An open letter to white clergy on George Floyd’s murder and the current unrest

An Open Letter to White Clergy

Rev. Jim Bear Jacobs

To my colleagues in ministry, particularly in the Twin Cities,

We are all challenged with how to be a ministering presence during these difficult times. George Floyd was murdered at the hands of the Minneapolis Police department. Many of us took to the streets during a global pandemic to demand justice. As I write this, I witnessed outside my suburban window a steady stream of city buses filled with state troopers speeding towards Minneapolis. Our cities are burning. On top of that many of you are prayerfully attempting to craft this Sunday’s sermon. Pentecost Sunday. When fire came to earth and turned the world upside down. My dear friends, especially my white colleagues in ministry, as you work on your sermons for this Sunday please heed this word of caution.

Right now, you may not know what words to say. You are feeling an impulse to pray and appeal to God for peace. I want you to consider not praying for peace. I know that this seems counter intuitive, but please don’t dismiss me just yet. So often in the midst of unrest we make an appeal for peace, but what is meant by peace? What are we asking for? When the unrest is a reaction to blatant racism; When the righteous anger makes you fearful; When our cities are burning; When in the midst of all this you take your pulpit and pray for peace, it is often a veiled plea for a return to “law and order”. If this is what you plan to do this Sunday, I would implore you to promptly resign your pulpit. To you this may seem extreme but I assure you I am absolutely sincere.

Your desire for law and order may seem peace to you, but it is definitely not peace for our communities of color. The prophet Jeremiah warns against superficial peace. “They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious. ‘Peace Peace’ they say, when there is no peace.” Your “peace” is based on law and order which itself is based on the Constitution. This constitution didn’t codify into common law that YOU were less than fully human. This Constitution didn’t have to be amended to grant that YOU are not property. This Constitution and the system of laws that grew from it work great for YOU, but make no mistake it was never meant to protect Black and Brown people.

When white people cry for peace it is too often an appeal to silence Black anger to make room for White comfort. We don’t need peace. We don’t need things to return to normal. Normal is what got us here. We need leadership that will bravely face the truth of our white supremacist society and commit to change it. We need white people to get comfortable with dis-comfort. We need many things, but we do not need a superficial peace. For if you declare a shallow peace without the depth of justice; without the upheaval of systems created to intentionally suppress Black and Brown people; the prophet Jeremiah again warns of your awaiting fate. “So, they will fall among the fallen; they will be brought down when I punish them, Says the Lord”

If this Sunday you plan on praying for peace without committing to work towards justice. If your desire is simply to see the status quo restored, then do yourself a favor and resign your pulpit. Save yourself from God’s judgement.

Rev. Jim Bear Jacobs (Mohican)
Director of Racial Justice, founder of Healing Minnesota Stories
MN Council of Churches

Black man dies during police arrest in Minneapolis: Protest today, 5 p.m., 38th and Chicago

A black man suspected of forgery died during an arrest Monday at East 38th Street and Chicago Avenue in South Minneapolis Monday.

The man was on the ground, on his stomach, hands handcuffed behind his back, wedged against the tire of the patrol car, with a police officer kneeling on his neck, according to the blog News Day. “I can’t breath,” the man told police.

The Minneapolis Police said the man, thought to be in his 40s, resisted arrest. They are referring to the man’s death as a “medical incident.”

There’s a protest scheduled at 5 p.m. today at 38th and Chicago in Minneapolis. People are asked to wear masks. Organizers plan to chalk off 6-foot spacing marks for social distancing.

[Update: The city of Minneapolis has fired four officers involved in this incident. Star Tribune story here. Washington Post story here.]

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‘Land Grab Universities’: New database chronicles how the U.S. flipped Indigenous lands for fledgling universities

Aerial view of the Northrup Mall on the U. of M. Campus. Photo by Ben Franske, posted on Wikimedia.

The University of Minnesota is one of the country’s original land-grant institutions and proud of it, its website says. Yet where did the land for the land grant come from?

Colorado-based High Country News has created a detailed on-line database that tracks how “the United States funded land-grant universities with expropriated Indigenous land.”

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Echo Hawk: ‘Invisibility is the modern form of racism against Native Americans’

We Are Still Here MN Conference in St. Paul

Ask the general public about Native Americans, and many aren’t sure they even still exist, said Crystal Echo Hawk (Pawnee), founder and CEO of IllumiNative. This information void is filled with myths and toxic stereotypes.

“Invisibility is the modern form of racism against Native Americans,” Echo Hawk told those attending today’s “We Are Still Here MN” Conference in St. Paul. “When someone doesn’t exist for you, how can you empathize?” Continue reading

This Day in History (Feb. 21, 1863): Congress Expels Winnebago from Minnesota, hundreds die during forced relocation

Map from Cole Sutton’s blog. Used by permission.

This day in history, Feb. 21, 1863, Congress passed a law — pushed by members of Minnesota’s delegation — to expel the Winnebago people from the state. The Act was fueled by fear, prejudice, and greed; it resulted in land theft and the deaths of more than 550 Winnebago people. Continue reading

Canada’s Wet’suwet’en First Nations People oppose pipeline construction across their lands; police are arresting them

Canada’s Wet’suwet’en First Nations People oppose construction of the Coastal GasLink pipeline across their landswithout their free, prior and informed consent. Their lands are on unceded territory in British Columbia — land not covered by a treaty. The Canadian government doesn’t recognize the rights of the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) have intervened and arrested land protectors who have opposed the pipeline. It has sparked protests across Canada.

Update: An article in The Tyee, Emotions High as RCMP Arrest Seven at Last Wet’suwet’en Post, says:

The RCMP made seven arrests at the Unist’ot’en Healing Centre today in an attempt to evict the last Wet’suwet’en post resisting a gas pipeline through the nation’s traditional territories.

Police, including tactical squad officers armed with rifles and handlers with dogs, arrived earlier this morning in a convoy of more than 30 vehicles as a helicopter circled overhead. Continue reading

Uprooted: The 1950s plan to eliminate Indian Country, and other weekend reads

In this blog:

  • Uprooted: The 1950s plan to eliminate Indian Country (a must read!)
  • Navajo nation in conflict with Navajo-owned coal company
  • University of Arizona faces heat for President’s ignorant comments about Native heritage
  • Good news for climate on the divestment front

Apologies to those of you who received a rough draft of this blog. I hit “Publish” by mistake. Here is a cleaner version.

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