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Amidst Racial Tensions, Lecrae Asks, “Can You Help Me Understand?”

Jemar Tisby

If you think America is post-racial, just wait about seven days and you will have cause to re-evaluate that claim. Instances of racial violence perpetrated against African Americans have become nearly a weekly occurrence. This time the place is Cincinnati and the person is Sam DuBose.

Lecrae Starts a Conversation

A body cam video shows Officer Ray Tensing stopping 43 year-old DuBose for not having a front license plate. Less than five minutes later, DuBose was dead with a gunshot to the head from Tensing. The officer has been indicted for the killing, but the event has sparked a new round of conversations regarding race and violence in America.

Two-time Grammy award winning hip hop artist, Lecrae Moore, took to Facebook to post a video about his confusion over Christian responses to racially-charged instances of injustice like Sam DuBose’s murder. “I need a little help. I sincerely want to understand something and I want to understand the sentiment behind a lot of what I’m seeing out there,” began Lecrae.

Hey family sincerely can you help me understand?

Posted by Lecrae on Wednesday, July 29, 2015


The artist goes on to explain, “So I have historically posted things about abortion and Planned Parenthood and my thoughts on that…I’ve talked about ISIS and the terror that is ISIS…In both of those circumstances I have received encouragement…specifically from my white brothers and sisters. But yet when I’ve spoken out recently about what I see to be either authoritative or racial injustice, there’s this sentiment of what feels like hostility…or defensiveness.”

In Lecrae’s experience, when he talks about racial injustice, some demand, “Why don’t you talk about ISIS or why don’t you talk about abortion.” But, he asserts, the outcry over injustice is imbalanced. “I’ve never seen on the times when I’ve spoken about persecution or abortion people respond with, ‘Well, why don’t you talk about racial injustice?'” Lecrae wants to know what’s behind that phenomenon.

Is it possible to openly advocate for one issue of biblical morality without being accused of not caring about other issues? Can Christians who are passionate about abortion and Christian persecution be just as passionate about racial injustice? Why does it seem like the people who say, “What about life in the womb and Christian suffering worldwide?” have trouble saying, “What about race in America?”

Constant Reminders about Race

Lecrae’s question resonates with thousands. As of the posting of this article his video has received 15.1K “Likes”, 3.5K comments, and has been viewed almost 450,000 times on Facebook. My experience in racial conversations has been similar to Lecrae’s. When I’ve spoken about persisting racial injustice many Christians, particularly white brothers and sisters, seem to steer the conversation away from race by bringing up other issues of public justice.

I can’t speak for others, but for me, I have to be vocal about issues of race because they affect me in a way other issues don’t. As an African American, race is a daily lived experience for me. Even when I’d like to move past skin color, the world reminds me in countless ways that I am “other.” Whether it’s the acute awareness of how my clothes may render me “respectable” or a “thug” in some people’s eyes, or the constant fear of interacting with the police knowing that the wrong motion or words could be fatal, or the paucity of minority theologians and leaders highlighted in my seminary courses, being Black in America is a pervasive reality.

I talk about race because I can’t escape it. I can’t live in this country and fail to be affected by the death of Sam DuBose. His murder is a gut-punch because I or someone close to me could be in that situation. The Emanuel A.M.E. church, where a shooter left nine people dead, reminds me of every historic Black congregation in which I’ve ever worshiped. I can’t even buy a hoodie from my alma mater for fear others might think I’m walking in the “wrong” neighborhood for someone of my skin color.

Lecrae captures my thoughts more eloquently when he says, “I personally do not feel that I give more sway to one thing over the other intentionally. I think I’m human…As an African American male obviously that’s the experience and the paradigm that I see things through, so those things are going to probably affect me a little more than they would affect somebody who’s not a part of the Black community.”

Outrage Over One Injustice Doesn’t Cancel Outrage for Others

Yet my concern for race does not preclude a concern for other issues of biblical justice. I abhor abortion, and even more so because it disproportionately affects Blacks (I have written about that here). I pray constantly for my brothers and sisters across the world, particularly in the Middle East, who are being evicted, taxed, raped, and beheaded for claiming the name of Christ. I, too, like every other Christian fervently pray, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done.”

I hope my emphasis on race can be understood by those in the majority. I can’t get away from it. Racial issues affect me not only daily, but perpetually. Then, when another video like the one of Sam DuBose comes out, I have yet another occasion to speak about racial injustice. All Christians, in fact, have the opportunity to stand for the unity in the midst of diversity the Bible teaches. Instead of accusing each other of not caring for this issue or that issue, perhaps we can weep with those who weep. Maybe we can walk with one another through the valley of suffering. Perhaps we can be co-laborers for the kingdom.

