Milwaukee church responds to local riots
“Social injustice is real. Racism is real. Oppression is real,” Alex Clayton, minister for the Northtown Church of Christ in Milwaukee, told The Christian Chronicle. “What we’re learning is there are those among us who deal with that every day. Issues the majority never experience.”
The riots broke out after 23-year-old Sylville Smith, a black man, was shot by a police officer on August 13th. The police officer is also a black man. Authorities have not released his name.
But the riots, the violence, the images shown on television are not, according to Clayton, reflective of the community.
“The anger is there and the anger is to be understood but it’s not a label on the whole community,” Clayton said. “The community doesn’t like what was shown on TV. They don’t agree with that violence. The overwhelming majority of people are good in the community.”
The Northtown church sits on a boundary in the city, along a highway, Clayton said. On one side is a predominately white neighborhood, and on the other side is a predominately black neighborhood. The church has members from both communities.
Those members met this week for prayers — and to clean up the streets after the rioting stopped.
“We experience what the community experiences because we look like the community,” Clayton said.
The problems facing Milwaukee are not new. Within the past year, the Northtown church has hosted round table discussions to help members have a better understanding of each other, to teach them how to overcome racism and how to cross cultures in order to connect with one another.
Those conversations must continue, Clayton said.
“We have a tendency to say, ‘Oh no, that’s not happening. That’s not real.’ But it is,” he said.
Oppression, discrimination and social injustice are things Clayton said don’t just happen to those on TV. He encourages Christians to realize it’s part of everyday life for some of their brothers and sisters.
Change will not happen overnight, he added.
It will take an effort by all sides, but the community is hopeful.
“Peace can overcome,” he said. “That doesn’t mean we don’t have difficult conversations.”