By Bob Allen
A black Southern Baptist pastor says he believes the kind of racial profiling which some believe played a role in the shooting of Ferguson, Mo., teenager Michael Brown is alive and well in the Southern Baptist Convention.
Dwight McKissic, pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church in Arlington, Texas, said in a Nov. 26 blog cross-posted at SBC Voices he is “absolutely convinced” that both Brown and Florida teen Trayvon Martin would be alive if the person who killed them had not profiled them because of their race.
McKissic pointed out that Darren Wilson, the white police officer cleared of wrongdoing this week by a grand jury in the Aug. 9 use of lethal force in an altercation with the black teenager, chose the word “demonic” to describe Brown’s demeanor.
George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch captain in Sanford, Fla., who killed Trayvon Martin in February 2012, said similarly that he began pursuing the 17-year-old because it looked “suspicious” for a young black male wearing a hoodie to be walking in a gated community.
McKissic said there was nothing inherently “demonic” about Brown or “suspicious” about Martin, but neither Wilson nor Zimmerman would have pulled the trigger as quickly if that had “encountered Justin Bieber, Johnny Manziel or the Jonas Brothers” in the same situation.
In 2012 McKissic criticized then-Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission President Richard Land for justifying controversial comments about the Martin shooting on his weekly radio program by claiming an African-American man is “statistically more likely to do you harm than a white man.”
McKissic said he believes Land’s apology was sincere, but also that “he honestly revealed a mindset that many Anglos have when they encounter blacks, particularly where there is no previously existing positive relationship.”
“Dr. Land stated something to the effect that it was permissible to profile blacks based on crime statistics,” McKissic said. “Wow! That mindset explains why Zimmerman killed Martin, and why Wilson killed Brown. That mindset explains why there is an inherent caution, fear and distrust when minority males and females encounter police officers. You are viewed as guilty, until proven innocent. And in the case of Wilson and Zimmerman, they began to hold court on the streets and render the death penalty.”
“One reason why integration is still a challenge socially and ecclesiastically in America is because of the racial profiling mindset that Wilson, Zimmerman, and (according to Land) the majority of the SBC personalities engage in,” McKissic said.
“In practical terms, if a crime occurs during the course of the SBC annual meeting and I’m present at the time, [white SBC bloggers] Dave Miller, Alan Cross, Bart Barber and David Worley are not first and foremost considered suspects,” McKissic said. “But, based on crime statistics, according to Zimmerman, I become ‘suspicious.’ According to Wilson, I become ‘demonic,’ and according to Land, I become a suspect. That line of thinking is horrible.”
McKissic speculated that Brown’s “fate was sealed” when video emerged showing that he robbed a convenience store minutes before his death.
“Black male life in America is generally devalued, as evidenced by higher salaries white males generally receive for doing the same work,” McKissic said. “When one has engaged in criminal activity, he is devalued even the more.”
McKissic said nothing in the video, however, justified shooting an unarmed man 12 times in the street.
The naked truth
McKissic credited Sen. Rand Paul, a Kentucky Republican likely to run for president in 2016, for acknowledging that if as a teenager a police officer ordered him off the street, he likely would have “smarted off,” but he would not have expected to be shot.
“Rand Paul told the naked truth,” McKissic said. “Rarely do you find this type of honesty spoken by politicians on an issue like this. Rand Paul has spoken profoundly on this matter. He is a ray of hope in this cesspool of darkness. May his tribe increase!”
SBC Voices is a group blog labeled as “the unofficial source for news and opinion about the Southern Baptist Convention.”
On Tuesday Baptist Press, the official SBC news service, carried an analysis article highlighting progress toward racial unity since the convention’s founding 169 years ago in defense of slavery. Citations include a 1995 SBC resolution apologizing to African-Americans and a recently completed study about ways to increase representation from ethnic minorities in denominational leadership.
The author, chief national correspondent David Roach, has a Ph.D. in church history from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. His 2009 doctoral dissertation was titled The Southern Baptist Convention and Civil Rights, 1954-1995.
Russell Moore, Land’s successor as president of the ERLC, observed after the Ferguson grand jury decision: “One of the things I’ve learned over the past year is that nothing brings out more hate mail, nothing, than when I say that too many black kids are being shot in America.”
“We have come a long way toward racial justice in this country, but we shouldn’t be deceived,” Moore said. “The old zombie of Jim Crow still moves about.”