Sunday, September 25, 2016

Black Lives Matter

Black Lives Matter so Let Justice roll down like waters and righteousness like a might stream.” (Amos 5:24) For many of us in the African American Community, justice has seemed like an elusive concept in regards to unarmed Black Men being killed by the Police in recent months including the shooting deaths of Terrence Crutcher on September 16, 2016 in Tulsa, Oklahoma and Keith Scott on September 20, 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina among others.  And while it’s true that more whites (581) are killed by the police than Blacks (306) in 2015, when one considers the proportion to the population percentage- 62% White to 13% Black respectively, these figures are very troubling. 

No Need to Be Afraid
Perhaps the saddest thing about the rising tide of police killings of unarmed Blacks is the creation of fear of the police in the hearts of many African Americans, both young and old.  During a recent lecture I had with several African American young men, nearly 100% expressed fear of casual interaction with the police.  In fact, some expressed extreme terror at the thought of even being pulled over for a traffic stop. It’s a shame when a certain sector of human beings in America feels like they are being hunted. This is a terrible way to live. It’s one thing to revere the police as authority figures; This is appropriate. But to be scared of their interaction is an ominous sign.  But there is really no need to be afraid. 

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, and of love and a sound mind.” (2 Tim. 1:7).  So instead of being afraid we must first recognize the power we have to advocate, strategize, organize, listen, and trust God. The second reason we can’t be afraid is because of the love we have for ourselves and our fellow man including our enemies. Because "there is no fear in love. Because perfect love cast out fear. Because fear has torment. . ." (1 John 4:18)  And the last reason we should not be afraid is because God has given us a sound mind which includes wisdom and knowledge of how to handle ourselves in every situation. So relax, stay calm and don’t be afraid of the police. Because walking in fear is a life of bondage.  

Statistical Analysis
Black lives Matter, not only or exclusively but equally.  And the fact that African Americans are compelled to proclaim the statement is a sad commentary for American Justice. The statistics tell the true story.  A 2015 report by the Guardian Magazine “The Counted,” indicates that the rate of death for young black men killed by the police was five (5) times higher than that of young white men of the same age.  In fact, when paired with official U.S government mortality data, the findings suggest that about one in every 65 deaths of a young African American man in the U.S is a killing by the Police. (The Guardian, 12/31/15).  
And Of all of the unarmed people shot and killed by police in 2015, 40 percent of them were black men, even though black men make up just 6 percent of the nation’s population.   Moreover, Black people have been disproportionately killed by police, at a rate of twice that of White and Hispanic/Latino people (The Guardian 7/1/15).  

To be clear, we don’t want to see anybody of any race or ethnicity treated unjustly or killed by the Police. Not only that, some of the action taken by the police may have been undoubtedly justified in the context of legitimate crime fighting.  Yet and still, the alarming rate in which African Americans are killed, particularly in situations in which they are unarmed is extremely disturbing. Unfortunately, these police killings of unarmed Black Men are not exceptions, but symptomatic of a broader set of racial disparities that speak to the way justice is dispensed in many communities throughout the United States.  

Further studies suggest that African Americans defendants are 75% more likely than whites to be charged with offenses carrying mandatory minimums; 30% more likely than whites to be pulled over by police and three (3) times more likely to be searched after being pulled over (Fortune.Com, July 7, 2016: Obama’s Speech “We Can Do Better”)

The Police
Moreover, criticism of a few bad police departments is not an indictment of all police.  Without question, Police are to be respected and obeyed as law enforcement officers.  Nevertheless, the Police are not above reproach.  And the small percentage of police who fall in the category of crooked, trigger happy, and racist/abusive- make it bad for the majority of good policemen who should ultimately be viewed as heroes and not villains.  However, until changes are made in police policy, it appears that innocent people will continue to killed by corrupt police departments.

Black on Black Crime
What about Black on Black crime?  How can African Americans complain about the police when they are killing themselves? First of all, 84% of Whites are murdered by other Whites, yet we rarely here the term- White on White Crime.  Secondly, the propensity of crime in the neighborhood in which one resides, should not be a prerequisite for equal protection under the law and fair and just treatment by the police.  Thirdly, Black people are responsive to crime in their communities.  There are hundreds of rallies, stop the violence campaigns, anti-no snitch movements, community protest against street violence, vigils, and neighborhood forums that occur in urban communities throughout the U.S every year in response to crime in the Black community.  Unfortunately, these events rarely make the evening news.  

Historical Perspective
The Black Lives matter theme is not new to American history.  In 1851 Sojourner Truth, an African American Abolitionist sent a profound message when she declared in her celebrated speech, “Ain’t I a Woman.” She was essentially saying, although I’m a Black female, should not my life and opinion matter and be valued in the American feminine experience.   Dr. Martin Luther King’s last public speech before his assassination was in support of the Memphis Sanitation Strike in which protesters declared, “Am I Not a Man.”  Or shouldn’t my life matter in regards to a decent wage.  And who can forget James Brown famous song in 1968 that lifted the spirits of Black People all of the world as he declared: “Say it out Loud; I’m Black and I’m proud.”

So let us press forward for change in police policy and hold our legislators accountable.  And we can’t be satisfied until legislation is introduced and laws are passed to address a comprehensive retraining of all police officers with specific reference to a mandated use of Body/Dashboard Cameras, revision of deadly force policies, elimination of racial profiling, and the ability to curtail federal and state budget allocations based on documented evidence of police brutality. Indeed we can not rest until “justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.”