It’s been a terrible week. Alton Sterling, selling CDs in front of a store with the store owner’s permission, killed by police. Philando Castile, stopped for a broken taillight, killed by police in his car with his girlfriend and her four year old daughter sitting right there. A peaceful protest in Dallas, followed by a sniper who shot and killed or wounded multiple police officers, and who was then killed by the remote detonation of a robot bomb sent in by police.
Massive peaceful protests across the country, too often met by an aggressively militarized police presence that provokes and escalates tensions. Police tactics becoming even more aggressive after dark, as we saw in Ferguson, including the use of teargas and smoke bombs. Protestors arrested and detained.
So what can we do?
First, recognize that your black friends, acquaintances, coworkers, and neighbors are more deeply affected by these events than we white people are. So give them space, cut them slack, be gentle around them, the way you would with someone who is going through a very hard time right now.
Second, if you haven’t already started to educate yourself about racism and white supremacy in this country, start now. The links at the end of this post should help.
Third, consider making a pledge to do one thing, every day, to work against racism and police brutality. One thing: make a phone call, write a letter, have a conversation, make a donation.
Call your legislators and urge them to support the Campaign Zero policies to end police brutality. Write to the mayor and police commissioner of the city you work in and say that you are willing to sit in traffic while protestors block streets because you support them. Have a conversation with another white person about how you came to be aware of racism and implicit bias, and what you are doing about it. Donate to a bail fund or legal support fund for arrested protestors. There are more ideas in the links below.
Do one thing, every day. That might seem like a lot. But wouldn’t you do something every day if it were your spouse, your child, your sister or brother who had been killed by police?
Christians, listen up: it is your sister, your brother. Do we mean what we say, or don’t we?
Things to Do:
Things to Learn: for White People
Things to Learn: from Black people
Memory, #BlackLivesMatter, and Theologians by Dr. M. Shawn Copeland, an African-American Catholic theologian
‘Soul Weary’ in America: Cell Phone Videos and Cycles of Violence featuring comments by Fr. Bryan Massingale, an African American Catholic priest
What To Preach when Blood is Running in the Streets, especially for preachers, by Rev. Wil Gafney, an African-American Episcopal priest
The Test Case, specifically about Philando Castile
Please share additional links and ideas in the comments.
I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that law and order exist for the purpose of establishing justice and that when they fail in this purpose they become the dangerously structured dams that block the flow of social progress. I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that the present tension in the South is a necessary phase of the transition from an obnoxious negative peace, in which the Negro passively accepted his unjust plight, to a substantive and positive peace, in which all [people] will respect the dignity and worth of human personality. Actually, we who engage in nonviolent direct action are not the creators of tension. We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive. We bring it out in the open, where it can be seen and dealt with. Like a boil that can never be cured so long as it is covered up but must be opened with all its ugliness to the natural medicines of air and light, injustice must be exposed, with all the tension its exposure creates, to the light of human conscience and the air of national opinion before it can be cured.
— Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, Letter from a Birmingham Jail, 1963