Outside the Gated Community: The Reality of Police Violence Towards our Sisters and Brothers of Color
By: Jarrod Cochran
My heart hangs heavy over the events of the past few weeks in my nation, the United States. I speak, of course, to the continued murders of black men and women at the hands of law enforcement. With the advent of modern technology, nearly anyone can record video of events from their cell phone. This technology has helped pull the veil open on police brutality against citizens—especially people of color. These public videos of the murders of countless black men and women have been uncomfortable for many to see. But I think it has been the worst in White, Middle-Class America. For the most part, White Americans have been in denial of what is really happening to our sisters and brothers of color (despite their continued cries for justice). Most of us had convinced ourselves that racism was over and that all of the ideals and dreams that Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. had worked for had been accomplished.
We would tell ourselves that, "Sure, there are more blacks incarcerated per capita than whites, but that has to do with upbringing and culture. These people that are crying 'foul' are just people wanting more privileges and to free-load off of the system. After all, Bill Cosby said as much in his 'get tough talks', and he's black." This and similar critiques would be our narratives on black society, all the while ignorant of the inherent racism in our own thought processes. The murders of innocent black men and women at the hands of cops have given rise to a beautiful movement known as Black Lives Matter. These women and men have forced us to look closely at what is going on between the black community and police departments. Furthermore, it has caused us to look deeply at our understanding of race and the systems that perpetuate it.
In our day and age, it is impossible to not be inundated with information on any particular subject. In no known time has so much information been so freely available and, at the same time, ignorance run so rampant. With these resources at our disposal, we residents of White America have had two options set before us: accept the reality that people of color are being targeted by police departments or double-down on our desire to remain comfortable with the status quo.
By: Joanna Shenk
This post was originally written as a message to First Mennonite Church of San Francisco on Friday, July 8, 2016.
Preface (not included in original message): I condemn the loss of life of any person, whether uniformed or civilian. What happened in Dallas is a tragedy which must be mourned. And in this mourning, the violence of a sniper must not be equated with the systemic state violence against Black bodies for hundreds of years in this country.
Dear First Mennonite Church of San Francisco,
It is with great sadness that I send this message. In the last few days the lives of two Black men have been lost to police shootings, Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and Philando Castile in Falcon Heights, Minnesota. Their deaths have catalyzed many to protest and respond, including here in the Bay Area. In Dallas the lives of five police officers were taken, as violence begets violence.
While these recent events—the ongoing killing of Black men by police and a sniper’s response—are unfathomable in one regard, we also must hold these situations in the light of our nation’s history. These systems of oppression are not new. The rage in communities of color, and among their allies, is not new. Our response as a community of faith is not new. We are called to comfort those who mourn and rage with those who rage at injustice.
By: Nekeisha Alayna Alexis
Y’all just can’t front on us niggas no more
At this crucial time in our lives when everything is so desperate, when every day is a matter of survival I don’t think you can help but be involved…We will shape and mold this country or it will not be molded and shaped at all anymore. So I don’t think you have a choice. – Nina Simone
Written on July 7, 2016
I am writing from a place of intense anguish and rage. I am naming this sentiment clearly, lest there be any confusion.
Today is the day the police killing of Philando Castile has made the headlines, which is the day after the police killing of Alton Sterling rose to national attention. Reeling from another round of blows against we who are darker than blue, I am convinced that there needs to be new language—new terms to describe the tumultuous emotional landscape that erupts for so many Black persons when another one of our slaughtered bodies bleeds out in our streets or in our cars or on our couches or in our beds or on our playgrounds or in the halls of our apartment buildings or hangs lifelessly from a garbage bag in a jail cell. There is no single word that I know of to describe the simultaneous unsurprised surprise, the "angrief," the hopeless defiance, the wounded wrath that floods one’s entire being when unmitigated, virulent, state-sanctioned, White supremacist power and violence shows itself in another public execution. The visceral response to these acts of systemic annihilation, to this structured hatred, defies categorization. The emotion is a mystery, like trying to speak to the totality of God or the character of love in a single utterance. Yet I feel it in my body as I write to the White Majority upon whom this nation’s Klan Culture relies and through whom the plague of Black death continues.
By: Regina Shands Stoltzfus
Note: this article was originally published on Sojourners.
As a professor of peace, justice, and conflict studies at a small liberal arts college in the Midwest, I spend a lot of time talking about violence.
Early in the semester, I have my students complete a group exercise: They are given 21 sheets of paper, each sheet with an action on it, and instructions to create a continuum of these actions that span from least violent to most. These actions include kicking, starting rumors, leering, shooting someone, stabbing someone, writing graffiti, name-calling.
Typically, the exercise begins easily enough—shooting and stabbing quickly make their way to the “most violent” end of the continuum. But from there, the more diverse the identities and life experiences of the students, the more difficult the exercise becomes.
With that, a conversation emerges that carries over into the rest of the semester, as students each identify an aspect of violence that they will research. The question that undergirds their research, and the course itself, is, “What is the societal permission for this kind of violence?”
As a nation, we expressed horror at the vile act of violence in Orlando, Fla., nearly coinciding with the one-year anniversary of more violence in Charleston, S.C. We mourn and debate stricter gun laws. Yet we ignore steps on the continuum to violence that has made such shootings almost routine.
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Nekeisha Alayna Alexis
Liza Minno Bloom
Eda Ruhiye Uca