BALTIMORE RIOTS: Why Black lives matter to individual Americans, but not to systemic America

Great insight from the awesome voice of Gabriel C. Stovall of Atlanta, Georgia.

People keep asking the question.

What is all the looting, burning, violence and pillaging solving in Baltimore right now?

The answer is, nothing.

People keep asking the question.

Do these people realize that all of this is doing them absolutely no good?

The answer is, yes.


They know. They know that rioting, pillaging, looting, burning and violence is doing nothing to bring back Freddie Gray. They know it will have no positive affect on any pending trial involving the police officers responsible for his death.

They know that no amount of stores burned, cars overturned, businesses broken into or police officers attacked will cause any reversal of fortunes in the tragic situation that has gripped the nation, revolving around yet another Black man who’s life has been controversially and prematurely ended by White police officers.

But here’s what they also know: They know that their voices are not being heard. They know that over 100 cases of police brutality against Baltimore citizens has been won for the Baltimore citizens over the last four years, proving that the outrage isn’t just a case of imagined emotionalism gone awry.

They know there’s a problem. And even in the midst of those cases won, they also know that it doesn’t even put a dent in the real problem, nor offer up any lasting solution.

Contrary to what you may believe, these people are not stupid. They’re mad.

Let’s be honest. Can we be honest? Black lives don’t matter. They never have. Not to the system that is America. That’s not to say that large pockets of individual people, Black, White, Asian, Hispanic and any other ethnicity, believe this way.

That’s not to say that community organizations, multicultural churches, etc. feel this way. To be sure, I personally know far more individuals who believe that Black lives matter as well as every other kind of life imaginable than those who believe otherwise.

But the key word there is, individuals. There is a strong difference between American individuals and a systemic American context.

Because whether @Dak Prescott Womens Jersey we like it or not, the reason why Black lives don’t matter in systemic American contexts is because they were never originally meant to matter. It was engrained in this nation’s original Constitution (two-thirds a man clause). It @Dak Prescott Youth Jersey was reinforced by allowable, pardonable and — in many cases — encouraged actions to keep the wedge between Blacks and Whites and Blacks and Blacks insurmountable (Slavery. Jim Crow).

And now it has taken on another form in the realm of police brutality.

But you say you’ve heard all of this before, right? You say that we can’t progress while we keep on holding on to this past stuff, right?

Christians, you say that at some point we just need to forget it and call it what it is — a simple sin problem, right?

Enter that verse of Scripture in Galatians 3:28 where it says that there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for we are all one in Jesus Christ, right?

Right. Except there’s one problem. That’s not how America was raised.

Child psychologists will tell you that one of the most rudimentary truths of a child’s brain development is the cruciality of what happens to that child between ages 0-5. They call these the formative years.

I recently read a statistic that says a child’s brain is more than 85 percent developed by the time he or she reaches three years old. My son, Micah turns 4 in two weeks. His brain is almost done growing.

And what’s more, children during these formative years — these first five years of life — get all the building blocks and foundation needed to develop into whatever kind of person they’re going to be. Therefore, experts in child rearing suggest that because of this, it’s hard — and in some cases, unrealistic — to undo, for good or bad, the traits that have been downloaded in a child during these formative years.

I wonder if that same descriptor applies to an entire country.

If you can’t easily de-program one kid after five years, why in the world do we think it should be so easy to reprogram an entire country from how it was formed during its first 500 years?

America doesn’t have a race problem as much as it has a DNA problem. It’s a part of this nation’s DNA to look at Black and Brown and think something other than equal to White.

It’s a part of this nation’s DNA to use the Bible to purport fictitious images of a White Jesus — despite him hailing from an area of the middle east that has always featured people who’s skin had been sun-kissed toward @Dak Prescott Kids Jersey a darker hue — with predominantly White interests.

It’s a part of this nation’s DNA to use scriptural references to the cursing of Noah’s son Ham — a man with perceived “black” skin –  and, by extension, all of Canaan (Genesis 9:24-27), and out-of-context Scriptures in the book of Philemon as an attempt to attribute racist views of Black people being cursed, and seen as “less than” to something that was supposedly God’s idea.

It’s a part of this nation’s DNA to ban Black people from worshipping in their predominantly White churches because of the color of their skin, forcing them to start their own Black congregations, Black religious governing bodies, Black conventions and Black denominations (African Methodist Episcopal comes to mind), then wonder why we have such a hard time breaking the color barrier every Sunday at 11 a.m. (Consequently, I’ve found out that there are still some White churches in the rural South who will not allow Blacks to be baptized in their pools — in 2015).

In fact, looking at Black people in a vile, destructive, negative, animalistic light is so much engrained in this nation that you don’t even have to be racist to see Black people in that way…especially in juxtaposition to Whites and other ethnicities.

Case in point: I’ve been an avid sports fan for as long as I can remember, particularly a Nebraska football fan, having grown up in Omaha, Neb. And I’ve seen my fair share of championship celebrations on television after a sports team wins its league’s highest prize.