One day God will eliminate every injustice. He will redeem all of our pain. He will wipe every tear from our eyes and death will be no more (Revelation 21:4). Until that day, I lament racial injustice. I lament abortion. I lament Christian persecution. And I stand with anyone who will cry out to God, “Maranatha! Come, Lord Jesus!”

Let’s Continue the Conversation

In the meantime, I want to continue the discussion Lecrae started. For those, especially in the racial majority, who have insights into why some Christians reflexively get defensive about race or try to deflect the conversation, what’s behind that? Why do some more readily talk about almost any other issue than about race?

But let’s be gracious as we address these questions. As brother Lecrae concludes, “I’m interested in understanding the sentiment behind that because I think it causes a lot of frustration, a lot of division. And I’m all about unity. I’m all about us figuring out, ‘Hey, how can we work together?'” Come, let us reason together.

22 thoughts on “Amidst Racial Tensions, Lecrae Asks, “Can You Help Me Understand?”


    I like the report

  2. Clay

    This is truly useful, thanks.

  3. Darci

    It works very well for me

  4. Giuseppe

    This is really helpful, thanks.


    Thank you for the great post

  6. Jonathan B

    Pardon, autocorrect has run amok on my phone. It was also concerning that God was corrected to “magic” I am sorry about that.

  7. Jonathan B.

    There are a couple of things at work that I think have to be addressed, and there is a continued theme around it.

    For background, I studied at a conservative Christian school, went to seminary, and studied at a Christian Graduate school. I have extensive training in theology, communication, and sociology from one of the most respected institutions on the globe. I say that because what I am about to say normally gets classified as something it’s not and their is a question of my veracity as a thinker.

    1. Theme A: white Christians, and people in general, are in general (because it’s not all), uninterested in a national discussion on race because it will turn into white = racist. While that may be true in some enclaves, isn’t it fair to say that white Americans live in a world where they get to do that to everyone else. They want to talk about ISIS and that usually turns into to all Muslims are terrorists, isn’t that why we ignore the magic given mandate to care for the orphan and widow in their distress? When we talk about immigrants we talk about them being criminals, despite the overwhelming majority of them being perfectly fine people. When we talk about black people we talk about fatherlessness and crime, but never point out that white women make up44% of prisons Orr white people make up 52% of crime. This has always been the way that we have had national discussions about anything, and there is a reluctance to join the party. The rest of us have been reading think pieces on what’s wrong with us our whole lives.

    2. Theme B.: “I don’t think in terms of race, in a Christian first. Our identities should be found in Christ.”

    Right, except when you learn of the actual nature of reality, no one is asking about whether or not you are Christian. My father was denied promotions for 20 years despite being honestly the best I. His field at what he did, and he was also a minister. Again, the Christian mandate is about humility, denying what is rightly ours to serve, and in general, white Christians have been reluctant to deny their ability to remain neutral and unblimished to do life with brothers and sisters of color (not just black ones). I’m not saying anyone is racist, but I am challenging the idea that one can be Christian and refrain from engaging in what has been a 600 year long system of injustice on a large scale.

  8. Trish

    I am sorry the white evangelical church is failing our brothers and sisters of color, Lecrae. We failed to stand with you in the 60s, now God is giving us another chance and many are missing it again. Praying for God to break down walls of pride and ignorance. Praying that Christians will embrace the full body of Christ because we get a better picture of who God is when we explore how He uniquely reveals Himself through people from various cultures.

  9. Trish

    If you truly want to grow in your understanding of this topic, I suggest reading “Just Mercy”. It will open your eyes to the ways people in power abuse that power.

