Opinion Piece By Dr. Noah Manyika June 5, 2020.
I write this to my brothers and sisters in the United States where I spent over two decades working in the American missionfield. I would normally build up to the following statement and put it at the end of my write-up, but I will open with it for the sake of those who only need a condensed version of where I stand. In my view there is no man nor woman more dangerous than one whose self-righteousness will not allow them to be moved by the spilling of the blood and the taking of the life of an innocent man simply because that person doesn’t look like them.
So here is the rest: Sometimes life drops the equivalent of what in Anti-Submarine Warfare is called a “depth-charge” which is designed to either force an enemy sub to surface from the depths of the sea, or to destroy the sub altogether. Proverbs 20:5 describes the intents of man’s heart as “deep waters.” Jeremiah 17:9 talks about the desperate and unknowable deceitfulness and wickedness of man’s hearts. The reality is that it’s not always easy to force the wickedness buried deep within our dignified and pious selves to surface so we can deal with it.
Those who have simply never been caught, or who live in a world where their felonies and misdemeanors are often overlooked or diminished, nurture their indifference in the “goodness” of not having criminal records, and never having been fired from their jobs for using inappropriate or politically incorrect language. They feel completely justified to be resentful of anything that makes them feel guilty for the heinous and reprehensible acts of others who cannot exercise public self-restraint like they can.
Their “self-restraint” extends to their silence when something bad happens to people who don’t look like them. They say: “Since I have never lived their experience, I don’t want to misrepresent their pain.” They conveniently forget that we empathize with others not because we have lived their exact experience, but because we, and they, are human. Unless of course we don’t believe they are human. That was why many of us were traumatized by the images of desperate people who didn’t look like us choosing to jump to their deaths rather than being burnt alive in the infernal flames of the World Trade Center on 9/11.
Equating the killing of a person with destruction of property and adopting an absolutist stance that criminalizes all protests as acts of violence and people taking the law into their own hands, reveals a frightening depth of callousness. Those who adopt such a historical stances conveniently forget that the right to protest was one that was exercised by the Sons of Liberty in Boston, Massachusetts in December of 1773, an act of defiance called The Boston Tea Party which stoked the flames of the American Revolutionary War, and ultimately led to the independence of the United States in 1783.
There are too many supposed men of conscience and faith leaders who think their silence or muted response is a sign of leadership. They claim they don’t speak out of respect for the good people on the other side. It’s only at such times that they forget one of the great lessons from the life and ministry of Christ that true leadership distinguishes itself by taking an unequivocal stand for what’s right. We see that leadership demonstrated by the prophet Elijah in 1 Kings 18:21 when he challenged the children of Israel with these words:
“How long shall you hold between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him.”
Elijah could take that stance because he was not confused. Unfortunately, too many leaders who have always been certain about scripture become confused when issues that challenge their attitudes towards people of other races present themselves. I am at a loss to understand which other side the silent “people of conscience” would be afraid to offend by saying out loud and clearly that the killing of George Floyd was murder, and that no one should meet such an end at the hands of law enforcement officers. Because I am very black, as is my son, what would they say if that officer’s knee was on my neck, or my son’s?