A statement and call to action from the Conference Commission on Religion & Race
May 25, 2022 / By Conference Commission on Religion & Race
As we continue to process the overwhelming grief, pain, and outrage of the hate-driven murders in Buffalo on May 14th, we ask our Lord and Savior to move us from prayers to actions that bring an end to racial violence in all its forms.
As we consider specific responses to systemic racism, it is important that we first remember the historic relationship between acts of white supremacist terror and other forms of racism within our spheres of influence. From the culture of white vigilantism that enforced the horrors of enslavement to the widespread practice of lynching employed to consolidate and maintain white political power in the post-reconstruction era, white supremacy has always depended on carefully planned violence to impose unjust legal measures and cultural expectations.
It's clear that this act of violence was carefully targeted at a particular neighborhood. The segregation of our communities, and this community in particular, did not happen by accident. A confluence of government policies, banking inequities, and real estate practices forced the creation of segregated communities in the post-World War II era. Asking questions about how patterns of home ownership came to be, why highways were built through certain neighborhoods and not others, and why services like access to healthy food are more difficult in certain neighborhoods, can lead to specific corrective actions that dismantle structures of racism.
We urge you to get involved: donate to, or work with, community groups and/or leaders with clear goals and appropriate principles on any issue of racial justice. If you are responding from outside an affected people or community, be sure that you come alongside those already leading rather than imposing a personal agenda.
- Work to strengthen the anti-racism education our young people receive. It is one of the most powerful steps that we can take to overcome the generational damages of racism. Find ways that you or your church can stand up to the white supremacist efforts which prevent the sharing of anti-racism curriculum by local school boards.
- Educate yourselves. Research these recent events and learn more about the extent of segregation in our communities, government and banking inequities, and the real estate policies that created this segregation.
- Challenge your congregation to proclaim that hate has no home in your midst. Stand up and say that white supremacist actions and thinking, in all of their forms, are unacceptable.
- Build authentic, ongoing, mutual relationships across racial and ethnic lines. Responding in times of crisis is essential, but genuine community persists beyond emergencies. Walk and work in these relationships even when needs are not urgent.
We urge you, too, to use the resources on the CCORR section of the Upper New York Conference website, and the Imagine No Racism curriculum, which provides a closer look at our Christian heritage and specific tools for doing anti-racism work.
CCORR plans to provide additional resources soon about the history and ongoing presence of white supremacists and white supremacist thinking in New York state. Our goal is to provide a spiritual foundation, empirical information, and conversational strategies to help siblings address these ideas in what they perceive to be comfortable spaces—across backyard fences, company breakrooms, and in family gatherings.
The silences, apathy, and inaction that let an 18-year-old man turn into this killer cannot continue. If we don't make conscious decisions to act, we are part of the problem rather than part of the solution.
Finally, we offer this prayer as a way to help those who may be struggling to put feelings into words:
Gracious God, we ask that you hold in your arms your precious children who have been, and continue to be, targets of racial terrorism, systemic inequality, and hurtful micro-aggressions.
We ask you to be our rock so that those feelings will lead to responses that bring about an end to racial violence in all its forms. Lift us up into leadership and productive action as we rest in the knowledge that you go before us to strengthen your beloved community. Help each one of us to live out our baptismal vow to "accept the freedom and power God gives you to resist evil, justice and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves."
With ardent and humble hearts, we offer this prayer to you in the name of Jesus, the Christ.
We also ask you continue to read, and never forget, the names of those whose lives were needlessly taken in this act of racial terror. Honor them in your heart and continue pray for their loved ones.
Margus D. Morrison of Buffalo, N.Y. – age 52
Andre Mackneil of Auburn, N.Y. – age 53
Aaron Salter of Lockport, N.Y. – age 55
Geraldine Talley of Buffalo, N.Y. – age 62
Celestine Chaney of Buffalo, N.Y. – age 65
Heyward Patterson of Buffalo, N.Y. – age 67
Katherine Massey of Buffalo, N.Y. – age 72
Pearl Young of Buffalo, N.Y. – age 77
Ruth Whitfield of Buffalo, N.Y. – age 86