White Christianity Slates ‘Institutional Racism’ And Chooses Power Over Christs Radical Call

This week, a good deal of my twitter time line is going to be devoted to #Marissa418 – it is a radical call by @KilljoyProphets to speak, blog, and tweet out in support of Marissa Alexander who is facing the prospect of 60 years in jail, and to do so as Christians because we are called to it:

The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free ~ Luke 4:18

Marissa Alexander chose to protect her life from her abusive husband, when – 9 days after giving birth to her daughter prematurely – he attacked her. She took a gun she legally owned and fired one shot into the air.  Despite laws which supposedly allow her to ‘stand her ground’, Marissa Alexander is being prosecuted and faces 60 years in jail, because she is black, and because she is a woman. Supporting Marissa is important for its own sake – she has been oppressed by the violence of the physical abuse to which she was subjected, and she was is oppressed now by the carceral system which would, in the name of ‘justice’, imprison her for the rest of her life.

In Ferguson, Missouri, Michael Brown was shot dead by a policeman. He was unarmed. He was black.  He was 18. And his killing was not unique, or unusual. He is, at minimum, the fifth unarmed black man to be killed in August in America. Between 2005 and 2012 in the USA, 2 young black men a week were killed by police. 

The Black community, it’s leaders and scholars call out to us that – whilst society is telling us that we are post-racial – the reality is something quite different.  And although it would be easy for those of us in the UK to assume that because we have few guns and better gun control, that black people and people in this country do not have to deal with an institutionally racist carceral system, it would be wrong to do so.

Racial profiling is used by UK police – however unofficially – resulting in the Black and Asian population being up to 7 times more likely to be ‘stopped and searched’.  Whether recent government promises to reduce this will bear any fruit is open to question, given that it is under the guise of Anti-terrorism laws: Jean Charles de Menezes was unarmed when he shot dead by police because they suspected of him of being a terrorist. Mark Duggan was shot dead by police because they thought he was carrying a weapon. He was not. Deaths in police custody happen to those who are black or of colour. The families of Cherry Groce, Christopher Alder and Sean Rigg are still waiting for justice, years after they died.

And there will be those here in the UK who will say – ‘but it happens far less, and our police don’t carry guns like the US police do.’  When every life matters, when the racism that killed them is the same racism, when we now have our own self-defence law that could lead to yet more deaths.. then maybe we shouldn’t be so smug.

Racism has never gone away – it has simply changed how it functions, but it is as firmly rooted in the patriarchal and colonial structures as it ever was. To say so is simply to confront truth. To recognise that race is a factor in how the police operates.

In the midst of this, Christian Post publish an article by Ashley Pratte that demonstrates so perfectly why ‘White Christianity’ is a thing. It is a thing that supports the very power structures which oppress, because it blames the oppressed. It nurtures the racist structures that make prisoners of the black community by calling racism a myth, and keeps blaming the oppressed, pushing a line about ‘personal responsibility’ (because black = “irresponsible”). It wraps the blanket of power around itself and props open its churches doors with the pillars of the very racism it denies – and in doing so it denies the radical calling of Christ and bleats like the goats which the Son of God warned us would come before Him, claiming to serve in His name.

Whether you are of faith, or not – look with your eyes open. Stop sleeping. Stop ignoring. Stop turning away because it makes you feel uncomfortable.

Listen. Be still and Listen. In the name of mercy and compassion – listen.



#FreeMarissa: What Does Justice Look Like? #Marissa418

A bruised reed he will not break, and a smouldering wick he will not snuff out, till he has brought justice through to victory ~ Matthew 12: 20 & Isaiah 43: 3

untitled Marissa Alexander

Imagine for a moment that you are a woman, who has regularly endured violence from a husband or partner. You have been frequently slapped, punched and beaten. You have been throttled, assaulted and verbally abused. Often, the abuse has occurred in front of your children, and almost always within their hearing. You might be trying to leave, which is one of the most dangerous times for domestic abuse victims. You may even have sought assistance from the law and taken an injunction against your partner.

What would justice look like to you in those circumstances?

