Jordan Edwards was a freshman at Mesquite High School in my mother’s hometown. He was a straight-A student, a standout athlete, and a beloved classmate. His parents sat weeping at a press conference last week because a police officer shot their fifteen-year-old son in the head.
A fifteen-year-old boy now lies in a coffin, and his parents are left to grieve.
A fifteen-year-old boy now lies in a coffin, and a nation adds his name to a long list of minorities killed by law enforcement.
A fifteen-year-old boy now lies in a coffin, and the church is still figuring out how to talk about it.
We know the story all too well. Police shootings of minorities are not a new phenomenon, but their media coverage has intensified over the last several years, ever since the grand jury declined to charge Darren Wilson with the killing of Michael Brown in 2014 — or, perhaps, since a neighborhood watchman shot Trayvon Martin in 2012. Other names have blazed across the headlines: Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Walter Scott, Sandra Bland, and many others.
We’ve seen the protestors shouting in the streets, holding up signs, demanding justice, demanding answers. We’ve witnessed the media coverage slant this way and that, painting an unarmed black man shot by the cops as a thug over here — painting a police officer struggling to do his job in a racially heated environment over there. In the midst of it all, there are “cooler heads” asking for the outrage to stall long enough to get all of the facts. On the other hand, you have “hotter heads” refusing to wait because we already know the story — the oppression of black people at the hands of law enforcement is a tale as old as time, right?
It’s noisy out there.
I am a black woman who has felt the sting of racism. I am a black daughter, a black sister, a black wife, a black mother — when it comes to seeing justice for all of the men in my life, I am invested at every turn. That’s real.
I am also sister in Christ to police officers and their wives — I know many honorable men who sacrifice much to serve and protect and wives who are invested in seeing their husband’s come home safe, and so many children whose dads live in the line of fire. That’s real.
I am also a sister in Christ to myriad white brothers and sisters who find themselves a step removed from the implications of these patterns. That’s real.
And what’s also real is the abuse of power, discrimination, violence, and prejudice against black people, both in this country and around the world. We aren’t even two generations removed from the Jim Crow laws that systematically oppressed black people in this nation — in the town where I live. The wounds of racism and the grip of its worldview aren’t as easy to shake off as we’d sometimes like to believe. That’s real.
It’s all real. These facts coexist in a complicated network of baggage that we all bring to these discussions.
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