletes disrespecting the flag or national anthem? Will you choose to use your privilege as the pastor of one of the largest and most historic churches in the country and do like the church member who intervened on our behalf? He didn’t rush to judgment about us. He used his privileged whiteness to empathetically enter into our predicament and, as a result, our predicament was transformed.
Pastor Jeffress, if you would do as the anonymous member did we would begin to transform a justice and policing system that is destroying lives, breaking up families and hurting communities. Will you make that “pro life” move?
You have boldly declared that racism is a sin. I agree with you. God hurts when God’s children are mistreated because of how God created them. Black people in our country live with this mistreatment everyday. We experience racism from individuals and institutions, through micro-aggressions and systems. The policing and criminal justice system is most vicious because police officers have the power of the state behind them. I’ve done more than one funeral in this country where I’ve tried to comfort a family whose unarmed child or father was killed by a police officer who was not held accountable.
Please understand why the football players are protesting before you attack them. You’ve never had to give your children “the talk.” You don’t know the feeling of wondering, when the police stop you, if this is a life or death stop. Your privileged skin has insured that your life always matters.
In light of your unequivocal statement that “racism is a sin,” I’m inviting you to move from declaration to demonstration.
You and I should invite Colin Kaepernick and Michael Bennett to Dallas and listen to them. Let’s have a constructive conversation about what we can do to insure that America is truly a place of “liberty and justice for all.” It would be a powerful statement for you and I to invite both of them and come up with solutions to the problems of the policing and justice systems that oppress people of color in our country.
Dr. King, who you would have marched with, lovingly chastised the Christian church of his day for being thermometers and not thermostats. I invite you to use your prestigious and privileged platform to fight against racial injustice. You said racism is a sin. You’re right, now I invite you to not just “talk about it, be about it.”
In the Name of Jesus and Justice,
Frederick Douglass Haynes, III
Friendship West Baptist Church
Dear President Donald Trump,
Grace and Peace and Love be multiplied.
I wanted to offer my congratulations but our state of emergency precludes me from empty pleasantries. Further, you rode a wave of division, fear and hatred into your electoral college victory for the presidency of these "yet to be" United States. I must admit that you brilliantly united in unholy wedlock, manipulating the media with your cult of celebrity and the ugly unresolved issue of race and racism to give birth to your illegitimate victory. Your "reality show campaign" stirred up white rage and produced a "whitelash" to use the explosive expression and "Messy Truth" of Van Jones. You did and said anything to get elected by preying on ethnic, religious and racial hostilities in a nation that has never been truthful about the ugly undercurrent of white supremacy and heteropatriarchy. You've even placed a picture of Andrew Jackson, the genocidal, slave holding racist in the Oval Office because you see him as a model. You appointed a neo nazi, white supremacist as an influential and powerful leader on your staff. All of those are warning signs that portend your concept of making "America Great Again" has everything to do with making America hate, again. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr was right when he quoted James Baldwin and wondered if we had integrated into a burning house? Our house is on fire and you are throwing gasoline into the conflagration.
I hear from those who've met you in person that you are a nice man. If that is true then you must be bipolar because your policies and nominations are mean spirited and a reflection of white supremacy which, in case you don't know, has an expiration date on it. In love, I offer you some medication for your bipolarity.
Honestly, I am praying for you. I am praying that God would arrest you and cause you to experience a repentance that will lead to personal and national transformation. I write praying that you will rise to the dignity of the presidential office and be delivered from the petty politics of demonizing others.
Our nation is sick and you are feeding more toxins and poisons into the body politic.
I couldn't remain silent as you embrace Islamophobia and xenophobia while marching this nation towards an ugly fascism. You have ignored the pained protests of the indigenous Standing Rock Sioux and jeopardized the health of millions because of your determination to repeal Obamacare; because apparently you don't care. You have attacked the media that was complicit in your election because they didn't hold you accountable for your "alternative facts" and belief that if you say something that's not true, long enough and loud enough, it will become true. Now you have used religion as a weapon with the full support of your puppets in the pulpit.
In the Name of Jesus, stop it!
This nation, snatched violently from the natives, was built on the backs of stolen Africans and with the hands of immigrants. Now you've issued an executive order targeting those you have "othered" in the name of religion. In the Name of Jesus, I stand in solidarity with my Muslim sisters and brothers and oppose this bigoted ban. If you are so concerned about terrorism from religious extremists then ban the Ku Klux Klan. Don't forget that Timothy McVeigh was a Christian terrorist. Those clinic bombing pro life zealots kill people in the name of their god. Ban them! Native Americans were slaughtered by immigrant Christian terrorists.
You seem to relish photo ops with black people who have high profiles but limited public policy understanding. Worse, you have surrounded yourself with preachers who would rather be puppets than prophets. Even David needed a Nathan to keep him in check. I have some Nathan's I'd like to recommend. They stand in the prophetic tradition of Amos of Tekoa and Jesus of Nazareth, Martin King and Fannie Lou Hamer. Why don't you invite Minister Danielle Ayers, Dr. William Barber, Dr. Traci Blackmon, Dr. Amos Brown, Dr. Iva Carruthers, Dr. Keri Day, Dr. Michael Eric Dyson, Judge Reverend Wendell Griffin, Drs. Otis Moss, Sr and Jr., Dr. James Perkins, Father Michael Pfleger, Dr. W. Franklyn Richardson, Dr. Gina Stewart, and Dr. Raphael Warnock, to name a few. They would prophetically lift your presidency and policies from the dark place of hate to the sunlit spaces of justice and love that would move America to becoming a "more perfect union."
