Updated: Jul 11
By Rev. Dr. Demetrius A. Russell, Sr.
The world is facing the biggest pandemic in recent history and while total focus has been
given to COVID-19, there are constant challenges that certain groups of people face. Not the rhetoric being spewed from the White House, or overly conservative Republicans / evangelicals such as “they are taking away our rights and freedom as American citizens.” Many feel this way because wearing masks have been encouraged to cut down on the spread of this virus. While they complain about masks, others are asking the question “will I make it home?”
I struggle with the idea of wearing a mask in public because, well, I am an African American male. Regardless of my height or demeanor, I can be viewed as a threat. I often face this struggle not because I feel my liberties are being taken away, but because White America is terrified of me and the reality is that I may not return home.
In February, Ahmaud Arbery was lynched in the state of Georgia. His alleged crime was that he was “black” and could have been a person of Interest concerning neighborhood break-ins. As of late, information has surfaced that could possibly tarnish Mr. Arbery’s reputation and justify his murder. While many sat quietly the world saw that our concern as a people was valid when compliant, George Floyd was murdered by strangulation in broad daylight. His Alleged Crime: forgery.
Why am I writing about this issue? Our communities have somewhat gone silent. It’s as if we’ve become content with the victories experienced during past movements and have taken our feet off the gas. Many, by going on living their lives with the mentality of “I made it by myself and so can you.” We forget that the rights fought for, if not careful, can be reversed because we aren’t afforded many seats at the table.
We have become silent because generations, after the struggle of the Civil Rights movement, are just understanding the realities that many of us have faced. We are living in a time where our children are told you can consistently be afforded the same opportunities as their counterparts and in actuality, the struggle seems to be just as difficult. Why? White robes and hoods have been replaced with suits and government positions; the dogs are chained; the water hoses are safely nestled in fire stations and feelings have been suppressed. But now, those feelings once hidden are beginning to resurface. We can’t be surprised by the actions of some. We can no longer remain silent!
The life of our savior, Jesus Christ, models the importance of breaking the silence and pointing out injustices. One example, found in John 8, shows the importance of breaking the silence. Though the woman caught in the act of adultery was guilty, Jesus addresses the unjust actions of her accusers, the Pharisees. While so many others potentially sought to appease these individuals, Jesus broke the silence by making a strong but simple statement encouraging the sinless person to commence the death sentence of stoning this woman. This statement causes them to take self inventory and acknowledge their sin. As a result, the woman lived and had the opportunity to make the most of her life. It is only when we stand for right and call out injustices that people are forced to make changes and those who are treated harshly can make return home safely.
How can we break the silence? By not being afraid to speak up concerning how we really feel. By pointing the sins of those who systematically oppress people of African descent. By not being content with being the only “Black” person. By attending city and school meetings open to the public. By volunteering at our schools so there can be strong representation. By voting in ALL elections. By teaching our children the truth about our history. By standing in the pulpits and encouraging our members that they are more than what society tells them. That they can achieve greatness and when they do, to bring someone from their community with them.
Breaking the silence can be frightening and lead to unwanted challenges. Isn’t that where we are now? Facing unwanted challenges? Breaking the silence calls for remaining vigilant and focusing on the goal. The goal of equality, justice and appreciation for making this country what it was for some time. Our ancestor’s contributions made this country thrive and now it’s time to pick up where they left off, open our mouths and break the silence.