A girl holding a sign during a recent protest of Mike Brown's shooting in Ferguson. Photo by Shawn Semmler, Flickr Creative Commons.

By Bishop Minerva G. Carcaño, Los Angeles Area Resident Bishop

I don’t know all the details or all the truth about the fatal shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.

What I do know is that we are all accountable for his death and accountable to the African American young people in our communities everywhere. When Trayvon Martin was killed in Sanford, Florida, I turned to African American young people I know in an effort to understand what Trayvon’s death meant to them and how it affected them.  With others, I tried to be a pastor to them as it became clear that the death of Trayvon was personal for them.

If Trayvon could be murdered then what about them?  Does being black make them a ready target?  If they were murdered, would anyone care?  It was a sobering conversation.  Recently, a young woman who participated in the conversation asked me when we were going to have another time together.  It was necessary to keep talking, she said.  I want to keep talking with these young people.  The future of our churches and communities depends on them and our relationship with them.   The death of Michael Brown has made the conversation so much more urgent.  As I get ready for that next accountability and pastoral conversation, particularly with African American young people, and out of respect and care for them, I have become more observant and more concerned.

As I read and listen to the news about the death of Michael Brown I have observed and am greatly concerned about several things, and the list grows every day.  I am concerned that:

  • after more than a week, no information is clearly available about what prompted the shooting and death of unarmed Michael Brown;
  • the response of local and state officials has been a military response with police officers in riot gear and armored vehicles, police sharpshooters in position on top of those armored vehicles in the face of demonstrators, the use of rubber bullets, tear gas and smoke canisters, and the arrest of many;
  • there has been looting and damage to and destruction of businesses in Ferguson, in Michael Brown’s own neighborhood and the community where he lived and died;
  • the composition of the local police department in Ferguson, which is primarily white, does not reflect the majority African American population of Ferguson; and
  • the conflict between demonstrators and the police is escalating.

African American young people of Ferguson, Sanford, and every other community in the U.S. need our caring attention and a clear word of what is right and what is wrong.  It is morally wrong that young African American teenagers are being killed in our communities.  Racial ethnic communities should not be treated as war zones.  Looting and the destruction of private property are not helpful, but one must consider the underlying factors that lead persons to the extreme place of destroying their own community.  A white police department in a predominantly black community is a clear sign of racial disparity that should be questioned.  All of this merits prayerful conversation with African American young people, the members of our congregations, and the leaders of our communities.   Right now this is particularly true for those who live in Ferguson.  However, the rest of us should not wait until what has happened in Ferguson happens in our communities before starting the deep conversation about racism, racial profiling, economic injustice, and other related issues that I suspect underlie all that we are seeing in Ferguson.

May prayerful Christian conversation lead us to actions of social holiness that by God’s grace transform all the places where racism and all its symptoms and systemic manifestations still prevail and give African American and other racial ethnic young people hope of a better future.  As we do this work, let us continue to pray for the family of Michael Brown and all the people of Ferguson, Missouri.


Bishop Minerva G. Carcaño, Los Angeles Area Resident Bishop, is President of the General Commission on Religion and Race of The United Methodist Church.

Originally published on gcorr.org

2 COMMENTS

  1. … “What I do know is that we are all accountable for his death and accountable to the African American young people in our communities everywhere.”

    I find this post objectionable. I am not nor is my wife nor anyone else accountable for that death other than those most directly involved in Missouri. Please leave me and my wife out of this liberal rant. Nobody can anticipate events such as this and sadly when they do occur, there are people who will spend every kind of resource at their disposal to make things worse under the phony disguise of support. They will go out of their way to divide not to heal (Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson come to mind). You see the result of their best efforts nightly. Peace and healing is the last thing on their minds. Lying and manipulation of the truth, rushing to judgment, rumors, innuendo fly everywhere. Calls for justice are calls for “lynch mob” justice. Nobody waits to hear the truth. Nobody cares about the truth including the media which cover the event 24 7 with a truly and genuinely unquestionable bias not in favor of the white policeman. They want his blood and will not disperse until they get it. New Black Panther Party spewing threats of violence against the policeman and his family.

    The truth is suffering greatly in Missouri. The truth will come out in God’s time. It is in God’s hands and it must remain there.

    You are in California … STAY THERE. Let the Resident Bishop of The Missouri Conference deal with his own. Let the local church be the local church regardless of denominational concerns/differences. They are on the ground, at GROUND ZERO. Stay away. Keep your opinions to yourself. Why is it in an event such as this that every one and their grandmother feels the need to involve themselves in what is clearly NOT THEIR AFFAIR!

    If they are to grow and mature and heal from this, it is their responsibility to do so. They are accountable to themselves to rebuild and engage the healing process. It is them who must come to their own decisions in the absence of outside interference.

    Accountable to the African American young people… Please, Bishop. We are accountable to the people in our own communities REGARDLESS of their age. Individual churches can only do so much for those whom God places before them. Churches do the best they can to be the church where they were placed by a benevolent Savior. We have Annual Conferences. Annual Conferences have x number of churches within them. Based on that individual churches resources they do what they can, where they can and so on.

    Do not presume to paint such broad strokes.

    God bless

  2. So my organization Friends of the African union has been on the ground for over two years. As a member of the UMC I agree with the Bishop in many ways. As a church of 12 million people with 4 million living in Africa and 400,000 African American members this is a vital issue. Those in the church in Africa, the fastest growing part of the church, are watching.

    As to the police officer guilt – we can be sure he killed a unarmed man. We can be sure that the response by the police has been terrible. They have cussed at peaceful protesters from day one, had their racism exposed, deployed snipers and 50 cal guns on unarmed Americans.

    It is our hope to use this as teaching moment for the church as a whole. As President of Keys of the Kingdom UMC men I would be remiss if I did not use this as a teaching moment. We already have done the disparity study on the institutional racism in the region in contracting after an analysis of over 900 million dollars in local contracts. African Americans got less than 4% of them.

    So stay tuned for more change in your neighborhood. We are not compromising anymore.

    WE ORGANIZE AROUND THE ACTION In 2005, when the African Union defined the African Diaspora (AU) as “… peoples of African descent and heritage living outside the continent, irrespective of their citizenship, and who remain committed to contribute to the development of the continent and the building of the African Union.”

    In 2012 The AU expanded its membership to those who do not live in its established 5 regions to a 6th region. 50 million people in the USA.

    Mike Brown was one of us, a member of the African community in the USA, and a fellow human being who was killed. By the way no one has shown that the officer received any injuries. I hope you can see fit to be your brother keeper. If not because of our joint faith through the UMC then because it is in your best interest and mine to have a government of the people, for the people and by the people.

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