Tag Archives: Eric Garner

The Race System

Image result for mechanical imageI wonder when we will put the two together– race and racism.  Theirs is a partnership; the two go hand- in- hand as you cannot have one without the other.  In fact, one cannot function without the other.

Racism is not the problem.  Racism is the way that the system of race works.  Racism is the employee; race is the boss, calling the shots and doing the hiring.

For white privilege and the burden of being colored other than white to exist, there has to be a belief in the social construct of race, a faith that purports that the social coloring of our skin determines value, voice and visibility.  Race is not about identity but ideology.  Race is not concerned about people but power and who controls it.  This system is not rooted in customer satisfaction.

Instead, race creates socially colored people for capitalistic and hierarchical purposes.  Race places whiteness first and pays it more.  Whiteness is a privilege; it is not earned. It is given because of our agreement with race and the illusion of socially colored people.  Whiteness is a shared benefit, given to some and kept from others. It is quite a hand out.

This is what got the system going.  This is what has made America a social power: the systematic uplift of one group by holding down another, success built on the death of Africans, African Americans and those who are indigenous to what is now the United States.  It is a social drowning, taking the breath of one group in order to keep the other alive and even to give more life to the other.  Now, fully alive, there is no question why some communities are in better health than others.  And yet, there is still a seeming lack of understanding as to why African Americans got upset when they heard the words of Eric Garner and believed him: “I can’t breathe.”

But, without socially colored people, the system would shut down, cease the exist.  We are its power button.  Consequently, if we reject the social colors of race, it becomes useless and meaningless.

If we are to deny the privileges of whiteness and the oppressions of other social colors, then we must rid ourselves of the race system.  We must stop handing out and accepting social colors.  We should not speak of ourselves in social colors and then complain about how the racial identity corrupts our sense of self and compromises our relationships with other cultural groups.  In order to get out of the race system, we must rid ourselves of its work.  We must quit race altogether.  It is our selves that must destruct.

In 5… 4… 3… 2…

What is the world coming to?

00037508_bDuring this season of Advent, we remember and celebrate the coming of Jesus Christ, of divine feet on earth, of God with us.  Still, I can’t help but wonder what the world is coming to.  The recent death of Laquan McDonald still has my mind reeling.  What is happening to us?

What is happening to my mind when I watch a seventeen year old child shot sixteen times?  Or, how will my eye sight be impacted after watching Eric Garner being choked to death?  And what of the deaths of Tamir Rice or Walter Scott or Samuel Dubose?  What of our humanity has died with them?  Their last breath should not be wasted, held or not used to voice this loss of relationship.

As we reflect on the humble beginnings of Christ and the meager ways he came to us, I challenge us to look at the ways that we have arrived at our present state.  How do we enter the community and the conversations of others and are we humble?  What do we ride in on when we enter a room?  And who surrounds us, who are we looking at when we talk about Jesus?

What the world comes to is based on our willingness to move in ways that encourage authentic and transparent conversations and resultant community.  But, we must come ready to talk without defense or excuse.  No shouting matches or blame- shifting.  Shh.  Remember, the baby is in the manger.  Christ has come and God is with us.

And whatever we do or don’t do, our world will come to God in the end, divine feet on earth, touching all country roads and city streets to include the one that held Laquan McDonald.

Police brutality and the unjust judge


“Then Jesus told them a parable about their need to pray always and not to lose heart. He said, ‘In a certain city, there was a judge who neither feared God nor had respect for people.  In that city, there was a widow who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Grant me justice against my opponent.’  For a while he refused, but later he said to himself, ‘Though I have no fear of God and no respect for anyone, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will grant her justice, so that she may not wear me out by continually coming.’  And the Lord said, ‘Listen to what the unjust judge says.  And will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night?  Will he delay long in helping them?  I tell you, he will quickly grant justice to them.  And yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?'”

