Here’s the text from the Call to Action I was asked to give at today’s “Standing with Our Neighbor: Charlottesville” event sponsored by Faith Voices of SW MO.
As people of faith we are called to put our beliefs into action, to practice what we preach. And in the face of the violence perpetrated by white supremacists, white nationalists, white nativists and neo-nazis, we must act.
And our actions must extend beyond mere condemnations. We must work toward building communities that value fairness, dignity, equality and justice.
We are not simply asking for all Americans to come together and listen to one another. No, we are asking Americans — particularly those that adhere to (or benefit from) white supremacy to do the hard work of repentance. There is no right and left on this issue, there is only right and wrong. Until white supremacists — and those who benefit from white supremacy — acknowledge this and confess this will true healing and reconciliation be possible.
Secondly, we are calling on all who believe in the values of fairness, dignity, equality and justice — whether you identify as religious or not — to recognize that in times like this, silence is nothing less than betrayal. We must not allow racism to go unchecked. Demeaning rhetoric — whether at work or at church or wherever — has no good value in our society, especially when it’s casually used to reinforce a problematic status quo that manifests itself not just in words but in death-dealing societal structures. When it comes to the violence of racism, it’s not solely located in white nationalist terrorism. It is far too easy for white Americans, who are not impacted by the daily realities of racism — of what it means to live daily life as a black or brown person in a country not only birthed in slavery but long supported by structures of white supremacy through Jim Crow and beyond — it is far too easy not to recognize the urgency of working toward race equity and justice here and now. But we must stand together and raise our voices so these principles are not just ideas, but lived realities. The violence and hate in Charlottesville was horrific, but so are the daily injustices of discrimination in the structures of society, whether it be through the prison industrial complex that disproportionately affects black and brown persons, or public school systems across the country that may not technically be segregated but are segregated in terms of funding and resourcing. This list goes on, and we must demand that our societal structures reflect the fairness, dignity, equality and justice which we say we value, even if it comes at a cost. Otherwise we will fail to move forward and will be weighed down by the sins of our past, and all of our best rhetoric will mean nothing.
We are also called to hold our officials accountable, and this extends to every level, from Springfield to Washington.
We applaud the city’s condemnation of the violence and racism in Charlottesville and ask that city officials do everything possible to build a fair and just Springfield.
We also applaud the unequivocal condemnation of white supremacy by politicians like Marco Rubio, John McCain and Paul Ryan, who have called it out for the evil that it is, and we further demand that they — along with all of our elected leaders including Sen. McCaskill, Sen. Blunt, and Representative Long — ensure that white supremacy and the alt-right have no place in the administration of a country that aspires for liberty and justice for all.
With this in mind, we demand that extremist presidential advisors like Steve Bannon and Sebastian Gorka be fired immediately because of their ties to an alt-right white neo-Nazi nationalism that is not representative of the wishes and desires of a country known as the land of the free and the home of the brave.
Lastly, we hold the president of the United States accountable for his reckless rhetoric that has only served to embolden and strengthen white supremacists since he first announced his run for office. Obviously it would be absurd to say that the problem of white supremacy and nationalism began with President Trump — of course not, for America’s original sin of racism has been around ever since this nation was built on the backs of slaves. But it is naive to think that a posture of perpetual bullying — in which the president consistently demeans and dehumanizes the dignity of others — serves to reduce, rather than embolden, white nationalists whose violence is predicated on demeaning and dehumanizing the dignity of others.
It was appropriate for the justice department to label Saturday’s murder of Heather Heyer, a counterprotestor killed when the car of a white nationalist was turned into a murderous weapon, an act of domestic terrorism. The administration now needs to condemn the white nationalism in the president’s inner circle and work to build trust with the American people so President Trump is not simply viewed as a puppet of the alt-right. His personal and unequivocal denouncements of white nationalistic terrorism would be a step in the right direction, and we are still waiting for him to personally address this.
As faith voices, we further ask that religious leaders refuse to lend their support to policies and leaders that perpetuate racism, rather than stand against racism. The church has a very checkered past in this regard, and we must do better. We will be judged by our actions, by history, and by God.