  10. Andy

    Bill’s statement that “if Black persons are jailed” it’s because they committed an act that is a crime for all races is correct but I think misses the problem by blowing past the chain of events that leads to a conviction and fails to recognize the discretion officers have. Before there is a conviction there is an officers observation of an event, the officers decision as to whether he or she is going to intervene, a decision as to how to intervene, a decision as to what conduct constitutes compliance with his directions if he intervenes and a decision as to whether to arrest and charge. Many times all of these decisions are within the officers discretion. Case in point. I represented a 26 year old African American male. He was on probation at the time of the stop which lead to my representation. Driving his Aunt’s car to the store for groceries he was observed by an officer who felt his tint was too dark, Officer made decision to stop and caught up to him and bluelighted him. Client rolls on 2 1/2 blocks, I measured from report, and stops. client is charged with fleeing and attempting to elude because he didn’t stop immediately. We get charge reduced to failure to obey a direction but client ends up with 13 month prison sentence for violation of probation. Takes the deal because if convicted at trial could get 5 years. I’ve been practicing law 34 years in the same community. I guarantee you same set of facts on the other side of town and a white male driving no charge if a stop is made at all. A meaningful discussion can begin when we accept that laws are being enforced in a racial discriminatory way and focus on how we can correct it. It worked with the federal sentencing guidelines when people accepted there was no acceptable reason for hugely disproportionate sentences for the same weight of crack and powder cocaine.

  11. David

    I have a negative reaction to the line “Let’s have a national conversation about race.” because the next line is usually the equivalent of “White people are racist. The ball’s in your court white people.” This usually comes up when there’s some highly-publicized event in the news or (in this case) the appearance of a very disturbing trend. If it were the case that white people generally were out there killing black people then I’d agree that there’d be cause for concern. But that’s not happening. Instead over the last year or so we’ve had a number of police officers in (usually) poor urban areas using lethal force when there was clearly no cause for them to do so. I say ‘police officers’ because I don’t know the statistical significance to show that it’s a ‘white’ police officer problem specifically or an issue with police officers generally or an issue with police officers in specific types of neighborhoods. (E.g. In the Freddie Gray case half the officers charged were black.) Also I don’t know if the media augment the coverage about white officers shooting black people because it’s ‘hot’ at the moment vs not covering black officers shooting black people or black officers shooting white people or white officers shooting white people. (For some of these counter examples look up ‘John Geer’, ‘Dillon Taylor’ both happened this year. Also interesting My point is that despite the horror of learning about incidences of white police officers gunning down unarmed black people it’s impossible for me to judge if these are just a few examples of police brutality that the politicized media want me to focus on, or in fact are an honest sampling of incidents of police brutality which also point to a cultural of racism in police departments. I say ‘police departments’ because an issue there doesn’t necessarily point to a racial problem in the country generally. If I said Reach Records is churning out depraved garbage because so many other hip hop productions companies do so you’d say I was crazy, and you’d be correct. And that’s a comparison within the same business domain! If I said “My exposure to top 40 hip hop music leads me to believe that it’s all depraved garbage. Since it’s mostly produced by black people, most black people are depraved.” I’d be labelled an idiot and rightly! Yet when a not-necessarily representative sample of horrific occurrences by a few police officers in a few police departments we’re supposed to believe that that points to a broader white-person problem? That seems ridiculous to me. Also the logic never gets applied in the other direction. I.e. “We have a black president, state governors, congressmen, senators, company CEOs, etc, etc therefore white people sure aren’t racist.” There’s no balance and the media seem to like to sensationalize these kinds of stories recently and therefore I’m nervous to make any sweeping conclusions about what racial problems there might be at a national level.

  12. George

    Jemar, as usual your continued courageous enthusiasm for this is encouraging to the weary, those of us white and black whom God has sent the holy spirit to give us a special burden of clarity on these things. I am grateful to have a worthy spokesman like you to give report of the concerns of our hearts. We continued to pray that God give sight to His people thought the conviction of past and present sin. I think it was right to say ‘we will not bow”…….. in the summer of 1964 Mississippi, as well as last week in California.

  13. Stephen

    Hey Bill,

    I think I disagree with the last half of your paragraph. I think Racial Injustice has been proven in the criminal justice system. Ferguson is an apparent easy example, regardless of what you think happened, the local government justice system was pretty biased and racist.

    Now we can say that everything worked out and that system has been cast down, but I think we would be foolish to think that Ferguson was the only town that could do something like that, and we should speak out against it.

  14. Stephen

    I’d agree with you that at the root of the struggle is a struggle for power, but I’m not sure that all white people who respond defensively are responding to keep that power. Maybe at a subconscious level, but it isn’t as simple as “they just want power”.

    Typically white christians that I talk too find it hard to believe, again like I said, that the ones who gave us the gospel, could value power so much that they would enslave others.

    Its never easy to see our own sin, and many times we are blind to it. How much harder it can be to see the sin of our parents generation, how it influenced our hearts, and our justice systems and even our actions.