~ Luke 18.1-8, NRSV

This morning, I am thinking of how race makes us unjust judges, that our prejudices can be so strong that we neither fear God nor have respect for people, that we don’t know that we are wrong and that there are right- behaving people of all cultures, that while we pass laws and enforce them, that we seek justice but we are not justice, we are not the law and certainly not above it, that we all need the law and are subject to it: both police officer and citizen.

This morning, I thought, “What if God is the widow, pleading with us to be an answered prayer for the people of Ferguson, of New York City, of Beavercreek, of Cleveland?”  Many of us feel called to judge or are in a position to judge but we are not just, whether we wear badges or not.  We do not uphold the law or respect it; yet, we make demands of it when one of our members crosses the line or breaks a law that we really believe in.  And there are those of us who still want to exact our own justice– even after the grand jury’s verdicts in several of the cases mentioned.

But, we can’t be just judges because we don’t know when to stop punishing.  We don’t know how to stop needing to exact pain when we have been hurt.  We don’t know the difference between justice and revenge.

We can’t be just judges because we are blinded by our own racial devotion, co-opted by our own histories and traditions of prejudice and stereotype.  We really don’t see persons a part from these lenses and it throws off our scales of justice.  So, let’s very slowly, put the guns and the protest signs down.

Jesus’ parable reminds us that if we feel as if we are the widow today, as police officer or citizen, that there is a Higher Court.  And if we do not mind waiting on God, then God will certainly answer– but it will be His decision not ours.  He is always just and the Judge of us all.

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.





Hard Words: Preaching about Racial Violence and Police Brutality

The Christian Century initiates a conversation for pastors of predominately “white” congregations to talk about racial violence in general and Ferguson specifically in an article titled “How pastors talk about Ferguson.”  C. Browning Helsel offers “A Word to the Whites: Preaching about Racism in White Congregations,” challenging those who identify as socially colored white to consider their racial identity development and to create a “nonracist White racial white identity.”  The website http://www.preaching.com offers a sermon illustration that encourages persons to become “gracists,” outlining the points of David Anderson’s book Gracism: The Art of Inclusion.

In light of the ruling of no indictment in the choking death of Mister Eric Garner at the hands of Officer Daniel Pantaleo, we need a word from the Lord regarding our belief in race and the implications of this social faith.  The video of Eric Garner has gone viral and the hash tag #crimingwhilewhite is trending.  In the video, Eric Garner is being choked, an illegal form of restraint banned by the NYPD and his death was ruled a homicide by the medical examiner.  Eric Garner even says several times in the video, “I can’t breathe.”  The decision of the grand jury not to indict the officer has led to more peaceful protests and rightly so.   

No badge, no uniform should get in the way of common sense and our common humanity.  We do not have the right to take the life of another person; there is no law that is above this, no matter the land or the people.  With that being said, we must consider what is not.  Are we saying what is necessary to encourage a change in our cross- cultural relationships and communication, in the ways in which law enforcement officials “protect and serve,”  in enforcing “equal protection under the law” for African Americans?  How is your church assisting in this dialogue in order to create and/or increase the effects of this change?  What are your leaders singing about, praying for, preaching about?  Because we cannot depend on a video, a medical examiner’s report or a grand jury of our peers.  But, I digress.

Do you have resources or ideas as to how persons can preach about the effects of race on our faith and our fellowship so that we might transform this nation and our world?  Can you offer training opportunities for police officers that would sensitize them to other cultures and communities?  Are there prayers that you can offer for the police departments in America and those citizens who have historically been unlawfully stopped, detained, arrested, injured and murdered?  Are there scripture passages that might assist us in bridging the cultural gaps, in eradicating stereotypes and prejudices?

And we need to do more than shake our heads from the comfort of our homes, hand down family verdicts or pronounce community judgment on social media.  We need to do more than hold a sign and chant.  Each of us need to protest against our own prejudices, to call for a change in the way we view persons from other cultures, to get the hatred out of our hearts before we attempt to remove it from some one else’s.  It’s easy to talk about the sins of these police officers but how have our faith communities aided and abetted in this kind of lawlessness?

Yes, these will be hard words but we have to say them because we need to practice before we preach.