A black man dresses in a Ku Klux Klan robe and stands on a corner in Center City, Philadelphia holding a sign? He must have been out of his mind. Actually, the man, Sixx King, was absolutely on point and this black man applauds him. King used a provocative symbolism to draw attention to the tragedy of young black males killing each other.
“We’re bringing awareness to the black hypocrisy, complacency and apathy in the African-American community,” King, 35, told the news media. His sign read that the KKK killed 3,446 blacks in 86 years, but black on black murders eclipses that number every six months. More than 7,000 blacks were killed in 2011, according the FBI.
Reaction to King has been predictable. Many agree, while others have expressed outrage. Someone reportedly suggested that he be jailed. This is the challenge when you provoke people to think differently about the root of the problem – institutional racism and how we respond.
I can hear you crying, “Throwing the race card, again? Take responsibility for your actions!” But here’s an anology to ponder: If you put a loaf of bread inside of a warm, dark moist place, what will happen to it? You’ll get mold. It doesn’t matter if it’s white bread or brown bread. Because they are both wheat, mold will grow.
Black men murdering each other is one of the “molds” of institutional racism. It’s not just a black problem, it’s an American problem. Carter G. Woodson wrote about this in The Mis-Education of the Negro: “If you make a man feel that he is inferior, you do not have to compel him to accept an inferior status, for he will seek it himself.”
Institutional racism has been well documented and analyzed. What’s needed is a 21st century solution. The church has the answer, but it has been hypocritical, complacent and apathic. It’s way past time that the church reawaken and lead the community.
The Bible instructs us “not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Public education, the family, and the church are the institutions in America that deal most with developing the mind. Racism permeates public education, which is why it is failing black and brown children at alarming rates. Without positive family and community support or the individual inner drive to overcome institutional racism, students and their teachers succomb. The direct correlation between low academic achievement and high prison rates is not a mistake.
The church can directly influence individuals, families, and provide a counterbalance that transforms public education. The church is where slaves often learned to read. Churches set up schools for freed blacks after the Civil War. In the basement of churches is where civil rights activists trained. But with a few exceptions, the modern church, for the most part, has chosen to become irrelevant to many of our young brothers in the ‘hood. The “street mentality” (mold created by institutional racism) has filled the void.
Institutional racism, says, in part, that one group of people (particularly white males) is superior to everyone else because of skin color. It says that black people are the opposite of white, so black people are inferior, even subhuman. Native Americans, Hispanics, any non-white group is devalued. Sure, this is no longer legal and blatant, but the mindset remains pervasive throughout every institution in America, including the church. Individually, we either buy into the mindset or spend a lifetime battling to overcome it.
Across the globe, regardless of skin color, self-destructive behavior is a natural reaction to oppression. It’s as natural as mold growing on bread. Institutional racism molds how we all think. How we think triggers the decisions we make and how we act. Behavior is learned. Young black men are NOT born with a “kill each other” gene, and young white men are NOT genetically predestined for healthier and longer lives. But when you are constantly fed that your brother has no value and you digest this mindset as fact, it’s much easier to pull the trigger or turn a blind eye to his death.
In his Letter from Birmingham Jail, the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., who faced the real KKK, eloquently and skillfully analyzed our American problem. He spelled out solutions. Please read the letter carefully and apply it. Like brother King’s message in Philadelphias MLK’s letter challenged the church to BE the church of God. We are the institution with the power to transform minds. The time is now.
For more information on this topic, visit Another View, a weekly radio program and news roundtable in Hampton Roads, Virginia.