Tag Archives: race and police brutality

When I say, “Police Brutality”

Image result for police brutality African and European Americans, those socially colored black and white, have different perspectives.  That’s not the problem or even a problem.  The problem comes in when race is included in the conversation.  Because race says that only one side of the story is credible.  Race says, “White is right.”

There have been lots of conversations about race: interviews, roundtable discussions, town hall meetings.  I have watched well- dressed people, seemingly well- meaning people shout at each other, dismiss and devalue the experiences of one another.  I understand that a lot is on the line, that admission on either side could result in either the lawsuits of history being brought to bear or the innumerable cases of injustice being thrown out altogether.

We are not speaking two different languages but telling two different stories: oppressor and oppressed, privileged and burdened, center and marginalized.  We have different views because we are not in the same places and positions.  We have grown up in two different Americas, on two different sides of the track, been given two different sets of expectations, one for and the other against.

As the cases of alleged and proven police brutality continue to rise, believing that police can be brutal is unbelievable for some.  No matter the number of reports, eye witness testimonies and video recordings, you cannot make some of us accept this as a reality.  No, it will need to happen to us.  But, it probably won’t.

With the law historically on the side of those socially colored white, it is near impossible to believe that the law is not for all people.  The reasoning goes: the law is good because it is good to me.  But, this is the lie that we accept in order to hide our complicity and deny our guilt.  We don’t turn a blind eye to injustice; we see it and look the other way.  If I speak up for them, I may be viewed as one of them and lose my privileges.

We don’t really want to be “all God’s children.”  We want to be the favorite.  American exceptionalism tells us that we are.

To become a witness of oppression, socially colored white people must risk their       (in)visibility, their whiteness.  They would have to give up its privileges, no longer presumed innocent, right(eous), pure, good.  They would have to confess whiteness as a lie and offer their own life as proof of its inconsistencies.  And if they make visible the negative experiences of other cultures, they are joined with the group, losing power, position and presence.  Judged “n***** lovers,” they are out of the in group.  Now, do I have a volunteer?

We know that America is not an exception to the rule of violence, that those indigenous to what is now America, African Americans and other cultures have been oppressed in the name of whiteness.  And if you don’t know, it is your job as an American to know.  Stop calling it a “melting pot” if you want to live separately and apart from other cultures, if you don’t want to be grouped together, if you don’t want to be associated with other cultures, if we are not really all in this together.

It is important that we not only love our neighbor but that we know our neighbor.  This knowing should not be based on the rumors of race but on lived experiences together.  How can we be in a melting pot and there be no blending, no mixing, no melding together?  It should be a relationship that allows you and I to know how each other feel and to know what I mean when I am telling my side of the story.

So, when I say, “police brutality,” I am not just speaking about today, yesterday, two days, two years or even twenty years ago.

But, when I say, “police brutality,” I am both at the beginning and the end.  I am grieving for a people who have been told that they were the wrong social color and therefore deserve to be stolen, enslaved, brutalized from head to toe, inside and outside, from birth to death, whose last breath was breathed under oppression and excessive use of force.

I am thinking about their supervised lives under the watchful eye of masters and overseers.  I am hiding from “paddy rollers” while looking for my “papers,” needed to travel outside of my slave owner’s property;

I am remembering slave catchers, the Underground Railroad and the tracks left on the backs of those caught.

I am thinking of Klansmen in white sheets who doubled as police officers, who were above the law and the African Americans brutalized in the name of it;

of crosses burned in yards because they are in the wrong neighborhood, because we don’t want you to be here, because you can’t be successful, because you think that you are better than us.

When I say, “police brutality, I am thinking of Ida B. Wells’ “Red Record,” of children, men and women lynched without judge or jury, who were blamed for crimes without due process of law and in order to provide social entertainment.

When I say, “police brutality,” I see bodies swinging, strange fruit cut down, canned, jarred limbs sold, bodies set on fire and then flashed with photography, placed on postcards and sent to relatives.

When I say, “police brutality,” I am thinking of the human brutality from slave ship to police stop.  There are so many names between then and now.  There is so much to account for.  I cannot tell it all.

