To Be Black In A White Institution…

Author: Pastor Jeffrey Allen Johnson II of Indianapolis, IN

Martin Luther King Jr., Trayvon Martin, Malcom X, Sandra Bland and all the others who have been killed by gang violence and police brutality are all constant reminders of what its like to be black in a white institution. Let’s be real. America is a white institution. There is a system at work here that ensures the success of some and the demise of others.  This country has shown over the years, since its birth, that  black people are considered to be major threat to its agenda. From slavery, to Jim Crow,  through the Civil Rights Movement and even today, black people in this country have been viewed as less than human. In fact, it was the United States Constitution that considered our ancestors three-fifth of a human being and although we are hundreds of years from when slavery was deemed illegal (expect in prisons), we still see the residue of this thought being played out.

Some say the system is broken. I don’t believe the system is broken. I believe its working just fine, and that lies the problem. Living in a country that was founded on the genocide of one people and the enslavement of another, its hard to believe that the founding fathers of this country had people of color in mind when they were creating the Constitution and kick starting the system. Hundreds of years later we can still see the manifestation of the racist perspectives that were utilized in starting this country.  We see it in the justice system, where white cops walk away free after murdering black males. We see it in the penal system, where there are a million black males in prions being treated like modern day slaves and the owners of these privatized prisons are making millions off the back of these young black males in prison. We see it in the education system, where the people in the inner city get store brand education while the people in the suburbs get the name brand education.  We see in our economy where the unemployment rate is doubled in the black communities. As a result of the system working to keep the black communities from moving forward, we see our families falling apart, our communities dividing, and our children in gangs or in jail.  To be black in a white institution means you are not just fighting for your success, but you are fighting for the success of your community and of those people coming behind.

James Cone says that God is on the side of the oppressed. That statement is very powerful and despite how bad it can become for black people in this country, God and our ancestors give us the power we need to keep fighting.  Harriet Tubman and Nat Turner fought for freedom in this country, knowing that they might not experience it themselves.  Dr. King, Malcom X and the countless others during the 60s who fought for respect, justice and equality did it knowing that they themselves may not live to see it but they fought for those coming behind them. To be black in the country means that you need to learn how to balance prayer and protest.  Pray that God will continue to have the back of the oppressed and that His Divine justice may be manifested in this country.  Did black people survive the inhuman treatments of slavery, the disrespectful moments of Jim Crow, only to become victims of what Michelle Alexander calls, the New Jim Crow? I think not.  We have come a long way in this country but we still have a long way to go and as we pray that divine justice be displayed in the country, its up to us to continue to protest until we see it. Its not enough to pray without action and its not enough to show action without the power of prayer behind it.  Our ancestors showed us that freedom and justice is a possibility once we come together with prayer and protest. Because in this country, whether you are a black in school or black in a gang, you are still considered dangerous. Whether you are a preacher like Dr. King or a rapper like Tupac, you are considered a threat. You can be using your platform to fight against the social ills of society like Malcom X or just walking down the street with a hoody like Trayvon Martin. It doesn’t matter the road you take in this country. To black in a white institution means that you are dangerous. It means that you have power. It means that you have what it takes to overcome oppression in every form not just for you, but for your community and for those coming behind you. Let us continue to work to bring freedom and justice to the forefront and continue the fight that our ancestors started for us. Let the Force be with you. Ashe.

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