“We don’t care that black men are being murdered by law enforcement.
We care that a black man would speak up and protest about it.”
It was a statement I made yesterday in the height of my emotions and anger at yet another incident involving an unarmed black man and law enforcement. Another unarmed man shot and killed. A father of four who “sang at church every week.”
Now before you write me off I want to make a few points of where I am coming from.
Often any statement about “Black Lives Matter” or “Police brutality” or “White privilege” is written off as part of the “Liberal agenda.”
Any glimmer of these discussions is over-looked because of our political leanings.
I do not consider myself a liberal. But I also do not consider myself a conservative.
In truth it just depends on the issue.
I would call my politics “pro-life.” I am for human flourishing. I am for abundant life.
But you should also understand, I am for Christ. I am for the way, the truth, and the life.
Truth seems to be on trial here. I see many of my white conservative friends truly wrestling with the facts of these instances. It seems as though most land with the Police Officers. “If black people would just comply, nobody would die.” “It’s your disrespect for law enforcement that keeps getting you in trouble. NOT racist cops.”
I see words like “false narratives,” “Blue Lives Matter”, or “All lives Matter.”
We are divided on this issue. And our division prolongs the action that many hope could spare more lives. No matter where you land on this particular issue. A failure to come together on it is costing American lives.
And it goes both ways from both sides.
Our complacency towards these issues can cause two things to happen,
- More civilians will be killed.
- It is very likely more officers will be killed.
Just today Shaun King shared this sentiment.
I feel America’s temperature rising.
Injustice without a fair and compassionate resolution is a recipe for anger and bewilderment.
Because a people (whether right or wrong) left to their perceived injustice will eventually respond.
So I want share what I see. I want to address my friends who don’t believe this is happening. I want to illuminate why it is so dangerous to not speak out.
When Trayvon Martin was killed (not by an officer) I thought it was his fault. I didn’t look into it. I just looked at the situation. “Oh he was smoking pot? DEFINITELY guilty.” Same with Michael Brown and Eric Garner. I sat back looked at the videos. Looked at the encounters. And I thought this. “If they had merely complied with the officers, they would be alive.” And you know what, that’s probably true. I saw the articles that alleged that Brown had stolen from a local convenience store and thought well he just clearly wasn’t a good kid. Many have used the word “thug.” I saw the rise of Black Lives Matter and if I’m not mistaken I definitely posted an “All Lives Matter” Facebook status. Because well…that’s true. All Lives do Matter. I became upset as I saw numerous videos of black men and women harassing officers doing their jobs. And I grew upset with these protestors. I likely dismissed them as lunatics believing a false narrative.
And then it kept happening.
and it kept happening.
I realized I had actually never spoken to any black men or women about their experiences. I had never looked into what was driving Black Lives Matter. I was angry in my ignorance.
It was when I stopped criticizing and started to listen that I began to see things I had never seen before. Truth be told, I’m not sure I truly believed racism still existed on any significant scale. Yes, I heard racist jokes growing up but I honestly do not recall any considerable number of instances where I witnessed racism at work. I didn’t understand “systemic racism” or “white privilege” because I had only ever benefited from them. Like a literal color blindness, I didn’t know that many people don’t get to see the same array of colors and beauty as my pupils. I just believed the American dream. If anyone tries hard enough they can achieve success. Oppression was defeated in America. So these narratives being spun by the media were exactly that. A media spin to work us up about insignificant matters.
It kept happening. And what I began to realize was that it has always been happening. In fact it was built upon this happening.
My shift happened during the Ferguson riots. Most of my white conservative friends and family were upset at the looting and the crime that resulted as a response to the death of Michael Brown. My family truly angry at these looters. And I just snapped. BUT WHY ARE THEY DOING THIS. What has caused this response?
It was around this time I saw one of the Hunger Games films. Where an oppressed group of people finally rise up against the injustice of their government. We look at Katniss Everdeen and see a hero. We look at Ferguson and see a group of thugs. This realization began a righteous anger in me. I was sick of people not listening or even trying to understand. Because things were going NOWHERE. I actually found my post that I made.
So I just saw The new Hunger Games movie and thought it was excellent. What struck me was how easy it was for me to draw some parallels to the news that I stayed up till 2am watching last night. The plot for one being a group of citizens fighting the apparent injustice of the Capital and the presence of this government in their districts. I’m not saying I agree with what is happening in Ferguson and I hope to be smart enough not to assume I understand. I also hope that I am smart enough to at least acknowledge a great many people in this country feel the way dear ole Katniss and co. felt in that two hour film and at the very least I am paying attention. The greatest enemy that I see on the rise is ourselves. And we have to stop blaming and start loving even if it hurts. Even if people deserve blame. You become the enemy you are opposed to when you repay hatred with hatred and fear with fear. These two things grow fast. Love can be a difficult and long process. As some smart men said before me. “Love is patient.” Live into your hope and you will see change.
But even what I failed to realize then was that the black community had been patient enough and things continued to not happen. Me even advocating to listen to these people in Ferguson got me labeled as a liberal by my family. That I had been corrupted by my university.
It was the deaths of Philando Castille and Alton Sterling that pushed me over the edge. My heart was absolutely torn. I gathered with the Black Lives Matter communities in Austin. I saw their pain. I saw their anger. I saw little hope. “But what the Hell do we DO!?” shouted people in the crowd. “They’re killing us.” shouted others. “Love isn’t doing shit.” “White people don’t give a damn about this. They show up here to validate that they aren’t racist but they won’t speak to their peers. They won’t speak out against white privilege. They won’t demand reform. They won’t call their friends out when they make a racist joke.”
