- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 9, 2020

The Rev. Aubrey Shines is obsessed with racism and is convinced racism is destroying America.

Not how you might think, though.

He says the popular narrative of Black Lives Matter and the Democratic Party’s racial justice politics is upside down.

“They are intentionally trying to divide Black and White Americans,” said Mr. Shines, the pastor of Glory to Glory Ministries in Tampa, Florida. “They are polarizing Black and White Americans based on this narrative. It is racist.”

It’s a counterintuitive message for a Black pastor to adopt in the summer of 2020 but a stance he considers of utmost importance.

Mr. Shines and three other Christian ministers, all Black or Hispanic, founded the Conservative Clergy of Color to refute what they say is the myth of “systemic racism” in the U.S.

“We proliferate truthful narratives on the issues of racism throughout our influential network of pastors and across multiple media channels to prevent the destruction of our country driven by increasingly divisive forces,” the group’s mission statement declares.

By expressing such views, Mr. Shines, 59, has aligned himself against the crowds in faculty lounges, Madison Avenue boardrooms and sports arenas.

It’s an uncomfortable spot to occupy, but Mr. Shines says the Conservative Clergy of Color has truth on its side.

“We have begun to engage the culture, and we are using civility and diplomacy to create havoc with everything we do,” he told The Washington Times. “The mainstream media are lying nut jobs. They’re not being honest with you.”

The core problem, in Mr. Shines’ telling, is the unfulfilled promises of a Democratic Party plagued by a racist past and a Black Lives Matter movement seeking a Marxist revolution.

“Democrats and their foot soldiers on the left insist there is a rot in our country, but the only rot I see is the rot that has festered in the very foundations of the Democratic Party, a party that was built from the ground up on the backs of oppressed Blacks,” he recently wrote on the group’s Facebook page.

Mr. Shines insists his message is detached from his politics. When he first meets young Black men, he encourages them to ignore his politics.

“My personal opinion should never matter to you,” he said. “If I can’t show you things are historically true, with data, then you should go somewhere else.”

Mr. Shines argues that widespread fractures in Black families and generational poverty in the Black community are caused by government policies that encourage dependence.

He also disputes the notion that Black men are the targets of widespread violence by police.

The data, however, cuts both ways.

Studies in 2018 showed Black people have more than double the chance of being killed by police in their lifetime than White people. In 2019, statistics showed Black victims comprised less than 25% of all fatal police shootings while committing more than half of known homicides and 60% of robberies.

Mr. Shines and Conservative Clergy of Color leaders are undeterred. In their opinion, the appalling bloodshed that has plagued many urban neighborhoods is a much bigger problem than police violence.

“Black men are out there being slaughtered, but that’s not White officers who did that,” said Mr. Shines, a married father of three.

Honesty has been a cornerstone of his life, he said, instilled by his parents during his childhood in Chicago. His father knew deep racism, he said, insisting it was the sort of discrimination and mistreatment that is wholly absent today.

“He was born in the 1920s, in Mississippi, in the heart of segregation,” Mr. Shines recalled. “But he always believed in God and country, he always had a moral compass.”

Conservative Clergy of Color was established in June with an op-ed by Mr. Shines in The Washington Times.

Mr. Shines, the Rev. Derek McCoy of Beltsville, Maryland, pastor Francisco Vega of Atlanta and the Rev. M.J. Reid of Detroit have advanced their unique anti-racism message with a campaign across social media, TV and print publications. They have drawn a sharp contrast between what they consider fake and real issues confronting minorities in the U.S.

Mr. Shines said he sees no distinction between the founders of Black Lives Matter and the far-left revolution afoot in America.

The former began as a social media hashtag that blossomed in the aftermath of Trayvon Martin’s death in Florida in 2013 and Michael Brown’s death in Ferguson, Missouri, the following year.

The broader movement that has made headlines after George Floyd died in Minneapolis police custody, he says, has a sharply leftist agenda.

“You can’t say, ‘That part isn’t us,’” he said, adding that the violence that has erupted from the demonstrations is part and parcel of the broader socialist movement.

Mr. Shines’ counternarrative has received its share of blowback. He has been accused of personally profiting from his endeavors, he and his family have received threats of violence, and his position has made him a pariah among wide swaths of the Black community and White liberals.

He said the threats have increased since his July appearance on C-SPAN and Conservative Clergy of Color’s social media push.

“I don’t have some fancy new house. I don’t have a boat or drive a new car,” he said, disputing allegations of profiteering.

Despite the accusations, Mr. Shines said, Concerned Clergy of Color has resonated nationwide and now boasts more than 500 members.

“We’re not in the Dakotas yet,” he said. “But I’ve had four calls from Illinois this morning, and we are being inundated with calls. We can barely keep up. It’s been very humbling, but I think what has happened with just stating facts is that with the Blacks we get calling in [and] the Hispanic callers, they realize the cavalry is here and backing them up.”

• James Varney can be reached at jvarney@washingtontimes.com.

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