From Where I Sit “Riots are the Language of the Unheard”

Voting is the lowest form of democracy; and not just prayer alone, we need action ….



These are not my words. I am only amplifying them here: ~

A reflection from Richard Townsell, Executive Director of the Lawndale Christian Development Corporation.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. has been quoted a lot this week. One quote that has gotten a lot of traction is from an interview with CBS News’ Mike Wallace in 1966 where he said: “I think that we’ve got to see that a riot is the language of the unheard. And, what is it that America has failed to hear? It has failed to hear that the economic plight of the Negro poor has worsened over the last few years.” This is as true today as it was then. The young adults in my house and the young staff on our team are very angry and some have joined peaceful protests over the death of brother George Floyd. His death represents the latest in a long line of public lynchings at the hands of primarily white law enforcement officials. We wait in anticipation for what happens in this case because we have seen slaps on the wrist before after the heat dies down. As of my writing, the other officers have not been charged. The young people make me wonder if I am too old because I don’t want to join protests or marches. They probably think that us baby boomer types just don’t get it. Are we too comfortable, too scared or too accommodating with this system that we can’t bring ourselves to hit the streets? Or is it something else?

I lived through the riots of 1968 when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. I was not quite four years old but I remember my mother and older brother talking about it in hushed tones. How afraid they were as they heard ambulances and fire trucks all night. The anger was palpable in North Lawndale. Last night was like that. Stores along Roosevelt Road, Ogden and Pulaski and others were looted and burned. Madison and Pulaski stores were also looted.

It has been over 50 years since that happened and the community has yet to recover. There have been some heroic efforts in our community and communities like it around the country to rebuild in the aftermath of Dr. King’s death. In 2011, LCDC and our partners the Westside Federation and Safeway Construction built the $17MM, 45-unit apartment building called the MLK Legacy Apartments, primarily because of Dr. King’s presence in North Lawndale in 1966. He came to protest slum housing.

After he was murdered, the building that he and his family lived in for those months in 1966 was torn down. There would be no memory that he ever lived here. Back in the 1990’s, our church wanted to build a park in his memory. I thought that we should build a building that he would have been proud to live in instead on the site. Despite this and other noble efforts, the amount of resources allocated to rebuild North Lawndale has not come close to matching the devastation since 1968. I won’t quote any statistics because they are so readily available (and because our community has been studied to death by academics the world over), but suffice to say that if COVID 19 has wrought devastation to America in every socioeconomic statistic available then imagine Black folks have experienced 70 years of COVID in North Lawndale from health disparities, unemployment, blatantly racist housing discrimination and redlining, mass incarceration, vacant lots, poorly funded and maintained schools and the list of problems goes on and on. Problems, not issues. I’ll get back to that later.

That being said, I am firmly against rioting and looting. The primary reason is that for the past 52 years since the riots of 1968, not much of scale has been accomplished. Additionally, a lot of the folks instigating and provoking the theft and vandalism are white paid provocateurs, anarchists and professional looters who are opportunistically taking advantage of black grief and rage to cause mayhem at our expense. Why are they driving from the suburbs to tear up our neighborhoods? Fortunately, young black activists with camera phones are catching them in the act and stopping them from gentrifying and hijacking our legitimate and peaceful protests.

So, what do we do? I will tell you what is not the answer from my experience in community development and organizing over the past almost two decades of work and then what we can do. Continue reading “From Where I Sit “Riots are the Language of the Unheard””

Is the Bible Sexist and Racist? Part 5 – Racism

God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.

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This is the last in a series of five blog articles on the question: whether the Bible is sexist and racist? The subject is introduced in Part 1. We tackled sexism by looking at the overarching theme of the Bible on men and women in Part 2 and by looking at how Jesus treated women in Part 4. We tackled racism in Part 3 by looking at the overarching theme of the Bible on diversity. Finally, we view racism and diversity through the life of Jesus and His followers in this part 5.

Jesus doesn’t tackle the issue of racism or diversity directly, but He lived in a complicated time. He was Jewish, living in a tight knit Jewish community, which was governed and ruled by foreigners, the Romans. The Jews had a history of living alongside foreigners and were at various times throughout that history governed by them against their will.

