The older I get the more I realize how focused I must be at this stage of my life. During my youth, I could afford to make unwise choices out of my frustration without thought to the consequences; however, growth and maturity have taught me to manage my frustrations in order to avoid the inevitable repercussions that result from impulsiveness.
I must admit the following. I am tired, angry, disappointed, and I am FRUSTRATED! Why? Because an adverse encounter with an individual from another race has resulted in the senseless death of another unarmed black man. The death of Ahmaud Arbery was an unnecessary and unprovoked death instigated by Gregory and Travis McMichael, who deprived Ahmaud Arbery of his life, as well as due process.
My frustration is not simply because Arbery was a black man and his assailants are white. It is found in realizing that this death seems to be the continuation of a cycle of injustice which has lasted hundreds of years and never seems to end! I am frustrated watching the horrifying video of Abery’s encounter with Gregory and his son Travis, carelessly taking another unarmed black man’s life. Why can’t we break this cycle?
My frustration lies at having to accept that as an African American, I must unfortunately confront the fact that my sons, my relatives and my friends could at any moment, regrettably become the victim of the same vicious crime suffered by Ahmaud Arbery…solely because of the color of their skin. Most of all, I am frustrated that Americans who are not black do not seem to want to acknowledge or admit it.
My frustration, however, has become more focused and less resentful. I realize that regardless of how frustrated I become over the plethora of injustices in our nation, I cannot allow myself to lose focus on the real issue. The root of hatred and racial injustice in America is not a skin problem, it is a sin problem. The evil that drives a human to commit heinous crimes and repulsive acts against other human beings made in the image of God, cannot merely be reduced to the dislike of the color of their skin. The source of this evil is rooted much deeper in the heart and soul of man. Hate that exists on this level does so because sin is embedded deep in their soul and can only be removed by the grace and love of Jesus Christ. We must acknowledge that our best efforts at removing an internal issue through external measures will all fall short. We must kill the spider…not the web. This does not alleviate us from our biblical responsibility to confront injustice. “Faith that doesn’t lead us to do good deeds is all alone and dead” (Jam. 2:13 CEV).
I am reminded of Peter, an Apostle and noted disciple of Jesus Christ. Along with many other Jewish followers, Peter was culturally conditioned to believe that Jews, as a nation, were not only different than Gentiles (non-Jewish people), but superior to them as well. This mentality was so ingrained in Peter that it took God Himself revealing to Peter in a dream that God is not a respecter of persons. There is no favoritism with God. He is not influenced by our race, class, economic status, or political position.
He sent His Son Jesus into this world to demonstrate the depth of His love by dying for the sins of mankind and teaching us how to replicate that sacrificial love one to another.
We must not allow our frustrations to lead to impulsive actions which will serve to only divide us further. Instead, we must focus our frustrations on our one, true, common enemy. Our fight is not with flesh and blood, this is spiritual warfare. This type of war will only be won when we acknowledge and exalt the grace, love, and power of God to deal with the sin in the hearts of those who hate those people whose skin does not mirror their own.
Bishop Kevin L. Betton, Sr. is the Pastor of Cathedral of Praise Church Ministries and a member of the United Ministerial Alliance.