We woke up for the second time this week to more of the same news today: a black man was killed by police. Their names are Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. I saw the news break Tuesday night at bedtime about Alton, and I went to bed feeling broken and helpless. Then I woke up this morning (Thursday) to the news of Philando.
This keeps happening and nothing seems to get better. I’m sad, angry, and feel helpless. But I’ve got some words inside that need to come out. So here goes.
I’ve woken up the last two mornings with Alton on my mind. Then very quickly, my attention was also directed to Philando. My head and heart can’t shake these men, and that’s a good thing. Here are a husband, a boyfriend, fathers, sons, and neighbors who have been killed. I grieve with those who lost a loved one.
The death’s of these men sicken me. But some of the responses I’ve seen to these tragedies are even more sickening. Because we as a country can’t seem to even grieve or mourn before the justification and politicizing begins.
Forget the politics, forget the law for just a second, and let’s think about what transpired: two men, two fathers, were killed violently. These men, whom the Bible says bears the image of God, were killed. These men, whom Jesus died for, were killed.
Is it to much to ask that we collectively grieve in this moment? Can we not mourn with those who are mourning? Because this morning, families are waking up without husbands and fathers. A 15-year-old boy broke down in tears on the news, crying for his “daddy.” A four-year-old girl can be heard comforting her mom on video after her dad was shot.
Before we do anything else, can we not grieve with these families and communities?
RECORDS DON’T REMOVE THE IMAGE
I’ll be honest here and say I don’t know all the facts about the shooting of Philando. I’m just to broken write now to read about more death. But after the release of the second video of the Alton Sterling death, there is no justification for shooting that man six times. By my definition, he was subdued prior to being shot. And there is no other word for that but injustice.
But Wednesday morning, the news was already reporting Alton’s criminal record. No doubt by the end of today, if Philando has a criminal record, it will be aired to the world.
And for me, neither of their criminal records matter. Because a criminal record doesn’t remove the image of God, doesn’t change Alton & Philando’s personhood. Because they aren’t primarily a thug or even a black men, they are primarily image bearers of God. And that image was violated and that should sadden us all.
Why can’t we seem to see each other as human beings? Why are we so slow to despair over the violation of the image of God?
FIGHTING MY PRIVILEGE
I hurt deeply for Alton & Philando’s families and for the black community who I can’t even begin to understand how they feel. I won’t pretend to know what anyone is going through on this.
All I know is that these events hurt me. It hurts me that more lives were taken. It hurts me that we still don’t seem to be over things we’d like to believe are a nasty relic from our past. I’m tired of this being our reality (and yes, injustice against black people is our reality). It hurts me as a dad and husband that families are left without these men.
One day, I’ll have to look my daughters in the eye and try to explain to them how we couldn’t get it right, how we couldn’t look at each other with dignity. Because we teach our girls that every human being has dignity and is treasured by God. And I don’t know what I’ll tell them about our world that won’t discourage them when it comes to human dignity. Because it very much seems that the deck is stacked against groups of people, and that hurts me.
In reading the news footage on Twitter about Alton’s death, I came across this tweet and it wrecked me:
I don’t want this treat to be true. I want it to be true that preservation of all life, without qualification, is what the aim is. But I think there are still pockets of our country where that isn’t the case. And I hate that.
I’m well aware that as a white man, I’m privileged to not be profiled based on how I look. People don’t look at me and assume things about me based on a biased stereotype. It’s unfair and I hate it.
I’m doing my best to fight that privilege. I don’t want my reality to distort the reality of others in my eyes. I just desperately want to be a friend, an ally, a gracious person who loves everyone and treats everyone with dignity the way Jesus did: without reservation or qualification.
And before anyone get’s there pitchforks in anger towards me, I know there are LOTS of good police officers out there who love their communities, regardless of color, and lay it on the line to serve and protect. My father is one of them. But we can’t deny that there are bad cops out there. And unfortunately, the bad cops get all the press, and the good cops pay the price for that in the court of public opinion.
Now is not the time for making this a politics issue or airing these men’s every sin to the world to attempt to justify what happened. Now is not the time to blame the dead or label them.
Now’s the time to grieve. Now’s the time to speak up about injustice and work towards truly equal justice for everyone. Now’s the time to listen, be a friend, and love well.
I’m hurting and I feel helpless to fix any of this.
Come quickly, Lord Jesus.