But, know that when I say, “police brutality,” I am saying so much more than you could ever hear– unless of course you said it too.



All Lives Matter?


History is repeating itself right before our eyes and we cannot look away.  Now is not the time to bury our heads in the sand or to take a sick day.  We need to show up with our story and perspective ready to share and ready to accept the story of another.  All ears on deck.

I turn on the news and I turn off the news.  More shootings, more protests and more police officers.  It is stuttering the same sad story about race in America.  I hope that we listen up this time and that we talk to each other– not just across dinner or coffee tables but at work, at the gym, in the grocery store and in church.  We need to talk it out, not fight it out.  Inflicting pain does not open ears.

While the Internet affords us access to a seemingly endless amount of information, it is of no use to us if we do not access it.  Along with the video posted above, here are a few resources that might be of assistance to you, your family, organization and church in light of last week’s tragedies.  Please add to the list via the comment section as I can only click on so many websites.

“Why you should stop saying “all lives matter,” explained in 9 different ways”

These 12 Tweets Expose the Hypocrisy of #AllLivesMatter

Enough Already With ‘All Lives Matter’

Trauma of Racism Report

38 Resources to Help Your Church Start Discussing Race Today

Okay. Now, it’s your turn.






Freddie Gray: One Year Later

Cf24phIWsAAYUrjMany are asking what has changed one year after the senseless death of Freddie Gray. One year ago, the 21 year old man died after suffering a severed spinal cord after what has been described as “a wild ride” in the back of a police van.  The city of Baltimore burned before our eyes and today, its police officers and citizens are trying to find meaning in the midst of the ashes.

More than a mural or a hash tag, what is the message that we are sending regarding his death?  What are we saying in retrospect?  What does his death mean to us in this moment?  Or, has it lost momentum?  Buried, has the cycle of grief led us to accept his death– no matter its cause?

Unfortunately, for some, his name has just been added to the list.  He is another example, apart of the growing number of deaths while in police custody.  But, that cannot be the end of his life.  Surely, we must carry him on but not just on anniversaries or t- shirts. He is not a product, his name becoming no more than a chant.

No, his life must be returned to him but not the one taken that dreadful day.  But, the one that justice owes him.  We must answer the questions that his death, his buried body raises.  What about me?  One year later, do we have answer?

Hung jury may lead to hanging heads

freddie_gray_screenshot_smThe first to be tried in the untimely and tragic death of Mr. Freddie Gray, Baltimore police officer William Porter, leaves the courtroom and dumfounds some.  The mistrial is being described as a miscarriage of justice, a missed opportunity and even a misunderstanding.  There are those who believe that while it is unfortunate, no crime was committed.  There are others who are scratching their heads, wondering, “What just happened?”  Or maybe, they are shaking their heads saying, “Is this really happening?”

It is hard to accept that Gray died while in police custody and after committing no punishable offense.  Yet, Officer Porter was unable to be charged with any crime though clearly one occurred.  A young man lost his life and though impossible, many are looking for an even exchange.

With stories like Mr. Gray’s, it is easy to become discouraged and to no longer believe in the goodness of people and the power of the law.  Protesters and television viewers across America are waiting to see what will happen next.  But, no matter what happens, we can not hang our heads or hide them in the sand.

Despair must not win.  Sadness cannot overtake us.  We must lift our hands and voices while lifting the standard of our shared humanity, where we can look into the face of any human being and see ourselves.  We must keep talking, keep marching, keep voting, keep singing, keep preaching and keep praying until the hanging head of one Freddie Gray, handcuffed and feet scraping the concrete while being placed into a van lifts the heads of us all to see what was done to him.

“The Post- Racial America Alert System”

It comes from the Department of Post- Racial America and is used to assure us that “race is a thing of the past.”  It’s a clever video and certainly offers another way to look at the incidents of police- related deaths involving unarmed African American men and women against the hope of a post- racial America.  It is a necessary reminder that there is much work to be done if we are to put race behind us.