My friend Daron George was kind enough to answer some questions regarding the black experience in America and how the church (particularly white evangelicals) should respond. Associate and Student Ministries Pastor at Orlando North (Altamonte Springs, Florida), Daron’s passion and focus lie in helping Christ-followers become wholly devoted to him so that they can live their most fulfilled lives through him (see here for his web-page).
[Daron speaking recently to his church on identity, division, and race.]
My questions are in bold.
Many white Americans are expressing total shock at the murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd. Were you personally shocked by these murders?
Though the murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd were gut-wrenching, as a black American I am not shocked by these murders. There are two different Americas, and what white Americans are seeing and being appalled by has been experienced and dealt with in the black community since the beginning. The only difference now is that it is being recorded. Just think of all the incidents that have not been recorded or swept under the rug. What white Americans see with their eyes right now is how we, as black Americans, have always seen America.
Can you speak into your experience as an African-American male in America? In what ways is your experience different from that of a typical white-American male?
In my experience as a black American male, my skin color is seen as guilty no matter the situation I’m in. This is a lesson I learned at a very early age. Growing up, I used to attend the Boys and Girls Club in Cleveland, TN. One day I am speaking with one of the workers there by the name of Derek, and we are having a great conversation, but then this little white girl comes crying towards Derek and I, and behind her is a white gentleman that also worked at the club. The guy that was with the girl thought I did something to her, so he starts screaming at me. Derek, who was also white, looked at the gentleman and said, “Daron has been sitting here talking with me for a while, and I know he didn’t do anything to this girl.” Even the girl was saying it wasn’t him. He looked at Derek and started to say something about my skin color and then Derek stops him. Needless to say, the guy was fired. I am thankful for Derek but that sums up my experience in America as a black male. I am always considered the guilty party until I am proven innocent. My skin color should not be a guilty plea or a death sentence.
Do you feel the issue at hand needs addressing from the pulpit? If so, how should leaders proceed? How should they not proceed?
I 100% believe that the church needs to be addressing this from both the pulpit and within their communities. Back in 1961, many evangelical leaders disapproved of Martin Luther King. When he spoke at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary at the invitation of a professor, Southern Baptists opposed his visit.
Historian Taylor Branch, “Within the church, this simple invitation was a racial and theological heresy, such that churches across the South rescinded their regular donations to the seminary.” The church cannot be quiet, nor can it afford to be. The church in America as a whole has always dealt with racism and I believe in part because it has never repented from its role in racism.
There are three ways I see we as the church needs to go about this. First, the church needs to repent for its role in racism. It is one of America’s original sins and God cannot heal if there is no repentance. Secondly, you cannot legislate out racism within people, there is no law that we can put into place that can change it. Racism is a heart issue and if it is a heart issue, then it is a spiritual issue, and if it is a spiritual issue it becomes a church issue. That is not to say that we ignore the systemic racism within our laws and regulations as a country. We must undoubtedly legislate out any law that is built on the back of systemic racism. Lastly, we need to take a hard stance against racism as a community of believers. The church as a whole needs to oppose it at every level. The bible calls us ambassadors of Christ, and we all know Christ would not stand for it so neither should we.
What factors do you think contribute to a general apathy in white-Americans towards the experience of people of color?
The biggest thing I believe contributes to the general apathy for white-Americans is that they have never experienced it. They will never know what it is to be black in America, so to them, it doesn’t exist, or it is rare. If you do not experience it or in close proximity/relationship to someone who has, then it is easy to be apathetic towards our experience.
How can the White-American church respond well to the evils of discrimination and overt (and subtle) racism?
During times when there has been a national outcry such as Freddie Gray, Tamir Rice, Trayvon Martin, the church has been quiet. For too long the church has been silent on this issue of race. So first, they need to use their voice to speak out against it. Let your black brothers and sisters know you stand with them and see them by using your platform to speak up because your voice can carry in places my voice cannot. Secondly, the church needs to work on diversity but, more importantly, inclusion. We need to be included in senior leadership and not just as a token black individual. There are churches and ministries that I cannot participate in at a high level simply because I am black. It has nothing to do with my education, my love for God and people, my gifting to teach and preach. It’s simply because I’m black that keeps me out of ministry opportunities and leadership. We need to set the standard for the world and stop letting them set the standard for us. We are not asking for a handout but what I am asking is that we as a whole are recognized for what we bring to the body of Christ and it isn’t so you can say your church is diverse while at the same time stifling our voices within leadership.
Thank you, Daron.
A gifted communicator and passionate follower of Jesus, Daron George is husband to Bethany and a father to four amazing children. Find him at www.darongeorge.org