The Need for Civility
Thursday, September 6, 2018
Last week I was called a racist. On Facebook. By another minister.
My crime? I said that it was inappropriate to have Louis Farrakhan, the leader of the Nation of Islam, on the platform at Aretha Franklin's funeral. My reasoning was simple - Farrakhan is a Muslim cleric and the memorial service was held in a Christian church. He had no more business officiating in that setting than I would, as a Baptist minister, officiating in a mosque.
I also referred to Farrakhan as a racist, which apparently upset her even more. And yet, Farrakhan's own words leave no doubt.
In 1984, Farrakhan called Judaism a "dirty religion" and said that Israel was seeking a peace based on "injustice, thievery, lying, and deceit." That same year, he said, "The Jews don't like Farrakhan, so they call me Hitler. Well, that's a good name. Hitler was a very great man."
Ten years later, Farrakhan was quoted as saying, "Murder and lying comes easy for white people." A year after that, he referred to Jews as "bloodsuckers."
In 2000, Farrakhan said that "white people are potential humans - they haven't evolved yet." He added that "the white man is our mortal enemy."
And as recently as 2015, Farrakhan said that "white people deserve to die." Need I go on?
Unable to dispute my point, the minister chose to ignore the issue and create a smokescreen instead. And so, she said that if Farrakhan is a racist, then so am I.
Hurtful words. Childish words. Libelous words.
My point here is not to defend myself. I will let my three decades of ministering to 500,000 mostly minority inmates in 500 different correctional institutions across North America and Africa do that for me. The same goes for my many years of working with at-risk minority youth in our community, the four racial reconciliation conferences I helped coordinate, and the trip I made to Memphis in April to participate in the MLK50 conference to honor Dr. King and continue his legacy.
No, what really concerns me - and led me to pen this article - is how we so carelessly and haphazardly throw around labels these days. Rather than engage someone on the issues, we choose the easy - and intellectually dishonest - way out by demonizing those who don't see eye to eye with us. That is exactly what happened to me in this instance.
Apparently, the minister in question was offended by a recent Facebook post in which I cited numerous studies linking out-of-wedlock birth rates to future incarceration and lifelong poverty. Since 73% of Black births are currently to single mothers, she falsely and unfairly interpreted my comments as racist.
The same goes for when I defended law enforcement officers of all colors by pointing out that 93% of Black homicides are committed by Black perpetrators...not by cops.
The truth of the matter is that families are breaking down across every racial and ethnic line because of absentee fathers and the lack of both moral absolutes and positive male role models. But as I stated before, it is easier to attack the messenger than to address the message - and the irrefutable facts behind it.
Until we, as individuals and as a society, stop throwing around groundless insults and start tackling tough issues head-on with civility and mutual respect, nothing will get accomplished.
I don't know about you, but I sure am ready for some honest, polite and civil public discourse.