Three years ago when white supremacists took over Charlottesville, Virginia, and Heather Heyer was murdered by a coward named James Fields, Donald Trump stood behind a podium and said “There were good people on both sides.” Conflating “goodness” with white supremacy didn’t give Trump political cover and theological wisdom doesn’t give Jonathan Issac cover either.
The fallacious reasoning of white supremacists is that they are superior to all by nature of their whiteness, and that dominion is their birthright. An ideology anchored in hatred and radical racism has lingered on these shores since 1619. Extending empathy to them from a presidential place of influence, after an innocent young woman was murdered, was disgusting and tone-deaf, and so was Jonathon Issac skipping over the trauma of police brutality in order to praise the gospel, as an equal substitute.
Jonathan Issac said “We have all things we do wrong and sometimes it gets to a place that we’re pointing fingers at who’s wrong is worst. Or who’s wrong is seen, so I feel like the Bible tells us that we all fall short of God’s glory.”
In other words, Issac is offering a Biblical interpretation of Donald Trump’s there were good people on both sides. But just to be clear. Wrong is one thing. And evil is something else. Derek Chauvin wasn’t wrong for sitting on George Floyd’s neck. He was evil. It was a lynching just like it was a lynching when George Smith was lynched in 1891, a crime the mayor called “the most deplorable thing that has ever happened in the history of the country.” While George Floyd’s murder wasn’t the most deplorable thing that has ever happened in the history of this country it makes the Top-10 list of vile racial murders of Black men, competing with Emmett Till, James Byrd, George Smith, Medger Evers, Martin Luther King.
As for the Biblical tome that Issac uses to argue moral relativism, he bypasses Romans 12:9 that says Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Jonathan Issac did the opposite. He abhorred what was good and held fast to what was evil. Because not commenting on injustice, is accepting injustice. Martin Luther King offered, “Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” Those who have never suffered the wrathful shame of police brutality are marching in the streets under the banner of Black Lives Matter while Jonathan Issac says: no thanks.
After I heard Issac’s remarks I instantly thought about Martin Luther King and what he said about apathy. “It may well be that we will have to repent in this generation. Not merely for the vitriolic actions of the bad people, but for the appalling silence and indifference of the good people who say ‘Wait on Time'”
Preacher-activist King is the archetype that Issac is defiling with his gesture of disdain, erasing the message that you can love God, stay true to Biblical text, and deliver your own people. Isn’t that the point of Moses setting his people free? Moses said, “I have been a sojourner in a strange land” which is a true accounting of the African American experience.
Frankly, it doesn’t matter if Issac kneels, stands, or plays the hokey pokey. Black communities have a policing problem that begins with the militarization of black and brown bodies. Issac not kneeling doesn’t move the needle and besides, he has the freedom to do whatever the NBA allows. My problem is what he said, how he explained his behavior, his normalizing evil by saying we are all flawed. Yes, we are all flawed. But we’re not all murderers and the Bible says murderers should be put to death. “He shall be avenged.”
The NBA is avenging the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and Trayvon Martin and Sandra Bland and Tamir Rice and Michael Brown and Philando Castile and Ahmaud Arbury and Eric Garner and hundreds, hundreds more. Of that participation, Jonathan Issac wants to opt-out. His lack of empathy is Trumpian grotesque. It’s worse than the narcissist Trump because Issac is refusing to bestow compassion upon the bereaved in his own community.
There was a way for Jonathan Issac to be a rebel and still maintain racial integrity. There are some things that need to be said about the movement Black Lives Matter, the protests, the summer of discontent, that doesn’t necessarily fit in with the normalcy of blowing things up. There are conversations that need to be had to complete the context of how the movement goes forward with goals that protect the sanctity of black life aside from what many black folk do and say in church. Issac missed the moment. He dropped the ball. Like Donald Trump, he had the stage to himself and he disappointed.
When Issac started to speak, it went downhill from there with his we’re all sinners in need of grace. He clearly wasn’t prepared for the moment and it has nothing to do with his age. He should have extended compassion instead of judgment. He should have said we are all part of the human quilt and we should all have equity. But he went with “racism isn’t the worst thing” when racism and commerce is the backbone of black people’s generational trauma
If racism isn’t the worst thing as Issac opines, then slavery wasn’t the worst thing, and rape of black women wasn’t the worse thing, and the destruction of black families wasn’t the worst thing, and Jim Crow wasn’t the worst thing, and Plessy v Ferguson wasn’t the worst thing, and Emmett Till’s bloated body wasn’t the worst thing, and The Tuskegee Experiment wasn’t the worst thing, and John Lewis with a plate in his skull wasn’t the worst thing.
If racism isn’t the worst thing, what is? Perhaps, a black man who has less empathy than Donald Trump.