You may think that as a middle-class, Caucasian, Southern male my opinion does not count or that I do not have the right to weigh in on recent law-enforcement involved shootings. Maybe I don’t have a right, but I do have an opinion. I have an opinion because I am hurt. I hurt for the family of those killed by police officers. I hurt for the families of the officers killed in Dallas. I am hurt because our society has lost our collective mind.
You may think you know what I will say.
You may just be wrong. Or not.
I have my own thoughts on why we are in this situation of abuse, crime, mistrust, brutality, shootings, and death. I have thoughts on how we can begin to solve them.
Caveat: I do not have enough knowledge of recent events to put blame on anyone. I think the deaths of those under arrest (Alton and Philandro) might have been prevented by different actions on the part of both the ones arrested / subdued AND the officers involved. As for the events in Dallas a sniper targeted police – specifically Caucasian police. Things are way out of hand.
The poor, African-Americans, Hispanics, and others live in fear of police and other ethnicities. I work with a congregation that has student ministry. I was at the building late one night while students were upstairs. Some of the girls were startled by a man sitting in a dark area outside our facilities. Since it was dark and late, I called the Tuscaloosa Police Department to assist me in getting the man help. He was African American and I could see the fear in him when a tall, large Caucasian police officer and a 6 foot 210lbs Caucasian minister both approached him. We meant him no harm only wanted to get this homeless man the assistance he needed. No laws were broken; he was not offered a ride to jail but to a shelter. Yet, he was still afraid. He was afraid because of the years of sanctioned violence against people of his ethnicity.
Today’s anti-establishment culture, where many consider authority as the enemy, has put pressure on the police to protect their own lives. I know an officer who will not eat out while in uniform, for fear of what someone might do to his meal. I watched a video of a Black Lives Matter leader going through police deadly force training. He admitted he was wrong about some things. It is tough to make the right decision when your life and the life of others is on the line. Sometimes in fear these men and women make poor decisions or decisions based on incomplete information thinking they are acting in self-defense. I am not excusing their decisions, just trying to understand them.
It was not that long ago our nation was enslaving groups of people and categorizing them as property. Racial bias sanctioned by society was just a generation ago. This treatment of certain groups creates a mentality of helplessness and distrust. Even in modern society some are not always afforded the same opportunity because of their gender, skin tone, or ethnicity. I know a young lady who was looking for a job, but because of her ethnicity was told (in coded language) that although she had better references she would not be hired. I see how this can lead to a feeling of defeated helplessness that could lead to acting out in desperation.
No matter our fears; No matter what society does or does not do; we still each have the ability to choose our actions.
Those desperate do not have to behave criminally out of desperation. Those who have can choose to change. Paul tells Christians in Ephesians 4:28, “Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need.” IF I choose criminal behavior, I need to accept arrest and the punishment for my crimes. Peter has something to say, “Be subject for the Lord ‘s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. . . . For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God.” (1Pe 2:13-14, 20).
Those in law enforcement have choices too. Choose to call back up. Choose the most effective, yet least aggressive option. If as an officer you find you are beginning to hatefully distrust people because of skin color talk to someone to help you refocus. Get off the front lines for a while. I do not claim to know the pressures you face. Yet, I beg you, please find a way to control your anger and distrust.
Remember we are all equal. God created man in His image (Gen 1:26-27). The part of man that is in God’s image is our spirit not our physical appearance. God created us with different brown skin tones – even the palest of us are a shade of brown and so are darkest. As human beings created in God’s image, we must treat each other as such. The story of the Good Samaritan should teach us the simple truth of the neighborhood of mankind. Jesus’ instruction on the greatest commandment (Matt 22:36-40) was that the second is to love your neighbor as yourself. This principle in action can end violence against law-enforcement and the violence of law-enforcement against individual citizens. Not one of us is above this command.
Maybe it will help us to remember that “None is righteous, no, not one:” (Rom 3:10) and that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,” (Rom 3:23-24). In other words:
We are all sinners in need of God’s Grace!