Presbyterians Today

SEP-OCT 2016

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CONNECTIONS 44 SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2 0 1 6 | Pr e s by te r i a n s To d ay A 19-year-old African American man was found sleeping in a tent on his college campus before the dormitories opened for residents. He had biked six hours, covering 50 miles from his home to Gordon State College in Barnesville, Georgia, on his younger brother's smaller bicycle. He wanted to get a job before school started, and he was living among the bushes on the college campus. When the police re- sponded to a call about a trespasser, they didn't treat him like a criminal, though that was perhaps their first intent when he was asked to come out with lifted hands. After the two officers listened to his story (he's a second semester biology student who wants to attend medical school), they spent their own money for him to spend two nights in a motel. This Good Samaritan story went viral, and within a few days he had a job and donated money to live on. The police had served as the catalyst for what happened. Such hospital- ity doesn't happen often to young African American men. That story really touched my heart. We often use the expres- sion "driving while black," but one morning I was awakened thinking of the expression "biking while black." It paid off this time! In the midst of the news about the killing of African American men by police in Baton Rouge and St. Paul, and the subse- quent killing of policemen in Dallas and Baton Rouge, driving or biking while black can be dangerous for young black boys and men. Policing in Baton Rouge. I'm also thankful for gatherings of other members of the faith and interfaith communities across the country, including Dallas. In my own life, I've decided to never again use words like "for- eigner" and "alien." At some point in my global travels, I've been all of them, and it's not a good feeling. Why, then, would I return to my home and use words that dehuman- ize human beings? Radical hospital- ity is what we all need to express, as suggested in Micah 6:8: "And what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?" I heard Marjorie Lewis, imme- diate past president of United Theological College of the West Indies, pose this question at a symposium for continental and African disaporan women meeting in Atlanta: If you're not going to be a patriarch in a skirt, what will be your model of leadership? To justice-loving people of faith everywhere, I restate the question: If you're not going to be an institu- tional racist in church apparel, what will be your model of leadership? You have the answer in Micah 6:8. Be a committee of one and link up with others to help reconcile differences between those "driving while black," "biking while black," and "patrol- ling while in blue." There are other bicyclists out there! Bettie J. Durrah is a ruling elder at Radcliffe Presbyterian Church in Atlanta, Georgia. can also be deadly. Are the two stories related? Of course, they are! These two stories are linked because they were taking place concurrently. There are still other stories. Many persons are con- cerned about the death of both the young black men and the policemen. Even before those recent killings, however, driving while black was a topic of concern. Young African American young men are often confronted with driving while black, and many of them have been told by their parents how to respond when stopped by police officers. Bicycling is no exception! If you're in the "wrong" neighborhood, your life could be in real danger. I drive while black in particular neighborhoods now, but I have an uneasy feeling about what kind of help I'd receive if my car broke down. Could I—would I—knock on a door and seek help? Thank goodness for my AAA membership and cell phone. Would my third-generation member- ship in the PC(USA) help? Sometimes I've been made to feel like the "other" in a church or in church-related activities. The pew or table where I'm seated usually doesn't fill up until last. There is a cognitive dissonance between what we say and how we live out our everyday lives. How will the Belhar Confession be lived out in our everyday witness and service? I'm thankful that newly elected stated clerk J. Herbert Nelson could carry the church's concern about race and reconciliation to churches Biking while black Times like these call for radical hospitality BY BETTIE J. DURRAH SPEAK OUT

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