July 10, 2016

In Mourning

This week has left us reeling.

If you have not heard, early Tuesday morning, Alton Sterling, a man we would have never known the name of, was shot and killed by a police officer. It was caught on camera by bystanders. He was shot in the chest while restrained on the ground.
Then on Wednesday evening, 32 year old Philando Castile was pulled over by the police, informed the officer he had a licensed weapon in the vehicle, and was shot multiple times while reaching for his identification. His girlfriend filmed his death, while her 4 year old daughter soaked it all in from the back seat. They were then arrested and held overnight for no reason.
Both men were black. Both men were sons, brothers, significant others. Both men now join a long list of black men killed at the hands of police officers, a list that shouldn’t exist but does.
Then Thursday, at the end of a peaceful protest mourning the deaths of Sterling and Castile and in support of Black Lives Matter, a lone sniper opened fire on the crowd, targeting the police officers on duty at the rally. Five officers have died, and six are wounded.

Is it any wonder we are reeling with grief?

Such violence cannot be justified. The deaths of Sterling and Castile are not rare accidents, they are an altogether too common phenomenon: 136 black men have been killed by police this year. And if you consider the history of our country, this is simply a continuation of the racism at the core of our nation. We have never valued the lives of black folks. From stealing people from Africa, packing them like sardines in ships, selling them as property, beating and using them and treating them like livestock, to imprisoning them when we could no longer enslave them, segregating ourselves when they refused to do the things we would incarcerate them for, maintaining systems that keep people in poverty, we have never valued black lives. And now, now when a black man dies by the hands of the police, it is not the officer on trial, it is the man’s dead body that is scrutinized and found guilty. There is no justice. Many in our community have been mourning, hurt, tired, exhausted and crying out to know when the world will affirm through action that black lives matter. And then, in a true display of how violence begets violence, an ex-military man chooses to use his skills to kill police officers.

Murder is always wrong. We are in mourning for these lost lives and grieving over the violence that became unavoidably visible this week. Eight families mourn this week; eight families are experiencing the first waves of grief, despair, and loss. They each have lost a member that they can never get back. Let us grieve with them. Take on the weight of eight men murdered this week. Mourn them. Pray for each family that is wrecked with grief right now.

But do not forget where the violence originated. The violence must end, but that does not mean we must forget how this all began. If our nation wants to heal, we must root out the injustice the black community lives and breathes. Let your prayers and your tears move you beyond this screen, towards your neighbor, and towards someone with a different skin color and life experience than yourself. It’s through relationship and friendship that our fear and misunderstanding of what is different begins to die. May our tears and prayers move us towards just and loving action.

Lord, be gracious to the family of Alton Sterling,
Forgive us for not standing in between him and the officer who shot him
Be gracious with the son of Alton Sterling, who just wants his daddy back
Forgive us for legally murdering fathers and creating an orphaned generation
Be with the children of these men, who must watch again and again their fathers die on TV
Forgive us for making a show of the death of black men
Heal the eyes of Diamond Reynolds young daughter, and every young black boy that fears for his life
Forgive us for the lie that this is their future
Be gracious with Diamond Reynolds and Quinyetta McMillon; comfort the widows
Forgive us for saying broken families are the problem in the black community, when we are the ones breaking the families 
Be with the numerous children that found a role model in Philando Castile
Forgive us for demonizing black men and never seeing the worth they bring to our world
Be with all black men that are reaching for their wallets during routine traffic stops
Forgive us for fearing blackness
Be gracious with every black man carrying a gun legally
Forgive us for clinging to our weapons
Be with the families of the fallen police officers
Forgive us for continuing to live in a culture of violence
Lord show the world that black lives matter to you
Forgive us for acting as if some lives matter less than others

Teach us the way of truth, justice, love, and peace.

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