Declaration on Racism in the U.S. from the Association of Graduates of the Evangelical Seminary of Puerto Rico
In one of his writings from prison, shortly before the Nazi government executed him, the theologian, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, exhorted “to see the great events of history from the perspective of those below, the belittled, mistreated, oppressed, slandered, excluded; in short, from the perspective of those who suffer.” Among human beings who for centuries have been belittled, mistreated, oppressed, slandered, and excluded, are those whose skin is dark.
The cruel murder of George Floyd, executed by a white cop, resonates these days, both in the United States and in the rest of the world. It is not a strange or peculiar murder. The United States was formed as a nation from two inhumane cruelties: the massacre of indigenous peoples and slavery of Africans. Countless indigenous communities were exterminated or displaced, and numerous Africans, marked by the color of their skin, were condemned to the cruel bondage of slavery.
Even after the abolition of slavery, starting from a bloody and bloodthirsty civil war, American black communities for a century were considered inferior. They suffered many segregationist laws, customs, and traditions. Although half a century ago, these laws, customs, and traditions lost their legal sustainment, racial discrimination still endures and causes intense suffering and tragedy. In very recent times, the violent murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd, three Afro-American descendants, demonstrate the cruel perseverance of racial discrimination.
It is sad to recognize the slavery of these human beings and their consequential racial discrimination were justified on countless occasions by citing biblical scriptures. “And as for your male and female slaves whom you may have—from the nations that are around you, from them you may buy male and female slaves… And you may take them as an inheritance for your children after you, to inherit them as a possession; they shall be your permanent slaves…” (Leviticus 25.445-26 NKJV). “Bondservants, be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling…” (Ephesians 6.5 NKJV). It is why Giovanni Boccaccio concludes in the Decameron, his classic work of the fourteenth century, by stating the following: “Divine writing is a holy book, but there have been those who have misunderstood it, causing much damage.”
REPUDIATION OF RACIAL DISCRIMINATION
It is up to us today, as an essential element of our Christian apostolate, to proclaim the full and absolute equality of human beings. We must reject vigorously the racial discrimination, which, we reiterate, is expressed in multiple ways, including in the cruel murders that Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and George Floyd tragically suffered this year.
We are followers of Jesus Christ, who from the beginning and until the end of his earthly existence expressed, in acts and words, his full solidarity with the belittled, mistreated, oppressed, slandered, and excluded from the earth. Therefore, we must repudiate the cruelty that characterizes the discrimination suffered by countless human beings because of the color of their skin. In this tragic context, the words of Jesus vigorously resound: “And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me'” (Matthew 25:40 NRSV). (Written by Dr. Luis Rivera-Pagán)