Category Archives: Racial Profiling

Charleston Syllabus

51Y8E43MSEL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_It is the title of a new book that offers readings on race, racism and racial violence.  Professors Chad Williams, Kidada Williams, and Keisha N. Blain, its authors, offer this collection of writings in hopes of strengthening our conversations about race after the Charleston massacre on June 17, 2015.  On this terrible day, twenty- one year old white supremacist Dylann Roof entered Emaneul AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina and murdered nine of its members, including of its pastor.  What began as a hash tag on Twitter with thousands of responses has become a publication.

I must confess that I wish that the course were not an offering.  I am still lamenting the loss of those church members and am in no way prepared to learn lessons from their bowed and bloodied heads.  It is just too soon for me.  So, if you are able to turn the pages of this book, I will give you extra credit.

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Karen Fitzgibbons: A blast from the past

CHMh7QcUIAECSriA recent Facebook posting by a fourth grade teacher in Texas or maybe I should say former teacher of Friendship Independent School District has set off a firestorm.  Karen Fitzbiggons has said more than a mouthful in response to yet another example of police misconduct.  This time it was in McKinney, Texas at a pool party.  Now, I’ve heard it said that everything is bigger in Texas but in this case, her words should not have been said at all.

There are many lessons here.  I’ll just highlight a few:

(1) Think about the consequences of your words.  There is an African dictum that says, “Once a word leaves your mouth, it leaves your control.”  Fitzbiggons was thinking that she was in the 1950s or 60s when she posted these words.  Messages move just a tad bit quicker these days.

(2)  Don’t post a rant on social media and invite others to comment as if you are somehow entitled to your racist opinions of others.  It may cause you to be un-followed, un-liked and un-favorited by countless people who otherwise would not have known you existed.  You just became bigger than Texas.

(3)  Don’t use words or phrases like “the blacks,” “them” or “the innocent people.”  Don’t reference the 1950s and 60s in conjunction with your desire for the return of segregation.  The two don’t go well together and it wasn’t a good experience for African Americans.  I’m guessing you don’t teach that in fourth grade.

(4)  Hash tags like “#imnotracist” are not real or credible witnesses to your character.

If you haven’t heard about it or read her words, here they are, complete with sarcasm:

“This makes me ANGRY! This officer should not have to resign. I’m going to just go ahead and say it…the blacks are the ones causing the problems and this “racial tension.” I guess that’s what happens when you flunk out of school and have no education. I’m sure their parents are just as guilty for not knowing what their kids were doing; or knew it and didn’t care. I’m almost to the point of wanting them all segregated on one side of town so they can hurt each other and leave the innocent people alone. Maybe the 50s and 60s were really on to something. Now, let the bashing of my true and honest opinion begin…GO! #imnotracist #imsickofthemcausingtrouble #itwasagatedcommunity”

 

 

 

Race Together

imgresRace Together is a new initiative and partnership between Starbucks and USA Today. They are hoping to get their customers talking about race.  Race Together hopes to tackle racism through conversation and there is much to talk about with the recent death of an African American Mississippi man, Otis James Byrd, the alleged assault of a African American UVA student, Martese Johnson and the death of yet another unarmed bi- cultural teenager, Tony Robinson, in Madison, Wisconsin.

All of these cases are open and under investigation.  Mr. Byrd was found hanging from a tree and while it is suspected to be a lynching, the cause of death has yet to be determined.  Mr. Johnson is facing charges of public intoxication and obstruction of justice while he is accusing state Alcoholic Beverage Control agents of police brutality.  The family of Mr. Robinson is calling for peaceful protests.

Whether with Starbucks and USA Today, in school auditoriums, places of worship or around the kitchen table, let’s talk about it. Let’s talk about race together.  Don’t allow it to keep us from speaking to each other when there is so much that is being left unsaid.

I hugged a police officer yesterday

Stop-And-Give-Me-A-HugMy family and I were out at a local Chipotle restaurant and I saw a European American police officer standing in line.  I had the unction to hug a police officer last week while standing in line at Panera Bread.  I questioned myself and his potential reaction.  While I was questioning the impulse, he walked away.  I watched him walk away and I was so disappointed with myself.  I came home and told my husband about it.

So, when the opportunity presented itself again, I just looked at my husband and said, “I’m going to go over and hug him.”  I handed our son to him, walked over to the officer and asked if I could.  He said, “Yes.”  Afterwards, I thanked him for his service, told him that I didn’t believe that all police officers are bad, that I loved him even.  He said that it had been difficult given the circumstances these past few months.  I shook my head in agreement and with that, we parted ways.

It felt good.  Not the hug.  I mean, he’s not a bad hugger but it wasn’t about the hug.  It was about confronting fear, connecting and reconnecting, relating to race as the outsider.

Persons are still protesting and I have joined with them.  I’m not carrying a sign.  I’m hugging police officers.

On this past Sunday, I asked my congregation to pray for police officers, instructing them not to stereotype all police officers as bad.  Persons slowly nodded their heads in agreement.  The silence wasn’t awkward but thoughtful.  After the service, a European American member came and hugged me.  She was in tears.

Her son had recently completed training as a police officer and was having doubts about the decision to serve in light of the increased discussions on race and law enforcement.  She thanked me for the prayer and the instruction.

Her son’s fear is shared.  A recent article provided some police officers’ point of view regarding the Eric Garner case, pointing out that he was resisting arrest and that his health also contributed to his death.  But, they also talked about the disrespect that other police officers not involved in the death of Eric Garner are suffering in light of the grand jury’s decision not to indict, feelings of betrayal by other high ranking officials and the demonization of all who wear the badge.  These are tough words to hear but there is never one side of a story– no matter how old or familiar it is to us.

I did not assume as much when I decided to hug the police officer yesterday; in fact, I put the stories aside.  I put my fears aside and embraced the possibility that it was an accident, that we could be friends, that we might be able to breathe again… one day.

 

 

 

 

New Revised Version: Profiling guidance is released again

Arizona Activists Hold Vigil To Protest New Immigration Law At White House

No indictment again and more cases involving European American police officers and African American men and children.  Persons are in city streets protesting again.  Attorney General Eric Holder has revised the 2003 racial profiling guidelines and has expanded them to include gender, gender identity, national origin, religion and sexual orientation.  But, do we need to revise our guidelines? Or, does this painful reality of police brutality, of excessive force, of conflict between the police departments and persons within the African American community require more?  More than revisions, than updates of what we should do, could do?  Perhaps, we need to start all over, scrap our race relations and build our relationships from scratch.

In an age of lawlessness, when we no longer bend the rules but create our own, when we do not respect authority and the authority of the law has been discredited, perhaps newness is needed.  A fresh start. The new not simply revised version of our humanity in Christ, that is without profile and is beyond comparison.