In “God of the Oppressed,” James Cone recounts how Christian responses to the 1967 Detroit riot revealed not only an insensitivity to black suffering but a larger theological bankruptcy on the part of white theologians. As he saw it, they were not genuinely concerned about all cases of violence. Worried about the threat of black revolutionaries, they did not see the structure of violence embedded in U.S. law and carried out by the police. Cone asks: “Why didn’t we hear from the so-called nonviolent Christians when black people were violently enslaved, violently lynched, and violently ghettoized in the name of freedom and democracy?”
As we know the shooting of Michael Brown was not just one incident, in one town. The reason that the fear and concern grew was because it was that proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back. It was the outcry of people who have been living under a system that has targeted young black men. So what can we do about it?