More than Gun Laws, More than Mental Health: Let’s Talk About Mass Violence Fueled by White Supremacy

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In the aftermath of two mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, many religious, medical, and political experts have publicly blamed lack of adequate mental health care, flaccid gun laws, violent video games, and family breakdowns for the violence.

While better mental health care and sensible gun laws are needed, GCORR also recognizes a more sinister element in the spate of many recent U.S. mass shootings: the influence of white supremacist rhetoric, racist terrorism, and extremist hate speech.

From the 2015 mass murder of nine Bible study group members at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C., to the October 2018 shooting of 11 worshipers at Tree of Life Synagogue, to August 2019 killing of 22 persons at a shopping center in El Paso, these perpetrators have espoused hatred of people of color and other marginalized people. These are not just individual beliefs; the perpetrators have been part of racist networks and social media groups championing a systemic racist agenda. White supremacist beliefs and actions are the elephant in the room.

Our calling as followers of Jesus Christ is clear. We are to love one another as God loves each one of us. God has created every human being as blessed and precious. GCORR invites Christians to model this divine love by talking about and taking action to counter the divisiveness and violence of white supremacy. Especially for laity and clergy in white congregations and other predominantly white spaces, it is important that Christians learn, act and speak clearly in opposition to hate speech and violence.

We offer these tools to assist in this work:

VIDEO: Moving the Race Conversation Forward
This video explains the differences between four types of racism and defines the concept of systemic awareness. Use this resource to plan and lead conversations on institutional racism that challenge the temptation to reduce this work to individual/interpersonal words and deeds, versus centering institutional/systemic changes in policy, practice, and procedures.

Escaping the Cycle of Individual Racism
Use this resource for concrete and critical questions to wrestle with in order to bridge the gap between the ideas about dismantling institutional racism and the system of white supremacy to action.

VIDEO: Rev. Barber on White Supremacy
The Rev. Dr. William Barber, Disciples of Christ pastor and architect of the Moral Movement, offers a succinct, historical, and powerful overview of ways to situate white supremacy within the larger American context as well as provide a roadmap for future action.

4 ways to help people directly affected by racist violence:

  1. Offer to accompany them or go for them. Some family members of victims may fear going to the police, check-in stations or hospitals because of their immigration or other status. Decide and make known that members of your church (especially those without those risks) will go to these spaces on their behalf and report back.
  2. Let them know they are not alone. Many immigrants see these terror events as yet another reason to be afraid. In addition to being detained, deported, or separated from their families/children, they now fear they become victim of racist terrorism. Check on your friends and neighbors who are immigrants with intent to support in both tangible and emotional ways.
  3. Offer to pay for housing or lodging. Survivors, family members, and friends who have lost loved ones (or whose loved ones are in the hospital) may not have funds for an extended stay. Join with other faith groups and support organizations to provide meals, housing, and transportation for people in need.
  4. Name white supremacy as the core issue from which causes, responses, and solutions should be formed. Refuse to deny the impact of racism or to allow for discussion to downplay the role of white supremacy in these attacks. This includes, but is not limited to, naming the perpetrators as white nationalist terrorists or white supremacists in your conversations, public prayers and acts of resistance.

Additional resources to consider:

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GCORR is building the capacity of The United Methodist Church to be contextually relevant and to reach more people, younger people, and more diverse people as we make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.