Statement by the NBTS faculty about the murder of Ahmaud Arbery
May 9, 2020
The NBTS faculty support and mourn with the family of Ahmaud Arbery. Without more earnest due diligence, the shooting of Mr. Arbery, an unarmed black man, by two white men in the state of Georgia, stands to remain yet another instance of “the legal killing of unarmed Black persons” – a phenomenon that the faculty of NBTS continue to renounce in the strongest possible terms.
The NBTS faculty agrees with Charles M. Blow whose opinion essay in the New York Times (May 6, 2020) reminds us that, “The law works to Black people’s detriment and sometimes their demise.” Blow further enumerates several American systems that have been legally and systematically employed to maintain white supremacy. He states,
Slavery was legal. The Black Codes were legal. Sundown towns were legal. Sharecropping was legal. Jim Crow was legal. Racial covenants were legal. Mass incarceration is legal. Chasing a black man or boy with your gun because you suspect him a criminal is legal. Using lethal force as an act of self-defense in a physical dispute that you provoke and could easily have avoided is, often, legal.
Blow’s statement is even more credible when you consider that Mr. Arbery was unarmed. As elaborated in our Public Statement: “We commit ourselves through our tasks of scholarship, teaching, and ministry and our communal practices to dismantle systems of whiteness and all other systems of oppression within our seminary, the Church, and the world.”
On Friday, November 2, 2018 and again on Friday May 8, 2020, the New Brunswick Theological Seminary faculty affirmed a statement emerging out of shared concern for the increasingly brazen displays of white supremacy and white nationalism in this country and around the world. The affirmation process was led by Dr. Micah McCreary, President, and Dr. Beth L. Tanner, Academic Dean.
This statement was initially drafted by Dr. Janice McLean-Farrell, Dr. Nathan Jérémie-Brink, Dr. Terry Ann Smith, and Dr. Andrew Wymer. It was presented to the faculty for dialogue and review in a spirit of collegiality. All residential and affiliate faculty were given the opportunity to endorse the statement once it was drafted. In addition to drafting this statement, the faculty continue to engage in extended dialogue on the topic of colonialism as we discern further ways to embody, practice, and be accountable to the anti-racist commitments of New Brunswick Theological Seminary.
A PUBLIC STATEMENT BY FACULTY OF NEW BRUNSWICK THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY ON THE VIOLENCE OF WHITE SUPREMACY AND WHITE NATIONALISM
In the face of increasingly brazen white supremacy and white nationalism in our nation and around the world, we, the undersigned members of the faculty of New Brunswick Theological Seminary, lament the systemic violence done to persons simply because of their religious beliefs, class, sexual orientation, gender, ethnicity, or race.
… systems of whiteness that culturally, religiously, economically, politically, and socially advantage those persons deemed white by society at the direct cost to those persons not deemed white.
…the economic, political, social, and cultural foundation of our nation rooted in the systematic enslavement and exploitation of Black people and Black communities that extends from chattel slavery to the present day in the forms of mass incarceration, voter discrimination, economic inequality, and the legal killing of unarmed Black persons.
…the historical system of colonialism whereby European powers pursued the exploitation and genocide of Native people and stole their lands, in service to white resettlement and economic gain made possible by the displacement and enslavement of both Native and African peoples.
…the past and present repercussions of colonialism and the predatory relationships the United States and other imperialistic states have maintained in the Americas and elsewhere across the globe, whereby our Latinx neighbors and others have fled from their homelands in response to waves of violence and economic dependency that have served the interest of global powers.
…the religious and racialized violence directed toward Jewish and Muslim communities of faith in the form of anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim hate even as these faiths share with Christianity a common Abrahamic tradition.
We affirm that Black lives matter. We also affirm that the lives of all who have been and continue to be harmed in the name of whiteness matter. We affirm the value of Latinx and Native American life. We disavow the singling out of one group or nationality as the cause of a worldwide pandemic. We affirm the value of Jewish, Sikh, and Muslim communities of faith.
We attest to the dignity of all people regardless of their religious beliefs, class, sexual orientation, gender, ethnicity, or race. We testify that all human beings are created in the image of God. In view of the person and ministry of Jesus Christ, we profess that the Good News liberates the least among us, those who have been pushed to the margins of society due to their religious beliefs, class, sexual orientation, gender, ethnicity, or race.
We believe that as Christians we are called to actively resist evil and injustice in any form. We stand in unequivocal support of those who suffer from hate crimes due to the color of their skin, their ethnicity, sexuality, or their religious affiliation.
Therefore, we support and mourn with the families of those murdered by persons who wish to perpetuate and maintain white privilege. We stand with the communities of faith devastated by terror, displaced families and persons seeking survival and peace, and all those whose lives have been torn apart by systems of whiteness.
We commit ourselves through our tasks of scholarship, teaching, and ministry and our communal practices to dismantle systems of whiteness and all other systems of oppression within our seminary, the Church, and the world.
John Coakley, emeritus
New Brunswick Theological Seminary was founded more than 230 years ago – the first seminary established in North America. Our dedication to providing rigorous and accessible training for a diverse community of students has made us the institution of choice for those who demand an exceptional seminary education, a flexible academic schedule, and the sustenance of a spiritually rich community.