That was the night of the Dallas shootings. Where a black sniper responded to the injustice. Because we let this problem sit quietly for too long. I’m okay if people are angry on that view. That’s exactly what happened and will continue to happen. We spend all of our time arguing and so little doing. This include me. We let the anger rise.
At the start of our NFL season NFL players and athletes around the country knelt during the National Anthem as a protest to draw attention to racial oppression and police brutality. And THIS is what white people get upset about. Not people dying. A man speaking out against it. It’s so disruptive! It’s disrespectful!
And then this happened again.
Which led to my post.
We don’t care that black men are being murdered by law enforcement.
We care that a black man would speak up and protest about it.
So often the arguments we see on Facebook from white men and women overlook or are dismissive to the struggling people and their circumstances. The direct action that you see from white people is so often an action that would take the attention away from vocal blacks and towards views and arguments that help prosper white people. “All Lives Matter.” “Blue Lives Matter.” Quit Protesting.” “Quit being disruptive.” We even have college football coaches hijack Dr. King and mangle him to be on board with what we wish Black People would do instead. Go read Dr. King’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail.
I must make two honest confessions to you, my Christian and Jewish brothers. First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.” Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.
-Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Stop looking away. People are dying.
I received several responses to that post I made asking me to reconsider my view. One being “You might want to listen to a black man’s perspective on this.”
Because that’s another thing we do. We hear one black man who shares our beliefs on this issue and we feel entirely validated to continue spewing our stagnant rhetoric.
THERE ARE MARCHES IN THE STREETS.
Here’s the simple point. Those who don’t see this often attribute a few things to it. Cops aren’t killing black people because they hate black people. They are doing so because they aren’t complying.
Tell that to the terrorist whose bombing injured 29 American Citizens. Who in a high speed chase shot an officer. Yet for some reason cops were able to show enough restraint to him. Somehow he is alive. While the unarmed father of four who walked back to his stalled out car was gunned down. Not tazed. Not apprehended. Not coached out of violent situation. Gunned down. Killed. Four children don’t have a father. Because cops couldn’t show a non-violent man the same regard for life as a terrorist. Because we need the terrorist to answer questions. The terrorist shows us that law enforcement is capable of not killing even in the worst situations.
Here’s the thing, most people are not saying cops hate black people. Most people are not saying it’s a hatred for blacks that lead to cops pulling the trigger. It’s that helicopter pilots words that are killing black people. “He looks like a bad dude. He’s probably on something.”
It’s that mentality that is leaving children without parents. We are intuitively more threatened by black men and it needs to STOP. Black Lives Matter.
The Washington Post documented nearly 1,000 fatalities by Police officers in 2015. From that article they found this about race.
Race remains the most volatile flash point in any accounting of police shootings. Although black men make up only 6 percent of the U.S. population, they account for 40 percent of the unarmed men shot to death by police this year, The Post’s database shows. In the majority of cases in which police shot and killed a person who had attacked someone with a weapon or brandished a gun, the person who was shot was white. But a hugely disproportionate number — 3 in 5 — of those killed after exhibiting less threatening behavior were black or Hispanic.
You are 2.5 times more likely to be shot by an officer if you are black. When this information is argued you’ll often hear; the greatest threat to a black man’s life is another black man. Black on Black crime is the problem.
We glorify black on black crime and I’m not even sure I’ve ever heard the words white on white crime shown any value.
If anything the statistics show that our society is still indeed segregated. That we are still afraid to associate with one another. And this lack of association leads to statements like “He looks like a bad dude. Bet he’s on something.” being spoken from a few hundred feet in the air.
Cops are allowed to be criticized.
Black people are allowed to be criticized.
White people are allowed to be criticized.
If someone were to call out Christians for their rhetoric towards LGBTQ or Liberals, I would say “Thank you, we needed to hear that.” Not ban them from the seats of my church because they were brave enough to rebuke me.
We ALL should listen to what people perceive of our words and actions. It’s how we grow.
As the scriptures write; Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but whoever hates correction is stupid. -Proverbs 12:1
Before we think of all the people who we think are being stupid. Look at yourself first.
People write on Facebook that movements like Black Lives Matter, and the athlete protests just cause further divisiveness. Perhaps that’s because you keep ignoring their cries. Maybe your contempt expands the gap! Perhaps it’s because you are not willing to humble yourself and see that you may be contributing to this problem as Dr. King so elegantly put it. Perhaps it’s because you want order more than you want justice.
It’s fair to desire people to not jump to conclusions every time a black man is shot by an officer. Obviously there will be times where police use action to alleviate a situation that will involve black men and women. There will be times where it will be right to stand for an officer who is placed under false scrutiny.
But this situation can no longer go without our attention in every case. We need to pay attention to every shooting and see whether or not justice is served. We owe that to each other. We owe it to each other to make sure encounters with the police and citizens are just.
We owe that to each other. Our prayers should not lead us to inaction but deep contemplation. As Jesus prayed on Gethsemane he postured himself to ask God what was happening in this moment and what could he do to be a part of God’s renewal of this Earth and people. That’s where your prayers should lead you.
For my friends who don’t have daily opportunities to lean in on alternative perspectives.
Follow some of the activists online. Follow Shaun King. Follow Black Lives Matter. Read their articles. Watch those videos. Listen to the other side. Ask people how they feel. Ask about their stories.
Watch The Wire. A show about law enforcement in the city of Baltimore.
Go back and watch Larry Wilmore and the guests he had on his show.
Expose yourself to the voices on the alternative side and pray about THAT.
Stop looking away.
It’s not just peoples feelings.
It’s not just a media spin.
It’s not just “thugs” disobeying cops.
It’s fathers and mothers.
And it’s wrong.