An Open Letter to White Americans

by Marvin Adams

Marvin Adams

Marvin Adams is a parishioner of St. Anthony’s Parish in Washington D.C. His views do not necessarily reflect those of the Franciscan Action Network.

It seems everyone has been speaking and/or writing about the rash of the recent killings of young, unarmed African-Americans. I read with interest the posts “America, We’ve Got a Problem” and “The Day My Faith in America Died” by Jim Wallis, Executive Director of Sojourners and Paul Brandeis Raushenbush, Executive Religion Editor of Huffington Post, respectively. However, two open letters written by former professional basketball players really garnered by attention. Specifically, both Etan Thomas and Kenny Smith felt compelled to write their letters to Charles Barkley, another former professional player. Succinctly, Barkley stated he agreed with the decision of the grand jury in the Ferguson case. And he went further by calling the individuals who were looting and causing havoc “scumbags.” While reading Smith’s letter I had an epiphany. It dawned upon me that Barkley was not the problem. But then again, neither are the Reverends (Sharpton, Jackson, Bryant, et al), even though others have insinuated as much. The problem is much deeper than any individual(s). It is deeply rooted in centuries of systemic and legal racism, which many among us would want to pretend, never existed.

I then realized a vast majority of the American populous has been eerily silent, relative to the aforementioned. So I decided to write an open letter to these, my fellow Americans. As I sit to pen this letter, I am filled with trepidation and a heavy heart. First and foremost, I am truly saddened for the number of families who have lost loved ones by the hands of those who are charged “to protect and serve.” Specifically, the recent spate of murders perpetrated by white law enforcement personnel primarily against unarmed African-American males has seemingly reached epidemic proportions. To add insult to injury, some cases have not even been presented to grand juries. And for those that at least got that far, no indictments have been rendered, regardless of what appears to be indisputable evidence to the contrary.

The cases of Michael Brown and Eric Garner have drawn the most attention for myriad reasons. However, since the death of Brown, at least 14 teenagers have been killed by policemen, all of whom were either African-Americans or Latino, ranging in ages from 12 to 18. It seems everyone has an opinion either in support or against the officers and their decision to use deadly force in the aforementioned cases. But how did we, as a nation, arrive at this juncture?

Before I continue, let me pause to state emphatically that most Americans truly believe in the words of Katherine Lee Bates, and sung so poignantly by the late Ray Charles. Personally, as an African-American, even though I was born into a country which was legally segregated, I was taught through hard work and playing by the rules, I, too, would be able to achieve the American Dream. Subsequent to the passage of the Civil and Voting Rights Acts, part of the Dream was supposed to include being accepted by the content of one’s character, as opposed to being judged by the color of one’s skin. But truth be told, it was not and has not always been that way for members of the African- American population.

I, along with every African-American of my generation, could cite example after example of injustices and insults bestowed upon us simply because of the color of our skin. I often recite that as an air force captain, while stationed at Myrtle Beach Air Force Base in South Carolina, in the mid-eighties, I was stopped no less than 20 times by both local and state law enforcement personnel. My offense(s): Being African-American and driving a brand new Mercedes Benz. The “routine checks” became so asinine that I resorted to hanging one of my uniforms up in the rear of my car. And even more recent, while traveling via Amtrak to visit my parents in Florence, South Carolina, I was about to take an empty seat, when a “gentleman” asked the occupant of the seat next to mine the following: “Christie, are you all right?” I quickly surmised that the questioner, who happened to be white, was asking his daughter if she felt comfortable sitting next to me! It does not matter that I was dressed “appropriately;” have been blessed with multiple degrees and have the highest respect of others, because the only thing that individual saw was a black male.

Therein lays the purpose of this letter. The United States is at a precipice historically, with respect to race. Race relations within our country have deteriorated to such a degree that law enforcement personnel deem it appropriate to shoot and kill individuals of color without impunity. This toxic environment has only been exacerbated due to the election of our country’s first African-American president. So to all decent white Americans, I beseech you to no longer enable the small percentage of your demographic that harbor and perpetuate hatred and animosity towards others, simply because of the color of their skin, due to your silence. It is time for you to remain silent no more!

Our country needs you to take a public stand now, as John Brown and my very first Bishop, Ernest L. Unterkoefler, and others did prior to the Civil War and subsequently, have been doing ever since. Bishop Unterkoefler, when he was the Bishop of the Diocese of Charleston, not only marched alongside Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., but he also issued an edict which stipulated that all organizations under his Diocese’s purview would be integrated, even before the passage of the Civil Rights Act! I respectfully suggest, starting immediately, whenever some misguided white individual(s) pronounces that “racism is over, let’s stop talking about it,” or that “we are living in a post-racial environment” or, worse yet, spew racial epithets, like the two Ohio policemen who posted on twitter “I hate N……. “, call them out, stand up and be counted. This problem is not just of the African-American. No race or citizenry should have to bear this cross alone. For you see, I, as do most African-Americans, believe in America, even though America hasn’t always believed in us. When you, my fellow Americans, step up, then and only then will we be able to truthfully recite those beautiful lyrics, with conviction “…America, America, God shed his light on thee…”

Marvin Adams is a political strategist and a Florence native. Follow him on twitter @MarvinEAdams

Published in: on December 12, 2014 at 2:17 pm  Comments (3)  

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3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Reblogged this on davidjosephweir and commented:
    Your analysis of the subject about which you write is incorrect and misguided. Your reasonining is illogical. I will address it in a subsequent blog.
    Bro David, OFS

  2. As I get older I have begun to understand that listening to a story with an active heart is often more than listening with an active mind; listening to the feelings in a story is often more important than looking at the logic. Mr. Adams deserves to be listened to with respect and fraternal Christian charity.

    To treat Mr. Adams story with respect is to wonder what it would be like if I was stopped several times just because the color of my skin and try to understand his feelings. This is something I will never know viscerally; I can only listen to the stories with an open heart. I am not sure that logically dissecting a story is not a diversion away from a deeper truth found therein.

    Peace and Grace,

    Br. Martin, n/OLF

  3. Oops, typo; the first line should be: “As I get older I have begun to understand that listening to a story with an active heart is often more important than listening with an active mind; . . .”

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