This link is to a statement from Bishop Minerva G. Carcaño who is a Los Angeles Area Resident Bishop, is Board President of the General Commission on Religion and Race of The United Methodist Church. It is a shining example of how we, no matter how unintentionally, are sometimes a part of the problem as a church. The statement can be found here: http://www.calpacumc.org/bishop-carcano/commentary-on-the-death-of-michael-brown/ Now on to how it contributes to the problem instead of helping to solve it which I believe is the intent. “If Trayvon could be murdered then what about them?” Part of the problem is that our system of justice, no matter how flawed it may be, said that he was not murdered. By saying that he was, you are not only going against the system of justice that we have and should respect and work within, even to change it if necessary, and directly setting yourself in opposition to it. This does not promote order, it promotes the chaos that we are trying to prevent. As a note here, I think that there are some serious issues with stand your ground laws in certain states that should be addressed. This does not negate the fact that, legally, a murder did not occur. The other thing that has been done with this question, is it makes George Zimmerman the murderer. Again, it was determined that legally he was not. The morality of what he did is open for debate, but the legality of it has been settled. Instead of fostering forgiveness, love and healing, the question agitates and calls an innocent man (legally if nothing else) a murderer. If we wish to debate the ethics of Mr. Zimmerman’s actions, that is fine as well, perhaps morally he is a murderer perhaps not, but remember, Moses committed murder as well. We should be slow to judge and quick to forgive.
“the response of local and state officials has been a military response with police officers in riot gear and armored vehicles, police sharpshooters in position on top of those armored vehicles in the face of demonstrators, the use of rubber bullets, tear gas and smoke canisters, and the arrest of many;” I am very concerned with how the police responded to the situation that is ongoing. I want to point out though that the statement does not mention this was in response to looting, violence and the fear of more to come. The local officials cancelled (probably unconstitutionally) scheduled protests before all of this yes, but that does not in anyway justify what followed by those in this community. I do not like the militarization of our police at all and think it incredibly dangerous to freedom in general. I hope and pray that our elected officials do something to curb this. All of that being said, they are the authority figures that we have. We have the power to vote them, and anyone like them, out of power if we choose. The behavior of the police in many cases has been appalling. The behavior of those who were looting just as. The rioting and looting is not a result of the unfortunate death, it is a result of poor choices on the part of those doing it. While we need to always remain loving and be willing to forgive whatever happens, we must never allow excuse and promote proper responsibility for all involved. That means we don’t do things like pretend rioting and looting is a legitimate form of protest.
“the composition of the local police department in Ferguson, which is primarily white, does not reflect the majority African American population of Ferguson; and the conflict between demonstrators and the police is escalating.” This statement is true, but very misleading and completely unhelpful. If our goal is a colorblind world, than we can not only have people policed by those of their own ethnic background. If it is proven that hiring practices of the police force are discriminatory, then I want that stopped and corrected immediately. There is not currently any evidence of this. In about 2/3 of American cities, the police do not live in the neighborhoods that they serve. Yes, I believe this to be a problem, not because of the racial make up of a police force, but rather because it is difficult to understand how best to serve a community where you do not reside. (http://fivethirtyeight.com/datalab/most-police-dont-live-in-the-cities-they-serve/ some interesting numbers about major cities and where the police live) If we are working toward a world where people are judged on their character, then we need to stop treating issues such as the racial make up of a police force as a divisive issue. By even mentioning this, the subtle insinuation is that if it had been a minority officer, this would not have happened. None of us actually know what happened and the legal process is playing itself out. We need to be promoting trust in the justice system instead of mistrust because the color of our skin is different. (Yes, I realize that I am going to get a lot of disagreement for this.)
Phrases like this: “A white police department in a predominantly black community is a clear sign of racial disparity that should be questioned” fuel the fire, they do not put it out. There is absolutely zero evidence that the officer involved in the shooting had any racial motivation to do so. Perhaps that evidence will come to light, and if so, then it needs to be dealt with accordingly, but, especially as Christians, aren’t we supposed to be promoting that we are all one? In Christ there is no Greek or Jew, unless it is on the police force? If the goal is that we all be one people, then we need to quit finding reasons to separate us. This is not a tragedy of the African American community and people need to quit saying so. It is a tragedy of all of humanity that a life was lost to violence. That is the message we need to send. I am not so blind as to think there is no racism. I am however doing my very best to see with heaven’s eyes so that i don’t notice if a young African American man was shot, or if he was Latino, or Caucasian, or even purple. I know that a young man lost his life and that is tragic. That needs to be the message.
The message we send as Christians needs to stop being about minority men and boys being killed and jailed, (Yes, there is a disproportionate problem with the legal system, but in truth I believe it has more to do with economics than race, and believe that if we want to reduce crime we need to begin by reducing poverty as that is where I believe the correlation to be, not with race.) and needs to start being about young men and boys alone being killed. Should there be a conversation about racism? Sure, can’t hurt anything, but as Christians, we should not be able to tell who is a minority. We are all loved equally by a Creator and Father. We are all one under Him. Everything that we say and do should be in that framework. The conversation is not about how to treat those different than us, it is about how we treat each other…after all if we are looking through heaven’s eyes, we all look the same anyway.