You need prophets like the above mentioned in order to insure that you don't go the way of another who was intoxicated by his self importance. Please, Mr. President, read Daniel chapter 5. Belshazzar had a party celebrating his greatness, that was crashed by a hand that wrote on the wall. The handwriting on the wall was interpreted by a foreigner with a different religion than Belshazzar. His name was Daniel. Daniel interpreted the handwriting on the wall "God has numbered your days with an expiration date. You've been weighed in the balances and found wanting. Your kingdom has been divided and given over..." in your case to Russia!
Mr. President, the handwriting is on the wall. "What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with your God." The handwriting is on the wall. "Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves,
for the rights of all who are destitute.
Speak up and judge fairly;
defend the rights of the poor and needy."
The handwriting is on the wall. You are obsessed that your presidency not be illegitimate because the Russians appointed you and you lost the popular vote even as your Republican Party suppressed the Black vote (That's what you should investigate. Voter fraud is fake news but voter suppression is real). Prophetic justice reminds you that you built your political platform questioning the legitimacy of the first Black president and now your presidency is illegitimate! "Be not deceived, God is not mocked whatever you sow you will reap!" The old saying goes "What goes around, comes around."
The handwriting is on the wall!
I write as an ally of what Angela Davis refers to as "an inclusive and intersectional feminism that calls upon all of us to join the resistance to racism, to Islamophobia, to anti-Semitism, to misogyny, to capitalist exploitation," and Palestinian apartheid.
The handwriting is on the wall.
Psalm 72 is instructive for leaders "he (or she) delivers the needy when they call, the poor and those who have no helper."
The handwriting is on the wall because Jesus warned that when He judges the nations He will separate the sheep from the goats. Will he say to you, Mr. President,
"I was hungry and your executive order made it more difficult for low and moderate income families to secure a home loan and you appointed a gifted surgeon, who needs to go some where and sit down, with no experience to give leadership to HUD.
I was thirsty and you issued an executive order to run roughshod over Native American, Standing Rock Sioux sacred grounds but Flint residents still don't have new pipes for fresh water from a fresh water source.
I was in prison because of the war on drugs which was really a war on black and poor people and because of stop and frisk; and you appointed Jefferson Beauregard Sessions as a racist fox to guard the henhouse of justice
I was a stranger and you built a wall and issued a ban on muslims." You will ask "Jesus when did this happen." He will say "Inasmuch as you did it to the least of these, you've done it to me."
Mr. President, the handwriting is on the wall.
I am praying for you and this sick nation to be healed.
Peace and Power,
Frederick Douglass Haynes, III
From the time I first met you, I admired you. I always enjoyed every movie you were in, watching you on Family Feud while away at college, looking up YouTube videos of you and all of that. You seemed so big in my eyes! It was so cool to know that my dad knew you and you knew my dad. Now, I am extremely disappointed in you and wondering what you're thinking. Was meeting with Trump a personal victory or were you really there fighting for our people? I can't help but to think you were there for the latter because there is no way you could walk away from that meeting and report back to us that you found him "congenial and sincere" and that you would "sit with him anytime." I don't understand. You would sit with a man who has spewed racist and hate filled language to everyone who is considered "different" or not white? You would sit with someone who has some of the most divisive an adversarial language in the 21st century? You would sit with a man who brags about grabbing women by their private parts? You have daughters and you have a wife, who just the other day posted Meryl Streep on her IG and remarked on how inspired she was by her speech at the Golden Globes (which had a lot to do with Trump). I am not mad that you met with the man. I am just mad that in your IG report back to us you stated "Trump wants to help with the situations in the inner cities so he immediately got Dr. Ben Carson." PAUSE. Trump picked a man whose only relation to the inner city is that he once lived there and like a lot of people in the inner city he is Black. He isn't qualified. If Trump were really concerned about the inner city he would've gotten someone who is capable and well versed in Urban Housing issues to really address and rectify the situation. Dr. Ben Carson has showed that he has no interest in really helping his people with the moves he has made and with every ignorant thing that comes out of his mouth. Come on Steve you fell for the okie doke? I thought you were better than that. Why not come out of that meeting and tell us you challenged him on his selection for Housing and Urban Development Director? Why not come out of that meeting telling us you challenged him about his reprehensible comments about women because you are a father, a husband and a man that has a fan base of millions of women? Why not come out of that meeting telling us you challenged him about his comments on Stop and Frisk? Why not come out of that meeting saying you challenged him on his pick for Attorney General? Why not come out of that meeting telling us you challenged him on saying Black people have nothing to lose? Why not come out of that meeting telling us all of that before you mention he is "congenial and sincere?" I am not falling for it Steve. And for the TRUMP TEAM who thinks that they can pick every Black Entertainer that we love so much to go meet with Trump and come back saying its okay, you're showing your "conservative racism." Black people aren't a monolith. We don't all believe the same things and even more so, we aren't STUPID. Just because we love their art doesn't always mean we will love their heart. Oh and Steve, I know this man isn't sincere. He just attacked one of our foremost leaders in the Civil Rights movement today. Also Steve, I have a strong feeling that you know you punked out because you turned off your IG comments under the post you made about Trump. I know you know that you disappointed your people and your fan base. So you can stop with the BS.