In America, we see what others might call a cathartic response in the wake of the killing of George Floyd. Americans of all ethnicities have taken to the streets to demand justice and an end to police brutality. Floyd’s death has struck something deep within the psyche of many people around the world, especially those who have suffered centuries of racial oppression.
Other people are quick to trivialise this issue by reminding us that “all lives matter”. They forget the fact that the prefix and descriptor “black” is meant to draw attention to the unique struggle faced by black people. The Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement exists as a result of this struggle. It was formed in 2013 following the acquittal of a white man for the fatal shooting of an unarmed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.
Martin’s killing took place 50 years after Dr Martin Luther King Jr gave his iconic speech I have a Dream. King’s dream was for people not to be judged by their skin colour but by the content of their character. Some people think BLM, which has since become global, is an answer to this dream.
But this organisation has morphed into something more than what King had envisioned. Melina Abdullah, the co-founder of the Los Angeles chapter, recently revealed that it took her almost a year before she realised that BLM was “much more than a racial and social justice movement. At its core, it’s a spiritual movement”.
Abdullah and some demonstrators were recently involved in rituals where they recited the names of “those taken by state violence before their time — ancestors now being called back to animate their own justice”. Religion News reports that after each name “Abdullah poured libations on the ground as the group in return chanted ‘Asé’ “. The Yoruba term is “often used by practitioners of Ifa, a faith and divination system that originated in West Africa”.
In the same article, the organisation’s overall co-founder, Patrisse Cullors, is quoted as saying that she wasn’t raised with honouring ancestors. “As I got older and started to feel like I was missing something, ancestral worship became really important,” she said. On their website, BLM state one of their objectives is to “disrupt the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure requirement by supporting each as extended families and ‘villages’ that collectively care for one another”. They also aim to free themselves “from the tight grip of heteronormative thinking”.
The New York Post recently published an article referring to a newly-surfaced video from 2015. In it, Patrisse Cullors said that she and her organisers are “trained Marxists”.
Some Christians have the same view of Karl Marx as they do of the BLM. They think of him as someone who was only motivated by the idea of an egalitarian world. This means that those who want to co-opt such Christians into a demonic agenda simply have to hide behind the banner of equality. It is as if Paul’s warning regarding the Devil’s trick to masquerade is not being heeded by today’s believers.
Thankfully, not every black American is lining up to imbibe monolithic thinking. I recently watched a video featuring Bevelyn Beatty, an American woman who recently made a name for herself when she was videoed defacing a Black Lives Matter mural painted on the street outside the Trump Tower in Manhattan.
During this act, Beatty was heard saying: “They want to defund the police for black people. They are lying. No, we’re not standing with Black Lives Matter. We want our police. Refund our police!”
She said this in response to BLM’s main rallying cry — to defund the police. According to her bio, Beatty is a pro-life activist, evangelist, and co-founder of At the Well Ministries. She recorded a follow-up video with the caption: “If you support BLM, you hate black people, Jesus, and yourself.” In it, she called the BLM hypocritical because they ignore more significant issues facing black Americans — such as fatherlessness and the fact that hundreds of black men die as victims of black-on-black crime.
In contrast, only about nine black men died in the hands of the police in 2019. Beatty had harsh words for American Christians who are eager to protest for black lives but show scant regard for the 675 000 African Americans aborted yearly.
Now let me personalise this. I am a follower of Christ who happens to have a “black accoutrement”. I face a dilemma between right-wing capitalist exploitation and left-wing totalitarian Marxist ideology. I have faced racism and still do, and yet I keep imagining that it is possible to confront it without being blind to other evils brought on by organisations like BLM.
I refuse to accept that the tradeoff for racial equality should be my loyalty and relationship with God. There must be a better way.