Many of the foreigners were actually very closely related, like the Samaritans, who were of Jewish descent, and the Canaanites before them.

The Jews believed there were only two types of people: Jews and everyone else (Gentiles). They seemed to have forgotten that the very first words God spoke to Abraham, when He chose Abraham and his progeny, was that God chose them to be a blessing to all the nations. (Genesis 12:1-3) God didn’t choose them to bless only them, but to bless all nations through them.

Jesus was that blessing. Jesus is traced back to Abraham. He is from the line of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He is the root of Jesse’s seed, father of David. Jesus is the Promised One. Jesus claimed to be God in the flesh, so, how Jesus viewed others is the key to understanding what the Bible says about racism and diversity.

Continue reading “Is the Bible Sexist and Racist? Part 5 – Racism”

Is the Bible Sexist and Racist? Part 3 – Racism

“There is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him.” (Romans 10:12)

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This is the third part in a series on whether the Bible is sexist and racist. We introduced the question in Part 1 and explored whether the Bible is sexist in Part 2 by going back to the beginning, back to the creation story, where God introduces us to the crown of His Creation, Adam and Eve. We will explore what the Bible reveals to us about God’s view of racism in this Part 3 of the series before turning to what Jesus had to say about both sexism in Part 4 and racism in Part 5.

As we try to understand what the Bible has to say about racism, we go back to Adam and Eve. They are depicted in the Bible as representative of the human race. Genesis, therefore, has application not only to gender relations but to race relations as well. In Genesis we will look at clues for what God intended when He created the world and the people in it, and then we will go to Revelations to glimpse of how things will ultimately be when the redemption of the world is complete and God’s purpose is fulfilled.

This sweep, from Genesis to Revelation, from beginning to end, will show us an overarching view of race as God sees it.

Continue reading “Is the Bible Sexist and Racist? Part 3 – Racism”

Is the Bible Sexist and Racist? Part 2 – Sexism

If anything, Genesis 2 suggests that men need help, and Eve is to Adam what God is to mankind.

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Racism, sexism and oppression are themes in the story of man’s relations to other men (and women) throughout history. Many people today have the notion that the Bible perpetuates those things, and that enlightened men and women know better. But is that really true?

We introduced the question, “what the Bible says about sexism and racism”, in Part I. In this second part in the series, we look at what the Bible reveals to us about sexism. In Part 3, we begin to explore how the Bible addresses racism. In Part 4, we observe what Jesus reveals about sexism, and Part 5 tackles racism through the life of Jesus and what he taught.

In regard to sexism, to get an idea of what the Bible reveals about God’s idea of the interrelationship of men and women, we need to go back to the beginning, back before sin entered the world. There we are told God created Adam and Eve, the first (or representative) people. In the creation story, we get a glimpse of what God intended, and we begin to see how God views men and women in their original, intended state.

Continue reading “Is the Bible Sexist and Racist? Part 2 – Sexism”

Is the Bible Sexist and Racist? Part 1

The Bible has been used to justify racism, sexism and other similar things, but, are those things what the Bible really stands for?

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Many people charge the Bible with being sexist and racist. Whether the Bible is sexist and racist goes to the heart of who the Bible says God is. What does the Bible say about these things? How does the Bible describe men, women, ethnicity, diversity and human life?

Is the Bible accurately portrayed in the media on these issues? Is it accurately understood by the common person? Is the Bible accurately followed by the people who claim the Bible as their guiding light?

These questions are relevant today as Black Lives Matters and women’s marches and gatherings make the news and immigration policy is being debated in the national media in the United States.

How do we value human life? What is the basis for the value of human life?

And what does the Bible really say about these things?

This begins a five part series that looks at the evidence of how God views sexism from a biblical overview and evidence of how God views racism from a biblical overview, followed by the evidence in the Bible of the way Jesus viewed sexism and the evidence in the Bible of the way Jesus viewed racism.

Continue reading “Is the Bible Sexist and Racist? Part 1”