In the last few days the news and social media has been filled with accounts of two african americans being shot by police. The facts are still muddy, but tempers are flaring. I’ve seen some of the video footage and have read some of the accounts. Regardless of exact circumstances these are tragedies that should be mourned. Additionally, I think I should attempt to add my voice to the chaos. I will attempt to do so in the following rambling paragraphs.
People that others cared for died. People that others relied on for support, guidance, fatherhood, etc., died. They died at the hands of people who are supposed to protect and serve. We can armchair quarterback these situations until our recliners break, but that will not bring back the dead or heal the wounds of family and friends. It also cannot remove the fear that African Americans have of being unjustly shot for being black.
Beyond this, I want to say racism is terribly un-Blbical and is far from being anything like Jesus. He ministered to Gentiles himself, and guided the church into racial integration. When Jesus appeared to speak in racist tones (“I only came for the lost sheep of the house of Israel”), he was speaking of Spiritual Israel and was setting up a gentile woman to let her faith shine. We should speak against racism where it exists.
To all my white friends who are generally pro law enforcement: There are so many good cops who go above and beyond the call of duty to serve their communities. There are excellent cops who bridge racial boundaries to truly serve and protect. We know these are unjustly targeted for retaliation. People get mad that cops shot someone and they in turn either promote shooting cops or shoot cops themselves. We want to speak up for the good ones, and we should. However, there are many racist cops and police departments that are racist. Even if stereotypes are “confirmed” by local cultural issues, that is no excuse to treat people of color badly or see them in a negative light. Bad cops and racist departments need to be held accountable, while the good ones are defended.
To all people of color: I am sorry you feel like your people are being treated unjustly. I am sorry that so many of your people are killed by people we are taught to trust. I am sorry that you distrust and fear police. I am sorry for the pain you feel each time one of your people have their lives taken from them.
While I express my sorrow, can I please ask people of color a few favors? Please don’t lump all white people together in the racist category. We see many of the problems that you see. Though we sometimes disagree on the solution, we generally feel just as helpless to bring change as you. Please don’t take revenge on cops who have done nothing wrong. Revenge and retaliation is not the way. We are to love our enemies, even as we stand against injustice. As I write there news is breaking that some cops in Texas were shot during a BLM rally. Reports indicate they were shot by a sniper. This is not the way to go. The way of Jesus is.
At this point, I want to digress into personal territory. The two men who were recently shot by police were done so as a result of carrying a firearm. In the one instance Alton Sterling was a prohibited person, because he got arrested for having pot and carrying a gun, and in the other Philando Castile was a CCW permit holder. In both cases the police appear to overreact at the presence of a gun. I could understand the officers responding to Alton could be on heightened alert since they know he has a gun from the get go. But they seem to go into super freak out mode when the cop feels the gun in his pocket. The videos are unclear if the gun is reached for, but the cops starts yelling, “gun.” The cop who shot Philando had absolutely no excuse nor reason to panic. He was notified about the CCW permit and the presence of a gun. When he asked Philando to get his ID and CCW permit, the cop thought he was reaching for his gun when we was just complying with a lawful order to provide documentation.
The reason why this is personal to me is that I am a firearm owner, CCW permit holder, and I regularly carry concealed. (As long as there are bears, mean dogs, coyotes, out of state drug runners, drug addicts, terrorists, etc., I’m going to carry) I expect police to accept the fact that there are millions of legal concealed carriers in this country. Keeping and bearing arms has been a part of the DNA of our country since before we declared independence, and the infringement on that right was one of the reasons why independence was sought. People carry guns for the same reasons cops do: there are bad people in the world who wish to do us harm and we want to protect ourselves. Just because a person is carrying gun and is black does not mean the person is a criminal. They might have the same concern for their life and the lives of their family as anyone else. They probably want to protect themselves from the same thugs and drug dealers of whatever skin color as me. So, when I think of Philando, I think of myself. What if that was me in that traffic stop with that untrained, skittish cop who had a bad attitude towards people who carry guns? I know there are police and sherriff departments in WV who have a real bad attitude toward CCW holders and harass them in traffic stops. It could be me in that situation. While I can’t identify with Philando and his family based on skin color, I can identify as a person who choses to carry a weapon as an aid for defense in case evil decides to visit me or the ones I love. I can remotely identify with Alton as a person who chooses to carry a gun, even though illegal, because he is afraid of certain people in the world. A person has a right to bear arms in defense of self and others, no matter their color or economic status. A person should not be shot just because they are exercising a right that has been safeguarded by the constitution.