I have felt so tired recently. Maybe you have too. It is a tiredness that I feel in my bones, a tiredness that is not likely to go away anytime soon as we continue to deal with the violence and pain of what has transpired over the past week or so.
Of course for too many, particularly for communities of color, this violence isn’t new, just more visible to white people like me. The threat of such violence is a daily reality for black and brown people, and I can only imagine how tired these folks are.
Like you, over the last several days, I have heard the cries and watched the images of the gut-wrenching grief expressed by the families, friends, and communities of two more black men, Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, shot by police. I have stood with a thousand people gathered for a Black Lives Matter vigil and march in Nashville and experienced the pain given voice, legs, hands, and feet there. I know that for far too long, black and brown communities have lived in fear of the very systems that were supposed to protect them. As a white woman, I know that I can never truly understand this experience, but I can stand with and for those who understand it all too well. And, I can challenge those of us who are white to listen, to see, and to work for change .
I also know that the law enforcement community is hurting. The loss of five officers in Dallas—Michael Smith, Michael Krol, Patrick Zamarippa, Brent Thompson, and Lorne Ahrens—as well as the loss of officers killed in other parts of our country is devastating. These killings have left police feeling vulnerable and under attack. These men and women put their lives on the line every day in service to their communities and should not have to live in constant fear either.
So what do we do? I don’t have the answers. But, I am committed to working together towards finding them. The status quo is serving no one. Perhaps these horrible events of the past week can move us, particularly the white community, to further self-reflection and a commitment to change.
As a nation, we have an opportunity now to change our focus and priorities. We can renew our focus on healing traumatized communities where violence is all too common. We can invest more of our energy and resources into addressing the immediate and long-term needs of all crime victims rather than into how to more harshly punish the perpetrators. We can support law enforcement by providing additional resources for training and education and thanking them for their service. We can recognize, as a people, that meeting violence with more violence does not make us safer but distracts us from how to prevent such violence in the first place.
I am a Presbyterian pastor, and my faith is my primary motivation for my work for justice and an end to the death penalty. I find my greatest comfort and strength, particularly in difficult times, through prayer, Scripture, and the community of faith. This past Sunday, the text for the weekly sermon came from Luke’s gospel, Jesus’ well-known parable of the Good Samaritan. The minister of the church where I worship shared a prayer that he discovered on a blog, with a few of his own tweaks. I found the prayer to be a healing one and want to share a portion with you. I hope you find it healing as well.
“Do not pass me by,” the black life cries, dying on American streets quickly from violent oppression, and slowly from the poverty of inequality. We are neighbors to those in need of justice.
“Do not pass me by,” the police officer cries, whose hard exterior masks fear and sorrow. We are neighbors to those who risk their lives for our sake.
“Do not pass me by,” Jesus cries, whose face is reflected in all who are oppressed, victimized, beset by tragedy, and in need.
We are neighbors to the stranger among us to whom we are called to be radically hospitable. We are neighbors to the world around us to which we are called to share God’s shalom.
May we go and do likewise.
Peace to you,
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