“Race,” Policing, and the Theological and Social Divide: Reflections on Recent Events in Charlotte and Elsewhere – Part 1

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The following is written by a very dear old friend, ministerial colleague,native Charlottean, and former police officer, Rev. Bryan Jackson. Bryan has been kind enough to allow me to share this thought-provoking commentary here, for which I am most grateful. While it was written as a single piece, I am presenting to you in two parts with Bryan’s permission. Part 2 will appear tomorrow.

Part 1:

“Race,” Policing, and the Theological and Social Divide: Reflections on Recent Events in Charlotte and Elsewhere

The problem might not be race. The problem may be misunderstanding, and possibly the hamstringing of a political process by certain groups whose cause is boosted by the inflammatory response of both the news and social media, compounded by a growing refusal to communicate with one another and acknowledge the possibility that some truth likely exists on both sides of a rather odd argument.

At some point in the American psyche it became fashionable to disregard public officials giving lawful and reasonable commands. It is not sensible to walk away from, flee, or advance on a police officer telling you to “Keep your hands where I can see them and don’t move,” or “Drop the gun!” Most describe it to me as “Not normal.” How many times in the course of a given week have you personally witnessed an incident like this? They don’t happen frequently (thankfully) and tend to be the result (usually) of someone not acting in our best interest. Yes, they are increasing. Irrespective of one’s race or ethnicity, putting an officer’s safety and the safety of other innocent civilians in jeopardy simply because one doesn’t “agree” with the law or believe that one is immune to civil authority is unwise and unhelpful.

All of this, of course, reflects a much larger problem. We have regressed to a sort of adolescent, stunted development that points to a “Me, me” and “But what about me?” semi-consciousness that seems to have invaded the American psychological landscape, along with the psychopathology of reality television and brings with it a false certainty that says, “Hey, I can do whatever the hell I want to, by God; I’m an American.” Instead of taking the higher road, we seem of late to have adopted the attitudes and actions that demonstrate that there might some truth in what others in the world community say about us.

To those who do take the “This is America, I’ll do as I please” position, I simply say, “Fine. You keep thinking that. Cops are going to continue to do what they have been sworn to do.” As an aside, America is a republic. You know—an “and to the republic for which it stands….” sort of thing. We have rights, but actually more privileges than rights.

Do I believe we have come to terms with our role in the creation and execution of slavery? Absolutely not. Do I believe we have reconciled the persecution of African-Americans, Native Americans, Japanese-Americans, and others? No. As a descendant of a Cherokee family whose patriarch was a slaveholder, I have much to reflect on until the day I die; some of it good, some of it not so good. I was born with white skin, denoted in this day and time as a privilege, that covers many veins and arteries attached to a damaged heart that pumps both Euro-American and Native American blood. Perhaps my heart is more damaged than I thought, and is so worn and cynical that it just cannot “feel” appropriately for these black men. And yet, I think it does feel for them. Believe it or not, as a former law enforcement officer (LEO), I do feel for black males, known and unknown to me: for those I’ve arrested, for those who backed me up at three in the morning on traffic stops; for those I’ve ministered to and prayed with as they lay dying, for the men I call friends today. But I see them more as men than black men, and maybe that’s my problem, I don’t know. Perhaps I suffer from some strange form of reverse color blindness.

I have friends who are extremely dear to me but with whom I vehemently disagree on this subject of police shootings. Do I disagree with the peaceful protests? Never. It is a duty to follow one’s conscience. There are things to which I would publicly protest. Do I disagree with these friends about the notion of a law enforcement contingent out to kill black males? Yes. As a former officer, I just don’t see the gain in it, and it especially doesn’t make sense given that some of these officers doing the shooting have been African-American men, often led by African-American sergeants, captains and chiefs. If I’m wrong and it is discovered that this is factual, I will be the first to condemn it and ask, “How can we use our best thinking and agency to eliminate this poison and do better as humans?”

It’s also important to take things in systematic perspective. During the past few years where black males have been shot by police, a percentage of the public (and certainly elements of the media) seem to disregard the criminal histories of some of these persons as if those histories have had no bearing on their respective behavior at the time of the shootings, which strikes me as a complete breakdown in the understanding of human behavior in general and criminal behavior in particular. Such histories serve to “establish a pattern,” as it is known in criminal law and procedure. This disregard paints a false picture of the defendant, the officer involved, and the situation in general. It is irresponsible and immoral. Regarding the Charlotte, N.C. incident, some will say Keith Scott’s past as a violent felon has nothing to do with his actions the day of the shooting. Even when the past directly influences the present? Interesting perspective. Are all of these shooting victims actually innocent? Despite Michael Brown’s violent behavior (caught on video stealing and roughing up a store clerk prior to his encounter with Officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri) was he in fact “innocent?” How, exactly, do we define “innocent?”

