Who is right who is wrong?
As I see once again the tension in our streets, the ongoing racial division in our nation, accelerated by a judges decision, protests on Sunday, I am fearful, angry, sad, confused.
I am fearful for the police officers who have a job to do, I am angry at those who feel violence is the only answer. I am sad for those who want their voices to be heard, hoping against experience that it might make a difference this time
And I am confused, who is right and who is wrong?
But maybe I’m not asking the right questions. Maybe the question is what is the value of a person? Not every cop is a bad cop looking for a racist reason to kill someone. Not every person of color is a thug or a drug dealer or even guilty of a crime.
Police officers who put on the uniform, are under extreme scrutiny and pressure. Identified by some as racists who arrest black men in significantly higher numbers, use deadly force more often, without sufficent cause, based on the color of their skin. Yet statistics and a study by Roland G. Fryer the first African American to be awarded tenure at Harvard University proves otherwise.*
Black men live in fear of a criminal justice system they are sure is stacked against them. And the fear they have of our criminal justice system is also supported by statistics we cannot ignore.
In 1972 there were 300,000 people in jails and prisons in America. Today 2.3 million people are incarcerated (2016) 37% of whom are black. One out of three black men between the ages of 18-30 is in jail, prison, or on probation or parole.
There are poor urban communities where over half of the young men of color are under the control of the criminal justice system. Many live in poverty that makes it difficult to secure effective legal counsel to provide discovery in cases where they might be innocent. We have to entertain the possibility that our justice system does not always work for everyone.
And that the burden of injustice is not necessarily the fault of law enforcement. The stigma attached to both sides involved makes it difficult for one to do their job, and the other to live without fear.
Who is right who is wrong?
To answer this question we must go deeper than the surface issues that provide a constant source of income for the media.
I believe the real issue is the failure to understand the intrinsic value of all human life. Lives that God sent His Son to rescue.
Psalm 139, scripture most often used to defend against abortion, also advances the idea that human life is valuable to God from beginning to end. No life is a throwaway life because of the wrong they may have done, the mistakes they may have made, the circumstances they find themselves in. No one in Gods estimation ceases to be of value from the womb to the grave.
Who is right, who is wrong?
With my limited understanding I’m not confident I can provide the all the answers to the questions, but I can offer these thoughts.
It is right to value every human life. Regardless of color, background, socio-economic standing.
It is right to do our part to offer understanding, peace, respect to all people.
It is right to respect and support law enforcement and the rule of law.
It is right to speak out against injustice wherever it exists not only with our voices but with our actions.
It is right to call for reform in our criminal justice system, to support and vote for those who will advance that cause for all people.
It is wrong to to define a human beings value based on the color of their skin or the job they do.
It is wrong to disrespect, mistreat, criminalize, minimize, judge anyone’s value for the same reasons.
It is wrong to disrespect and rebel against lawful authority.
It is wrong to exploit those; (politicians take note),
who cannot defend themselves,
who live in poverty,
who are disadvantaged,
who are without the influence or power to speak for themselves,
to look the other way,
to refuse to defend those who cannot defend themselves,
to not speak up.
What I do know is until we are willing to respect the value of a person, to reach out to their situation with the love and goodwill we have been shown by our Creator, it will not change.
Each of us more than the worst we have done…**
In need of God who heals. Who values every life….
*An Empirical Analysis of Racial Differences in Police Use of Force
Roland G. Fryer
** Bryan Stevenson