- (Photo: Thabiti Anyabwile)
A native Cayman Island pastor who recently relocated to a dangerous neighborhood in Washington, D.C., to plant a church, is fearful for his son's life because he says the United States "can be very hard on black boys."
Thabiti Anyabwile, a regular speaker at the annual Desiring God conference, says God has kept him from the fear of living in the Anacostia section of Southeast Washington and the challenges that have come along with planting a church. But in light of Michael Brown's death in Ferguson, Missouri, he wonders if he will ever be the "black dad approaching a white sheet stained with his son's blood."
"... What I care about is the dignity and life-destroying devaluing of his life, because in this country he is 'black.' And the absurdity of it all is that he's not black in every country. ... In Cayman, he was free to be Titus. In the States, he's 'a little black boy' long before he's Titus. And that calculation, the racial attribution that happens at the speed of sight, is deadly," writes Anyabwile in a blog post for The Gospel Coalition.
Anyabwile also says he is "mad as hell" and "scared to death" because of Brown's case and the upheaval that has ensued by protesters demanding justice. He notes, however, that the Ferguson case is not strictly a racial issue but rather a class and systems issue.
"Some have put Brown on trial for his own death, questioning his activities, whether he had illegal substances in his system, and so on. But even if those things were true, a young man made in God's image is dead," Anyabwile told The Christian Post.
"Some people have acted as if those protesting or lamenting are not interested in the facts. But if it were not for the protesters then we wouldn't have the few facts we do have. It's their pressure that led to an independent autopsy, the release of the officer's name, and other bits of information from police authorities," he added.
"So when many African-Americans say, 'Ferguson,' we're really talking about a pattern of police treatment of our community ranging from unfounded suspicion to harassment and even tragic deaths," he explains.
Anyabwile notes that Brown is another name added to a list of African-Americans shot to death "for no good reason" but more than anything, the possibility that Titus might witness the same situation happen to his father is what scares him the most.
He says that if he were not a praying parent he would lose his mind because of the possible labels and similar treatment that Titus might get as he grows up in America. But since moving to the U.S. a month ago, Titus has not experienced racism or been in a harmful situation. Rather, he has been exposed to encouragement, love and acceptance in their community.
While Anyabwile's fear for his son remains constant, he says moving out of Southeast Washington or staying in the Caribbean would mean that he would be living for himself and his family, not for God, his calling or those he is meant to serve through his ministry.
"Greater than any fears must be our love for people who need Christ and mercy," Anyabwile told CP. "And if we're African-Americans going into African-American neighborhoods, we should pray we love our people more than we fear them. We've found the people of Southeast to be welcoming and our neighbors have been wonderful."
As Anyabwile and his family continue to settle in their neighborhood, he can only hope and pray that Titus comes to love America despite the challenges he is possibly bound to face as an African-American child.
"I hope Titus grows to be a faithful, humble, loving, joyful, generous man of God in this country, whether it's because of this country or despite it," Anyabwile said. "I hope he loves the country as I do, and I hope he contributes positively and significantly to the future of America. ... I hope he sees and experiences the further removal of racism from America and the promotion of a just and whole society. ... I hope he abides in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ, full of faith and refusing bitterness."
In the meantime, he says any parent who shares his same concerns should know that although there is limited hope to be placed in government authority, they should still "hope and expect our public officials to do what is right."
In addition, if parents who are non-believers feel that same way he does, they should begin to embrace faith that God will take care of justice, he explained.
"Men may miss the opportunity to do what is right, but God never will. In His judgment, everything true and right will be established. No evil will go unpunished. Righteousness will prevail. We ought not want anyone to fall into God's eternal judgment; His judgment is terrible. But we can be assured that His judgment will be right and no one escapes His holy sight," Anyabwile said.
Anyabwile is assistant pastor for church planting at Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C. and a council member with The Gospel Coalition.