It’s not uncommon to see scores of mostly young, White men taking to the streets of their championship town full of revelry and booze. Smashing windows, turning over cars, being arrested for looting and violence in settings that looked strangely similar in some respects, to what I’ve seen on my TV this year from Ferguson and Baltimore.

I’ve heard them get called certain names like, “silly college kids,” or “knuckleheads,” or maybe the occasional “idiot.” But you know a word I’ve never heard attributed to White college kids destroying a city because of a sports team?


Yet, when Black people take to the streets to express their displeasure via similar acts of destruction, because of a subject matter much more important than some college football team winning a silly championship, the word “thug” seems to fall effortless from people’s lips.

Notice, I said “people’s lips.” Not just “White people’s” lips. Why? Because I hear it from Black people too. And, confession: I used to be one of those who would use such terminology to describe such actions. That is until I stumbled across a quote from Martin Luther King, Jr. a few years back that I now see is resurfacing in the wake of this Baltimore melee.

After a particularly violent stint of nationwide rioting over race relations gone bad, King said:

“It is not enough for me to stand before you tonight and condemn riots. It would be morally irresponsible for me to do that without, at the same time, condemning the contingent, intolerable conditions that exist in our society. These conditions are the things that cause individuals to feel that they have no other alternative than to engage in violent rebellions to get attention. And I must say tonight that a riot is the language of the unheard.”

Everybody loves the “I Have A Dream” Martin Luther King, Jr., and they should. But you don’t hear too many people making much reference to these kind of statements from him, which are just as powerful, just as telling and just as needed, if not more so.

Much like this quote taken from a 1966 interview with then-popular journalist Mike Wallace where King reiterated his earlier statement, despite pressure from both Whites and Blacks to back away from it.

He said:

“I contend that the cry of ‘black power’ is, at bottom, a reaction to the reluctance of white power to make the kind of changes necessary to make justice a reality for the Negro. I think that we’ve got to see that a riot is the language of the unheard.”

But this was not King’s way of justifying violence and rioting. He made as much clear in the context of his interview with Wallace when he said, “My hope is that (the protests) will be non-violent. I would hope that we can avoid riots because riots are self-defeating and socially destructive.”

Piece it all together, and King said then what I say now. I don’t support riots. I don’t justify violence for violence. I don’t think it’s right.

But I do understand.

I understand what King understood. That when you continue to ignore the plight of a people, and you continue to treat them as second-rate citizens and a half step above animals, and you continue sweep under the rug the fundamental flaws of how this nation came to be, and you insultingly poo-poo the ripple-effect impact that still reverberates on every side of the color spectrum, multiple generations later, and when you continue to apply weak, wet bandages over a wound that needs antibiotic ointment and reconstructive surgery, while the results of it may not be right, they also should not be a surprise.

Is racism and all its children and step-children, i.e. employment discrimination, housing discrimination, systemic inequalities in schools and communities, police brutality, etc. a sin issue?


But it’s also a perspective issue. It’s also a matter of how this nation was originally taught to see God and other people through the lenses of skin color-based supremacy, and how those undertones still show up today when you see that the same folks, both Black and White, can laugh dismissively and in fun at White kids tearing up a city in the name of sports while effortlessly referring to Black kids tearing up a city in the name of generations of cultural frustration, neglect and degradation, thugs.

I often hear my brothers, Black, White, Asian and Hispanic, say that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the only way to put a stop to our societal ills. I agree. But we must first admit what too few want to admit — that this nation still struggles with seeing God and each other through the perspective of a Christ and Christian religion and Christian Gospel that was hijacked at this nation’s founding in order to support the building of this nation on the backs and shoulders of degraded humanity.

And that, in my humble opinion, is the answer to another battery of questions that keep getting asked whenever we’re jolted with the reminder that our nation’s sordid past has more in common with our present than we’d like to admit.

“Where do we start? How do we begin again? How do we move on from the past? How do we focus on the here-and-now?”

I’ll answer that the same way I answer atheists and agnostics when they vent to me about their often erroneous perceptions of God and Jesus Christ that prevent them from believing.

I tell them that you can’t have a right relationship with God when you have wrong information about God.

I believe that goes for us too. We’ve got a lot of bad information about each other that, unfortunately has a lot to do with the bad information we spread about God in the founding of this so-called Christian nation. And until we’re willing to combat that with the truth. Until we’re willing to acknowledge that we’ve got deeper, more extensive work to do than just a march on Washington D.C., a riot, a church revival or a reactionary prayer meeting, we will only see what we’ve always seen.

A wet bandage over a wound that needs surgical repair.

America, it’s up to us to get serious about repairing this major breech in our relationship with each other before it becomes a chasm too wide for any bridge to rectify.


About the Author:

Gabriel C. Stovgcs_HEADSHOTall is a State Missionary for Church Planting and Church Revitalization through the Georgia Baptist Convention (Southern Baptist Convention) for the metro Atlanta area. He is also the founder and lead pastor of NewLife Church in Forest Park, GA. Gabriel is husband to Courtney and father to Micah. He is passionate about building and rebuilding healthy churches and church plants, and utilizing marketplace ministry to produce expanded territories for the love of Jesus Christ to be spread.

Leave a Reply