At least two opinion pieces have been released since clergy were arrested at the Ferguson Missouri Police Department on Monday October 13, 2014. As I understand it, the clergy were there at the invitation of the Millennial Activists United, a group of young Black leaders intent upon being the motivators of justice for all, not just some. They have basically put their lives on hold so that they might bring attention to the fact that there are lives that matter, lives worth saving.
(See the two articles: http://www.stltoday.com/news/opinion/mailbag/clergy-members-are-presumptuous-to-ask-officers-to-repent/article_cca3ba1c-9771-51da-a1a4-0015cf8fdb8d.html
I was told by a clergy member that was there, that the intent was to share a commitment to this cause by showing up, by praying, by seeking forgiveness for their own sins of racism and to be available to ask others to repent and to hear confessions. They also sought to speak to the Police Chief but were denied. At that point is when the arrests were made.
Was it staged? One could easily say yes to that. Just as Cornel West stated on Saturday, he came to St. Louis to be arrested, to act in solidarity with the protestors who had also been arrested for the idea that Black Lives Matter. There were those who were willing to be arrested and so they were.
Yes, Privilege was there that day – White and Economic Privilege. Those who were arrested did not spend a great deal of time worrying about whether or not they would get out or when they would get out. But that was not the point. OR was it?
Those who hold a certain amount of privilege do not have to worry about how they are treated by police or worry about their day to day actions bringing on suspicion. Those who hold this privilege do not have to teach their children how to react if the police stop them. They do not have to worry if others are waiting with bail money as they are arrested.
Black youth do not hold that privilege on a day to day basis. They are arrested…and charged…and sentenced, often without proper or caring representation. It is a reality. The for profits prisons are full of black men and women. As long as our prison systems operate on a for profit means, there will be black lives to feed it.
That is the message I received from the clergy’s day of protest and arrest.
But there are those who would change the focus. There are those who would criticize. There are those who would cast aside the reality that justice is denied for many, especial those of color or low economic means.
It is easy to criticize and refocus the protest. Finger pointing at clergy is a really great way to sidetrack the real issue -- we are a racist society with deeply embedded problems that will not be solved in a day. This is a centuries old issue...we have a lot of work to do. Calling clergy presumptuous because they did what scriptures tell them to do is disingenuous.
I say that these groups should shut up criticizing and get off their probably white privileged butts and do something other than tell those who are in action how to or not to do it.