The other day a friend and ministry colleague pointed me to a recent blog of the Los Angeles Police Protective League that recommends police officers “redeploy” and “create distance” when faced with an armed suspect. In other words, officers, do not enforce; evacuate. Retreat. Turn your back on the citizens you are sworn to protect and just run, after all. Thus, in such a scenario, after effectively spaying and neutering our police personnel, we can now experience a full-fledged, national psychosis.

Many of the aforementioned social media and non-social media friends are fellow clergy/professional ministry leaders. What I disagree with is their certainty. Before the facts of each case are brought to bear, many have tried and convicted the police. Most of these people have advanced—often very advanced—education and degrees. They are sure, for example, that in the Charlotte incident an “innocent black man just waiting on his son to get out of school” was killed for no reason by another black man in a militant uniform. Despite Mr. Scott’s lengthy criminal record as a convicted felon and his violent past, they remain undaunted. Basically, we’re talking about “failure to comply” in general, and all these shootings over the past few years reflect that: failure, neglect, or outright refusal to obey an official directive. Americans don’t like to comply; something to do with the narcissism I mentioned earlier. And it’s causing a lot of problems.

I watched the video of one Charlotte area clergyperson who, using the microphone and her position to her advantage, spoke of the “righteous rage” the community has arguably earned, as if her group and those she was representing had a patent on the subject. Yet, a couple of days later I watched a video of a friend—a clergyperson who has spent her entire life and career in the cause for human rights, peace, justice, and equity—speak eloquently about her own experience of the Charlotte protests and, while she issued a challenge to the community to deal with the realities of these shootings, she did so with her usual grace and professionalism. Still, she and I view these incidents from very different vantage points. I will continue to respect hers (and her) regardless, staying in the tension of the reality that we’re going to have to agree to disagree.

Again, these are cherished colleagues who nevertheless have made it their life’s mission to make race, not the interpretation of our ideas about it, but race itself, as the focal point of their “pulpits.” And some of these folks have very powerful pulpits. Some are projecting a surety that the officer in question has overreacted. That’s akin to my attempting to practice parish nursing, teach my colleague’s theology class, write a thesis on in-depth peacemaking, or preach a sermon series on restorative justice. Because I haven’t worn their “uniform” or studied their “statutes,” so to speak, I’m not qualified to do it.

But minds seem to be made up. Attempts at reason and accountability now seem pointless for some, and yet they sometimes adopt a rather condescending position: I’m unenlightened and stubborn—I don’t “get it.” Besides, they say no police accountability exists (though it most certainly does—more than you’ll find in the ministry—trust me). Hence, from my point of view, there’s a misunderstanding problem as opposed to a racial one. Academic professionals, theologians, and much of the public voice their certainty. I, for one, am not certain about these incidents; I’m thunderstruck by so much premature blame and illogical language and behavior. Experience tells me there is a great chasm between hours or days of theological or philosophical refection and the sometimes instantaneous decisions LEO’s must make. And I can always tell when I’m dealing with someone who has never even remotely been in the position of having to make a life-altering, split-second decision.

Which brings me to this thought: How can we best offer prayer and concern for the officers’ families and wishes the way so many have chosen to focus on the victim’s families? Aren’t they too deserving of the same respect?

The Rev. Bryan Jackson is a Charlotte, North Carolina native and graduate of the 91st Recruit Class of the Charlotte Police Academy. Now an ordained minister and writer, he resides in Washington State. All rights of this article are reserved to Rev. Jackson. ©

Rev. Amy here. I look forward to your remarks on Part 1 of Rev. Bryan’s excellent commentary regarding this critical issue facing us. 

 

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16 Responses to ““Race,” Policing, and the Theological and Social Divide: Reflections on Recent Events in Charlotte and Elsewhere – Part 1”

  1. piper Says:

    Excellent commentary on what’s happening today.

    • Rabble Rouser Reverend Amy Says:

      I concur, piper. I think Bryan really captures it. Tomorrow’s Part 2 post is really good, too.

