Rev. Fred Luter, Jr., pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans, is expected to become the first African-American president of the Southern Baptist Convention this June. R & E managing editor and correspondent Kim Lawton will be doing a profile of him in the next few weeks. During her interview with him on March 24, she asked Rev. Luter, specifically in the wake of the Trayvon Martin case, how he assesses race relations in America. Here is an excerpt from their conversation:
KIM LAWTON: How do you look at the state of the racial situation in America?
REV. FRED LUTER: No, you wouldn’t have thought that when President Obama was elected as president of the United States of America, you would have thought that that would have ended the racial divide in our country. But unfortunately what it has shown is that in some cases it’s widened the racism in our country. There are a lot of situations just happened here not too long ago here in the Louisiana area of, there was an art project at a local school, and they have these pictures of hunting season, and there was a duck on one side, I think a deer on one side, and in the middle was a picture of President Obama with a hole in his head. And that was in a local high school. And stuff like that just shouldn’t happen. And you know I don’t agree with all the president’s politics, I don’t agree with all the decisions that he made, but one of the things that bothers me as Americans is that the disrespect that this president has had to deal with. It should not be. It should not be. You know, we’ve had presidents, you know, from Reagan to Clinton to Bush Sr. to Bush Jr., to Clinton, we don’t always agree with them. I mean, that’s just a given. But there has always been a respect for the office. This is the first time that I can remember a president was giving a speech, State of the Union speech, and someone shouts out from the gallery “you lie!” That has never happened, never with all the presidents, with all the lies that all of them have told. That has never happened. But it’s happened with this president, and so things like that reminds me that, you know, we’ve come a long way as a nation where there’s a racial issue, but we still have a long, long, long way to go. A lot of the things that this president has faced has not necessarily been because of his politics or his decisions, but unfortunately it’s just only been because of the color of his skin, and that’s what lets me know that we have a long, long way to go in America as far as racial reconciliation.
LAWTON: And as far as non-African American people are concerned, I mean do you run into white people who want to think, well, it’s all done now? It’s over with? You know, whatever happened in the past is done and don’t really want to confront what might still be bubbling there?
LUTER: Sure, sure, and if that was true across the board then I say fine, let’s do it. But there’s so many instances that are coming up, like yesterday here in Louisiana one of the Republican candidates for president was at a shooting range shooting. I don’t know if you all saw this on the news like that, but as he’s shooting at these targets, someone yelled out from the gallery, “Look at one of them as President Obama.” Come on y’all. This is just, that shouldn’t be. Not in America. He’s our president. I don’t agree with everything he says, don’t agree with all his decisions, but respect the office. And so if we didn’t have those kind of instances, those kind of situations, I would say, yeah, come on, let that go, it’s time to move on. But as long as those kind of things keep happening, and the Trayvon Martin thing in the Florida situation like that, we have to deal with it.