Hardly had he begun his ministry - as an associate pastor with a particular emphasis on youth - than an 18-year-old black youth was shot and killed by a police officer. The first night of marches-turned-riot went right past his new church.
In the past eight days, a lot of opinions have been aired. I want to highlight three things in all of that which compel my attention and channel my thinking:
- unarmed black teenager,
- police violence against blacks, especially young black men,
- resistance against acknowledging ongoing racism.
And I must also declare my trust that the vast majority of law enforcement officials are good, compassionate, and a credit to their uniforms. They serve and protect, and our society would be much worse off without them.
I grew up in the 1960's and '70's. I saw the photos of Civil Rights marches in the South, complete with police-wielded billy clubs and dogs attacking children. But we all "knew" that was an aberration; "our" police weren't like that. I mean, a uniformed officer helped us cross the street for school every day in Fairport Harbor.
What happened? I honestly don't know. But it sure feels like the '60's in the South again - or perhaps another country. Here's how one writer compared typical news coverage of foreign unrest to the situation in Ferguson.
Others have written about the "code of silence" that ignores acts of police brutality until they're revealed on video. Certainly, the increasing militarization of our country's police forces - initiated by the war on drugs, reinforced by the war on terror, and equipped by military surplus - has skewed the police-citizen dynamic.
And lots of folks - with better cred than I - have shared the experience of being black and male in America:
- "America Is Not for Black People"
- "In Defense of Black Rage"
- "The Death of Michael Brown Stirs Rage"
As a number of writers have suggested, Americans still have not faced the lingering legacy of racism in our society, and how it turns young black men into automatic enemies - "the other."