By SUSAN K. SMITH
Crazy Faith Ministries
When unrest erupted in Milwaukee after George Floyd was murdered by police, and then continued to erupt in other cities as example after example of state-sanctioned violence against Black people continued to be exposed, the media focused on violence. The stories seemed to lean toward the belief that the violence was coming exclusively from Black people, thereby feeding into the fear many White people in this country have of Black people, and eroding trust and support for the goals of the Black Lives Matter movement.
But some of the violence that was flashed across television screens seemed suspicious, at least to me. In one video, a White man carrying an umbrella, was shown walking along a street, smashing windows. Dubbed “Umbrella Man,” he was said to be a white supremacist working to incite violence, according to The Washington Post.
In another story, destruction in Richmond, Virginia, was said to have been wreaked by white supremacists. The mayor of the city said white supremacists were marching under the banner of Black Lives Matter, the Post reported.
And recently, “rioters” were said to be burning Bibles and American flags. Although investigations revealed that only two Bibles had been burned, there was something about this story that rang totally false. It turns out that it was a story instigated by the Kremlin, in order to exacerbate White fear and opposition to the BLM movement, and support for this country’s president, as cited by The New York Times.
What I knew was, even before the disinformation efforts of the Kremlin was reported, is that the violence described did not seem to fit the pattern of how Black people in this country protest.
We are not going to burn anybody’s Bible. Of that I am fairly certain. And it is unlikely that we have burned flags. When it comes to Bibles, all of us have grandparents and great-grandparents, long gone physically but still with us spiritually, who would tan our hides if we even thought about burning the good book.
And in our history, as angry as we have been (righteously so), the focus has not been to burn the American flag. The goal has been to alert this country as to how white supremacy has disrespected the flag by disrespecting and ignoring Black people in the quest for freedom and full American citizenship.
When it comes to the Bible, Black folks have revered and held onto God and God’s word even when God has seemed to be absent; our theologians have looked for ways to teach us who God is and where God is as we have fought for liberty, and when it comes to the flag, Black people have, as Doc Rivers said last week, “loved a country which has not loved us back.”
Colin Kaepernick, remember, did not advocate the destruction of the flag. He knelt to show his respect for the ideals the flag represented.
The burning of the American flag reported this year was supposed spearheaded by a group called RevCom, short for the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA. It was founded in 1975 by a White man, Bob Avakian, and its goal is to overthrow America’s capitalist system. Members of this and other anti-government groups have been present at BLM rallies.
Reports say that when RevCom began a flag burning exercise earlier this year in Chicago, other protesters rushed in to stop them, noted The Hill.
Protests are American, but they are also cultural. The world knows about America’s racism and Russia, which has a vested interest in seeing the current president win re-election, is using its knowledge of White fear of Black people to push racist disinformation.
We can and will see much of that leading up to Nov. 3.
But it is and will be important to remember who we are and whose we are. We will do well to remember our Sunday school lessons and our grandmothers’ words to us. They would not have tolerated us burning either a Bible or a flag.
The anti-fascists are doing the BLM a great disservice by showing up at BLM rallies, supposedly in support of what Black people drawing attention to the disrespect and disregard of Black lives in this country. We who listen and watch would do well to monitor stories like those featuring the burning of Bibles and American flags, and work to counter the disinformation being spread in order to dilute the strength and necessity of the BLM movement.
Our work and our struggle deserve that much.
Rev. Dr. Susan K. Smith is the founder and director of Crazy Faith Ministries. Her latest book, Rest for the Justice-Seeking Soul, is now available through Barnes and Noble and Amazon. She is available for speaking. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.