Richard Land’s racial remarks against the backdrop of the Trayvon Martin tragedy are the most damaging, alienating, and offensive words about race that I’ve read or heard, rendered by a SBC personality, in the twenty-eight years that I’ve served as a SBC church planter/pastor.
The pain that Richard Land inflicted upon Blacks in the SBC is a pain that would be only felt greater by the pain inflicted upon Trayvon Martin’s family by George Zimmerman. In his non apology—apology, he blames those of us who responded to his racial views, for the pain we felt. The opening line in his letter of apology, dated April 16, 2012, says, “I am writing to express my deep regret for any hurt or misunderstanding my comments about the Trayvon Martin case have generated.” He then blames his readers and listeners for not being “progressive” enough to be on the same page with him racially:
“Clearly, I overestimated the progress that has been made in slaying the ugly racist ghosts of the past in our history. I also clearly underestimated the extent to which we must go out of our way not to be misunderstood when we speak to issues where race is a factor…Please know that I apologize to any and all who were hurt or offended by my comments.”
Note carefully that he never acknowledges that the problem was caused by the substance of his words but rather by the misunderstanding of his words. He begins and ends by telling us that the problem was the response to his words and the lack of progress in the public square as it relates to understanding or accepting his words. This is a huge problem for the President of the Ethics Division of the SBC to attempt to pass this on as a genuine apology. However, I accept his apology simply because he asked; and therefore, feel biblically constrained to do so (Ephesians 4:32; Matthew 5:23-25).
I remain appalled at his unrepentant words. And since Dr. Land will not repent of his words, I feel compelled to ask the SBC by way of resolution to repudiate and renounce the racially offensive, biblically unjustifiable and factually incorrect words of Dr. Richard Land. He spoke these words as an official of the SBC; therefore, the SBC must take ownership and responsibility for Dr. Land’s words. I could not with a good conscience attend a SBC meeting in the post Luter years, or increase giving to the Cooperative Program as long as Land’s words remain un-repented of. To do so would be to engage in self-hatred; the exercise and practice of low self-esteem; to support Land’s view of racial profiling and his flawed racial reasoning.
What was even more troubling to me than Land’s remarks, was his assertion that the vast majority of Southern Baptists agree with his racial views.____ If he is accurate in his assessment, it confirms the suspicion that many Black Baptists have held for years regarding Southern Baptists; and that is many Southern Baptists, if not the majority, inherently and instinctively don’t honestly respect, relate to or view Blacks with a mindset of mutual respect, equality and understanding. Blacks are primarily viewed as mission projects, not as mission partners. Inadvertently, Dr. Land opened to us the window of his heart and showed us this painful reality (Mark 7:20-23).
To read Land’s initial comments and his apology is painful, shameful and heartbreaking for many of us. Now the SBC must take ownership of Dr. Land’s words, because according to Dr. Land, his words reflect the views of his constituency. There are three reasons why I believe the SBC must repudiate Dr. Land’s remarks; or I, for one, will remove myself from SBC gatherings.
I. Dr. Land’s Racial Comments Are Factually Incorrect
Land owes President Obama an apology for assigning a racial motive to the POTUS Trayvon Martin remarks without any factual evidence to support his claim. President Obama said, “If I had a son, he would look like Trayvon Martin.” President Obama was expressing Christian compassion, parental affirmation and support, and heartfelt identification with the grief and pain the family was suffering. For Dr. Land or anyone else to read anything else into the POTUS statement, they would have to do what theologians call “isogete” (reading into), rather than “exegeting” (taking out of). Land Says President Obama was “pouring gasoline on racialist fires” when he made the above statement. Dr. Land is simply factually incorrect.
Dr. Land falsely accused President Obama again, “It was Mr. Obama who turned this tragedy into a national issue.” Again, that’s simply not true. When the Samford Police Department took forty plus days to arrest George Zimmerman and the national media began to report this fairly early on, that’s what turned this story into a national issue. Again, Dr. Land owes the President an apology.
Dr. Land referred to Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton as “race hustlers” and “ambulance chasers” with respect to their role in the Trayvon Martin case. I happened to hear an interview where Trayvon’s mom and dad said that they called and asked Rev. Jackson and Rev. Sharpton—both Baptist Ministers—to come and support them in the aftermath of Trayvon’s death. It is simply factually inaccurate and unkind to say to ministers who have been requested by a family to support them that they are “race hustlers” and “ambulance chasers” for fulfilling a ministry responsibility. Dr. Land owes these two men an apology. I know for a fact they were simply responding to the requests of Trayvon’s family. This is an unethical accusation coming from the chief ethics officers of the SBC. Shameful!
Dr. Land, speaking of Rev. Jackson, Rev. Sharpton and Louis Farrakhan says, “In their eyes segregation has never been truly repealed; it has just become invisible…They need Trayvon Martin’s to continue perpetuating their central myth: America is a racist and an evil nation. For them, is always Selma Alabama, circa 1965.” Dr. Land would be surprised to learn that if he has accurately summarized the beliefs of Jackson, Sharpton and Farrakhan with regard to “segregation,” this may be the only true statement he made; the vast majority of African Americans would agree with the “In their eyes…” statement. Land has to look no further than the Annual SBC meeting, the SBC Executive Offices and Sunday morning in most SBC churches to see the kind of segregation he described. Dr. Land’s comments are not only factually incorrect, they are biblically unjustifiable.