  2. kenoshamarge Says:

    Wonderful post. I look forward to the second part.

    The Reverend Jackson approaches the subject with clarity, compassion and a knowledge of the facts. Feelings are important too but should never be substituted for the facts.

    I was especially struck by the following:

    But minds seem to be made up. Attempts at reason and accountability now seem pointless for some, and yet they sometimes adopt a rather condescending position: I’m unenlightened and stubborn—I don’t “get it.”

    Minds made up and minds closed seems to be epidemic. With a media and social media filled to the brim with misinformation and outrage.

    People are injured. Cities are torched. What does this solve? What do they think they will gain?

    • Rabble Rouser Reverend Amy Says:

      That is the question, isn’t it? What indeed? So far, though, they have gained a TON of free press, support, visits to the White House, and the UN. How that can be is beyond me, but that is the climate in which we now live. It is just mind boggling.

      And as Rev. Bryan noted, anyone who questions their assertions gets the sanctimonious, condescending, patronizing look down the nose at the “uninformed” and “unenlightened” for daring to question the meme…

  3. kenoshamarge Says:

  4. kenoshamarge Says:

    Pastor Decides She’s an Atheist, But Won’t Leave Her Church!

    The Left tries to tell us that inclusiveness is a virtue in every circumstance and no matter what. After all, no one should be excluded from anything for any reason, right?

    Well, what about when a pastor decides she’s an atheist but doesn’t want to leave her church?

    The Rev. Gretta Vosper is a dynamic, activist minister with a loyal following at her Protestant congregation in suburban Toronto. She is also an outspoken atheist.“We don’t talk about God,” Vosper said in an interview, describing services at her West Hill United Church, adding that it’s time the church gave up on “the idolatry of a theistic god.”

    Vosper’s decision to reject God, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit and to turn her church into a haven for nonbelievers “looking for a community that will help them create meaningful lives without God” has become too much even for the liberal-minded United Church of Canada.

    Seriously. I had to check three times to make sure this wasn’t The Onion.

    The United Church of Canada isn’t a tiny denomination either. It’s the largest Protestant denomination in Canada, after all. Currently, they’re looking at taking away Vosper’s right to continue as pastor of one of their churches.

    https://pjmedia.com/trending/2016/10/02/pastor-decides-shes-an-atheist-but-wont-leave-her-church/

    Another sign of the Apocalypse?

    • Rabble Rouser Reverend Amy Says:

      Well, okay then. If she was a UU, that would be one thing, but yeah, even with the Church of CHRIST there is the assumption the minister is going to be a CHRISTIAN. Ahem (Actually, depending on their ordination requirements, it is likely more than an “assumption.” )

      It makes me wonder why she wants to stay given her change in beliefs. I have my suspicions, but none of them are positive…

  5. kenoshamarge Says:

    Neighborhoods take on Big Library

    In Washington, DC, where I live, every couple of blocks you can find what looks like a little birdhouse filled with books. These are sharing libraries, put there by the community. The idea is simple: take a book for free, as long as you leave one in its place. That’s it.

    https://www.conservativereview.com/commentary/2016/09/neighborhoods-take-on-big-library#sthash.Afy1GRWs.dpuf

  6. kenoshamarge Says:

  7. kenoshamarge Says:

    Sometimes it seems to me that 1984 has arrived. It was just a little late. Because when reading the following quote don’t you think of PC just a little?

    “Don’t you see that the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought? In the end we shall make thoughtcrime literally impossible, because there will be no words in which to express it.” ~ George Orwell, 1984

    • Rabble Rouser Reverend Amy Says:

      OHMYGOSH – that is EXACTLY what we are doing now! Hell, people cannot even use gender specific pronouns any more without people freaking out (and by “people” of course I mean “snowflakes”). And that is just one tiny aspect of what is being done. Yep. Orwell was prescient, sadly so…

  8. kenoshamarge Says:

    New Media Victory: Polls Proves No One Believes Phony MSM Fact-Checkers

    A Rasmussen poll of 1,000 likely voters released Friday proves that New Media has done an excellent job of exposing these mainstream media fact-checkers as the left-wing frauds they really are. Rasmussen found that just 29% of those polled trust fact-checkers. A whopping 62% believe (accurately) that “news organizations skew the facts to help candidates they support.”

    http://www.dailywire.com/news/9651/new-media-victory-polls-proves-no-one-believes-john-nolte

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