If You Keep Turning The Other Cheek All You Get Is Bruised: Don Lemon Grills John Gray On His Decision To Visit Trump
Earlier this week, we reported that Pastor John Gray was one of many Black clergymen who decided to meet with President Trump. The men were there to discuss prison reform. While we don’t know the content of the entire conversation, Gray thanked the Trump administration for inviting him to participate in the discussion and offered a prayer during the sit-down.
Still, more than a few of us regarded the move as counterproductive, a ploy to push this narrative that Trump and his administration have some type of relationship with the Black community—which we all know if not true.
It’s a strategy he’s employed with everyone from Omarosa to Kanye West. These pastors are just the latest victims. So, there were quite a few questions about why Gray felt comfortable attending.
Don Lemon, for CNN, asked him what so many of us wanted to know and said what I know I definitely wanted to say. Check out the highlights from their conversation and the full video below.
Lemon: Why did you go?
Gray: I believe the Lord sent me. I didn’t go as a partisan politician. While I respect the political process, I went because I believe that the Lord wanted me in that room. As a Christian, I don’t get to impute my faith onto anyone else. I’m not asking one to believe what I believe. I think that is unfair. I think it’s dishonorable to try to make someone see life through my lens. But I’m very strong in the belief that I have a calling that’s bigger than me. walking into that room I risked everything that I’d ever worked for.
Lemon: Did you expect the cameras to be there.
Gray: No. When I first heard about this and was invited, I actually said I don’t want to take any pictures. I will go, I will listen and I will give my input but I don’t want to be photographed and that was because I understood that certain parts of our community, the faith-based and the African American community—and rightfully so— have felt immeasurable pain. When you’re dealing with an administration that at times has drawn moral equivalency to the unite the right rally. That’s unconscionable.
Lemon: So then why go there and lead your credibility to him? Because there are other ways that you can participate that may be strategically smarter and more influential than being seen on the same page with someone who most people or color in this country—Black folks— think that his policies, his language, his speech, his behavior are detrimental to African Americans. You can help out in other ways rather than sitting next to him.
Gray: Let me ask you this: you just invited me to your table. We don’t know each other. We don’t agree on everything, I’m sure. But we’re at the table for dialogue. The purpose of that conversation was to talk about prison reform. It was the express understanding that we were coming to see if churches could partner with the government to help lower recidivism rates and systemic poverty based on people who are trying to re-acclimate. That was the intention of this meeting. That’s why I went. Because people like me and people who look like me don’t often get a chance, coming out of prison, to be able to have a job that allows for them not to think about doing crime. So the reason that this was important to me because it affects people that look like me disproportionately.
Lemon: You didn’t have to come here. You said it’s to dialogue. And if you didn’t come here, I would respect that. We invited other people on but they did not think it would be good for them to appear because they were afraid of losing something…so, do you get what I’m saying?
Gray: Why would I risk whatever credibility I’ve gained over years in ministry with a community that I’ve come from, why would I risk it? Would it be for a photo op? Would it be for popularity?
Lemon: That’s what I’m asking. Why?
Gray: I went because I believe I was sent. I believe that my faith…
Lemon: Did you have to go to the White House? Could you have done a conference call? Could you have been on television or camera or teleconference? Could it have been in a place other than the White House. All these African Americans sitting there—it is being seen as the President of the United States, this administration that has proposed policies that are so detrimental to African Americans that they are using you as a prop. That it is a photo op.
Gray: But the photo op doesn’t work. It backfires because the moment that I’m on that platform, whatever they were hoping to accomplish with their intended audience backfires because they don’t have credibility in that market in the first place. For me, the answer is very simple. I went through every detail. Why would I go? What could I possibly gain? Which is nothing.
Lemon: Would you go back? Would you do it again?
Gray: If there were different circumstances. If I had assurances that we were going to meet about the intended conversation, yeah, I would go back. Not because I agree. Because—this is what’s important. Alignment or even speaking doesn’t mean agreement. Dialogue does not mean agreement. Sitting at the table doesn’t mean agreement. And that’s important I don’t agree with many of the policies but it doesn’t stop me from having conversation.
Lemon asked if this President has empowered or emboldened hate in the national discourse. He agreed that they did.
Later, Lemon said there is a reason slave owners would teach their slaves about the Bible, would let you congregate on the plantation but would not allow you to read. He said it means that there is the notion that religion can blind people or distance people from the very real, physical atrocities we currently face.
Gray said, “I was never on the plantation…”
Lemon: What I’m saying is people keep overlooking to much. Overlooking when it comes to women, overlooking what [the administration] says about gays, overlooking what it says about Muslims. Overlooking just about everything. There’s so much you keep overlooking, people of the faith-based community. Evangelicals. All of these things. Affairs, adultery. Because what? At what cost at what price?
Gray: I think that’s the key. I think that what you said is valid. I can only speak for me. With everything that I could have lost and could still lose, I believe that my voice was necessary because I was there for people who could not fight for themselves. That was my intention and my heart.
Lemon: All I’m saying is turn the other cheek, fine, but sometimes if you keep turning the other cheek all you do is get bruised and swole. And at some point, you have to say enough is enough,”
Take a look at the full interview in the video below.