WE’RE NOT SURPRISED; WE’RE TIRED!
How A Black Pastor Engages His White Members After The Rittenhouse Verdict
The verdict is in. We all know it by now. Kyle Rittenhouse has been found “not guilty” on all counts of homicide and reckless endangerment.
Now ask me if I’m surprised.
I would venture to say that most black people in America were not surprised by this travesty of justice called a verdict. The only way the black community would have been surprised was if Rittenhouse had been found guilty. However, we knew better. When black people in my church said that Rittenhouse would get away with murder, they weren’t speaking from a prophetic place; they were speaking from a historic place.
We knew where things were going when we saw Judge Bruce Schroeder coddle Rittenhouse and determine certain pieces of evidence were inadmissible. We saw an illegal gun charge get dismissed. We saw that prosecutors could not call the deceased and wounded “victims.” We heard the judge’s phone play a MAGA ringtone during the trial. We watched Rittenhouse get to pick his own jurors at random out of a tumbler. We knew exactly where this was going.
The black, brown, native, and white people that I pastor trust God, but they don’t always trust the legal system. W.E.B. DuBois once said, “A system cannot fail those it was never built to protect.” It’s no wonder why a dear white man in my church sent me this message after the verdict: “Lamenting with you. Love you my friend, brother, and pastor. What a sad and awful decision today. So, so sorry.”
By dwelling together in authentic Christian community, white people in our church have learned to recognize injustice and listen to black pain. They have learned to lament with us, have compassion for us, and help us to bear our burdens. They also have used their voices and their influence to stand with us in starting good trouble. They realize that these very actions can put them in harm’s way along with us when the next armed white guy takes it upon himself to help maintain order during a racial protest.
Whereas the black people in particular in our church are tired, I know that many of our white family members are angry, dismayed, and even embarrassed by a system that continues to do what it was designed to do in protecting whiteness by any means necessary. Whites in our church married to black people or those who have adopted black children are more fearful of what white vigilantes can do and get away with. This is why they will not be fooled by black voices that prematurely call for unity or offer a kind of reconciliation that does not require justice. My white people know that if Kyle Rittenhouse was “Keontae Richardson,” the outcome would have been completely different. They also know that white responses that defend and even cheer the verdict will only increase our nation’s growing gulf.
If the Bible says in Exodus 23:2 and Leviticus 19:15 that justice can be perverted, we shouldn’t be surprised when it actually happens. Perverting justice occurs because the world is fallen, man is fallen, and the systems that fallen men oversee are fallen. Therefore, we should realize that racial biases are real and everything that is legal is not always just. Black people have over 400 years of receipts to prove this.
After the verdict came out, a white man in our church texted me, “The Rittenhouse verdict demonstrates once again why America’s racial history should be taught in school. It also proves why CRT should be taught, as it always has been, on the graduate level and in law school.”
Another white brother in our church said, “Pastor, we all need to get some rest. The battle isn’t even close to being over, and I’m not even close to being done fighting it.”
Although I’m tired, the white people that I do life with are holding my arms up, and like me, they know that our really difficult days are ahead of us. The good news is that as brothers and sisters in God’s racially diverse and unified kingdom, none of us have to face those days alone.
Dr. Chris Williamson is the founder and senior pastor of Strong Tower Bible Church, a racially diverse congregation in Nashville, Tennessee. He is an author and adjunct professor at Trevecca Nazarene University. As a co-founder in The Fuller Story Initiative, he has recently experienced over one billion media impressions after placing a statue of a United States Colored Troops soldier on the historic square of Franklin, Tennessee.