- Racial Equity
- Talk About Race
If you believe that “prayer changes things”, you’ll love this one. Evidently, there’s a wave of bumper sticker, t-shirts, hats, etc. going around requesting that folks “Pray for Obama: Psalm 109:8″. But before you go out and try to get one of these shirts, it’s worth checking out what Psalm 109:8 says. The psalm reads, “Let his days be few; and let another take his office.”
While some may say that this is just a humorous hope that Obama gets voted on of office in four years, the very next verse provides some insight into the true meaning of the prayer request. Psalm 109:9 reads, “Let his children be fatherless, and his wife a widow.”
This is not cute, and it is not funny. A recent book has already documented what most of us already know–that death threats against President Obama are dramatically higher (about 5 times higher) than against Bush or any other President. The book says he receives 30 death threats per day.
So in response to this prayer request, I thought about sending a few bible verses of my own to the 109:8 folks–like the promises to David that his enemies would be made to kneel before him. One of my friends suggested that Obama simply pray from some verses that come later in the same Psalm 109, including, “Let mine adversaries be clothed with shame, and let them cover themselves with their own confusion.”
But the truth is that the situation requires more than just battling bible verses. At the end of the day, these threats are not just about President Obama. They’re not just about his individual personality or his policies. They’re about a level of fear and hatred that requires a much bigger tent.
During the past year, authorities and researchers have seen an increase in the number of hate groups and the amount of hate language around the Internet. While it’s debatable whether this increase has actually resulted in increased hate crimes, what seems perfectly clear is that it’s a dangerous trend from which nothing good can come.
Given this trend, Congress’ recent passage of revised hate crimes legislation may have been well timed. In addition to extending hate crimes to those based on sexual orientation, the bill provides $5 million per year to assist with investigating hate crimes. Although this is a step in the right direction, and I’m a strong supporter of hate crimes legislation, I recognize that such legislation cannot solve the problem—no more than a so-called war on drugs could solve the country’s drug problems. At some point, the country must get to the root of the matter.
America must deal with its race problem. America must stop being the cowards that Eric Holder talked about and deal with the fact that, in spite of Oprah Winfrey and a Black President, we have NOT reached the Promised Land. But in dealing with the race problem, we must be clear about the connection between race and economics. We must deal with the fact that America’s economic system not only dictates racial outcomes but breeds racial competition as well.
It’s no secret that hate crimes and other signs of racial animosity are connected to overall economic conditions. After all, the anti-immigration movement intensified as the country slid deeper and deeper into recession. And critics like Glenn Beck have been direct about saying that Obama is pursuing his “socialist” policies in order to provide reparations for Black people. And while some say will point out that these are the actions of extremist, I would argue that the everyday actions of institutional racism are based on the same connection between race and economics. At the end of the day, not everyone who participates in systemic racism “hates” people of color; indeed, some of them ARE people of color.
It is because of this connection between race and economics that Dr. King spoke of classism and racism, along with militarism, as the triple evils. And in what is perhaps his most ignored speech of all time, he also prescribed a remedy when he shared the story of Jesus and Nicodemus. When Nicodemus asked Jesus how he could be saved, Jesus did not tell him just to stop lying or to stop stealing, because such a piecemeal approach was not enough. Jesus told Nicodemus that he had to be born again—that his entire structure needed to be changed.
So I will not pray Psalm 109:8 for Obama. More importantly, I will not pray for watered down health care reform that some states may or may not implement. I will not pray for slightly less oppressive immigration, nor will I pray for police officers to taser people of color to death instead of shooting them with 15 to 20 bullets.
But I will pray. I will pray for America—in the same way that Jesus prayed for Nicodemus. I will pray that she is born again, and that her entire structure is changed. I will pray for a system that elevates human rights over property rights, and I will pray for a system that uses race not to divide and conquer but to multiply and uplift.
That is what I’ll pray for.
Let mine adversaries be clothed with shame, and let them cover themselves with their own confusion.
Author: Cliff Albright (3 Articles)