Do Biden and the Democrats think the Black pastors calling for a ceasefire in Gaza are on Putin’s payroll?
Editor’s note: The following article is an op-ed, and the views expressed are the author’s own. Read more opinions on theGrio.
Will Biden heed the call of Black pastors who want a ceasefire in Gaza? Over 1,000 Black pastors from around the country representing hundreds of thousands of parishioners have signed open letters urging President Biden to tell Israel to stop the genocide of Palestinians in Gaza.
In a time of moral clarity, Black people, including young Black people, are pushing back against Biden for enabling this mass slaughter, and he is losing Black voters. In fact, Black support for Biden is “teetering on the edge” over Israel and Gaza, Rev. Dr. Cynthia Hale Ray of Hope Christian Church in Decatur, Georgia told CNN.
Only a few years since the summer of racial reckoning that America has yet to reckon with — the 2020 murder of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd — young Black people are witnessing the horrific live-streamed genocide of Palestinians on social media.
For Black people who retain the trauma in their DNA after enduring the Middle Passage, apartheid and racial massacres like Greenwood and Rosewood, the Israeli slaughter of Gaza feels familiar. This is what systemic violence rooted in Western colonialism, white supremacy, racial dehumanization and oppression looks like.
“When I look at the young people in my congregation and in the community, the young people are on fire,” Rev. Frederick Haynes III, president and CEO of Rainbow PUSH Coalition and the senior pastor of Friendship-West Baptist Church in Dallas told PBS’ “Amanpour and Company.” “And those [cellphone] notifications, I promise you continue to enrage what they see as this country being complicit in what is going on,” he added.
Black religious leaders have also responded with a new anthem called “Ceasefire,” courtesy of “Make It Plain” host Rev. Mark Thompson, Common Hymnal and Friends, and others. When Black folks put out an anthem, you know what’s up.
And in mid-February, a glorious coalition of faith leaders, activists and artists — church organizations, Black clergy and racial justice groups like Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, Jewish organizations such as Rabbis for Ceasefire, Muslim and pro-Palestinian groups such as CAIR and others — are planning a Peace Pilgrimage from Independence Hall in Philadelphia to Washington, D.C., to urge Biden to end the war in Gaza.
Politicians should be made to realize that they ignore Black voters, the Black community and Black faith leaders — the conscience of this country — at their own peril.
And yet, so far, Biden is not listening. Democratic leaders have acted as if this whole thing will blow over in time for the election later this year, and their base voters — Black people, young people, Arab and Muslim Americans whose families are under the Gaza rubble, and the large numbers of people who want a ceasefire and say Israel is committing genocide — will simply forget it all in time to cast their ballots in November.
On the campaign trail and at speaking events throughout the country, Biden is greeted by antiwar protesters who call him “Genocide Joe” and demand a ceasefire. Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has accused antiwar activists of being Russian agents paid by President Vladimir Putin — or even Chinese agents — and has called for the FBI to investigate. Others have said pro-ceasefire supporters (large majorities across party lines and 80% of Democrats) are Hamas supporters.
Will Biden dare to say that 1,000 Black pastors calling for a ceasefire are on Putin’s payroll or down with China or Hamas? Will the Democratic Party simply ignore what Black people are trying to tell them?
What we are witnessing is nothing new. Black people have been the moral conscience of this country and have been ignored, sidelined and punished when they speak truth to power. On issues of foreign policy, Black folks are expected to shut up and stick with civil rights. After all, it’s too complicated for us to understand, they assure us.
When Martin Luther King Jr. spoke out against the Vietnam War, the Civil Rights Movement and the White House shunned him.
Dr. King believed silence was betrayal, and he broke his silence on April 4, 1967 at Riverside Church in New York. In his speech, King said “Perhaps a more tragic recognition of reality took place when it became clear to me that the war was doing far more than devastating the hopes of the poor at home. It was sending their sons and their brothers and their husbands to fight and to die in extraordinarily high proportions relative to the rest of the population.”
The civil rights leader noted that the war brought Black and white boys together “in brutal solidarity” to burn huts of poor villages in Southeast Asia when they couldn’t even live or go to school together in the same neighborhood in Chicago. Dr. King called this a “cruel manipulation of the poor.”
After actress Eartha Kitt told off then-President Lyndon Johnson at the White House, she could not work in Hollywood for a decade. Invited to a White House luncheon on juvenile crime and delinquency in 1968, Kitt told the president that young people were “angry because their parents are angry . . . because there is a war going on that they don’t understand . . . You send the best of this country off to be shot and maimed. They rebel in the street.”
Black people have always stood up for international human rights. In 1951, Paul Robeson and other civil rights activists submitted a report to the United Nations accusing America of genocide. “We Charge Genocide” highlighted hundreds of abuses against Black people, including police brutality, hundreds of killings and other examples of systemic racism. Months before he was assassinated, Malcolm X waged a campaign to convince African nations to raise the persecution of Black Americans before the UN.
Even today, African nations are elevating the issue of human rights on the international stage. In 2022, Gambia filed a genocide case against Myanmar in the International Court of Justice, just as South Africa filed charges against Israel for its killing of Palestinians in Gaza. And when Germany defended Israel from these charges, Namibia called out the European nation for its hypocrisy in covering for Israel and failing to atone for its own genocide. After all, between 1904 and 1908 — years before the Nazi Holocaust against millions of Jewish people and others — Germany had committed genocide against the Herrero and Nama people in the German colony now known as Namibia. As many as 110,000 people were murdered in concentration camps in the first genocide of the twentieth century.
Black people should be able to show solidarity and care about humanity, even if they are not directly involved. But in the case of Israel and Palestine, Black people are very much involved, including the three Black U.S. servicemembers who were killed in Jordan.
Every life is precious, and this is why the Black pastors are sounding the alarm and bringing moral clarity to this graveyard called Gaza. It is troubling that Biden seems uncaring when the children, women, men and families being slaughtered are racialized, and his answer is to send more weapons to a country that has caught genocide charges and is plausibly committing genocide, according to the World Court.
When Biden was booed by ceasefire protesters during his January visit to Charleston’s Mother Emanuel AME Church — the site of a white supremacist racial massacre of nine Black people in June 2015 — some folks considered it disrespectful to Black people for pro-Palestine protesters to use the church to further their agenda. But perhaps Biden was the disrespectful one for going to Mother Emanuel, co-founded by the leader of a slave revolt, to whitewash his image as he capes for the Israeli government’s bloody ethnic cleansing project. And what can Biden say now that the Black pastors have spoken up against him and told him he is wrong?
Democrats are not listening to the Black community, opting instead to brush them off and use them as props and image launders at election time. When Black pastors tell you about yourself and even make a song about it, you’re on notice. Rather than stop the killing and call for justice for Palestinians, Biden may end up calling these Black clergy Russian agents or even Hamas.
David A. Love is a journalist and commentator who writes investigative stories and op-eds on a variety of issues, including politics, social justice, human rights, race, criminal justice and inequality. Love is also an instructor at the Rutgers School of Communication and Information, where he trains students in a social justice journalism lab. In addition to his journalism career, Love has worked as an advocate and leader in the nonprofit sector, served as a legislative aide, and as a law clerk to two federal judges. He holds a B.A. in East Asian Studies from Harvard University and a J.D. from the University of Pennsylvania Law School. He also completed the Joint Programme in International Human Rights Law at the University of Oxford. His portfolio website is davidalove.com.
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