Though I call for help, there is no justice
Maybe I shouldn’t be writing this.
Maybe I shouldn’t be giving an opinion about the violent deaths of black men and women at the hands of police.
I’m not black. I’m not a police officer.
I enjoy the tranquility of knowing that my family and friends, my home and things, are safe due to the work that peace officers are doing night and day. I can travel without fear and enjoy the freedom to congregate with whomever I like.
But many black people can’t feel safe, don’t feel free to go wherever they like or be with whomever they like. Walking, running, sitting in a car, going about your hobby or your job can get you killed if you’re the “wrong” color.
I’m not black.
Being black is not a choice. Being a police officer is. Choosing to escalate to violence against unarmed suspects is a choice.
My chosen profession never posed more threat to me than a paper cut. I didn’t put myself in harm’s way to protect others as my brothers in the military did. I’m quite sure if I saw an assault taking place, the first thing I’d do is call the police.
I’m not a police officer.
I recently was talking to a police officer who told me he was retiring after 20 years on the job in part because he felt he could no longer perform his duties as he wanted to. He implied many of his colleagues felt the same.
I should have asked what he was referring to. What restraints are on law enforcement now that he’d shed if he could in order to be a better policeman? Is kneeling on someone’s neck until they asphyxiate a necessary tactic?
I don’t have any police officer friends. I do have black friends.
Maybe I shouldn’t be writing this. Or maybe I should have written it a long time ago.
What I am is a human being. What I am is a Christian. What I am is an American.
What I am is frightened and angry — not for what might happen to me, but for what is happening to black citizens across this country, who can’t jog, drive a nice car or wear certain clothes in certain neighborhoods. Even asking someone for the common courtesy of leashing their dog can bring the police down on your head. Your own living room isn’t a safe place any more for people of color.
Security vs. freedom. Fear vs. empathy. Is institutional racism, extrajudicial persecution and summary execution the price we have to pay for security? That cost is far too high.
George Floyd’s death isn’t the first nor will it be the last to shock us, but we can’t let more die without action to try to prevent them.
Police culture needs to change. The warrior mentality that views the community as the enemy rather than those they are to “serve and protect” needs to go. Accountability is needed in the form of a federal blue-ribbon commission to investigate all police-related deaths. Trust is being destroyed and needs to be restored.
When I meet a police officer now, I don’t react with admiration, as I should. Instead, I am fearful. My eyes are on the gun. Not that I have much to worry about. I was born with a skin color that grants me an instant pass in many cases. I am well aware of my white male privilege, but it’s no excuse for hiding behind my sense of security.
What can we do as Christians to try to end this seemingly endless killing of unarmed, innocent black people? The Bible says to give it over to God. In Psalm 7:9, David cries out : “Bring to an end the violence of the wicked and make the righteous secure— you, the righteous God who probes minds and hearts.”
God will answer our prayers, but we must do our part. What is in our minds and hearts that God will see?
“Though I cry, ‘Violence!’ I get no response; though I call for help, there is no justice.” (Job 19:7)
We, as the instruments of God’s will, must respond. Justice, peace and understanding must guide our thoughts and actions. Without justice, there can be no peace. Without understanding, love cannot thrive.
Let your hearts be open to all. Be an ally and comfort to the oppressed.
Don’t see differences. See similarities.
The solution is not just big gestures. Every day offers an opportunity to make change in our society. Embrace those opportunities.
I am not black. I’m not a police officer. But I can demand both peace and justice for all of us.
Bob Gough is the chair of the Web Committee at Christ Reformed United Church of Christ.