By L. Clark Williams
One of the greatest preachers of any time, in the opinion of many who have tried to present the Gospel, was the late Dr. Gardiner Taylor of the Concord Baptist Church in Brooklyn, NY. Whenever you were blessed to hear his eloquence, interpretive prowess and pure preaching power, you were certain that you had just experienced a personal encounter with Heaven. Yet, Dr. Taylor also possessed a deep treasure trove filled with pragmatic wisdom that he was happy to share with young ministers.
I will never forget his reflection, upon conflicts that arise during pastoral leadership transitions, in which he cautioned new pastors against casting the work done by previous pastors in a negative light. Dr. Taylor illustrated this point by likening the previous pastor to a ghost, and concluding that “you cannot fight against a ghost.”
Of course, fighting a ghost would certainly be a losing proposition. After all, how could you deliver a good left jab or an effective right hook against a ghost?
With that said, this is our summer of undeniable discontent in America. From Baton Rouge, LA to Falcon Heights, MN to Dallas, TX and beyond, there has been a restlessness and frustration in the air that has degenerated into divisiveness and anger.
Clearly, Donald Trump is not the sole cause of our social unrest, but without a doubt he has effectively tapped into a deep bitter hatred that has resided just below the surface of American society for more than a generation.
For so many years, we pretended that we had overcome, and we have allowed racism to operate under the cloak of a white sheet, as if it were a ghost. Certainly, we have not been able to effectively fight against this ghost. Furthermore, many of us have been very careful about when and how we have dared to point it out, for fear of being the only one brave enough to admit to even seeing that it was there.
But the sheet is off now, partially thanks to Mr. Trump.
The examples of how Trump’s candidacy has pulled the sheet off of racism are too numerous to explore in this space. But how strange it is that Donald Trump masterfully used racially charged anti-Obama sentiment to catapult himself to his party’s nomination, and yet, his wife ushered in his GOP coronation by lifting words straight from Michelle Obama’s speech from 2008.
Plagiarism is such a serious offence that it typically results in terminations, expulsions and great ridicule. Yet, when this instance came to light, Donald Trump, Jr. somehow called his stepmother’s speech phenomenal. Newt Gingrich went several steps further and said that Melania Trump’s speech was superior to Michelle Obama’s even if she plagiarized The First Lady’s words. Of course partisanship plays a role in this, but only voices that know that America is still a nation filled with eyes that see color first could make such statements with a straight face and without fear of irreparably damaging their own credibility.
At times, Mr. Trump’s primary campaign events seemed more like Klan rallies. Perhaps that explains why he has received more unified support from the Ku Klux Klan than he has from his own party.
So, thanks for taking off the sheet, Mr. Trump. Your actions have been ugly and irresponsible, and your words have been angry, aggressive and racist.
But at least those of us who truly believe in freedom do not have to face a ghost anymore.
For more than a generation, those of us who saw racism cloaked underneath a white sheet were deemed to be playing the “race card” by suggesting that we saw something that had supposedly died a long time ago. In fact, the white sheet was so effective that even some young black people seemed oblivious to the racism that was swirling all around them. But that is not the case anymore.
And the fact that American racism is now on full display for the entire world to see, has challenged right thinking people of all colors to revisit America’s ugliest original problem.
In 1972, an artist named Johnny Nash sang, “I can see clearly now, the rain is gone. I can see all obstacles standing in my way. Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind. It’s gonna be a bright (bright) sunshiny day.”
Certainly, the rain clouds of racism have not cleared from the American atmosphere. But at least some of the obstacles are more visible to more people than they have been for a very long time. And that, at least, puts the opportunity for a brighter tomorrow in reach for those of us who are determined to make liberty and justice a reality for all!
L. Clark Williams, director of ministry at Shiloh Baptist Church in Lexington, is also president and chairman of The People’s Campaign. Reach him at www.campaignforpeople.com