Hi Dojo readers,
In response to the Examiner post I wrote at the end of last year (Ferguson, justice and a suggestion for white Christians), I invited a number of my African-American friends to share their honest thoughts as to what they most wanted their white brothers and sisters to hear and to consider. One of my good friends and fellow church members at Good Shepherd, Scott Chisolm, was kind enough to write the following. I encourage everyone to read, listen and reflect…
My Experience and Challenge to Evangelical Christian Norms
By Scott Chisolm
“Laugh with your happy friends when they’re happy; share tears when they’re down.” (Romans 12:15 MSG)
“When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares.” – Henri Nouwen, Out of Solitude: Three Meditations on the Christian Life
“Truly He taught us to love one another/His law is love and His gospel is peace/Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother/And in His name all oppression shall cease” – “O Holy Night” (public domain)
As the calendar has now transitioned into 2015, I look back and give thanks to God for all of the marvelous work that He has done in my life and in the lives of so many of my loved ones. Just to see how His character and likeness continues to shape, mold, and challenge me to be more like Him blows my mind. When I look around the world, my heart is full with wonder and amazement to see how the power of His Holy Spirit is changing lives and establishing His Kingdom on Earth as it is in Heaven.
However, I cannot help but be deeply grieved and frustrated with the recent rash of killings of African-American men in the United States of America. Michael Brown (Ferguson, MO), Eric Garner (Staten Island, NY), Tamir Rice (Cleveland, OH), John Crawford III (Beavercreek, OH) and growing list of other black men that have been killed by the hands of law enforcement officers due to (in my opinion) minor offenses and/or unfounded fears. Granted, negative (and sometimes fatal) encounters between the black community and law enforcement aren’t new to anyone that’s been paying attention. What is new is the open, unadulterated emergence of so much fearful, over-the-top rhetoric that I’ve seen among my fellow Caucasian brothers and sisters (especially those who proclaim the name of Christ). In previous decades post-Civil Rights Movement, I would hear these accusatory voices of reverse racism in private conversations and media outlets only. With the advent of social media now being the cultural norm, these once-private voices and thoughts are spilling out for the entire world to see. Voices that were once more nuanced in nature have devolved into dehumanizing screams that leap off your computer screen. I’ve seen some white folks accuse blacks, the media, progressives and liberals of starting race riots, knowing good and well that most of those same people wouldn’t muster up the courage to say such things face-to-face.
As a black man in this country, these murders continue to confirm and increase my deepest fears in regards to interacting with law enforcement. For me, the thought of being pulled over or confronted by a police officer inherently seizes me with great fear and anxiety. The fear of being misunderstood without even saying a word or making a non-verbal gesture. The anxiety of not being sure if this encounter will result me in being unnecessarily abused, manhandled, dehumanized or even being murdered because of my appearance and skin pigment paralyzes me. That fear of the unknown has been long established in me because of the stories and accounts by African-Americans from past generations and today. My personal reality of having to put forth extravagant layers of respect and cooperation towards police officers so that I can protect my own hide frightens me. It’s the sadness of knowing that the officer is (likely) going to treat me differently because of my looks due to stereotypes that were handed down from previous generations, whether that officer realizes it or not. It’s the reality of knowing that I have to live in this tension of being taught to trust law enforcement, but yet also having to fear them potentially harming me because I’m an inherently perceived threat. For those of you that are not a person of color, you cannot begin to imagine how MY truth of being fearful of law enforcement affects me personally, spiritually, emotionally and holistically. Unless you are willing to at least empathize with me on a heart level, you have NO right to carelessly speak into my life about how I should feel about interacting with law enforcement. You have not earned that right. (Continue reading full article)