II. Land’s Comments Are Biblically Unjustifiable
As I’ve listened to Black Baptists discuss Land’s comments, I believe his most offensive remark related to his belief in justified racial profiling. The SBC must repudiate the profiling comment, if nothing else. According to the prosecutor and investigators in Florida, Trayvon Martin was shot and killed because of Zimmerman’s profiling. Land’s comments gives ecclesiastical license from the SBC for this kind of profiling. Land’s racial profiling comments are analogous to what the major SBC pastors and theologians said about Black people for many years—for which they have never repented of—and that is, Black people were cursed by God. Land’s “justifiable profiling” doctrine is virtually identical and analogous to the SBC “curse of Ham” doctrine. Land just presented the 21st Century version of the “curse of Ham” doctrine, financed with Cooperative Program dollars. This is an egregious offense. Black SBC churches only give 1% to the Cooperative Program. Nevertheless, our churches helped to finance Richard Land’s communicating to all of America that racial profiling is justifiable. It was the justifiable profiling doctrine that led the SBC to conclude that slavery and segregation were biblically permissible. Land has revived that doctrine. According to Dr. Land, persons like me are worthy of being profiled.
Dr. Land’s position on racial profiling is contrary to the letter and the spirit of the Bible. In Malachi 2:10, the prophet said:
“Have we not all one Father? Has not one God created us? Why do we deal treacherously with one another by profaning the covenant of the fathers?”
In Acts 10:34, “Then Peter opened his mouth and said: “In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality.”
In Acts 17:26, “And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings,”
In Galatians 3:28, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
Dr. Land’s most serious racially offensive statement was the “profiling” remark. This is the statement that would make me a suspect if a crime occurred at the annual SBC meeting while I’m in attendance. Now that I know how Dr. Land feels about profiling, I no longer feel welcome at a SBC gathering, especially if the majority of the SBC agrees with Dr. Land.
Why would Dr. Land speak out on the Trayvon Martin case, while he remained silent about a litany of racial atrocities in SBC life? (http://dwightmckissic.wordpress.com/2010/04/07/attitudes-toward-race-in-sbc-life/) (http://dwightmckissic.wordpress.com/2011/03/12/lessons-from-the-animal-kingdom/) Why does Dr. Land remain silent about the fact that the majority of persons incarcerated are Caucasian? Why does Dr. Land remain silent about approximately 70% of all arrests in 2008 were Whites being arrested according to Royce West, Jr., a criminal justice professor and practicing attorney at the University of Texas at Arlington? If Dr. Land were balanced or fair, he would have to also look at statistics and argue for the justifiable criminal profiling of Whites. I don’t think we need to profile anyone and neither do I appreciate the Chief Ethics Officer of the SBC advocating profiling. Racial profiling resulted in the death of Trayvon Martin. It is no small matter that the SBC is now embracing racial profiling.
III. Land’s Comments Are Racially Offensive and Balanced in Favor of Zimmerman
Dr. Land said:
“It turns out that alleged shooter George Zimmerman is hardly some kind of white supremacist. He’s Hispanic on his mother’s side. His mother is Peruvian. He has black family members. He has mentored black children and is a registered Democrat.
And Martin isn’t exactly a saint. He’d been suspended three times for vandalism, truancy and carrying a baggie with pot residue.”
Dr. Land owes Trayvon’s parents an apology for this unfair and unbalanced assault on the character of a dead man, whose life was cut short by a man who shares Land’s profiling doctrine. George Zimmerman has been arrested for assaulting a police officer, domestic battery arrests and alcohol related arrests. Dr. Land mentions none of Zimmerman’s “unsaintly” history, but yet he attempts to paint Trayvon as a person worthy of profiling and, consequently, death. The SBC owes Trayvon’s parents an apology for helping to finance this unfair and unbalanced assault on a dead man paid for by the Southern Baptist Convention. I’m embarrassed and ashamed of our actions in this regard.
Richard Land has about as much business being in charge of the ethics of the SBC as I have being in charge of the physically-fit society or George Zimmerman being in charge of a battered women’s shelter and the temperance society. I trust and pray that Dr. Land will repent of his racially and attitudinally flawed words. If he doesn’t, I pray that the SBC will have the courage and character to hold him accountable by repudiating his remarks and dismissing him from an office that he no longer has the credibility to hold.
The real test of the SBC racial progress is not electing a man of color to a two-year position, but rather demonstrating respect and equality toward people of color eternally. There is not a person of color in the SBC today who serves as an entity head and manages a budget. Unfortunately, that will remain true even after Dr. Luter is elected president. Why would Dr. Land address the Trayvon Martin matter, when he has not addressed the current lack of racial inclusion and empowerment in SBC life? The SBC casts the wrong votes about slavery and segregation in the past. The question now is will the SBC cast the right votes regarding the repudiation of the Land racial remarks?