After white supremacists’ protests in Charlottesville left one dead, many injured and the country grappling with its still prevalent racism, faith leaders have been working to respond with words and action.
Rev. Mark Whitlock, executive director of USC Cecil Murray Center for Community Engagement, participated in a call with Civilitas, a network of Christian leaders across racial lines that developed after the terrorist attack on a Charleston AME church. Christianity Today reported on the call:
Whitlock shared a recent anedcote: “We had a young white man come into our church yesterday at 7 o’clock in the afternoon, dressed in black clothes, and said, ‘You all are the African Methodist Episcopal Church. Why are you here in our community?’”
He explained that his community is less than two percent African American, and he is seeing black children being taunted and grade-schoolers having to ask what the letters KKK stand for. “We’re now having these conversations that we’ve never had before,” he said.
The group tossed around possible ideas for pressing on, including meeting with Trump or Vice President Mike Pence, writing to the president’s religious advisers, or urging Christian educators to address individual and systemic racism.
“I need something tangible,” Salter-McNeil told the group.
Whitlock agreed: “I’m hoping … there’s something we can agree on that is more than a kumbaya.”
Whitlock’s church, Christ Our Redeemer AME Church, is crafting its plan for action along with interfaith leaders in Orange County, California. Charles Dorsey, a Murray Center alum, helped lead the meeting, at which group members decided to focus on educating children and holding elected officials accountable. The Orange County Register covered the meeting and quoted Whitlock, who was not in attendance:
“We need a group of leaders, not one or two,” he said. “We need a multiplicity of voices crying for peace and unity, coming together to make social change that could save our children.”