By Chip Johnson
Tuesday, December 16, 2014
Bay Area protests over the deaths of Eric Garner, Michael Brown and scores of others may assuage white liberal guilt and provide a righteous reason to rail against the machine, but it would be nice to actually hear from some black folks.
So far, it seems all I’ve seen and heard in three weeks of protest are some pretty vocal white folks screaming to have their way, or dismissing the actions of the wolves inside the flock as the ugly backside of democracy.
Assault, vandalism and looting are not protected forms of free speech.
In Oakland, black religious leaders who have traditionally stood front and center in every successful civil rights movement were not part of the revolution this time.
Their conspicuous absence has led to marches that, quite frankly, appear to be more about white rage than black empowerment. It’s more about what they want than it is about what African American communities truly need.
Black leadership whether from churches or community organizations would add credibility, foster communication and bridge the gap between demonstrators and middle-aged and older African Americans who’ve been down this road before.
“I’m waiting for someone to say all black lives matter, whether they are being killed by police officers or other young black men,” said Bishop Bob Jackson, the African American pastor at Acts Full Gospel Church, which has more than 12,000 congregants from across the Bay Area.
“I like the mantra, but if we’re going to do it, let’s do it right.”
The annual Martin Luther Day King March planned for Oakland will call on police officers as well as citizens who resolve disputes with violence to declare a moratorium on all killings of black men, Jackson said.
But in an era where Sunday church services take a backseat to weekend sales and football games, that influence and their message is waning.
“The clergy in Oakland have not really come together,” said Bishop Joseph Simmons, pastor at Greater St. Paul Church in West Oakland. “We’re still trying to figure out where we fit in in all of this. This generation doesn’t have respect for the church, and we don’t have the power we once had.”
All the same, the violence, vandalism and looting that have been part of the demonstrations in Oakland, Berkeley and San Francisco have disappointed some of the black community leaders.
“When you see protesters taking the opportunity to loot stores and burn stuff, it doesn’t help preserve the memories of young men like Brown and Garner,” Jackson said. “Using their deaths as an excuse to terrorize innocent citizens, loot, rob and destroy only hurts our cause.”