  15. Christian

    I live in Mississippi which has a long standing history of racial discrimination and tension. However the Caucasian and African American populations are more evenly distributed than in many other places in this country. If you walk outside your door your going to interact with someone from a different race than you are. That’s a guarantee. So despite the negative stigma towards us here ,we talk about racism and racial relations all the time. I’m kind of defending my state here but the point is we do talk about it from several perspectives.
    As a white person, I think the reason we don’t talk about it is because people act like its a Socialological law that white people are racist. But in our society people almost regard being a racist as the worst possible thing to be. It’s to the point that when a white person kills a black person people seem to look more at the racism aspect of it instead of focusing on the fact a human being was murdered. That if you have even the slightest reservation against someone different from yourself, you’re a horrible person. So when people try to point out what we do as a whole hurts minorities we can feel pinned to being what’s considered the worst thing a person can be. While many white folks do either still act completely racist or pretend racism towards minorities isnt an issue anymore, many of us do take it seriously and make legitimate efforts to not act in a racist or prejudiced way. So when people tell us we must identify with slave owners, the KKK, and even heinous racist now, we feel taken aback because a lot of us do agree that the sins committed against the African Americans then and now are heinous.
    Some of it is a little more bitter. A lot of Caucasian people feel like on an individual level black people committing violence against white people is excused to compensate for the suffering and racism the black population has suffered and still suffers. Some of us do over exaggerate about that but there is some legitimacy to that fear. We feel like criminals get to play the race card and get slap on the wrist because of it. I don’t think it’s that common but it does happen. And it scares us so badly we don’t always listen to the problems minoroties still face.
    I hope I didn’t make this sound like a white suffering angle. I just think this is a rationel a lot of us have and it’s a rationel I’ve had to challenge myself on. Racism is a sensitive and complicated issue that the radical protests, crowds of people yelling at each other, and uppity politicians debating on live television just does not seem to be helping. I think people sitting down, communicating, and turning to God for guidance are what will help.

  16. PAT

    Good post. As a society, we have become hypercritical about every word spoken.written…it has nothing to do with you or the issues you address, in my humble opinion. On every issue, the one speaking or trying to communicate gets eviscerated over even the most trivial use of words. Those who are in places of leadership or who are willing to take the lead on any issue, will be challenged by some who are sincere but more often by people who just want to argue or name call…especially through media in which we do not look at each other eye to eye.

    Before we criticize anyone, we should read or listen to their whole body of work. That takes time and a desire to find the truth. Keep up your good work and calling, regardless because you will always have critics…just as Christ and all his disciples have.

  17. Bastion

    It seems pretty obvious to me what they’re defending: white privilege. In my opinion, every minority that seeks redress for their oppression, does so at the expense of the majority.
    Whatever the particular issue, be it housing, wages, marriage – at the root is who has the power to decide? Who decides reward and punishment, privilege and responsibility?
    Therefore, the majority must give up some of their power if it will be shared with a minority. It is loss. Loss can generate fear, grief, nostalgia (“I want *my* America back!” – Google that phrase…it’s a “thing”.)
    That attachment to power, and the fear of losing it, causes them to be defensive.
    They don’t get defensive on Christian issues, nor abortion issues, because they are on the same side as you. They are in the “minority” and seeking the same redress. (Sorry, had to use “minority” because Christians are hardly a minority in the USA, but have been acting like it…somehow.)
    Emotions are strong. Even if logically they understand the egalitarian principle and that they *should* accept all races the same as their own, emotionally, they also understand that it will come with a price – a sacrifice.
    Even if it is the right thing to do, sacrifice is easy to say, but hard to actually do. That’s why we also have the word “courage”: the will to do what is right in spite of personal risk or sacrifice.

  18. Rachel A

    Thanks Lacrae for your humble and sincere approach, I speak this to mainly the Christian brothers and sisters; we all struggle with this dark and cruel mindset and perception about certain race and it should be eradicated from within. As true believers of Christ such thoughts or way of living shouldn’t be found in us but genuine heartfelt love and embrace towards all people. The thing is Pride that always wants to oppress, reign over, subdue and just me and my own selfish heart that we need to intensify in prayer that God will Heal this evil heart. If as Christians we are still finding difficulties in accepting another race, then I strongly doubt our faith and conversion… we should be able to face and help those who are suffering from such satanic molestation and stand for justice and righteousness as the Bible states that only those who stands for justice and righteousness will God hear, accept, reward and reign with him in eternity, not those who brush it under or fear that family and race.

