By Steve Ross
I just watched a(nother) unarmed man get gunned down, backed away from, and left to bleed out, suffer, and die. This time with a birds eye view; swirling overhead like a vulture waiting for soon (and sure) come death. Eerily I listened, as the pilot of a helicopter plays sovereign and pronounces a resolute verdict over a man created in the image of the God he’s posing as. Over radio from the sky he calls out that “it’s time for tasing,” and continues playing judge: ”He looks like a baaad dude too.”
Why does law enforcement employ overhead assistance? To better assess the overall situation, and communicate an objective big picture perspective of what’s happening to those on the ground. This time however the man up above (pun) took to radio and zeros in on the details. ”[he must] be on something (implying drug abuse).” Moments later the female officer who we later come to know as the wife of one of our narrating-pilots, and who he commended as a “big girl” after the incident, sends back communication: “SHOTS FIRED!”
Watching and listening to this murder unfold is unbearable and sickening. Terence Crutcher was having car trouble. As reported “Crutcher’s SUV had stalled in the middle of the road, and police arrived to check on the situation. As they approached the vehicle a black male started towards them.”
I’m so tired of hearing how to some my skin makes me dangerous and therefore endangered. I’m trying to put together how Terence’s car breaking down on the way home from class Friday ends his life. Officer Betty said (before video footage that disagrees with her was released today) that it was because she “asked him to show his hands and he refused to follow commands.” Not surprisingly this isn’t reflected on camera. In fact when the chopper arrives their first response is “he’s got his hands up there for her now..” because he’s facing the opposite direction with his arms reaching for the sky and even walking away from his accuser.
“He continued not to listen and not follow any commands” she continues. Going further with her story “he reached inside the vehicle and at that time there was a Taser deployment and then a short time later there was one shot fired.” Is that what took place?
A police helicopter operator describes Terence Crutcher as a “bad dude” who “could be on something” moments before he is shot, tazed and killed by Tulsa police. Crutcher’s car broke down on his way home from Tulsa Community College.
More than just the shooting, what’s telling time and time again is the way these victims are left to lay in the street without any assistance or medical attention. Recently I was speaking to a non-black co-worker about the incident(s) who said “it’s like they’re not even human.”
It’s like they’re not even human.
Shaun King wrote a very insightful article on NY Daily News this week expressing this very fact. After police confronted the man who bombed New York and New Jersey neighborhoods, planted eight other bombs, he pulled out a handgun, shot two of them, and began running away. Moments later he was apprehended, and being nursed by paramedics to ensure he did not die from his intentionally non-lethal wounds. Can African-Americans get some Ahmad Khan Rahami treatment?
At this point I feel I can go no further. Ahmad was indeed armed and dangerous. Some of the more recent police shooting victims were indeed involved in criminal activity. In this situation however, I’m staring at what could easily be my own fate; I commute 3 hours a day clear across Los Angeles in an 18 y/o car with 180,xxx miles on the dash. In recent weeks I’ve had flat tire(s), an overheated engine, and power steering failure. I am #TerenceCrutcher. Stranded on the wrong road, in need of assistance, I could come face to face with the reality that, all too often because of my skin I’m seen as (un)Armed and dangerous.
I looked all 7 of my children in the eyes tonight and told’em I’m boldly willing to die -so they can live without fear. I’m grieved by the reality that judged from the wrong person’s perspective my skin makes me a threat and an evil better to rid the earth of than a person to be valued and honored -let alone protected and served. At this point it’s taking nothing short of faith the size of a mustard seed to believe that the good law enforcement officers in America aren’t a minority like I am.
My skin makes me a threat and an evil better to rid the earth of than a person to be valued and honored.
It saddens me that there can be such an unjust epidemic in our society that celebrities and athletes of every ethnicity use their platforms, and jeopardize their livelihood in last ditch efforts to raise awareness; yet there’s outrage over a black man taking a knee and silence at best, justification at worst, when one takes a bullet. I mourn at the sight(s) of innocent men who look just like me being mowed down with gunfire -even in front of their children, and rarely is there justice. I’m exhausted from providing answers to those who want to know “what about the black-on-black crime” as if somehow or another until they receive definitive answers about every other complex issue plaguing the inner city, these occurences -nor the lives they take, do not matter. I am wearied because this my lament, is more often met with dismissal and condemnation than compassion.
Pray for my strength. I could rattle off more verses by memory than I’d have time to list here; and believe me I have been and continue to rehearse them in preaching to myself. But this isn’t the time to gloss over the systemic issues of injustice that are embedded in our society by over spiritualizing a blog post. This is a call to action.
I need prayer yes; but I need help.
I need people who don’t feel my pain to believe me when I say it hurts.
I need folks who don’t feel the threat of death because of who they are on the outside, regardless of who God has made them on the inside, like my Pastor friends Toussaint and Shaundra, to realize that we sincerely put ourselves in harms way on jogs and walks.
Anglo, and especially Christian, friends I need you to stand with us. Do not be silent about these issues. You can, and we need you to speak up for those of us who feel we can’t do more than weep on our porches til after midnight, write a blog and get back on the highway -or jogging path- in the morning.
My life is spent promoting and striving for God honoring, Christ exalting, unity across ethnic lines and cultural distinctions. It is far from my desire to be divisive. I want to be heard and helped. I cannot do this alone and I am not. I speak for many who put their jobs, reputations, and even lives on the line by preaching and living out the barrier breaking power of the gospel. We’re battling sin in situations but we’re also at war with it systemically. We need more soldiers.
In these times the church has a duty.
Recently we gathered a group of about 300 church leaders and law enforcement officers. This after a summer meeting of about half that size. During the program there were testimonies shared by Hispanic, African American, and Anglo brothers and sisters all striving for the same goal as Peacemakers in the city, from different vantage points. In addition to former gang members, sheriff deputies, The Sheriff himself, and the wife of a police officer, Jamie was able to share about her experience as a wife and mother intentionally living on mission in the inner city and her hope(s) in doing so. It was a glorious occasion. Many tears shed, hugs given and numbers exchanged. But for the most part it was “us.” The people in the room, though very diverse ethnically, were mostly already in the conversation and even share similar perspectives.
It’s time for seminaries to take their students from the classroom to the corner for some field studies. It’d be good to have them learn the rubber of where trusting in God’s sovereignty meets the road from the boldness of a young mother living on mission in Compton.
The crucial state of our (dis)union should show us that it is imperative in these times that more suburban, majority culture Churches get serious about exposing their congregations to the reason(s) why the uncomfortable topics of racism and social injustice are gospel issues not non-issues. It’s about time conservative evangelicals start sharing their pulpits and conference line-ups with minority leaders -who might not vote, preach, or praise like them but can help mobilize their people for Christlike Compassion and model for them healthy ethnic conciliation and cross-cultural engagement. It’s time for The capital c Church in America to rise up.
These are but a few of the steps we must be taking toward and beside one another. These issues are not going away anytime soon; they’re as old as the nation itself with occurrences happening as regular as the date. I’ve been trying to edit this blog between having literally stayed up past midnight Monday night writing it, and working in my short margins yesterday to edit it. Before I could finish and publish it #KeithLamontScott has become another hashtag.
Wake up friends. It’s time for change.
Steve has been married to his lifelong best friend Jamie for 15 years. They’re blessed to raise 3 sons and 4 daughters in the inner city they grew up in together. He currently serves as the Executive Pastor of Reach Fellowship in Long Beach, CA and Ministry Development Coordinator at Children’s Hunger Fund, training churches in the complexities of urban poverty and gospel-centered mercy ministry.
You can follow him on Twitter: @dasciple15v