Over the past few days, I have been deeply reflecting on the killing of Walter Scott at the hands of police. Scott's alleged murder yet serves as another reminder that there is still much work to be done to end racial terrorism in this country. This experience is the daily lived reality for most African Americans in America. Their American experience is one where a father or mother could leave home for work in the morning and not return home in the evening, because they had an unpleasant police encounter. Or perhaps, one could be traveling home at night and because one's tail light went out one could be gunned down by the men and women commissioned to protect them.
It's a place where a little black teenage boy could be innocently walking home from school and finds himself meandering in a neighborhood that will label him "suspicious." Or better yet, a young black man could be walking on his Ivy League college campus and be accosted by police because he fit the description of a suspect.
Too often our young black men are seen as recreational shooting targets by police. There is no crime too small for which black men may find themselves seeing their very lives flash before their own eyes. Put similarly, death could be a routine traffic stop away, especially if one deviate even slightly from society's social expectations of what makes one a "respectable" black person.
You see, it doesn't matter if a black man or boy has a degree from an Ivy League or Morehouse. When walking down the street, he's simply another "suspicious" and potentially "dangerous" black man. This sentiment does not just lie with the police, but it's a general sentiment that is pervasive throughout our entire country. In other words, all it takes to justify killing a black man is to say that one "feared" one's life -- and one may walk away free and may not even face trial; unless the incident is caught on video. And even then, the black man's character goes on trial, which distracts from the actual issue at hand.
While in class last week, I did not hear anyone say anything about the shooting death of Walter Scott. I did not hear any students saying anything about the incident that made the headlines in the news, including my fellow black students. The latter is what deeply disturbed me the most. It seems as if the killing deaths of unarmed black men is a daily occurrence, so we have become numb and desensitized to hearing the news. And instead of doing something about it, we have resigned to a place of hopelessness. Or perhaps, we don't care because it hasn't happened to our loved ones, our friends, our relatives, or ourselves for that matter.
However, not to make light of the Sandy Hook situation, which was devastating and heart- wrenching, and still a situation in which I grieve those whose lives were lost that day, but my professors and classmates, including my black classmates talked about the situation for months. Often times class was interrupted and we spent the entire class processing the loss of the victims.
All I am saying is, Walter Scott, could have been my father, my uncle, my sibling, my brother, or my friend. And because nobody in my circle is saying anything about it, is simply appalling.
These tragic deaths should weigh heavily on every morally conscious person's heart and mind at night. For we who believe in freedom cannot and should not rest. I offer this prophetic proclamation to all my clergy brothers and sisters, if we fail to speak out against injustice and are quite because we are going along to get along, or we are too afraid to disrupt the status quo, then are we really living up to the biblical mandate of Micah 3:8, which says, "He has showed you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God."
This is my challenge to my brothers and sisters in ministry. Silence must be disrupted. We are called to speak out against systems of oppression. And as Americans, we know all too well that we must change this narrative. We know and understand, probably more than any other people on the planet that all lives matter, no matter how big or small. Therefore, we must work together to ensure that all human life is equally valued and respected, and that justice is not something that gets applied to one group over and against the other, but that justice is equally distributed.
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