The baby you have been carrying is born prematurely – your tiny, fragile baby is laying in an incubator, it’s every function from heartbeat to breath monitored by machines and her food delivered via a tube that is inserted in to her belly or her nose. You don’t know if she is going to be okay, you are suppressing the fear that somehow her fragile hold on life is your fault. And your husband or partner is still hitting you.

What would justice look like to you in those circumstances?

Nine days after giving birth – nine days of stress and worry, nine days of not being able to hold your new born child, of wires and monitors and fear – your husband or partner attacks you and you are terrified for your life. You can hear your children screaming. This time you decide that will no longer tolerate the violence – you want it to end, for your sake, for your children’s sake. You legally own a gun, so you reach for it: you fire it in the air, hurting nobody but shocking your husband or partner enough for him to stop.

What would justice look like to you in those circumstances?

It was a warning shot only and you made it in self defence, to protect yourself and your family. The place you live even has a law that says that’s okay. The police arrive and arrest you.  Your partner has falsely reported to them that you shot at him and you are put in prison and told that the law that allows you to defend yourself doesn’t apply to you.

What would justice look like to you in those circumstances?

For Marissa Alexander, ‘justice’ is the very thing which tries to erase her: the system which has told her that she ‘wasn’t afraid’ at the time of firing the warning shot; the same system which is more likely to incarcerate battered and abused women than protect them – and most importantly, the same system which is more likely to do so because she is black.

Marissa Alexander matters. Like Ce-Ce MacDonald, she has been criminalised because she is a black woman who chose to defend her life. When a system expects you to die rather than live, unless you are white, male and cis-gendered, that system is a tyranny and a tool of the abuser.

I urge you to lend your support to Marissa Alexander and those who are helping her fight for freedom: there are many ways you can do so. Visit freemarissanow.org – there is a wealth of information about the case on there, as well as details about how you can help in some way. You can contact @KilljoyProphets, tweet using the hashtag #FreeMarissa and spread the word amongst your friends. Educate yourself about the failures of carceral justice and follow twitter accounts like @CheifElk and @PrisonCulture to find out more about that discussion.

It matters – wherever you are, it matters. Please do what you can to help. Thank you.

 The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
    because he has anointed me
        to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
    and recovery of sight to the blind,
        to let the oppressed go free ~ Luke 4:18

@KilljoyProphets week of solidarity for Marissa Alexander – #Marissa418

Although I was not raised in a Christian family – coming to faith in my late twenties/early thirties – I did grow up (as most of us did) in a world where ‘justice’ equals prison: certainly the white liberal feminism I first identified with wouldn’t call for prison abolition, and yet the carceral justice system both in the UK and US is part of the very structural, patriarchal system that not only fails to protect and provide justice, but more specifically actively criminalises particular communities.

It would be too easy for those of us in the UK to look at recent events in Ferguson, Missouri – where Michael Brown became yet another young black person murdered by police – and assume that we are unaffected by police and state oppression of black communities; our lazy white eyes might look at the what has happened to Marissa Alexander and assume could not happen here.  Which would be to ignore what happened to Cherry Groce, or Kiranjit Ahluwalia, or Mark Duggan, or Christopher Alder or Sean Rigg.  And make no mistake – what is happening to Marissa Alexander can and will happen here in the UK. Carceral justice fails women, and devastates black communities.

Marissa Alexander is being re-victimised by a system which is radically challenged by Christ’s calling:

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
    because he has anointed me
        to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
    and recovery of sight to the blind,
        to let the oppressed go free” 

~ Luke 4:18 NRSV

For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

~ Ephesians 6:12

Standing together as people of faith with Marissa Alexander is to stand with a woman who is being re-victimised and erased by what the world believes justice to be.  @KilljoyProphets, women of faith and colour who understand why this matters, are organising and leading a week of solidarity for Marissa Alexander.  Learn more about this – read their post at #FaithFeminisms here  – email them if you would like to help at killjoysandprophets@gmail.com. Tweet using #Marissa418 – pray, speak up and speak out!

Justice for Marissa.


image via http://www.freemarissanow.org