Racial Profiling, Thug-ology, and the Church

I know what it’s like to be racially profiled-

1.) I was once asked by police officers what I was doing when I was standing in the driveway of my own house with other African American family members. We weren’t loud, we were just saying goodbye after a family BBQ at my house.

2.) As a teen I was accused of stealing candy and when I lifted up my shirt and emptied my pockets to show I had stolen nothing, there was no apology. I was still asked to leave the store though.

3.) I was once sitting in my car in front of the house of a friend waiting for him to come out and I was approached and cussed out by a police officer.

4.) Myself and two other African-American males riding in my car were pulled over because we fit the description of someone who had robbed a house nearby.

Did I mention that it’s painful to tell these examples?

I know what it’s like to grow up in a community culture of thug-ology-

1.) Growing up, I watched as the Bloods Gang took over more and more of my neighborhood.

2.) A classmate of mine was beaten so badly in the hallway afterschool during my senior year of high school, that he died days later.

3.) A math teacher at my high school was arrested for selling drugs to students.

4.) Once my wife and I, along with our oldest daughter who was just a baby at the time, found ourselves lying on the floor of our home because two guys were in our backyard shooting across the street at some other guys.

Did I mention that it’s painful to share these examples?

I believe that racial profiling can systemically be dismantled. There must be increased cross-cultural training and racial competency development of officers. The existence of racial disparities within the criminal justice system must be acknowledged. There should be increased positive interaction between the police and African American communities. There should be justice and apologies when mistakes are made. Developing trust should be an on-going effort. The police should work with the Urban Church towards these ends.

As African Americans, we can no longer live in denial about the deep seated culture and the glamorization of contextualized thug-ology within our communities. I’ve witnessed too many examples of our people justifying African-American young men dressing and carrying themselves in ways that will never prepare them for a productive career. I’ve seen too many parents get so excited about 8th grade promotions and high school graduations with no expectation or push for their Sons to go to college. I mean a four year liberal arts college or university. I’ve learned that if you want your African American Sons to go to college and not jail, the work actually begins in the 3rd and 5th grade. Too many parents are in denial and believe a myth about how good the children are, while ignoring how deeply they are enslaved to aspects of thug-ology.

Let me say right now that thug-ology does not justify racial profiling and the deaths of too many African American young males by police. At the same time, racial profiling does not justify the denial of the significance of contextualized thug-ology culture within too many predominately African American communities.

The Urban Church and specifically the African American Church has a major role to play in both of these areas. She must be willing to be prophetic within both of these areas. I agree with one of the Fathers of Black Theology, Dr. J. Deotis Roberts. He has written on many occasions about the importance of the African American Church being about both liberation and reconciliation. I believe African American pastors have a unique ability to provide a framework for advancing the Kingdom of God that includes justice and presents the multi-ethnic, Beloved Community. Dr. Roberts also believes that the African American Church must address the need to stabilize and strengthen the African American family. Without strong African American families, there is no African American Church.

I was just in Oakland this past week and too many churches were closed, with signs stating that they are only open for Wednesday Bible Study and Sunday Morning Worship. This is unacceptable. The issues facing our cities calls for collaborative church strategies that put Christians on the streets until systems change and crime reduces significantly. Commuter Churches must become Community Churches again. The Church can indeed address both racial profiling and thug-ology.

Taken from Efrem Smith's blog: http://www.efremsmith.com/category/blog/2014/08/racial-profiling-thug-ology-and-the-church/