An Editorial Opinion
An Editorial Statement from IMAC
A Watershed Moment of Shame
On behalf of African American pastors, who are members of the Interdenominational Ministers Action Council of Delaware (IMAC), as well as pastors in this area and throughout our nation, we write to express our disagreement, disappointment, embarrassment, and dismay for the group of so called “urban pastors” who recently met with President Donald Trump at the White House. We will not even address here the use of the adjective “urban” to describe African Americans, if by urban one would mean inner city-urban centers, there are also majority white churches in these areas. So clearly it was not “urban pastors”, so let’s just call it what it was “pastors, who happen to be Black, who will bow, genuflect and agree with the President”.
The stated purpose of the meeting was to discuss prison reform, jobs and workforce training. It quickly turned into a praise rally for The President, lauding him for his leadership in “helping various urban communities”. Many of the pastors thanked Mr. Trump for the invitation and honor to be there. While it is indeed a privilege and honor to be invited to the White House—it is after all the nation’s house, it is only an honor if the reasons for the invite remain honorable. We believe that this invitation to host some inner city African American pastors at the White House was anything but honorable. It appears that this gathering was nothing more than a media show designed to bolster the president’s image with African American voters, using some prominent African American pastors.
After prayerfully reflecting, reacting and now responding to this recent meeting, it is not our intent to be lured into the trap of divisiveness with various leaders within our faith community, a tactic so often deployed by a President interested in benefiting from the discord he sows. However, we cannot stand idly by and imply our solidarity with the actions, comments or conduct of the meetings participants
In the meeting Pastor Darrell Scott said Mr. Trump is probably going to be “the most pro-Black president that we’ve had in our lifetime.” There are those who would vigorously disagree with this shocking statement. We strongly disagree as well. Our disagreement is not because of opposing political ideology, but because of Mr. Trump’s pattern of disrespectful behavior toward some of our Black leaders. Before we crown Mr. Trump a “Black savior,” we should be reminded of some of the divisive things Mr. Trump has said about African Americans.
He started his political career challenging the birth of his immediate predecessor, President Barack Obama; Mr. Trump started the “birther movement”.
He launched his campaign calling the Latino community “rapists and murderers”.
He questioned if a sitting judge could give a fair ruling because of his ethnic background (Latino and African American).
While campaigning, he asked the African American voters of Michigan, “What the hell do you have to lose?”
He referred to Congresswoman Maxine Waters, “An extraordinarily low I. Q. person.”
He called, by inference, LeBron James “dumb”; it is a long-standing racist dog whistle to question the intelligence of African Americans.
He called Don Lemon, a leading Black Journalist, “dumb”. (see the previous reference)
He is determined to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, which affects millions of African Americans and gave many health care coverage for the first time.
He called African American NFL players who protested during the national anthem S. O. B.’s who should be fired.
He referred to Haiti, El Salvador and African Countries as “S_ _ _ hole countries”.
When white nationalists, Nazi groups, KKK and other hate groups marched in Charlottesville, VA, he failed to condemn the violence, and called them “some very fine people.”
These are not the words or actions of someone who respects African Americans. These words and actions only serve to disclose his true feelings. These repeated sentiments cannot be ignored or forgotten as we deal with President Donald Trump. They have to be included in the total lexicon and overall assessment of who he is and the impact on people of color.
African American faith leaders, who operate with integrity and genuine concern for people, cannot be seated in the presence of this or any President and remain silent on the many issues that adversely affect our people. We are not called to go along with the scripted conversation. We as faith leaders have been afforded with the prophetic voice of God, in order to challenge and not merely charm, compliment and comfort those who are in a position of authority. After the recent White House meeting, Pastor John Gray explained that he had been directed by God to attend this meeting. But our question is why would God direct you to a meeting to sit there without challenging the status quo? There are no biblical examples of God’s prophets who were ushered into the presence of the powers-that-be simply to exchange pleasantries and approval of questionable behavior.
Therefore, we ask what did this meeting of Black faith leaders accomplish? How are we as a nation better because of this shameful gathering? (We learned that factories are being built to breathe life back into some of the nation’s urban areas. Unemployment is down. And many ex-offenders (who the president frequently referred to as prisoners) are being reintroduced to the workforce). If true, these accomplishments are commendable. But what about the other issues that are just as important to our urban cities? Police harassment, brutality and killing of unarmed African American men continue to occur throughout this country with minimal, if any, legal consequences. The Family Separation debacle has yet to be resolved, and hate crimes and overt demonstration of racial hatred is on the rise nationwide. We have to conclude that racism and white supremacy has been emboldened under this President. When will African American leaders be invited to the White House to discuss these and other troubling issues? If the president wants to demonstrate his pro-blackness, he should stop inviting us to trivial “dog and pony shows” and start having meaningful discussions that acknowledge the many social injustice issues that continue to adversely affect our people.
We are living in challenging times, and the last thing we need is so-called leaders who show up to a White House meeting just to be at the table, for a photo opportunity. There is too much at stake to settle for leaders who lack the courage and sense of urgency to speak up for real change and progress. We condemn those faith leaders who attended this meeting and chose to stick to the script--shame on the pastors who were there for personal or ministerial gain. You failed your people, and your community. Most of all you failed your assignment, particularly if God sent you there, as an instrument of God.
There are many pastors who were not fooled by this shameless political charade. We speak for the countless pastors who have not traded in their integrity for the limelight and the proverbial “thirty pieces of silver.” We speak for pastors who operate with integrity as we serve congregations, communities, and, we believe, the Kingdom of God. Those principles are love for all of humanity, justice for all, equality and fair play towards all people—we have not seen these in the platforms, principles or actions of the current President. Our prayer is that the people we serve have not lost faith in the power of the pulpit or the men or women who occupy them.
Likewise, it is our sincere prayer that President Trump will immediately mature into the role of President of the entire United States of America and begin to represent the interest of all of its citizens and not merely the constituents of his base.
Pastor Darrell Scott labeled this meeting a “watershed moment.” Watershed indeed! It was a watershed moment of shame for faith leaders who forgot their assignment. Regrettably, this watershed moment was not for positive change and progress, but rather a step backward for the privilege of influencing positive change on behalf of the voiceless. This type of influence is a sacred trust that has been afforded faith leaders down through the years. Rev. Adam Clayton Powell, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Rev. Floyd Flake, Rev. William H. Gray and so many others, well-known and not so well-know, understood this sacred trust to always speak up for what is just and right. As contemporary leaders and people of faith, we can and must do better.
Reverend Dr. Vincent P. Oliver, President, IMAC
Senior Pastor, New Calvary Baptist Church, Wilmington, DE
Reverend Dr. Lawrence M. Livingston, 1st Vice President, IMAC
Senior Pastor, Mother African Union Church, Wilmington DE
Reverend Provey Powell, Jr.
Senior Pastor, Mt. Joy United Methodist Church, Wilmington, DE