I am sad that Eric Garner, Ezell Ford, John Crawford III, Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu are all dead. I am sad that they were killed.
It breaks something inside me that an average of two unarmed black males are killed by local police departments in our country since 2005. And, that's with only 17 percent (750 out of 17,000) of all law enforcement agencies reporting their statistics. Conservative estimates could be 3 black males per day die at the hands of police.
I am tearing up because I am once again reminded of what it means when I wear a hoody. I am weeping at the extreme anxiety I feel about being stopped by police officers. My wife comes in and asks me what's wrong and my tears tell her "it" happened again. It was Rumain Brisbon in Phoenix this time. Another man, who looks just like me is dead at the hands of police sworn to protect him.
I am beyond tears when I see the fruits of revenge instead of reconciliation and two officers are slain while serving my city. Must there be more widows and fatherless children! Lord, have mercy!
Most troubling to me though is not what's above but what lies beneath the surface of the blog posts, essays, punditry and tweets. What causes pain and grief in my soul is that there are those people deeply saddened and grieving over the loss of another unarmed black male to a white police officer; those able to enter into the grief and complexity of law enforcement.
And then there are men and women who deny that this is even an issue and desire the status quo because the shame of it all is overwhelming. They're afraid of saying the wrong thing and their silence is deafening.
We let this happen because we are deaf to communities who experience police brutality, intentional exclusion, and suffer in the margins. We allowed this to occur because we are cowards who don't cross racial, ethnic and class lines. We lack the courage to address our own bigotry and racism, let alone the bigotry and racism in our family and friends so ignorance and apathy flourish instead of wisdom and discernment. And because of this, another one of our brothers is dead; and another one of our brothers killed him. We ought to be ashamed of our inaction. I am ashamed. And that shame has driven me to lament and repentance; and a recommitment to the hard work of reconciliation.
Michael Brown didn't just die. Darren Wilson killed him. A person made in the image of God was shot six times by another person made in the image of God. Michael Brown was killed. Jesus loved him. God sent His one and only begotten son to die for the sin and brokenness in and around Michael Brown. God had plans for Michael Brown, to prosper him and not to harm him. And I am deeply disturbed that his life was cut short. I cry over that. He could have come to know Christ on his campus, been a member of an InterVarsity Chapter and come to NYCUP. I will never meet him and that is painful to me.
God's heart is broken when those He loves are made to hurt. And oh, how broken His heart must be that one of His beloved was killed at the hands of another one of His beloved. Because God had plans for Darren Wilson too. God knit him together in his mother's womb with a plan and a purpose for him as well. God wants his new marriage to flourish and his family to be well. And shooting and killing an unarmed black man was not part of His grand plan.
Thus, there are two groups of people living in the wake of #Ferguson and #Fruitvale. There are two groups of people who will be at Officer Liu's funeral.
Those who stand on one side are feeling the weight of this grief, the pain of loss, and the sadness that this has happened and may happen again.
And those who stand on the other have chosen not to enter into grief and are defending personal positions and political platforms instead of lamenting. They have tiptoed around the pain of their brothers and sisters and dug into "he said," "she said" fox holes to hurl accusations instead of invitations to dialogue and act together. YouTube videos are the new grenades and every tweet is like a bullet tweaked # @ each adversary.
Without confession, repentance and reconciliation are not possible. And because some people refuse the reality that Michael Brown was killed and Darren Wilson killed him and that we are all responsible - healing will never occur. Instead of "I'm so sorry for your loss" or "I wish that something could have been done" we hear:
"This has nothing to do with race."
"F*ck the police."
"Police have the right to defend themselves!"
"Stop rioting, stay calm and let justice take its course."
"White people will never change".
With each statement a new wall is built. With each retweet battle lines get deeper. With each news cycle the truth becomes less relevant and "winning" becomes the ultimate goal.
Why can't we see that no one is winning? If one person is afflicted, we are all disabled. There is no "us and them," it's just "us." There is nothing inspiring about systemic racism. There is no person who wins for refusing to enter into the grief and sadness of another person. He or she misses out on the core of our humanness which is we were made for community -- for loving communion with God and with one another is our purpose and the two greatest commandments. What those who refuse to enter into the pain of this moment are doing is not just wrong or messed up. It is sin and evil -- a violation of the purposes that God intended for all of us made in His image and the law He gave us.
Adam and Eve were driven from the garden because they chose to do life on their terms. And we live each day in the aftermath of what happened in Eden. Will we go our own way which leads to destruction, anger, bickering and strife? Or will we enter into a life with God and face our shame and brokenness as we look to Christ and receive His grace and forgiveness embracing the invitation for Him to be Lord, Savior and King of our lives?
I am sad and I want to be like Jesus.
I am angry and I want to be like Jesus.
I am ashamed and I want to be like Jesus.
I don't know how to respond in my sadness, anger, and deep shame but God help me to think, speak and act like Jesus.
There are two groups of people in Ferguson, Fruitvale, Staten Island and across America -- just like there have always been two groups in this world. There are sheep and there are goats. There are those in Ferguson who grieve the loss of one of God's beloved and strive for forgiveness and reconciliation. Those that will sit with the widows of Eric Garner and Rafael Ramos and mourn the loss of their husbands.
And then there are those who stubbornly defend whatever position will suit their own ends.