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The Original Pandemic

Mark this down: May 2020 was the month that America woke up to the original cry of the original pandemic. What happened? The hunting and killing of Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia happened in March 2020. The video of the father and son, team McMicheals’ possible crimes did not gain traction until the first week of May. The killing of Breonna Taylor, an inspiring emergency medical technician, was mistakenly gunned down in her Louisville apartment in March 2020. The attention of Taylor’s death did not arise until May 2020. In the latter part of May, Amy Cooper, a white woman, did not appreciate when birdwatcher Chris Cooper (no relation) asked her to leash her dog in New York’s Central Park. Ms. Cooper weaponized her white skin and gender into a performance of threat from  a black man expecting it would break in her favor. Thankfully, Mr. Cooper filmed the performance of Ms. Cooper. If not recorded, there could have been a different outcome. With the month of May not quite done, Minneapolis police snuffed the life out of George Floyd by applying their knees to Mr. Floyd’s neck and back. Minnesota’s nice persona went up in flames. With  coronavirus still running rampart in the country, black people did not stop from raising their voices that racism was still killing black people. What a difference a month made. 

It was clear the racist virus would be passed on from generation to generation.

This racial pandemic has been ignored because white Americans continuously believe that this historical virus does not exist. Black people were told they needed to build themselves up with the antibodies of hard work, belief in the right values, and internalize that America has always been a color-blind society. Unfortunately, white Americans fail to realize they were the original carriers of this pathogen. They refused to recognize their condition and kept infecting black people since 1619. 

Black people shouted, pleaded, and screamed that white America needed to be tested for the racist virus.  Black people told them to take seminars, workshops, historical bus trips, pulpit exchanges and intake historical moments that sounded the alarm. Public service announcements from slavery, to Jim Crow, to civil rights, to were pointed, there are too many times to count. Yet, White America preferred the comfort of their insulated bubble to self-reflection. It was clear the racist virus would be passed on from generation to generation. They were not interested in any vaccine for this virus. They chose to live with it. 

The white church had some advantages  in her toolkit.

What if black people appealed to the white church for an all-out effort to work together for a racial vaccine? The white church had some advantages  in her toolkit. The white church believed the sin of racism was injected into veins of structures, policies, and culture of America. They believed the blood of Jesus Christ is the only vaccination capable of killing the racist virus. They believed the church was the means of healing and conciliation. They believed social inequities could be remedied by sharing and practicing kingdom values. The white church was  positioned to strike a mighty blow against this deadly contagion. 

The white American church decided to save herself for herself. 

The white church chose complicity over courage. Rather than emulate the church at Antioch, she chose social distancing from black people and could not admit the benefit racism bestowed upon her. She chose the white identity as the best means of saving her life, rather than losing it for Jesus’ sake. She believed the racist virus was just a hoax perpetrated by black people who could not get their act together. 

Will the white American church recognize this moment of decision?

The virus of racism roars  unhindered through churches, streets, schools, and neighborhoods reflected by the deaths of Ahmed Arbrey, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and others whose stories providentially pushed through the TV news algorithm. The white church in America continues to manage the symptoms of the virus of racism than seek a cure through confession, repentance, and repair. 

I have retired “reconciliation” from my vocabulary. Friend and author Mark Charles was right. Reconciliation assumes things were good from the beginning before race relations went sideways. Things have never been right between white America and black America since white America has disagreed the need for anti-racist vaccination. A 2019 Pew Research Center survey stated, “more than 150 years after the 13th Amendment abolished slavery in the United States, most U.S. adults say the legacy of slavery continues to have an impact on the position of black people in American society today. More than four-in-ten say the country hasn’t made enough progress toward racial equality, and there is some skepticism, particularly among blacks, that black people will ever have equal rights with whites.” 

Mark this time, May 2020. Will the white American church recognize this moment of decision or simply resume the normality of their lives? Ahmed, Breonna, George, and Chris’s names will fade from our memory until the next wave of black casualties emerge with different names, but repeat the same story. The cause of death: Virus-1619. Our original pandemic. 

Photo by CDC on Unsplash


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