The death of Freddie Gray and its aftermath is the latest in a disturbing series of tragedies (…Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Eric Garner, Walter Scott…) that reveal real issues of police brutality, reactive rioting, and a frequently unproductive public discourse about both.
The importance of being “quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry” (James 1:19) can’t be stressed enough when we see news like this unfold. Too often we are slow to listen, and we fail to hear the valid points of those not “like us.” Too often we are quick to speak, revealing inherent biases and presumptive attitudes – about one group or another (like all of the social media posts that feature memes comparing Baltimore to Birmingham and riots to protests). And too often we are we quick to become angry, letting fears and cultural blindness compel us to draw lines in the sand.
The frustrating thing about such discourse is that it fails to account for the complexities surrounding these events. We get fooled into making false choices of “either/or,” when often we should be talking about “both/and.”
The thing is, you can both support the police and criticize police brutality. You can both empathize with disenfranchised people and condemn their rioting. You can both acknowledge the unique circumstances of any individual situation and recognize that there are systems and structures in place that are also culprits of injustice.
Here’s a great clip of Jemele Hill and Michael Smith reacting yesterday to comments by former NFL player Ray Lewis, wherein they discuss the events in Baltimore without falling into the trap of false choices:
And here’s a clip of local Baltimore news that might surprise you if you thought you had all of the “facts.”
However you land on the issues in the news, if you do it apart from meaningful cross-cultural relationships wherein the words of James 1:19 are put into practice, you’d be better off heeding the words of Job 13:5, “Oh, that you would keep silent, and it would be your wisdom.”
But since silence is not an option in the face of injustice – and indifference isn’t either – I encourage you to examine your relational sphere, put James 1:19 into practice, and take proactive steps to fight injustice without falling into the trap of false choices.
For Visible Unity,