By LaKeshia N. Myers
My faith in God has been constant since I was a child. Attending church every Sunday was not a choice—it was required by my parents—because they felt my spiritual formation would be key in developing the values necessary to operate in the world. Understanding the role of religion and its usefulness to mold and shape the lives of young people is one of the reasons I was disappointed in the recent statement from Milwaukee Lutheran High School which classified Black Lives Matter Inc as having non Biblical principles.
Historically, religion has been used by some to oppress. During slavery, the Bible was used as tool of manipulation by many plantation owners to silence the voices of those who were enslaved, it was also used to justify the institution of slavery. According to scholar Noel Rae, “the Old Testament was often mined by pro-slavery polemicists for examples proving that slavery was common among the Israelites. The New Testament was largely ignored, except in the negative sense of pointing out that nowhere did Jesus condemn slavery, although the story of Philemon, the runaway who St. Paul returned to his master, was often quoted.”(Rae 2018).From my vantage point, the statement from Milwaukee
Lutheran was akin to this weaponization of religion. The statement was not only racially insensitive and misguided, it was also condescending to the Black families whose children make up the majority of Milwaukee Lutheran’s student population. For school leadership to infer that it has invested in Black lives long before the Black Lives Matter Foundation was created in 2013, is dismissive of the lived experiences of each of its Black students, faculty, and staff.
To add further insult, LHSA/MLHS went on to taut a $2.4 million annual investment in the Black community; but conveniently failed to mention that $7 million in funding comes from taxpayers through the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program. Therefore, not acknowledging that it is because of the Black students who attend Milwaukee Lutheran High School, that the school is even equipped to remain open. Instead of being appreciative of the Black families that choose to educate their children at Milwaukee Lutheran, LHSA/MLHS chose to be disingenuous. Choosing instead to weaponize benevolence while shrouding it in religious dogma, further proving that the leadership of the association and school are out of touch and require intense and ongoing anti-bias, diversity, and inclusion training.
The motto of the Lutheran High School Association is, ‘We teach truth’. But stating the Black Lives Matter Foundation’s beliefs, ‘do not align with biblical views’ suggests the Lutheran High School Association of Greater Milwaukee and Milwaukee Lutheran High School only value the truths of some, and not all. Over the past few days, I have heard from many students and alumni of color from Milwaukee Lutheran who have shared their experiences of racism, sexism, and cultural insensitivity. These experiences cannot continue to be dismissed by Milwaukee Lutheran High School. Educational institutions have a responsibility to educate and affirm their students and can no longer continue to operate outside of an equity lens.
As a legislator, educator, and follower of the Christian faith, I implore the Lutheran High School Association and Milwaukee Lutheran High School to educate themselves and understand that Black Lives Matter is not simply a ‘rallying cry’; it is a movement for total equity, justice, and liberation that has existed for centuries. I urge the association and the school to reevaluate their stance on issues surrounding both equity and activism—as Jesus himself was the ultimate activist and advocate of marginalized communities.