Wendell Griffen, the circuit judge and Baptist pastor, has written a withering assessment of Black History Month for Baptist News Global.
There were uplifting moments, he said. But in many ways, it was a painful time.
The coronavirus death toll, which topped 500,000 in February, disproportionately harmed Black people. The month saw the acquittal of Donald Trump for inspiring a riot in which white supremacists played an important role.
State legislators have introduced dozens of bills to limit voting rights, efforts aimed directly at minority communities.
Republicans are fighting confirmation of people of color to Biden cabinet posts.
Legislators in Arkansas and elsewhere have opposed teaching about slavery and social justice.
Close to home, University of Arkansas graduate Griffen noted:
This year, during Black History Month, the University of Arkansas — the flagship institution of higher education in my home state — did not rename Brough Commons, one of the largest dining facilities on its main campus, in memory of the hundreds of Black victims of the Elaine Race Massacre of 1919, the worst incident of racial violence in Arkansas history. Brough Commons is named, instead, after former Arkansas Gov. Charles Brough, who accompanied 500 troops by train from Little Rock to Phillips County, Ark., and ordered the troops to shoot to kill Black men, women and children.
… Perhaps we will never know why administrators at the University of Arkansas are hesitant about renaming Brough Commons. Perhaps they are admirers of Brough’s role in the Elaine Massacre. Perhaps they are beholden to donors who endorse Brough’s role or who are hostile to the demand of Elaine descendants for reparatory justice. Perhaps their hesitancy stems from endorsement — whether consciously or not — of white supremacy, including racialized violence to maintain white supremacy. Perhaps they do not perceive a reason to act sooner to rename a dining facility after Black victims of the worst racial violence in Arkansas history.
Perhaps the University of Arkansas will someday tell us. Perhaps not. What is clear, however, is that the flagship institution of higher education in Arkansas continues each day to place higher regard on the memory of Charles Brough, the white governor who was complicit in the Elaine Race Massacre, than to all the Black victims of that travesty and their descendants.
There’s more. He concludes:
And we should know that God is watching and waiting, with people of color, for evidence of repentance by white people who profess to love God and love their neighbors.
God knows repentance is not happening. God knows it is inexcusable. God will not forget it.
I ponder that truth, among others, every year during Lent, after Black History Month.