Hope, unity, and allies: Reverend Dr. Sheron Patterson on overcoming systemic racism in the wake of George Floyd

Morning After

DALLAS, TX (KDAF) — Like many Americans, especially African Americans, Reverend Dr. Sheron Patterson has been furious after George Floyd was killed by police in Minnesota. Dr. Patterson is a pastor at Hamilton Park United Methodist Church in Dallas, Texas. She is also the daughter of a police officer.

That anger, and the anger we’re seeing in the streets all over the country, isn’t just stemming from one incident. Or even the string of high-profile incidents over the last five to ten years where unarmed African Americans have been killed by police. This is generational, historic anger at systemic racism that has existed in the U.S. for hundreds of years.

“I am an angry black woman,” Patterson says, “because of what America has done. I am the product of parents who were Jim Crow’d. I grew up in the segregated South.”

Oppression isn’t relegated to the history books, as racial inequities have been maintained and reinforced long after the end of slavery and the civil rights era, both in economic and more direct violent means. Patterson says “The black and white wealth gap exists because systematic oppression and systematic racism has kept the African American in a much lower place economically.”

She references places such as ‘Black Wall Street‘ in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and the overthrow of African American leadership in Wilmington, North Carolina, as examples of how Black prosperity has been devasted by racism throughout history.

These issues are much more in-depth than addressed here, but the murder of George Floyd has caused a boiling point to be reached by many Americans, both Black and White. As protest and civil unrest spread across the country, even Patterson can find hope and unity in the distress, something that was hard to do for her just 24 hours ago.

“The bottom line is, tearing things up is not going to move us forward,” she says, “destroying and looting is not going to move us forward. We have to have enough faith in God and in humankind to come together, to talk and plan, and make a difference.”

For Patterson, the way forward is talking to each other. We have to talk to each other – Blacks, Whites, Hispanics, and Asians – and breakdown walls.

Moreover, allies are needed.

“Black people need our white allies” she says, “that’s the only way it will happen. Black folk have marched, prayed, and begged, but we need our white allies to tear it down”

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