  19. Bill Smith

    This is really not that difficult. Abortion is a legally sanctioned practice that results in the killing of millions of babies. ISIS takes over areas of countries, outlaws and suppresses Christianity and persecutes and kills 1000s of Christians in the Mideast. Racial injustice is not only not sanctioned legally but where it results in actions is prosecuted. Racial injustice in the US is contrary to the country’s ideals and is all but universally condemned. Black people are rarely, if ever killed for being black, and if by, for instance, a policeman unjustlly kills a black person, he will be proscuted. And if the cases where black persons are jailed it is because they charged with and convicted of crimes that are against the law for everyone whatever their race. The problem with the question is that you’ve got two apples you ae tryng to compare to one organge.

  20. Stephen

    Why do white Christians react defensively to the idea of racism? Anytime we react defensively, regardless of who it is, it is to protect something. The real question then becomes, what are white Christians protecting? Or better yet, why is there a need to protect the status quo of racism?

    I grew up in Mississippi, and the thought that the men and women who raised us, who sacrificed for our country, who showed us the Gospel were also extremely flawed is really hard to admit. For one, we naturally love the people we grow up with, especially the ones that nurtured us in the gospel. Many times conversations of racism cause us to see the prejudice hearts that our grandparents and parents have, and even the hearts that we have.

    There is also an aspect that we don’t really understand what it means to be in the minority culture. Too many white Americans, the idea of “work hard and earn your way, just pull yourself up by your bootstraps” is what makes America what it is. It is the belief that all men are created equal. We act like this means that all men are born into equal situations and given equal opportunities. Because of this, we get frustrated at the idea that we have somehow been given something that other people aren’t.

    It is ironic that many white Americans, and White Christians for that matter, work extremely hard to leave behind more for our kids than we were left, yet at the same time act like everyone starts on the same level.

    In short, we are defensive because of our pride and belief that somehow the sin of racism has died. We like to think that racism can only be defined as slavery or Jim Crow laws, and that it ended a long time ago when the laws were changed. We like to say that total depravity is real, but that it doesn’t affect our hearts in this way anymore, that we somehow are without approach on this area, that Jesus died for the other sins because we don’t have prejudice anymore. We like to say that our children are going to grow up in a terrible culture because of the decisions we have made, but at the same time refuse to see how our parents generational sin has affected our Minority brothers and sisters.

  21. Kim Ransleben

    It occurred to me for the first time that if I were talking to someone who, for example, had an abortion in her past, or worked for Planned Parenthood before her conversion to Christianity, I would never wonder why these recent events were on the forefront of her mind. I would completely understand that her shared experience would cause her to “feel” these events with greater sensitivity, and in fact, I would look to her for greater understanding and help in navigating nuances through it.

    I not only would see this in others, I feel this myself. Ukraine isn’t just a country that sometimes pops up in the news. It’s friends and family and a little girl we’re trying to bring home. If someone thinks of abuse in their childhood, or has a friend who needs help talking through it, women call me. I get it because it’s my history.

    And this is yours. I “knew” that. But not like I see it now. Thanks for that. There’s something about being the majority culture that means I don’t share experiences with others “simply” because of race. It takes more. I think somehow I put this on you, on those African-Americans in my life that I love.

    It’s something God’s been awakening in me, but today it’s clearer. Grateful for that. May need to write this up in an article soon. Will grateful point to your an Lecrae’s words for how God gave me eyes to see, even if it’s just a bit more clearly.

    Thanks for your patience and gracious words. I know it can be wearying. There are many of us reading and praying for sight and change in us, in our church, and in our world.

  22. Larry

    My speaking out consists of FB comments and signing petitions. I will speak out about any act that I believe is a violation of God’s Law. That includes racial injustice. However, I do not jump into any initial report of a racial injustice as I know initial reports are usually incorrect. I know that as a white person, if I appeal to calmness and a wait-and-see attitude, that in itself will get me labeled racist. In-addition, a white person is now viewed as evil. This is from a recent White Privilege Conference held in Madison.

    Being a white person who does anti-racist work is like being an alcoholic. I will never be recovered by my alcoholism, to use the metaphor. I have to everyday wake up and acknowledge that I am so deeply imbedded with racist thoughts and notions and actions in my body that I have to choose everyday to do anti-racist work and think in an anti-racist way. . . . [T]o realize I carry within me these dark, horrible thoughts and perceptions is hard to admit. . . . Who’s at fault? My white body is at fault. My racial identity, as a white person who believes that I am somehow better or more deserving, is the problem. . . . I can’t teach students of color nearly as well as a person of color can.

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