Why 2 black men?

It’s the same old story, nothing new. White woman (Bonnie Sweeten) and her daughter (Julia) head south from Bucks County PA to Florida. Of course not before Bonnie claims that two black men abducted her and her daughter throwing her in the back of the trunk. Aside the fact that we already know that she was lying and has been found fine with her daughter in Florida… I am troubled (not surprised) that the same old stereotype was used. Any time you through in that black men did anything to a white woman it becomes instant national news. Had it been 2 white men blamed, we might not have even heard about it other than solely on local news. Why did she have to go there? I mean really, as a black man I got enough stares, looks and instant mistrust in certain neighborhoods already, I don’t need people thinking I possibly have abducted a white woman and her child as well. Ya see when blacks are believed to have committed a crime, they will grill any brotha within a 10 mile radius. But if she said white men, or just “men” without having to get racial, it would not have provoked any already sensitive stereotype. At the end we have not moved that far from the 1931 Scottsboro boys case.

Published by Drew G. I. Hart, PhD

Drew G. I. Hart is a theology professor in the Biblical & Religious Studies department at Messiah College with ten years of pastoral experience. Hart majored in Biblical Studies at Messiah College as an undergraduate student, he attained his M.Div. with an urban concentration from Missio Seminary in Philadelphia, and he received his Ph.D. in theology and ethics from Lutheran Theological Seminary-Philadelphia. Drew was born and raised in Norristown, Pa and has lived extensively in Philadelphia and Harrisburg, PA as well. Dr. Hart’s dissertation research explored how Christian discipleship, as framed by Black theologies and contemporary Anabaptist theologies, gesture the Church towards untangling the forces of white supremacy and the inertia of western Christendom which have plagued its witness in society for too long. As two traditions that emerged from the underside of violent and oppressive western Christian societies, he found Black theology and Anabaptism each repeatedly turning to the particularity of Jesus in the gospel narratives. From that arises an ethic of solidarity with the oppressed and pursuing liberation in Black theology and an ethic of radical peacemaking and ecclesial nonconformity in the Anabaptist tradition. Each challenge the violent and oppressive logics of mainstream western Christianity and salvage the call to follow the way of Christ. Together in dialogue they deepen our analysis of the churches failures and the need for Jesus-shaped repentance. His work beyond teaching and writing has included pastoring in Harrisburg and Philadelphia, working for an inner-city afterschool program for black and brown middle school boys, delivering lectures and leading anti-racism workshops, collaborating with local faith-based organizers and activists in his city, and doing a broad range of public theology. He is also a co-leader for a local Harrisburg faith-based relational network called FREE Together which has collaborated with POWER Interfaith, MILPA, the Shut Down Berks Detention Center movement, and a little with the Poor People’s Campaign. Trouble I’ve Seen: Changing the Way the Church Views Racism by Drew Hart, has received great reviews by Publisher’s Weekly and Englewood Review of Books. Endorsing this resource, Shane Claiborne said, “This book is a gift from the heart of one of the sharpest young theologians in the United States. Hold it carefully, and allow it to transform you--and our blood-stained streets.” As a text, Trouble I’ve Seen utilizes personal and everyday stories, Jesus-shaped theological ethics, and anti-racism frameworks to transform the church’s understanding and social witness. Trouble I’ve Seen focuses on white supremacy as an overarching framework for understanding racism, with careful attention to its systemic and socializing dimensions. However, unlike sociology textbooks on the subject Dr. Hart also considers the subversive vocation of Jesus and the nonviolent yet revolutionary implications his life ought to have for his followers today. His newest book project is entitled Who Will Be a Witness?: Igniting Activism for God’s Justice, Love, and Deliverance and will be published September 1, 2020. Who Will Be A Witness? invites the church to liberate its centuries long captivity to supremacist practices, and to expand its restricted political imagination in view of Jesus’ messianic reign. The book guides disciples of Jesus into joining God’s delivering presence through scriptural reasoning, historical reflection, practical theology for congregational life, social change theory, and the Christian call to love our neighbor. It is written for congregations, leaders, and students that understand that pursuing God’s justice goes way beyond waiting around for electoral seasons to come around. It is about the ongoing vocation of the Church right now, at the grassroots level, seeking after the wellbeing of their neighbors through faithful, strategic, and concrete action. Drew recently joined the Inverse Podcast team serving as a cohost along with Australian peace activist Jarrod Mckenna. Together they interview interesting people and explore how scripture can turn our ethical imagination and the violent and unjust systems of our world upside-down, which contrasts with interpreting the Bible as a tool for the status quo. Dr. Drew Hart was the recipient of bcmPEACE’s 2017 Peacemaker Award, a 2019 W.E.B. Dubois Award from a Disciples of Christ congregation, and in October 2019, Dr. Hart was chosen as Elizabethtown College’s 2019 Peace Fellow. Each award recognized him for his local and national justice work and public theology. You can find Drew Hart on Twitter and Facebook, or you can catch him as he travels and speaks regularly across the country to colleges, conferences, and churches. Drew and Renee, and their three boys (Micah, Dietrich, and Vincent) live in Harrisburg, PA and attend Harrisburg First Church of the Brethren.

6 thoughts on “Why 2 black men?

  1. Sadly how true this is — still.
    The roots of our country’s history with regards to race run unimaginably deep and the psychic and spiritual impact of this history continues to be “minimalized” in some quarters… uh … like the media who help further maters via their treatment of stories like this one.
    We are still the only race who has “Leaders” ( a personal pet peeve) and who are called upon to shoulder representation the entirety of their race — usually in/for a some negative situation.

    Nice piece. It is good to continue shining the light on these matters as we endeavor to show grace .

  2. I hadn’t even thought about the race issue when I heard about it. I don’t know what that says about me. But you’re absolutely right–a white woman being attacked by two black men is certain to get more press than white men attackers, or a black woman being attacked, which is really unfair and a stupid bias.

    I think when I first heard the story, I mostly thought that the woman sounded like a loon, though.

  3. I don’t think your alone, most news channels didn’t seem it strange that she blamed black men either, even after it was pronounced to be false. The people who were concerned instantly, were black folk… because we know that we are all can fall victim to the blanket stereotypes, where police grab black men of any height and look. I say this out of personal experience, since my brother, only a year older than me was picked up off the street once and arrested for meeting the description, which was “black male with black shirt and blue jeans”. Of course all charges were eventually dropped, after he spent time in jail.

    The woman was a bit off though, you are right.

  4. I too was troubled by the news of the white woman playing up “the black man criminal” stereotype. The insidiousness of it all is that Black men have become the ontological symbol for a “criminal.” This is especially true among younger Black men. With Black women having the fastest growing rate of incarceration, we may soon see this stereotype becoming applicable to them as well. (Of course, this is not to say that Black women don’t already have a litany of stereotypes and dangerous images attached to their bodies).

    Lastly, while most have talked about this story in terms of the costs of being Black less is discussed about white privilege. It should be noted that her possession of whiteness, coupled with the criminalization of blackness, made her story believable to the police in the first place. Behind every story of the Black perpetrator is the white (or in many cases Black) victim.

  5. Yeah, that is very true… I haven’t heard anyone talk about the other side of the coin. And until there is a main stream open and honest discussion on white privilege, we will never deal with race effectively in any meaningful way. Thanks for sharing Marco.

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